by Sarah J.F. Braley | September 01, 2012
The capital of Portugal is a quiet sibling to the splashier European cities that are constantly in the travel news. But in recent years, areas like the Barrio Alta, the docks and the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) have come alive with restaurants, shops and other venues, bringing a modern element to the Old World streets.

Lisbon is now number 14 on the International Congress and Convention Association's list of top 20 cities for international association meetings, having  hosted 107 such events in 2011.

Around town A US$3.5 million renovation has been completed at the 303-room Hotel Altis. The lobby was revamped, a new bar and lounge were added, and 200 guest rooms were upgraded.

The Portuguese Tourism board gave the 89-room Inspira Santa Marta Hotel its Environmental Sustainability award for 2011. The hotel also has earned Green Globe certification.

In the central business district, the 171-room Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade has a new façade and offers nine meeting rooms.

The ground floor of the East Tower of the Praça do Comércio welcomed several new restaurants in June, including Aura, which uses the square's galleries for events of up to 1,800 people, and Can the Can, a casual spot that features food and Portugal's national poetry in song, called fado.

Other new and renovated venues include two restaurants by celebrated local chef José Avillez: Cantinho do Avillez and Belcanto. The Adega Machado, in business since 1937, is a restored vintage fado house.

Nearby About 20 minutes west of Lisbon, the 142-room Oitavos in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park offers a spa with 10 treatment rooms, an indoor/outdoor seawater pool and a conference center with space for 300 people. The property is on the Quinta da Marinha estate, with its equestrian center and the Oitavos Dunes golf course.

The 105-room InterContinental Porto-Palacio das Cardosas opened last year in Porto, in an 18th-century palace.

Airline update Low-cost Easyjet now has a hub in Lisboa Airport and flies to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Copenhagen, Denmark; Bordeaux, France; Venice, Italy; and Asturias in Northern Spain.