by Sarah J.F. Braley | July 01, 2008

Sparkling city: Lisbon’s welcoming waterfrontAmerican tourist visits to Portugal rose 20 percent in 2007 -- from 204,000 to 244,000 people -- perhaps reflecting the country’s status as one of the more affordable destinations in Europe, despite the unfavorable exchange rate between the dollar and the euro.

Aside from being a bargain compared with other capital cities, Lisbon also is incredibly walkable. Several neighborhoods lend themselves to leisurely strolls, a wonderful way to spend a free afternoon away from the meeting rooms. Lisbon Walker ( offers a number of tours, including the Old Town, Downtown, “Legends and Mysteries,” “City of Spies” and “Revelation” tours.


According to the Lisbon Convention Bureau (, about 20 new hotels are set to open around the city by 2010.

Already welcoming guests is the VIP Grand Lisboa Hotel & Spa, a 295-room property in a building that once was the main office of RTP (National Portuguese Television). The VIP offers about 5,000 square feet of meeting space.

Also new is the 139-room Hotel Fontana Park in the city’s center, near Saldanha Square. The property’s nine meeting rooms accommodate up to 400 people.

Scheduled to open in 2010 is the 200-room Hotel Villa Rica - Centro de Congressos.The property will have a conference center and a spa.

In the cozy realm of boutique hotels, the 65-room Jeronimos 8 has opened in the shadow of the Jeronimos Monastery, and the 44-room Hotel Belem Altis will debut in November.

Larger groups visiting the city stay at the 577-room Lisbon Marriott Hotel, which refurbished its rooms last year, and the 517-room Corinthia Lisboa Hotel.

A new museum celebrating Portugal’s relationship with Asia was unveiled in May. The Oriente Museum hosts permanent and traveling exhibits; the current roster includes “Gods of Asia” and “Masks of Asia.” In addition, the facility offers a five-room meeting center for up to 150 people. The Macau Salon, which overlooks the Tagus River, holds up to 200 for a reception.

Reopening sometime in 2009 is the Design and Fashion Museum (nicknamed MuDe), filled with one-of-a-kind couture outfits and design pieces. Exhibits include furniture, glass and jewelry from 1937 to the present by 230 artists such as Charles Eames and Philippe Starck. The young museum debuted in 1999 in the Belem Cultural Center and closed in 2006 to begin the relocation process to the 18th-century Verride Palace near the hip Bairro Alto neighborhood.

To the south

Conrad Hotels & Resorts, a luxury division of Hilton Hotels Corp., is building a 158-room Conrad Hotel as part of a 17-acre, mixed-use development near Faro International Airport in the Algarve. Opening in 2010, the property will feature several pools and a 16,000-square-foot spa and health club. Portuguese and international cuisines will be served at various on-site restaurants, and groups will be able to gather in approximately 15,000 square feet of meeting space.

In other news

Last October, the tourist offices of Portugal and Spain partnered to promote the conjoined nations. Additional information can be found at

The country’s main airline, TAP Portugal, said goodbye to paper tickets as of June 1.

For those aiming to plan a “green” meeting, Lisbon-based Sustainable Side of the Street ( focuses on business tourism with an emphasis on corporate social responsibility. The company, a member of Dallas-based Meeting Professionals International, chooses its suppliers based on their environmental management policies.