Top 10 Alternative Lisbon

From a doll hospital to lesser-known delicacies, this guide will help you discover the hidden gems of Lisbon for yourself.

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From the beating heart of Alfama to the Manueline marvels of Belém, Lisbon is a truly world class city that is sure to delight any visitor. On a recent trip to the Portuguese capital, I decided to truly get under the skin of the city and seek out some of the lesser-known sites the guide books often overlook.

For first time visitors, don’t forget to check out Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Castelo de São Jorge and Praça do Comércio or enjoy the pleasures of ‘pastéis de nata’, ‘fado’ music and the charming trams and ‘elevadores’ that grind up and down the city’s streets.

However, if you’re planning your second (or umpteenth) trip – or just fancy going beyond the tried and tested tourist trail – here I present my Top 10 Alternative Lisbon.

  1. The Doll Hospital

Above an unassuming toy shop on Praça da Figueira you can visit ‘Hospital de Bonecas’ – The Doll Hospital. Owned by the same family since 1830, it is one of the world’s oldest doll hospitals, where beloved possessions sent in from around the globe are given a new lease of life.

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London’s priceless views for just £1

Faux vistas trialled in London hotel for a quid by budget chain easyHotel.

Forget fake news, one hotel is promoting ‘fake views’ to allow guests jaw-dropping vistas of London at a fraction of the bank-busting prices often charged by others in the UK capital.

These fake window views of iconic London landmarks are being trialled by budget hotel chain easyHotel for customers at its Old Street Hotel.

The views enable guests to experience the majesty of some of the city’s finest locations without having to pay a premium for a fancy view.

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The warmth of Kenya

From close-up animal encounters to the history of Kenyan rail transport, Nairobi offers the perfect taster for the best this African nation has to offer.

I went to Kenya for business, but it was the spirit of its people that will draw me back.

My first trip to Kenya came about as a result of me representing my place of work at the Uniserv UK Education Fair 2017, which took place at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi earlier this year.

There was a great irony in this situation as, while I was discussing with hundreds of prospective Kenyan students all the things they might be able to do for the first time if they choose to study in the UK – attend a Premier League match, take a ride in a black cab or make a snowman – I was experiencing their country for the first time.

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Odessan odyssey

From the world’s largest labyrinth to the world’s the world’s first monument to Darth Vader, Odessa makes for an unusual yet captivating city break.

I know the phrase ‘Paris of the…’ gets bandied around all too often, but Odessa may well be worthy of that statement. It’s like the best bits of Paris, Milan and Istanbul have all been mixed in a Slavic hotpot. Plus, just like Barcelona, it boasts stunning beaches mere minutes from the city centre.

Odessa might not seem like the obvious city break destination, but there is plenty to see and do for a short trip, with countless eateries to suit all taste buds and green spaces that are simply captivating.

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Transnistria: Back in the USSR

On the eastern banks of the River Dniester in Europe lies the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, better known as Transnistria. Although officially still part of Moldova, this breakaway territory has proclaimed its ‘independence’ since 1990. Unquestionably pro-Russian, exploring this separatist state is like taking a walk through the Soviet Union, despite the fact the USSR crumbled in 1991.

The four-car train from Chișinău trundled through the Moldovan countryside as two elderly women chatted near to me and a girl opposite was furiously texting on her mobile phone. At the rear of the carriage, a giant urn was whistling, ready to deposit water in to cups of coffee for two men who were conversing at the snack bar.

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How now Chișinău

Chișinău feels like the Soviet Union fell yesterday and no-one’s still quite sure what to do next. However, once you get past its shortcomings, Chișinău reveals a capital city that oozes sights, quality eateries and is a genuine treat for any traveller.

After a five hour delay and an erratic taxi drive through some pretty ropey areas of the Moldovan capital, I arrived at my Communist-era hotel in a pretty foul mood. I dumped my bags in my room and ran my fingers along the wall-to-wall carpet, but even this crime to interior decoration failed to raise a smile.

So, I braved the bitter winter air and ventured out in search of something, anything, to elevate my disposition and rekindle the excitement I felt 12 hours earlier when I checked in at London Luton…

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Yo! Tokyo

Bizarre and dignified in equal proportions, Tokyo is an endless city that never fails to surprise at every corner.

Nothing can prepare you for Tokyo. From the moment you step off the plane, you enter a colourful and ultramodern world full of bizarre gadgets and cute cartoonish mascots, but one that is steeped in tradition and precision.

Everything you’ve read about Tokyo is true; from the ultrarealistic plastic models of food outside restaurants enticing in diners, to the futuristic toilets that play sound effects to hide your bodily functions. It’s a bonkers city, but one that’s easy to fall in love with.

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