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LISBON (Lisboa)

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Monument of the Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal
Monument of the Discoveries, © Can Stock Photo / photobunny
See more pictures of Lisbon.

Lisbon is situated on the Tagus River where it meets the Atlantic.  It has an urban population of more than three million and is the largest city and capital of Portugal.  It represents almost one quarter of the country’s population.  Lisbon is a fairly wealthy city and among the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.  It is also one of the oldest cities in Europe and its history includes rule by Rome, Germanic tribes, Moors and Crusaders.  The city has had a number of significant earthquakes over the centuries and this has destroyed some of the architecture built during the period around the 1500s when Portugal was one of the most powerful nations in the world.   Lisbon is known as the Cidade Branca, the White City.  One of its architectural trademarks is the use of glazed tile, especially in its public squares.  The geographical signature of Lisbon is found in its seven hills that shape its steep narrow roads accessed by distinctive small electric trams, funiculars and elevators.

Weather:

The summer months are the driest in Lisbon with average highs of 26 C (80 F) and average lows of 18 C (65 F).  November to February are the rainy months with average highs of 15 C (60 F) and average lows of 10 C (50 F).  May and September are probably the best months to plan a visit as far as weather is concerned. Want to know the current weather temperature in Lisbon?

   

Transportation:

The Portela International Airport (LIS) is centrally located in the city.  The Lisbon Metro provides subway information for tourists at the airport and is a great way to move about the city.  There are also bus, funicular and tram services administered by Companhia de Carris de Ferro.   High speed rail by CP links Lisbon with most of the major cities in Portugal via the Santa Apolónia station.

Tram #28 (Eléctrico 28)

Tram #28 (elétrico 28) has become a top tourist experience as this narrow tram winds its way up and down the narrow streets of Lisbon in the Moorish district of Alfama.  It passes right in front of the Lisbon Cathedral and also passes by the viewpoint at the Gates to the Sun (Miradouro Portas do Sol) and the Alfama fleamarket (Feira da Ladra).  The starting point is Martim Moniz Square (Praça Martim Moniz). The circuit takes about 40 minutes. A transit day pass is inexpensive and also includes use of the city's funiculars.

Funiculars

Ascensor do Lavra was built in the 1880s and is the oldest funicular in Lisbon.  It ascends from Largo da Anunciada just off Avenida da Liberdade a few blocks north of Rossio Central Station and travels up a short distance to Travessa Forno Torel.

Ascensor da Bica takes passengers up to the Barrio Alto District from Rua de Sao Paulo about 15 minutes by foot west from Commerce Plaza and ascends to Largo de Calhariz.  It was built in the 1890s and is very popular with tourists.  

Ascensor da Gloria is the most popular funicular for tourists in Lisbon.  It starts in the Praca dos Restauradores beside the Rossio Central Station and climbs to the Bairro Alto District and the viewpoint called Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.

Santa Justa Elevator (Elavador de Santa Justa) is also referred to as the Elevator of Carmo.  It was built in 1902 and is a 45-meter lift between Largo do Carmo and Rua do Ouro.  

A Lisbon Card includes unlimited use of the funicular system.

Tram 28 and the Lisbon Cathedral, Lisbon, Portugal

Tram 28 and the Lisbon Cathedral, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Mapicss

Lisbon Attractions:

Lisbon is divided into a number of districts including the hills of Barrio Alto, the port area at Belem, the central flat downtown area of Baixa, the shopping district of Chiado, the old town Moorish quarter known at Alfama and the modern area of Parque das Nacoes.

View Lisbon attractions map. Things to see and do in Lisbon:

Belém District

Belém was the departure point for voyages during the Age of Discovery.  Vasco da Gama set sail here. Attractions include:

  • Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) - built in 1960 to honor the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, this monument draws an immediate association with Lisbon for travellers throughout the world.

  • Belem Tower (Torre de Belém) - built in 1515 to guard the harbor.

  • Jerónimos Monastery - overlooking the river and port, this is the resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama.  It was built by King Manuel I in 1502 to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India.  The monastery faces the the Praca do Imperio, which is the largest square in Portugal, including the gardens of the Jardim do Praca do Imperio.  The Tropical Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico Tropical) faces the Monastery as well.  The Berardo Collection Museum, the Maritime Museum and the National Archeology Museum are found here too.

  • Belem Palace - formerly the royal residence and now used by the President.  The gardens of Jardim Afonso de Albuquerque are beside the palace.

  • Adjuda Palace and Ajuda Botanical Garden.

  • National Coach Museum - one of the top carriage collections in the world.

  • Museum of the Orient (Fundação Oriente Museu) - near the old cruise terminal.

  • Enjoy views of the National Sanctuary of Christ the King and the 25 de Abril Bridge across the River Tagus.

Barrio Alto District

Ride the Gloria or Bica funiculars to reach this hill top area known for its views and its night life.

  • São Roque Church - built with the gold brought from Brazil.  It includes the Chapel of St. John the Baptist (Capela de São João Baptista) and São Roque Church's Sacred Art Museum.  Also nearby is Santa Catarina Church and the Garden of Santa Catarina.

  • Estrela Basilica and the Estrela Garden.

  • São Bento Palace - seat of Portuguese parliament.

  • Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara and its gardens.  Enjoy views of the city and the Tagus River.  

  • Puppet Museum

  • National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga).

Glazed tiles in Rossio Square, Lisbon, Portugal

Glazed tiles in Rossio Square, Biaxa, Lisbon, © Can Stock Photo / wastesoul

Baixa / Pombalina District

This is the lower town and city center.  It has been largely rebuilt since the 1755 earthquake.  The Rua Augusta is pedestrian only.  It begins at Commerce Square (Praça do Comércio) at the water front and cuts through downtown’s Baixa district to Rossio Square.

  • Commerce Square - referred to as Praça do Comércio and Terreiro do Paço.  There is a statue of King José I in the square and the arch marks the beginning of the pedestrian walk.  At the water you will find the Cais das Colunas, which are pier columns that were built in the late 1700s.  They were removed for construction in the square and then replaced in the water.  

  • Design and Fashion Museum (MUDE - Museo do Design e da Moda)

  • Rossio Central Station faces the Restauradores Square (Praça dos Restauradores).  Beside the station are the Eden Theatre and the Foz Palace.  Ajacent to this square is the Praça Dom Pedro IV (also called Rossio Square) with its statue and the Dona Maria II National Theater.  The Figueira Square (Praça da Figueira) adjoins the Praca Dom Pedro IV.

  • Views of the Castle of Saint George.

  • Church of Sao Domingos

  • Ascensor da Gloria - take the funicular to Barrio Alto.

  • Ascensor do Lavra - climb the hill opposite to Barrio Alto .

  • Stroll Avenida da Liberdade - connecting Restauradores Square to Marquês de Pombal Square.

  • Eduardo VII Park

  • Just north of the Baixa area, you will find Fronteira Palace with its glazed tiles and the Gulbenkian Museum (Museu Calouste Gulbenkian).  The Center of Modern Art is housed with the Glubenkian Museum.  Along the way, pass under the Lisbon Aqueduct, which was constructed in the 1700s.

Chiado

Chiado is a sub area of Baxia.  Much of Chiado has been rebuilt since the destruction caused by a major fire in 1988.  Chiado is known for its shopping, for the ruins of Carmo and the Santa Justa Elevator.  

  • Carmo Monastery and Church (Convento do Carmo) - this Gothic Church was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake and the ruins are an intriguing legacy.  Visit the Carmo Church's Archeological Museum.

  • Santa Justa Elevator (Elevador de Santa Justa) - this 147 foot (45-meter) structure was built in 1902 to connect Barrio Alto and Baxia.

  • Chiado Museum - contemporary art.

  • Sao Carlos National Theater

  • Luís de Camões Square

São Vicente de Fora Monastery, Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal

São Vicente de Fora Monastery, Alfama, © Can Stock Photo / emicristea

Alfama District

Alfama is old town and Moorish quarter with narrow streets and wrought iron balconies decorated with flowers.  Tram 28 is a popular way to visit this area.

  • Cathedral of Lisbon (Sé de Lisboa) 

  • São Vicente de Fora Monastery for its glazed tiles and views of the National Pantheon, Alfama and the Tagus River.

  • St. George's Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) - medieval castle stands atop the highest of the city’s seven hills.  The Graça quarter is situated on the north-easterly side of the Castelo de Sao Jorge.  Ride a clanking Tram #28 (Eléctrico 28) up to the terrace at Miradouro de Graca and enjoy the views. Then wander the narrow streets and cafes.

  • House of Spikes (Casa dos Bicos) - over 1,000 diamond shaped stones on its exterior.

  • Museum of Decorative Arts

  • Roman Theater Museum

  • Fado Museum

  • Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) housed in the former Madre de Dues Convent.  this is the best place to see Lisbon's obsession with glazed tiles.

  • Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts

  • Visit a Fado Bars for 19th century Portuguese music

  • National Pantheon (or Church of Santa Engracia)

  • Church of Saint Anthony and the small adjoining Saint Anthony Museum.

  • Miradouro do Monte for panoramic views, situated off the Rua Senhora do Monte.

Parque das Nacoes

The new part of town with:

Things to see and do near Lisbon:

  • Sintra – Travel 30 minutes west from Lisbon to Sintra.  See the caves at Pena Park, Pena National Palace, Sintra National Palace and Queluz National Palace.  Travel the longer coastal route between Sintra and Lisbon to visit Roca Cape, Guincho Beach and the town of Cascais.

  • Fátima - take a half day tour 1.5 hours north of Lisbon to see the Chapel of Apparitions and the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima (Nossa Senhora do Rosário da Fátima).  Add on a few more minutes to reach the coast to visit the fishing village of Nazaré, the town of Óbidos and the Batalha Monastery.

  • Évora - take a full day trip from Lisbon 1.5 hours east to the Roman ruins of the Temple of Diana (Templo de Diana), enjoy wine tasting in Alentejo wine region and see the Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos), which is completely decorated with human bones.

Savor the Tastes of Lisbon:

  • Port wine - produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal.  This is what "Port"ugal is all about.

  • Bacalhau - the national dish of salt cod.

  • Pastéis de Nata - flaky custard tart.  Try Pasteis de Belem.

  • Bica - Portuguese espresso.

  • Ginja - Portuguese liquor.

  • Queijo da Serra - yellow sheep cheese.

  • Carne de Porco Alentejana - pork and clams.

Lisbon Tours:

Hotels in Lisbon:

Take That Vacation Recommendations for Lisbon:

Lisbon Portela Airport - (LIS) - including a list of hotels with a shuttle.