What to see in Lisbon
Olá! I wanted to write a travel article for a while now, and while I was going through some old photos, I decided I should dedicate my next one to the country of wine, pasteis and discoveries, Portugal. As mentioned, last February I spent almost the whole month living in the country like a local. I was lucky enough to be hosted by my very good friend Carolina and her family, in a neighborhood close to Setubal city, where I was introduced to the secrets of the country.
Travelling around Portugal
During my stay, I had the chance to visit plenty of cities. But I would like to begin with Lisbon (Lisboa in Portuguese). Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, spanning across the hills with river Tagus in its foothills. Lisbon is not a big – or what might someone say – a busy metropolis comparing to other western capitals; but instead it’s traditional, tranquil, colorful and usually sunny. It is a generally clean city, with plenty of green spots and beautiful architecture, as it combines Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Baroque, Modern and Postmodern elements in its structure.
To really feel the essence of Portuguese aura, start exploring by strolling around its narrow streets by feet, or use the metro and train systems which are reliable. For the more adventurous I recommend a bike ride, but then again Lisbon is the opposite of a flat city – so good luck with that!
Walk around Lisbon
Avenida da Liberdade
Start you tour in Marquês De Pombal Square and walk straight on the Avenida da Liberdade street to meet Restauradores Square, with maybe a quick visit to Lisbon Hard Rock Café and a beautiful theatre building down on your left, with some growing trees inside of it! Little further down the road, you will find the picturesque Pedro IV Square.
NOT TO MISS:
Igreja de São Roque: I am not a huge fan of churches I have to admit, but Igreja de São Roque was very impressive. Totally worth a visit.
Continue straight to find the Baixa Pombalina, Lisbon’s no. 1 hotspot. It is a relatively newer district, constructed after the 1755 earthquake that left most of the city in ruins. The neighborhood took its name from Marquês De Pombal, who undertook the assignment of rebuilding the city, under strict guidelines, transforming the city with modern and earthquake resistant constructions.
A MUST WHEN IN LISBON: Stroll around the ‘Calçada Portuguesa’ patterned pavements of Rua Augusta, which leads to the famous Terreiro do Paço (Praça do Comércio), to enjoy the Tagus River and sunshine.
Rua Augusta, Lisbon.
A traditional old district with narrow streets and mixed architecture, Alfama is the home of many shops, restaurants and fado bars (Fado is the national music style of Portugal – lyrical and melodical; with melancholy notes). With the air of authenticity, it surely is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods of Lisbon.
The famous Azulejos (tiles) of Portugal.
NOT TO MISS: Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral), a Roman Catholic cathedral dating back in the 12th cent, the oldest church of the city.
Bairro Alto is the heart of Lisbon’s vibrant nightlife. A blend of classic and alternative cultural statement. Bars and clubs of all styles and niches (gay, metal, hip hop, industrial, etc) in one place. All you have to do is walk around to find your ideal spot to crush! Or pub crawling! – Whatever works! 😉
Lisbon’s trademark: The Old Yellow Tram.
Belém district lies on the west of Lisbon and can be reached with a train or bus, as it is far from the city centre by foot. Belém is a beautiful coastal area; once the adventure spot, from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off to discoveries.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries)
Belém is the place where explorers Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral departed for India in 1497 and for Brazil in 1499.
Start your visit at the famous Torre de Belém, a tower built as a fortified lighthouse in the beginnings of the 16th cent. Walk towards the Tagus River to find the modern touch of the area, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries), dedicated to Portugal’s explorers. Right across the highway, lies the Praça do Império with its colorful gardens centred on a fountain. And just a few steps away you will find the majestic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery). Little further on the road, you will find a pink guarded palace; don’t wander, it is the Belem Palace, which currently serves as a Presidential residency. (It is allowed to take a photo with the guard, so go ahead!)
NOT TO MISS:
With a small entrance fee, you can go all the way up to the Monument of Discoveries to experience a full view of the city.
Pasteis de Belém are the most famous sweets of Portugal; originally a variation of Pastel de nata, these mini custard tarts, are worth the endless waiting time in a queue. So, once in the cashier, make sure to buy some extra for the road!
Delicious Pasteis de Belém!
Chiado is merely a shopping area, blending traditional and modern elements. On rua Garrett, you can find malls, book stores (the oldest bookstore in the city), cafes and chic restaurants.
NOT TO MISS:
The Coffee place A Brasileira, which the famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa used to visit.
Pay a visit to the refurbished Fundação José Saramago (Casa Dos Bicos), one of the most emblematic examples of Lisbon’s 16th cent architecture that contains vestiges from several periods spanning approximately 2000 years!
At A Brasileira Cafe catching up with Fernado Pessoa. 😀
Castelo de São Jorge
By taking either the bus 37, or the famous tram 28, or even by feet, you will find yourself all the way up to the hill, occupied by the beautifully preserved Castle of Saint George. The monument consists of the castle, ruins of the former palace and part of the neighborhood for the elite. Admission ticket might be a little expensive (8,5 € – 5 € for students), but the spectacular views to the city will reward you.
NOT TO MISS:
Miradouros: Miradouros are places located on the upper side of the city, providing amazing panoramic views.
Miradouro da Graça: In a relatively close distance to the castle, you will find Miradouro da Graça with a view spanning from the castle, to the bridge of 25th of April and Tagus River. Extra Tip: Relax with a tea or an Imperial Sagres (Portuguese Lager beer), under the shaded trees, while enjoying the view!
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte: Another great spot for iconic photographs, so make sure you are well equipped.
View of the city from Castelo de São Jorge.
Parque Das Nacoes
On the east side and a bit far from the city centre, you are introduced to the modern & family oriented side of the city: postmodern architecture, busy malls and restaurants – the exact opposite of the city centre of Lisbon. The area was originally constructed for the ’98 World Expo and has being developed ever since. It can be easily reached by train (Oriente station) or bus. Additionally, there are cable cars to drive you along the shore.
NOT TO MISS:
The Oceanário de Lisboa
Unfortunately, I decided to skip it due to the expensive admission fee (14 €), but I actually regretted after reading so many positive reviews. If you are an admirer of the sea depth, don’t miss it.
It might not brag about much tourist attention, however, uptown Lisbon is a residential and business area with cultural gems.
NOT TO MISS:
Calouste Gulbekian Museum: Housing a magnificent collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Asian, and European art.
Campo Pequeno (Praça de Touros do Campo Pequeno): A Moorish-Style bullring, housing malls, restaurant and cinemas.
Campo Pequeno in Uptown Lisbon.
I hope this quide was a helpful introduction to the beautiful city of Lisbon to fellow travelers. Feel free to add your own recommendations!
Till the next post,
A vida é o que fazemos dela. As viagens são os viajantes. O que vemos, não é o que vemos, senão o que somos.