Landmarks of Lisbon, Portugal
According to Themotorcyclers, Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. The city, located near the Atlantic Ocean, has no less than three million inhabitants including suburbs, making it the largest city in Portugal. Lisbon is largely built on hills. As a result, some neighborhoods have quite a few level differences. Lisbon has the Baixa districtas a historic center. It is not for nothing that you will find quite a few impressive historic buildings during a walk here. Just as beautiful is the adjacent Bairro Alto district. You can reach it from the center with a 45-meter high elevator. This Santa Justa elevator is a sight in itself. Bairro Alto is the neighborhood where you have to be for a nice meal or to go out.
Food, drink and music are important ingredients in the daily life of the Lisbon people. Portuguese cuisine is very similar to that of Spanish cuisine, but certainly has a number of specific dishes of its own. In Lisbon, for example, cod is often cooked. Dried, baked or processed into sandwiches: you will see a lot of cod in Lisbon. Patel de Nata is a real local specialty. These are small cakes of puff pastry and pudding. You eat the best in Belem. For the now world-famous Pastéis de Belém, people like to stand in the almost always present queue. We didn’t put this sophisticated sweet treat in the top 10 things to do in Lisbon, but we wanted to mention it. You just have to try this one when you are in Lisbon.
Top 10 sights of Lisbon
#1. Jerónimos Monastery
Het Jerónimos Monasteryis a monastery located in the Belém district. The monastery contains the graves of explorer Vasco de Gama, poets Fernando Pessoa and Luís de Cames and members of the Royal family, among others. The dimensions of this beautiful monastery are very impressive. The inside of the monastery is decorated with Manueline motifs, in which European and Moorish motifs and elements make it very special. The Spanish architecture and renaissance style is also common. An equally impressive square is located next to this striking monastery. The Praça do Imperio is approximately 280 x 280 meters in size with a garden of 3,300m² in the middle. There is a large fountain in the center.
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is considered Lisbon’s main attraction. It is not for nothing that the entrance tickets to visit this monastery are sold like hot cakes. It is therefore advisable to buy an entrance ticket online in advance .
A visit to Alfama is a must if you want to get to know the real Lisbon. This neighborhood founded by the Moors is the oldest part of Lisbon. Actually, not much has changed in Alfama over the centuries. It is still a working-class neighborhood that comes alive especially in the evenings. After sunset you can smell the barbecues on the streets and hear different forms of Portuguese music. You can experience the most famous Portuguese music, fado, in special fado restaurants. The food is mediocre, the prices are high, but the atmosphere and music are great.
Alfama’s main attraction is its winding and often steep streets and paths. Even Google Maps is regularly lost here, we have experienced. Does not matter. Let yourself get lost in the neighborhood and try to discover the character of Alfama.
Within Alfama you can see a number of sights. The Lisbon Cathedral is one of them. In Portuguese this building of faith is called Sé de Lisboa. Perhaps even more interesting is the Igreja de Santa Luzia. This church is located at a beautiful viewpoint: the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. From here you have a nice view over a part of Lisbon. Do you want to have a fabulous view over the red tiled roofs of the Alfama district? Then walk around the church to Miradouro das Portas do Sol.
#3. Belém Tower
Another landmark that is located in the Belém district. The Torre de Belém is one of the most famous buildings in Lisbon. Architecturally, the Tower of Belém is already worth seeing. The location in the water provides an extra dimension. The square defense tower was built between 1515 and 1521. The architecture is a fine example of the Manueline style or the Portuguese late Gothic style. Purists believe that you should not simply use this definition without mentioning that clearly Moorish influences can be seen in the Torre de Belém. This is reflected in, among other things, the watchtowers with domes.
You can admire the Torre de Belém from the outside for free. To view the tower from the inside, you need entrance tickets. You can pick them up at the kiosk of the tourist office or you can buy them online. You do not need to print the tickets.
#4. Rua Augusta
If you walk through the center of Lisbon, you almost automatically end up in Rua Augusta. Rua Augusta is a lively pedestrian street in the shopping heart of Lisbon. The most striking structure on Rua Augusta can be found on the south side of the street. It is the Arco da Rua Augusta. This historic building with a triumphal arch was erected to commemorate the earthquake of 1755. Rua Augusta is located in the Baixa Pombalina district, which had to be completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755. The shopping area is paved with very nice mosaic tiled sidewalks. Many cozy terraces and here and there a street artist characterize this thriving street.
#5. Sao Jorge’s Castle
The Castelo de São Jorge towers over the Alfama district. This beautiful castle is located on top of the highest hill in the center of Lisbon. The hill itself was inhabited early on. The oldest foundations of the castle are said to date from the sixth century before the beginning of our era. The Castelo de São Jorge is a medieval castle that was intended to defend Lisbon against unwanted guests. For example, it was used at the end of the twelfth century to keep the Moors out.
Today, the Castelo de São Jorge is a popular tourist attraction in Lisbon. The medieval castle itself is not that special, although the structure is in good condition. It is mainly the panoramic view that you have from this castle that people come for. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the entrance fee while there are also a number of free viewpoints in this part of town, we can answer that with a ‘yes’.
A free alternative is the viewpoint Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. It is slightly less conveniently located, but is open 24 hours a day. It is therefore the better place to admire the sunset over Lisbon.
#6. Tram line 28
The tram is an important means of transport within Lisbon. In the flatter parts of Lisbon you can now see modern trams gliding over the tramways. The hills of the city are conquered by trams of the older type. These trams have become one of the main attractions of Lisbon. It is in particular tram line 28 that has become a true attraction. This is mainly because these old trams drive a beautiful route through the most beautiful neighborhoods of Lisbon. Whoever sits at the window has a cheap sightseeing tour of the city. Is tram line 28 not hyped? Maybe. It is a consideration for everyone whether a ride with tram 28 is a must-do or not.
Do not confuse yellow trams of the historic tram line 28e (the ‘e’ stands for eléctrico) with the red historic trams of Hills Tramcar Tour. It is purely intended for tourists and therefore more expensive. It is generally quieter, so you can sit comfortably. With a ticket from the Hills Tramcar Tour you can also use the Santa Justa lift for free. The Hills Tramcar Tour includes an audio guide (also in Dutch) that tells you what you see along the way.
#7. Nations’ park
Translated into Dutch, Parque das Nações means “Park of Nations”. This young neighborhood is located in the east of Lisbon, on the Tagus River. The ultra-modern district is the remnant of the Expo held in Lisbon in 1998. Now it is a favorite place among tourists and locals. Well-known buildings and sights in this area include Torre Vasco da Gama, modern shopping center Vasco da Gama and the Lisbon Oceanarium and a promenade overlooking the São Gabriel and São Rafael towers.
The Oceanarium of Lisboais the most famous and most visited attraction within the Parque das Nações. North American architect Peter Chermayeff designed the building, which resembles an aircraft carrier. It is one of the largest aquariums in Europe and is highly appreciated by visitors of all ages. The oceanarium spans two floors and is divided into six themed areas. For an additional fee you can get a tour where you can also look behind the scenes of the oceanarium.
#8. Bairro Alto
If you put the Moorish neighborhood of Alfama in the top 10 sights of Lisbon, then the neighborhood on the other side of the lower city should not be missed. Bairro Alto is a centrally located neighborhood known for its shopping and entertainment area. You will also find some artistic shops and art galleries here. The tall buildings and narrow streets make walking the shadow-filled streets of this area a pleasure. In the evening the many bars, restaurants and clubs are busy. Some streets are even closed to cars, so that the nightlife crowd gets plenty of space here.
Three places in Bairro Alto that we would like to mention separately are the view from the top platform of the Santa Justa elevator, the square Praça Luís de Camōes and the Museu Arqueológico do Carmo. The ruin of the Carmo monastery is so special because you can still see the shape of the former Gothic church, while the roof above the nave is completely missing.
#9. Cemetery of Pleasures
Cemitério dos Prazeres is the largest and most beautiful cemetery in Lisbon. This cemetery with many famous Portuguese people can be found in the Campo de Ourique district. Those who follow the famous tram line 28 from Praça Martim Moniz will eventually have to get off at the stop in front of the cemetery. This is the final stop. You can then board again to take the tram back to the center. Often you then join in a row. You can also use this time to take a look at one of the most impressive cemeteries in the world.
You will be amazed by the streets lined with tombs and mausoleums. Some of the structures are immense. The grave houses even have house numbers. Most of the graves are well maintained, but some have a more dilapidated impression. Entrance to this ‘city of the dead’ is free.
Those who like to visit castles and palaces should not miss the places Queluz and Sintra. Queluz is home to the former summer residence of the Portuguese royal family: the Palace of Queluz. This eighteenth-century palace is a fine example of two mixed styles: baroque and rococo. When the weather is nice, take some time to visit the palace gardens. From the center of Lisbon you can travel directly to Queluz by train.
The train that takes you to Queluz continues to Sintra. This place belongs to the Lisbon district and is known for its beautiful palaces, the atmospheric historic center and the Moorish castle. The Palácio Nacional da Pena, built on top of a hill, is Sintra’s most famous palace. The palace stands on the remains of an old Hieremonite monastery.
On another hill above Sintra, lies the early medieval ‘Castelo dos Mouros’. The largest tower on this estate can be climbed with about 500 steps. The castle is surrounded by a 450 meter wall, which is clearly visible from a distance. The entire complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.