What to do in Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal situated on the Tagus River in between the hills that make Lisbon the unique vibrant place that it is.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, especially in Europe. Lisbon has been ruled by Germanic Tribes, then by the Moors, followed by the city being taken by Crusaders. Most Portuguese expeditions left from Lisbon during the Age of Discovery making Lisbon go through a Golden Age with the import of spices, sugar, textiles and tales from around the world. Portuguese became part of Spain for 60 years in 1580 until the Treaty of Lisbon was signed stopping the conflict. In 1755 a Earthquake destroyed the city then a tsunami shortly followed destroying what was left. The city was rebuild in the modern urban design you see now which was influenced from Paris. Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Lisbon forcing the Royal family to flee to their other state across the waters which was Brazil only coming back a few years later. By the time the 20th Century rolled on Portugal was a Republic with a few revolutions thrown in. The City of Lisbon has really seen it all and you can feel that through the People of Lisbon who bring life to the city, they are passionate for their home soil and celebrate the past, the culture and the beauty of Lisbon.
Lisbon is something special to see, it is a mixture of old and new. It is joyful for wandering through the city; up and down the hills, twisting and turning through the streets. Lisbon has something for everyone and so much to discover. In this blog you will discover the highlights to see in Lisbon but make sure you get lost in this wonderful city, you will be amazed on what you discover around the corner.
The Alfama Neighbourhood is the heart of Lisbon. As you discover new walkways and climb further up the hill towards the Castelo de Sao Jorge you discover how wonderful Alfama is with its walls covered in tiles of bright colours and designs that are slowly falling down from time. The laundry hanging out the window, the art murals painted, the views of the blue sky and blue water it truly is a beautiful place to wander. Just lose yourself in a old neighbourhood and you will discover the secrets of Lisbon.
*It is a great place to stay in as you are in the heart of the real Lisbon*
Castelo de Sao Jorge
The Castle of Sao Lorge is perched on top of the hill that protects the Alfama Neighbourhood which looks over the city of Lisbon as far as the eye can see. The castle was first settled in the 11th Century when the Moors ruled the city. Then the Crusaders took over the lease until the Royal family made it their seat in the 14th to 16th Century. The Castle is a wonderful place to visit, not only the views are spectacular from the Ramparts to the Castle Walls but is a perfect spot to stroll around to discover the history that the city has been through with the ruins left over at the Archaeological site and with a permanent exhibition. Do not miss out on the jewel of the Castle, which are the families of Peacocks that stroll the gardens. (We saw baby Peacocks, never seen that before).
It is best to arrive early as the sun can be hot while you line up waiting for the tickets for entry into the Castle or head over later in the evening to enjoy the sun setting over the city.
The Portuguese sure know how to decorate a Cathedral. The Cathedral of Lisbon also known as Se, was built in 1150 and has a mixture of time and style added as new period came into fashion such as Gothic, Manueline and Baroque. It is a wonderful sight to see and shows how the Catholic Church can be in different countries creating such unique beauty.
Rua Augusta Arch
The Rua Augusta Arch is the guardian to the main shopping street in Lisbon that connects Praca de Comerico to Rossio. This towering arch was built to remember the earthquake in 1755 that destroyed the city. You are able to climb to the top of the Arch to take in the views of the city and get a closer look at all the wonderful detail sculpted into the arch.
*For any Costumier there are great haberdashery shops selling wonderful selection of Buttons on the Rua da Conceicao. *
Praca de Comerico
Praca de Comerico was the gateway to the city for visitors arriving by boat and it is still an important part of Lisbon Local life. There are many restaurants and bars on the edge to enjoy, during times of celebration it becomes a centre for partying such as my visit when the Fifa World Cup was on and the Square was filled with people watching the Portuguese play football. On the Riverfront it is a place to enjoy the water's coolness and watch the other side of Lisbon.
Elevador de Santa Justa
Elevador de Santa Justa might have you lost in another city, like Paris. It was built by the apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, Raul Mesnier who created this Elevator for the city in 1902. It connects the centre of Lisbon with the area of Bairro Alto as well as the Convento de Carmo. You are able to catch the lift both up and down, once at the top make sure you stay for the views.
Convento do Carmo
Convento do Carmo is now the ruins of a monastery build by the Carmelite Order in 1389. It has had a turbulent past being rebuilt, neglected when all Orders where disbanded in Portugal then becoming a home of Archaeology treasures then do nowadays where is it a beautiful open space to admire the skies above. It is a wonderful place in Lisbon to escape the bustle and enjoy the serenity.
During Summer the Convento hosts a light show every night called Lisbon Under Stars. They create a light show with a different theme each year. You just get to sit in this wonderful place, admire the stars and see what beauty they can create with the use of digital art.
Bairro Alto Neighbourhood
Bairro Alto shows a wonderful side of Lisbon when the sun begins to set, with live music on street corners, wonderful hidden bars and restaurants to discover delicious local food and the night lights that make Lisbon so vibrant. It is a wonderful place to pass an evening with.
Time Out Market
Down at the bottom of the hill is a Market place that has been given a new lot of life. In 2014 the Time Out Magazine created a place that variety of Local and International food stalls to serve the locals delicious meals as well as a cocktail or two. There are great local stalls to enjoy where you can get the real flavour of Lisbon then finishing it off with a Ginjinha (Cherry Liqueur served in a dark chocolate glass)
Lisbon makes the Tram 28 famous but it is a tourist trap where I have heard lots of people get robbed. You don't need to get it at all, try using one of the many funiculars (such as Elevador da Bica) that the city has to offer, they are the same carriage style, they get you up one of the many steep hills and it is only locals on the funiculars so you will enjoy a quiet relaxing trip in one of Lisbon Icons. If you really feel the need to see the Tram 28, head over onto Largo do Chiado which is a vibrant square in the Bairro Alto District, you will be able to see it stop in a really perfect setting making it the best way to enjoy the Tram 28.
Down the road from the city of Lisbon is the District of Belem. Belem is a wonderful part of Lisbon that is full of beautiful sights to see covered in Manueline architecture and the best sweets to eat. The best way to get to Belem is with a Train from Cais do Sobre to Belem, or a tram or even a taxi which is insanely cheap in Lisbon.
Belem Tower was the Marine Fortress built in 1515 to protect the Lisboetas as they sailed out onto the Age of Discovery. It is built in the Mauneline style with a nod to its Moorish past; there are ropes, knots and leaf motifs sculpted into the stone work. It is a wonderful sight to behold, it is best to arrive early in the day to visit if you wish to avoid the crowds to enjoy a walk on the beach it sits on then you can visit the inside of the castle to see what it would have been like to work in this fortress and climb to the top to see the views out to the ocean.
The Discovery Monument is a awing monument to the Age of Discovery, to all the souls who travelled out to discover places like Brazil, parts of Africa, India and what the Portuguese loved telling me Australia too. It is a massive monument built in the 1960s in a shape of a ship with Henry the Navigator at the helm with a selection of the people that helped define Portugal during this Age. You are able to visit to top of the Monument to see the blue sky views.
When at the Monument make sure you have a look at the Marble Globe that is laid out in the square showing all the adventures the Portuguese took.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
The Mosterio does Jeroimons along with the Church of Santa Maria connected to the monastery is on my top 10 of churches to visit in Europe. It is a ornate place of worship with every twist of a corner or column covered head to toe in beautiful design, every part is unique and nothing is repeated twice. You will look up and around with your eyes with amazement and joy as you can not get enough of all this wonder you see. Best to get there early or late to avoid the queues, unless you grab a ticket that gets you into the Monastery and Museum next door allowing you to skip the queue. It is a must do in Lisbon.
Pastéis de Belém
Pasteis de Belem is where you will find the great Pastel de Nata (Portuguese Tart), the recipe comes from the Monastery across the street and they have been making them in the 100s a day since 1837. I am not kinding when I say this that is it the best Pastel de Nata you will ever eat, so much so that my Mother who hates these tarts couldn't get enough of them. Make sure when you visit you buy a big box and see how long they will last.
National Carriage Museum
The Carriage Museum is a gem to visit, it is divided into 2 sections over 2 buildings. The original museum is located next to the Royal Palace of Belem and set in the old stables that held the carriages and what a feast to the eye it is. They have a range of carriages with horsemen uniforms all underneath a Baroque painted ceiling. Once you get a taste of these incredible ornate carriage which are highly decorated you need to pop over to the modern building across the street with the rest of the carriage from the ornate carriages, to a Pope's Carriage to the modern and simple carriages. It is a must see museum to visit.
Ponte 25 de Abril
The Bridge of the 25th April could be similar to a few of us looking like the twin of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It was built in 1966 and got the name it has today from the Revolution on the 25th April 1974. It is a great sight to see being a huge icon that joins the 2 side of Lisbon together.
Cristo Rei Christ
The Cristo Rei Christ again is another twin of something across the waters in Brazil. It offers wonderful views across Lisbon either from the base or at the top of the monument.
Speaking the Language
Never say to a Portuguese is it like Spanish or any referring their culture to Spain. Portuguese is such a different language that with all the languages I speak I can not even work out the sentences. English is spoken by most locals for us poor visitors but it is always nice to try and learn a few words to get you by, they where so happy when I dropped these words.
Thank You: Obrigado (men) / Obrigada (women)
You’re welcome: De nada!
I hope you enjoy your visit to Lisbon, it is a warm city to visit from the heat, to the views and to the warmth of the locals you get to meet.