The city on Seven Hills, the birthplace of Fado, a maze of dark and narrow streets that dates back for centuries, and now one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the European continent, Lisbon is like no other place on earth. Europe's westernmost capital city is prized for its seamless mixture of tradition and modernity, where the past and the future all come together in brilliant unity. From Alfama, to the
The oldest part of the city is Alfama, which contains many tourist attractions. Steeped with old world charm, a leisurely tour on the old trams in this part of the city is an experience of a lifetime. The
Bairro Alto is one of the areas of the city with a great nightlife. Here you will find a large number of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The downtown area of Baixa is traditionally a commercial area, where a number of shops can be found, including popular souvenir shops. The extension of the Baixa, the famous
In Belém, near the Tagus River, you'll find a variety of monuments and leisure areas. In the 14th and 15th Centuries, the
The center of the city, apart from being Lisbon's business and commercial core, also contains many landmarks and shopping locations. The very convenient subway network can take you anywhere in a matter of minutes. Take some time to appreciate the local artists' art and sculptures in the underground stations.
The residential districts of the city sometimes provide the most interesting sightseeing, and even some exciting surprises. If you haven't already done enough shopping, the Benfica area contains the
Outside the City
The towns near Lisbon are just as interesting to visit, and offer sights that cannot be found in the city. West of the city is beautiful Cascais, a coastal town with a large number of beaches. Cascais's rich history is evidenced by the wealth of historical landmarks and attractions in the area. To the south, Costa da Caparica, a fishing village, also has wonderful beaches and allows you to see what a traditional Portuguese fishing village is like.
Lisbon is located in the estuary of the River Tagus, and is linked to the other bank by two bridges. The Ponte 25 de Abril is one of the biggest bridges in Europe and appears similar to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. As for the inhabitants, Lisbon is known for the characteristically warm and friendly locals.
Alfama is the oldest and most historic district in Lisbon, and throughout the little becos or alleyways you will find historic homes and ancient dwellings that make this evident. Here is where you will find the Castelo de São Jorge which rests upon one of the more daunting hills in the city. Also in the area you will also find the historic churches of Santo Estêvão and São Vicente alongside the Sé Cathedral which all offer a glimpse into the religious pomp and circumstance. This district also contains many places to see a Fado show, although many locals say that they are too tourist oriented; try to find a place that is run by the Fado artists themselves for more authenticity. Furthermore, if you happen to be lucky enough to be in the city during the festival of Santo António, usually held in mid-June, this district comes alive as street vendors, impromptu musical acts and culinary delights will all please. The entire district sometimes resembles what an old Alcaçaria (marketplace) would look like, where you can almost hear ancient traders in the bazaar.
Located nearby the neighborhoods of Encarnação and Santa Catarina lies the Bairro Alto or “High Neighborhood” due to its picturesque setting on top of one of Lisbon’s many hills. This neighborhood is an eclectic bag of locales, where you can find antique shops alongside others with a decidedly more modern flair, and although the area has seen some degradation over the years, it is still a popular place to come and see authentic Fado and has an upbeat nightlife for other events. For excellent views of the city, take the Elevador da Glória to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara and enjoy a quasi bird’s-eye view of Lisbon and its environs. Also of particular interest is the Museu e Igreja de São Roque, a treasure trove of religious art and fervor during the age of discovery. In the past, this neighborhood was filled with houses of prostitution, gambling dens and other sordid places, but today just as with most parts of Lisbon, the archaic mingles with the contemporary.
If you take the subway and get out at the Baixa-Chiado stop, you will then enter one of the most beautiful and historic neighborhoods in the city. Filled with historic restaurants and museums, there is no doubt that the visitor will want to stay in this area and explore. To start, enjoy some bica (espresso) at the Café a Brasileira. Then for some high class entertainment, you could catch a show at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (the only opera house in the city) or the Companhia Teatral do Chiado where you can appreciate the color and flair from this contemporary dance company. For those travelers with a more educational proclivity, you can head to the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea (National Museum of Modern Art) and the Museu do Chiado, as both contain magnificent works. For a leisurely stroll, in this neighborhood you will also find the Largo do Carmo which is a beautiful square filled with Jacaranda trees and their resplendent purple leaves, also nearby is the Convento do Carmo, destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and now hosts the city’s archeological museum, the Museu Arqueológico do Carmo. In the area of Baixa, you will find many historical monuments and buildings alongside many elegant shops and boutiques. This is the only place in Lisbon that has a linear layout of streets, designed and planned by the Marquês de Pombal after the earthquake in 1755 destroyed every other previous edifice. Stroll down the Rua Augusta from the Rossio metro stop until the Praça do Comércio, an area that witnessed the grandeur and decadence during the reign of Portuguese kings for two centuries. The Baixa Pombalina as this district is also known was declared a World Heritage site in 2004, and considering the variety of modernity and tradition, this is a definite must-see while in the capital. After all this, head down to the Restaurante Chapitô, a place with international as well as traditional dishes and also functions as a circus school.
Praça da Espanha to Rossio
At the Praça de Espanha metro station you can visit the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian and the adjacent wide green areas of the eponymously named park. And since you are already there, why not go to Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão as well?
Further south, in the Parque Eduardo VII you will have the opportunity to see beautiful displays that feature the ubiquitous azulejos (decorative tiles) which represent the major Portuguese discoveries. At the north end of the park, it provides spectacular views of the Avenida da Liberdade and the magnificent structures all around. At the bottom of the park, you will see the monument to Lisboa’s benevolent patriarch, Marquês de Pombal; it was he who almost single-handedly reconstructed the city after the quake. You can then walk down the Avenida da República through the center all the way down to Rossio, a square that is truly the heart of the city. Stop by the Café Nicola for some coffee and a pastel de natas a delectable little pastry before making the trip across town to the historic district of Belém.
Grab the tram at the Cais do Sodré to the wondrous district of Belém, this neighborhood is where the religious, economic and political power of Portugal was during the Descobrimentos. Spend a day along the Tagus River and you will be surprised at the many things it has to offer. With a view of the south bank areas of Santos and Almada, as well as the magnificent Ponte 25 de Abril. Belém is one of the most visted places in Lisbon, and if you find cars interesting, visit the Museu Nacional dos Coches. If more museums is what you desire, before coming to Belém, visit the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, situated in Janelas Verdes. In this museum you find a vast collection of paintings from the 16th century, ceramics and goldsmith pieces, among others. The museum also has a variety of international and national art between 12th and 19th Centuries. When you arrive to the Mercado Municipal 24 de Julho (at night it is an area extremely full of people frequenting the numerous bars and discos in the area), use the public transportation mentioned above in order to get to Belém. Once you arrive in Belém, the first thing you will see is the massive Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a limestone edifice that houses the tombs of the famed explorer Vasco da Gama and the literary heavyweight, Luis de Camões. Right next door is the Fundação Centro Cultural de Belém, a cultural factory which presents all kinds of entertainment, from musicals to art expos. From here, cross the street on one of the overpasses to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a huge sculpture representing a ship with all the Portuguese greats, Vasco da Gama, João Gonçalves Zarco and many others. The statue itself is quite massive and inside you can visit the top of the monument which has marvelous views of the entire city, even though it is a little further west from the center. Further west, take a stroll down to the Torre de Belém, which marks the point from which Portuguese sailors departed on their way to discover Brazil and the sea route to India. This veritable monument built in 1551 to protect the city and to hold prisoners. Visit the terrace and you will have an impressive view above Lisbon and the Tagus River.
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If you take a long look at Lisbon, you realize that it is different from all other cities. Finding out why wouldn't be a waste of time. It would involve a voyage between the seven hills on which the city is built, and centuries of history in districts such as Alfama, Castelo and Mouraria. Discovering Lisbon involves taking some time to notice the small details, the stone pavings, the tiles on the floor, the iron on the verandas and the fountains found in the typical gardens. The history of Lisbon can be found in the views from the majestic castle, and on the brows of each and every hill. Lisbon is not only about the past, it is also about the here and now. Through its modern business districts, and the new avenues which are springing up all the time, Lisbon proves that it is a city in constant development.
It is documented that there has been a human presence in Lisbon for at least 300,000 years, after remains were found recently in this area. It is thought that the early settlers hunted and fished for food, in a completely different ecosystem to the one in place nowadays. Excavations in the Serra de Monsanto found that the settlers already produced pottery, which they traded, and that they already began to farm the land.
Ulysses and his men saw a flash of lightning fall on the spot where Lisbon is now located and start a massive conflagration. On closer inspection they found a fiery sphere, with the following inscription, 'On this foundation, lay the first stone of my city'. Ulysses then did as the inscription commanded, and named the city Ulisaypo or Olissopo. It is from there, according to legend, that Lisbon got its name.
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery was the biggest construction made in the era of the discoveries. Built during the reign of Manuel I, nicknamed the 'adventurer' owing to the riches he came by in India, it is a fine example of the 'Manueline' style of architecture, which highlighted a maritime theme. In those days, the banks of the river Tagus were closer, and it was possible to watch the boats coming in to port, laden with the spices that brought so much wealth to Portugal.
This enduring structure watches over Lisbon from the highest hill in the city's center. During the Christian Reconquista, the castle played an important role in reclaiming the country back from the Moors. The castle was later dedicated to Saint George, thus earning its name Castelo de S.Jorge.
During those Maritime discoveries, Portugal used its riches to expand the city, much like many other cities in that time. A royal palace was built in the 'Ribeira' and a new thoroughfare; 'Rua Nova' was created and quickly became the new commercial center, now known as the 'Baixa'. The Praça do Rossio and the Terreiro do Passo, which became a meeting place for the locals were also constructed. The 'Casa de India' was founded, and it was here that all the business was taken care of and all along the banks of the river, beautiful homes were being built for the aristocrats of the time, like the magnificent 'Palacio Corte Real' and the very famous 'Casa dos Bicos', built by Afonso de Albuquerque's son.
A number of religious buildings were also constructed, examples being the Jerónimos Convent and the Mother of God convents. An urbanization plan was also being considered, this later became the district of Bairro Alto.
Manuel I continued the development of the city and the Rossio and the Torre de Belem were built between 1515 and 1521. Between 1650 and 1755, the Palace of Necessidades was constructed and notably the majestic Aqueduct, built between 1713 and 1748, which brought many benefits to the city of Lisbon.
This destructive earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, was one of the most deadly earthquakes that has ever occurred, with its effects killing thousands of people and almost completely devastating the city. The earthquake increased the already high political tensions and put on hold many colonial goals that the country had. Yet it was from the ruins of the earthquake that the new Lisbon rose, with new architecture as well as new perspectives on science, politics, and philosophy.
To get a better view of Lisbon and its shops, attractions, and monuments, we think it is more convenient to divide the city in areas, taking into account the characteristics and also the historic and cultural differences of the people of Lisbon.
The Baixa/Chiado area is one of the most beautiful areas in Lisbon. You will see the most magnificent square in the city, the Praça do Comércio facing the Tagus River and the arch of Rua Augusta. Baixa/Chiado is also the shopping area of Lisbon, full of high quality stores. Here you will find excellent hotels such as the Hotel Metrópole that has a nice view on the Praça dos Restauradores. Hotel Avenida Palace is another choice for refined accommodations. The Orion Eden, also in Praça dos Restauradores, is located near the Elevador da Glória, which takes you up to the Bairro Alto. Another hotel situated in this area is the Bairro Alto Hotel, Lisbon's first boutique hotel. Full of bars and restaurants, this area in the center of Lisbon is the place to go out.
Avenida da Liberdade
In the haute-couture shopping district of Avenida da Liberdade/Marquês de Pombal, you will find opulence near the Tivoli shopping center, in Hotel Tivoli and the Tivoli Jardim. Many head offices can be found along the Avenida da Liberdade as well as cinemas and theatres. The famous and smart Lisboa Plaza, for instance, is located on this avenue. In the vicinity of Eduardo VII Park, there is the SANA Hotel Rex, facing the Marquis of Pombal's statue, and the Hotel Fenix. If you are looking for a more affordable hotel, check out the Residencial Astória which has wonderful accommodations at a very fair price. To the north of Eduardo VII Park is the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation with its Museu Calouste Gulbenkian and its nice gardens.
Praça de Espanha
In the Praça de Espanha area you will find several hotels with different price ranges, from the more affordable Hotel Ibis Lisboa José Malhoa to the luxurious Novotel Lisboa, both located on the Avenida José Malhoa.
Avenida da República/Campo Pequeno
In Avenida da República/Campo Pequeno, there is a famous organization called Culturgest, that offers a wide range of cultural activities, ranging from dance, music and theatre. The Praça de Touros, which was renovated to include a retractable ceiling and a shopping mall, can also be found in this area. Regarding hotels, there is the Alif and the Holiday Inn Continental.
Lapa is considered to be the most elegant area in Lisbon. Most of the embassies are settled in this quarter and many Portuguese artists live here. The Hotel Lapa, an old palace built in the XIX century, is a top-notch hotel with a magnificent view over Lisbon and the river; the Pensão York House with its marvelous gardens and the nice Janelas Verdes. Even though the area is quite tranquil, you are still near Alcântara and the Docas where you will find many bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
There are two tourist areas in Lisbon that do not have many hotels to speak of. They are the famous Alfama and Belém areas. Alfama is the most typical and traditional district in Lisbon, with traces of Moorish architecture. Here, the predominant Castelo de S.Jorge looks over the entire city. Do not miss the view! It is common in restaurants, to drink aguardente (brandy) while you are listening to typical Fado music. As there aren't many good hotels in this area, you may want to consider renting a room in a local resident's home or you can always stay in the Baixa/Chiado area.
Belém, is no doubt the most visited area in Lisbon. Besides the wonderful view over the Tagus River, there are also many monuments and museums located here. Monuments such as the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Centro Cultural de Belém are all delicious cups of cultural brews that must be ingested voraciously with any visit to Lisbon. If you wish to stay in this section of Lisbon the Vila Galé Ópera Hotel is the best option.
Costa do Estoril
Situated around 25 kilometers from Lisbon, you will discover the Costa do Estoril that spreads from Carcavelos to Cascais. Cascais and Estoril are two ideal places for holidays by the beach, famous for hosting European high-society. The nightlife is great and the restaurants specialize in fish and seafood, which are excellent. Besides the sun and the beach, look for the Marina in Cascais and the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães for an interesting time along the Costa do Estoril.
The majority of hotels along this strip of coastline are high-end. Some of the most notable hotels along the Costa do Estoril are the Pestana Cascais, the Hotel Baía, or the Hotel Cidadela. But you can still find some more affordable hotels like the Residencial Solar Dom Carlos or the Casa da Pergola.
In the western part of Cascais, near the Boca do Inferno; you find Cascais Village. In Estoril, famous because of its casino, most of the hotels have sea-views; try the Hotel Clube do Lago and the Hotel Vila Galé Estoril.