A city built on seven hills. Lisbon, capital of Portugal, is situated beside the River Tagus next to the Atlantic Ocean and it is said that the city is Europe’s oldest capital. If you compared Lisbon with Rome, then it doesn’t appear likely. The reason, however, is that Lisbon was hit by the biggest earthquake in Europe back in 1755 and the city lost almost a third of its population and a large part of the city and its ancient buildings were also destroyed. Lisbon’s population today is approximately 2.5 million people.
Portugal’s capital Lisbon is an alluring city, but has lamentably few visitors compared to other major other European capitals. The absence of low cost airlines flying into the city is one reason for this, as Lisbon is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and well worth a visit. With its charming narrow streets, lofty quarters, tram rides and an undeniably agreeable climate, Lisbon is a worthy city break destination.
A modern city, Lisbon boasts a very efficient public transport system. But if you want to see Lisbon on foot, then you’re in for a pleasant stroll. Bairro Alto, Baixa, Alfama, Cais do Sodre and Chiado are amongst the more popular and attractive quarters of the city and represent the heart of the city . They are also where you find the narrow, winding streets lined with old houses, beautifully decorated, cosy restaurants and the tram system runs through. Belem is another beautiful spot where you will find the magnificent Torre de Belem and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
See our holiday apartments in Lisbon
Top 10 Lisbon sights:
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
In the Belem district you will find the huge Monastery dos Jerónimos, also known as Hieronymus Monastery or the ‘Pepper Monastery’. The last name came about as it was built from using a special tax of 5% of all imported goods – especially pepper. The monastery was built around 1459 and strangely it took no damage during the great earthquake in 1755. The monastery is impressive and the sight has lots of interesting history to delve into, one such point is that the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama is buried in the church which belongs to the monastery.
Torre de Belém
Known in English as Tower Belem, the tower is located in the district of the same name. It was built in memory of the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama and the city’s patron saint São Vicente. Built around 1515, the tower was used to defend the city from river attacks. In 1910 the Tower Belem was declared a Portuguese national monument.
Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio is a large square located in the Baixa district beyond the River Tagus. During the great earthquake in 1755 this whole area was destroyed and the square was built as part of the rebuilding of the city. It was the Marquess of Pombal who was responsible for the reconstruction of Lisbon and Praça do Comércio is just one of his many projects. Before the earthquake the royal palace was situated here and therefore the square is often referred to as the palace terrace. Today the Praça do Comércio is the home of Ministry of Agriculture and a sprinkling of restaurants and cafes.
Christ Statue in Lisbon
One of Lisbon’s new attractions is the 100 metre tall figure of Jesus Christ, which is visible from many parts of the city. The correct name is Cristo Rei and is a representation of the statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The construction of the statue was completed in 1959 and consists of an 85 metre high pedestal with the 28 metre high statue of Jesus Christ. You can reach the top of the pedestal by lift and from here there are stunning views across Lisbon. The statue is located on the opposite side of the river Tagus, away from the city.
Santa Justa Elevator
The most famous lift in Portugal. Remember that Lisbon is built on seven hills and it can be tiring reaching different quarters, going up and down hill. The Santa Justa Elevator was built in 1902 and connects Rua do Ouro and Largo do Carmo and saves you the up and downhill walk. Santa Justa elevator is a national monument in Portugal and from the top there is a fine view over Lisbon.
One of the most charming attractions to Lisbon is the city’s old tram system. They run smoothly without any problems and work seamlessly alongside the cities more modern transport system. Many residents use the trams daily and although you see some modern trams in the cityscape, most of them are still the old classic yellow tram. They are not the cheapest way of getting around Lisbon, but they are practical and in this high altitude city, the tram transports the visitor back in time. Try Route 28, which stops at most of the city sights and attractions.
Castelo de São Jorge
Lisbon´s beautiful castle is situated at the city’s highest point and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. The castle was built around the 5th century , but has seen many changes and renovations since. Between the 16th-18th centuries the castle became the residence of the Portuguese royal family. You can walk up to the castle through the Alfama district or take the number 28 tram, which takes you close to the castle. From here you will find the best views over the city and the castle itself has lots of interesting historical attractions and a museum.
The beautiful cathedral is located in the Alfama district and was also hit by the earthquake in 1755. This beautiful Cathedral is situated in the heart of the city, an easy walk and really worth a visit. The Roman Catholic Cathedral was built in 1147, but has since undergone several restorations and is today an eclectic mix of different styles.
The most famous district of Lisbon is without doubt the Bairro Alto, which means ‘high district’. The neighbourhood is full of winding, narrow streets, attractive and delightful local bars and restaurants. The area is Lisbon’s trendiest quarter, and when the evening comes the area is transformed into a cornucopia of bars and restaurants; almost every building turns into a tavern of some kind. During the hotter months the party spills out into the streets. Whether you’re a party animal or not, we recommend a visit to this wonderful district.
The Alfama district is also famous, but not for the same reasons. Located on the other side of the Baixa district, between the castle and the River Tagus, Alfama is the place to head for to experience Fado, in the districts bars and restaurants. Fado is a traditional Portuguese song style; for many the epitome of Portugal and we highly recommend that you experience a night of Fado in the Alfama district. The neighbourhood also offers plenty of beautiful architecture, charming streets and tranquil surroundings.