From charismatic pavement designs at the central boulevard to the spacious arcades and mosaic cobbles in Praça do Comércio, Lisbon is a vibrant metropolis. This city of emigrants is a confluence of cultures and triumphs. It cultivates warmth more than any other city in Europe. Older than eternal Rome and more bohemian than Paris, ‘The White City’ is also a hotspot for spices. The medieval alleys and grandiose façades of Renaissance, Manueline, Pombaline, and Baroque architecture are all-pervading.
Lisboa, as the locals call it, is situated on the harbor of Tagus River estuary in western Portugal.
Facts about Lisbon
- It is the capital and largest city of Portugal.
- The about 8-mile-wide estuary of the Tagus River can contain all the warships in the world.
- The approximately 10-mile-long cable-styled Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest in Europe.
- Opened in 1732, Livaria Bertrand is arguably the oldest surviving bookstore in the world.
- Lisbon is called “The Town of Seven Hills” because legend has it that the city was built over seven hills.
- Fado music, which originated in urban Lisbon, was included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
- Estádio da Luz (Stadium of Light), a multipurpose stadium, is the home ground of Benfica football club.
- Buy the Lisboa Card to avail discounts (or free entrances) in major tourist attractions and free public transport.
Places to Visit in Lisbon
World Heritage Sites – Situated on the northern bank of Tagus River, the 30-m-tall Belém Tower is a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Its facade is a prominent example of Manueline architectural ornamentation. The grand religious building of Jerónimos Monastery exemplifies the celebrations of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. Both these sites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Lisbon Baixa (Pombaline Lower Town) – replete with a series of squares and neoclassical buildings – is an elegant district that can be named “the heart of the city.”
Museums – While the National Museum of Ancient Art displays Portuguese (and other European) artworks like drawings, paintings, and sculptures from Middle Ages to the 19th century, the Berardo Collection Museum showcases modern and contemporary artworks of Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Francis Bacon. A relatively small but distinctive National Coach Museum exhibits ornate carriages from 17th to 19th century. The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum houses precious collections of Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Persian, and American art. The galleries of Electricity Museum, Navy Museum, and National Tile Museum furnish umpteen artworks.
Cathedrals & Churches – Heart-stealing Gothic architecture and ruined main nave of Carmo Convent is awe-inspiring. The edifices of Lisbon Cathedral (the oldest church in the city), Church of Santa Engrácia (renowned for Renaissance dome and cloisters with blue ceramic tiles), Igreja de São Roque (dripped in gold chapels), and Monastery of São Vicente de Fora are must-visit attractions in Lisbon.
Palaces – The Avant-garde interior of Palace of Ajuda, splendid tile-work and frescoed panels of Palace of the Marquises of Fronteira, and the gleaming Belém Palace atop a hill personify the royal image of Portugal.
São Jorge Castle – Rising over an escarpment, the complex of this castle encompasses gardens, a large terrace, and some ancillary buildings.
Monument to the Discoveries – Originally built as a temporary lighthouse, this monument is a homage to the Age of Discovery. Along with the core statue of Henry the Navigator, 33 figures carved on the ramps immortalize the 14th-century Portugal – a superpower.
Lisbon Oceanarium – With more than 450 marine species, it is Europe’s largest indoor aquarium. Sharks, rays, sea otters, and sunfish are the main highlights here.
Águas Livres Aqueduct, Santa Justa Lift, Lisbon Zoo, Rua Augusta Arch, Vasco da Gama Tower, Monastery of São Vicente de Fora are other tourist attractions in the city.
Things to Do in Lisbon
Walk up to the hill for an extensive view of the city from Nossa Senhora do Monte Belvedere, grab a book and bask in the sun at Ribeira das Naus, attend a musical concert at Cultural Centre of Belém, mingle with multicultural Lisbonites in Martim Moniz or catch a bullfight in Campo Pequeno bullring—you’ll keep pace with the upbeat Lisbon.
Beaches – Beaches of Cascais-Estoril coastline are easily accessible from the city center via public transport. These beaches are ideal for surfing on the North Atlantic waves. Portinho da Arrabida, Praia de Carcavelos, and Praia de Galapos are some of the most popular haunts near Lisbon.
Parks & Recreation – Lisbon’s oldest Jardim Botanico da Ajuda and the sprawling Parque Eduardo VII in downtown are highly regarded public parks. You can embrace the picturesque riverfront and smell beautiful orchids in the Belém Palace Gardens.
Shopping – Browse through artisan goods, souvenirs, handicrafts, and furniture in legendary Feira da Ladra (flea market). Vintage stores in Barrio Alto and authentic boutiques in Chiado district are the favored places to shop. Amoreiras Shopping Center and Vasco da Gama Center are the shopping malls housing high-end clothing, jewelry, and gourmet stores.
Nightlife – Neighborhood of Bairro Alto has the trendiest and the most happening bars and clubs. Listen to the Fado music, order a cocktail, and start nightclubbing.
Tram Ride – Hop on to a yellow little trolley that lurches around and find out for yourself why a ‘Remodelado’ tram ride is an essential part of a traveler’s guide. Famous Tram 28 route takes you to Baxia, Alfama, and other finest districts in Lisbon. It leaves in every 11 minutes and operates from early morning to 9 PM.
For a luxurious stay, you can choose from Pestana Palace Lisboa, Olissippo Lapa Palace Hotel, Altis Avenida Hotel, and Corinthia Hotel Lisbon. For mid-range accommodations, Hotel Gat Rossio, Hotel Métropole, and Amazónia Lisboa Hotel are good options. Lisbon Old Town Hostel, Stay Inn Lisbon Hostel, Oasis Backpackers Hostel Lisbon, and Living Lounge Hostel are some of the value-for-money accommodations.
Custard tarts, Bacalhau, and Tapas are famous Portuguese cuisine that you can taste at traditional restaurants such as Adega Tia Matilde, Belcanto, Bica do Sapato, and Cantinho do Avillez. And don’t forget to stop by at the famous Pastéis de Belém for mouth-watering pastries.
Best Time to Visit
Lisbon is a year-round destination that enjoys a Mediterranean climate (hot summers and mild winters.) March to May (Spring) is the ideal time to visit as you can also enjoy the carnivals and explore outdoor destinations.
How to Reach?
By Air – Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) is located 10 minutes away from the city center. It is facilitated with an underground metro station and a bus stop near Terminal 1.
By Train – Lisbon Oriente Train Station is an obligatory stop for almost all the trains that travel through or within the city.
By Sea – Cais do Sodré and Terreiro do Paço are the main ferry terminals in Lisbon.
By Road – The city is strategically well connected by national highways and European routes. CARRIS has a wide network of bus and tram routes in the urban area.