Lisbon: Portugal’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and one of Europe’s most fascinating cities. Situated in the hills near the Tagus River, Lisbon is a colorful and vibrant destination that you will always want to return to! It’s known for its warm and sunny climate and is home to many iconic monuments, world-class museums, and other great sights.
One thing you can be sure of is that you will never be bored in Lisbon. Whether it’s exploring the narrow streets of the old town or taking a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, there’s always something to do here! To help you make sure you don’t miss out on anything, we’ve compiled a list with our 10 favorite places in the city.
Lisbon in a Nutshell
The capital of Lisbon is the largest city in Portugal, with a population of around 500,000 people. Its location on the Atlantic coast makes it both Portugal’s westernmost city and Europe’s westernmost capital. Did you know that Lisbon was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake and a tsunami in 1755? Luckily, the city was soon rebuilt – otherwise, we’d all be missing out!
The weather in Lisbon is very Mediterranean, meaning it’s generally nice and warm. Due to its proximity to the sea, even the summers aren’t too hot, and there’s always a breeze to keep you cool. Sounds perfect for combining a city trip with a beach vacation, wouldn’t you say? Even the water temperature is always refreshing and rarely rises above 18 degrees. A trip to Lisbon is always worth it, no matter the time of year, although the best time for sightseeing is between June and September.
Remember to try the Pastéis de Belém while you’re here. These custard puff pastry tarts are famous throughout the country. Fish connoisseurs will also get their money’s worth in Portugal, as most menus feature delicious dishes with fresh seafood. You might be surprised to learn that Portugal is also home to some great cheeses. Our favorite one is the Queijo da Serra, a sheep’s cheese with thistles.
The easiest and quickest way to explore Lisbon is by using its public transport system. Compared to most other European cities, the ticket prices are also pretty cheap here. In addition, the public transport system is very well-developed. You have the choice between more than 100 bus lines, a modern metro, and the streetcar network.
Lisbon is host to many great events throughout the year, from film festivals to music and theater performances. If you happen to visit the city in February, we recommend attending one of the city’s biggest festivals, the Carnaval de Loures. This celebration includes a huge carnival parade, a lively atmosphere, as well as a “jester’s ball.” But remember to wear a carnival mask, or you won’t be allowed to take part!
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Lisbon
So, let’s move on to the top 10 sights in Lisbon. After all, you should know what to expect on your trip. We’re sure you’ll fall in love with this city just as quickly as we did!
Torre de Belém
The Torre de Belém is one of Lisbon’s most famous landmarks. It towers over the quayside promenade and offers a combination of different architectural styles, combining Mudejar, Moorish, Gothic, and Romantic influences. The Torre de Belém is located at the mouth of the Tagus River and was built in the 16th century. Due to its size, you’ll be able to see it even from a great distance. The adventurer Vasco da Gama took advantage of the tower’s size and used it to navigate as he set out into the vastness of the Atlantic.
The Jerónimos Monastery
The 16th century Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most important sights in the Portuguese capital, because it is of immense historical and cultural importance. This is also why it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. You can find the monastery next to the riverbank in the Belem district, where it was built in 1498 in honor of Vasco da Gama’s epic voyage to India.
The Jerónimos Monastery symbolizes the wealth of the Age of Discovery. In addition, it’s also used as a place of worship. Look out for the impressive south portal and the magnificent Manueline-style architecture while you’re here! We also recommend visiting the tomb of Vasco da Gama in the Church of Santa Maria.
The Streetcar 28
Lisbon is known for its historic and rattling streetcar lines. Our favorite one is number 28, which has been taking its passengers over the cobbled streets to the old Alfama district for decades.
The ride starts under the palm-fringed hills of Graca. Then, it takes you through the hairpin alleys of Escolas Gerais, after which you’ll finally reach the magnificent domes of the Estrela Basilica. Take this ride to catch a glimpse of the city’s history, while admiring some of Lisbon’s most beautiful sights at the same time.
The Alfama District
The Alfama District is the oldest part of the capital and dates back to the African Moors. We highly recommend just taking a walk through its winding streets and alleys. No trip to Lisbon is complete without exploring this district. Among our favorite landmarks here are the beautiful Lisbon Cathedral and the remains of the old city walls.
Cascais offers a tranquil landscape and a welcome break from the crowded streets of the city center. The old fishing village on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean is located west of the capital and has undergone many changes over the years. This is due to the many travelers and upscale Lisboetas that come here in search of sea, sun, and sand. Just choose one of the magnificent golden bays and enjoy the view of the impressive cliffs lining the coast. The village itself is home to many great restaurants offering the best seafood in the area. Alternatively, you could also go surfing at the Praia do Guincho. No matter what you decide to do, Cascais is always worth a visit!
The Castelo de São Jorge
This castle is one of the most famous landmarks in the historic center of Lisbon. It stands high above the streets of the old Alfama district and was built by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. The Castelo de São Jorge has undergone numerous changes over the years, due to the Berbers and the participants in the “Reconquista” altering the existing structure.
The Castelo de São Jorge has magnificent palisades and beautiful pewter towers that you can explore by walking around the surrounding dry moat. Once you pass through the castle’s large gate, you’ll see the royal seal of Portugal, which represents the monarchy’s strength in the country.
The National Museum of Ancient Art
The National Museum of Ancient Art houses Portugal’s prestigious national art collection. You’ll find a wide range of fascinating works here, ranging from Nuno Gonçalves’ religious paintings to Josefa de Óbidos’ beautiful portraits. Most of the paintings date from the 16th or the 19th century and have belonged to the public since the end of the Liberal Wars.
The museum is a great place for art lovers, as it displays a lot of touring exhibitions and collections. It’s the perfect opportunity to get an insight into the Renaissance period in Lisbon and to admire historical paintings from the Age of Discovery.
The Rossio is a square lined with plane trees that serves as a center of Lisbon’s local life. King Pedro IV Square, as it’s also known, is the heart of the Pombaline Lower Town, which stretches along the boulevards between the Baixa and the Tagus. The square is rich in history, as it used to be a popular place for beheadings and bullfights.
Nowadays, the Rossio invites you to go for a long walk. Why not relax on one of the benches and watch the locals play dominoes? You can also admire the square’s beautiful Baroque fountain from here.
Lisbon Story Center
We highly recommend visiting the Story Center if you’re ever in the Bairro Alto or in old Alfama. Travelers who bring Lisbon’s city map with them can even visit the center for free. The Story Center is a great place to learn more about the capital’s history.
For example, it has a special section dedicated to the Age of Discovery and the city’s great sailors. You also shouldn’t miss the 4D presentation of the devastating 1755 earthquake while you’re here.
Costa da Caparica near Lisbon
If you don’t want to miss out on having a beach vacation, just take a short trip across the 25 de Abril bridge to the famous Costa da Caparica summer resort. Located on the northern edge of Setúbal County, it is home to some of Portugal’s most beautiful sand beaches.
You’ll find many empty dunes lined with acacia trees and swaying seagrass here. Of course, you can also take a train further down the coast to some other hidden coves and sunbathing spots.
Lisbon is an exciting metropolis on the Iberian coast. Its vibrant nightlife and fascinating sights guarantee that you’ll never be bored here.
Whether you’re traveling on your own or with a travel buddy, you’ll always have a great time in Lisbon. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and off you go!