westernmost capital city (yes, it's even west of Dublin), is located in
scenic southwestern Portugal. The
historic core of the city occupies seven hills located on the north bank of the Rio Tejo,
near where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean after cutting through over
seven-hundred miles of the Iberian Peninsula.
Lisbon, the fastest growing urban area in Portugal, has a population approaching three million
residents. The core of the city
is the home to approximately half a million Portuguese. Resident
of Lisbon are
extremely proud of the economic and social advances that the country has
made since democratic reforms were put in place after a peaceful revolution in 1974.
Legend has it that Ulysses founded the city as part of his Odyssey, but
archaeological records indicate that the city may have been the site of an
Phoenician settlement dating from 1,000 B.C. The Romans, Goths and Muslims
governed the city through much of its history. The Reconquista of Lisbon in
the 12th century marked the end of the Muslim period and marked the beginnings of the Portuguese city. (The Reconquista is the name given to the re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by
the Christians who vanquished the Moors (Muslims, usually of African descent)
and was the culmination of several centuries of battles.
The city is an amalgam of architectural styles, mixing the old and new in a
slightly chaotic manner. A deadly earthquake destroyed the city in 1755,
killing over 50,000 and leveling most of the city’s homes and historically
significant buildings. Rebuilt on the same site, Lisbon lacks the grand
architecture that one expects from such a historically important city, especially
one with the wealth reportedly garnered when the country was a world power
during the “Age of Discoveries" from the 15th through
the 17th centuries.
Getting Around Lisbon
Those visitors who like to
explore new areas by foot will find Lisbon a challenge. The hills are
steep and numerous while terraces and flat paths are only infrequently
discovered. On the other hand, the city is compact and has a lot of
treasures that you will not see unless you explore on foot.
Those who like driving should abandon all hope of using a car in Lisbon.
Between the hills and the traffic, you will soon lose your zest for driving.
If still not deterred, then perhaps the lack of parking near most of the
important attractions will change your mind about using a car in Lisbon.
We think hiring a guide who has a car is a better idea.
The most economical way to tour Lisbon is to use the
the city's predominately underground,
The Metro stations are highly decorated and something of a treat to see. For
shorter hops, consider taking the trams (streetcars) that crisscross
the city. In order to navigate the hilly areas, take advantage of the
funiculars or public elevators. Taxis are an economical way to travel
if you have three or four companions. Finally, the suburban railways connecting Lisbon to Belém, Estoril and Cascais
are an inexpensive way to see the sights during travel along the coast.
might want to consider buying a Lisboa Card if you will be staying in town a
few days. The card can be purchased for one, two and three day intervals
and provides free access to public transportation and free entrance to most
museums and discounts on other attractions of interest to tourists.
See this site for more information about the
Lisbon City Sightseeing Tour
From Viator Tours
Lisbon City Sightseeing Tour and Sintra Day Trip
From Viator Tours
Private Lisbon History and Tapas Walking Tour
From Viator Tours
Lisbon Hop-on Hop-off Tour
From Viator Tours
Fatima and the Sanctuary Basilica Half Day Tour from Lisbon
From Viator Tours
|The river called the Rio Tejo
in Portugal enters the country from Spain where it is called the Rio
Tajo. Many mapmakers avoid the controversy and call it the Tagus
Lisbon is a city of unique neighborhoods and
each offers exposure to a different aspect of this capital city. Notable
attractions are limited in Lisbon, but there is much to discover. If your time
is limited, see
Belém and the monuments related to the “Age of Discoveries”. If
you have more time, consider visiting the areas and attractions we describe
below and on the following pages. If you do,
you will cover the “best places to visit in Lisbon”, although there are a number
of interesting museums and attractions that we have neglected. If you are
interested in another area of Lisbon, use the jump tables on the right-edge of
the page to select another attraction.
Baixa, located in the center of
Lisbon, is known for shopping, banking and its many open-air
restaurants. Baixa is a relatively flat area between the hilly Barrio Alto on one
side and the equally hilly Castelo /Alfama neighborhoods on the other side. It is
distinguished from these areas by its unique, regular, gridded street
pattern. To the south, it meets
the River Tejo.
Baixa is bounded on the north and south by two large plazas. Located on the
River Tejo, Praça do Comércio is a large public square that was once the site of
a royal palace destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. (The Portuguese word praça
translates to “square, public square, or plaza”.) Today the Comércio is a
large plaza, populated by pigeons and dominated by a statue of Jose 1st, who
was king during the rebuilding of Lisbon after the earthquake. Ornate,
arcaded buildings, which house the offices of a portion of Lisbon’s city
government, surround the square. In addition, the Praça is a public
transportation hub for Lisbon and many trams and busses stop here.
The shopping area of Baixa starts beyond the tall arch (the Arco da Victória)
at the north end of the square. In the past, the arch was the gateway of the
city, as it was the city entrance used by travelers who arrived in Lisbon
by boat. To the west of the square (along the shore) you will find a train
station (Estação Cais do Sodré), which connects to Belém, Estorial and
Follow Rua Augusta (the street under the arch) into Baixa for shopping, good
eating and strolling. Take a seat at one of the many street-center cafés (the
fish specials are highly recommended) and people watch. Although the area is
popular with tourists due to its shopping, it is, also, where many Lisbonites shop and eat
The surface of a number of the walkways in this area are decorated by Calçada,
a form of paving which features unusual designs depicting geometric patterns of
flowers and other shapes. Some of the Calçada walkways are stunning, while
others are unusual, though all are a pleasant change from asphalt or cement.
At the end of Rua Augusta
you will find the plaza popularly known as the Praça Rossio
, which leads to the Praça dos Restauradores. The Rossio is one
of the most popular meeting areas of Lisbon. It was refurbished several
years ago, adding to its attractiveness. The area also houses an opera house
(Teatro de Dona Maria II) built in the mid-19th century and the Rossio Train
Station where you can catch trains to Sintra or other areas of Portugal (Estação
The Praça dos Restauradores (
) leads to the Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon’s
famous grand-avenue that ends at a statue of Pombal, the architect of
Lisbon’s rebuilding after the earthquake of 1755. The Avenida da Liberdade, in turn,
leads to the Parque Eduardo VII, a well-manicured pleasant park with large
grassy areas. Many of the
Lisbon's newer hotels are located to the north of the park.
A little further north, you will find one of Lisbon's most treasured art
museums -the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Calouste Gulbenkian, a noted
Armenian businessman, made a fortune in oil trading. He arrived in Lisbon
during World War II, taking advantage of Portugal’s neutral stance in the
conflict and fell in love with the city and Portugal. Upon his death, the
city was endowed with his magnificent art collection and a financial bequeath to
create a museum to display these treasures.
The museum’s extraordinary collections are
grouped in two. One section is devoted to Oriental, Classical Egyptian,
Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, Eastern Islamic, Armenian and Far Eastern art. A
second section covers European art from the 11th to the 20th century. (The Calouste is located at Av. de Berna 45A 1067-001 north of Parque Eduardo
VII. Take the Metro and exit at the S. Sebastião or Praça de Espanha
stations or take buses 16, 26, 31, 46, 56)
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.
museums are closed on Mondays and some on Sunday and Monday. General
hours are 10:00 to 17:00 but check locally, as many of the less
popular museums are open on limited schedules.
Best Places to Visit in Portugal