Things to do in Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. Located close to the Atlantic Ocean, the city has no less than three million inhabitants including suburbs, making it the largest city in Portugal. Lisbon is built on hills so that some districts have reasonable differences in altitude. The city has a historic center: Baixa. Many important buildings are in this district. The nearby Bairro Alto neighborhood, which can be reached from the center with a thirty-meter-high cable car, is beautiful as well. Bairro Alto is the district where you have to be to eat out or to go out. Thanks to the increasing availability of cheaper airline tickets to Lisbon, a short holiday in Lisbon is becoming increasingly popular. Here are some of the top attractions in Lisbon.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
This monastery in the Belém district is a prominent building in the city of Lisbon. In the monastery are the graves of explorer Vasco de Gama, poets Fernando Pessoa and Luís de Cames and members of the royal family. The dimensions of this beautiful monastery are very impressive. The interior of the monastery is decorated with Manueline motifs, in which European and Moorish elements make it very special. Also the Spanish architecture and Renaissance style often is well visible. Near the monastery is an equally impressive square. The Praça do Imperio is about 280 x 280 meters in size with a garden of 3.300m² in the center, finished with a large fountain in the middle.
Rua Augusta is a very lively pedestrian street in the shopping area of Portugal. It is characterized by a large Arco Triunfal or Rua Augusta Arch. This is a historic building commemorating the earthquake of 1755. Rua Augusta is located in the Baixa Pombalina district, which was rebuilt after the earthquake in 1755. The shopping area is known as chic, with very beautiful mosaic tiled sidewalks. Many cozy terraces are to be found as well as street artists that characterize the street.
Castelo de São Jorge
This beautiful castle is located on top of the highest hill in the center of Lisbon. From here you have a very nice view over the city. Geese and ducks walk through the gardens of this stately castle. Also locals like to stay in the shade under one of the trees.
Torre de Belém
The Belem Tower is located in the Belém district in Lisbon. This used to be a ceremonial access road to Lisbon. Nowadays it is a tourist attraction for its beautiful appearance. This tower from 1515 is a Manuel-style artwork, although in some rooms there are still characteristics of Islamic and Moorish architecture. In the nineteenth century this beautiful building fell into disrepair, but fortunately Ferdinand II of Portugal decided to restore this national monument to its original glory.
Oceanário de Lisboa
In the modern district Parque das Nações lies the largest aquarium in Lisbon. The North American architect Peter Chermayeff designed the building, which looks like an aircraft carrier. Like the Parque das Nações, this Oceanarium was also built for the Expo ’98 world exhibition. The possibilities include a tour behind the scenes.
Bairro Alto is an area in the center of Lisbon which is known for its shopping and entertainment area. You will also find some artistic shops and art galleries here. Because of the high buildings and narrow streets it is wonderful to walk through the shadow-filled streets of this area. In the evening, the many bars, restaurants and clubs can get quite crowded.
Parque das Nações
In English, Parque das Nações means “Park of Nations”. This new district is located in the east of Lisbon and lies on the Tagus River. Well-known buildings and attractions in this area are Torre Vasco da Gama, Gare do Oriente station, Vasco da Gama modern shopping center, Lisbon Oceanarium and a promenade with views of São Gabriel and São Rafael towers.
Cemitério dos Prazeres
Cemitério dos Prazeres is the largest cemetery in Lisbon. Near the district Campo de Ourique you can find this cemetery with many famous Portuguese people. The most impressive grave is the Mausoléu de D. Pedro de Sousa Holstein.
Those who like to visit castles and palaces can not skip the towns of Queluz and Sintra. In this town you can find the former summer residence ‘Palace of Queluz’ of the Portuguese royal family from the 14th and 16th century. There are beautiful gardens at this palace and the Robillon pavilion. You will also find the Palace of Pena at the top of a hill above the town of Sintra. The palace stands on remains of an old Hieronymite monastery. On another hill above Sintra, is the ‘Castelo dos Mouros’. The largest tower on this castle can be climbed with about 500 steps. The castle is surrounded by a wall of 450 meters.
Ride on an authentic tram
Once you have arrived in the old city of Lisbon, the rattling trams immediately catch your eye. These colorful cars race non-stop through the sloping streets of this big city. If you have the chance to sit on such an old machine, then I definitely recommend to do it. Not only the exterior is beautiful, the inside has remained very authentic.
You even have the possibility to do some sort of hop-on hop-off tram ride (tram 28 – with the Lisbon card you can ride on for free here), but do know that this vehicle is almost always crowded and you don’t get to have the views.
Visit the Azulejos museum
During a holiday in Portugal, the colored tiles (usually white and blue) will surely stand out. These ‘Azulejos’ are the national pride of Portugal! These porcelain tiles are used almost everywhere to make the buildings more beautiful and give them a typical Portuguese touch.
In the Azulejos museum you learn everything about these small (or large) tiles, and you also see how beautiful this porcelain can be. During your visit to the Azulejos museum you can also visit the Madre Deus church. Golden ceilings in combination with walls full of these little masterpieces: a dazzling combination!
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