Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Each year thousands of international visitors flock to Lisbon to take in the stunning architecture. Lisbon features Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Baroque, traditional Portuguese, Modern and Post-Modern constructions. Lisbon is also conveniently in Portugal, allowing for several intriguing day trips for all types of visitors. Beach resorts, ancient palaces, world famous holy shrines, and wine tasting towns all seem to be within arm’s reach. Lisbon’s biggest attraction is the city itself. Built on the hills overlooking the river Tagus where it joins Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon has maintained its old world charm throughout recent development and is a must-see European destination.
Aside from the impressive architecture and beautiful vistas, Lisbon is also home to a number of famous museums and monuments. Famous museums include the National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), the Lisbon Oceanarium, and the Berardo Collection Museum at the Belém Cultural Center. Lisbon’s Opera House (Teatro Nacional de São Carlos) hosts cultural events such as theatre and musical performances. Lisbon’s tram system offers easy access to each city district and is an experience in and of itself.
The Castle of São Jorge offers panoramic views of Lisbon from its location atop the highest hill in the city’s center. The castle showcases a variety of distinct architectural features linked to the various groups that inhabited the fortified citadel throughout its storied history.
The Feira da Ladra, or ‘Thieves’ Market,’ is the city’s largest flea market. Convening every Tuesday and Saturday, the flea market primarily caters to locals but also has stands that sell traditional Portuguese handcrafts popular with tourists. A mere 5-10 minute walk from the Castle of São Jorge, the Feira da Ladra is a great place to see traditional Portuguese crafts and to enjoy Lisbon’s culture and friendly inhabitants. Be sure to sample the various treats you see along the way!
Belém is an area of Lisbon that can easily be reached via the city’s impressive and convenient tram system. This area is famous as the place from which many Portuguese explorers, including Vasco da Gama, set off on their voyages of discovery. Belém’s most famous feature is its tower, Torre de Belém. The tower was built in the 16th century and is an example of the Portuguese Manueline style of architecture. Also located in the Belém district of Lisbon is the Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro de Jerónimos). Another significant achievement of the Manueline style, the monastery is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lisbon.
Other notable attractions include the maritime museum, the barrio alto and chidado districts, and the parca do comercio.
When to Go
Most tourists prefer to visit Lisbon during the spring and summer as visitors and locals alike agree that the city is best explored on foot. Cost-conscious travelers may prefer to visit Lisbon in the off-peak season as airfare is typically cheaper and hotel deals are much more common. For the most part, Portugal enjoys great weather throughout the year thanks to its sub-tropical Mediterranean climate.
How to Get There
Most of the major European airlines fly to Lisbon, as well as an increasing number of low-cost carriers. The national Portuguese airline, TAP, connects Lisbon to many popular European destinations as well as to the United States. Continental Airlines offers daily direct service from New York to Lisbon. Lisbon airport is conveniently located almost in the center of the city, making transportation downtown very easy. Taxis cost between 15 and 20 Euros. Public buses are a cheap option, yet they are not suitable for those traveling with lots of luggage. Another option is the AeroBus or AeroShuttle bus services which cater to travelers with luggage in tow. These buses cost €3.50, run every 20 to 30 minutes, and stop at various important points throughout the city.
While many agree that the city itself is the main attraction in Lisbon, there are a few attractions which really should not be missed. These sites include, in no particular order, the Castle of São Jorge, the Belém tower (Torre de Belém), Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro de Jerónimos), and the National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga). Tourists should also be sure to utilize the famed tram system as much as possible as it is a fun and convenient way to get around the city.