I´ve already talked about the beautiful southern beaches, now it’s time to get to the Portuguese Capital City: It´s simply… a city to fall in love instantly! Don´t ask why! Lisbon doesn’t have the charm of Paris or “out-of-this-world” main attractions like The Colosseum in Rome, The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Parthenon in Athens… but it does have those characteristic tile facades with a thousand colors, its viewpoints which always facing Tajo river, picturesque streets decorated with graffiti and colorful garlands and even “that” bohemian air around the city.
If you are looking for a city that catches you, with good weather, excellent food and affordable prices, it´s undoubtedly the one to spend your next holidays.
Keep in mind! If you go by car you must consider the parking fees into your budget, which is going to be far from cheap. Traffic can also be a bit chaotic, especially on weekdays. Besides this problem the car can be handy to reach the most remote neighborhoods.
Lisbon is divided into beautiful neighborhoods with a lot of character… attractions never end! The most important are: La Baixa, Bairro Alto, La Alfama, Belem and Parque de las Naciones.
Let’s start with the most popular and central, La Baixa, this neighborhood was built after an earthquake in the 18th century… has a Gothic style and its streets arranged in a perfect geometrical way. Here you will see the typical facades which deserve a hundred photos!
If you look for the most emblematic streets and squares of the city… this is the place!
Liberty Avenue is certainly one of them, with an extension of more than 10 blocks you will find majestic buildings from the 19th century, streets covered with mosaics forming striking drawings, monuments and beautiful Cafes with covered terraces.
The “Restorers Square” is another mandatory stop in the neighborhood, owes its name to those who by the year 1600 rebelled against the Spanish Conquest, and nowadays in its center is located the obelisk that commemorates this event.
The Plaza del Rossio is a meeting place for both tourists and locals, its surroundings are packed with bars and restaurants. Some of the points to consider in the place are: The statue of King Pedro IV, the National Theater Doña María which built in 1842 as a replacement for the old Palacio Estaus, the Railway Station and one of the most famous cafés in Lisbon: “Café Nicola” with its long history and imposing art deco facade, deserves at least one brief stop.
One of the icons of this city which I´m sure that you have seen in maaany photos… is the Santa Justa Elevator. Well, it can be said that it´s not only a tourist attraction as this elevator solved the communication problems between the lower and upper part of the city, in fact, it´s one of the fastest ways to reach the “Barrio Alto”! You may not believe it but the elevator is over 100 years old! Inaugurated in 1902 with the name of “Elevador do Carmo”. Each ride is 5 euros!
Last but not least the star of the neighborhood… “Plaza del Comercio”, for decades was the door for all maritime trade in Lisbon! Formerly in the place was the Royal Palace, before being destroyed by the 1755 earthquake.
The great point of interest of this Plaza is its Triumphal Arch of Rua Augusta where one of Lisbon main streets starts running… “Rua Augusta”. Ah! Very close to the square is Cais de Sodré station where you will find different tour options along the Tagus River.
Barrio alto and the Chiado
One could say that these two neighborhoods represent the most bohemian and alternative side of the city, even calling Chiado as the “Montmartre of Lisbon”. A street not to be forgotten is Do Carmo, where you will find the Church of Garret.
On the other hand, the Barrio Alto shows us the alternative part of the city through its streets with infinity of graffiti and that typical habit of hanging clothes stretched from window to window.
Between the limits of both neighborhoods is Praça Luís de Camoes, scene of the well-known revolution of “Los Claveles”.
TIP! To reach these neighborhoods you can just take the Santa Justa elevator! While going up pay special attention to the those four blocks of burnt down houses… that incident took place in 1998.
On the way to Castle of San Jorge, you will come upon this traditional Lisbon neighborhood that keeps the true essence of the city… former residence of humble fishermen and a real “Arrabal”. La Alfama is home of the famous Portuguese musical expression “fado”, the soul of Lisbon, emerging from the working class as a way to reflect their problems and frustrations in their daily lives.
In this neighborhood we can you can also appreciate traces left by the Roman Empire! For instance, Rua da Saudade leads to the Roman Theater built in the 1st century BC. Ah! Don´t forget to visit the Cathedral!
Essential while visiting Lisbon, in this neighborhood you will find some of the most emblematic and beautiful monuments & sights. A little bit far away from the city center but well connected by tram, Belem is also known for being the starting point of the Portuguese explorers before the adventures around the world.
The two most important attractions to visit are:
“The Monastery of the Jerónimos”, declared a World Heritage Site in 1983, was built as part of the celebration of the return of the Indians of Vasco da Gama and where their remains are also housed. The church looks amazing and way different from the rest with its six perfectly sculpted columns…
“The Tower of Belem” on the banks of River Tajo, built at first as a defense then turned into a lighthouse and Customs Center. You can get inside for just 6 euros! In high season expect a looong queue under the sun that will be a little overwhelming. It has 5 floors and a terrace reached by a tight spiral staircase, so… be patient!
Fun fact: In one of its sides there´s a statue of a rhinoceros! It commemorates the first rhino that arrived to Portugal around 1500 AC.
Other sights that are worth a stop in this neighborhood are: Monument to the Discoverers and the April 25th´s Bridge.
Parque de las Naciones
It´s one of the most modern and newest areas in Lisbon, built for the Expo of 1998! So… lots of bars, restaurants, gardens, theaters and a big shopping center. Some of its highlights are: The Orient Station, the Oceanarium (one of the largest aquariums in Europe), the Vasco da Gama Tower and the Water Gardens.