Lisbon

Lisbon – the second oldest capital of Europe after Athens, capital of an empire that spread far and wide, from South America (Brazil) to Asia (Macao, China; Goa, India).

Many explorers like Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Prince Henry the Navigator, once lived in Lisbon. The first true cosmopolitan city in the world, Lisbon is one of Europe’s soulful and picturesque capitals, built on a series of hills with scenic views from any angle. Today, as the capital of Portugal, Lisbon has experienced a renaissance with respect to contemporary culture, art, architecture and music and is making waves in the world today.

Being one of the rare cities of Western Europe that faces the ocean, Lisbon is defined by the element water. Be it the limestone buildings, or the narrow alleyways, Lisbon never fails to enchant travellers who visit year-round. There is a sustained tourist inflow because Lisbon is one of Europe’s best value offering destination. It is officially Wester Europe’s least expensive capital.

How to reach Lisbon

By Air

Aeroporto da Portela (IATA : LIS), located between Loures and Lisbon, is Portugal’s largest international airport and the main hub for Star Alliance member airline, TAP Portugal, that covers an extensive network across Europe. United Airlines, US Airways, Emirates, EasyJet, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Aigle Azur, Air Berlin, Air France, Air Transat, German Wings, TAAG Angolan Airways, STP Airways, Swiss, Transavia, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Finnair, Iberia, Vueling and KLM, are some of the other airlines servicing Lisbon.

From/to the airport

Opened in 2012, the Aeroporto metro station on the red line allows convenient access to downtown. To reach Rossio and Baixa, change at Alameda (green line).

There is also an AeroBus can be taken from outside the Arrivals hall (adult/child €3.50/2, 25 to 35 minutes, roughly every 20 minutes from 7am to 11pm). Its route is through Marquês de Pombal, Avenida Liberdade, Restauradores, Rossio and Praça do Comércio.

It would cost €10 for the 15-minute taxi ride to central Lisbon. An extra of €1.60 is to be paid if the luggage needs to be placed in the boot. Flagging down a cab at Departures will help you avoid queues.

By train

The city is serviced by two main stations Santa Apolónia in the city centre and the Gare do Oriente, which is further away.

The overnight Sud Express departs from the border station Irun between Spain and France daily at 18:20 hours. A sleeper train named Lusitania runs from Madrid Charmartin station at 10:25 p.m. and reaching Oriente at 7:30 a.m. and Apolonia a little later.

Alfa Pendular, the domestic high-speed line connects Braga, Porto and Coimbra with Lisbon from the north and Faro from the south. Between the major cities, the prices begin at €40 in second class.

The sights of the city

Belem Tower

The Belem Tower is announced a World Heritage and it is to Lisbon what Eiffel tower is to Paris. It was built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to the Lisbon harbour. This most photographed landmark was the starting point of many exploratory voyages.

The tower stands as the symbol of the country and is a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery.

Jeronimos Monastery

The monastery is Vasco da Gama’s resting place and is a World Heritage monument. It is a symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth of the Age of Discovery. Built by King Manuel I in 1502 on the site of a heritage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, the monastery hosted Vasco da Gama and his crew during their last night in Portugal before they left to India. The tower was built to commemorate his voyage and as a thanks to Virgin Mary for its success.

The tomb of Vasco da Gama was inside the entrance like the tomb of poet Luis de Camões, who has glorified da Gama’s triumphs in his epic The Lusiads. King Manuel, King Sebastião, and poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano are also entombed here.

Discoveries Monument

The explorers of the world are carved in stone.

Built on the north bank of River Tagus in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, the Discoveries Monument can be reached via an underpass by the gardens of the Jeronimos Monastery.

Representing three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, poet Camões holding verses from The Lusiads, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral and many other notable Portuguese explorers, monks, cartographers, crusaders and cosmographers, with Prince Henry the Navigator holding a small vessel and Queen Felipa of Lancaster, the mother of Henry.

Sao Roque Church And Museum

It has the the most expensive chapel in the world!

Every one of the chapels is a Baroque masterpiece. The fourth one to the left is the world’s most expensive chapel.

Costly materials like ivory, agate, porphyry, lapis lazuli, gold and silver were used in its design. It was blessed by the Pope and was shipped to Lisbon from Rome in 1747. The chapel’s ‘paintings’, which are actually detailed mosaics, and the scenes of Apocalypse painted on the ceiling, are noteworthy. This chapel is today, a masterpiece of European art.

The Museum of Sacred Art adjoins the church, houses 16th century Portuguese paintings like the Catherine of Austria and the wedding ceremony of King Manuel I, a display of vestments and a collection of baroque silver. A pair of bronze and silver torch holders that weigh about 400 kilos is the highlight of the exhibits.

National Coach Museum

Museu Nacional dos Coches, the Coaches Museum is one of the most visited sights of Lisbon. It has the largest and valuable collection of its kind. Opened in a richly decorated 18th century royal riding school that was part of the Belem Palace, in 1905, the museum showcased the ostentatious wealth of the old Portuguese elite. It was moved to a new building across the street that was designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Accessories and Carriages that weren’t previously on display were now included in the new premises.

The Monument to Christ was built in 1959, in thanks to God for having spared Portugal during WWII. The statue in Rio de Janeiro was the inspiration of the monument to Christ.

The statue of Christ with open arms is 28m (90ft) tall from where the panoramic view of the city spectacular. The view of the 25 de Abril Bridge from atop the 82m (270ft) pedestal is also breath-taking.

Aquarium

The Oceanário de Lisboa is not just Portugal’s but also Europe’s largest indoor aquarium. It is a celebration of life on earth with more than 8000 creatures from 500 species! Large acrylic panels divide the central aquarium to represent 4 separate bodies of water – the North Atlantic, the Antarctic, the Temperate Pacific and the Tropical Indian Oceans – making it obvious for learners that all water creatures live in one large mass of salt water. Visiting it early in the day or on weekdays can help you avoid crowds.

Tram 28

Tram 28 is one of the 3 traditional tram lines that are still operational in Lisbon. They ran all through Lisbon till late 1980. They were manufactured between 1936 and 1947. The ‘Old Town’ of Lisbon to Campo Ourique, through Graca, Alfama, Baixa, Chiado and Bairro Alto, is the route of Tram 28. You can see many of Lisbon’s interesting places, like, the monuments, churches and gardens. The hilly trip provides beautiful glimpses of the city. The tram, called “Eléctrico” in Portuguese, is oft used by the locals.

Castle of Sao Jorge

The St. George Castle or the Castle of Sao Jorge is a great place to explore, on a hilltop, above Lisbon. Once used as a fortress by the Moors till its fall in 1147. It is now a renowned destination for tourists, restored well to preserve its history.

Tourists are allowed to climb up the towers and behold what the Moors saw years back. The continuous stretch of hills and a great panoramic view of the city and the River Tagus. The ramparts are restored for the tourists to experience a walk through the countryside.

Alfama

The city’s ancient Arab district, Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest quarter. The Moorish influence on the city’s layout is deliberate, with its tightly-packed streets, small archways and cobbled streets that adds a distinctive quality to its environment and is fun to explore.

Experience the friendly ambience of the backstreet cafes, and the distinct rural atmosphere presented by the narrow lanes. Enjoy the traditional scene better in the early mornings, when women sell fresh fish at their doorways.

Baixa – Downtown Lisbon

It is the city’s central area, being the main shopping and banking district, stretching from the riverfront to the main avenue (Avenida da Liberdade). The streets are named as per the shopkeepers and craftsmen who traded there.

It was rebuilt with similar neo-classical buildings on the streets, after the Great Earthquake of 1755 that wreaked havoc, and was Europe’s first example of neoclassical design and urban planning. It is a European architectural achievement. It is listed to be a World Heritage Site.

The beautiful squares, cafes and shops, old tramcars, pastry shops and street vendors, all bestow the area with a special charm.

Bairro Alto

The working class quarter, Bairro Alto, is very picturesque dates back to the 16th century, since when it has been the bohemian haunt of artists and writers.

The streets come to in the night. Many traditional and international restaurants have their facades painted in colourful graffiti. Tourists crowd the Fado Houses and the many bars and shops that are open in the night. People of all ages and backgrounds can be seen at the bars throughout the week and on weekends.

Santa Justa Elevator

The Carmo Lift or the Santa Justa Elevador is not just a public transporter but is also the only column-style lift in the city, known for its architectural style and filigree. It connects the downtown Baixa district and the higher neighbourhood of Bairro Alto.

Comercio Square

Lisbon’s monumental riverside square Comercio, has a beautiful waterfront and is also known as Terreiro do Paço or “the palace’s square”. The royal palace stood there for over two centuries till 1755. After it was destroyed by the Great Earthquake, the royal family moved to another residence in the Belam district. The new arcaded buildings became the port of entry to the city.

The triumphal arch in the north and Café Martinho da Arcada, the city’s famous cafes are well known. Functional since 1782, it was a favourite of poets Fernando Pessoa and Almeida Garrett and the novelist Eca de Queiroz.

The statue of King Jose I in the center of the square shows him on horseback, with his emperor’s mantle. It measures 14 metres in height from the pedestal.

Rua Augusta

The main pedestrian street of Lisbon.

The Comercio Square opens onto Rua Augusta through the triumphal arch thathas the clock with filigreed stone reliefs. With mosaic pavements, outdoor cafes, international shops and street artist and peddlers, the Comercio Square is a lively pedestrian street. An elevator takes you to the terrace atop the arch, from where you get a 3600 view.

Chiado

A shopping and cultural hotspot.

On August 25, 1988, a massive fire accident that started in a store in Carmo Street, spread to Garrett Street and caused colossal destruction. But a massive renovation programme brought back Chiado to life. It is now a noble shopping area with a variety of entertainments. There are hotels, theatres, bookshops, museums, restaurants, Portuguese fashion houses. The café A Brasileira had been the haunt of Fernando Pessoa and Eca de Queiroz.

Rossio

One of the most beautiful squares of Lisbon, Rossio, is which people pass every day. It has beautiful monuments, fountains and a fascinating history. The recent renovation hasn’t marred its mysticism, which can still be felt around these famous place:

  • D.Maria II National Theatre, where many plays were and are performed, with the Kings and Queens among the audience.
  • The fountains that are used to baptize the freshmen when they enter the University at the beginning of October.
  • The cafes that were frequented by famous Portuguese personalities. The Café Nicola, founded in 1929, is an example.
  • Freshly roasted chestnuts sold in Rossio Square for many years!

The statue of Dom Pedro IV in the middle of the square, with the four female figures at its foot, that represent Justice, Wisdom, Strength and Moderation, the qualities attributed to Dom Pedro himself.

This Dom Pedro IV Square got the name Rossio from the locals. It is still a traditional meeting point for the Lisbons.

Igreja do Carmo

Nuno Álvares Pereira, the commander who became a member of the Carmelite Order, founded the gothic monument Igreja do Carmo. It was completed in 1423 and was acclaimed to be the biggest church of that time in Lisbon.

The Great Earthquake in 1755 left the Carmo church in ruins, which is best viewed from downtown Baixa, particularly from Rossio, Graca or St. George Castle. It is home to the Archeological Carmo Museum.

The museum contains precious pieces from prehistory to the contemporary. A search into the history of these pieces will you give a rich insight into the past.

Cities near Lisbon- Cascais and Sintra

Cascais

A traditional fishing port for the past 100 years, Cascais has adapted well to become one of Portugal’s favourite tourist destination. Cascais presents a beautiful blend of cosmopolitan ambience and the local flavour.

The contrast of the vibrant colours of the shipping boats and the sober looking yachts and sail boats of the yacht club can be a sight to watch, during the walk on pathway around the bay, the main attraction of Cascais.

The fortress, The Museum of the Sea and the Museum of Conde Castro Guimaraes with its small private beach, are other tourist attractions. Some of the best classical concerts are held here.

If parks interest you, walk into the one next to the museum, and relax in the shade of the foliage, on a hot day.

Walking back to the bay, if you take the narrow streets, you would get a glimpse of the traditional white houses. You would also notice that the pavements are patterned and the fronts are made of wrought iron and old tiles.

The beautiful houses and cosy restaurants, cafes and shops are all sights to watch on a walk through the centre of the town. There are old palaces and villasendowed with magnificent architecture, that wait to be explored!

Presenting a romantic ambience with its picturesque environs, Sintra is a refuge for lovers! Its enchanting scenery captivate the lover in every person! Each one is sure to carry a unique experience as every individual’s perspective is unique.

Famous for its Sintra cheese cakes, this place has many other charms, like its monuments. Nature plays in making this place beautiful, with its spectacular views of the sea and the mountains together. Beginning at the heart of the ‘Vila’, the Sintra mountain ridge ends into the ocean, at Cabo da Roca, the western most point of mainland Europe.

Sintra is declared a World Heritage site. It once was home to the aristocracy. Some not-to-be-missed palaces are the Royal Palace (Paço Real), the National Palace of Pena (Palácio Nacional da Pena), the Moors Castle (castelo dos Mouros), the Monserrate Palace and its gardens (Palácio de Monserrate) and the museums like Toy Museum (Museu do Brinquedo) that has a charming collection of toys.

Besides its monuments, its beaches and Nature, Sintra is an interesting place also due to its alleys that have a peculiar character – they take you back in time!

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