Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, sits on an estuary of the Tagus River where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The city on the river is as diverse and interesting as the country itself.
Lisbon is full with vivid historical relics, from the ruins of a Moorish castle located on one of the city’s seven hills to a sidewalk café nestled against a Visigoth wall.
Top 10 Places to Visit in Lisbon
Lisbon justifiably takes great pride in its part in Portugal’s Age of Discovery, and monuments commemorating the expeditions of explorers like Vasco da Gama are among the city’s most popular tourist draws.
Tourists still flock to Lisbon’s historic districts, despite the city’s efforts to improve its transportation network, modernise its centre, and revitalise its shoreline.
1. Belem Tower
Located on what was formerly an island in the middle of the Tagus River is Belem Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent. The tower dates back to 1515, and its dual use as a fortress and an invitation to visitors has kept it busy ever since.
The limestone tower was constructed during the Age of Exploration, and its attached bastion housed 17 long-range cannons. A statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming stands with her back to the river to watch over passing ships.
2. Sao Jorge Castle
So Jorge Castle (or St. George’s Castle) is one of Lisbon’s oldest gems and can be found on a hill in the Alfama District. Although though the site was defended centuries earlier when the Romans and Visigoths were in control, Lisbon’s most popular attraction conjures the period when the city was under Moorish authority.
The Portuguese took over the castle in 1147 after pushing the Moors out, and it served as their royal palace until the early 16th century. The former royal rooms are now an archaeological museum. It’s simple to see why visitors to Lisbon flock to the castle ramparts. Parapets and battlements offer spectacular vistas.
3. Tram 28
Although though tram cars haven’t been widely used in Lisbon for many years, tram line 28 nevertheless offers a chance to ride a historic streetcar. Passengers on the historic “elctrico” ride through some of Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhoods and past some of the city’s most visited landmarks.
Tram 28 is a popular way for visitors to travel to So Jorge Castle on top of the hill to take in the breathtaking views, but the line is also used by locals for their everyday commutes. The ancient tram line is a fun and easy way to see the city and meet locals.
4. Jeronimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery is a must-see for any traveller to Lisbon due to its impressive Manueline architecture, which combines Gothic and Moorish styles. Situated on the banks of the river in the city’s Belém neighbourhood, the impressive structure dates back to the 15th century as a tribute to the discoveries made by Portuguese explorers.
The golden limestone that was used in the construction of the monastery allowed for intricate carvings on the gateways, ceilings, and windows. Vasco da Gama, whose travels to India made Lisbon a prosperous port city, is buried in the church’s nave.
5. Lisbon Oceanarium
The Oceanarium, one of Lisbon’s most popular attractions, was constructed as part of the city’s preparations to host the 1998 World’s Fair. The Lisbon Oceanarium, found in the city’s northeastern Park das Naçes, is the largest indoor aquarium in all of Europe.
It’s divided into four distinct ecosystems, each of which represents a different body of water. Marine animals like sharks and sting rays coexist with land animals like penguins and otters, and the flora and fauna of each environment are accounted for.
An unforgettable experience awaits you as you stroll by a tank of tropical fish and tropical birds darting above.
The Alfama district is Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood and is home to numerous historic buildings, some of which date back to the city’s Moorish era. However, the neighborhood’s charm lies in its winding streets, delicious eateries, and Fado clubs.
Largo do Charariz de Dentro is the greatest place to go to hear traditional Portuguese folk music, as the square is lined with taverns and clubs where you can listen to Fado. The plaza is just one of several lookout points in this steep area. At Lisbon’s ancient Moorish entryway, Largo das Portas do Sun, travellers may take in sweeping vistas of the Alfama and the Tagus River.
7. Santa Justa Elevator
The Santa Justa Elevator in the city centre is a great place to see the city from above. Raul Mésnier, who was inspired by his colleague Gustav Eiffel’s design for the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, conceived of and oversaw construction of the “elevador” in 1902.
The gothic Carmo Convent, which was largely devastated in the great earthquake of 1755, can be accessed through a walkway from a platform reached by the wrought-iron tower. Another option for seeing the Baixa area is to take the lift to the top of the building.
8. Rossio Square (Pedro IV Square)
Pedro IV Plaza, Lisbon’s most well-known plaza, is ideal for taking in the city’s vibrant culture. The “Rossio” in central Lisbon’s magnificent Pombaline Lower Town quarter has been the city’s primary meeting spot since the Middle Ages.
The square saw public executions during the 16th-century Inquisition. Guests of the National Theater, which is located on the north side of the square, often gather here for pre-show drinks before shows.
9. Museu Gulbenkian
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a charitable organisation endowed by the fortune of the late Armenian oil mogul, has its headquarters in Lisbon. The Museu Gulbenkian was purpose-built to showcase Gulbenkian’s personal art collection, and it does not disappoint.
Although there aren’t very many pieces in the collection, they’re all of exceptional quality. The collection includes works of art from every period and style, including those by Monet, Renoir, and Rembrandt as well as Lalique jewellery, Chinese jade, and Persian porcelain. The museum frequently hosts prestigious travelling exhibits.
10. Monument to the Discoveries
At the mouth of the Tagus River, from whence many of Portugal’s most significant voyages of exploration set out, stands the massive white-stone Monument to the Discoveries (Padro dos Descobrimentos), which resembles a ship with its sails deployed.
It was erected in honour of Prince Henry the Navigator, better known as Infante Dom Henrique. The stone monument depicts a line of Portuguese heroes and explorers, with the prince who launched Portugal into its Age of Discovery at the front. Take an elevator to the observation deck and take in the sights of Lisbon.