City Guide to Lisbon, Portugal

Author: | Last Updated: 5 Nov 2018

The capital of Portugal attracts many tourists year-round, and it’s easy enough to see why. Charming, coastal and full of character this is one European capital that certainly doesn’t disappoint. From its steep hills and unique old tram service to its many big open plazas and lively districts, Lisbon has many highlights and things to do. The city is rich with history which is reflected in many buildings and locations, lots of which were influenced by the important role played by Portugal in the ’Age of Exploration’.

Best time of the year to visit Lisbon:

Like many cities on the Iberian peninsula, Lisbon really comes to life in the spring and summer. Perhaps spring is the best season to visit, offering pleasantly warm temperatures, on average 72F, that last into the evening, and fewer tourists crowding the streets and squares. In order to avoid the big wave of tourists, you might experience one or 2 days of rain with on average 9 days of rain each month of spring. Lisbon is certainly better in the sun though that’s a certainty, if only just for the fact that it sits right on the coast and if you enjoy the sea breeze and beach then you will appreciate the warm sun on your skin.

Praca do comercio

One of the best things about the city of Lisbon is its location and topography, being on a steep hill and right on the coast, the city offers the best of both worlds. You could start your trip to Lisbon in the ’praca do comercio’, an impressively large square that looks out onto the beautiful Atlantic ocean. As well as the typical features of a European square, namely numerous bars and restaurants offering superb views, the square is also home to the striking arch of Rua Augusta. This vivid yellow building stretches wide with its neat columns and archways giving the square a welcome splash of color.

Tram 28

Conveniently, to see much more of the city without the need to walk up the steep hills of the city, you can take the unique tram 28 service without having to even leave the square. The charming, little yellow tram trudges around the city, screeching along the way for a very unique sightseeing experience. Dating from the 1930s, it is quite amazing that these trams are still in service and for this reason it’s a treat to be carried around the city in a small part of the city’s history. Stopping off at all the places you might want to visit, this tram not only creates a unique memory for your trip to Lisbon, it also acts as a very efficient way to get around.

Miradouros

As previously mentioned, the city of Lisbon is situated on a hill, and as such there are a great amount of ’Miradouros’ (lookout points) around the city. One that stands out is the ’miradouro da graca’, since you can not only go there for the breathtaking panoramic views of the city below, but also for an afternoon snack at the cafe with the same name. Reachable by tram 28, this lookout point reveals the urban sprawl meeting the clear, blue sea and even the castle of Lisbon too. Be sure to grab a coffee and a ’pastel de nata’ (Portuguese custard tart), a real Portuguese sweet treat, while you’re taking it all in.

Tower of Belem

Next up is an area of Lisbon a few metro stops from the central district that’s full of things to see and is worth a visit. First, go to the tower of Belem, a UNESCO World Heritage site with an incredible historical significance. The tower, an eclectic mix of architectural styles, was both a fortress and a port, used by explorers to establish the very first instance of European trade with India and China. What’s more, the tower would be the first thing many ships would see coming into the city of Lisbon, so it acted as a symbol of the Portuguese capital.

Jerónimos monastery

Just a stone’s throw from the tower is the majestic Jerónimos monastery. The monastery is one of the best examples of Portuguese gothic architecture, a fusion of different styles coming as a result of the rigorous exploration of the Portuguese and also another site with UNESCO World Heritage status. Aside from being one of the most visited buildings in the city, which speaks volumes for its appeal, the monastery is home to a large cloister surrounded by impeccable arches and columns. The monastery was built to honor Portugal’s ’Age of Exploration’, an era in which the country took the lead on discovery in exploration in Europe, primarily through its search for a route to Asia around Africa.

World-class aquarium

Back over on the other side of the main square of Lisbon is the ’oceanario de Lisboa’, or in English, the aquarium of Lisbon. Aquariums can certainly be hit or miss, but this one is different, this aquarium was recently voted ’best aquarium in the world’ on Tripadvisor for the third time, meaning it should definitely be worth your time. The aquarium prides itself on its reference for conservation of the ocean and is always looking to educate the world about the problems arising in relation to the seas and oceans of the world. The aquarium is home to many outstanding exhibits and world-class facilities, providing you with a detailed look into the maritime world.

Alfama district

To top off a day of exploring the city and its history, head to the oldest district in town for the liveliest atmosphere: the Alfama district. The Alfama district is packed with all the charm you’d expect from an old European district, but also with plenty of lively bars and restaurants to match all preferences. When deciding where to go to eat or drink, consider finding somewhere with traditional ’fado’ musical performances. The typical Portuguese music and dance, originating in the very city of Lisbon, has a melancholic sound and must be seen live to truly appreciate the authentic Portuguese character. Try ‘Sr. Fado’, a small unassuming bar that will surprise you with its outstanding local dishes and regular Fado performances. On your way to the bar, you will definitely come across endless alleys and narrow passageways, hidden churches and cathedrals, and squares tucked away deep within the folds of the district.

City: Lisbon

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