The original, independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is a fantastic city that has become one of the most respected holiday destinations in Western Europe. The city boasts a glorious climate, lively nightlife, historic monuments and a range of activities that will enthral and captivate visitors of all ages. There is a lot to see and do in Lisbon and it takes a minimum of three days to fully explore the city, while a 1-week holiday could visit the interesting towns that surround Lisbon. This guide will detail the most popular or unique sights and activities of Lisbon.
The number 28 tram is the classic yellow tram that rattles and screeches through the narrow streets of Lisbon and no visit is complete without a ride on these quaint trams. In any other city the 1930s trams would be an exhibit in museum, but in Lisbon they are an integral part of the public transport network.For a guide to Lisbon’s trams please click here.
The number 28 tram as it passes through Praça do Comercio
The polished wooden benches of the number 28 tram provides one of the best tours of Lisbon, and pass through the historic districts of Graca, Alfama, Baixa, Chiado and Sao Bento before terminating in front the magnificent Estrella Basilica.
Lisbon has a buzzing nightlife scene that is social, accepting and varied. The greatest area to experience a night in Lisbon is the district of Bairro Alto , a warren of trendy bars, small clubs and live music venues where the haunting sound of Fado music can be heard wafting out.
Lisbon nights have a great atmosphere and cheap drinks!
At the weekends the late night revelries spill out onto the surrounding streets so that the entire district feels like one large party. Lisbon has a progressive attitude and the nightlife is accepting of all sexual preferences and ages (legal drinking age is 18), just be warned that nights start late and continue until the sun rises.
Close to Lisbon is a beautiful coastline of sandy beaches. These beaches are suitable for a variety of visitors and range from calm and family oriented, through to wild, rugged surfing beaches. Few visitors new to Lisbon realise that there are such great beaches just a short train ride away from the centre of the capital and this means that a city-break to Lisbon can be combined as a beach holiday. For a full guide to the beaches of the Lisbon region please visit LisbonBeaches.com.
The great beaches near Lisbon
Lisbon has expanded to encompass seven hills, and visitors will routinely find themselves struggling up steep cobbled streets but it does mean that there are many spectacular viewpoints across the city. These viewpoints provide different aspects of the city; the jumbled tiled roof tops of the Alfama district, the cooling waters of the River Tejo or the organised streets of Baixa. Many of these viewpoints are hidden along side streets or atop steep hills, rewarding visitors who take the time to explore Lisbon.
The Senhora do Monte view point a great place for sightseeing
Our personal favourite viewpoint is the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, which overlooks the castle and was traditionally where young lovers would meet to watch the sunset, safely away from prying parents. Another great view point is the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, which overlooks the Tejo Estuary and is guarded by a statue of the Adamastor, a mythological monster from one of Portugal’s most famous poems. For a guide to the best view points of Lisbon please read this guide.
In need of a boy, girlfriend or better partner? Then the tradition surrounding the statue of Saint Anthony that stands in front of the Igreja Santo Antonio is for you!
The tradition states that you will find a new (or better!) partner if you are able to throw and land a coin in the book of Saint Anthony on the statue in front of his church. This tradition originates from the fact that Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lovers (and Lisbon) and this church was constructed on his birth place.
Try for a new boy or girlfiend - get a coin in the book (where the red arrow is!)
Alfama is the ancient district of Lisbon and is a labyrinth of narrow streets that climb the hill from the Tejo estuary up to the castle. Alfama was traditionally the poorest region of the capital, originally outside the city walls, which developed into a deprived area where sailors and dock workers would live in grim squalor.
The view from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Today, Alfama has been revitalised and is one of the trendiest and fashionable areas of Lisbon. Hidden in the maze of cobble streets and ancient crumbling buildings, which make up Alfama, are family run cafes, boutique shops and small bars. The roads of Alfama are too small for cars or buses so the only way to explore is on foot, for a guide to Alfama please click here.
Nothing helps a long day of sightseeing more than a glass of Ginjinha, a deliciously sweet alcohol drink.
Bottles of Ginjinha, ready for drinking
This cherry based liquor is adored by the Portuguese and can be can be served with cherries for an added extra kick. There is no better place to sample Ginjinha than from the traditional home of the drink, the “A Ginjinha” bar, which is just off Rossio square..
The district of Baixa was completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1755 and was the one of the first city centres to be designed around a grid and block layout. The district comprises of grand avenues that connect to magnificent plazas, which celebrate the wealth and importance of 18th century Portugal. The most impressive of these plazas is the Praça do Comercio, where historically merchants would sell goods from the colonies and financers would fund expeditions to unknown lands. For a guide to Baixa please click here.
The pedestrianised Rua Augusta
The striking Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge spans the River Tejo at its narrowest point and connects Lisbon on the north bank with the commuter districts of Almada on the south. The bridge closely resembles that of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a likeness that comes from the fact that this bridge was constructed by the same company. The name of the bridge commemorates the revolution of Portugal from the Salazar regime on April 25th, 1974.
The stunning Ponte 25 de Abril in Lisbon
The solid and imposing Sé de Lisboa is the mighty cathedral of Lisbon, which has been intertwined in Portuguese history since the early foundation of the country. The gothic cathedral was constructed on the site of an important mosque and stamped the dominance of the Christian Crusades over the North African Moors.
The mighty Se Cathedral
Parque das Nações was originally the site of Expo 98, and has since been transformed into the striking ultra-modern side of Lisbon. The district stretches along the banks of the Tejo estuary and is ideal for families, as it contains the wonderful Lisbon Aquarium (Oceanarium). Other attractions include a cable car, the Lisbon Casino and a large shopping complex.
The cable car in the Parque das Nações
The Torre de Belem (Tower of Belem) is a delightful fortification that once guarded Lisbon and the mouth of the River Tagus. The small Manueline styled tower was first sight of home for returning Portuguese sailors during the 16th century and since then the tower has become the icon of Lisbon.
The Torre de Belem
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was originally designed as a modest monastery but the wealth from the spice trade transformed the project into the most extravagant religious building of Portugal. The monastery is a wonder both of engineering and artistic design, with the ornate carved entrance and tall spindly columns that survived the 1755 earthquake.
The grand Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
The Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle of Saint George) stands majestically above central Lisbon and was the ancient seat of power for over 400 years. From the vantage point of the battlements there are wondrous views over central Lisbon, while the ancient fortified citadel is steeped in history and mystery.
The battlements of Lisbon castle high above the capital