Lisbon Travel Guide
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, a city where modernity goes hand in hand with ancient buildings of the past – is a fascinated and special tourist city, with its history interlaced with it nearly at every step. It is considered as one of the oldest capitals in Europe. The city is built on seven hills, within between narrow and colorful alleys. At the top of each hill, there is a unique observation point with a different angle over the city and its landscape.
Did you know?
Under the shopping area in the center of Lisbon there is a hidden an underground Roman city with rooms, stairs and bridges
Lisbon is sitting on the northern bank of the Tejo River
and serves as a gateway to the Atlantic Ocean. Its port
is considered as one of the largest natural ports in the
Lisbon (in Portuguese: “Lishboa”) – was founded in the 12th century BC as a Phoenician trading station and since the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths Muslims and Christians have passed through. Its “golden age” was in the 15th and 16th century when Portugal became a maritime empire from which the great voyages of discovery of the world, Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Henry the Sailor have emerged, it then became the world capital of the kingdom that ruled the various continents, from Brazil in South America to Macao, China and India in Asia. During this period, impressive monasteries and luxury palaces were built in the city and its surroundings.
Today, the port is visited by the largest and most luxurious cruise ships in the world, almost daily at least one ship arrives in Lisbon. The port is located in a central location in the city and from there it is easy and comfortable to travel to many tourist sites on foot.
In 1755 the city was hit by a severe earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale. The tremendous earthquake (which was felt all the way to Norway) caused a huge fire and tremendous tsunami waves that swept over the city. 40,000 people were killed and a large part of the city, including the king’s palace, were destroyed to the ground. It was the oldest quarter, Alfama that was almost unaffected and serves today as the best place to see the way Lisbon was in the past with its narrow streets with the narrow and winding alleys, the steep streets, small squares with churches and antique buildings decorated with sky blue ceramics. The quarter, which was built in a Muslim style and once was a poor district, offers today authentic cafes where local Fado music is being played and small shops. It is easy and fun to get lost in the streets of the quarter. It is recommended to visit the San George Castle, Castelo de Sao Jorge, located as well in the Alfama quarter. The castle was built in the 6th century, by the Romans and later on served also as the royal palace for a few hundred years. Today, you can climb up the walls and enjoy the impressive view of the city.
Castelo de Sao Jorge:
The city was restored thanks to the king’s personal
advisor at the time, the Marquis Pombal, wide streets,
impressive buildings and large squares were built in the
city and it is a pleasure to wonder in them and be
impressed by their size and architecture.
In World War II, thanks to the neutrality of Portugal, Lisbon did not get hurt and many of the richest in Europe escaped to it and lived there in peace far from the horrors of the war. A huge statue of “Christ the King” Cristo Rei, 28-meter-high stands on a Greek pillar with its arms spread to the sides, resembles the famous statue in Rio, Brazil, that stands on the left river bank. It was built to honor the calmness that was in the country during World War II thanks to this neutrality.
“King Jesus” Statue, Cristo Rei:
To the left bank, in where the statue is located, and there are other neighborhoods (not touristic), there is an impressive bridge which is a replica of the “Golden Gate Bridge” in San Francisco.
The 25th of October Bridge in Lisbon
The bridge is called the 25th of October to mark the date when the dictatorship in the country ended in 1974. Antonio Salazar led a dictatorship in the country for 42 years from 1932 until the end of his reign in 1974 with a quiet revelation without even a single shot and no deaths. Since then Lisbon is waking up, is progressing and is being developed rapidly, it has integrated into the European Union and even organized an international exhibition of the 20th century: expo 98.
Did you know?
That in Lisbon there is another impressive bridge called the “Vasco da Gama” which is considered to be the longest bridge in Europe.
The residents of Portugal in general and Lisbon in particular, are friendly, tolerant, relaxed and mostly speak excellent English. It is easy and comfortable to get along in the city speaking English. Lisbon is considered as the cheapest capital in Europe. In the city, the culture of coffee shops and nightlife are very developed and is considered as one of the most vibrant capitals in Europe. In addition, it is considered as one of the safest capitals in Europe.
The Quarters in Lisbon
Lisbon is divided into four different quarters in their
character, their history and the population. living
The Alfama Quarter, The “Upper Quarter” Bairro Alto
The most touristic quarters are the Alfama quarter, and the “Upper quarter” Bairro Alto, which is considered as the nightlife quarter of the city. The quarter that was built in the 17th century and is composed of paved narrow alleys is closed to traffic during the night and includes endless restaurants, designer shops, nightclubs, Fado clubs (the typical Portuguese melancholy music), karaoke and pubs and it is lively until wee hours of the night.
The Chiado Quarter
Close to the Alfama Quarter is the modern Chiado Quarter full with glittering shopping centers, street performers and is famous for its popular café “Coffe a Brasileira”.
The Baixa Quarter
This quarter was completely destroyed by the earthquake. It was restored and includes today the most famous and central squares in Lisbon: the Rossio Square, where the city’s main railway station is located, the national theater and also the monument for the 5,000 Jews who were killed during the Inquisition.
The Rossio Square
The commercial square – Praca do Comercio – a large square surrounded by impressive government buildings and in its center, there is a huge statue of King Zuza I on his horse. The square is considered as the “City Gate”. Next to the square there is the Victory Gate, to which you can climb (for a modest fee) and overlook the square, the river and the harbor.
The Commercial Square Praca do Comercio:
In the quarter there are wide pedestrian areas full of shops and restaurants. A popular attraction in the square is the Ascensor de Santa Justa – an iron elevator that was designed by one of Eifel’s students (and resembles in its structure the famous tower in Paris), which connects the lower city to the upper quarter. From the elevator, there is an impressive view of the city.
Ascensor de Santa Justa:
The Belem Quarter
In this quarter, there are several impressive buildings
which are considered as “mandatory destinations: in the
The Belem Tower, Torre de Belem, declared as a UNESCO conservation site, which served as a guard tower in the harbor from the end of the 16th century, and later on served as a prison and today is a monument for the Portuguese explorers. You can enter the building for a different overview over the city and the river.
The Belem Tower, Torre de Belem:
Nearby is the most impressive monastery in the city: the Jeronimus Monastery – where Vasco da Gama and many important personalities were buried. The monastery is built in a Gothic style which includes many decorations from the marine life: sea monsters, fish, coral and ropes.
Jeronimus Monastery :
Do not forget the famous and ancient bakery Pasteis de Belem, specializes in local pastries, which gave the bakery its name. It is a small, hot and sweet pastry, made of thin puff pastry filled with vanilla cream. Do not miss it! You can see how this wonderful pastry is being prepared (which you should eat hot and fresh).
The Pasteis de Belem Bakery:
Parque das Nacoes
The location of the 98 Expo which became a modern park and is considered as an “architectural pearl”, is lively and full of attractions. It is a long promenade which includes a giant aquarium (from the largest in the world), an observation tower, a marina, casino, cable car, a modern shopping center and many fashionable restaurants.
Park Eduard VII
Other popular overviews of the city are from the Park Eduard VII overlooking Liberdad Avenue, which is considered as the “Champs-Elysees” of Lisbon with plenty of flashy glamorous designer stores and from the Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara located at the top of one of the seven hills.
Park Eduard VII:
Did you know?
In Lisbon, there is the “Estadio da Luz”. This is) one of the largest and most famous stadiums in Europe, which is the home stadium for the local team “Benfica”.
Recommended Hotels in Lisbon
A 3-start hotel in the center of the historic city, a 3-minute walk from Rossio Square. The studio apartments have a kitchenette, and the internet is free.
Pousada de Lisboa – Small Luxury Hotels of the World
A historic boutique 5-star hotel in the city center on the river bank. There is a swimming pool, wellness center, sauna, a gym, a restaurant and a bar, and the internet is free.
A 3-star hotel in the city center close to Liberdad Avenue. There is a swimming pool on the roof and free internet.
A 4-start hotel in a convenient location close to Park Eduard VII. Paid parking and free internet.
A 4-start hotel located not far from the airport. It has an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, a restaurant and a bar. The internet is free in the public areas and paid parking.
A spacious holiday apartments with a fully equipped kitchen located in a central location in Lisbon a walking distance from many attractions. The internet is free and there is paid parking.
Lisbon is a sunny city, with a mild weather most of the year. In the summer it might be hot, but in the winter it is much warmer than most of the other European capitals. Only rarely will the temperatures will go down below 10 degrees. The most comfortable months to visit are April-June and September-October.
Lisbon has a convenient and efficient subway system. In addition, there are buses and trams, including a successful tourist line – line 28 is an ancient yellow tram that runs in a circular route amongst the tourist quarters in the city center. But the best way to travel the city is by foot – wandering in the streets and alleys, thanks to the relatively compact size of the city. Many ferries cross the wide river which exit travels frequently from the right bank to the left.
Food and Drink:
The residents of Lisbon love fish, especially codfish
and they are proud of the 100 different ways to prepare
the codfish….An Octopus is also a popular dish in most
Lisbon is also proud of its excellent pastries – the most popular one: Pastel de Nata. The Portuguese are lovers of strong sweet alcoholic drinks, the most popular is a Cherry liqueur called Ginginha, served usually in a glass made of chocolate. An excellent wine . and still popular in the city is the “Vino Verdi” – the green wine.
Guided Tour in Lisbon:
You can travel alone in Lisbon but it is recommended to travel with local guides who will show you the secrets of the city and explain to you the destinations and attractions and enrich your experience on the trip.
Guided Tours by Car:
Among the tours, you will find in this article there are guided tours with a company car which among them are recommended the tour by Walkborder Company and Premium Tours Company. Both companies offer a variety of tours suitable for anyone who arrives in the city for several days and for tourists who arrive for a day with a cruise ship. They tailor a suitable tour according to the point of interest you would like to see. The cars of both companies are modern and luxurious and you will be able to see a lot and in depth in a 7-8-hour tour.
A Tour in a High-Quality Car :
Guided Tours by Foot:
Lisbon is a relatively compact city and you travel in many close neighborhoods in the city center by foot. It is especially recommended, especially for first-time visitors to the city, to join the guided tour by the Lisboa Autentica Company.
Segway Tours – Bicycles – Electric Cars:
Segway Tours in Lisbon :
The Eat Drink Walk – Food Tour company has a wonderful and recommended food tour in which you will travel for about 3-5 hours in several neighborhoods in the city and you will taste the best the local restaurants have to offer.
Another food tour company: Taste of Lisboa, Food Tours which organizes food tours in neighborhoods less touristic in authentic restaurants where most locals eat.
A Chocolate Cake in Lisbon :
Cooking courses for local dishes: for culinary enthusiasts, a cooking course for local dishes by the popular company: Cooking Lisbon
A Cooking Course in Lisbon:
Tours in vicinity of Lisbon
A must tour outside of Lisbon is to Sintra, located 40 minutes away from Lisbon. Sintra is a picturesque city located in the middle of a mountain range overlooking the sea. You can get to Sintra by train, rental car or a half a day or a full day tour by the Walkborder Company or Premium Tours Company.
A Palace in Sintra Palacio do Pena:
A Tour to Sesimbra Azeitao and Setubal:
The Walkborder Company has a popular tour for “advanced” outside of the successful and touristic route: The Sesimbra Azeitao and Setubal Tour – it is a full day tour south of Lisbon including a visit to a charming fishing village called Sesimbra, a national park called “Arrabida Natural Park, in the town of Setubal, a charming town called “Azeitao: and a winery with gardens.