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Lisbon: Portugal

Lisbon: Portugal

© StephenJen

Lisbon, Portugal's capital and largest city (about 550,000 inhabitants in the city, around 3 million in the total urban area), is a fascinating city of charming architecture, art and tradition. Set on the Portuguese west coast where the river Tagus meets the Atlantic, Lisbon claims the title of mainland Europe's westernmost capital. But geographic location is not what draws most visitors to Lisbon. The city's relaxed atmosphere, cultural diversity, nightlife, casinos and architecture are more likely reasons to attract travellers. As a compact city with narrowly defined boundaries around the historical city, Lisbon is a city that can be explored on foot. Built on seven hills, like Rome and Istanbul, it is pleasant to know that public transport and taxi's are also readily available for when the climbing begins to wear down one's legs.




Alfama District

Located east of the touristy centre of town, this is a quarter that everybody must visit. Looking (and acting) like a village inside town, it keeps the true image of the medieval times, when it was a Moorish and jewish quarter, with the narrow and steep streets climbing the castle’s south slopes. The suggested and easiest way to visit is walking down from the castle, making a stop in Santa Luzia sightseeing point and then wander around, with the only precaution to do not miss the best details in the quarter – the cathedral and the pantheon - but the most important are the small details, the strange alleys, the small tileworks here and there, the flea market on Tuesday and Saturday, the small taverns where, in some nights, the amateur sing fado. Descending to the level of the river, you may visit the Military museum and the Fado museum, the fountain “Chafariz de El-Rei” and the façade of “Casa dos Bicos”.


Baixa is a generic name that covers the long axis of the recovery carried out by the Marquis of Pombal after the earthquake of 1755, and the surrounding slopes. From the top of Eduardo VII Park to the river, the motives of interest that will fill a whole day of visit unfold to you. From the Marquês de Pombal square to the Restauradores, Liberdade avenue now houses the best world-class stores in classical buildings. In Restauradores, the Foz palace is a good support for all visitors. Between the beautiful Restauradores square and Rossio, the true living room of the city, we pass between the railway station and the National Theater or down the street of Portas de Santo Antão, but everything deserves attention, including Figueira square before descending one of the geometric streets to “Praça do Comércio”. Rua do Ouro presents the entrance to the Santa Justa elevator, a monument that is one of the solutions to climb to the upper part of Carmo and Chiado. Bordering the River, the "Baixa" extends between “Alfândega”, at the feet of Alfama, and the Place of the Municipality, from where we may continue to Cais do Sodré. No visit to the Baixa is complete without some incursions in the adjacent areas, Chiado, Carmo and Bairro Alto to the west, Mouraria and Alfama to the east, topped by the Castle of S. Jorge.

  • Bairro Alto & Chiado
  • Belem district
  • Uptown



Sights and Activities

Castelo de Sao Jorge

Castle of São Jorge overlooking the historical centre of Lisbon

Castle of São Jorge overlooking the historical centre of Lisbon

© hammarn

Located in downtown Lisbon, Castelo de Sao Jorge offers one of the best views available of the city. The castle is filled with old ruins and interesting history and, more recently, a top-class restaurant as well as peacocks that roam freely around the grounds. The walled-in fortress area is square-shaped, and the actual castle is located on the northwest side of the hill. As you take in the views around the castle, you will notice that this hill is the highest in the center of the city. For thousands of years, military minds have recognized that high ground is easiest to fortify and defend. Archaeological evidence shows that the hill has been the site of a military stronghold in one form or another for hundreds of years. Roman fortifications from 137 BC have been excavated. Other evidence shows that this area has been occupied for at least another 400 years before these Roman walls were built. In the 5th century AD, the Visigoths, a tribe of Germanic people who sacked the Roman Empire and took control of this area, strengthened the fortress. Their guard towers still remain.

Convento do Carmo

The tall Gothic arches of the ruined Convento do Carmo are visible from a long distance. Today its preserved remains are a museum, but it began as the promise of one man to God. The convent that you see before you was also an outcome of the Battle of Aljubarrota. During the battle lvares Pereira promised God that if this battle was won by the Portuguese, he would build a convent. He kept his word, and the construction of the convent started in 1393. The construction and design of the convent was overseen by three architects who were also brothers. These architects, Afonso, Rodrigo and Gonzalo Eanes, built the convent in plain Gothic style with some influences from the Monastery of Batalha, which was being constructed at the same time. Today, the Monastery of Batalha is a UNESCO world heritage site located in Batalha about 140 kilometres from Lisbon. Today the Carmo ruins house an archaeological museum, with items ranging from across the globe and centuries. Opening hours are 10:00am - 6:00pm Monday to Saturday, with an admission fee of €2.50.

Se de Lisboa

Located in an the oldest area of Lisbon, Se de Lisboa is the cathedral of Lisbon and looks like a combination of a fort and a church. The cathedral is a mix of its original Roman style, started in 1147 when the first Portuguese king conquered Lisbon to the moors, replacing a Muslim mosque. In the following two centuries it received some adding in Gothic and Neoclassical styles. In the seventeen and eighteen centuries, it was decorated with baroque motifs, and finally, a 20th century restoration converted as much as possible of the old church back to its Romanesque look based on old plans of the church. At the entrance, to the left, there's a baptismal font that was used to baptize Saint Anthony who was born in Lisbon, and died in Pádua.

Torre de Belem

One of the most iconic places to go to and see in Lisbon is the Torre de Belem. The 30 metre-high fortified tower is listed (together with the Jeronimos monastry) on the Unesco World Heritage List since 1983. The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style. It sits on the bank of the river Tagus. Originally named Torre de São Vicente it was part of a defensive formation of the Tejo, erected by order of king João II, in combination with two other towers in Caparica and Cascais. With time, the tower lost its defense function, and after the Spanish domination it became a prison. In its four floors it is still possible to see the Governor's Room, the Kings Room, the Audience Hall, and the Chapel with its fifteenth-century vaults.

Monument to the discoveries

Monument to the discoveries

Monument to the discoveries

© Herr Bert

Not that far from the Torre de Belem stands the Monument of the discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos). Located along the river were ships departed to explore and trade with India and the Orient, the monument was built to commemorate the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was erected in 1939 as a temporary work as part of the 1940 World fair, and was destroyed in 1943. Between 1958 and 1960 the new larger monument was built. In front of the monument you will find a large marble map, the Mappa Mundi, (a gift from the country of South Africa), mapping out the discoveries made. It is best seen from above, using a paid elevator and a few more steps to the top.


One of the "must see" of the city is this church, built in the 16th century to celebrate the discoveries. It is on of the three most precious examples of a peculiar style of Gothic (for most people the best of all), called "Manuelino", celebrating king Manuel I, who ordered the construction. Don't miss, besides the delicate ornament of the doors, the church, the cloisters and the tombs, that include Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões, together with king Sebastian and several relatives to the kings. If you have time, there's much more to see (refectory, chapter room, library, sacristy, and more). There are combined tickets to visit the monastery and several attractions of Belém, including the tower and museums.

Misericórdia church (São Roque)

Every visitor to Lisbon goes to Bairro Alto, almost all them pass by the Misericórdia church, and most of them, facing the poverty of the facade, skip it. It is a big mistake because, inside, you will find one of the greatest wonders of the city.
There are nine chapels, all different and beautiful, standing the chapel of S. João Batista, frequently referred as the most expensive in the world. Conceived in Rome, and assembled in Brazil, with the best stones and precious metals, it is the dominant lapis lazuli that gives it an incomparable beauty.
The entrance is free, and the visit of the museum is also free to under 14 and senior, with a general ticket of 2.50 € to the other.


Sintra is a small village outside of Lisbon that makes for an excellent day trip. It's romantic architecture has been stunning people since the 19th century. Before the 19th century Sintra was a popular sight for the Portuguese royalty. Due to its popularity among the elite many wealthy and royal people built magnificent castles and homes in the area. Sintra and surroundings were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its importance to Portuguese culture.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Maritime Museum - Visit one of the best maritime museums in the world that tracks the history of portuguese naval domination from the 14th century onward.
  • Calouste Gulbenkian Museum - Regarded as one of the best museums in Portugal, the Gulbenkian Museum has two main collections: The Founder’s Collection and the Modern Collection. Each has their own specific presentation, but they also speak to each other in temporary exhibitions and projects. These set up dialogues across time, between different kinds of art and artefacts, and between East and West. Address: Av. de Berna 45A, 1067-001, Phone: (+351) 217 823 461, Hours: 10:00 to 18:00. Closed on Tuesday and on the following days – 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 24 and 25 December, Price: From 10€. Free admission on Sundays after 14:00 and for children up to 12

Note: For those planning to visit a lot of museums, the Lisboa Card, purchasable from tourist information outlets around the city, offers free use of all public transport and reduced price (or free) tickets to countless museums, galleries and tourist attractions. There are 1, 2 and 3-day options available.



Events and Festivals

  • Lisbon Fish & Flavours - The Lisbon Fish Festival celebrates the gastronomic fish traditions of the city. Visitors can expect to see cooking demonstrations; they can also participate in cooking lessons, and learn about food and wine pairings. Lisbon's finest fish and seafood restaurants will open and offering specials for the event.
  • Indie Lisboa - Indie Lisboa is Lisbon's biggest film festival. It's goal is to premiere and promote new films and directors on the contemporary international film scene. It's held every year at the end of April/beginning of May.
  • Festas de Lisboa - Fiesta de Lisboa aka Santos Populares, is celebrated in downtown Lisbon all throughout the month of June. The capitol buildings are draped in streamers and everyone celebrates with a series of cultural events, street parties, and prayers (since the month is saturated with holidays commemorating great Saints). One of the pinnacle events, St Anthony's parade ( Marchas Populares), occurs on June 12th, and it is preceded by the marrying of 12 couples from Lisbon's parishes.
  • Lisbon Half Marathon - This annual event takes runners across the 25 de Abril bridge and offers some incredible panoramic views of the city. Attracting over 36,000 participants, this marathon is sure to entice any athlete visiting the city.
  • Delta Tejo - A popular coffee and music festival featuring coffee samples from Brazil, Angola, Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica and Portugal. Held in the Alto da Ajuda area in Lisbon, event-goers can enjoy the picturesque backdrop overlooking the River Tagus. With the caffeinated high most visitors are sure to achieve, they can dance the day away with some locally-inspired music. This event is held during the summer in Lisbon. Check the website for 2012 dates.




Lisbon has a great climate with warm summers from June to September when temperatures average between 25 and 30 °C. Nights are around 17 °C. Occasionally, temperatures hit 40 °C. Winters last from December to March, when daytime temperatures are between 15 and 17 °C and nights slightly under 10 °C. Most of the rain falls during the wintermonths while summers are very dry. The best times to visit Lisbon are April/May and mid-September/October.



Getting There

By Plane

Lisbon Airport (LIS) is located about 7 kilometres from Lisbon's city centre and is the main gateway to Portugal.

The national airline of Portugal, TAP Portugal, flies to and from Lisbon. Apart from many European countries, TAP also has flights to destinations in Brazil, like Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Salvador among others. Other former colonies to serve from Portugal are Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, as well as other African cities such as Dakar, Johannesburg and Algiers. There are many more airlines serving the capital of Portugal.

TAP Portugal and Portugália Airlines both have flights to and from Lisbon and Faro, Madeira, Porto Santo, Porto and the Azores. SATA (the Azores' airline) has flights between the Azores and Lisbon as well. Easyjet also offers flights from Lisbon to Madeira (Funchal).

To/from the Airport
The best public transit option is the bus. Buses can be caught outside the terminal. Google maps has a transit planner that can be used to find the best route to your destination. The price is €1.75 for a ticket bought on board. Drivers usually have change. Another option is the Aerobus and Aeroshuttle. It is €3.50 (€5.50 return) for the ticket, running into the centre and stopping at most major hotels. The fastest connection to the metro network is probably to take the Aerobus to Oriente Station, which only takes about 10 minutes. From there you can take the red line into the town, or if needed take a train to you next destination from Oriente Station. Taxis are available outside the terminals.

By Train

Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses has an extensive network of train links throughout the country.
There are fast links with speeds well over 200 km/h from Lisbon to the Algarve and from Lisbon to northern cities such as Porto, Braga, Guimarães, Coimbra and Aveiro, but on most routes there are intercity services which still are fast enough and a good alternative to buses or cars. From Lisbon, there are also frequent links to Cascais and Sintra, popular traveller routes.

By Bus

Contact Rede Nacional de Expressos for more information about prices and schedules to and from Lisbon.



Getting Around

By Car

Travelling within downtown Lisbon, specially at rush hour, is quite complicated, so avoid bringing your car to this area. You can also park (usually paid on week-days).

By Public Transport

Typical tram from Lisbon

Typical tram from Lisbon

© Marta_Marq

Buses and trams in Lisbon are run by Carris. Fares are €1.75 for most rides (if you buy the ticket from the bus driver). You can buy a chargeable card (7 Colinas) which costs €0.50 and can be charged on a pay-as-you-go system (Zapping) which can also be used in the Subway and Urban Trains (this system lowers the bus fare to €1.15.).

The Metro system is run by a separate organisation called (Metro Lisboa. A single ticket costs €1.25. Entry is gained by touching your ticket to the reader on entry. Keep your ticket until you exit. Keep in mind that you are using a reusable card (first time you buy it you pay €0.50 extra, but after that you can reload your card. The same card you can also use for the metro and the regional trainlines, like the one to Sintra).

There are also suburban trains that run through the town that can be used to get around, run by CP. Separate fares are required for each mode of transit used. A combined Carris and Metro ticket can be purchased for €3.95 per day with unlimited trips.

Google maps has a transit planner for Lisbon.

By Foot

Lisbon's centre is very walkable. Note that it is very hilly, though, so plan extra time to get to your destination in the event climbing hills is required.

By Bike

There are some bikelanes, and in general bike use is pretty common.




Pastéi de Belém

Pastéi de Belém

© hammarn

Pastéis de Belém

When you are in Lisbon, you need to try a Pastéis de Belém at least one. It is a small egg tart pastry, which is best eaten warm and sprinkled with cinnamon. The best place to find them is the bakery that has been making the original recipe for ages, which is located close to the Monastry de Jeronimos in Belém, which can be reached from downtown Lisbon in about 15 minutes by bus/tram 28.




One of the best areas to go out in the night, is the Barrio Alto area, which has a lot of cafés and as well some restaurants. When you like coffees, one of the best bars to go to is Café A Brasiliera, you will find this café close to the exit of Metro Baixa/Chaido (the exit that leads into the Barria Alto). The bar has many special coffees on their menu, as well as some good cakes.

O Pirata

O Pirata is located at a point where everyone passes, the Restauradores Square. There is a small and discreet bar, which easily goes unnoticed. For many years it survives by selling over the counter two cocktails that are a well-kept secret of the house. "Pirate" or "Perna de Pau" are two very refreshing, cheap drinks, and a curiosity to those who may drink a little alcohol.





  • Casa na Bica in Largo de Santo Antoninho, in the heart of historical Lisbon, right next to Bica's funicular. The apartment is within walking distance to Bairro Alto Baixa, Santos and Cais do Sodré. Near the apartment you have restaurants, bars, markets and typical Portuguese shops and you can really feel the traditional life of Lisbon. You also have the wonderful view of Miradouro of Sta Catarina just 100 metres from the house.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Keep Connected


Wifi is common in many places in Portugal, including hotels, restaurants and coffee bars. Free wifi along the Algarve coast is available in many places. Internet cafés can still be found in most larger cities and tourist areas though.


See also: International Telephone Calls

Portugal's international telephone code is 351. The general emergency number is 112.

There are three mobile telephone operators in Portugal: TMN, NOS and Vodafone.

Each provider offers a variety of prepaid (Pré-Pagos) and contract (pós-pagos) SIM cards, both of which are available to foreigners. It generally means much lower rates for calls and especially internet. Be sure to switch off data roaming if you don't buy a local SIM card, as prices for internet are very high.


CTT is the national postal service of Portugal. It has relatively fast and reliable services and it takes several days to over a week for your post to arrive within other European countries, more so if you send post to North America or Australia. Post offices (correios) have varying opening hours, but in general post offices are open on weekdays from 08:30am-6:00pm and on Saturday mornings until 12:30. More information about offices, costs and other details can be found at the CTT website. It's a relatively efficient but also relatively slow postal service. If you want to send packages overseas, you'd better use international companies like FedEx, DHL, TNT or UPS, as they are competitively priced, fast and very reliable.


Accommodation in Lisbon

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Lisbon searchable right here on Travellerspoint.


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Lisbon Travel Helpers

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