Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, the starting point of the routes of the legendary navigators and one of the oldest cities in the world, located at the mouth of the Tagus River, 15 km from the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon’s most distinctive feature is its strikingly harmonious appearance, something not often seen in places with such a distinguished and, without exaggeration, illustrious past. The orange roofs of apartment buildings, Berberian ornaments on the walls and modern business buildings not only do not contrast with the Gothic, Baroque and Manueline architecture, but also add a pleasant variety to the overall picture.
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Lisbon’s hilly terrain of continuous descents and ascents, mild Mediterranean climate and almost palpable multiculturalism have turned the city into an original tourist destination, interesting at any time of year and day. A curious peculiarity – the most colorful neighborhoods and historical monuments are crowded along the banks of the Tagus and in the areas close to it. However, the farther from the river, the more modern and minimalistic the scenery.
Travellers usually begin their exploration of Lisbon’s character with the Baixa area, which has a privileged location and a host of impressive but not very old cultural sites: the devastating earthquake forced the rebuilding of all the buildings in the 18th century. The squares of Terreiro do Paço, Rocío and Figueira are a particular source of pride, as are the Avenida Liberdade and Calle Augusta.
If you need a dose of Moorish domination, visit the Alfama quarter, one of the few places in Lisbon spared by the elements. You can still feel the breath of Arab culture here, because it was never spared by the local aristocracy. The main population of Alfama has always been simple people who do not seek transformation and have kept the appearance of the quarter almost unchanged in its medieval form.
The second historical center of Lisbon is Belem, which is geographically “isolated” from the rest of the city. You can not bypass Belem for one simple reason: about half of Lisbon’s monuments are located precisely in this area. Perhaps this is why the Portuguese President prefers it to all other areas.
And yet, despite the reverent attitude to its own history, the Portuguese capital does not intend to completely abandon the trappings of modern life. If you take your eyes off the colonial era sights, in Lisbon you can see modest residential districts, glass towers of offices and Vasco da Gama cable-stayed bridge, until recently the longest in Europe. It’s no surprise, though. As with any major city, Lisbon looks for the perfect balance between past and present, where neither tourist attractions nor modern architecture are stymied, but rather where they complement each other peacefully.
Climate. Best time to visit.
Lisbon has a distinctly Mediterranean climate. Winds, rainfall and sudden changes in the weather are the big boss in the Portuguese capital, and it is the Atlantic that determines what the temperatures will be like in the next month. winters are mild (+12. +14 ° C), moderately sunny and ideal for cozy gatherings in stylish coffee shops, souvenir shopping and rides on the yellow cable car, an unofficial symbol of the city.
Lisbon’s winter scenery isn’t dull either, with mimosas in full bloom in February and evergreen shrubs livening up the squares and streets. And there is always a chance to experience the national culture – at New Year and Christmas there is a magical pre-holiday atmosphere in the Portuguese capital, which fades into fireworks and festival euphoria. And of course, the main “bonus” of winter is the prices of accommodation and seasonal sales. Cheaper than in January and February in Lisbon, there is almost never.
Spring is the most photogenic and sightseeing pleasant phenomenon in the local year. The city is drowning in young greenery, exotic flowers bloom everywhere, and it is almost summer-like warm outside. In addition, spring is a time for great festivals. Lisbon people celebrate Palm Sunday (Palm Sunday) and Easter in incredible style.
Going to Portugal’s capital in the summer, prepare for the heat and the ultraviolet. Despite the fact that the official average July temperature is only +22 ° C, in practice the city thermometers often show +30 ° C in the shade. However, this does not prevent the summer to remain the most party time of the year. The beaches of neighboring resorts are taken by storm by tourists and Portuguese, the bars and discos are always crowded, and in the shady parks those who have had time to get tired of excursions to the historic locations of Lisbon relax.
The beginning of autumn is a continuation of the beach season: the temperature of the water in the ocean remains at +18. +20 ° C, and the sun continues to “hand out” a glamorous golden tan. Gathering the remnants of strength, in September, European resorts go to the last break, so by the middle of the month to pack a suitcase and say goodbye to Lisbon until next summer.
By the end of September the streets and squares of the city can be wandered entirely quietly and unhurriedly – until October in these parts only the most enthusiastic adherents of excursions linger. The reason for this sudden desolation is obvious: It is impossible to predict the vagaries of the weather in the second half of autumn in Portugal. So if you are enjoying the sunny days of November in Lisbon this year, there is no guarantee that you will not have to spend your next visit sitting in your hotel room watching grey skies and drizzling threads of rain outside your window.
History of Lisbon
Traces of the first settlements in the vicinity of Lisbon can be traced back to the Neolithic period. Later the Celts invaded and mingled with the natives, who were later joined by the Phoenicians. When the Romans arrived in Portugal, Lisbon became part of the Lusitania colony. Construction was begun in the city and its borders were surrounded by military fortifications to protect against the raids of pirates and nomads. In the V century the Roman Empire fell into decline, “taking” for the company of the Portuguese capital, which since then, alternately passed to the Sarmatians, then to the Vandals, the tribes of the Svea.
In the Middle Ages the city and surrounding areas took over the Berbers, zealously planted among the local population Muslims. But in 1147 the Crusaders conquered Lisbon, returning it to the previously oppressed Christian religion. In the fifteenth century the Portuguese merchant class became interested in seafaring and trade expeditions were regularly launched from the port of Lisbon. However, only one hundred years later the country again lost its independence and, together with Lisbon, became part of Spain, from whose oppression it was possible to get rid only in 1668.
At the beginning of the XIX century Napoleon paid a visit to the Portuguese capital and so frightened the local queen that she hastily emigrated to Brazil. The French army ravaged valuable historical monuments and the city’s institutions as a result of this military conflict. There were three revolutions in Lisbon in the 20th century, which saw Portugal change from a monarchy to a republic. During World War II it became a ferry for thousands of refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany and occupied France.
Despite its eventful past, Lisbon has a limited number of truly ancient sights. The reason for this is the earthquake of 1755, after which most of the monuments were destroyed and died in flames. There is plenty left to see and do, so don’t expect to see everything there is to see in a day. Given the hilly terrain of the city, this is something even a professional track and field athlete cannot do.
The architectural history of the Portuguese capital begins at the walls of Castel Sant Gheorghe. The formidable fortress sits on a high hill, once a lookout point for Roman legionnaires, and is visible from just about any quarter. The Praça do Comércio, or Market Square, is a huge tiled square jutting out from the banks of the Tagus. There was once a royal palace next door and the harbour adjoining the square was where the ships of Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan were moored. After 1755, however, the palace crumbled into dust and the Praça do Comércio grew larger and more pretentious.
The Augusta, Lisbon’s Broadway, branches off from the Market Square and contains charming coffee shops and souvenir stores lining its sides. It ends in Augusta with an eclectic triumphal arch decorated with sculptures of Portuguese politicians and military leaders. One of the capital’s landmark structures that survived the earthquake is the Torre de Belém, which commemorates the discovery of the sea route to India at Belém. Today, anyone can get inside the snow-white structure to see the 16 ancient military guns.
Crossing the 25th of April bridge between Lisbon and Almada, the city of Almada, one might think for a moment that one is in Rio de Janeiro. That’s because the religious Portuguese have erected a statue of Christ in his arms here, an exact, though slightly smaller, copy of the legendary Brazilian monument. A popular sightseeing spot that became available to visitors just a few years ago is the Aguas-Libris Aqueduct. The monumental arches of the ancient aqueduct have safely survived the fateful year of 1755 and to this day supply life-giving water to part of the neighborhoods.
A marvel of engineering and simply unusual for a city with a distinctly medieval flavor is the elevator of the Elevador di Santa Giusta. At the end of the XIX century a mechanical device solved the problem of height differences in the city, transporting Lisbon citizens from the street Oru for 32 meters up to the Largo do Carmo. Today the elevator is more aesthetic than functional, but it still carries tourists and citizens.
The Gloria funicular looks modest and unassuming compared to the emphasized, flamboyant appearance of Santa Justa. Nevertheless, it has every right to be called a city landmark. The yellow retro cable cars have been running since 1885, helping tourists and locals not to wear themselves out climbing and descending steep paths and stairs in the Portuguese capital. By the way, in addition to the Gloria, there are several funiculars in the city, but it is the first one that is always included in the top local must-see.
Another attraction of Lisbon, which you do not need to look for because it accompanies the tourist in his walks through the city – the azulejo tiles. The tradition of decorating the walls of houses with ceramic plates with ornaments and subject paintings dates back to the time of the Moors, so buildings with azulejo in Lisbon are practically on every step. As for the most spectacular tiles, look for them in the Chiado and Mouraria, where the decoration of buildings with ceramic squares is practically a cult.
Portuguese rulers and aristocrats loved to live large, and there are many impressive mansions and palaces in Lisbon and its suburbs. Topping the list of royal residences is the Mafra. At first the building was erected as a monastery – thus King João V wanted to beg for an heir. Gradually, however, the monarch acquired a taste for it, and before he knew it he had added a whole residency complex to the cloister.
The chateau and park ensemble in Kelusa looks almost like Versailles of Paris from the outside, and in luxury interiors is not inferior to its French twin brother. All the more incredible is the fact that the Portuguese kings were not keen on living here and entertained themselves in the palace halls only during the summer months.
The Belém palace looks more modest compared to the first two buildings, but because of the marshmallow-pink hue of the walls it has a special, unique charm. A striking representative of the neoclassical trend in architecture – Ajuda Palace. The building was a royal residence was not long, but its age is not so old – the complex was put into operation in the XIX century.
Temples and monasteries
Lisbon has several architectural masterpieces protected by UNESCO. One of them is the Jerónimos Monastery, which in addition to its late Gothic facades and Baroque interiors also boasts the tomb of Vasco da Gama. The city cathedral externally resembles a sketch of the notorious Notre Dame de Paris – the Portuguese spared on the intricate bas-reliefs and gargoyles, but still designed a rose window on the front wall.
Snow-white baroque complex of the Basilica da Estrela is located in the western part of the capital and attracts pilgrims with a sculptural group of 500 figures depicting the Nativity, and the tomb of Queen Mary (the one who escaped from Napoleon in Brazil). The most revered building by Lisbon Catholics is the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. As well as its ornate exterior and no less opulent interior, it has a giant organ and a fantastic azulejo collection that could take half a day to explore.
The modest facades and strikingly pompous interior are the Church of San Roque. The building was built on the site of an ancient cemetery where they buried the victims of the plague, so the atmosphere in its features. By the way, it is in San Roque is the Chapel of John the Baptist, which until recently was considered the most expensive in the world – real gold and semi-precious stones were used in the decoration of the niche.
The National Pantheon of Portugal, aka the Church of Santa Engracia, appears in tourist reviews as the main “long construction” in Lisbon. There is a legend associated with the building, according to which Santa Engracia was cursed by a heretic burned at its walls who wished that the temple had never been finished. As a result, it took nearly 300 years to rebuild the cathedral after the storm’s devastation. Church of St. Peter Alakantara no one cursed, but it did not save her from the raging elements: in 1755 the walls of the construction “shattered” by an earthquake. Its interiors remained intact, so the paintings and themes on the ceramic tiles inside are the same as they were hundreds of years ago.
Getting around the museums of Lisbon is time consuming. There are so many interesting exhibitions in the city that to get to know them and then rethink what you see, you need to allocate at least half a vacation. In the top of the most colorful and interesting places are invariably included the National Museum of Azulejo (all the most unusual tiles – here), Carriage Museum (even a carriage of the Pope) and the National Museum of Old Art (Bosch, Dürer, Velázquez and many exhibits of other, less famous masters of art).
The Archaeological Museum at the Carmo Monastery is worth visiting for its Peruvian mummies and tile collection, the City Museum – for the Neolithic artifacts, the Military Museum – bronze mortars, the legendary machine gun Maxim and a collection of ceremonial cold steel arms. And of course, what is Portugal without the Maritime Museum, the exposition of which is located in the building of the Jeronimus monastery.
The Museum of the Orient is a young but ambitious institution, with serious collections and incredible temporary exhibitions, offering fascinating tours and immersion in ancient history. Paintings by Dutch painters, fanciful seventeenth-century furniture, Chinese sets and other attributes of aristocratic life should be sought in the House-Museum of Medeiros i Almeida.
The Museum of Sacred Art will be of interest to tourists who are not indifferent to Christian culture and everything that goes along with it. But fans of trendy paintings and sculptures will be more interested in the Berardo Museum of Modern and New Art, whose collections are full of masterpieces by artists who are practically not represented in Russia. Rafael Bordalo Pineiro Museum is another local landmark. Inside a white mansion, there is a collection of comics to which the Portuguese cartoonist had a hand, as well as photographs of the author.
Theater buffs should check out the Roman Theater Museum for the remains of the Eternal City concert stage and ancient mosaics. Children are best taken to the Museum of Puppets, which presents puppets of different eras and continents. Young technicians will be surprised and interested in the interactive exhibition of the Museum of Electricity – the main part of the exhibits can be twisted, turned on or run.
Lisbon (Portugal) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Lisbon with descriptions, guides and maps.
The city of Lisbon (Portugal).
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, as well as the largest city and port of the country. It is located on the left bank of the Tagus River on the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon is one of the most beautiful cities in southern Europe with an amazing atmosphere, saturated with sea and sun. The capital of Portugal charms with its white limestone buildings, pretty streets with yellow tramways and casual charm.
Lisbon has a wealth of historical monuments, interesting museums and cultural events. It is a city of vibrant architecture, steeped in the tradition of Fado music, the smell of food and seafood. Lisbon should be enjoyed at an easy and leisurely pace. And you’ll fall in love with its welcoming character and sunny charm.
Things to do (Lisbon):
Sintra, the Atlantic and Cape Roca
Experience the edge of the world at sunset, visit a fairytale castle and enjoy the ocean at Guincho Beach
€145 per excursion
All Lisbon: on foot, by streetcar, cable car and elevator
A colorful stroll through the multifaceted city with a glass of liquor or a cup of coffee in hand
Geography and climate
Lisbon is the westernmost capital of Europe. The city is located at the mouth of the Tagus River on the southwest side of the Iberian Peninsula and occupies the western shore of the Mar da Paglia Bay. The capital of Portugal stretches along the coast from the northern bank of the Tagus to the beaches of Alentejo. Lisbon has a warm Mediterranean (subtropical) climate. The average temperature in summer is 24 – 26 ° C, in winter – about 10 ° C.
The best time to visit the Portuguese capital is from April to October. In winter, despite the relatively warm weather, it can be quite windy.
- Population – more than 500 thousand people.
- Area – 100,05 km 2 .
- Language: Portuguese.
- Currency is euro.
- Visa – Schengen.
- Time – UTC 0, +1 in summer.
- Stunning views of the city from the restaurants and cafes on the top floor of the shopping center Armazéns do Chiado, as well as from the castle.
- If the main purpose of your visit to Lisbon is sightseeing, accommodation is better to book along the route of the streetcar number 28.
- The capital of Portugal is a pretty safe city. Although for single tourists it is recommended to avoid the Bairro Alto and Santos areas at night.
Lisbon is considered the oldest city in Western Europe. It was founded by the Romans after their defeat of Carthage as Municipium Cives Romanorum Felicitas Julia. Later the city became part of the Roman province of Lusitania. After the problem of piracy was solved and the walls that protected Lisbon from the Lusitania raids were built, it entered an era of prosperity. The city becomes one of the most important settlements of western Iberia. The Romans built a theater, thermae, temples and roads, which connected Lisbon to the other ancient cities of the Iberian Peninsula.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire (between 409 and 429), Lisbon suffered the raids of the Sarmatians and Vandals. Later it became part of the Kingdom of the Sveves, which was conquered by the Visigoths in the 6th century. In 711, Lisbon was occupied by the Moors, whose influence can still be seen in its architecture and culture. In 1108 the city was conquered by the Norwegian Knights, led by Sigurd I, but three years later became Moorish again. Lisbon was finally liberated in 1147 during the Reconquista.
The city became the capital of Portugal in 1255. The first Portuguese university was founded there in 1290. In the late Middle Ages Lisbon became an important center of trade between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. In the 15th and 17th centuries the Portuguese capital is one of the engines of the great geographic discoveries. It was from here (or rather from the suburb of Lisbon – Belém) that the famous Portuguese seafarers, including Vasco da Gama, set out to sea.
The streets of Lisbon
Between the 14th and 18th centuries Lisbon suffered massive earthquakes. The most catastrophic of these was in 1755. It destroyed 80% of the city and claimed the lives of 30 to 40 thousand people. After that the Portuguese capital has been rebuilt virtually from scratch. That is why there are so few medieval buildings in Lisbon. In the 19th century the Portuguese capital grew thanks to industry and trade. In the 20th century Lisbon became the stage for three revolutions.
How to get there
Lisbon is one of the largest transport hubs of the Iberian Peninsula. The capital of Portugal is easily accessible by plane from most major cities in Europe, as well as some cities in North America, Africa and Asia. Lisbon has regular train and bus connections to major cities in Spain and most Portuguese cities.
Lisbon has a very efficient public transport network, which covers almost the entire city and its surroundings. The fastest way to get around Lisbon is by metro. The city also has an extensive bus and streetcar network. To travel on public transport in Lisbon you must buy a green Viva Viagem card, to which you can put any amount of money.
Streetcars on the streets of Lisbon
Stores in Lisbon open a little later than in other European cities, usually around 9:30 – 10:00 am. However, they have long lunch breaks. The main shopping areas are Baixa, Chiado and Avenida da Liberdade. Chiado is also full of cafes, restaurants and bookstores.
Lisbon’s major shopping malls:
- Armazéns do Chiado
- Centro Comercial Colombo
- Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama
- Dolce Vita Tejo in Amadora is one of the largest in Europe.
The Lisbon Shopping Card gives you a 5 to 20% discount at the 200 large stores Baixa, Chiado and Av. Liberdade.
Alfama is the oldest district of the city and a true symbol of Lisbon. It is a maze of charming old streets and alleys with architecture from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century. Alfama is famous for its historical and cultural sites as well as its cozy bars and restaurants.
Castelo de San Jorge
Castelo de São Jorge is an ancient castle and one of Lisbon’s main attractions. It is located near Alfama on a hilltop with a beautiful view of the city. The castle has impressive battlements, a fascinating museum and fascinating archaeological excavations. The Castelo de San Jorge was built by the Moors and recaptured by the Portuguese at the end of the 12th century. In 1511 it was expanded and fortified with strong walls. For a long time the castle served as the residence of the Portuguese kings.
Place de Rossio
Place de Rossio is one of the central and oldest squares in Lisbon, and has been the center of city life for centuries, dating back to the Middle Ages. There are two Baroque fountains and a 27 metre high monument to the “Soldier King” Pedro IV. On the north side of the square is the Dona Maria II National Theater. It is a monumental neoclassical building built in the 19th century, with a portico of six Ionic columns.
Jerónimos or Jerominus Monastery
The Monastery of Jerónimos, or Jeroeminus, is one of Portugal’s greatest sights, a stunning monument of great historical and cultural significance and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a masterpiece of the Manueline Late Gothic style and is located in Belém, a suburb of Lisbon. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century to commemorate the epic voyage of Vasco da Gama, whose tomb is located at the entrance of the Church of Santa Maria.
The tower in Belém
Belém is home to another symbolic landmark, the Torre de Belém. This historic tower is considered the pinnacle of Manueline style architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1521 as a fortress to protect the approaches to the Tagus River. The tower has a stunning ornate façade with whimsical nautical motifs.
Santa Justa Elevator
The Santa Justa is a neo-Gothic elevator in the Baixa district that opened in 1901. At first glance, its riveted wrought iron structure and gray paint conjure up images of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. And no wonder, since the architect of this construction was a pupil of Gustave Eiffel.
Sé is an imposing Romanesque cathedral in Lisbon resembling a small fortress. It was founded in 1150 and built on the ruins of a Moorish mosque. A devastating earthquake in the 12th century almost completely destroyed the original medieval structure. The church is now a mixture of architectural styles. The cathedral has a rather gloomy interior and a magnificent treasury of relics and artifacts.
Rua Augusta Arc de Triomphe
The Rua Augusta Arc de Triomphe is one of Lisbon’s familiar landmarks. The arch is built at the southern end of the main pedestrian boulevard and overlooks the huge Praça do Comércio. The structure was built in the 19th century to commemorate the reconstruction of the Portuguese capital after the 1755 earthquake. The clock dates from 1941.
The Carmo Church is one of the most interesting historical monuments of the Portuguese capital and part of an ancient monastery. It is a treasure of the Carmelite order, built between 1389 and 1423. The magnificent Gothic monastery was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. Strong underground tremors destroyed most of the building, burying hundreds of worshippers beneath them. The church now houses a museum that includes a column of Visigoths, a Roman tomb, and two ancient mummies.
Church of San Roque
The Church of San Roque is a religious structure founded by the Jesuit order in the 16th century. The church has an unassuming Renaissance facade and a magnificent interior, making it one of Lisbon’s most impressive sacred sites. São Roque is simply stunning with its ornate decoration, marble trim and gilded elements. The church is now a museum that preserves treasures of religious art.
- The Núcleo Arqueológico is Lisbon’s archaeological museum, built on the site of excavations of Iron Age and Roman dwellings. Its collections include artifacts from Antiquity and the Middle Ages as well as from more recent times.
- The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian is a magnificent art museum that is one of Lisbon’s most famous cultural sites. It includes a collection of art from around the world, spanning a period of 4,000 years, from ancient Egyptian times to the end of the 20th century. The museum was founded by the Armenian-born oil magnate Galust Gulbenkian, who bequeathed his extensive private collection to Portugal.
- The National Museum of Ancient Art is one of the greatest cultural attractions in Lisbon, which contains the largest collection of paintings by Portuguese artists of the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as objects of European, Oriental and African art.
€125 per excursion
Understand and love Lisbon
Stroll through historic districts and picturesque corners of the city
€240 per tour
Medieval Cities of Portugal: Tomar, Batalha, Nazareth and Obidos
Driving tour – Portugal’s history and richness in its famous settlements