Lisbon is a popular, lazy and melancholy city like all big cities of the sea, especially those who are in the south. The same way are its inhabitants and you can understand them better with the song Fado, the song that the Portuguese sailors sang on the ships. We suggest you to visit the neighborhoods of the city, from the Bairro Alto, to the Baixa, passing through Belem and Chiado: only in these areas you will discover the true cultural identity of Lisbon. Read the 10 most important things to do and see in Lisbon to fully understand the unique charm of the Portuguese capital.
If you are looking for a hotel in Lisbon, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 300 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com
The Baixa in Lisbon
The Baixa district is the heart of the city, part of Lisbon that starts from the banks of the Tagus and reaches Avenida da Liberada.
This area was completely destroyed by the terrible earthquake of 1755, and rebuilt in an perfect way: the Baixa is not only the symbol of hope and reconstruction, it’s also a wonderful example of neoclassical architecture. The Marquis of Pombal, prime minister of King José I, wanted to rebuild it and today it has with many streets for pedestrians and it’s plenty of bars, restaurants, shops. The places that you have to visit are the Praca do Rossio with the Station, the Praca do Commercio and the Elevador de Santa Justa. The Praca do Rossio is recognizable by the white and black pavement. Called by Lisboetas the large sea, it was built by prisoners of the Sao Jorge Castle after the earthquake of 1755. The station is an extraordinary place, a masterpiece in neo-Manueline style with the characteristic entrance with double horseshoe.
The Barrio alto in Lisbon
For many centuries, the Bairro Alto has been the neighborhood of rich families: the rich people lived in this area of Lisbon carefully avoiding the most disreputable places of the city.
From 1800 things changed and the Bairro Alto acquired a double personality that even now characterizes it: on the one hand the aristocratic families and the other one creative people: poor artists, libraries, restaurants and antique dealers. The Bairro Alto is characterized for being the district of young people and fun: during the weekend the Lisbon boys meet here to chat or they go to some exclusive jazz club.
The Chiado in Lisbon
The Chiado, badly damaged by fire in 1988, has been rebuilt in an perfect way. Walking around these streets, infact, you don’t notice anything about the destruction.
Chiado means smart, but also malicious and it seems that these were the characteristics of Antonio Ribeiro, poet and monk, whose nickname was “O Chiado.” It was the favourite district of Pessoa, melancholy poet and Portuguese writer. Chiado is currently full of shops, libraries and theaters. One of the most famous places, loved by Pessoa, is coffee “A Brasileira”, located in Rua Garrett, the elegant street that bisects the Chiado with bakeries, shops luxury and libraries. A bronze copy of the poet sitting at a coffee table reminds visitors that here Pessoa spent his days reading and writing. Don’t miss the impressive Gothic ruins of the Carmo Church, partially destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and left in that way, for future memory of what it was.
Belém in Lisbon
The Belém district is located on the banks of the Tagus and its history is closely connected to the maritime discoveries: from here the Portuguese ships were leaving in search of riches and new lands to conquer.
The Belém district is very large, full of colorful gardens and splendid monuments such as the Monastery of Jeronimos and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries). Among them stands out the Tower of Belém, built to be the lighthouse and fortress in Restelo harbor. The special feature of the district is the architectural style of its facilities characterized by the hyper-decorated Gothic style called Manueline.
Monastero de Los Jeronimos
The Monastero de los Jeronimos is the most important monument of Lisbon. It was built in 1505 to celebrate the return of the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama who had just discovered the sea route to India.
For its architectural uniqueness, the Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It takes its name from the monks of the Order of St. Jerome to whom was donated after the construction. He became known as the Monastery of Gerolomini. In the monastery there is the Bethlehem church (hence the name of the district) in which the tombs of Vasco da Gama (left) and Luis Camoes are hosted. The tomb of the most famous Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, is instead in the beautiful cloister, considered the most successful example of Manueline style.
Where: Belém district outside the center.
How to get there:
Bus: 727, 28, 729, 714 and 751
By boat: Port of Belém.
When – Hours:
From October to April from 10.00 am to 5.30 pm (last entrance 5:00 pm).
From May to September from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm (last entrance 6:00 pm).
Closed: Mondays, 1 January, Easter Sunday, May 1 and December 25
Single ticket: 10 €.
Combo ticket with the Torre de Belém: 12 €.
Free admission with the Lisboa Card
Alfama in Lisbon
Get on a tram, make yourself comfortable with you head out of the windows and discover the Alfama. You have to discover this district of Lisbon in this way, sliding rapidly in front of your eyes: only after you put together all the pieces of the puzzle and figure out what really is Alfama.
The tram takes you to the streets of even 4 meters wide: you touch the walls of the buildings, but be careful not to lose balance, these alleys can also have a gradient of 14%! You’ll love the chaotic and elusive atmosphere of Alfama, its clothes hanging from balconies, the parked cars: all you’ll see in this neighborhood will seem an intense and significant expression of the word “life.”
Trams, funiculars and elevators Lisbon
To move from one neighborhood to another, and to admire all the beauty of Lisbon at a glance, you’ll have to get around by tram.
Trams in Lisbon are legendary: they face the slope of narrow streets and alleys and never give up. You can see some boys hanging on the outside handles because they don’t want to pay the tickets. We recommend you the tourist line 28, with a little attention to pickpockets. You’ll see all over the Alfama district in few time. Lisbon, like Naples, is the city of funiculars and elevators. Funicular railways (called elevators) are 3: the Glory that goes up to the Bairro Alto, Bica and Lavra that was the first built in Europe. The neo-Gothic elevator is the Elevador de Santa Justa, built at the end of 800 by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. With its 32 meters of hill and two spectacular wooden cabins, it leads directly into the Chiado, in front of the church of Carmo.
The Miradouro de Santa Luzia in Lisbon
Just below the Castle de Sao Jorge, taking Rua da Saudade, you get straight to that masterpiece half human and half natural which is the Miradouro de Santa Luzia.
If you have ever seen a Lisbon panoramic picture, almost certainly it was made from here. Just as certainly in the picture there are not only the roofs of Alfama and Lisbon horizon, but also the wonderful azulejos (painted tiles) decorating the wall of the belvedere. The tiles are an old Portuguese tradition to which is also dedicated a small museum near the Belvedere (Museum of Decorative Arts). Behind, on the façade of the church of Santa Luzia, there are two beautiful mosaic tiles: one depicts the Terreiro do Paco (Praça do Comércio) before the earthquake of 1755, and the other depicts some crusaders who reconquer Lisbon.
Things to eat in Lisbon
Portuguese gastronomy will be full of surprises, not only bacalhau and Porto will delight you, but there are many other flavors to taste.
To taste the typical dishes of Lisbon you’ll have to enter into the tascas, very poor cafés managed by Portuguese families, where you eat well and don’t pay much. As soon as you sit there, without saying anything, they will bring you a lot of starters such as black olives, sliced meats, goat cheese and a kind of smoked ham. Bacalhau is definitely a highlight of the city and it’s said that there are 366 ways of cooking it well, one for each day of the year plus one for February 29. Even some meat dishes deserve to be tasted like cozido à portuguesa, stew of meat and vegetables, and sarrabulho, with pork liver or duck marinated in red wine and tied with pig’s blood. For an unforgettable meal, taste a good Porto with some exquisite Portuguese cakes.
Where to sleep in Lisbon
Lisbon is a city still quite cheap and finding a place to sleep will not be a problem. The Lisbon accommodations are very numerous, there are hotels of all levels and many motels, hotels on the road.
Who is willing to pay a little more can choose to book a room in a pousadas, houses of great historical value that have been adapted to hotel. The pensao are typical family houses, very comfortable and cozy, where you meet some Portuguese doc. There are also bed and breakfast for those who don’t want to spend so much and the apartments, which here are called quartos, aparthotel or tourism de abitacao, for those who want more independence.
If you are looking for a hotel in Lisbon, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 380 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com