Lisbon Attractions: How to Explore the History and Culture of Portugal’s Capital (Part 1)
Lisbon is a city that has it all: history, culture, art, architecture, music, and more. It’s a place where you can travel back in time to the Age of Discovery, admires the stunning Manueline and Baroque monuments, explores the colorful and diverse neighborhoods, and enjoy the vibrant and festive spirit of the locals. In this article, you will learn how to explore the Lisbon attractions that showcase its rich and diverse past and present. You will discover the landmarks, museums, and events that reflect its artistic and cultural heritage and its lively and festive spirit. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture vulture, or a party animal, Lisbon has something for you. This is part one of our ‘Things to do in Lisbon‘ series, where we will show you how to make the most of your trip to this wonderful city.
Discover the Iconic Landmarks and Monuments of Lisbon
Lisbon is a city that has witnessed many historical events and transformations, from the Roman occupation to the Moorish invasion, from the Age of Discovery to the Carnation Revolution. These events have left their mark on the city’s landscape, in the form of impressive landmarks and monuments that reflect Lisbon’s rich and diverse past. Some of the most iconic landmarks and monuments of Lisbon are:
1. Belém Area
Located in western Lisbon, Belém is well-known with notable monuments:
1.1. Belém Tower
This 16th-century fortification was built to defend the entrance of the Tagus River and to commemorate the voyages of exploration. It is a masterpiece of Manueline architecture, a style that combines Gothic and Renaissance elements with maritime motifs. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a symbol of Portugal’s maritime glory.
You can reserve a Belem Tower entry ticket to skip the line and have a guided audio tour to learn more historical information about the place.
1.2. Jerónimos Monastery
This magnificent monastery was also built in the 16th century to celebrate the discoveries and to honor the patron saint of sailors, St. Jerome. It is another example of Manueline architecture, with elaborate carvings and sculptures that depict scenes from Portuguese history and culture. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the resting place of some of Portugal’s most illustrious figures, such as Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões.
You can reserve a Jerónimos Monastery entrance ticket early for a hassle-free experience in Lisbon.
1.3. Monument to the Discoveries
This impressive monument celebrates Portugal’s role in the Age of Discovery, depicting some of the most prominent explorers and navigators of that era. It is shaped like a caravel, a type of ship used for exploration, and stands on the edge of the Tagus River. It also features a mosaic map on the ground that shows the routes and dates of the Portuguese discoveries.
Thoroughly Discover Belém Area in an Unforgettable Way
Are you ready for an unforgettable adventure in Lisbon? Then join one of these amazing private tours exploring Belem, the historic district where you can admire monuments like the Jeronimos Monastery, the Belem Tower, and the Monument to the Discoveries. You can choose your preferred way of transportation: electric bike, segway, or tuk-tuk. Each option offers a different perspective and a unique experience. Furthermore, you will have a friendly and knowledgeable guide who will show you the best spots and tell you fascinating stories about this area. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover Belem in a fun and special way. So, click on the link below and book your tour now!
2. Downtown Area
Some of the popular travel destinations in Baixa and Chaido that you can visit are:
2.1. Santa Justa Lift
This 19th-century elevator connects the lower and upper parts of the city, offering spectacular views of Lisbon from its top platform. Moreover, it is a remarkable example of neo-Gothic ironwork, designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel. It is also a national monument and a popular tourist attraction.
2.2. Carmo Convent
This ruined Gothic church was once one of the most important and beautiful in Lisbon, until it was partially destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. It is now a museum that displays archaeological and historical artifacts, such as tombs, statues, mosaics, and coins. It is also a symbol of the earthquake’s devastation and a reminder of Lisbon’s resilience.
2.3. Praça do Comércio or Commerce Square
This is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in Europe, facing the Tagus River. It was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, following a neoclassical design. Praça do Comércio features a triumphal arch, a statue of King José I, and a mosaic pavement. It is also surrounded by elegant buildings that once housed the royal palace and the kingdom’s ministries.
2.4. Rossio Square
This is one of the main and oldest squares in Lisbon, dating back to the 13th century. It has been the scene of many historical events, such as revolts, executions, bullfights, and celebrations. Rossio Square features a Baroque fountain, a neoclassical theater, a mosaic pavement, and a statue of King Pedro IV. It is also surrounded by cafes, shops, and hotels.
Explore the Heart of Lisbon with Amazing Tours
You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to join one of the tours in Downtown Lisbon or Baixa. This area is the historical and cultural center of the city, where you can admire the beautiful architecture, visit the impressive monuments, and taste the delicious cuisine. Whether you prefer a walking tour or a bike tour, you will find something that suits your interests and budget. Don’t wait any longer and discover the charm of Lisbon with these amazing tours!
3. Alfama Area
The oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, and there are places that you can visit:
3.1. São Jorge Castle
This medieval castle sits atop a hill overlooking the city and offers panoramic views of Lisbon. It was originally a Moorish fortress that was conquered by the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, in 1147. It was then expanded and renovated over the centuries, serving as a royal residence, a military barracks, and a prison. Today, it is a museum that showcases the history and archaeology of the castle and its surroundings.
Reserve a Sao Jorge Castle skip the line ticket now for your hassle-free experience and save your time for other attractions in Lisbon.
3.2. Lisbon Cathedral
This is the oldest and most important church in Lisbon, dating back to the 12th century. It was built on the site of a former mosque, after the Christian reconquest of the city. Lisbon Cathedral has a Romanesque facade, a Gothic cloister, and a Baroque chapel. It also houses some relics of St. Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon.
Explore Alfama: The Oldest and Most Charming Neighborhood in Lisbon
If you are looking for a unique and unforgettable experience in Lisbon, you should definitely join one of the tours in Alfama, the oldest and most charming neighborhood in the city. Alfama is a maze of narrow streets, colorful houses, ancient churches, and cozy cafes, where you can feel the authentic spirit of Lisbon and its people. Alfama is also home to the famous Fado music, a melancholic and soulful genre that expresses the Portuguese saudade.
There are many tours in Alfama that you can choose from, depending on your preferences and budget. You can join a walking tour and discover the hidden gems of Alfama with a local guide, who will tell you fascinating stories and legends about this historic area. Or you can also join a segway tour and explore Alfama at your own pace, enjoying the views and the breeze along the way.
No matter which tours you choose, you will have an amazing time in Alfama and learn a lot about the culture and history of Lisbon. You will also support the local economy and help preserve this beautiful neighborhood for future generations. So don’t hesitate and book your tour in Alfama today! You can find the best deals and offers on these tours below. Just click on them and start your adventure in Alfama!
4. Alcântara District
A busy nightlight hub, but there is a must-check-in landmark that you shouldn’t miss:
4.1. 25 de Abril Bridge
This is one of the longest suspension bridges in Europe, spanning over 2 km across the Tagus River. It was inaugurated in 1966 as Salazar Bridge, but renamed after the 1974 revolution that ended the dictatorship. It resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and offers stunning views of Lisbon and its surroundings.
5. Avenidas Novas Area
One of the safest and most luxurious areas of the City of Seven Hills. Thus, you can deeply relax and comfortably wander around here.
5.1. Eduardo VII Park
This is the largest and most beautiful park in Lisbon, named after the British king who visited Lisbon in 1902. It offers stunning views of the city and the river, as well as a variety of attractions, such as a greenhouse, a pavilion, a lake, a monument, and a flagpole. It is also a popular venue for concerts, festivals, and exhibitions.
Visit the Fascinating Museums and Galleries of Lisbon
Lisbon is a city that has a rich and diverse artistic and cultural heritage, from ancient art to contemporary design, from traditional crafts to modern technology. The city offers a wide range of museums and galleries that showcase this heritage and offer insights into Lisbon’s history and identity. Some of the most fascinating museums and galleries in Lisbon are:
National Tile Museum
This museum is dedicated to one of Portugal’s most distinctive art forms, the azulejo (painted ceramic tile). It displays a collection of tiles from different periods and styles, from the 15th century to the present day. It also features a stunning tile panel that depicts Lisbon before the 1755 earthquake that destroyed much of the city.
This museum is dedicated to one of Portugal’s most characteristic musical genres, the fado. It traces the origins and evolution of fado, from its roots in the working-class neighborhoods of Lisbon to its recognition as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. It also exhibits instruments, costumes, posters, recordings, and memorabilia related to fado and its performers.
Berardo Collection Museum
This museum is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, featuring works by some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, such as Picasso, Warhol, Dali, Pollock, Mondrian, Koons, Hirst, and many more. It also hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
This is one of the best museums in Lisbon, featuring a collection of art and artifacts from different periods and regions, such as ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, China, Japan, Europe, and Africa. It also has a modern collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings by artists such as Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Picasso, Miró, and Vieira da Silva. It is located on Avenida de Berna, near Praça de Espanha.
Experience the Festive Spirit and Music of Lisbon
Lisbon is a city that has a lively and festive spirit, especially during the summer months, when the streets are filled with music, dancing, and celebrations. The city has a rich and diverse musical tradition, from the melancholic fado to the upbeat pimba, classical guitarra, and modern electronic beats. The city also hosts some of the most popular and colorful festivals and events in Portugal, such as:
This is one of the biggest and most vibrant carnivals in Europe, taking place every year in February or March. It features parades, floats, costumes, masks, music, and dancing, inspired by different themes and cultures. The main parade takes place along Avenida da Liberdade, but there are also many other events and parties throughout the city.
This is one of the most authentic and intimate ways to experience Lisbon’s musical soul, taking place every night in various venues across the city. It consists of listening to live fado performances by professional or amateur singers and musicians, accompanied by a glass of wine and some petiscos (snacks). Some of the best places to enjoy fado nights are Alfama, Mouraria, Bairro Alto, and Graça.
Make sure you book early a Live Fado Music Show to truly experience Lisbon’s musical soul. Enjoy!
Lisbon & Sintra Film Festival (LEFFEST)
LEFFEST is one of the main film festivals in Portugal with film screenings from all over the world, attended by famous actors, actresses, and filmmakers. It takes place in Lisbon and Sintra, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Santo António Festival
This is one of the most beloved and traditional festivals in Lisbon, taking place every year on June 13th. It celebrates the patron saint of Lisbon, Santo António (Saint Anthony), also known as the matchmaker saint. It features processions, altars, sardine grills, basil pots, weddings, music, and dancing. The highlight of the festival is the marchas populares (popular marches), where different neighborhoods compete for the best performance and decoration.
This is a series of events that take place in June, featuring music, dance, theater, and other cultural activities in various locations around the city. You can listen to famous musicians in festivals like Rock in Rio Lisboa or Jazz em Agosto, or watch puppet shows and independent films.
Lisbon Attractions: A Journey Through History and Culture
You’ve just learned how to explore the history and culture of Lisbon through its most amazing attractions. You’ve seen the landmarks, museums, and events that reflect its rich and diverse past and present. By exploring these attractions, you’ve gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of Lisbon’s history and culture. We hope you enjoyed this part of our Lisbon travel guide series. Stay tuned for part two, where we will show you how to discover the best food and drink in Lisbon.
Get Your Lisbon Card Now for a Limitless Experience in the City of Seven Hills
Do you want to make the most of your trip to Lisbon? Do you want to save time and money while visiting the best attractions and museums in the city? Moreover, do you want to enjoy unlimited public transportation and discounts on tours, restaurants, and shops?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need the Lisbon Card!
The Lisbon Card is the ultimate travel companion for anyone who wants to explore Lisbon with ease and convenience. With this card, you can:
- Access over 35 museums and monuments for free, including the Jerónimos Monastery, the Tower of Belém, the National Tile Museum, and many more.
- Travel for free on buses, trams, metro, trains, and elevators within the city and to nearby destinations like Sintra and Cascais.
- Get discounts of up to 20% on tours, shows, activities, restaurants, and shops around the city.
- Skip the lines at some of the busiest attractions and save precious time.
The Lisbon Card is available for 24, 48, or 72 hours and it is activated upon first use. You can choose the option that suits your itinerary and budget best.
Don’t miss this opportunity to discover Lisbon with the Lisbon Card. It is the smartest and easiest way to enjoy everything that this amazing city has to offer.
Click below to buy your Lisbon Card now and get ready for an unforgettable trip!
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