It’s hard to resist the charm of Lisbon. In it, luxurious shopping areas are adjacent to cozy streets, majestic temples are with houses decorated with colorful tiles, and pleasant surprises and pleasures await tourists at every turn.
Here’s my recommendation on what to do and what to see.
1. Take a yellow tram ride
The yellow tram is the same symbol of Lisbon as the red telephone box for London. The most interesting route number 28 runs along the old part of the city: from Campo Ourique to Martim Moniz square. Sometimes a tram makes its way through such narrow streets that, having extended a hand from a window, one can touch the walls of houses. Attractions on the route will meet one after another: Lisbon Cathedral, Conceicao Velha Church, spiked house, St. George’s Castle, viewing platforms. Trams are full of citizens and tourists during the day, so it’s better to plan a trip in the morning or evening.
Tip: be careful not to leave things unattended; pickpockets sometimes “work” in Lisbon trams.
2. Take a look at Lisbon from above
St. George’s Castle is visible from anywhere in Lisbon. Once the Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and then the Portuguese kings lived in this fortress. Now here is a museum, peacocks walk around the gardens of the fortress, and tourists look at panoramic views of Lisbon at viewing platforms.
The most convenient way to get here is by tram number 28 or city elevators. Just before the entrance to the castle, do not miss the wonderful gift shop with Portuguese hand-painted dishes, hand-made toys, and magnets.
3. Conquer the peaks
Three Lisbon lifts an indispensable form of public transport for the city, located on the hills. In fact, these are the same yellow trams, they only climb the mountain, and not on flat terrain.
The ski lifts of Gloria and Lavra go from Restauradorish Square. The first rises to the panoramic terrace of San Pedro di Alcantara (São Pedro de Alcântara), the second to the picturesque and almost unknown to tourists Torel garden (Torel) with a circular panorama of the city. Bica connects Cais do Sodre Station and the Barrio Alto area.
The 45-meter-high wrought-iron tower, towering in the heart of Lisbon, is the Santa Justa City Elevator. It will take you to the observation deck, the Chiado district and the ruins of the Carmo church.
4. Listen to the fado
Fadu is not just music, but the cultural heritage of mankind according to UNESCO. You do not need to understand Portuguese to feel the depth of the inner sadness (Saudade), about which the singers sing.
In Lisbon, a fado is heard from the open windows of houses, from the speakers of music shops, and sounds in the headphones of sightseeing buses. You can listen to live music at the Fado Museum or at restaurants in the Bairro Alto, Alfama, and Madragoa districts. Concerts start around 9-10 pm. Entrance to such establishments is usually free, but food and drinks can be more expensive than usual.
Tip: In Portuguese restaurants, visitors immediately bring a lot of snacks that they did not order. Do not take this for a beautiful gesture and a “compliment from the establishment.” Remember that any dish you touch will be included in the bill. And do not be offended: this is just a local tradition, but not a way to lure money from a gullible tourist.
5. Love the Azulejos
The hand-painted glazed tile that gives Lisbon such a cozy charm is called azulejo. In addition to aesthetics, it has a quite practical function: tiles reliably protect the facades of buildings from moisture. After the earthquake of 1755, which destroyed part of the city, Azuleju, previously used only in palaces and churches, “went to the people” to decorate new houses.
You can see the oldest tiled panel in Lisbon in the Church of St. Roch. But in general, there’s no need to go specifically for azulejos just look around. By the popularity of souvenir products, tiles even bypass the Portuguese favorite cork: magnets, paintings, hot coasters and dozens of other trinkets are made from it.
6. Sleep with sharks
Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest in Europe. And sixteen thousand of its inhabitants deserve to take at least a couple of hours for a walk around the aquarium.
In addition to fish and sharks, which you can encounter almost nose to nose through the glass of the aquarium, there live penguins, sea lions, otters, turtles, and even tropical birds. A walk through a long glass tunnel creates an incredible effect of immersion underwater. The aquarium holds many interesting excursions. About one of them spending the night with sharks your children will probably be excited to tell classmates for more than one year.
7. Eat a cake
Belem is Lisbon’s historical monument-rich district. Once, it was from here that Vasco da Gama, Fernand Magellan, and other sailors began their expeditions. But one of the main attractions of Belem, oddly enough, is culinary.
The art of baking amazing cakes in the legendary cafe Pasteis de Belem has been perfected since 1837. And during this time, sweets became so popular that fakes and imitations are found not only in bakeries in Lisbon but throughout Portugal.
For tender baskets of puff pastry with custard and cinnamon, queues line up daily, but they are moving fast. A set of four still warm cakes, straight from the oven, costs 5
8. Go to the monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Looking at the magnificent building, you would rather believe that it is a royal palace and not a haven of monks who wished to hide from the bustle of the world.
The monastery really owes its beauty to King Manuel I: in the 16th century, he launched a grandiose construction “in gratitude” to the Virgin Mary for the patronage of Portuguese navigators. The interior of the monastery is as luxurious as its magnificent coral-carved facades depicting sea monsters.
9. Step on the world map
The Portuguese are very sensitive to the exploits of their sailors. So, in 1960, a monument to the Discoverers was erected on the Belem embankment. The white limestone caravel depicts figures of 32 heroes from the era of the Great geographical discoveries. On the square in front of the monument, a world map with the routes and dates of Portuguese sea expeditions is laid out. Surprisingly, tourists often simply do not notice the map. So, while walking around the city, carefully look at your feet.
10. See the symbols of North and South America
In 1934, Cardinal Manuel Seregeira visited Rio de Janeiro and decided that Portugal also needed a statue of Christ. When the Second World War began, the local bishopric vowed: if Portugal escaped war, such a statue would appear in Lisbon. Portugal remained neutral, and the Cristo Rei monument was erected on the banks of the strait.
Lisbon and the city of Almada, in which the statue is installed, are connected by a red bridge named after April 25. Its resemblance to the famous Golden Gate in San Francisco is not accidental both bridges were built by one American company. The monument and the bridge are visible from almost any observation point in Lisbon, including the Belem embankment. They look most picturesque in the evening when the backlight turns on.