5 tips for Lisbon

Lisbon Tram
© Smallredgirl | Dreamstime.com

Oh, sweet Lisbon! The Portuguese capital at the mouth of the Tagus is the perfect place to unwind for a few days, feed exclusively on pastéis de nata, galão and fresh fish, and get your fill of Moorish wall tiles. And when the evening breeze blows fado through the narrow streets and you sip a glass of vinho verde, you quickly forget that you’ve been walking your feet sore in the humpy streets, some of which have a 13 percent incline. Comfortable shoes are therefore a must.

Tip 1: Sao Jorge Castle

The ascent to the Castelo de São Jorge is already magnificent: it leads through old Lisbon, past viewpoints. Once at the top of the fortress, São Jorge greets visitors in his glass box. And after a little further climb up the walls of the castle, you have a great view over the city and the Tagus River from one of the highest points in Lisbon.

Aerial view of Sao Jorge castle or St. George castle at Lisbon city, Portugal.
©Creative Cat Studio/stock.adobe.com

The Castelo was conquered by the Moors. In 1147, according to a legend, the Christian knight Martim Moniz noticed an open gate at the Castelo, into which he squeezed his body to keep it open. He sacrificed his life so that the Christians could recapture the castle complex. From then on, the fortress helped defend the city.

In the late 14th century, the fortress was dedicated to São Jorge. King João had married the English princess Phillipa of Lancaster and the holy warrior who fought the dragon was very popular at the time, both in Portugal and in England.

After the kings moved from the castle to the city center, the military function was abandoned and after the destruction caused by the earthquake of 1755, the fortress fell into oblivion. In the 20th century it was rediscovered and since 1910 it has been a national monument. In the 1990s, the Castelo de São Jorge was renovated.

Today, the Castelo de São Jorge high above the rooftops of Lisbon is definitely one of the most beautiful viewpoints and is one of the most popular historical sites in Lisbon. Especially the magnificent view from the fortress walls is something special.

Tip 2: Jeronimos Monastery

Entering the inner courtyard is incredibly impressive: on two levels the corridors with richly decorated arches and windows frame the inner courtyard.

The entire limestone facade of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerome Monastery) is ornate: The walls, the ceilings, the windows, the doors and portals with their decorations and lace.

Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon
© Mikhail Gnatkovskiy | Dreamstime.com

Through the spacious park in front of the building, one can stroll towards the monastery, past well-tended flowerbeds and fountains. Incidentally, it is located in Bélem, in the neighborhood of the famous Pastéis de Belém pastry shop, the Monument of the Discoveries and the Torre de Bélem.

The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is considered the most important preserved building of Manueline style. Commissioned by and built under Manuel I, shortly after Vasco da Gama returned from his first voyage. The construction work was financed by the rich revenues from overseas trade. In 1544, after 42 years of construction, the monastery was completed and housed the Order of Saint Jerome until 1834, whose name it still bears today.

The church of the monastery is dedicated to Santa Maria. Its south portal, with its numerous magnificent ornaments, is particularly worth seeing; it was designed by João de Castilho. The west portal shows the transition from Gothic to Renaissance styles, designed by Nicolau Chanterene. The church houses the tombs and sarcophagi of Vasco da Gama, Fernando Pessoa (poet) and Luís de Camões (poet), along with numerous Portuguese kings such as Emmanuel I, John III, Alfonso VI, among others.

Tip 3: Praca do Comercio

At the end of Rua Augusta, you enter through a magnificent triumphal arch into the large square overlooking the Tagus River, framed by palaces and with an equestrian statue in the center: the Praça do Comércio (Square of Commerce).

Praca do Comercio in Lisbon
© Boarding1now | Dreamstime.com

To some, the square is still known as Terreiro do Paço (Palace Grounds) because until the great earthquake of 1755, a palace of the king was located here. The palace was the residence of the Portuguese kings for more than 200 years, right next to the port of Lisbon and the shipping companies, shipyards and administrative buildings. This was the hub of trade and relations between Portugal and its colonies. The palace was destroyed by the earthquake and the subsequent fire or tsunami in 1755.

After the earthquake, downtown Lisbon was redesigned and rebuilt according to plans by Marquis of Pombal. The buildings around the 170 by 170 meter square were laid out in the form of an Us open to the Tagus River. Magnificent archways were designed facing the Rua Augusta and were not completed until 1875. In the center of the square was placed an equestrian statue of King José I.

Tip 4: Elevador de Santa Justa

The elevator is also called Elevador do Carmo (Carmo Elevator) because it goes directly to the Convento do Carmo. Its upper entrance is in the small square Largo do Carmo, the lower stop is near Rossio and the metro station Baixa-Chiado in Rua Santa Justa.

Elevador de Santa Justa in Lisbon
© Zts | Dreamstime.com

Two historic and beautiful wood paneled cabins with windows and brass fittings take passengers up high. By the way, each cabin can fit 24 people. During the ride, you mainly see the scaffolding through the windows, but the view from the upper station is all the more beautiful: Once there, you can climb two more floors on foot via iron spiral staircases: Above the exit are the machines that drive the elevator. A little higher still on the roof of the elevator is a viewing platform with a café, although there is an entrance fee. But the view from the publicly accessible walkway in front of the elevator is also magnificent: From here, you can look down on the Castelo de São Jorge opposite and over the roofs of the Baixa.

Tip 5: Lisbon Oceanarium

The Oceanário de Lisboa, located in the Park of Nations, is dedicated to the life of the oceans. Here, even non-divers, can completely immerse themselves in the world of the oceans: With its huge tanks and large windows down to the floor, visitors are up close and personal with sharks, rays and other sea creatures.

Lisbon Oceanarium
© Kirill Neiezhmakov | Dreamstime.com

Centrally located is the large main tank in the middle, which holds about 50 cubic meters of seawater. In it swim marine life, such as sharks, rays, a school of tuna and sardines. A speciality is the moonfish: The lisbon Ozeaneum is especially proud of it, because its keeping succeeds only whole few aquariums.

In smaller aquariums there are further sea inhabitants from all over the world to see. The maritime living worlds are built around the large main basin are the four corners of the Oceanário de Lisboa. The highlight is that only one pane separates each of them from the large central basin, creating the illusion of a large underwater world. The tanks represent different regions of the earth: one contains a mangrove forest and its inhabitants. Another corner is dedicated to Antarctica, here you can see numerous penguins and an artificial glacier. In the basin of the North American rocky coast lives a pair of sea otters. Finally, in the coral reef it becomes really colorful with the many colorful corals and tropical fish.