5 minute read

Lisbon is one of the most remarkable and multi-faceted cities in Europe. Old world charm and new world discoveries come together and blend in delightful ways. Easygoing with a nod toward the traditional, Lisbon is chock-full of things to see and do while you enjoy your time in Portugal’s capital. 

Avenida da Liberdade

Lisbon’s “Avenue of Liberty” is an important street. The avenue has become synonymous with luxury. The elegant boutiques, one-of-a-kind shops, designer haberdasheries and opulent hotels cater to the affluent clientele. The Avenida da Liberdade is also where you’ll find numerous embassies and other diplomatic station offices.

When you stroll the avenue there’s much more in store than shopping. The Avenida is modeled after the boulevards of Paris and you’ll find many statues and monuments to writers and composers from Portugal and all over the world.

Rossio Square

Rossio square provides a true taste of local Lisbon. Rossio is located in Baixa Pombalina (Lower Town), a neighborhood in Lisbon’s historic center. It is and has been the area's main gathering spot since the Middle Ages.

The square once served as the setting for public executions in the 16th century but today it’s the setting of more amiable activities. Friends often meet for a bite at a café or a few drinks at one of the many bars in the area before taking in an event at the National Theater.

Santa Justa Lift (Elevator) 

For those wish to go from the lower city up to the Bairro Alto there is an interesting option; the Santa Justa Lift

In 1902 the same architectural engineer and designer Raul Mésnier de Ponsard, inspired by his colleague Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower fame) built the “elevador”. The wrought iron tower offers two solid wooden cabins to take passengers up 98 feet to a platform that leads to a walkway. The walkway leads to the Bairro Alto and the ruins of Carmo Convent, a Gothic church that was partially destroyed by the horrific earthquake  in 1755. 

Visitors are also welcome to climb a stairway at the top of the Lift’s structure for a spectacular view of the Baixa neighborhood. 

Praça do Comércio

A major point of interest and all around attraction is the Praca do Comércio (Commerce Square) on Lisbon’s waterfront. It is one of the largest squares in all of Europe. The square was once the location of the Royal Palace which was destroyed by an earthquake that took a major toll on Lisbon and Portugal in general. Today it is home to several government buildings as well as shops and restaurants.

A statue of King Joseph I on horseback dominates mid-square and to the back of the square is the Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta, Lisbon’s version of the Arc de Triomphe. Statues of two of the most remarkable figures in the history of Portugal are displayed in the arc. They are explorer Vasco da Gama and Marqués de Pombal, whose fastidious rebuilding of the city after the devastating 1775 earthquake saved countless lives and livelihoods.

Time Out Market Lisboa

A visit to this Lisbon sight most assuredly falls under the “fun” category! Back in 2014 the Lisbon Market, the oldest food market in the city, reopened after an extensive renovation. Since then it’s become a favorite for locals and tourists alike. 

The Market boasts multiple restaurants and 35 kiosks offering everything from renown Alentejo ham to Arcadia chocolates and beautifully packaged foods to take back home. The market is a Mecca for foodies as many of the more popular and even famous Portuguese chefs offer trendy and enticing food in an upscale food court atmosphere. 

Funiculars of Lisbon

The capital city of Lisbon is known for its sloping streets which are very similar to San Francisco. Much like the streets of San Francisco Lisbon’s commuters depend on cable cars for transportation. In some areas of town the streets prove too steep for even cable cars. 

Portuguese engineer and architectural designer Raul Mésnier de Ponsard came up with the answer in the way of funiculars. Much like the funicular transports that climb the side of mountains, these cars are operated by cables using counterbalances to ascend and descend the streets of Lisbon.

The funicular differs from the cable car in that it is permanently attached to the propulsion cable that moves it safely up and down steep slopes. 

Gloria Funicular

You can depart the Avenida and make your way to the Bairro Alto using the Glória Funicular (also called the Glória elevator or lift). As part of the funicular railway line it connects the Pombaline downtown (lower city) with the Bairro Alto (higher city). The Glória began serving the area in 1885 and was originally powered by a system of counterbalances using water. Later on the Glória was powered by steam and finally in 1914 became the first of Lisbon’s three funiculars to be powered by electricity. 

The locals are very proud of their funiculars. The Glória operates daily and provides quite a thrill for riders.

Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto is a captivating hilltop neighborhood that was constructed in the 1500s to house ship workers. During that time Lisbon was a maritime power and the related workforce was abundant. Many of the families that live in Bairro Alto have been there for generations. Just looking at the cobblestone streets and traditional architecture you can tell this lofty neighborhood is steeped in old world charm. 

Bairro Alto has always been a bit bohemian with creatives such as artists, writers and musicians flocking to this picturesque quarter. Be sure to spend some time in the unique shops throughout the neighborhood and enjoy the culture, the food and the people of Bairro Alto. But stick around and see how this sleepy little area changes when the sun sets.

Nightlife in Bairro Alto is very vibrant. The streets become filled with young people, as well as those who are young at heart, enjoying the mild evenings and traditional folk music of Portugal, Fado. Night time in Bairro Alto is Lisbon’s party central. 

Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara

The Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is a garden that offers a stunning panoramic view of Lisbon across the city to St. George’s Castle. There are distinctive buildings marked with maps made of tile and busts throughout the lower geometric gardens of heroes and gods from Greco-Roman mythology. Ulysses and Minerva watch as visitors stroll about the gardens. 

Located behind the Glória Funicular, the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is perhaps one of the most iconic lookout points in Lisbon. From this vantage point you can see all of the Avenida da Liberdade as well as many other popular sites in Lisbon. And you have the added bonus of the gorgeous gardens as well. 

Belem Tower

Known as the Tower of Saint Vincent, Belem Tower sits on the remnants of an island on the Tagus River. The structure dates back to 1515 and survived the earthquake and its aftershocks. The four-story limestone tower served as protection from invading interlopers. The connecting bastion has space for 17 long-range cannons.  

Belem Tower also served as a welcoming beacon to all who came to Lisbon in friendship. For many of those who departed Lisbon to explore the world beyond the Tower was a symbol of home and the last sight they saw as they sailed away. A state of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming faces the river to offer protection to those embarking on a voyage. 

Ponte 25 de Abril

The 25 de Abril bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks of Lisbon. At nearly one and a half miles it isn’t the longest bridge in Lisbon. That honor goes to the seven and a half mile Vasco da Gama bridge. But the Ponte 25 de Abril spans the Tejo Estuary, one of the largest wetlands in Portugal and home to many interesting birds, at its narrowest point and is the only bridge traveling south out of the city. 

The bridge closely resembles San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge and gets its unusual name, which translates to 25th of April, from the commemoration of the Portuguese Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974. 

Lisbon is one of the most diverse and exciting destinations and, as you can tell, there’s plenty to see and do. 

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