Lisbon, the enchanting capital of Portugal, entices sightseers with its vibrant color, stunning Gothic architecture, and temperate weather. Easily traversed by foot or tram, the city’s distinct quarters and vivid cultural landmarks make Lisbon an excellent spot for exploration. The Alfama district’s notable red roofs beckon you. Its cobblestoned roads lead to the Castelo de São Jorge, once a Roman and Moorish stronghold, as well as a number of charming cafés and clubs. Alfama’s Museo do Fado offers fascinating exhibitions on the Fado genre of Portuguese music, whose melodic sounds can be heard throughout the neighborhood. A trek northeast of the Alfama district will bring you to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, a museum displaying the intricate and colorful Portuguese tiles that line the city’s buildings. Be sure to venture south of Alfama to the central Baixa district, where the magnificent Rua Augusta Arch entices visitors to stroll the Praça de Comércio square. Head to the city’s waterfront Belém neighborhood for a spectacular view of the sparkling Tagus River and incredible beaches. Lisbon’s two UNESCO World Heritage sites are also located in the Belém district: the mighty Belém Tower and the sumptuous Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Located on the water’s edge, Belém Tower is a small castle that once welcomed Portuguese explorers. The Monastery of St. Jerome was constructed to exalt Vasco de Gama’s exploration of India. There is so much to discover in captivating Lisbon!
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Lisbon’s trams are a popular method of transportation for tourists, making the city’s steep hills easy to navigate and providing quick access to many of Lisbon’s best landmarks. The vintage streetcars seemingly transport you to another time and add to the city’s aesthetic charm. The famed 28E tram line covers the historic Alfama district and is a favorite among many travelers.
PADRÃO DOS DESCOBRIMENTOS MONUMENT
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument, sculpted in the shape of a ship and resting on the edge of the Tagus River, celebrates some of Portugal’s most famous explorers and monks. Henry the Navigator heads this memorialized historical group, along with Magellan and Vasco da Gama. The monument features a stunning mosaic depiction of a compass, as well as an observation room accessible by elevator. Venture up the monument to find spectacular views of Lisbon and the glittering Tagus.
PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO
Framed by vivid yellow walls and the magnificent Rua Augusta Arch, the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is one of the most recognizable and popular attractions in Lisbon. The historic trading center for Portugal’s explorers and sea-faring merchants, the square remains a lively and bustling spot for travelers, the perfect place for taking memorable photos and eating authentic cuisine. Accessible by tram and by foot, go to the Praça do Comércio to indulge in one of the square’s many restaurants, visit the Joseph I statue, sit on the steps leading to the Tagus river, or explore a museum.
TOWER OF BELÉM
This sixteenth-century fortress located on the bank of the Tagus river has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a must-see stop for tourists exploring the monuments of Lisbon. The elaborate carving and embellishments which adorn the tower make it a beautiful specimen of Portuguese manuelino and Arabic architectural styles, and the tower’s multiple interior halls provide access to views of the river and the iconic Jeronimos Monastery beyond.
MOSTEIRO DOS JERÓNIMOS
Located steps from the Tower of Belém and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the Jerónimos Monastery is perhaps the finest and most ornate monument in Lisbon. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this grand monastery is flanked by verdant trees and a garden fitted with an opulent fountain. Constructed during the sixteenth century’s “Age of Discovery,” this monastery once housed monks belonging to the Order of Saint Jerome. Built in honor of Vasco da Gama, the explorer’s body remains entombed in the monastery to this day. Step inside to wander the monastery’s expansive and elaborate halls, or sit within the vast and vaulted Church of Santa Maria.
ESTÁDIO SPORT LISBOA E BENFICA
International football fans will be eager to take a guided tour of the Estádio Sport Lisboa e Benfica, the home of Portugal’s S.L. Benfica football club and the site of the Champions League final match in 2014. Able to hold over sixty thousand fans per match, the stadium is a colossal monument to Lisbon’s love of football. Be sure to visit the Benfica Museum within the stadium, or take a VIP tour of the field and locker rooms.
Reminiscent of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Lisbon’s annual Carnival festival takes place in February before the Lenten season and inspired the infamous Carnival parades of Rio de Janeiro. This week-long party highlights Portuguese culture, music, and food, as the city’s streets are filled with spectacular floats, costumed dancers, and colors. Truly a must-see event, this vibrant parade draws in thousands of tourists and thrill-seekers each year.