How do you start your planning for your much-awaited vacation? Planning for a vacation trip is no easy task, it challenges your arrangement skills but is also rewarding for someone who is traveling in a place of the unknown. This is a chance for someone to learn and appreciate different cultures, meet and make friends with strangers, try new and exciting things, find beauty in small things and feed your curiosity while leaving the comforts of your home.
Contrary to a common belief, travel will teach you more lessons than what you can learn inside the classroom, your job or any relationship that you have or once had. People’s definition of the real world varies; for some, it means packing up and going to a place that is unfamiliar and experiencing unknown things. And for others, travel is an escape from reality to recharge your exhausted mind and worn-out spirit.
Which places and countries have you been to? Have you heard about Portugal’s capital and largest city? This place might soon be one of your best travel destinations once you get to know more about this bustling and exciting city that boasts a wide choice of activities and fascinating tourist attractions. Read further to learn more about the city of Lisbon.
Information about Lisbon
Lisbon is the hilly, coastal and stunning capital of Portugal and is one of the most charismatic and vibrant cities of Europe. It is a city that effortlessly blends traditional heritage with striking modernism and progressive thinking. Lisbon’s urban area extends beyond the city’s administrative limits with a population of around 2.8 million people, being the 10th most populous urban area in the European Union. There are about 3 million locals live in the Lisbon metropolitan area, which represents approximately 27% of the country’s population. It is mainland Europe’s westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast. The city lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus. The westernmost portions of its metro area, the Portuguese Riviera form the westernmost point of Continental Europe, culminating at Cabo da Roca.
As a holiday destination, Lisbon offers a rich and varied history, a buzzing nightlife and is blessed with a glorious year-round climate. I know that you are far more than excited to know what is in-store for tourists like you at Europe’s second-oldest capital after Athens. Let’s take a rundown on Lisbon’s top list of spots to visit, foods to taste, and things to experience.
Wonder at the Torre de Belem
This is one of the landmarks of the Portuguese capital that you should not miss visiting. Soaring high above the seafront of Lisbon quays, this prominent tower displays a veritable fusion of architectural designs from the Mudejar to the Moorish, the Gothic up to the Romanesque.
It has stood watch over the mouth of the Tagus River since its construction under the patronage of St. John back in the 16th century. Since then it has risen to become the most iconic feature of the city and known as the last sight adventurers like the prodigal Vasco da Gama would have seen as they drifted out into the wide Atlantic Ocean.
Take a ride at Tram 28
Identical to San Francisco, California’s tram ride in the United States, Lisbon is a city is famous for its historic and rattling tram rides. Nothing is more iconic than Tram 28 which has been working its way up the steep, cobbled roads that pass into the old Alfama district for decades.
Its journey starts at the palm-spotted district of Graca and weaves toward the hairpin alleys of Escolas Gerais before pulling up underneath the stunning domes of the Estrela Basilica. By taking a tram ride, the passenger is bound to discover decades of history upon passing through the various majestic places and castles along the trip.
Getting lost in the district of Alfama
The small town of Alfama District is Lisbon’s answer to the old town centers of Europe’s other ancient capitals. Similar to the Forum of Rome, it is hailed as the city’s oldest part, although this one dates back to the Moors of Africa instead of the King of Latium.
Searching through the streets and alleys that form the district is one of the top activities for the visitors of Lisbon. Upon strolling, cathedrals like Lisbon Cathedral and tile-fronted chapels reveals itself at the corners of the district. There are also remains of the old city walls and hidden squares with alfresco cafes.
Take a side trip to Sintra
Veterans of Lisbon would often ask a tourist a common question like, “Did you go to Sintra?”. Despite the uniqueness of this city that is situated more than half an hour away by car from Lisbon, the glorious town of Sintra remained one of the major attractions of the city.
Daytrips are common, while other visitors opt into spending a couple of days exploring one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. This town sits high up amidst the mythical Mountains of the Moon that displays elegant Baroque churches, colorful mansions and grand palaces of the former Portuguese royals.
Enjoy the azulejos in the National Tile Museum
Ceramic aficionados consider Portugal as the place to go for tiles. Museo Nacional do Azulejo is one of the most important among the national museums by the singularity of its collection.
Azulejo (tile) is an artistic expression that differentiates Portuguese culture, and by the uniqueness of the building in which the museum is set, former Madre de Deus Convent, founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor. Its collections show the journey through the history of tile from the 15th century until the present time. Belonging to the convent, the Madre de Deus church is decorated in full Portuguese baroque splendor with gilded and carved wood, paintings and tile panels.
The famous ceramic works of art gave the country its reputation for ceramic craftsmanship.
Conquer the bulwarks of Sao Jorge Castle
Sao Jorge’s Castle is undeniably the most visible landmark of Lisbon’s historic center. This castle locates in the freguesia of Santa Maria Maior, which is the highest point in Lisbon. It was built by Moors in the mid-11th century. It is situated in the area that is most difficult to access, at the top of the hill, making use of the natural slopes to the north and west. The castle’s purpose is to house military troops and in case of siege, the elite who lived in the alcacova (citadel).
This place is where you can enjoy the heritage and learn about Lisbon’s history, explore the traces of the Moorish neighborhood and discover the unseen sites of the city on the Camera Obscura.
Trace glorious history in the Monastery of Jeronimos
This was a highly ornate monastery that is situated in the Belem district of western Lisbon. This grand religious building was historically associated with the early sailor explorers, as it was from here that Vasco da Gama spent his last night before he voyages to the Far East.
This monastery is one of the most decorative churches in Portugal that is why it is also one of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its southern entrance is bound by a 32-meter high stone portal that incorporates carvings of the saints, complex-shaped pinnacles and other decorative features. Inside its spindly columns support massive vaulted ceilings that lead into an ornamental altar.
Go underwater in the Lisbon Oceanarium
Located in the Parque das Nacoes district of Lisbon, this oceanarium is highly recommended and regarded as one of the world’s best aquarium and the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. This structure was constructed as a central feature at exhibition grounds for Expo ’98 and a decade later, it is still considered as Lisbon’s best family-orientated tourist attractions. Inside the oceanarium are over 450 different species of animals including shark rays, penguins and sea otters which the family would surely enjoy watching.
Eat and drink in Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is the only district in Lisbon that transforms drastically and is unrecognizable between day and night. This area has been dubbed as the bohemian district that is full of luxury shops located on Rua do Norte with endless bars and restaurants. This place is where visitors of all ages gather that gives the district a unique avant-garde vibe mixed with old-fashioned influences
Hop onboard the funiculars
Funiculars are lifts or elevators in Lisbon that helps its locals and tourists climb the steep and long slopes of Lisbon. There are three funicular railways in Lisbon, these are Gloria, Bica, and Lavra. The elevators were all designed by Portuguese engineer, Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard. These funiculars are national monuments of Portugal.
Have a taste on the foods at Mercado da Ribeira
Mercado da Ribeira is a traditional market hall built in the 1890s is Lisbon’s now trendy Cais do Sodre waterfront district. In 2014, this was taken over by Time out Lisboa magazine, whose management added stalls offering food and traditional local products.
Catch the waves at Costa da Caparica
Costa da Caparica is the biggest continuous beach in Portugal spanning an incredible 30km coastline that offers impressive Atlantic experience nearest to Lisbon. There are dozens of beaches on a long strip of white sandy coast stretching out to Cabo Espichel. If you want to party, sunbathe in peace, surf the beach breaks, or strip down to your birthday suit, there is an available beach for you in Costa da Caparica.
You may also want to visit another European country that offers a great combination of cultural attractions and breathtaking beaches. Click here to learn more about the tourist spots in Spain that is located in the city of Valencia.