Lisbon, the capital of Portugal since 1255, is located in the centre of the country.
Over the years, the city has been taken and governed by various cultures, each leaving their mark in the form of the architectural jewels that still remain today.
Although many of these emblematic buildings have come under threat from natural disasters or human actions, there are still buildings that have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their great historical value. An example of such a site is the Jerónimos Monastery the Belém Tower.
Following the settlement of the Arabs in the country, which was at its height in the Middle Ages, the country has many buildings that are representative of the Muslim culture. These buildings are mainly found in the Alfama District, which is, incidentally, the oldest district in Lisbon.
If you want to learn about the most interesting places in this wonderful city, this article will tell you about five places you can’t miss.
Firstly, I would recommend a visit to the Belém Tower (that I have already mentioned above), which is one of the city’s most symbolic sites.
The construction of the tower was completed in 1520 and, in its early years, it was intended to form part of a defence system against Portugal’s enemies crossing the Tajo River.
It is currently considered to be one of the best examples of the Manueline style characterised by the strong influence of both the Islamic and Oriental cultures during its construction.
Located in the district of Santa María de Belém, when you visit this impressive monument you can admire its exquisite stone architecture, adorned with elements typical of the period.
The Tower has five storeys comprised of the Governor’s Hall, the King’s Hall, the Audience Hall, the Chapel and the Terrace, offering marvellous views of the city.
You can visit the Tower from Tuesday to Sunday between October and April: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and between May and September, from Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.
I would also recommend a visit to the Alfama District. As I have already mentioned, this is the district with the greatest number of surviving buildings dating back to the period when the Arabs conquered Lisbon.
It is one of the safest areas in the city and is frequently visited by both Portuguese and foreign excursionists. It is also a popular area due to its countless bars and restaurants, allowing you to try delicious typical Portuguese dishes.
This district houses several popular tourist attractions like the National Pantheon, Lisbon Cathedral and the Fado Museum. Walking through the streets, you will come across many flea markets full of items that are typical of Portuguese culture and are charming souvenirs.
The Lisbon Oceanarium:
Another place you must visit is the Lisbon Oceanarium. The Oceanarium building floats on the shores of the Tajo River. It is part of the Parque das Nações and it was built for the Expo 98.
It is the second largest oceanarium in Europe, behind the Oceanogràfic in Valencia. Lisbon Oceanarium houses over 15,000 animals of 450 species, including fish, mammals, birds and amphibians. Inside, you will find living creatures from the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Antarctic Oceans, for which their original habitats have been exceptionally recreated.
Although the Oceanarium’s main attraction is the animals, the centre also organises many activities to make your visit more enjoyable. The Oceanarium also offer the opportunity to organise birthday parties on the premises. Workshops are also organised, promoting the care and conservation of nature and, during holiday periods, children are taught about life under the sea through interactive activities.
The Oceanarium is open every day. In the summer, it opens its doors from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. and in the winter from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Mirador Portas do Sol:
Lisbon has various viewpoints from where you can enjoy quite a good panoramic view of the city, but none compare to the spectacular views from Portas do Sol.
Nestled in the middle of the Alfama District, Portas do Sol is frequently visited by excursionists from all over the world, as well as by many Portuguese.
If you want a really beautiful photo to remember your trip by, you must visit Portas do Sol, especially first thing in the morning, since this is the best time to take impressive panoramic photos.
It is a lively place and, if you wish, you can have a snack in the viewpoint itself or close by.
Entrance to the viewpoint is completely free and it is open to the public 24 hours a day.
Although this is not a place, I couldn’t finish this article without mentioning one of Lisbon’s most popular attractions.
On board the historic trams that travel all over the city, you can visit almost all the places I have already mentioned, as well as others that you will find along the way. There are even some places that can only be reached by this mode of transport, due to the narrowness and height of the streets.
There are three types of tram in Lisbon. The classic yellow wooden trams that were the first to travel around the city at the beginning of the 20th century, the modern trams (also yellow but updated models) and the red trams that are only used by tourists.
One of the most popular trams used by tourists is tram number 28 that covers the route where most of the tourist attractions are located.
Without a doubt, Lisbon is an extraordinary city that offers visitors the possibility to live exciting experiences. If you decide to walk through the streets of Lisbon, you will discover a happy, friendly and respectful community, that is the result of many years of different cultures living together in the city.