Following our travels to Paris, London, Berlin, New York, Madrid, Seoul, Rome, Tokyo, Cape Town, Brussels, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro, today we’re heading to a lesser-known but no less beautiful and interesting city – Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.
We pumped our Portuguese team in Lisbon for hot tips for Lisbon newbies and for old hands looking for adventure away from the tourist zone. Our team obviously love their city, calling it “one of the most attractive cities in Europe, due to the lifestyle, weather, color, and beauty; Lisbon is a city full of history.”
So we’d better get started with their recommendations!
Fotolia: Hello, Lisbon; you said yours is a city full of history, color and beauty – where are these best displayed?
Lisbon: Belém is a must-see destination – a civil parish in Lisbon steeped in history, it has a host of beautiful buildings juxtaposed against many modern symbols of Portuguese culture.
Wander down Rua de Belém, a strip of buildings that have maintained their originality since their foundations were laid 160 years ago. Stop at the famous pastry shop Fábrica de Pasteis de Belém and sample a true icon of Portuguese delicacy: a pastéis de Belém, an egg custard surrounded in delicious pastry.
This will hopefully give you enough energy up to visit the Belém Tower. Built in 1515 to provide protection at the mouth of Lisbon Harbor, it is adorned with elaborate depictions of many of Portugal’s significant figures, including St Vincent, the Patron Saint of Lisbon.
Check out the official residence of the Portuguese President, Belém Palace, formerly home to royalty (you can tell if the President is at home if the green and red Portuguese flag is raised). This stunning building is close to the waterfront of the Tagus River – the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, threading the border between Spain and Portugal – which was built in the second half of the 17th century in a combination of Mannerist and Baroque styles.
One of Lisbon’s most famous buildings is one we can’t leave out of this article: The Estrela Basilica which was completed in 1790 and is the first church in the world to be dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the most widely practiced and well-known Roman Catholic devotions. The Church features both neoclassical and baroque styles and the massive twin bell structures and dome are an impressive sight!
Fo: Where can you recommend for someone looking to experiencing a taste of Lisbon’s artistic and creative character?
Li: The Park of Nations is Lisbon’s newest district built in 1998 for the World Exhibition on former industrial land to the north of the city. It hosts a array of real spectacles of modern architecture which give the area a subtly futuristic look, most notably the Vasco da Gama Tower, named after the renowned Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama.
Although now a hotel it is worth visiting Lisbon’s tallest structure (575 feet high!) to get a fantastic view of the city from the observation deck, which is still accessible to the public.
Lisbon is now renowned in terms of world-famous art galleries and museums but don’t let this put you off for its home to some magnificent collections.
The Museu do Design e Moda holds a vast collection of design and fashion innovations from the 20th century including work by the greats including Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, and Vivienne Westwood.
The Tile Museum may not sound like the most exciting exhibition but trust us, it’s well worth a visit! Portugal is famous for its tiles, which are a recognised art form and the museum pays homage to it. Check out the 118 foot long configuration depicting Lisbon before the earthquake of 1755 composed of a remarkable 1300 individual tiles!
Another museum we recommend visiting is Lisbon’s National Art Gallery, the Museu Nacional De Arte Antiga. The building itself is a work of art: a beautifully ornate 17th century palace. It’s a fantastic place to discover and understand Portugal and the integral role the country has played in world history.
If you have more time then try renting a car or catching a train to the Lisbon suburb of Sintra, a fantastic example of 19th century Romantic architecture amid landscapes surrounded by the ‘Sacred Mountains’ of Varro and Columela.
The monuments here revel in grand architecture full of stories and unraveling mysteries. Gardens, centenary trees, and ancient palaces are all neighbors in a truly unique environment that stands out amidst the relatively flat surroundings.
The Romanticist Pena National Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is used by the President and other government officials for state occasions. It displays a fantastic, yet eclectic mix of different architectural styles, including neo-gothic, neo-Islamic and neo-Renaissance. You can visit the Palace as well as the extraordinarily luxurious forest and gardens containing over 500 different tree species.
Baixa, a suburb of Lisbon, is a fantastic example of the city’s historical past and doubles up as great shopping destination if that’s your thing! It even beat London, Edinburgh, and Turin, according to World Heritage Sites!
Whatever you see or wherever you go, Lisbon is an extraordinary city to visit. Check out our dedicated gallery to whet your appetite for Lisbon.
And if there’s a city you think we should feature in our guides let us know! Email Dinah.firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions…