Tag Archives: Lisbon

Things to do in Lisbon and the best places to visit in Lisbon.

A Lisbon travel guide – sights to see

Lisbon is a beautiful city, unlike any other in Europe. The city is bordered by two hills, a large park, and the Tagus (or Tejo) river which flows into the Atlantic ocean. To Americans, one might even call Lisbon the “San Francisco” of Europe. For everyone else, maybe San Francisco is the “Lisbon” of America.

Marques de Pombal square and the Baixa

Lisbon’s history accounts for many of the highlights in the city.  In the 8th century, the Moors conquered Lisbon and ruled for nearly 400 years before the city was ruled once again under Christian authority. In the 15th century, Lisbon became a powerful force in the mariner and trading empire during the age of discovery in Portugal. In 1755, a huge earthquake hit Lisbon killing thousands and causing major damage to the city.

In the 20th century, it was ruled by an authoritarian regime under Salazar before being set free in 1974 by the Carnation Revolution.  It is Lisbon’s history under Moorish rule, as a mariner power, a city destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt, and a country governed by authoritarian rule that highlights many of the sights today.  It is this history that brings life and culture to this beautiful European city.


Baixa – the heart of the city, mainly constructed after the 1755 earthquake.  Re-built by Marques de Pombal, it is considered the “downtown” part of Lisbon.  It features the famous squares of Lisbon – Praça do Comércio, Praça dos Restauradores, and Praça de D. Pedro IV (or Rossio) and includes the Elevador de Santa Justa, a Gothic elevator which connects to the Chiado.

Elevador de Santa Justa

Chiado – an area of old and new which includes shopping, theater, museums, and is one of the nicer parts of the city.  The Chiado area sits on one of the hills in Lisbon and includes one of the historical Lisbon landmarks.

Convento da Ordem do Carmo (Carmo Convent) – a monument of remembrance in the Chiado, this is the ruins of a Gothic convent and church destroyed by the great earthquake in 1755.  While the convent and church were destroyed, the remains serve as a reminder to this great tragedy.  The nave and the apse of the church now serve as an archaeological museum of Portuguese history.  Kimberly has written about Dancing the Night Away in the Carmo Convent.

Bairro Alto – this area is the heart of Lisbon’s nightlife and is a residential and entertainment area of the city that features Lisbon’s youth and its edgier sides of life.  Lisbon has a great nightlife and is becoming one of the great nightlife scenes in Europe.

Alfama – a neighborhood of small streets and squares, this is the Moorish area of this European ctiy, where the fishermen and poor areas of Lisbon lived.  While this may not appeal to many people, this is where much of the culture and history of Lisbon lies as Fado was born here.  Fado is melancholy music about sea life and the poor.  It’s the “blues” music of Lisbon and Portugal and still thrives today in this area.

Belém – while this is actually more of a suburb of Lisbon (about 4 miles from the city), it is the heart of the Portuguese explorers and the empire built by Portugal on the seas.  Three key monuments here are the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), and Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).  The Belém Tower served as a lighthouse on the Tagus while the monastery contains the tomb of Vasco de Gama and two museums dedicated to the Portuguese life at seas – Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum).  The Monument to the Discoveries rises high in the air and celebrates the 500th anniversary of of Henry the Navigator’s death. Heather also has some Belem sightseeing tips.

Monument to the Discoveries

Port Wine House (Solar do Vinho do Porto) – this 18th century palace contains a delightful taste of port wine.  Port wine is a sweet, red dessert wine that was developed in the Douro valley of Portugal.  For those who love a delicious, sweet wine, learn more about the history of this wine and enjoy a taste of the many different varieties offered.

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – this is an art museum which includes art from various eras in history including Oriental, Eqyptian, Greco-Roman, Persian, Far Eastern, and the more popular European and foreign art.  For anyone interested in art, this museum presents a great collection of ancient and more modern art without overwhelming you.

Christ the King (Cristo Rei) – this monument, similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro, includes Christ on the left bank of the Tagus river looking towards Lisbon as he spreads his arms wide.

Ponte 25 de Abril (25 April Bridge) – For anyone who has traveled to San Francisco, California, this bridge will remind many people of the Golden Gate Bridge.  This is a suspension bridge which connects Lisbon to Almada.  It was given the name 25 April Bridge to commemorate the date of the Carnation Revolution in which the authoritarian regime and its dictator, Salazar, were defeated and freedom was restored.

Lisbon Travel Tips

Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.

Click here for the lowest prices on Lisbon hotels

Dancing the night away in the Ruinas do Convento e Igreja do Carmo, Lisbon

I love the city of Lisbon, it’s one of my favourite Europe destinations. I love walking its charming streets, climbing up to the Castle for gorgeous views, observing the colourful tiles, eating delicious fish stew at open-air tables, eavesdropping on conversations and trying – mostly unsuccessfully – to make out a few words in Portuguese.

My family and I were invited recently to a Portuguese-Brazilian wedding and we were happy for an excuse to get back to this beautiful city. We were even happier when we found out the unusual location of the wedding and reception – in the Ruinas do Convento e Igreja do Carmo (Ruins of the Convent and Church of Carmo) a popular Lisbon sightseeing location.

Photo courtesy jimpereira100

The ruins of the 14th century Carmo Church are a familiar landmark in Lisbon. The Carmelite church was built on a slope overlooking the Baixa area of Lisbon. At the time of its construction, in the late 14th century, it was the largest church of Lisbon.

Disaster struck the Carmo Church – and all of Lisbon – on 1 November 1755. The church was filled for a mass on that holiday morning, All Saints Day, when the tragic earthquake struck. Although the epicentre was close to the Algarve, it was Lisbon that was most severely affected by the quake. In the Carmo Church on that terrible day, tons of stone and masonry collapsed, killing the parishioners celebrating mass below.

The Carmo Church was one of over 20 churches in Lisbon to be destroyed that day. Half of the city was reduced to rubble; fires broke out and a tidal wave from the Targas River flooded the lower areas of the city. In all, it is estimated that 15,000 people died in Lisbon on that dark day. Reconstruction work got underway rather quickly and much of Lisbon’s striking architecture dates back to those ambitious rebuilding efforts, but the Carmo Church remained a shell of its former self as a fitting reminder of the tragedy that befell Lisbon and its residents that day. Today, the Carmo Church ruins are a recognizable landmark in Lisbon to residents and visitors alike.

Needless to say, the church ruins were a stunning setting for the wedding ceremony and the reception, which started in daylight and continued on into dusk and late into the night. It was wonderful to see the church ruins illuminated in the evening and to enjoy dinner and dancing under the stars in such a dramatic setting.

A word about the dancing, since I did mention that this was a Portuguese-Brazilian wedding. I have always considered myself a decent dancer, but that impression was quickly shattered the moment I was sharing the dance floor with Brazilians. The Portuguese guests and I quickly moved aside to watch. And when my young sons eagerly asked me to teach them to dance the same way, I quickly declined and sought out a young Brazilian woman who agreed to dance with them and taught them far better than I could have. In no time at all, they were dancing like pros.

So, if an invitation arrives in the mail for a wedding held at the Igresia do Carmo, my advice is to snap it up right away. Even without the wedding, be sure to make a visit to the striking ruins of the church, now an archaeological museum housing statues, sarcophogi and mosaics in a stunning setting.

Lisbon Travel Tips

Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.

Click here for the lowest prices on Lisbon hotels

Monastery of Jeronimus in Lisbon

Visiting the sights of Belem in Lisbon, Portugal

I recently spend a short break in Lisbon, Portugal and thought I’d give you some tips from the day that we particularly enjoyed in the Belem neighbourhood of the City. To get to this part of Lisbon, you’ll need to take the 15E tram, which we caught from the outside the Cais do Sodré Metro station.

Monastery of Jeronimus in Lisbon

Cloisters of the Monastery of Jeronimus in Lisbon

Monastery of Jeronimus

The first place we stopped was the Monastery of Jeronimus, one of the must-see sights of Lisbon, known for it’s ornate and detailed carved stonework. The large church is free to enter and on both sides of the entrance you’ll find the tombs of the famous Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, and the writer Luís Vaz de Camões who chronicled his voyages. The carved columns soar up to the vaulted ceiling and there are many fine paintings, side chapels and stained glass windows to admire. You’ll have to pay to enter the double story cloister with the same intricate stonework, a pleasant and shady place to linger on a hot day, with a fountain playing in the central courtyard.

Pasteis de Belem, Lisbon

The Pasteis de Belem shop in Lisbon

Pasteis de Belem

Just along the road from the monastery is the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon, known as Pasteis de Belem after the small and delicious custard tarts, known elsewhere as Pasteis de Nata. The Monasteries were known for making these pastries from the egg yolks left over from the egg whites they used to starch their laundry. The story goes that the monastery sold the recipe to this pastry shop which they now keep as a closely guarded secret, known only to a few of their chefs. The shop is very popular and there are always queues for the Pasteis de Belem tarts, although you can also go inside and eat them sitting down with a cup of coffee as we did.

Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon

Monument to the Discoveries in Belem, Lisbon

Monument to the Discoveries

We completed our walk around Belem with a look at the Monument to the Discoveries, erected in 1960 to comemmorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The statues of famous explorers and notable figures from Portuguese history, stand behind Henry the Navigator gazing out to the River Tagus and to the sea as if on the prow of a ship. Behind them, you’ll find a map of the world laid into the stone paving, showing the different places in the Indies visited by these adventurers many of whom set off from this very spot.

There are many other things to see in Belem where you can easily pass a day, such as the Palacio de Belem and the intricately stone carved Belem Tower, as well as the parks overlooking the River Tagus, where you can sit and enjoy a few of those Pasteis de Belem.

All photos by Heatheronhertravels

Lisbon Travel Tips

Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.

Click here for the lowest prices on Lisbon hotels

The Christmas lights of Lisbon

I’ve decided that it’s time to put a plug in for the countries of Southern Europe at this time of year, as a place for a Christmas or even a New Year break.

Christmas lights in Lisbon

We really enjoyed the Christmas lights of Lisbon in early December, which gave us a festive feel, but in the daytime we could sightsee without having to put on every layer of clothing we possessed. OK, we had a bit of rain, but we also had a couple of warm sunny days when you could feel the warmth of the the sun on your face or sit and soak it up in a pavement cafe.

Lisbon Christmas lights in Chiado

Because of the more temperate climate, there was a lively atmosphere with people out socialising on the streets, taking the night air on the terrace of Sao Pedro de Alcantara with a view over the city rooftops, or wandering the narrow streets of teh Bairro Alto, packed with bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Lisbon Christmas lights in Chiado

We found that the elegant neighbourhood of Chiado was great for wandering at night, with upmarket bars and cafes, including a Brasileira where all the tourists stop for a coffee to admire the Art Nouveau interior and bronze statue of the poet Fernado Pessoa outside. Chiado also had the best Christmas Lights, including the enormous blue heart in the main square of Praca Luis de Camoes, named after the Portuguese Writer and poet who chronicled the voyages of explorer, Vasco da Gama.

Lisbon Christmas lights in Chiado

From Chiado it’s just a short stroll into the warren of streets that make up Bairro Alto, the place to head for nightlife and live music especially Fado, the mournful folk music of Lisbon. If you’ll be in Lisbon over New Year, you’ll find plenty of revelry in this neighbourhood and the chances of snow on the ground are slim, so enjoy in comfort. Happy New Year!

Photos by Heatheronhertravels

Lisbon Travel Tips

Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.

Click here for the lowest prices on Lisbon hotels

A Great Day Trip from Lisbon: Sintra

Lisbon is one of Europe’s fabulous capital cities: great food, wonderful weather, and a nightlife scene near unrivalled across the continent. However, getting away from the bustling atmosphere and soaking up some rural scenes of Portugal can be good for the soul. I’d recommend Sintra, an old village not much more than a hour outside of town via public transport or car.
sintra portugal

The Palace of Sintra by Welland

The castle grounds are beautiful and while exploring you’ll get some great views across the surrounding plains. The town itself has many winding streets and alleys which means you can easily spend an entire day wandering about looking at the mix of architecture.

The Palace of Sintra (shown above) is the highlight of the tour, with its colourful pastel walls and intricate design features. However, Pena Palace is a must see, with the lush Pena Park nearby. There is also a Moorish castle to be seen and the Regaleira Palace.

The historic town centre has the standard set of tourist souvenir shops as well as a few cosy cafes and restaurants. Many shops offer carry out so you can basically buy a picnic and find a bench nearby to enjoy. If the weather is nice, I’d recommend it as the people watching here is second to none.

Lisbon Travel Tips

Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.

Click here for the lowest prices on Lisbon hotels

Free Wine Tasting in Lisbon

Tasting notes – Copyright Andrew Hayes

When planning my recent trip to Lisbon, I found some information about Vini Portugal’s ‘Sala Ogival’ –offering free tastings of Portuguese wines – and decided to have a closer look. Having experienced plenty of tastings, usually focused more on selling and less about the wine itself, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful tasting room in Lisbon’s Baxia neighborhood.

Upon entry, you might suspect that you had gotten the directions wrong and stumbled into an inviting art gallery. Artfully decorated, there is no overt commercial aspect to the space even though Vini Portugal is a private organisation, partially funded by the Portuguese government, partially by wine producer associations. The focus here is resolute: give the consumer a memorable experience, balanced between all the senses and they’ll become your best salesmen.

You can choose your own flight of six wines, dividing your choices across two wines out of each of the selected regions currently on offer. The three highlighted regions change every three weeks to ensure all Portugal’s winegrowers are fairly represented, although this also means you might have to make a return trip. The staff are very friendly and eager to help you make an appropriate choice based on your own personal palette and wine preference.

Once you’ve tasted your wine, you’ll be given a score sheet to rate the wine. If you find something you like, you’re in luck: the tasting room also sells the wines on offer; this saves you the hassle of finding your favourites in a wine shop in town. My favourite was the vinho verde sparkling wine, but then again I have always been a fan of these bubblies. I’ll be honest, everything we tried was wonderful, and the ambience of the tasting room is one of my best Lisbon memories.

To learn more, visit the website http://www.viniportugal.pt

Lisbon Travel Tips

Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.

Click here for the lowest prices on Lisbon hotels

Lisbon – a great beach/city break destination

I read today that Easyjet have started flights four times a weeks from Liverpool to Lisbon with return flights costing from £39. I haven’t been to Lisbon but my husband has and he says it’s a really beautiful city.

Lisbon by flydime

Lisbon Travel Tips

Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.

Click here for the lowest prices on Lisbon hotels