Lisbon is Europe’s second-oldest capital (after Athens), once home to the world’s greatest explorers like Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Prince Henry the Navigator, becoming the first true world city, the capital of an empire spreading over all continents, from South America (Brazil) to Asia (Macao, China; Goa, India). The former launch pad for many of the world’s greatest voyages is now where modern travelers discover one of Europe’s most soulful, captivating and picturesque capitals, built on a series of hills with scenic vistas from every angle.
One of the world’s greatest natural harbors which attracted different civilizations, now reflected in its architecture and culture recalling Phoenicians, Celts, Romans, Visigoths and Moors.
A charming visual time-warp with vintage trams. Make sure you do not miss the number 28…If you would like to get to know Lisboa’s hidden secrets, without the slog of climbing its seven hills on foot, then take a ride on the no. 28 tram. This is the ideal way of discovering some of Lisboa’s most interesting historical sites.
World Heritage monuments and singular museum treasures, from international design and contemporary art, to treasures from when the East met West, to the ancient art of tile painting and gilding.Lisbon is lively but serene and melancholic place with an insatiable appetite for long dinners, coffee breaks and nightlife.
There are so many things to see and do in Lisbon that visitors have access to a wide array of different experiences.
In Belém, on the river bank, is another marvellous Manueline monument, again classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site is the Torre de Belém. Designed in the 16th century by Francisco Arruda, the Torre de Belém is a square tower with a polygonal bastion facing the river Tagus. The exterior facades, balconies and verandas are covered with abundant decoration, with Arab and Venetian influences which contrasts with the austerely decorated interior. The organic elements of the Manueline style – such as plants and animals – are represented in many different forms and the Torre de Belém has the first sculptural portrayal of an African animal, in this case a rhinoceros.
Castelo De St Jorge: with the arrival of the Christian Crusades, this Muslim fortification became a medieval castle, with the capture of Lisboa in 1147 after a hard fought three month siege by the troops of King Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. A legend that arose later claims that during the siege a knight called Martim Moniz, realizing one of the castle gates was half open, sacrificed his own life by placing his body in between to prevent its closure by the Moors thus allowing access and the conquest of the city. As a reward, the Castle, now Christian, was placed under the invocation of the martyr St. George, whom many crusaders prayed to, thus baptizing it with the name by which it is known today.
But it was from the 13th century, when Lisboa became the capital of the Kingdom (1255 ), that the Castle enjoyed its heyday. In addition to housing the Royal Palace, it was a palace for bishops, home for nobles of the Court and a military fortification. It was also the place that welcomed Vasco da Gama, after the discovery of the sea route to India in the late 15th century, and venue in the 16th century for “Monologo do Vaqueiro” by Gil Vicente, the first Portuguese drama.
In one of the wings of the former monastery is the Museu da Marinha, – an excellent place to discover the naval history of Portugal – and the Museu de Arqueologia. The monastery church, the Igreja de Santa Maria de Belém, is a magnificent church with a nave flanked by two aisles separated by elegant pillars supporting a unique ogival dome.
Go to the Baixa by the Elevador de Santa Justa, another of Lisbon’s icons. The Elevador, designed by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel, is open to the public and boasts impressive views over the Baixa Pombalina and the rest of Lisbon.
The Gulbenkian Museum holds a collection of six thousand pieces and its galleries exhibit over one thousand and four hundred pieces divided into Egyptian Art, Greco-Roman Art, Mesopotamian Art, Eastern Islamic Art, Armenian Art, Far Eastern Art, Sculpture, Art of the Book, Painting, Decorative Arts and the work of René Lalique.
In Lisbon, please do not miss the most beautiful Carriage museum in the world, with the only one in full shape dated the 16th century.
To go to Lisboa and not eat Pastéis de Belém is a crime. There’s nothing that can be done, there’s no way to avoid it. The problem is eating just one, because they’re so good … you just want to keep eating them.
“Smells good, smells of Lisboa”, so sang the Fado singer Amalia Rodrigues thus immortalizing in a folk song Lisboa’s most florid and cheerful character, a city that becomes even more charming in May, a month perfumed with the fragrant aromas of spring.