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LISBON

Destination Portugal: Why Not Choose… Lisbon?

 

Vibrant, cultural and historic, come and discover the multiple facets of Lisbon. Whether it is “at the top”, “at the bottom” or in any other district, you’ll love getting lost in the maze of narrow streets that are picturesque and full of charm, or admiring the stunning views from one of the many lookouts. Welcome to quite a surprising city.


Historical and architectural wonders at every level

Start your journey “at the bottom” in Baixa, the historic centre, which extends between Praça Dom Pedro IV square and Praça do Comércio square, overlooking the Tagus River. In Praça Dom Pedro IV square, sit comfortably on the terrace of a historic cafe and enjoy the architecture of the buildings, the undulating mosaics on the ground and the fountains which form a beautiful harmony. Afterwards, wander around the pedestrian streets of Baixa. This lively and commercial district is a symbol of Pombaline architecture.

Then take the Santa Justa lift to go to “the top” of the trendy Bairro Alto district, known for its shopping and very lively evenings. By day, you can enjoy strolling around this very quiet district, but come the evening, tranquillity is soon taken over by the hustle and bustle.

Do not miss the Miradouro (lookout point) in the very shady Jardim of São Pedro de Alcântara (Garden of San Pedro de Alcantara), where you will have a breatktaking view of Saint George’s Castle, the city and the Tagus River.

Other means of transport offering very picturesque views in Lisbon include its tramways, which sometimes find it difficult to ascend the steep streets! The well-known Electrico 28 (Tram 28), is a must-see for visitors. Take the tram to ascend to Saint George’s Castle or to go to the Alfama district, in the east.

Once you arrive, take the time to go for a walk around the narrow streets, lined with old houses and taverns, which open out onto beautiful plazas and shaded terraces. The ideal time to visit is in the morning, when the Rua Sao Pedro and Rua Dos Rémédios markets take place.

And a few kilometres to the west of Lisbon, we encourage you to visit the Belem Tower and the Monastery of the Hieronymites, two magnificent Manueline style buildings that are both listed as UNESCO world heritage sites.


Top 10 Must-Sees

 

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Rossio (Praça Dom Pedro IV): a meeting place for the people of Lisbon and visitors alike, Rossio has been the beating heart of Lisbon since the Middle Ages. The square houses the National Theatre as well as beautiful cafes. Admire the statue of Dom Pedro IV (first King of Brazil ) and, at the foot of the column, the allegorical statues representing Justice, Courage, Restraint and Wisdom.

Praça do Comércio: Commerce Square is regarded as one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe. Surrounded by saffron yellow buildings and splendid galleries with arches, the esplanade opens onto a triumphal arch on Rua Augusta, a magnificent paved street in Baixa, and onto a pier alongside the Tagus River, where spices and gold from the colonies were once unloaded. The equestrian statue of King Joseph I of Portugal stands proudly in the centre.

Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara: on the hill of the Bairro Alto, this lookout point is the only one to offer a panorama of 180 degrees over the hill of Alfama, the Castle of Saint George, Baixa, Rossio Square and Liberdade Avenue. At the end of the afternoon, the golden light which precedes the sunset, makes this view particularly outstanding.

Castelo San Jorge (Saint George’s Castle): built by the Wizigoths in the 5th century upon the highest hill, this fortress dominates the Alfama district. The Moors, who occupied Lisbon in the 9th century, seized the building and enlarged it. It was subsequently used as the royal residence of various Portuguese sovereigns, until they settled in the Ribeira Palace in the 16th century.

Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral): built in the 12th century, in place of the great Moorish mosque to signify the triumph of the Reconquest, this cathedral is one of the most emblematic monuments and also one of the oldest in the city. Despite numerous restorations, it has neatly kept the appearance of a Romanesque fortress with its sturdy towers. The interior harmoniously combines both Roman and Gothic styles.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum: this museum was designed to accommodate the exceptional collection of Calouste Gulbenkian, amateur of art born in 1869, who donated his fortune to Portugal when he died in 1955. It includes Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman antiquities, Oriental and Extreme-Oriental pieces of art as well as European art.

The Fado Museum: classified on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2011, the Fado has a very beautiful museum where you can discover this musical genre that is somewhat melancholic. One of the most beautiful expressions to describe this feeling, even though it is a Lusitanian term, is "Saudade” (like a vacant soul). Discover the political context that saw the birth of this song, which is intimately linked to the city of Lisbon, even if its origins (which are lost in the meanders of Portuguese History), remain mysterious.

The National Azulejo Museum: at the heart of a charming church from the 18th century, discover the history of this emblematic art of Portuguese architecture. The term “Azelujo” refers to a decorated and glazed ceramic tile. In the 15th century, King Manuel I, amazed by the azelujos during his stay in Grenada , wished to decorate his palace. They are now an integral part of Portuguese artisanal heritage.

La Belem Tower: built at the start of the 16th century by King Manuel I to protect the entrance to the port, this square tower with a beautiful stronghold, is a Manueline style building. Its facades also feature Arab and Venetian influences. Don’t miss the balconies with their flamboyant decoration and impressive views over the river.

Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Monastery of the Hieronymites): a masterpiece of Manueline art, this monastery was ruled by King Manuel I in 1502 for the followers of the Hieronymite Order; it is one of the most beautiful religious monuments in the world. The Santa Maria church, attached to the monastery, houses the tombs of great men such as the navigator Vasco da Gama and the poet Luis de Camoes.


Treat yourself at any time!

 

Gastronomy and tastings will be an integral part of your stay in Lisbon. Start the morning with a delicious traditional pequeno almoço (breakfast) comprised of a galão (coffee with milk) and a bolinho (small cake). The more traditional are the pastéis de nata (small egg-tart pastry). For a savoury snack, you can enjoy a misto croissant, stuffed with ham and cheese.

But of course, you can also taste the unmissable bacalhau (cod), which is cooked in a thousand different ways: bacalhau com natas (baked in the oven with cream and potatoes), Bacalhau à Bráz (fried and served with eggs and potatoes) and Bacalhau à Lagareiro (in the oven with onions and peppers).


Cultural Events

 

Late March/Early April: Peixeem Lisboa

In Commerce Square, the Pátio da Galé hosts a gastronomic festival which reveals the fish and flavours of the Portuguese coastline. A dozen great restaurants and around twenty renowned chefs put together special menus, with demonstrations and culinary workshops.

June: Festas de Lisboa

In June, the celebrations are in full swing in the historical districts of the city. The arraiais, popular festivities in the districts, are celebrated throughout the month with concerts, shows and grilled sardine stalls throughout the streets that are decorated with flowers and lights.

13 June: Saint Anthony of Padua Festival

Saint Anthony is regarded as the patron saint of Lisbon. A huge parade marches through the city streets and the Alfama district celebrates especially. The evening before, the district is adorned with bright colours, tables are put out and the wine starts flowing!

5 October: Republic Day

Republic Day commemorates the coup organised on 5 October 1910 by the Portuguese Republican Party, and the proclamation of the Portuguese Republic, which put an end to the monarchy.

1 December: Independence Day

This day commemorates the independence of Portugal in 1640, after the revolt of the Portuguese against Spanish oppressors. Supporters of Duke Jean Bragança took the royal palace of Lisbon on 1 December 1640, thus asserting Portuguese sovereignty.


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