Built over the course of 100 years, mostly during the 16th century, the Jerónimos Monastery (http://www.mosteirojeronimos.pt/en/) is one of the top reasons tourists beeline to Belém (in addition to the famous Pasteis de Belém sold practically next door but with roots from the Monastery). Also known as the Hieronymites Monastery, it’s not just a major attraction near Lisbon but one of the most popular landmarks in all of Portugal, and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Belém Tower. Built to honor Portugal’s role during the Age of Discoveries, it is now the tomb of many prominent historical persons including Portuguese explorer and navigator Vasco da Gama.
Belém Tower is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its role in protecting Portugal’s coast during the Age of Discoveries and later. Portraying a combination of Gothic and Manueline architecture like the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower attracts visitors for its appearance as well as its role in history.
The São Jorge Castle (http://castelodesaojorge.pt/en/) is much more than a Moorish hilltop fortification with stone walls and exceptional views. It is one of the oldest and most recognisable structures in the city. It also houses an archaeological museum and an underground excavation site with remnants that may date back millennia and from different eras. From the Iron Age to Medieval Period to the Renaissance and more recently, this castle was witnessed many changes, which visitors can get an idea of when walking through the corridors, viewing antiques, and catching glimpses of unearthed treasures.
While in Baixa, don’t miss walking through what’s left of the Carmo Convent, which was one of the buildings partially destroyed during the Earthquake of 1755. Inside, visitors will also see many ceramics on display, a collection of tombs, mosaics, and statues.
Everything about Parque das Nações is contemporary and sophisticated, from the elegantly structures Gare do Oriente Station to the boardwalk, hotels, and entertainment centres. It was built for the World Exposition of 1998 and serves as one of Lisbon’s most modern spots today. Parque das Nações is an attraction in itself simply because it’s so different from much of historical Lisbon.
Whether by metro or bus, you will arrive at the vaulted structure known as Gare do Oriente (Oriente Railway Station), designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Gare do Oriente is Lisbon’s hub for train services, including a departure point for coach and bus companies, and a metro station.
The 140-metre high Vasco da Gama Tower is Lisbon’s tallest structure. Made of steel, it represents the sail of a caravel, and was designed by Leonor Janeiro and Nick Jacobs for the Expo98 event. Next to it, there’s now the luxury Myriad Sana Hotel (https://www.booking.com/hotel/pt/myriad-by-sana-hotels.html?aid=327659;label=lg), and the tower is closed to the public. However, you can still admire it while strolling along the riverside.
Many people may be unaware, but Lisbon is home to Europe’s largest indoor aquarium (https://www.oceanario.pt/en). Located in Parque das Nações, it is yet another beautiful building in this unique part of the city, and is home to a large number of marine species from all over the globe. With its circular design around a huge central tank, visitors get a fascinating view into the aquarium in the middle while transitioning from one habitat to another
Like San Francisco in the United States, Lisbon is a city famed for its historic, rattling tram lines.
None are more iconic than Tram 28 which has been working its way up the steep, cobbled roads and into the old Alfama district for decades.
The journey starts below the palm-spotted hills of Graça, and weaves toward the hair-pin alleys of Escolas Gerais, before pulling up to a halt beneath the gorgeous domes of the Estrela Basilica.
The people-watching opportunities from the windows are second-to- none, and you’re bound to discover decades of history as you pass the various majestic palaces and castles along the route.
The compact little Alfama District is Lisbon’s answer to the old town centers of Europe’s other ancient capitals.
Like the Forum of Rome, it’s hailed as the oldest part of the city, although this one dates back to the Moors of Africa instead of the kings of Latium.
Delving into the warren of winding streets and alleys that forms the district is one of the top activities for visitors to Portugal’s capital.
As you stroll, great cathedrals like the Lisbon Cathedral and tile- fronted chapels reveal themselves on the corners.
There are also the remains of old city walls and hidden squares with al fresco cafes aplenty.
There are two distinct sides to Lisbon’s most famous food market.
First of all there is the downstairs part, which throbs with local fruit and vegetable sellers touting succulent legumes and Mediterranean fruits every morning of the week, so make sure to get there early if you want to get the best deals.
Then there is the upstairs section which comes packed with more modern, often quirky food stalls and cutting-edge eateries.
It is there that you will be able to taste the local specialty of custard tarts, sip fine Portuguese wines, and even attempt to conquer a massive francesinha sandwich which is one of the treats to come out of Porto in the north.
Apart from being the premier touristic district of Lisbon, packed with al fresco cafes and international restaurants, the Bairro Alto is also the city’s top nightlife spot.
You’ll typically have to wait until early evening for the establishments to really get started, but when they do, it’s all about the authentic pastelaria bakeries and the bohemian drinking joints.
There’s a smattering of old Fado music holes if you fancy a night full of artistic passion, all interspersed with cool new breweries and beatnik style bars.
Lisbon is a city that doesn’t sleep: start the night at Bairro Alto (this neighborhood at day time is absolutely desert, many shops are even closed in the morning!), and sip Morangoska (a cocktail made with vodka and fresh strawberries) and Caipirinha in one of the many bars.
Cocktails and shots are cheap, at about 3-4 euros. Going out in Lisbon at night is a must!
TIP TIME: the best night to party in Lisbon with the locals is Thursday, not Friday, when many students go back home and are mostly tourists to fill the streets.
Technically not in Lisbon, the Cristo Rei Monument is a short ride across the Tagus River in Almada. It was built during the time of Salazar to resemble Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue and holds religious significance in the country.
The Tagus River, or Rio Tejo, is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, and a cruise is the best way to see Lisbon from a different perspective.
You can go on a Yellow Boat Tour and take in views of the most emblematic monuments in Belém and pass under the 25 de Abril bridge, or you can go a little more fancy and opt for an affordable 2- hours Sailing Tour with Champagne on a yacht.
If you are in need of a dose of idyllic scenery after the hustle and bustle of downtown Lisbon, then there is arguably nowhere better to go than picture-perfect Cascais.
This old fishing hamlet on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean sits to the west of the city, and has been transformed over the years by an influx of upscale Lisboans looking for sun, sea and sand.
There are no fewer than three cliff-backed golden bays along with a peppering of some of the best seafood restaurants in the region.
For wave riding, consider making a beeline for swell-packed Guincho along the headland.
You’ll have to hop, skip and jump over both the Tagus River Estuary and the Sado River Estuary to reach the sparkling beaches of the Tróia Peninsula.
But the approximately two-hour journey is definitely worth it.
Running for mile upon mile down the Atlantic Coast, the region has some of the top beachfronts in the entire Lower Alentejo.
The sands glow a soft yellow under the sun and the seas are surprisingly calm for this western section of the country.
The beautiful Parque Natural da Arrábida can be seen on the headlands opposite, while regular tours depart from Tróia to spot bottlenose dolphins out at sea.