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Lisbon, called Lisboa in Portuguese, is a wonderful city that has become increasingly popular with tourists over the last few years. Perfect for a city break weekend or stay a bit longer and combine with a trip to Sintra and Cascais.
Tourist maps can be picked up in the Lisbon Welcome centres and the Lisbon Ask Me centres. These show all the major sites and the centres can help you with travel cards or day passes to sights. Both of these can be found in the Rua Augusta near to the Praco do Comercio, Lisbon's main square on the river edge.
Lisbon has a very good and cheap metro and bus system and tickets can be bought in the metro stations. You can get a metro to and from the airport making it very easy to visit for a weekend break without lots of travel costs.
The Baixa district is one of the most popular with tourists. It suffered badly in the 1755 earthquake and tsunami and was rebuilt with elegant streets, open squares and a wealth of neo-classical and Art Deco buildings.
Start your visit at Lisbon's beautiful main square the Praco do Comercio Arco de Rua Augusta which is entered via the monumental triumphal arch of Arco de Rua Augusta.
The square is still known to locals as the Terreiro do Paço as the palace or Paço was here before the earthquake.The square is surrounded on 3 sides by beautiful classical buildings with arched arcades at the bottom and the storey above painted pale yellow. Very elegant!
As well as the triumphal arch which you can climb to get some great views over the square and streets behind you can also find the Patio da Galé gift shop full of Portugese gifts and a statue of King José atop his horse Gentil.
Exploring the streets nearby is a pleasure. This area contains lots of well known shops and also lots of bars and cafes. Look out for the distinctive Elevador da Santa Justa or Santa Justa lift which is a beautifully ornate lift that takes passengers from the Baixa district up Carmo hill. At the top of the lift is a viewing platform. Tickets for the lift cost €2.80. If you have a one day metro/bus pass it is free.
Heading north in the Baixa district you come to the large neo-classical square of Praca Dom Pedro IV often called Rossio with its beautiful Teatro D Maria II at one end and various fountains and statues. It is the heart of Lisbon and often full of students, locals and tourists.
Overlooking the Rossio square are the ruins of the Carmo church testifying to the destruction of the 1755 earthquake.
Beyond Rossio is the long wide Avendida da Liberade leading to the Praca Marques de Pombal. It is Lisbon's longest avenue and its elegant 19th century buildings are home to designer shops, chic restaurants and trendy bars. Its pavements are decorated in a lovely black and white mosaic.
The Alfama district is the oldest district of Lisbon and contains some of the main sights in the capital including the castle and the cathedral. Its streets are narrow and the houses were originally homes to the fishermen. Once one of the roughest areas of Lisbon its warren of narrow streets winding up towards the castle are now filled with interesting shops and trendy bars.
On the way up to the castle you first get to the church of Saint Anthony and the Sé cathedral. Saint Anthony's church contains various statues and images of Saint Anthony's life and there is a small chapel on the spot where he was born.
Next to the church is the rather sombre Sé cathedral and its equally sombre cloister. The cathedral was built in the 12th century on the site of a ruined Mosque. The floor of the cloisters is currently being excavated to reveal the walls of the previous mosque.
The imposing Castelo de Sao Jorge had fallen into ruins but in the 1940s the walls and battlements were renovated and restored and you can now walk along these and get some splendid views over the town. To one side you can see the lovely building of the National Pantheon and the river and to the other the roofs of Lisbon dominated by the Basilica da Estela.
Also to see in the Alfama district is the Fado museum. Fado music originated in this district and is a mournful but beautiful music with one singer accompanied by a traditional Portuguese guitar. An evening in a Fado house listening to the music is a must for your visit to Lisbon.
Whilst in the Alfama district be sure to take the tram. The streets here are two narrow and winding for modern trams and so you get to ride on the historic Remodelado trams of the 1930s.
Bairro Alto and Chiado Districts
On the other side of the Baixa district are the Bairro Alto and Chiado districts. The Chiado district is the trendiest of Lisbon's districts and is where everybody heads to meet friends, do some shopping or go to the theatre. The Bairro Alto is where everyone heads on a night for restaurants and bars. See our Lisbon districts guide.
Parque das Nacoes District
This is the ultra modern area of Lisbon. It is a way out from the centre but can be reached by metro on the same line as the airport. It was developed from an industrial wasteland for the "World Exhibition of 1994". The attractions here include the Oceanaria Aquarium, Lisbon's Casino, lots of ultra modern offices and hotels, gardens, a cable car over the area.
The Pavilhao do Conhecimento is a large science museum with lots of interactive exhibits.
The Belem district is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem tower. The main draw however is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, originator of the famous Belem pastries a sort of custard tart that is sold everywhere in Portugal but who's original and best recipe is secretly guarded here. Locals queue here for the tasty treats. See our Lisbon districts guide.
Next to Belem is the Ajuda district which is home to the Royal Palace and botanical garden.
Lisbon is a city built on seven hills and each of these has a viewpoint allowing you to look out over the splendid city the Rio Tejo rive and the many churches and large monuments that stand out from the other buildings. These viewpoints are known as "miradouros" in Portuguese and include Portas do Sol, the Castel de Sao Jorge, Sao Pedro de Alcantara, da Graça, da Nossa Senhora do Monte, Santa Caterina and Santa Luzia.
The Miradouros of Sao Pedro de Alcantara can be reached by one of Portugal's iconic funiculars. The other main funicular can be reached from the Rua de Sao Paolo. This one can is entered through a large doorway with Ascensor da Bica written above it so look for the sign (and maybe a queue of people) rather than the funicular as it is hidden. If you buy a one day pass for the metro you can use this for the funicular.
Another place to get great views of Lisbon is the top of the Parque Eduardo VII above the Marques de Pombal square. Walk up here and you get a great view over the clipped box of the gardens, the city below and out over the river beyond.
Lisbon has had a turbulent history especially the massive earthquake it suffered in which led to a tsunami and fire. To learn more about this and other aspects of Lisbon's history visit the Lisbon Story Centre in the Praco do Comercio.
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga - with displays of art from the 12th to the 19th centuries.
Museu Nacional do Coches - a unique collection of coaches from the 17-19th centuries.
Berardo Museum - displays of contemporary and modern art
MAAT - the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology which opened in 2016
Some interesting facts about Lisbon
Lisbon is the second oldest capital city in Europe after Athens.
Lisbon is the only European capital that is so close to sandy beaches.
Daytime temperatures in Lisbon rarely go below 15°.
A recent survey ranked Lisbon as third most hospitable city in the world.
Places to Visit Nearby
Near to Lisbon is one of the top Aquariums in the world. The Oceanario de Lisboa is on the Esplanade D. Carlos in the Parque das Naçoes to the east of the airport.
If you wish to head for the beach the lovely seaside town of Cascais is popular.
Photos of Lisbon
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Map of Lisbon and places to visit
Lisbon places to visit
See more places nearby in the Lisbon region guide