Lisbon’s Top Attractions
Discovering Portugal’s coastal capital can be an invorgating experience, from the imposing 11th-century Moorish castle of São Jorge overlooking the city and its bay, to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, high atop the Bairro Alto, one of the city’s seven hills, to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia with its views over the Alfama. You’ll need to plan your day carefully to take advantage of your time when exploring this historic gem of a city.
In the Heart of the City
The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, the best of Lisbon’s museums, this truly magnificent, world-class, private art collection of Western and Eastern Art, spanning 5,000 years, was given to Portugal by Armenian oil tycoon Calouste Gulbenkian. This exquisitely diverse collection ranges from Egyptian sculpture to 20th-century Lalique jewelry. It is widely considered the finest private collection in Europe and housed in a modern building purpose built for this collection, so it is very easy to tour in about two hours. And it sits in a large, grassy park dotted with sculpture and ponds. Every piece in this collection is simply stunning. Open Wednesday-Monday from 10:00 am to 5:45 pm. Closed Tuesdays. Admission is 10€ for the permanent and modern collection and 14€ for both plus temporary exhibits. 50% discount to those over 65. Free on Sundays after 2:00 pm. Audio guide is 4€.
Tel: (+351) 217 823 000
To reach the museum by metro, go to the São Sebastião stop, exit the station following signs to Avenida de Aguiar, take a few steps down the street and turn right. The Exhibit Hall will be in front of you-this is not the main museum entrance. Turn left and continue walking downhill 150 yards. Just before the roundabout you’ll see the pink Spanish embassy across the street on your left, and you’ll see a small sign pointing right to the fundaçāo. The entrance is 10 yards away. Or take a taxi.
The auditorium of the Gulbenkian Foundation (separate building) hosts a wonderful performing arts series with regular concerts on Sundays at 11:00 am and 4:00 pm and in the evenings at 7:00 and 9:00 pm. Check closer to your arrival date to see what performances are scheduled during your stay.
Set in a 17th-century palace, the Ancient Art Museum is Portugal’s National Gallery, not far from the Hotel Janelas Verdes. This vast museum is found in the Santos residential quarter on Rua Janelas Verdes. It presents European (Bosch, Zurbarán, Raphael, Durer, Cranach, Rodin) and Asian paintings and an impressive collection of decorative arts, including faience from around the world and silver and gold jewelry. It has a restaurant with pleasant terrace overlooking the Tagus River. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Closed Mondays. Admission is 6€, but seniors receive a 50% discount. Free Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Tel: (+351) 213 912 800
The 11th-century Moorish castle that stands at the top of the former Arab quarter, the Alfama district, a maze-like, Casbah-type neighborhood is Lisbon’s most visited sight and offers its best views. Inside the castle the Ulysses Tower has a camera obscura that offers a 360-degree angle on Lisbon, with demos every half-hour. And the gardens house strolling peacocks. Open 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, November to February from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is 8,50€ or 5€ for seniors.
Tel: (+351) 218 800 620
Tip: The most amusing way to reach the castle is to take the #28 E (E stands for eléctrico) tram. Get off at the Graça Miradouro stop and walk down. Or take the minibus #787 from Praça da Figueira. After a castle visit, walk back downtown; take the tram, or a taxi.
This 1930s yellow tram, built in England, is one of the city’s great rides, although it may be standing-room only (and beware of pickpockets!). Most visitors take it to go from the flat Baixa district, at Praça do Martim Moniz, to the steep Alfama. It’s the longest tram route in the city and its entire route takes 40 minutes. Trams come by every 15 minutes and run from around 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. Fare is 2,85€. Purchase your ticket from the driver. Rides are free to Via Viagem 24-hour cardholders.
The former Moorish quarter of the city with a steep, Casbah-Like layout is now a village unto itself with a jumble of whitewashed houses and red tile roofs cascading down to the waterfront. When the Moors were expelled, the Alfama eventually became the home of the Lisbon fishermen and mariners. Part of the fun here is getting lost in its maze of narrow streets and alleys (during the day).
Parque Eduardo VII
This is Lisbon’s urban oasis and its largest green space, with hothouses (estufas) filled with lush foliage and fountains. This steep, slopping park sits at the top, north end of Avenida Liberdade, Lisbon’s prettiest thoroughfare and boasts a fine restaurant, Eleven, that features glass walls affording views all the way downtown to the river. It’s a member of the Relais & Chateaux group and sports one Michelin star. The estufas are open daily from 9:00 am-7:00 pm April-September and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm October-March. Admission is 3,10€ but free on Sundays until 1:00 pm.
Rua Rosa Araújo, 41, across from the Vincci Liberdade and Port Bay Marqués hotels and two blocks above the Avenida da Liberdade, is set in the former mansion of an art collector and industrialist, one of Portugal’s wealthiest men, and gives the visitor a glimpse of the opulence of this elegant district in the 19th-century.
This museum is an unsung gem (think NYC’s Frick or London’s Wallace Collection)! Displayed here are Medeiros e Almeida’s priceless collection of European paintings (including a Ribera, a Delacroix, two Brueghels, a Gainsborough and a Tiepolo), Flemish tapestries, clocks, watches, English and Portuguese silverware, ceramics, furniture and 18th-century azulejos. Medeiros e Almeida and his wife lived here until 1970, and the twenty-five rooms have been kept exactly as they were used on a daily basis. Open Monday-Friday from 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 5: 30 pm. Admission is 5€ but free on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. There is a downstairs cafeteria.
Tel: (+351) 213 547 892
This wrought iron elevator or street lift, built by a disciple of Eiffel in 1902, connects the lower (Baixa) and upper (Bairro Alto) parts of the city. It’s Lisbon’s only vertical street lift, whisking you up 32 meters and the upper exit leads you to Largo do Carmo and Convento do Carmo. It runs from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm in June-September and from 7:00 am to 9:45 pm October-May. Ticket is 2,50€ or round trip for 5€. It is included in the Via Viagem card (trams, buses, elevators and metro and an unlimited 24 hour V.V. pass costs 6€. Expect long lines, even in the winter. The top of the elevator houses a pricey rooftop café. You can access the viewing platforms for only 1,50€ if you enter the platform from the top behind the Convento do Carmo.
This is a 1892 funicular/tram, now electric, that runs from the Bairro Alto down to the riverfront, through the picturesque neighborhood of Bica along the Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo, one of Lisbon’s most photographed streets. You can catch it at the riverfront behind the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira with its entrance tucked into an arch on Rua de São Paulo, and it will take you to the popular viewpoint, Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
The is an 1855 funicular/tram that departs from near the Praça dos Restauradores and climbs the sheer street in just a few minutes, leaving you in the Bairro Alto at the lookout point below.Alcântara
This viewpoint, atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills in the Bairro Alto can be reached by riding the vintage Elevador da Gloria funicular from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara the Praça dos Restauradores. The elevator functions from 7:15 am until 11:55 pm Monday-Thursday, 7:15 am to 12:25 am on Fridays, 8:45 am to 12:25 am on Saturdays and from 9:15 am until 11:55 pm on Sundays. Cost is 3,70€.
After soaking up the views, go across the street to sample ports at the Solar do Vinho do Porto, where you can taste some of Portugal’s finest labels in a cozy, stylish setting. Ports from every single producer are found on the menu. Prices start at 1,50€ a glass. Cheese and charcuterie platters are also sold.
A solar is a mansion, and this mansion houses the Institute of Port Wines. You can find it 50 feet from the afore-mentioned Elevador da Gloria, across the street. The entrance has a plaque indicating the Port Wine Institute. Open 1:001 am until midnight. Closed Sundays.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Another of the city’s spectacular viewpoints, it affords wonderful views from the Alfama. There is a bar for drinks open 9:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Also known as Ricardo do Espíritu Santo Silva Foundation, at Largo das Portas do Sol, 2, the Decorative Arts Museum is housed in the 17th-century Azurara Palace, and contains a wide collection of applied art; Indo-Portuguese furniture, silver, gold, porcelain, paintings, textiles, tapestries, Arraiolos carpets and tiles amassed by a Portuguese banker. It gives the visitor the opportunity to experience a noble home from Lisbon’s Golden Age. Open on Monday and Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is 4€.
Tel: (+351) 218 814 600
SÉ de Lisboa
Lisbon’s oldest building, the fortress-like cathedral, was built in 1150 on the site of a former mosque, and it survived the November 1, 1775 earthquake. Its Cistercian cloister opens on to a deep pit full of archaeological excavations going back 2,000 years. Don’t miss the cloister and the Roman ruins. It’s open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. To reach it, take tram #28. Admission is free.
“Masters of the Lisbon Guitar” concerts (90 minutes) are held here in the cloister Saturdays and Sundays at 8:30 pm. Tickets cost 20€, or 30€ for VIP tickets. One can purchase tickets the day of the concert from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
A Short Taxi Ride Away
The National Tile Museum is one of the city’s most appealing museums, a true jewel, housed in the sumptuous 16th-century Convento da Madre de Deus in the eastern suburbs and covers the entire Portuguese tile spectrum, from early Ottoman geometry to Goan intricacies. The cloister has beautiful web-like vaulting (called the Manueline style, after King Manuel I) and blue and white tiles. Don’t miss the upstairs tile panorama, Portugal’s longest tile, a 118-foot panorama of pre-earthquake Lisbon, created in 1730 and also don’t miss the convent church with its elaborate gold altarpiece and tile works depicting the life of St Anthony. There is a restaurant and shop. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Mondays. Admission is 5€, seniors receive a 50% discount. Free first Sunday of the month.
You can reach it by taxi (about 7€) or on bus #794 from Praça do Comércio. There is a café housed in the former kitchen with an outdoor terrace and a nice gift shop.
Tel: (+351) 218 100 340