What to do on holiday in Lisbon

Lisbon travel guide: discover the beauty of the Portuguese capital with our handy guide to the must-see places in this historic city.

Lisbon at a glance

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a city with an important history for the Europe of today.

Based on archeological findings, it is believed the first settlement at the natural harbor of Tagus River dates back to Phoenician times, as far as 1200 years BC.

As Europe’s metropolitan area with the warmest winter, in average 15C during a December day) it most definitely makes for the ideal weekend getaway at any time of the year.

The two most renowned sights of the city are the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, both located at the bank of Togus River.

Jerónimos Monastery

This mainly late gothic monastery was built during a hundred years and finished in 1601.

It is located in that part of the harbor, where Vasco da Gama is believed to have spent a night in prayer at a chapel before parting for India in 1497; he rests now in his tomb inside by the entrance.

Hieronymite monks had the task to pray for the King’s eternal soul and to provide spiritual support to the navigators and sailors departing from Portugal during the Age of Discovery. It is probably the most impressive symbol of the power and wealth of Portugal during that era.

Tower of Belém

The UNESCO declared this fortress at the bank of Togus River a World Heritage monument because “it is a reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid foundations of the modern world”.

The fortified lighthouse was finished in 1521 after only 6 years of construction, its purpose being the defense of the river mouth and also to be the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

Getting around Lisbon

While walking is always an excellent option Lisbon also offers some less common means of public transport.

Sitting on seven steep hills there is the funiculars Gloria and Bica and even the famous elevator Santa Justa, which brings people up to the Bairro Alto.

A scenic ride on the tramway 28 through the old quarter of Alfama (from arab al-hamma, meaning fountains or baths) offers opportunity for snapshots, as well as a hike or ride up to some of the view points of the city, for example the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, or Saint George Castle, with magnificent views of the city.

More sightseeing

Further sights include St. George’s Castle, the Tile Museum, the Bernardo Museum (a collection of modern art including Dali, Picasso and Warhol) or the Golden Baroque Trio, which is the world’s largest collection of royal carriages.

View on map