Lisbon Sights

Though Baixa, or downtown, was Lisbon’s government and business center for two centuries until the mid-20th century, the most ancient part of the city lies on the slopes of a hill to its east. Most visitors start their exploration there, in Alfama. All but the very fittest ride the antique 28 eléctrico (streetcar) most of the way up to Saint George’s Castle (or take the 737 bus or a

taxi all the way up). The views from its ramparts afford a crash course in the city’s topography. You can then wander downhill to absorb the atmosphere (and more views) in the winding streets below. There are several museums and other major sights in this area, so give yourself plenty of time.

Baixa itself is interesting mostly for its imposing architecture and its bustling squares, as well as an unusual cast-iron elevator that affords yet more panoramic views. But a new design museum is what persuades most visitors to linger.

On the slope to the west is the chic Chiado district, traditionally the city’s intellectual center, with theaters, galleries, and literary cafés. A little farther uphill is the Bairro Alto. Originally founded by the Jesuits (whose church is among Lisbon’s finest), it was long known for rather sinful pursuits and today is a great place for barhopping. Both neighborhoods are great places to shop.

Modern Lisbon, meanwhile, begins just north of Baixa. The city’s tree-lined central axis, the Avenida da Liberdade, forges up to the Praça Marquês de Pombal roundabout, with a rather formal park beyond. Dotted around the area north of here are major museums and other sights.

West of Baixa, along the river, former docklands such as Alcântara are now home to stylish restaurants and nightclubs, as well as the odd museum. Farther west is historic Belém, which boasts yet more museums—and some famous pastries. On the city’s eastern flank, the Parque das Nações has family-oriented attractions and green spaces.

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Alcântara and Belém 12

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Lisbon Sights

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Aqueduto das Aguas Livres

  • Body Of Water/Waterfall

Lisbon was formerly provided with clean drinking water by means of the Aqueduct of Free Waters (1729–48), built by Manuel da Maia and...

Avenida da Liberdade

  • Neighborhood/Street

In the Restauradores neighborhood, Liberty Avenue—downtown's spine—was laid out in 1879. What started as an elegant rival to the...

Basílica da Estrela

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

This spacious Baroque basilica has an unusually restrained marble interior and offers fine views of the city from its zimbório (dome).

Casa dos Bicos

  • House/Mansion/Villa

The House of Spikes, an Italianate dwelling, was built in 1523 for Bras de Albuquerque, the son of Afonso, who became the viceroy of...

Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida

  • Museum/Gallery

One of central Lisbon's best-kept secrets, this museum displays just part of a staggeringly rich private collection of furniture, porcelain...

Castelo de São Jorge

  • Castle/Palace/Chateau

Although St. George's Castle was constructed by the Moors, the site had previously been fortified by Romans and Visigoths. To your left...

Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown

  • Building/Architectural Site

In a prime riverside location, this giant, curving medical research and clinical facility, completed in 2010 from a design by Pritzker...

Convento do Carmo

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

The Carmelite Convent—once Lisbon's largest—was all but ruined by the 1755 earthquake. Its sacristy houses the Museu Arqueológico...

Doca de Santa Amaro

  • Promenade/Boardwalk

The docks are alive with music in Alcântara, where late-night bars attract Lisbon's young—and young at heart. Here, in the lee of...

Elevador da Glória

  • Transportation Site (Airport, Bus, Ferry, Train)

One of the finest approaches to the Bairro Alto is via this funicular railway inaugurated in 1888 on the western side of Avenida da Liberdade...


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