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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Lisbon Sights

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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...

Doca de Santa Amaro

  • Marina/Pier/Dock

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...

Jardim Botânico da Ajuda

  • Garden/Arboretum

Portugal's oldest botanical garden—laid out in 1768 by the Italian botanist Domenico Vandelli (1735–1816)—is an enjoyable place...

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

  • Memorial/Monument/Tomb

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a supreme example of the Manueline style of building (named after King Dom Manuel I), which represented...

Museu Berardo

  • Arts/Performance Venue

Housed in the bunker-like Belém Cultural Center, the Museu Berardo is a showcase for one of Europe's most important private collections...

Museu Nacional dos Coches

  • Museum/Gallery

In a former royal riding school with a gorgeous painted ceiling, the National Coach Museum has a dazzling collection of gloriously gilded...

Museu de Marinha

  • Museum/Gallery

The large, navy-run Maritime Museum showcases the importance of the seafaring tradition in Portugal. With its thousands of maps and maritime...

Museu do Oriente

  • Museum/Gallery

Housed in a former bacalhau (salted cod) cold store with impressive bas reliefs on its facade, the Museu do Oriente is one of the most...

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

  • Memorial/Monument/Tomb

The white, monolithic Monument of the Discoveries was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry...

Planetário Calouste Gulbenkian

  • Observatory/Planetarium

The Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium presents interesting astronomical shows with various themes several times a week (currently there...