Lisbon, the beautiful capital of Portugal, is known to be one of the oldest cities in western Europe. Dating back to the Neolithic period, the inhabitants of this city have experienced everything a civilization could go through. From Roman rule to massive natural disasters, they have stood the test of time.
With a deep and rich history, Lisbon has become a tourist destination to frequent the top of many individuals’ bucket lists. Even with its consistent modernization and development over the years, its stunning waterfront views, historical landmarks, and gorgeous art are what consistently spark visitors’ interests.
When visiting any destination it’s important to plan out your “must-sees”, especially if you’re visiting Lisbon. When there are so many beautiful places to see in such a short amount of time, planning ahead and choosing specific locations is crucial.
Read on to learn about five attractions in Lisbon that you won’t want to miss out on.
1. The Belem Tower
This infamous tower was built in 1515 and has served as both a defense strategy and a seaside gate to welcome visitors and commerce. The Belem Tower, or Tower of St. Vincent, has taken on many purposes over the past five hundred years.
\On top of being a beautiful structure, it also proved to be cutting-edge military architecture for its time. It also doubled as a state prison during the reign of several leaders. Most prisoners were held in the basement which was originally meant for storage.
The Belem tower consists of four stories with a larger base that contains seventeen windows for long-range cannons. In 1846 the tower was restored by the Duke of Terceira.
During this restoration, the majority of the structure remained the same with a few decorative additions here and there. In 1983 the tower got the ultimate token of historical recognition, it became a UNESCO-certified World Heritage Site. Proving just how internationally important this landmark has been throughout history.
Located southwest of the city on the Tagus River, the Belem Tower is definitely something you will want to see during your trip.
Taking a tour through this beautiful landmark will take you back in time and allow you to experience the world of Lisbon that existed long before you even knew about it.
If you’re someone who likes bustling nightlife or historic districts, then this is the place for you. Alfama is the oldest section of Lisbon’s historic district. Here you can find charming streets, fado clubs, phenomenal restaurants, and many historical landmarks of this great city. Among these landmarks include the São Jorge Castle, the Igreja de Santo Antônio, the Panteão Nacional, and the Se Cathedral.
Historically, Alfama, being located outside the castle walls, was the place where poorer citizens dwelled.
Typically those who made their money on the docks or by sailing. Even as the city began to thrive and become a major commerce location, Alfama remained a deprived part of the city. However, today that is not the case. It is now a beautiful place to wander, eat, shop, and enjoy.
Although if you want to shop in Alfama, you may want to utilize luggage storage in Lisbon. Walking those steep hills with bags may prove to be impossible.
Just know that you can drop your bags off before heading up to the castle if you need to. Either way, Alfama is definitely something you are going to want to explore while in Lisbon.
3. Sao Jorge Castle
Along with the Alfama District comes the Sao Jorge Castle, also known as St. George’s Castle. Elegantly overlooking the city’s oldest district, the Moorish-style castle remains one of the most visited spots in Lisbon. In 1147 when the Portuguese drove out the Moors they used the castle as a residence for their royalty until the early part of the sixteenth century. As of present times, the grand castle is the resting place of many archeological artifacts and exhibits as a museum that is open to the public.
Not only are the historical artifacts and architecture of the castle itself worth the trip, but the views you can see after climbing to the top are some of the best that the city has to offer.
While walking through Alfama all the way up to the castle is doable, there is a public tram that you can take. However, this isn’t your regular city tram.
The tram that runs straight to the castle is actually the oldest standing trolley in Lisbon. Tram 28 is used by locals to get where they need to go, and tourists to see some of the best sights in the city. It is an activity to enjoy in and of itself.
4. Lisbon Oceanarium
While there are plenty of historic attractions to visit in Lisbon, there are a few modern attractions as well. The Lisbon Oceanarium is definitely one of them.
This massive indoor aquarium located on the upper east side of Lisbon is Europe’s largest indoor aquarium.
Broken down into four separate habitats, the aquarium effectively represents four different oceans complete with surrounding plants and wildlife that make it feel like you are in a completely different part of the world.
5. Monument to the Discoveries
The Monument to the Discoveries is perhaps one of Lisbon’s most cherished works of art.
This massive stone piece of history sits by the Tagus River as a reminder to everyone of all the infamous voyages that took place on Portugal’s very own shores.
As a tribute to the history of Portugal, the Monument to the Discoveries displays Prince Henry the Navigator, also known as Dom Henrique, at the very front. In this setting, he appears to be leading many other national explorers and heroes on a voyage. It’s truly a sight to behold.
The Bottom Line
Lisbon is a city filled with rich history and culture. These five locations are just the tip of the iceberg to all that this fascinating city has to offer. So, plan your trip around these locations, immerse yourself in the culture, and enjoy!