Why travel to Lisbon?
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and its largest city, and also one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe. This historical city has a lot of stories to tell since it was first settled by the Celts and then was founded by the Phoenicians. Explore the rich history of Lisbon, which expands from its Phoenician origins to the present day. This Portuguese capital city boasts a past full of stories about the nobility, pioneering voyages, tragic events, and reconstruction efforts.
The city of seven hills boasts plenty of appealing attractions. Its noticeable characteristics captivate the hearts of writers, photographers, and filmmakers alike. With its rich historical centre, breathtaking architecture, vibrant azulejos (ceramic tiles), and exquisite cuisine, it never fails to inspire creativity. Lisbon, much like Rome, originated among seven hills. These hills which inspired some poems and songs that talk about the Portuguese capital are São Roque, São Jorge, São Vicente, Santo André, Santa Catarina, Chagas, and Sant´Ana.
Marvel at the views from - the São Jorge Castle, São Pedro de Alcântara, Graça, Santa Catarina, or from the statue of Christ the King on the other side of the River Tagus. Take a walk through typical neighbourhoods like Alfama or Bairro Alto, a tram through the more traditional areas, a boat trip on the river or even a trip on the metro with its colourful stations.
What to see and things to do in Lisbon
Lisbon offers a wide diversity of attractions and activities for travellers to enjoy. Here are some of the top things to do and places to visit in this lively city:
- Mosteiro dos Jeronimos This beautiful building sitting on the banks of the Tagus reflects the founder´s big and open-minded vision and the powerful financial support from the Portuguese crown back then. The construction of the monastery started in 1501 and took a whole century to finish. Many talented architects and builders from different places, both in Portugal and other countries, played a part in this impressive project. A Frenchman named Boytac had the first design idea, but then other Masters like Joao de Castilho and, in the middle of the century, Diogo de Torralva, carried on the work. In the 16th century, Lisbon was in its prime, the golden era gave birth to a special style called "Manueline". The designs carved out of the monastery´s stone are stunning, with many of them taking inspiration from the sea. The most remarkable parts of the Jeronimos Monastery, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, are Santa Maria Church, the cloisters, and the large monastic rooms.
- Belem Tower is a beautiful monument originally built as a fortified lighthouse to guard the entrance to the port. Its harmonious and distinctive shape is sharply outlined against the sky and the water of the River Tagus, and the delicate decoration of its stone suggests to those who feast their eyes upon it the appearance of a finely carved jewel. In 1983, it was also designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Quelez´s National Palace this palace is one of the finest examples of Portuguese architecture in the late 18th century. It has been further enriched by an important museum of decorative art, whose collections mostly belonged to the royal family and are exhibited in an appropriate setting.
There are plenty of other things to do and to admire about Lisbon too: the colourful tiled buildings, art-nouveau establishments, other monuments and museums (Tile museum, Fado museum, Antique Art museum...), parks, squares, the Atlantic Ocean, the Coach Museum, you could also take a food tour to discover the rich Portuguese gastronomy, taste delicious dishes such as Bacalhau a Bras, a classic Portuguese recipe, that mixes salt cod, eggs, finely chopped potatoes, olives and parsley, Caldo Verde (Portuguese green soup), Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato (clams with sauce), Sardinhas (Sardines) or the famous Pasteis de Nata (Belem custard-style tarts) among other delicacies. The medieval 12th-century Roman Catholic Cathedral (Sé) is worth seeing, a starting point for many pilgrims doing the Camino de Santiago.
Places worth visiting close to Lisbon include the UNESCO heritage site the National Palace in Sintra, with its beautiful painted rooms and huge pair of conical chimneys, the most characteristic feature of Sintra. Another town nearby considered one of the wealthiest areas in Lisbon that is worth visiting is Cascais, a traditional seaside fishing village, which underwent significant development in the 14th century when it was a busy port of call for ships on their way to Lisbon.
Our food experts have chosen the best tour operators offering tours with food, wine, and walking holidays in Lisbon. You can check our full list of things to do in Lisbon: top food tours to Lisbon and top boutique hotels in the sections of the travel to Lisbon destination guide.
Population: 547,733 (2023) inhabitants