Stretching along the banks of the Tagus River near the Atlantic Ocean, the capital of sunny Portugal and its largest city winds upward among seven steep hills, forming an enchanting destination of warm weather, alluring alleys, quaint shops, Gothic cathedrals, impressive bridges and colorful neighborhoods, reverberating in traditional fado music.
The city’s oldest district is Alfama, an old Moorish quarter, distinct for its maze of cobblestone streets, rustic architecture and St. George’s Castle. The best way to experience Lisbon is by taking one of the vintage trams such as the well known Tram 28, which winds along historic quarters, gardens and main attractions.Lisbon is rightfully proud of the role it played during Portugal’s Age of Discovery, and monuments celebrating the voyages of explorers like Vasco da Gama are among the most important attractions in Lisbon.
Here there are some of the best things about the city:
- 1. Belem Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, is situated in what once was an island in the Tagus River. Back in 1515, the imposing tower was built to defend Lisbon from invaders and to welcome the city’s friends. It was built in the Age of Discovery and a statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, designed to protect sailors on their voyages, faces the river.
- 2. São Jorge Castle: One of Lisbon’s oldest treasures is situated at the top of a hill in the Alfama District. The city’s most popular attraction evokes the period when Lisbon was under Moorish rule. It was used as a royal residence until the early 16th century. Climbing the castle ramparts is a must-do activity in Lisbon, and it’s easy to understand why. The views from the parapets and battlements are simply breathtaking. But I have to tell you the walk to the top of the hill is a hard one however you can always take one of the vintage trams.
- 3. Tram 28:Most of the decades-old trolley cars that were once a primary mode of transportation in Lisbon are long gone, but visitors can still enjoy a ride on an antique streetcar on tram line 28. The historic “eléctrico” takes passengers through the city’s oldest sectors past some of Lisbon’s most popular sights and attractions. Tourists often take tram 28 to the hilltop São Jorge Castle to take in the panoramic views, but the line is used by locals for their daily commutes too. The old tram line offers a great way to get oriented in the city, meet new people and escape from the rain that is common on the city.
- 4. Jerónimos Monastery: With its Gothic and Moorish influences, the striking Manueline architecture of the Jerónimos Monastery makes it a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Lisbon. Located in the city’s riverside Belém district, the grand complex was constructed during the 1500s to commemorate the discoveries made by Portuguese explorers.In the nave of the church is the tomb of Vasco da Gama, whose voyages to India made Lisbon a wealthy maritime city. But the best part is the bakery right next to the monastery, where they prepare the best traditional tarts of the city.
- 5. Alfama: The oldest quarter in historic Lisbon, the district is dotted with architectural landmarks, including some that date back to the city’s Moorish past, but it’s the charm of the neighborhood’s meandering streets, tasty eateries and Fado clubs that make the Alfama a can’t-miss destination. For an expansive view of the Alfama and the Tagus River, visitors head to Lisbon’s original Moorish gateway, Largo das Portas do Sol.