Lisbon: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Published: January 21, 2023

Portugal’s capital has become a top destination for city breaks, due to its climate and renowned atmosphere. The city centre was redesigned after the 1755 earthquake and now offers stylish accommodation for independent travellers, attracted by numerous cultural and festive events. Here are the 10 key monuments.

01. Belem Tower

The fine decoration of the Belem Tower’s stonework does not seem consistent with its military pretensions. Yet its construction in 1519 was in response to the need to defend the Tagus at the mouth of Lisbon’s port, leading to the tower becoming its most famous monument. It can be visited during the day, but the most magical moment is when the sun sets.

02. Hieronymites Monastery

The two-storey cloister is a jewel of sculpture, showing the preciousness of the Manueline style. From the same period as the Belem Tower, the monastery also serves as a royal necropolis and national pantheon, with the tombs of the navigator Vasco de Gama and the writer Camoens. The 19th century wing contains museums with a separate entrance.

03. Monument to the Discoveries

The monument was built in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of Prince Henri’s death, known as the Navigator, who was the initiator of Portugal’s exploratory and colonial conquests. Following the prince, each character is identified and participated in the colonial enterprise. Beyond that, the aim was to revive the glory of an empire in the process of dissolution.

04. São Jorge Castle

Situated on the highest hill, the castle has seen many invaders, each one leaving their mark. The most notable being the Romans and the Moors, until it became the royal palace of the Catholic kings. Abandoned, falling into ruin, the castle was finally restored in the 20th century and became a major tourist site. The view dominates the city and the harbour.

05. Commerce Plaza

This was the courtyard of the royal palace that succeeded the São Jorge Castle. The palace was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. The square then became the focal point of the city, a vast plaza between the Tagus and the old town, a place for great public celebrations. The 19th century triumphal arch opens onto the pedestrian Augusta Street, in the heart of the tourist district.

06. Marquis of Pombal

The Marquis of Pombal (1699-1782) had just been appointed Prime Minister when an earthquake destroyed part of Lisbon in 1755, killing 60,000 people. He centralised decisions to rebuild the city centre along modern lines, with avenues, squares and standardised buildings. His statue still watches over the vast construction site.

07. Santa Justa Lift

Lisbon encompasses several steep hills, and pedestrians are helped by escalators, funiculars and a vertical lift, the Santa Justa lift. Designed in 1900 and electrified in 1907, it rises 45 metres. It has become a tourist attraction in the city centre, but there are often long queues, there is a small terrace at the top.

08. 25-April Bridge

Completed in 1966, the bridge is named after the official date of the 1974 Carnation Revolution, which led to the establishment of democracy in Portugal. Built by an American company on the model of the Golden Gate in San Francisco, it is over two kilometres long. The bridge crosses the Tagus River with two levels of traffic, for rail and road traffic.

09. Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

The museum is housed in modern buildings opened in 1969 in a large park that makes the city around it invisible. The collection of the businessman Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955) ranges from ancient Egypt to the masters of impressionism, he gathered what is beautiful. A centre for modern art also encourages and presents contemporary art.

10. Cathedral

The cathedral was built after the Catholic reconquest from the Moors in 1147, replacing a mosque. It retains a military appearance, possibly serving as a fortified place. Damaged several times by earthquakes, it was first embellished before being restored to its medieval appearance in the 20th century.

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  1. A tidy, compact overview that opened my eyes to a few sights I hadn’t read about (the Hieronymites Monastery looks spectacular). I haven’t been to Lisbon. but Sladja has and loves it, of course. We keep talking about it, so maybe one of these years. You caught the walkers under April Bridge at just the right moment, similarly with that tram clunking around the cathedral. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have many good memories of my only trip to Lisbon….trans and elevators, charming squares and Vinho Verde….but in truth it was a boys’ football trip to see a Sporting home game, so I think I need to return as an “ordinary” tourist and see more of the sights. Pass me that wish list again…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My in laws just came back from a trip to Portugal and had such lovely things to say about Lisbon. We’ve never been before, it’s another place to add to the list. The Belem Tower looks impressive and I can see it being especially beautiful when the sun is setting. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

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