A little bit of history about the most important sights in Lisbon YOU MUST VISIT:
Av. da Liberdade:
Liberdade Avenue links the Restauradores Square to the Marquês de Pombal Square, and is considered to be one of the most elegant places in Lisboa, place of election for prestige offices, old trees, fashion shops, designers stores, a place for celebrations and festivities, manifestations and passageway for thousands and thousands of everyday workers.
Afetr the big 1755 earthquacke that destroyed most of the city, this was the place of election of the Marquês de Pombal (Minister of the kingdom at that time, that established all the urban plan that re-built the town) to benefit the social class that so helped his plans, and created in the lower part of this Avenue the so called 'Passeio Público' (Public Walk), surrounded by walls and gates, that was destined to the Noble and Bourgeois class. Its walls were demolished in 1821, when the Liberals got the power, and therefore opened this Walk to the Public, as its own name affirmed.
The Avenue got its current plan in between 1879 and 1882, according to the Champs Elysées, in Paris, with 90 meters wide and the pavements decorated with abstract patterns, being nowadays the 35th most expensive Avenue in the world. Liberdade Avenue still maintains some of its original buildings and manor houses, great art noveau facades, and is now filled with Hotels, Cafeterias, Theatres, Universities and luxury stores.
Providing pleasant walks among historical trees, fountains, and lovely esplanades, in Liberdade Avenue there are also some monuments, such as the one that homage the Deceased of the First Great War.
Situated in the south extreme of charming Liberdade Avenue, the Restauradores Square is considered to be the starting point of the expansion of the city to the north.
One of the busiest areas in the Lisboa centre, linking the Baixa Pombalina to the Marquês de Pombal Square, Restauradores Square has as symbol a monument in form of Obelisk, erected in 1886, that commemorates the restoration of 1640 of the Independence of Portugal from Spain. In the pedestal of this monument there are two bronze images, representing the Victory and the Liberty.
The strong point of this Square is, undoubtedly, its architecture, with diverse buildings characteristic and historical buildings, such as the Foz Palace (currently a Tourist Office), the Orion Eden Hotel (ancient Eden cinema), the small bandstand, the elegant Avenue Palace Hotel, among many others, that render this Plaza a quite special charm, inherited since the 19th century, when it was a mandatory passage in the distinct bourgeois walks.
The D. Pedro IV Square, usually known by its ancient and popular name: 'Rossio' (literally meaning 'large square') delimits to north the area of the Baixa Pombalina (downtown) and has been, for six centuries, the heart of Lisboa.
The most diverse initiatives and events took place in this plaza, since bullfights, to festivals, military events, political assemblies and even religious trials in the epoch of the Inquisition.
Reborn from the debris left by the big earthquake of 1755 that devastated the Country, the Rossio with its cosmopolitan buildings, a sunny welcoming space got some animation with hotels (the majority no longer exist) that were filled with travellers, stores, tobacconists and, of course, a large number of Cafés (coffee shops) - a very Portuguese institution that still nowadays are used as forums for talk, conspiracy, politics and the arts.
Right in the centre of this Square, since 1870, in a column with 28meters high, rises the statue of kind D. Pedro the 4th, the first emperor of an independent Brazil. In the pedestal there are four female figures, allegories to the Justice, to the Wisdom, to the Force and to the Moderation, qualities attributed to D. Pedro. In 1889 two monumental fountains were increased, one on each side of the column, nowadays colored by the flowers sold by traditional Rossio's florists.
The floor of the Plaza was covered with the traditional Portuguese cobbling, with black and white undulating motives, on the 19th century.
In North side of the Square is located the National Theatre D. Maria II, that received the name of the daughter of D. Pedro.
On the South side there is a graceful arch, from the end of the 18th century that establishes the connection with the Sapateiros Street.
Despite the numerous changes in the lifestyle along the six centuries of existence of this Square, many traditions are still maintained nowadays , and a stop in the Café Nicola (western side) or in the Pastelaria Suiça (oriental side) continues to be the typical everyday life of any Lisboa resident!
Chiado is nowadays one of the Lisboa's quarters with more prestige.
Situated in between the Bairro Alto and the Baixa, here the most diversified designers shops can be found, as well as ateliers, art galleries, museums, restaurants, modern and traditional coffees, bookstores, theatres and many other cultural and artistic expressions.
Chiado is an historical place, frequented by modernist intellectuals and has forever being linked to a cosmopolitan Lisboa, with a strong romantic, modernist, liberal, and intellectual component.
The statue of the Poet Luís of Camões, in the square with his name, the Rua Garrett (main commercial artery of the area), the famous coffees (between them the famous one 'A Brasileira', in which esplanada is the bronze figure of the great Poet Fernando Pessoa sat down in one of its preferred places of the city - in fact he was born in this quarter, nearby this coffee), the theatres of the Trindade, of São Luiz and of São Carlos (the only Opera theatre in Portugal), the Carmo Convent, the Santa Justa Elevator, the Palace Valadares (in the place where the first Portuguese university was created), the National Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Churches of Loreto, of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação, and of Ordem Terceira de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, are some of the many more important monuments and symbols of Lisboa that the Chiado proudly houses.
In 1988 a serious fire of high dimensions devastated the Chiado, and since that fateful date this quarter has suffered several restoraion and re-organization works. These works have improved this historical and already so special place, with new and re-done infrastructures and facilities more accurate to the modern times, with its project directed by the respected Portuguese Architect Siza Vieira.
Bairro Alto is situated right in Lisboa city centre and is one of the typical quarters with its narrow steep streets with old buildings, many of them restored.
Bairro Alto (or just the Bairro as it is known) is the heart of Lisbon's youth and of the Portuguese capital's nightlife frequented by different generations that here can find a huge variety of bars, lounges, Fado houses and restaurants.
The blend between old neighbours and younger ones that found in Bairro Alto one of the most cosmopolitans spots in Lisboa, is reflected in the commerce, where one can find the typical tiny grocery and bakery shops to the designers ateliers, tattoo and piercing shops. The same street will look completely different if visited in day time or in night time. Bairro Alto is nowadays known as the intellectuals, artists and bohemians area, side by side with the Chiado quarter.
Park Edward VII:
Situated in the north side of the Liberdade Avenue, right in the top of Marquês de Pombal Square, this is the greatest garden-park in Lisboa. In the beginning named Liberty Park (Parque da Liberdade) it was re-baptized with the name of the King of England that, in 1903, visited Lisboa in order to reaffirm the long alliance between the two Countries.
With twenty-five hectares, it is developed through a central axis materialized in a big avenue with a big green grass-slope, offering several and unique nooks and sights. In the Northwest corner is situated the Estufa Fria. Nearby, a lake with big carps and a children's park.
On the Eastern side is located the Pavilion Carlos Lopes, built in 1932, stage of diverse events.
In the top of the park is the Monument in honour to the 25 of April (the Carnation Revolution of 1974), from the authorship of João Cutileiro, followed by the Garden Amália Rodrigues (the most famous Portuguese Fado singer) and by a monumental viewpoint with spectacular sights over the São Jorge Castle, the Baixa Pombalina (downtown) and, of course, the gorgeous Tagus River.
The Park presents many other facilities such as restaurants, esplanade, bandstand, âsnack-parkâ, tennis court, gymnasium, swimming pool, and it is also, and frequently, stage for others events, like the famous Annual Book Fair.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a Portuguese private institution founded in 1956 that promotes a wide range of cultural activities and also in the scientific research and studies, with delegations in Portugal and abroad.
The Gulbenkian Park, or Gardens, encloses the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation head office and Museum, the José de Azeredo Perdigão Modern Art Centre with its Museum and Art Library, a big auditorium, areas for temporary exhibitions, a congress and meeting area as well as restaurant and esplanade.
The Park was built in the 1960's on the formerly Santa Gertrudes Park, a leisure estate, that was once one of the main noble entrance gates.
Marquês de Pombal:
Situated in between the Liberdade Avenue and the Eduardo VII Park, the Marquês de Pombal Square is one of the most remarkable and historical squares in the city.
In the period after the big earthquake of 1755, Marquês de Pombal was Minister of the king D. José 1st, and he was the figure that headed the magnificent planning and reconstruction of the Portuguese capital.
The expansion of the city to North, namely in the century XIX, altered Lisboaâs centre to the Marquês de Pombal square.
Right in the centre of the Square raises the magnificent Monument in honour to Marquês de Pombal, inaugurated in 1934. In the top of the central column of the monument, stands the image of the Marquês with his hand on a lion (symbol of power), contemplating its masterpiece: the Baixa Pombalina. In the lower part of the monument several images represent some of the work produced by this statesmen, such as agricultural, social, and political reforms, being also represented images of the big earthquake that changed forever the appearance of Lisboa.
This Square has also been stage of political events since the beginning of the century XX, among them decisive events that caused the Proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in the 5th October 1910.
The Marquês de Pombal Square is also crucial for the traffic connection among various important arteries of the city.
Linking the Praça do Comércio and Rossio, the Rua Augusta (Augusta Street) is one of the main commercial centres of the Lisboaâs Baixa.
Closed to the traffic and with a pleasant pedestrian walk, containing a diversified variety of shops suitable for all tastes, this street continues to conjugate tradition and art, frequently occupied by independent street artists, artisans and street sellers: this is where one can find everything, not forgetting the traditional flower pedlars, hot chestnuts sellers and street cafés with pleasant esplanadesâ¦
Rua Augusta is one of the main arteries of the cityâs reconstruction after the big earthquake of 1755, with the majority of its buildings still intact and well preserved.
Facing South and with an unique view over the gorgeous river Tagus, Alfama is one of the most typical quarters in Lisboa, and one of the indispensable Tourist visit in order to better know and understand Lisboa.
Alfama is situated between the São Jorge Castle and Jardim do Tabaco Dock, with narrow winding streets and backstreets, tiny alleys and gorgeous stairways: the typical Moorish quarter. In fact, during the times of Moorish domination, Alfama constituted the whole of the city, which later spread to the West (Baixa neighbourhood). Alfama became inhabited by the fishermen and the poor, and its condition as the neighbourhood of the poor continues to this day.
In Alfama one can still discover the lifestyle in a typical old-quarter of Lisboa, listening to Fado and savouring the proper charcoal grilled sardine!
São Jorge Castle
Classified as a National Monument since 1910, the São Jorge Castle rises up on one of the highest hills in Lisboa, and has been since early times a place occupied by Men. The first construction known in this site dates back from the 2nd century b. C..
Archaeological intervention and researches registered occupancy testimonies since, at the very least, the 6th century b. C.. Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors passed through this site.
The Castle received important conservation and improvement interventions in the 1940âs and on the end of the 1990âs, which endowed the monument, nowadays one of the greatest highlights and most visited places in the beautiful Lisboa town.
The São Jorge Castle offers its visitors beautiful gardens and viewpoints from where one can observe the town in all its splendour, also a multimedia show (Olisipónia), a dark camera (Ulisses Tower - a 360º journey over Lisboa), an exhibition area, a meeting room (Casa do Governador) and a thematic shop.
The Santa Justa Elevator
Also known as Carmo Elevator, is one of the most interesting monuments of Lisboa historical centre. Conceived by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard in a Gothic Revival Romantic style, and inaugurated in 1902, it serves to link downtown Lisbon with the Largo do Carmo by means of a viaduct between Rua do Ouro and Rua Nova do Carmo.
The Elevator first started to work by Steam, and in 1907 it began working by electric energy, being the only vertical lift in Lisboa. Made entirely of cast iron and enriched with works in filigree, inside the tower the elevator has 45 meters and capacity for 45 persons in each cabin (there are two cabins).
The box office is located behind the tower.
There is a Cafeteria in the top with a magnificent panoramic over the city centre and the gorgeous Tagus River.
Praça do Comércio
Also known as âTerreiro do Paçoâ (Royal Palace Square), the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is one of the most magnificent Squares in Lisbon.
Facing the gorgeous Tagus estuary, it is also one of the largest Squares in Europe, with around 36.000 square meters (180m x 200m).
The name Terreiro do Paço has its origin on the 16th century when the king changed the Palace (and its superb Library with more than 70.000 volumes) from the São Jorge Castle to this square. Unfortunately they got completely destroyed with the big earthquake of 1755, and therefore became the fundamental element of the reconstruction plan of the Marquês de Pombal, Minister of the King D. José I, that chose to privilege and value the bourgeois, financial, and commercial class that contributed unreservedly for Lisbonâs reconstruction, hence its name âCommerce Squareâ.
For centuries the Praça do Comércio was the great reception hall for visitors arriving by sea: it was at the dock where the Kings and Heads of State would disembark when visiting Portugal. Even nowadays it is possible to observe the marble stairway from the River into the Square direction.
The Square is characterized by its buildings with round arches, painted in yellow (its original colour), headquarters of governmental departments and with some restaurants. In fact in this square is located Lisboaâs oldest cafeteria-restaurant: the 'Martinho da Arcada'.
In the geometric centre of the Square, facing the river, is located, since 1775, a statue of King José the 1st, mounted on his horse Gentil, the work of the famous sculptor Machado de Castro.
On the Northern side of the Square there is the Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta (Triumphal Arch), the magnificent entrance into the âBaixaâ (downtown, or city centre), through the graceful Rua do Ouro, one of the main commercial area in Lisboaâs downtown. The arch has beautiful sculpture works evocating several Portuguese important individualities and with representations of the important Tagus and Douro Rivers. The Arch also has the Latin inscription 'virtvtibvs maiorvm' (the greatest virtues) summarising both the concepts behind the great values of Portuguese patriotism and paying homage to past heroes, all facing the wide Tagus river, opening the way to a universal sense of the world.
Parque das Nações - EXPO:
Situated in the Northeastern side of the town of Lisboa next to the Tagus estuary, Parque das Nações (Nations Park) is almost an 'urban centre inside an urban centre' it is an extensive leisure, commercial and residential area.
Formerly used for mainly industrial purposes, this area underwent a tremendous transformation in the 1990s when it was chosen as the location for the Expo '98 World Exhibition. After the exhibition, the area got its current name (although it is often called 'Expo', and more transformations occurred such as the new Vasco da Gama shopping mall, the Lisbon's International Fair complex, hotels and many new office and residential buildings.
Many attractions built for the Expo '98 remained and keep drawing visitors, such as the Lisboa Oceanarium, one of the world's biggest aquariums or the Knowledge Pavilion, a science and technology interactive centre which regularly presents a series of different exhibitions, and of course, the well-known Cable Car ride that offers the widest and most spectacular view of Parque das Nações and the Tagus River, covering a distance of over 1-km. Nevertheless, this is a very pleasant urban area often chosen just to take a walk, a meeting, a bike-ride, a meal in one of the huge and diversified Restaurant's offer, a drink in one of the many international Bars or to stress out dancing in one of the trendy Night clubs of Lisboa.
The great variety of public transportations, and fantastic road access and parking facilitate the large affluence of visitors to this fascinating new area of Lisboa, often referred to as the 21st century Lisboa.
The Lisboa Oceanarium:
A big aquarium and biology museum that aims to alert for the protection need of the wonderful and important natural heritage that are the ocean, is situated on the northern side of Lisboa, on the modern area of the Parque das Nações. In fact, this big pavilion was built at the time of the great world exhibition Expo 98, dedicated to the central theme of the exhibition itself: the oceans.
The project was signed by the renowned North American Peter Chermaveff, constituting the second largest oceanarium in the world, composed by several aquarium that intent to transmit the message that at the end there is only one global ocean in need of protection and cherish, here represented in more than 7.000m3 of salty water.
The Oceanarium presents four distinct habitats (Antarctic Ocean, Indic Ocean with a wonderful coral reef, Pacific and Atlantic Ocean) that converge into the centre of the building, into the big central tank.
The Lisboa Oceanarium presents a large collection with several species among birds, mammals, fich and other maritime beings, presenting as well scientific illustrations and multimedia that enlighten visitors.
Apart from the many activities that are put together frequently, as well as the private visits outside the regular timetable, the Oceanarium also presents meeting rooms and other activities, perfect for corporations, as well as restaurant, cafeteria and a shop with exclusive items, as well as the pedagogic services and the nautical centre, situated in the Olivais Dock in Parque das Nações, promoting several nautical, sport and touristic activities.
The BELÉM TOWER was built in homage to the patron Saint of Lisboa: São Vicente, in the place where was once anchored the Grande Nau (Big Ship), that combined firepower with the São Sebastião tower on the other bank of the river.
Located in the right bank of the Tagus river, where once existed a beach (the Belém beach) and was originally surrounded by water in all its perimeter. Today incorporated in the dry land, the Tower of Belém is one of the greatest highlights in Portugal.
Classified as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1983, the Belém Tower is the crown jewel of Manueline architecture.
The construction was initiated in 1514 and finalized in 1520, under the project of the architect Francisco de Arruda along with Boitaca, and ordered by king Manuel the 1st.
Symbol of the Royal prestige, the decoration boasts the Manueline iconography, conjugated along with naturalists elements. The monument reflects oriental and Islamic influences, that characterized the Manueline style and indicate the end of the medieval tradition of keep towers, containing the first bulwark for artillery in the country. The most highly decorated side of the Tower is south facing, with its narrow balcony. On the cloistral wall that rises above the bulwark, there is a sculptured image of the Virgin with Child dating back to the 18th century, forming the prow of the tower.
The Gothic interior, under the terrace, that once served as a prison, is very austere, composed by two main elements: the tower and the bulwark.
The visit to the interior of the Belém Tower provides astonishing landscapes over the Tagus river and the charming western side of Lisboa.
The magnificient JERÓNIMOS (Hieronymites) Monastery is considered to be the most prominent monument of Lisbon and certainly the most successful achievement of the Manueline architecture style. The Manueline style, or Portuguese late Gothic, is a sumptuous Portuguese style of architectural ornamentation incorporating maritime elements and representations of the Discoveries, characteristically dated from the first decades of the 16th century.
The construction of Jerónimos Monastery was ordered by the Portuguese king Manuel the 1st, in the site of a modest chapel where departing and arriving seafarers came to pray. King Manuel transformed it into this remarkable monument, a prayer to the Virgin of Belém for the success of Vasco da Gamaâs voyage to India. The construction works started in 1502 with several famous architects and engineers (e.g Diogo Boitaca, Nicolau Chanterene and João de Castilho) and took around 50 years to complete, built mainly with used pedra lioz, a local gold-coloured limestone.
The Monastery withstood the Great Earthquake of 1755 without too much damage. Later, in 1833, the Monastery became vacant by the abolition of the religious orders in Portugal and along with the Napoleon French invasions of the 19th century the building began to deteriorate to the point of almost collapsing,
The Church of Santa Maria has magnificent portals with a brilliant sculpture work,
and a prosperous spacious interior, and both in the Church and in the monastery are the tombs of King Manuel and his descendents and other of Portuguese important individualities, such as Vasco da Gama, the genious poets Luís de Camões and Fernando Pessoa.
In a stretch built in 1850 is nowadays located the national Museum of Archaeology, and on the West side is situated the prestige National Marine Museum.
In 1983 the Monastery was classified by the UNESCO, with nearby Torre de Belém, as a World Heritage Site and is doubtless one of the most delighted places in Lisboa.
The Belém Cultural Centre is an architectonic equipment dedicated to the promotion of arts, functioning as well as a meetings and conferences centre.
The construction was initiated in 1988 and finished in 1993, aiming to fulfil the need of a space to receive the Presidency of the European Union and that, at the same time, would gather the crescent range of cultural activities of the Capital and of the Country.
The project was attributed to the Architects Vittorio Gregotti (Italy) and Manuel Salgado (Portugal), congregating a Meetings and Conference Centre, a Performing Arts Centre, an Exhibition Centre, an Hotel Zone and Complementary Equipment. It occupies nowadays a construction area of 97 thousand square meters, distributed in six hectares separated by two inner streets and united by a pedestrian sideway that creates an unity with the lovely Império Square.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or Monument to the Discoveries, is a monument that celebrates the Portuguese who took part in the Age of Discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries. It is located on the estuary of the Tagus river, in the Belém quarter, where in those days ships used to depart to their often unknown destinations.
The primitive monument that Cottinelli Telmo outlined and Leitão de Barros and Leopoldo de Almeida gave plastic and metal form, was raised in 1940 on the occasion of the Portuguese World Fair and was built with perishable materials. In 1960, for the commemorations marking 500 years since the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, it was rebuilt in concrete.
The monument consists of a 52 metre-high slab of concrete, carved into the shape of the prow of a ship symbolising a caravel, headed by the figure of Prince Henry the Navigator followed by a cortege of 32 leading figures from the Era of the Discoveries.
The façade facing down to the ground takes on the form of a cross decorated by the Sword of the Order of Aviz, the main financial sponsor of the Discovery voyages.
A small space within the monument hosts a multimedia exhibition on the history of Lisboa.
The pavement in front of the monument features a mosaic decoration that was a gift from South Africa in 1960, and shows world map with the routes of various Portuguese explorers and a wind rose.
On the top of the monument (reached via an elevator) one can enjoy wonderful panoramics over the Tagus river, the Belém quarter and all its main treasures, such as the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery.
The National Coach Museum is situated in one of the noble areas of the cosmopolitan Lisboa, the quarter of Belém, on the exquisite ambiance of the old Royal Riding Arena of the Belém Palace.
This is one of the most visited museums in Portugal, presenting an exceptional collection of ceremonial vehicles from the Royal family, dating from 17th Century to late19th Century, considered to be the most remarkable collection in the world of this kind.
The Museum was inaugurated on May 1905, through the efforts of Queen Amélia of Orleans and Bragança, a lady of great sophistication, that was quite aware of the cultural value of the Royal Houseâs ceremonial vehicles.
In the original collection were 29 vehicles, dress uniforms, harnesses and cavalry accessories used by the Royal Family. After the establishment of the Republic in 1910, the Museum was renamed the National Coach Museum and its collection was increased with other vehicles belonging to the Crown, the Patriarchate of Lisbon and some aristocratic houses.
Today the museum has a collection that is considered unique in the world because of the artistic variety of the magnificent ceremonial vehicles from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the number of examples.
Exhibiting Coaches, Berlins, Carriages, Chaises, Cabriolets, Litters, Sedan Chairs and Childrenâs Carts, the Museum allows the visitor to understand the technical and artistic evolution of the means of transport used by the European courts until the appearance of the automobile.