You may wonder why «Blue Lisbon»…well, I haven´t seen a sky so intensely blue in any other European capital. I went to Lisbon a couple of years ago with all my previous research done, so I knew ahead many things, such as «where to eat» or «the top things to do», the usual stuff. I wasn´t prepared to admire a sky with such a powerful color, I couldn´t stop staring at! Without any doubt Lisbon is much more than what you find on travelers´ blogs. It´s picturesque, colorful and with a lot more to offer than one can preview. And as a bonus, prices in food, accommodation and clothes are pretty affordable. Lisbon is not one of the traditional European capitals: people move at their own pace, talk to each other on the streets and the ambiance is very friendly. Yes, I love Lisbon!
«Mosteiro dos Jerónimos» (Jeronimos Monastery)
If I where to go back (wish I can do that shortly!), I would start with the classic visit to the Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos). It´s an amazing building from the 16th century with a particular design: the «Manueline», which is a late Gothic Portuguese architectural style. The ornamentation is rich, with maritime elements and others that reflect the voyages around the world discoveries endured from those times such as botanic and animal topics from new continents.
The Monastery hosts the Church of Santa Maria. Make a stop at the entrance because itÂ´s gorgeous. Take your time to look at the details! Then enjoy the inside: it has 2 floors, with huge columns and a beautiful altar. The tombs of royal people are in the lower floor.
Then head to the Cloisters. Everything there is so quiet, one can feel the atmosphere from the monks´ time. Long corridors will guide you along with a small garden in the middle.
How to get there: if you are in central Lisbon take the tramway 15 to Belem. Please, be aware of pickpocketers!
Tip: The Monastery is closed on Mondays.
«Pasteis de Belem» Pastry Store
After visiting the Monastery indulge yourself in the famous sweet shop «Pasteis de Belem». You might find a line outside the shop because many tourists and locals stop by only to buy the well-known «pasteis» (a pastry with a creamy and delicious filling) very typical and traditional from the Portuguese kitchen. The store opened in 1837 and is also worth seeing it from the inside. You won´t regret it! Of course you can grab a table and have a coffee with other specialties, everything there is yummy! You can also make reservations online. http://pasteisdebelem.pt/en/
«Museo Nacional dos Coches» (National Coach Museum)
The National Coach Museum («Museo Nacional dos Coches») displays an amazing collection of antique carriages of from the 16th to the 19th centuries, most of them from the Royal House of Portugal. I couldn´t believe my eyes, and as far as I know, the collection keeps growing!
«Museo Coleccion Berardo» (Museum of Modern Art, Berardo)
If you´re a fan museum, after those incredible places, you can visit the Berardo Collection, with a remarkable modern art painting collection.
«Torre de Belem» (Belem Tower)
Built between 1514 and 1520, Belem used to be a defensive tower due to its excellent view of the Tagus river. I wouldn´t hesitate to finish the day here, enjoying the sunset in this beautiful fortress.
If you still keep some energy and like nostalgic music take your time to see a «Fado» concert. It´s the local music, sentimental and longing.
Marquess of Pombal Square
This square marks the beginning of Avenida da Liberdade, one of the most lively streets in Lisbon. This roundabout point has a statue of Sebastiao José de Carvalho e Melo, the first Marquess of Pombal, from the 18th century. He governed along year 1755 during the terrible earthquake that bet Lisbon. A lion -symbol of power- stands beside the statue.
Keep walking through Avenida da Liberdade, which was designed following the model of the Champs de Elysees Avenue in Paris, with boulevards and rich ornamentation and buildings. Here you´ll find nice restaurants and top brand clothing stores.
Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio Trainstation
The Rossio train station is located in the middle of the Avenida da Liberdade. Designed by the architect Jose Luis Monteiro, the station was built by the end of the 19th century. The facade has a Neo-Manueline beautiful ornamentation. One wouldn´t guess that behind that gorgeous front stands a train station, because it reminds more of an embassy or a museum. It has an amazing entrance with elegant arches. We took the train to Sintra from here and it departed super sharp!
«Praca da Figueira» (Da Figueira Square -Baixa district)
These square stands next to Rossio station. It´s always pretty crowded with people and street vendors working around. Beautiful buildings and open-air cafes surround the place and offers great views from St. George´s Castle on the left side of the square.
Elevador de Santa Justa (St. Justa´s Elevator)
This is the typical tourist viewpoint. A «must do» you will see recommended in every webpage or tourist guide. It´s a lift near Da Figueira Square and it carriages people from the Baixa district to the «Do Carmo» Church ruins. Modeled in iron its top offers a remarkable viewpoint of the whole Lisbon, its beautiful rooftops and hills.
Carmo Archaeological Museum and Church
A hallway connects the St Justa´s Elevator with the «Convento do Carmo» Church. It´s a beautiful church that lost its roof completely during the 1755 earthquake (8.9 degrees earthquake) that shook Lisbon and destroyed a big part of the city. So, it can be defined more as a ruin than a church. The roof fell on the night of the festivity of All Saints, killing many people who were attending the services, without giving them time to escape. Also a huge fire ignited from the candles inside, explaining why this Gothic style church, very important at that time, shows its walls burnt.
Only the arches that supported the huge roof remained. I will always remember how quiet the place felt as if time had stopped there (in fact, we were the only visitors at that moment). I looked up and shivered, for the contrast between the sky and the ruins was absolutely thrilling! It was at that precise instant I realized how blue Lisbon´s sky is!
We took our time to appreciate the place, the silence, the history. Then we stepped into the Do Carmo Archaeological Museum («Museu Arquelogico do Carmo»). The museum keeps archaeological objects and findings in a very eclectic way. One can find mummies (not the sweetest visit!) but also objects from the fortress near Azambuja, which belonged to the years 3.500 to 1500 BC. It also hosts Gothics tombs and tiles.
«Castelo de Sao Jorge» (St. George´s Castle)
The St. George´s Castle («Castelo de Sao Jorge») is a Moorish castle standing on one of Lisbon hilltops. Built in the 10th century it provides with a stunning view of the Tagus river, reason that made that hill a landmark to build a defensive fortress, many civilizations prior to the Moorish, such as the Celts, the Phoenicians, the Greeks and even the Romans. It really gives a domain view of the Tagus river and the city. The fortress was later rebuilt by the Moorish (one can see some similitudes with the Moorish castle in Sintra). After the Christian conquest, the castle became the residence of Governor Afonso III. However, the fort was severely damaged by the 1755 earthquake that shook Lisbon.
How to get there:
– Bus 37 goes directly up to the main entrance.
– Tram 28 leaves you very close but requires a short walk.
Please, notice that this visit it´s not a suitable place for people with limited mobility.
The National Pantheon
Also known as St. Engracia Church, the Pantheon was built where before stood a church. It´s a modern building that holds the tombs of many Portuguese presidents and other important national figures. It has the shape of a Greek cross and it´s crowned with a beautiful dome. The building is so amazingly white and so peaceful inside that it seems timeless. Please, remember to go outside the cupule to appreciate a unique sight from the city´s rooftops and the river.
«Arco da Rua Augusta» (Augusta St. Arch)
Built after the earthquake, the Arch was modeled to be a symbol of Lisbon´s rebirth. However, the first building was demolished (it didn´t satisfy the expectations) and was later rebuilt by architect Verissimo da Costa. The upper part of the facade has 3 important sculptures that represent important Portuguese virtues such as Glory, Courage and Genius. Go to the viewpoint on the top to catch an excellent perspective of the Tagus river and the Comercio Square while the sun goes down. There´s a lift that will lead you to the top. Once back down stroll along Rua Augusta to look at the amazing clock.
Afterwards perhaps it´s time for dinner, a show or simply to rest!