If you’re looking for a lively city with rich history, a vibrant art scene, picturesque beaches and parks, and a colorful nightlife, Lisbon should be on your radar. The charming city offers a unique combination of cultural attractions and pristine beaches, all within close proximity to one another. With no shortage of things to do, Lisbon’s ideal climate and affordability makes it accessible to all types of travellers. To help you get planning and get you acquainted with Lisbon’s quirky character, we put together 5 reasons to love the city.
1. Cristo Rei
Cristo Rei, also known as the monument to Christ, was built in 1959 to thank God for sparing Portugal during the Second World War. Facing the Tagus River towards Lisbon and inspired by the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro, Cristo Rei stands at a view point of 270ft high from ground level, offering a spectacular panorama of the city. Truly a picture-perfect scene with the 25 de Abril bridge set up against the gorgeous city of Lisbon, this should be one of your first stops! It’s always fun to get to see the big-picture before diving into a city.
2. Belem Tower
On the other side of the river and equally as worthwhile and historic, stands the Belem Tower, the ceremonial gateway and defensive structure of Lisbon. This UNESCO World Heritage site was commissioned in the early 16th century to protect Lisbon, with its 6 turrets constructed to house soldiers with guns. The Tower was also a patriotic landmark, acting as the last marker that sailors would see of their homeland as they drifted away. Several statues line the fortress, including Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, who was believed to protect the loyal sailors at sea. Pay homage to the Age of Discoveries in Lisbon by visiting Belem Tower, preferably at sunset!
3. Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
Easily accessible by car or via Lisbon’s highly efficient train system (with either method taking you roughly 30 minutes), the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is a must see for any nature lover. Spanning across the cities of Sintra and Cascais, the park is roughly 145km² in size. Included in the Natural Park is Cabo de Roca, a cape which acts as the western most tip of the European continent. The lush scenery, calming sea, and architectural treasures found at this Natural Park are definitely worthy of a day trip. Visit the Boca de Inferno (Devil’s Mouth) where the Atlantic meets the rock formations and watch the dramatic and beautiful eruption of the waves. Equally exciting are the 51 fossilized dinosaur prints which can be found at Cabo de Roca. Make sure to plan a visit to the Praia Grande Beach, the largest beach on the coastline, perfect for body-boarding and remote relaxation. There’s much to see at Sintra-Cascais, so either allot enough time to travel around the vast park, or pick your must-see spots!
4. St George’s Castle
What would a trip to Lisbon be without a visit to its historical castle? The landmark, which can be seen from almost anywhere in the city due to its location on Lisbon’s highest hill, was fortified by the Romans during the 6th century. Later occupied by the Moors, the castle was captured by Alfonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, in 1147. In dedication to the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373, the oldest active treaty in the world, King Henriques dedicated the castle to Patron Saint of England, St-George. Take a tour of the castle and walk along the ramparts for a beautiful view of the city.
Nestled between St George’s Castle and the Tagus River is the oldest district in Lisbon, Alfama, still representative of its original form. The labyrinths of narrow and winding streets, vibrant smells from the many restaurants, and soothing sounds of traditional Portuguese Fado music makes Alfama the heart and soul of Lisbon. As if the old houses, cobblestone roads, and iconic yellow streetcars weren’t picturesque enough, here you can find several terraces (miradouros) which offer postcard worthy views of the city. Wear some comfy shoes, take in the sights and smells, and sit for a drink at one of the many cafés overlooking the beautiful city.
Have you visited Lisbon? What did you love about the city?