What to do in Lisbon – Lisbon is an interesting city. In Lisbon, you can find interesting attractions and something you can’t miss in Lisbon are all its panoramic viewpoints. Lisbon in fact has been built on several hills and this creates many good panoramic viewpoints upon different parts of the city.
Is this your first time in Lisbon Portugal? Do you want to know what to see in Lisbon? No Problem! In this post, you find the TOP 10 things to see in Lisbon.
TOP 10 Things to do in Lisbon
This is our list of 10 things to see in Lisbon:
- Commerce Square
- The museum of the history of Lisbon which is located in the square of commerce
- Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
- Lisbon Castle or Castle of São Jorge
- Belem Tower
- Lisbon Oceanarium
- Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
- Cableway of the ex Fiera area
- Miradouro da Graça
- Fado show
1. Commerce Square
Commerce Square is at the top of our list of what to do in Lisbon and what to see. This is, in fact, the main point of the city. This square was designed and built after the terrible earthquake that devastated the city in 1755.
This historical place has always been an important point for Lisbon. Lisbon has a long history of trading with distant lands. Exotic goods arrived at this point first from Africa and then from Brazil.
The trade and the number of goods were so important to the city that at one point, the royal residence was even moved from the hill to the vicinity of the ship landing. In this way, the king could control the riches that arrived in the city.
All this until the drastic earthquake of 1755 destroyed the city and which was the starting point for a change of appearance of the city itself.
After initial disorientation on the part of the population, the projects for the new Lisbon were launched. Some wanted to move it to an area not affected by the earthquake, some wanted to rebuild it as it was, but the project that was approved was to destroy to rebuild, then rebuild the city with a completely new face, giving the off to the first modern city of Europe.
2. The museum of the history of Lisbon
Staying in Commerce Square, there is an interesting museum that is worth visiting in Lisbon. This museum is on our list of what to see in Lisbon, not so much because it contains particular objects but because it makes you better understand where you are and lets you experience Lisbon’s history.
This museum is indeed a guide through the history of Lisbon from its birth to the present day. Everything is done in a non-monotonous way (indeed!) With audio and video. It is an excellent starting point for visiting the city.
3. Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
Lisbon stretches from the river up the surrounding hills. This location gives the city several Miradouros. In our list of what to see in Lisbon, we have included several. Among all, however, the one we prefer is the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
From here we have a fantastic view of the Lisbon Castle of the Tagus River and the city below. The climb to get here is felt but the view pays off the effort. Alternatively, you can choose to be carried 😉 by one of the characteristics Lisbon Tuk.
4. Lisbon Castle or Castle of São Jorge
What to do in Lisbon? You can’t say to have well visited this city without visiting Lisbon Castle.
City walls surround the old city center and the castle. To visit the city castle, you should enter this historic area. To understand better what we are visiting, we want to know something more about Lisbon’s History.
At the Lisbon castle, there are also a few beautiful peacocks. They are very unexpected inhabitants of the castle 😉
Castles had to resist to prolonged siege. To this purpose, they have various structural features to make access, penetration, and destruction more difficult.
Their physical grandiosity had to dissuade potential enemies when they saw the castle from far away. Their location depended on the topography of the terrain, taking advantage of steep areas.
Features that improved castle defenses and prevented besiegers from taking over the castle included the height and thickness of the walls and towers, reinforced entranceways defended by turrets, and elbow-shaped entrances, among others.
The Lisbon Castle is on the top of the hill, in the most challenging place to access. It was making use of the natural slopes to the north and west.
The Lisbon castle’s elevated position allows the visitors to see it from different city areas and have a beautiful Lisbon view from the castle courtyard and windows.
Although it was repeatedly rebuilt over the centuries, it retains its original square plan with two courtyards separated by a curtain wall and many towers. In particular, we have the Tower of the Keep, Tower of Ulysses, Palace Tower, Cistern Tower, and the Tower of St. Lawrence situated on the hillside.
Ruins of older structures and a cistern still remain in a second courtyard. Also found within this courtyard is a small door on the northern wall called the Door of Treason, which allowed secret messengers to enter or exit if needed. Three sets of steps leading up the sides of the walls provide access to the towers and the ramparts, one in the first courtyard and two in the second.
TOWERS, CURTAIN WALLS (DEFENSIVE WALLS BETVVEEN TOWERS) AND TURRETS
Usually adjoining the curtain walls, towers are some of the most outstanding elements of castles. Normally they are taller than the watts and placed at strategic points. Like the walls, the towers are built to withstand attack and are situated according to the layout of the wall, which itself depends on the characteristics of the terrain.
Placed at corners or at the middle of a wall, towers are spaced accordingly to defend both the walls between them as well as one wall from another. The battlements were meant to protect soldiers while making the rounds as well as during battle, enabling them to aim at their target while under protection.
THE MOAT, BARBICAN (FORTIFIED GATEWAY) AND ELBOW-CURVE SYSTEM
These construction features were meant to reinforce the forces passíve defenses, further impeding access to the interior. The moat O prevented machinery from approaching the walls, aided by the slope of the barbican’s outer wall. The barbican was set ín front of the walls and cowers with a walled road or neck O linking them.
The elbow-curve system of the barbican gate ID further impeded invaders from advancing along the neck. It crapped them in a narrow curved corridor under crossfire from soldiers in the cowers and turrets, thus slowing their entrance into the castle. The gate to the castle also had an elbow-curve system that funneled invaders into an area under heavy attack from watchmen on the ramparts.
Lisbon and the Walls
In the 11th and 12th centuries, Lisbon had an urban model similar to that of other medieval cities located on hilltops and urban design. Stilt showed signs of its Roman legacy. With natural defense conditions that allowed surveilling the Tagus and its surrounding area, it had, at the top, the “Alcacova” (citadel), the city’s privileged area with its own wall that included the castle, residential areas for the elites and religious buildings.
The south section of this enclosure, whose shape dates back, at least, to the 17th century, still has two semicircular towers and two gates. The urban center, which was also walled, grew along the hillside towards the riverside and included the largest mosque, which would later be turned into the Cathedral, housing quarters, a market and the public baths.
With a paramount role in defense, the walls were also a symbol that marked the city’s boundary within the walls and the surrounding area (suburbs), predominantly rural.
THE “CERCA VELHA” WALL IN THE URBAN SPACE
Being a structuring and essential element of the city’s defenses, the “Cerca Velha” Wall (Old War) underwent successive repairs and changes, many of which were related to the evolution of fortifications and siege methods.
This wall’s partial dismantling resulted from the construction of the Fernandine wall (1373-1375), a defense line that integrated new areas to the east and west of the initial urban core. The old wall was progressively adjusted to the ongoing urban evolution due to the city’s reorganization during the Manueline (1495-1521) and Pombaline periods (after the earthquake of 1755) to the various needs that occasionally emerge, even today.
The ‘Cerca Velha” Wall is still a living structure, which remains partially integrated or visible in the layout of the current urban fabric. The buildings’ alignment, the main roads or the arches that exist by the riverside, memories of old gates and wickets are references that still allow us to rediscover the medieval urban landscape today.
5. The Belem Tower
The Belem Tower: history
King John II (1455-1495) conceived a pioneering plan for the defense of Lisbon. He planned the Tower of Cascais’ construction and the crossing of fire between the Tower of S. Sebastiao on the south bank and a barge anchored in the middle of the Tagus river. King Manuel I completed this project when he commissioned Francisco de Arrudo to build the Belem Tower between 1514 and 1519.
The Belem Tower loses strategic importance and becomes successively a prison (1589), a customs post (1655), a telegraph station (1810), and a lighthouse (1895). Major restoration works took place in the 19th (1846) and 20th centuries.
The Belem Tower: The drawbridge
The drawbridge of the Belem Tower, combined with a portcullis and several openings on the entrance ceiling through which projectiles were launched, made access by invaders difficult.
6. Oceanarium Lisbon
In the Lisbon big aquarium, we can admire a lot of fish. The more particular among all these fishes is the Ocean sunfish.
Ocean sunfish are the largest bony fish in the World, reaching more than three meters in length and weighing over two tons! This fish often lies on its side on the water surface to sunbathe.
This behavior helps it adjust the body temperature and it also allows birds to pick parasites off their skin. Ocean sunfish spend much time drifting near the ocean surface. For this reason, they are vulnerable to fishing boats that use drift gillnets and other fishing methods that target other species.
7. Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
We chose this Miradouro because it gives a full view of the Alfama district. From this panoramic terrace, you can clearly see the castle, the cathedral of Lisbon, and part of the city’s new part.
This panoramic terrace has an opposite location compared to other Miradouros. For example, this is true for the Miradouro da Graça and the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
Watch the following video to admire the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara too.
8. Cableway of the ex 1998 Expo area
The cable car connects the Oceanarium with the modern district of the former fair area. The Park of Nations cable car was inaugurated in March 1998, during the World Exhibition in Lisbon.
It is placed on our list of what to see in Lisbon as it offers a pleasant experience of seeing the new part of Lisbon from a slightly different perspective.
Watch the following video and retrace the highlights of the Lisbon cable car ride with us. We start from the Lisbon aquarium and arrive at the other end of the cable, in the expo ’98 district’s heart.
9. Miradouro da Graça
As promised, another Miradouro or viewpoint could not be missing from our list of what to see in Lisbon.
We place Miradouro da Graça not among the top positions because the view is quite similar to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, even if not of equal beauty. The climb is shorter and I think this is a great advantage for many.
10. Fado show
Attending a Fado show you will cheer up with traditional music and dance.
The 5 best panoramic views of Lisbon
- Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
- Lisbon Castle Castle of São Jorge
- Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
- Cableway of the ex Fiera area
- Miradouro da Graça
1. Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
2. Lisbon Castle: St George Castle viewpoint (Miradouro do Castelo de São Jorge)
3. Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
4. Cableway of the ex Fiera area
5. Miradouro da Graça
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TOP 10 What to do in Lisbon
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