Planning a trip to Lisbon? Here is a list of the most interesting things to see and do in the Portuguese capital:
1. Castelo de São Jorge
A visit to the castle of St George up on the hill above the Alfama district of Lisbon makes a great introduction to the city. You can gaze out over the valley and across to the Bairro Alto or admire the river shimmering far beneath you. The view is worth the climb in itself although the castle is also interesting. After exploring the ruins there is an interesting display and film about the history of the castle and the changing role it has played for the city beneath.
2. Santa Justa’s Elevator
The Santa Justa elevator was designed by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel and this pedigree is visible in the tower, although it has its own little quirks as well. As an activity a ride on the elevator won’t take long, although it has a good view from atop the slightly rickety spiral staircase on top. The elevator is one of the main symbols of Lisbon, however, so a visit is almost mandatory. Visitors with reduced mobility will be the most thankful for the ride as the elevator saves walking up the hill and allows easy access from the centre to the Bairro Alto.
Belem will be on the itinerary of most visitors because it is where (unsurprisingly) the Belem Tower is located and this is another of the iconic sights. The tower is undoubtedly interesting, especially for kids, although the area has other attractions. The Monument to the Discoveries is impressively large and familiar from many school textbooks although it is not as aesthetically pleasing as the classical buildings in the area.
4. Bairro Alto
The main attraction of the Bairro Alto is the atmosphere of the area and the many restaurants and bars, and so there are not many attractions in the traditional sense. There is, however, a tucked away terrace with a spectacular view of Lisbon falling away to where it meets the shimmering river. The Bairro Alto is a former red light district and some seedy aspects remain despite an extensive cleanup operation, visitors with small children may therefore want to avoid the area later in the evening.
5. Lisbon Aquarium
If visitors take the metro line to the Oriente stop they will find themselves in the ultra modern Parque Expo, which can be quite a shock after the charms of the city centre. However, as well as an extensive shopping mall this is also where the world class Lisbon aquarium is housed. Small children will especially lover the prowling sharks and frolicking sea otters, but the aquarium is interesting and rewarding for all visitors, regardless of their age.
Top 5 Lisbon Hotels
- Hotel AC Lisboa – 4-star hotel – double room from €90
- Solplay Aparthotel – 4-star hotel – double room from €98
- Hotel Sana Capitol – 3-star hotel – double room from €85
- Hotel NH Liberdade – 4-star hotel – double room from €162
- Real Palacio Hotel – 5-star hotel – double room from €110
Photo of the Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal, by Pear Biter