Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, LisbonRegarded as Lisbon’s most important
landmark, the construction of this stunning monastery began in 1502 and
was completed before the end of the century. The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
thankfully managed to survive the great earthquake in 1755, unlike most
of the city. It was constructed by Manuel I during the affluent years
following the discovery of the seaway to India and it is the finest example
of Manuel-architecture in Lisbon. The magnificent two-story monastery
is garland ornamented with stone shelves, sea monsters and other maritime
symbols. It was traditional for Portuguese seafarers to pray in the chapel
before their departure to the unknown.
The National Tile Musueum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)
The National Tile Museum houses an amazing collection of decorative tiles
both foreign and Portuguese dating from the 15th century to present.
Castelo de Sao Jorge (Sao Jorge Castle)
Inhabited since Phoenician times, the site of this castle has witnessed
countless visitors from the Romans to the Moors. This ruined 13th-century
palace also served as the principal palace of Portuguese kings for more
than 300 years. The 360 degree view of Lisbon and its environs from the
castle ramparts is simply stunning.
Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum)
King Luis founded the Maritime Museum on July 22nd 1863. It is now regarded
as one of the most important maritime museums in Europe. It features over
17,000 items including a massive photographic archive and 1,500 archives
of ships’ plans and drawings. You cannot miss three anchors from
Columbus’s Nina at the entrance to the museum and there are some
fascinating displays and models based on the Portuguese discoveries.
The Alfama district is located in the old town of Lisbon and is still
wonderfully picturesque with narrow winding streets and colorful overhanging
buildings. Unfortunately, none of the Moorish buildings remain due to
the earthquake of 1755 but the layout of the streets gives you a good
idea of what it might have been like. Take a stroll around the area and
soak up the atmosphere.
With narrow lanes of residential houses and grocery stores, it has a
distinct village atmosphere; you can quickly feel like an intruder if
you take a wrong turn into someone's backyard. Early morning is the best
time to catch a more traditional scene, when women sell fresh fish from
their doorways. For a real rough-and-tumble atmosphere, visit during the
Festas dos Santos Populares in June.
The Bairro Alto is famous for its nightlife, although the Parque das Nações
and riverside areas are now giving it a run for its money. There is no
shortage of bars and clubs, in fact, your greatest problem could be keeping
up with the resident party crowd, who start late and often continue till
dawn. The Bairro Alto, meaning the Upper City, is the trendiest area of
Lisbon. Fortunately many of its buildings survived the 1755 earthquake,
and today the narrow cobblestone streets and alleys are lined with ancient
buildings making it a fascinating place to stroll during the day. The
area is intensely colorful and full of life. The Bairro Alto is probably
best experienced at night, being home to some of the best fado (traditional
Portuguese music) cafes in Lisbon, as well as a host of diverse bars discos
Rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, the Baixa's wide avenues and pedestrianised
Rua Augusta are a great place to shop and have coffee. The area's highlight
is the Elevador de Santa Justa. This imposing wrought-iron lift offers
an easy ride up to the Bairro Alto, plus a rooftop cafe with views to
Built in 1902 by Gustave Eiffel follower Raul Mésnier du Ponsard,
the lift has more than a passing resemblance to the Eiffel Tower.
Avoid the touristy umbrella-topped cafes below and save your coffee break
for this still touristy but far more elegant architectural gem. Time your
visit to enjoy a drink at sunset.
The Belem Tower is located on the banks of the Tagus River. Built in 1521
as a monument to the Portuguese discoveries and as a lookout tower, it
resembles a miniature castle. Originally, the tower stood farther out
in the river but after centuries of silting the riverbanks have merged
with the tower. It incorporates many motifs of maritime life.
We would be remiss if we didn't tell you to visit the Cristo Rei, over
the river in Cacilhas. A smaller version of Brazil's giant Jesus, this
religious icon with arms outstretched has major kitsch value.
There is a gift-shop that is an Ali Baba cave of over-the-top gilt and
bejewelled Cristo Rei everything. Do yourself a favour and don't miss
this hotbed of religious craftsmanship. The views from the top of the
monument aren't half bad either.
The Se Cathedral
Lisbon's cathedral, (the Se) was built by Portugal’s first king,
Dom Afonso Henriques (1109-1185). It was damaged extensively during the
great earthquake of 1755 and rebuilt in an earlier style, and is a mixture
of Gothic and Romanesque styles. Parts of the twin towers, the rose window,
the naves, and the vestry are part of the original 13th-century building.
The gothic cloister was a 14th century addition and is decorated in tiles
depicting the Song of Solomon. The chapel of St. Vincent was built in
the 16th century while the main chapel was built in the 17th century.
The Vasco da Gama Aquarium
Portugal’s largest aquarium was opened in 1898 during the Expo events
in Lisbon. It houses more than 200 species. There are exhibitions of aquatic
life from all over the world as well as a special exhibition on invertebrates
from the Portuguese coastline. There are also many educational exhibits
detailing current environmental issues and explaining the workings of
the world’s oceans.
Situated on the northern slopes of the craggy Serra de Sintra,
Sintra's lush vegetation and spectacular mountaintop views have lured
admirers since the times of the early Iberians, who found the ridge so
mystical they called it the Mountain of the Moon and made it a centre
of cult worship (some of its strange effects are actually caused by massive
deposits of iron ore).
Sintra put itself on the international art map when this museum opened
in 1997 in Sintra's neoclassical former casino in Estefânia. It's
got some of the world's best postwar art (including a particularly strong
selection of pop art). Among the 350 or so pieces displayed are works
by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Pollock and Kossoff. Check out the top-floor
cafe, too, with its open-air terrace and good views.
The Sintra region is increasingly popular for mountain biking and hiking.
A favourite walking trail is from Sintra-Vila to Castelo dos Mouros, a
relatively easy 50-minute hike. The energetic can continue to Palácio
Nacional da Pena (another 20 minutes) and up to the Serra de Sintra's
highest point, the 529m-high (1735ft) Cruz Alta, which offers spectacular
North of Sintra, Mafra too has its very own folly - its famously extravagant
Palácio Nacional de Mafra. This palace-cum-monastery-cum-basilica
was created by Dom João V in the 18th century. Outlandishly baroque
and neoclassical, it was the ultimate exercise in indentured labour. An
incredible 20,000 artisans worked on the project (ballooning out to 45,000
in the final two years) and were kept in line by 7000 soldiers. In true
karmic fashion, the enormous cost of the project destroyed the economy,
and the palace was used only briefly before the royal family fled the
French invasion of Portugal in 1799. Amid the 230m/754ft-long corridors
look out for the 18th-century pinball machines in the games room, and
the library. The latter is a magnificent 88m/288ft-long barrel-vaulted
baroque 'room', with 40,000 books dating from the 15th century.For something
a little more unusual, hunt out the Centro de Recuperação
de Lobo Ibérico (Iberian Wolf Recovery Centre), 10km (6mi) northeast
of Mafra. Portugal has only 200 or so Iberian wolves left in the wild.
Those that have been trapped, snared or kept in dire conditions find a
home in the centre's 17 hectares (42 acres) of secluded woodland. It's
not a zoo, so sightings of the wolves aren't guaranteed. Your best chance
of getting up close and personal with a lobo is when they emerge in the
cool of dusk. Getting there involves a bus from Mafra to Malveira, a change
to Vale da Guarda on the Torres Vedras route, and a short walk. If this
seems too hard you can always support the centre by 'adopting' a wolf.
The Botanical Gardens Jardim Botanico (Estufa Fria)
The Botanical Gardens are located in Parque Eduardo VII and are a real
delight. The unusual ‘cold greenhouse’ or Estufa Fria houses
an amazing collection of tropical plants set in the midst of mock waterfalls
and grottoes. There is also a ‘hothouse’ or Estufa Quente
in the garden which contains an enormous collection of arid desert flora.