Things to Do
Sights are conveniently clustered around central Lisbon. Also see museums further below.
Baixa, the city’s central valley and its heart, sweeps more or less from the pleasant Avenida Liberdade, past the gorgeous Rossio train station to two plazas, Dom Pedro and da Figueira, before hitting tourist overload in the pedestrian area around the odd elevator of Santa Justa. Baixa terminates at Praca do Comercio by the river, a good place to catch trams or open-top tourist buses.
Chiado and Barrio Alto are on a low hill west of Baixa and showcase the posh side of the city – smart shops and good restaurants, with a couple of museums and two special churches – roofless but superbly atmospheric Carmo Church and gold, marble, azuleja packed Sao Roque.
Igreja do Carmo, Chiado
A reminder of the power of nature, this huge church, built in 1423, was zapped by the great quake of 1755 and remains roofless to this day. The spectacular external ambience lends itself perfectly to occasional theatrical performances, while the interior bit that still stands houses an interesting little archeological museum with some bizarre religious relics.
The best time for tourists to visit is early or late when shadows exaggerate the oddity of the open-top structure. Open 10am-5pm in winter (Oct-March) and 10am-6pm in summer (April-Septemeber).
The Bairro Alto, on a hill looking across Baixa to dishevelled Alfama, is Lisbon’s alternative and arty tourist zone, an area of more-or-less wide streets, interesting shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. It also contains a couple of museums, several churches including Igreja de Sao Roque with its amazingly luxurious interior, and some excellent viewpoints.
Sao Jorge Castle viewpoint.
Alfama, Castelo and Graca, on hills east of Baixa, offer the dark side of life – tangled little medieval streets, decaying tenements, and clubs of every description including saddo Fado.
Topping the hill is the city’s best viewpoint, Sao Jorge Castle and the splendid story-telling azulejos of the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora.
Belem, a little further west and Vasco da Gama’s departure point for his Discovery tour, Belem contains the fabulous Jeronimos Monastery (see below), the quaintly elaborate Belem tower (see below) – both Manueline classics, the ship-like Monument to the Discoveries (also below), some excellent museums and a clutch of funky clubs.