For architecture lovers, there’s plenty to discover in Lisbon. The city is home to a wide variety of architectural styles, from ancient castles and Medieval cathedrals to a minimalist modern pavilion, with must-see buildings scattered in every corner of the Portuguese capital. This list highlights some of the most remarkable and dramatic of them all.
The striking plaza close to the River Tagus is the largest square in Lisbon. The bright yellow buildings that surround the Praça do Comércio make this landmark unique, and attract plenty of tourists and photographers. The area once held the royal palace after the Portuguese royalty left the Castelo de São Jorge, but it was destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, with the square built in its wake. Today, it’s home to the Rua Augusta Arch, designed by the Portuguese architect Santos de Carvalho and completed in 1873. The buildings that circle the square hold a few government buildings, including the tourism office, as well as one of the hottest Lisbon nightclubs, several restaurants and a sophisticated winery. The square also goes by the name Terreiro do Paço and is known as “Commerce Square” in English.
The bright white Oriente Station is the main entrance and exit for travellers heading in and out of Lisbon by train or bus and is known locally as the Gare do Oriente. The maritime theme of Expo ’98 is mirrored in the station’s wave-like beams at the entrance, and the building itself is an interesting mix of Gothic architecture and modernism. The juxtaposition between the Gothic concrete arches and the more futuristic latticework of the two-level station makes it worth the attention of architecture fans. At the ground level, you’ll find the bus station, as well as cafés, banks and shops, while the bottom level is the entrance of the metro and home to small markets. Meanwhile, the upper level is for trains.
Designed by architect José Luís Monteiro in the late 19th century, the Rossio train station reflects the typical Portuguese Neo-Manueline architecture, which was popular in the middle of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The Estação do Rossio may not receive as many travellers as the Oriente Station, but it attracts plenty of design-interested visitors who come to gaze at the splendidly designed stone arches, beautiful clock tower and lofty ceiling inside. This station is also the one to leave from when travelling to Sintra, one of Europe’s loveliest cities.
The Pavilhão de Portugal (Pavilion of Portugal) is a perfect vision of gravity-defying architecture. Designed by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, who also designed the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, the pavilion was meant to look like a curved sheet of paper sitting between two pillars. The awe-inspiring roof, which architect lovers should take the chance to stand underneath when visiting, weighs an incredible 1,400 tonnes. The Pavilhão de Portugal was created for the 1998 World Expo that regenerated the Parque das Nações area and is connected to a museum belonging to the University of Lisbon.
Lisbon cityscapes depicting the Alfama district always show the National Pantheon, which is rather hard to miss in this part of the city. It is centrally located near the site of the famous open-air flea market Feira da Ladra and stands out with its massive white dome. Its Baroque architecture is paired with Greek-inspired decor, making the National Pantheon a unique building and an exciting place to visit for those interested in architecture. Also known by its original name, the Church of Santa Engrácia, the original church was built in the 16th century but was vandalised in 1630. The rebuilding of the church, which took over 300 years to complete, was said to be cursed by the man who was erroneously convicted and executed for the building’s desecration.
Sitting slightly uphill from the National Pantheon is the Igreja de São Vicente de Fora, another magnificent church in this Catholic city. Constructed in the 17th century, it also serves as a monastery and the final resting place of some of Portugal’s monarch families. The Mannerist exterior and interior are both stunning and include the pantheon, Baroque altarpieces, a collection of Baroque azulejos (tiles) and a few statues. The side and top exterior of the Igreja de São Vicente de Fora are easily visible from the Portas do Sol viewpoint, along with the National Pantheon, but nothing beats getting up close and personal.
The Vasco da Gama Tower (Torre Vasco da Gama) is without a doubt among the more noteworthy landmarks in Parque das Nações, Lisbon, and not just for its eye-catching architecture but also because it is the tallest structure in the city. Named after the famous Portuguese explorer and standing at 145 metres (476 feet) tall, it is a striking building that was originally intended to be an observation deck but was later converted into a luxury hotel. Like many other famous Lisbon buildings, it was constructed for the World Expo 1998, and you’ll find it shining by the river behind Oriente Station. Unfortunately, only guests of the hotel are allowed into the observation deck at the top.
Additional reporting by Cajsa Carlson.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.