Spread across seven hills and straddling the Tagus River, Lisbon is home to an attention-grabbing Moorish castle, whimsical Manueline architecture nodding to the Age of Discoveries, and vintage trams rattling from one landmark, gallery and hilltop lookout to the next. Here’s Culture Trip’s take on the city’s 20 big-hitters.
With as little as a long weekend on your hands, you can easily do Lisbon’s trophy sights justice. High on any wish list should be the hilltop São Jorge Castle, with its dress-circle views, fortress-like Sé Cathedral, gateway to the alley-woven Alfama quarter, and the Unesco World Heritage wonders of the Belém neighbourhood, where the spirit of Portugal’s maritime past lives on.
If you are staying longer, you’ll have time for day trips to the castles and palaces of Sintra, or to the futuristic Parque das Nações district, where you can discover one of Europe’s most spectacular aquariums.
Lodged in a Baroque palace, just a short hop west of town, this museum harbours one of Lisbon’s most exquisite collections of ancient art. Among the treasures are Egyptian and Roman sculpture, Old Master paintings, Portuguese goldwork dating to the Age of Discoveries, plus precious textiles, lacquered furniture and ceramics from Asia. Renaissance genius Dürer’s painting of St Jerome in His Study (1521) and Nuno Gonçalves’s St Vincent Panels (1460) are unmissable.
Take a selfie in front of Lisbon’s most iconic suspension bridge and you can kid people into thinking you’ve been to San Francisco… That’s because the 2.27km (1.41mi) Ponte 25 de Abril, built by the American Bridge Company in 1966, is pretty much the carbon copy of the Golden Gate Bridge. For more of an insight into its construction and head-spinning views of the city and river, check out the Pillar 7 Bridge Experience.
When most of Lisbon was rocked by the 1755 earthquake, the old Moorish quarter of Alfama stayed standing. With twisting, cobbled alleys leading past higgledy-piggledy houses in pastel colours, this is hands-down one of Lisbon’s most charismatic neighbourhoods. Melancholic fado (Portuguese folk music) drifts from bars, and locals chatter in front of old-school grocery stores and taverns, with the castle peering down from above and the river stretching out below.
The crowning glory of Lisbon’s Graça neighbourhood, this monastery was founded in the 12th century, and then revamped in late-Renaissance Mannerist style in the 17th century. The atmospheric church and cloisters are exquisitely festooned with blue-and-white azulejos that recount the history of the monastery and the 1147 Siege of Lisbon. The vaulted refectory is now a mausoleum for the Kings of the House of Braganza.
Down by the river, discover Lisbon’s captivating square, with its grand 18th-century colonnades, triumphal arch, trams, and equestrian statue of King José I. For the inside scoop on the city’s history from Roman to modern times, check out the Lisbon Story Centre; you can skip the queue by pre-booking tickets. If wine tasting is more your thing, check out the ViniPortugal tasting room.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Nina Santos.