Lisbon11 things to do and see in Lisbon and 3 not to do
In the history of Lisbon there are several "before" and "after". The most important event was certainly the earthquake of 1 November 1755 when a series of violent tremors, followed by a tsunami, destroyed much of the city. In addition to the enormous political implications for a colonial power such as Portugal in the XNUMXth century, the Lisbon disaster sparked heated debate across Europe. There were even those who interpreted the catastrophe as a divine punishment for the forced evangelization of the Indians in South America. The fact is, however, that from the rubble of the earthquake came a city even more beautiful than it was, with a sui generis charm which in the following centuries constituted inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists and writers. Another watershed date was the April 25 1974, day of the famous "Carnation revolution" with which the city gave the coup de grace to the agonizing Salazar regime which for 40 years had isolated and impoverished Portugal. There successful democratic transition, in addition to giving back the Lusitanian nation to Europe, it has given back to Lisbon the international prestige it deserved, and which still today characterizes it compared to the rest of the country. Below we see together some of the most beautiful things to visit in the city. Happy reading.
At the beginning we referred to the earthquake of 1755 and to the fact that the city rose from the rubble more beautiful than before. Given this premise, the visit to Lisbon can only start from The Baixa, by far the neighborhood most affected by the earthquake and where traces of the reconstruction carried out since then are still evident Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho and Melo, Marquis of Pombal. Not surprisingly, the neighborhood soon took on the name of "Baixa Pombalina" precisely in accordance with the new characteristics with which the architects appointed by the marquis replaced every remnant of medieval Lisbon. More functional and less aesthetic architectural features, but equally capable of giving a harmonious balance to the whole neighborhood, full of alleys e secondary roads. Not to be missed Commerce Square ("Piazza del Commercio" in Spanish) at the center of which stands the equestrian statue of Joseph I, the king who entrusted the difficult task of reconstruction to the Marquis of PombaI. Very beautiful too Praça Dom Pedro IV, better known as "Rossio".
2 Tram 28
Although not a tourist train, theElectrico 28 is one of postcard images best known of Lisbon. Therefore you cannot say that you have visited the city without at least one ride on one of these vintage trams with their characteristic yellow color that go up and down from Praça Martim Moniz e Campo Ourique, the two terminus which cover a journey of about 40 minutes. Route during which it is advisable to try to stay as close as possible to the windows, to admire the details and views that the city offers in large quantities. According to most, the stretch of line that crosses theAlfama (one of the main districts of Lisbon) is the most suggestive of the whole route. The advice is to go up to one of the two terminus to have a better chance of finding a seat. In fact, tram 28 is always very busy and on board you can really find everything, including (sometimes) pickpockets and daredevil kids without a ticket.
3 Elevador de Santa Justa
There is not only Tram 28 to take. Me too'Santa Giusta lift definitely worth a visit. The "elevadores" are a characteristic of Lisbon, one of the ways in which the inhabitants of the Portuguese capital have relieved the effort of going up and down the steep city streets. Compared to the others, however, the Elevador de Santa Justa is a true work of art. Made between 1898 and 1902 byarchitect Raul Mesnier this lift is a liberty jewel, moreover inserted in an architectural context as precious as the eighteenth century "Baixa Pombalina". A spectacular one awaits you at the top Lisbon sky line. The only advice is to move early in the morning to avoid the long lines that inevitably dampen the enthusiasm of discovery. Not to be missed!
If Baixa is the symbolic neighborhood of Lisbon's rebirth, Alfama preserves it popular spirit. In ancient times the district developed outside the medieval walls, hosting the part of the population excluded from the trades and the comforts of the fortified citadel. Even after the Middle Ages this remained the main feature of the area, inhabited mainly by dockers and sailors. From this social mixture, the urbanistic aspect of the district made of winding streets, stairways (calcadas in Portuguese) flowered balconies e clothes hanging in the sun. A popular environment, in fact, in which it is beautiful to immerse yourself as soon as you get off that tram 28 previously mentioned. At Alfama, among other things, there is really a lot to see: from the Cathedral, to the Castle up to the Roman ruins (Museo do Teatro Romano) the visit to this part of Lisbon does not leave you indifferent. Seeing is believing.
5 Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore
Built in 1150 on the site of an earlier mosque, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore, better known by the abbreviation of "Self" (episcopalis seat), is the main Catholic place of worship in the whole city. Over the centuries it has suffered different transformations, mostly due to the need to cope with the shaking caused by the earthquakes of the 1755th century, and above all by the most famous one of XNUMX. This is briefly explained why the facade is in Romanesque style, while inside we find chapels in Gothic style and the main apse, instead, with its unmistakable Baroque. The imposing crenellated towers warn the visitor of the location of the church. Very nice too circular rose window above the entrance portal. The advice is to go around the building to admire the sculptures (gargoyles) that decorate the external walls.
6 Castle of San Giorgio
In every big city there is a monument that, more than the others, summarizes the history of the entire territory. In Lisbon it is the São Jorge Castle, in the Alfama district, to have this characteristic. Built by Visigoths in the XNUMXth century BC, the fortress was considerably reinforced during the rule of the Mori. In fact, the military who had the task of defending the city (especially the Muslim elite in power) from the menacing advance of Alfonso Henriques. A circumstance that actually occurred in 1147, when the king of Portugal managed to drive the Moors out of Lisbon with the decisive help of the Anglo-Norman fleet direct to the Holy Land. From the 1371th century, to be precise XNUMX, the title a St. George, patron saint of England, wanted by King John I husband of the English noble Phillip of Lancaster. In the XNUMXth century, however, albeit greatly remodeled, the castle survived the terrible earthquake that struck the Portuguese capital. Since then there have been no significant changes in the history of this fortress which, however, with the advent of tourism, soon became one of the main attractions of Lisbon. To see, thepermanent exhibition with the countless artifacts found in the area over a vast period of time, from the seventh century BC C. to the post-earthquake of 1755. For more information visit the official website castelodesaojorge.pt (Spanish version also available).
7 Convent of Carmo
Not far from the Castle of San Giorgio, the Carmo Convent it is another unmissable stop on a visit to Lisbon. The charm of this convent dedicated to "Nossa Senhora do Vencimento do Monte do Carmo" lies in his condition of ruin. A condition that has persisted since 1755 when, as we have seen, a terrible earthquake destroyed the city. So almost 300 years of neglect even if, to be honest, it is only the church that has never been restored, while the premises of the Carmelite convent they have long since been transformed into a museum by'Portuguese Archaeological Association. The fact remains, without taking anything away from the Roman, Visigothic and pre-Columbian vestiges kept in the Arqueologico do Carmo Museum, which are the arches and pillars of the Gothic church the most suggestive element for the many tourists who visit the site daily. So be careful not to forget the camera. Like the Belém Tower of which we will speak later, the light gray of the arches, the coats of arms and the other pieces of the nave in ruins it goes very well with the blue of the sky. Not to be missed!
8 Bairro Alto
After visiting the Carmo Convent, the most culturally significant site in the whole of Bairro Alto, is taking us on a stroll through the narrow and uphill alleys of the neighborhood. In this case, the first thing that catches the eye is the rationality with which the roads were designed in opposition to the Alfama's “spontaneity”. The urban differences reflect those of class, even if the different social composition over time has become decidedly more nuanced, until it disappears completely. To say, in the streets of Cais do Sodrè in the south of Bairro, for years the main activity was prostitution. Only recently has there been a radical cleaning up of the area, transforming what used to be a degraded corner of the city into heart of Lisbon nightlife (the speech should be extended to the entire neighborhood). Bairro alto, in fact, is the neighborhood where there is greater concentration of restaurants, bars and clubs where it is very pleasant to stop and eat, drink and listen to music. Especially the fado, traditional Portuguese music not surprisingly below UNESCO protection. Absolutely not to be missed Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara, a wonderful panoramic point accessed by funicular (Elevador da Gloria) or on foot.
9 Tower of Belém
In Lisbon there is the “pombalino” and the “Manueline” style. The first, we have seen, refers to the architectural legacy of the Marquis of Pombal, architect of the city reconstruction after the terrible one-two, earthquake plus tsunami, which destroyed Lisbon on 1 November 1755. With the "Manueline" style, instead, it refers to the works carried out during the reign (1495 -1521) of Manuel I of Portugal (1469 - 1521). Together with the Monastery of San Geronimo (see next paragraph) the Tower of Belém is the most precious testimony of this mix between late Gothic and Renaissance thought to celebrate the colonial power of Portugal. Not surprisingly, the fortress is UNESCO World Heritage Site even if, unlike the Monastery of San Geronimo, it is above all the exterior, rich in stone decorations, that bears traces of more sophisticated solutions from an architectural point of view. The interior, on the other hand, leaves less room for creativity, consistent with the defensive function of this tower built on the bank of the Tagus River. Ultimately, therefore, the Tower of Belém certainly deserves a visit, bearing in mind however that the greatest suggestions are due to the interaction with the wonderful surrounding context. For more information visit the Official site: www.torrebelem.pt.
10 Monastery of San Girolamo
If you need a blue sky or a summer twilight to bring out all the beauty of the Belém Tower, the Jeronimos Monastery (so called because until 1833 it was ruled by Monks of the order of San Girolamo) does not need particular atmospheric conditions to shine. We are in the presence of the Portugal's most impressive symbol of power during the so-called "Age of Discoveries". Manuel I had the monastery built on the site of an old hermitage where, in 1502, Vasco da Gama he had spent the last night with his fleet before setting sail for the Indies. That expedition ensured Portugal a monopoly on the spice trade, and therefore celebrating the enterprise with dignity was an absolutely necessary act for the King. To do this he ordered thearchitect Doigo Boitaca the realization of this beautiful monastery where everything - from church al southern portal passing through the cloister - it really has something fairytale about it. Finally a curiosity. In 1985, on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, the remains of Fernando Pessoa (1888 -1935), one of the greatest Portuguese poets and writers of the 900th century, were moved inside the monastery near those of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões, universally considered the leading Portuguese poet. For more information on the timetables, prices and activities that take place inside the monastery (which, we remember, is UNESCO World Heritage Site), visit the Official site: www.mosteirojeronimos.pt.
If you like aquariums you should definitely visit the one in Lisbon. Bull sharks, puffers, sunfish, puffins, penguins, sea otters and many other species are present in this aquarium which is located inside the Park of Nations (Nations Park in Portuguese), a residential area of the city built in conjunction with EXPO 1998. For dimensions theLisbon Oceanarium it is second only to the Valencia Aquarium and if it plays with that of Genoa. In short, an opportunity not to be missed, especially if you travel with children in tow. The only precaution is that of buy tickets online directly on the aquarium site (www.oceanario.pt) to avoid the queues at the entrance.
1 Beware of pickpockets
This is a topic we have already touched upon when talking about tram 28, but it also applies to the other lines. Don't worry though. A few simple tricks, such as avoiding keeping your wallet in the back pocket of your pants and, more generally, showing off valuables, and there is nothing else to fear.
2 Pay attention to the choice of restaurant
That of the "Tourist traps" it is a topic that we have already faced when talking about Rome. The phenomenon is also present in Lisbon so the advice is to pay proper attention to the choice of restaurant. In the case of the Portuguese capital you will do well to doubt the formulas “food plus fado show“, As well as of all those places where the classic is at the door "Buttadentro" which invites potential patrons to enter. Today, however, it is not difficult to take measures on these aspects, just read them in advance reviews or, if there is a way, seek advice from someone who has previously visited the city. Better still ask for advice from someone from the place provided, of course, that it is not an interested party, as for example the hotel reception staff could be (not necessarily) (click here for recommended hotels).
3 Don't just visit museums and monuments
Without taking anything away from local art, culture and history, Lisbon is also one city where it's nice to be outdoors, going to the discovery of its innumerable architectural details e panoramic views. For this reason we have not dwelt too much on museums and other points of interest that would have deserved a mention (above all the Palace of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Obviously, nothing prevents you from acting differently, perhaps with the "spirit" mentioned above: letting yourself be guided by the city, without necessarily planning every aspect of your holiday.