The Praça do Comércio is the largest of the city’s grand plazas. This was the location where traders would sell their wares. This was also the location where financiers would fund treacherous expeditions to the extreme corners of the known world, in a time where Portugal was one of the greatest nations on earth. The wealth of the country passed through this single point. It was constructed in 1755 when the great earthquake destroyed most of Lisbon.
The Praça Dom Pedro IV is true heart of Lisbon. Also referred to by its older name Rossio, the city basically revolves around this square. All walking tours start here, students come to sing here, workers protest here and the restaurants serve typically overpriced food here. If you ever get lost in central Lisbon, just ask for this square.
Street Graffiti. Lisbon is renowned for its urban art. Turning street corners in the older part of town, you’ll be suddenly greeted with vivid graffiti. This series of facades depict the Fado vadio. Fado is a type of Portuguese singing with haunting tones and a profoundly melancholic character.
Alfama. This little neighbourhood in Lisbon is like a small urban village. Thin streets with tiny squares and a GPS-defeating layout, it’s the oldest district of Lisbon. Fado music was born in Alfama. It also has the loudest and friendliest residents in the city. You can hear them have full conversations above your head, across their balconies, oblivious to people passing by.
Pena Palace, Sintra. A masterpiece of Romanticism, this architectural marvel is on a hill-top, where legend has it, King Manuel I saw Vasco da Gama’s fleet enter the River Tagus while returning from his pioneering sea voyage to India.
The Pena palace is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. When the royal family fled Portugal during the Revolution of 1910, the palace and its grounds were abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was restored later in the 20th century.
Jerónimos Monastery. Located in the Belem district of Lisbon, it was founded by King Manuel I in celebration of successful Portuguese voyages around the world. Its construction took about a 100 years and was funded by treasures and wealth from explorations in Africa, Asia, and South America, as well as a stiff tax on the Portuguese-controlled spice trade with Africa and the East. It withstood the 1755 Lisbon earthquake without much damage.
Maritime Museum, Belem. This Navy museum is one of the most important in Europe, housing a gigantic 17,000 items, including model ships from the Age of Discovery.
Moorish Castle, Sintra. The Castle of the Moors was built by the North African Moors during their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The Norwegian Viking king Sigurd the Crusader, took over the castle in 1108.
The Vikings were at that time headed to Jerusalem and as soon as they left the castle, it was once again in the hands of the Moors.
Cultural Centre of Belém. This is the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal. There are 4 galleries covering Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Design and Photography. It also includes works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The Performing Arts Centre is just massive.
National Azulejo Museum. Also known as the Tile Museum, it showcases beautiful works of hand painted ceramic tiles as well as their evolution over the centuries. This form of facade treatment was integral to Portuguese Architecture. Entire walls were treated in ceramics as if it were a painting. Azulejo originally came from the Arabs.
Tram 28. One of the most famous trams in the world and definitely the most iconic image of this city. It’s also happens to be one of the best rides in Lisbon. It noisily scratches and squeals its way, like an asthmatic mouse, through the Alfama district all the way to St Georges Church. The reason for this old relic to still exist is due to Lisbon’s inherent architecture of narrow roads, sharp bends and twisting streets, which make modern-day trams impractical. The margin between the edges of this tram and the surrounding buildings is sometimes just a few inches!