Things to do in Lisbon. Historical facts.
20 of February 2022
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We spent two and a half days in Lisbon and it´s quite enough for visiting the city. I advise you to purchase a 24-hour ticket for a comfortable use of public transport, it can be used both on bus and on tram. Now about a well-known yellow tram 28 of Lisbon – a symbol and the main attraction of the city. This is absolutely must do thing in Lisbon – you must ride the yellow tram! Its route is built in a very convenient way. With the help of the tram 28 you can get to almost any tourist attraction, but not everything can be seen from the window.
The route is marked as 28E at the tram stops.
Center of Lisbon
Take the Santa Justa lift to get to a viewpoint (the ticket price is included in the day pass). You have to pay extra only for lifting to the top deck. The observation deck offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
Rua Agusta Arc and Commerce Square.
The statues on the four columns of the arch depict important Portuguese characters:
– Viriathus, leader who fought for the independence of the Iberian Peninsula from Rome.
– Nuno Alvares Pereira, an important figure who fought for the independence of Portugal from the Kingdom of Castile.
– Vasco da Gama, famous for discovering the way to India during a two-year sea expedition.
– The Marquis of Pombal, a key figure in the history of Lisbon and the city’s revival after a terrible earthquake of 1755.
There was the Royal Palace on the Commerce Square, which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. The Marquis of Pombal decided to revive the place by rebuilding the square in a “U” shape with three large arcaded buildings. Today, these buildings contain government offices, the Lisbon’s main tourist office, and several restaurants and cafés, including Martinho da Arcada, the city’s oldest restaurant. The Commerce Square is also the transport center of the city – a large number of buses and trams pass through it daily.
Where to eat in Lisbon
Generally speaking, wherever you go to eat in Portugal, a delicious food is served almost everywhere. In 6 years of traveling in Portugal, I can probably remember only one place where I did not like the food (and that was compensated by a warm welcome and a low price for a big plate). I will always remember the restaurant Sála de João Sá in Lisbon. In august 2020 this restaurant just opened. We received an excellent service. The food was freshest, delicious, of high quality, exquisitely presented and not too big portions (a great option for evening meal). Basically, we took seafood dishes. As we were told, they had chefs from different countries, and they brought their multinational contribution to the recipes. Feel free to try any dish, you’ll love it! Bill for two with drinks 40 euros.
Castle of St. George.
Walk to Don Pedro IV Square and then to the Castle of St. George. The castle is a must see if you visit Lisbon.
If it’s hard for you to lift the hill on foot (it was hard for us in August as well), take the 12th tram at this stop.
Tickets to the castle cost from 5 to 10 euros, they can be purchased on the official website.
On the right: Don Pedro IV square
On the left: lifting to the St. George’s Castle
The St. George’s Castle is included in the list of National monuments. This castle was built by Muslims in the middle of the XI century to defend the elite who lived in this citadel.
In 1147 the castle was conquered by the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, and remained prosperous until the XVI century. Old buildings from the Islamic era were rebuilt and expanded to accommodate the king, the court and the bishop. A royal archive was installed in one of the towers of the castle. In the XIII century, the castle was transformed into a royal palace that received illustrious people. Celebrations of festivals and royal proclamations were held here during the XIV-XVI centuries. In 1580, with accession of Portugal to the Spanish Empire, the castle acquired a more military function, which remained until the beginning of the XX century.
Next, I recommend you to take a walk to the viewpoint of Senhora do Monte. In my opinion, it offers the most beautiful view of the city.
Another sight of Lisbon that definitely deserves a visit, although it is a bit far from the center, is the Royal Palace of Ajuda. For 5 euros you will dive into the royal life of the XIX century. You will not find crowds of tourists here, so you can see everything in a quiet atmosphere.
The royal residence of Ajuda was built to replace the Real Barraca, made of wood, where members of the royal family were living for 20 years after the 1755 earthquake.
Weak wooden structure of the barracks was completely destroyed by fire in 1794 during the reign of Queen Mary I of Portugal. At that time the queen, and later King John VI, son of Mary, ordered the construction of a royal residence in the center of Lisbon.
Due to the escape of the royal family from Napoleon to Brazil, the construction of the residence was delayed for many years.
With the proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910, the Ajuda Palace became a historical museum open to the public.
The palace is really impressive, everything is kept in an excellent condition, it seems like the royal family is about to come back.
And finally, I suggest you to visit the Belém district and have breakfast in a 150-year-old bakery, which serves famous Pasteis de Belém, a bakery gem that you should definitely try if you are in Lisbon.
Check out the recipe of homemade pasteis here.
As a result of the liberal revolution that took place in 1820, all monasteries in Portugal were closed in 1834, expulsing all workers and clergy. Trying to survive, someone from the Jerónimos Monastery put for sale some pastries called “Pasteis de Belem” in a nearby shop. At that time, the Belen area considered being far from the city of Lisbon, and the route was provided by steamers arriving in this area. However, the beauty of the monastery and Belem tower attracted many visitors who quickly learned about delicious pastries made in the monastery.
In 1837, the production of “Pastéis de Belém” began in factories close to the oil refinery, using an old “secret recipe” originating from the monastery. Since then, this recipe has been known exclusively by pastry chefs at the Secret Workshop. Today, the recipe remains unchanged. You can enjoy sweet, tasty and authentic Pasteis de Belém in this bakery. They are not very sweet actually, and even suitable for diabetics in small quantities, although, I must say, it´s hard to resist eating only few of them.
Crossing the road, you will find the Belem tower.
Belem Tower was built in the XVI century during the Age of Discovery. The tower was built as a fortress to protect the entrance to the port through the Tagus (cannons can still be seen inside the bastion). Over time, its defensive function began to decline and, subsequently, the tower became a center for collecting taxes and even served as a prison.
Like the Jeronimos monastery, the construction of the tower took place during the reign of Manuel I under the direction of the architect Francisco de Arruda, whose working experience in Morocco is reflected in decorative details of the tower – Arabic elements that we can see in the arches, balconies and domes of the tower.
You can visit the tower for 6 euros per person. You can get to Belem by bus 15 from the Square of Commerce.
Walking through the Belem district, you can find many interesting things, such as the Statue of Explorers, the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, the Museum of royal carriages and the Berardo Museum of Modern and New Art.
Statue of explorers. Created by José Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, the Monument to the Explorers was first built from perishable materials in 1940 in a temporary form as part of the Portuguese World Exhibition. In 1960, the monument was reconstructed for the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. This time it was made from concrete and pink stone from Leiria, while the sculptures were made from limestone from Sintra.