Visitors to Lisbon will find warm sunshine and warmer people. No travel guide is required to know that. The reputation of the city’s residents is too well known. But what tourists may not know is that this city on Europe’s west coast is also home to more things to see and do than could possibly be accomplished in one vacation.
The city is divided into several districts each with its own set of highlights. But no matter where you go, you’ll find attractions galore.
The Gulbenkian Museum is one of the most popular, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s filled with some of the finest art anywhere in the world. It may be less well known than the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, but it’s just as deserving of praise. Whether your taste runs to Egyptian masks or Japanese screens, or the best Rembrandt portraits, there’s something here to please.
The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (Museum of Ancient Art) is equally worth a visit. Popularly known as the MNAA, it offers a wide selection of sculpture, drawings and more from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century.
Looking for something a little more lively? Head out to one of the many delightful fado clubs. Be serenaded with a soulful tune and enjoy a fine meal. You may happen to be in the old Moorish Alfama neighborhood. Or, you might be near the 16th century Bairro Alto quarter that’s full of local artists. No matter where you are, you’ll find a club that offers this music that has come to symbolize Lisbon.
If, after that, you manage to get up on Saturday morning head down to the Fiera da Ladra. The name means Thieves Market, but you won’t get ripped off. No, indeed, you’ll find so many interesting items your only real concern will be how to haul all the stuff back home.
Once you’ve stashed the goods at the hotel, head out to one of Lisbon’s many monuments to its glorious seafaring past. This nation of ocean traveling traders boasts of heroes like Vasco da Gama, Magellan and many other well known names. Their exploits are well honored at the Discoveries Monument, in the Belem section.
While there, be sure to check out the Monastery of the Hieronymites, built in 1502. Even the religious buildings in this city echo Lisbon’s maritime culture. The cloister is festooned with carved sea monsters, coiled ropes and more.
Stroll over to the nearby Belem Tower, completed in 1515 as a fortress to guard Lisbon’s harbor. It is the site where many of those aforementioned explorers departed.
Lisbon has a fine zoo, as well, not far from the Jardim Botanico housing many prehistoric plants. In the adjoining facility is a natural history museum well worth a look, too.
Don’t leave the city without spending some time at the famous Coach Museum. Even those who might not be interested in royal transportation from the 17th century will find their opinions being tested. It offers a look into Portugal’s royal past that will impress even lovers of modern Ferraris.
Take a trip up the hill and see Saint George’s Castle. One of the oldest structures in this centuries-old city, visitors will come away with a new appreciation for Portugal’s architectural achievements.
That same skill can also be seen in the Lisbon Cathedral, one of the earliest buildings erected after King Alfonso Henriques expelled the Moors in 1147.
Get a view of what the Moors left behind by visiting Sintra, only a half-hour outside the city. An easy trip by bus, train or rented car, the Moorish Castle and the Palácio Nacional de Pena make the trip well worthwhile. While there, soak up some of the local nightlife at one of the internationally populated clubs.
Visit Lisbon and be prepared to leave disappointed – because you couldn’t stay twice as long.