ABOUT LISBON - SIGHTSEEING IN LISBON - ABOUT PORTUGAL
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Perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and with a personality split between Western Europe and Northern Africa, Lisbon is a European city like no other. Portugal's capital boasts as grand a cultural and historical heritage as any other major European city, but also a tumbledown, earthier side that sets it apart.
Lisbon's zenith was back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when great explorers and bold sailing fleets edged out of the security of Lisbon in the quest to discover the 'New World'. This rich colonial past is still very much in evidence in the suburb of Belém, laden with grand imperial buildings like the stunning Manueline Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the waterfront Torre de Belém. The Monument to the Discoveries is a modern tribute to the age when Portugal was one of the world's great maritime powers. One name that rides high above any other from this period is Vasco Da Gama - the country's greatest maritime hero.
The Rio Tejo (Tagus River) still dominates Lisbon life, but the main industry is now tourism as the city grows in popularity as a tourist destination. Other key industries include finance, insurance, consulting and telecommunications, with Lisbon very much the hub of Portuguese business, commercial and political life. The city centre is a buzzing grid of grand streets with all the trappings of any other Western European city, but also rumbling old trams, antiquated funiculars and elevadores (elevators) that help negotiate Lisbon's steep hills.
Further east in the Alfama district the earthier side of the city takes over as the wide streets give way to a tight warren of cobbles, littered with tiny shops, houses and traditional restaurants. Here mobile phones and sharp suits are replaced by haranguing old women selling fresh fish on the street.
Venturing even further east is the site of the successful World Expo 98, an event that demonstrated the Portuguese government's determined efforts to place Lisbon firmly on the world map. The government has invested heavily to turn the former Expo site into an accommodation, business and nightlife centre, with the initial results of the ambitious project looking promising. Further evidence of Portugal's ambition was the successful organization of the European Football Championship in 2004, an event that brought many of the world's top teams to Lisbon as well as focusing the media spotlight on the Portuguese capital. Despite all this new development and the attempts to modernise the city, its easygoing charm has not been lost.
Lisbon's population is close to 700 thousand, extending over 2 million inhabitants in the Great Lisbon area.
SIGHTSEEING IN LISBON
Lisbon's sightseeing is can be divided into four districts. The most central is the Baixa, the very heart of the city, which was rebuilt along a neat grid system after a series of devastating earthquakes, particularly the massive devastation of the 1755 tremor. The impressive Praça do Comércio is flanked by the stately Royal Palace and government ministries three sides and is lapped by the waters of the Rio Tejo on its southern fringe.
Strolling to the east the neat order of the Baixa dissolves in the tumbledown chaos of the Alfama district - the medieval old hub of the city, where the streets are as narrow as the smiles are large on the faces of the colourful women who harangue passers by with the fresh catch of the day.
A train or tram ride in the opposite direction is the suburb of Belém, where the connections with Portugal's Great Age of Discoveries are the strongest. This is where the brave, or foolhardy, Portuguese sailors set off in search of worlds barely imagined let alone discovered. The legacy today is the epic Manueline architecture of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Torre de Belém, as well as more recent tributes like the Monument to the Discoveries.
Even further out of the city is the Parque das Nações, where the shell of Expo 98 has been imaginatively recreated into a sprawling leisure complex, complete with concert halls, museums and the Oceanário, one of the world's largest aquariums.
The tourism kiosk which is closest to CCB (Turismo) can be found at Praça do Império.
Most of the Museums are closed on public holidays and open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10h00 to 17h00. Some of the most important museums in Lisboa are:
- Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga - Ancient Art.
- Museu Arqueológico, Convento do Carmo - Archaeology.
- Museu Nacional dos Coches - The world's best collection of this type, ranging from the 17th century coach of King Philip II to 19th century carriages.
- Museu Calouste Gulbenkian - It houses the 17th and 18th century oil-billionaire Gulbenkian's remarkable collection containing Egyptian, Graeco-Roman, Oriental and European art, and a fine selection of works by René Lalique.
- Museu de Arte Moderna - As part of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum, it houses the best collection of 20th century Portuguese art.
- Museu Militar - Collection of military weapons, armour, paintings and uniforms.
- Museu de Marinha - Collection of vessels, paintings and ships rigging. Also the royal barges and sea planes.
- Museu Nacional do Azulejo - Collection of decorative tiles (azulejos).
- Museu de Arte Sacra - Religious art, at São Roque Church.
- Museu do Chiado - Painting and sculpture collection from the romantic period
- Olissipona [at St. George Castle] - Lisboa's Interpretation Centre
- Ajuda Royal Palace - Furniture, tapestry and painting collection
- Museu da Cidade - It houses a large collection, including paintings, drawings, engravings, glazed tiles and sculpture, showing the evolution of Lisboa from prehistory until the beginning of the 19th century.
- Museu Ricardo Espirito Santo - Important decorative art collection in the ambience of an old Portuguese manor house
- Museu do Teatro - Collection of costumes and stage props, stage models and costume designs, photographs, posters, programmes, manuscripts, scores, portraits and cartoons. Next to Museu do Traje, amid a beautiful common park
- Museu do Traje - Its collection illustrates the history of court and folk clothing throughout the ages. The museum also mounts temporary exhibitions of fashion design, accessories and jewellery.
- Museu Vieira da Silva & Arpad Szenes - Painting Collection.
Parks and Gardens
- Jardim Botânico - alongside the Academy of Sciences, one of the most beautiful in Europe has an usual display of more than 20,000 exotic plant species.
- Parque Eduardo VII - with its fascinating "Estufa Fria", a magnificent glass plant hot house with magnificent subtropical flora.
- Parque Ecológico de Monsanto - ecological park covering an area of 300,00 square metres, provides the perfect interplay between man and nature and offers visitors a close contact with wild animals and vegetal species.
- Zoo - set in the lovely Laranjeiras Park, one of the richest zoos with more than 2,000 animals and the best dolphinarium in Europe, is definitively one of the nicest in the world, also the Animatrix playground for children.
Remarkable Churches and Palaces
- Sé Patriarcal [Cathedral] - Build in 1150, blends today a variety of succeeding architectural styles.
- São Vicente de Fora [Alfama] - St. Vincent. Italianate, rebuilt in the XVI century.
- Santa Engrácia [Alfama] - The National Pantheon, with its high dome.
- São Miguel [Alfama] - Built in the 17th century, and restored in the18th.
- São Roque [Bairro Alto] - Featuring the most lavishly decorated chapel [baroque]and holding a remarkable Sacred Art Collection.
- Palácio da Ajuda - The largest in the city, brimming with art works and curiosities.
- Palácio Marquês de Fronteira - Private estate with elegant gardens with remarkable tiles.
- Palácio dos Condes de Óbidos - XVIII Palace rich in marble and fine tiles, housing the headquarters of the Portuguese Red Cross.
- Palácio Nacional de Queluz - A rococo Royal Palace with beautiful gardens, just outside Lisboa.
The visiting card for Lisboa is the easiest, most convenient and independent way to see Lisboa. Available for 1, 2 or 3 days, it entitles the holders to:
For more information, visit the Ask me Lisboa website. Tickets cost 13.50 EUR (24h), 23.00 EUR (48h), and 28.00 EUR (72h), for adults.
- Free and unlimited travel on the city's tramway, bus, elevator and underground transportation networks [except for non regular services].
- Free entrance in most municipal and national museums and monuments.
- 10 to 50% discount in other places and services of interest to visitors.
With whole areas of the city being turned over to the pursuit of pleasure and traffic jams at at the weekend, it is obvious that Lisbon is a city that takes its nightlife seriously. Traditionally the nightlife centre has been Bairro Alto, with its fado clubs, traditional, canteen-style bars and upscale discos. The simplest thing is to walk in and out of a number of them, ordering an imperial (half pint), or a caneca (pint) if the place looks especially inviting. The bars are open until 0400, often with lock-ins. The minimum age for purchasing alcohol is 16 years. Much of the action has moved on to the Docas (Docks) district, just to the east of Ponte 25 de Abril. One bar after another occupies a row of converted warehouses at the Doca de Santo Amaro, with a crowded promenade and tables out front. Back towards the city the Doca de Alcântara has emerged over the last few years as the new place of choice for Lisbon's moneyed professionals and 'in' crowd. At around 02:00 many locals head to the multitude of Lisbon discos, which rock until 06:00 or later.
Along the row of buildings east of Ponte 25 de Abril, you can take your pick of the many competing bars and disco places. Finding a place in Bairro Alto is a bit more complicated - the best thing to do is to walk uphill from the Praça Luís de Camões, just to the west of the Chiado metro station. Rua da Atalaia is one of the more lively streets.
Casino Estoril is one of the largest and best known in Europe. Visitors must be over 18 years, wear smart-casual attire and provide ID.
Fado is a form of music that developed in Lisbon in sailors' bars in the late eighteenth century. It is a mournful, romantic singing style that fits somewhere between blues and flamenco.
Portugal is a country of astonishing beauty and diversity, not to mention clear blue skies and friendly, courteous people. Pick any destination and the view from your window might be a rugged stretch of windswept coastline (Cabo do São Vicente, Castelejo, Cabo Espichel), a pristine beach where fishermen mend their nets beside brightly painted sardine boats (Albufeira, Bordeira, Praia do Camilo) or a cobbled street overlooked by dazzling whitewashed houses with wooden balconies and red-tiled roofs.
Portugal is a land of infinite options. You can mingle with the crowds in one of the more sophisticated beach resorts or wander through the medieval quarters of historic cities like Lisbon, Porto, Braga or Coimbra.
To explore the more remote beauty spots (car hire is relatively cheap, driving a delight) stay overnight in a romantic pousada - a converted farm, monastery or manor house enjoying a wonderful setting - an amazing bargain. If it's an activity holiday you're looking for, Portugal is one of Europe's premier golfing destinations while the tennis schools are second-to-none.
You could try your hand at big game fishing or horse riding, learn how to windsurf or water ski. Other unmissable experiences include Fado (Portugal's answer to soul music), country fairs where centuries old folk traditions are lovingly reenacted, Port wine tastings and mouthwatering fish suppers. Portugal is a country ripe for discovery.
Much more detailed information can be found at this .