Start your Lisbon trip in the Alfama district, which is packed with some of the city’s best tourist attractions. The quarter is one of the city’s oldest and most atmospheric, with its labyrinthe of narrow streets, alleys wrapped round the lower slopes of the Moorish castle and scenes of charming local life. One of the must-sees here is the Se, Lisbon’s Romanesque cathedral, with its high-value items on display in the Treasury. Aside from the other museums and churches worth checking out, one of the most recognisable is the Santa Engracia, or the Panteao Nacional, which houses the tombs of notable Portugese figures.
Of all Lisbon attractions, the Castelo de São Jorge is arguably the best. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the city and river below, this iconic castle makes for a superb visit, with its gardens, walkways and viewpoints hidden within old Moorish walls. As you’d imagine, the castle is steeped in history, where Portugal’s monarchs once resided. It also served as a barracks, prison and children’s home, but today it’s an extremely appealing museum. Spend a couple of hours to watch the multimedia exhibition detailing the history of the city; a periscope that focuses on sights round the city; and archaeological remains including that of an Iron Age house.
With a relaxed feel during the day, you can take in some pleasant Lisbon sightseeing in Bairro Alto (upper town); navigate your way through the maze of narrow streets for Renaissance churches, leafy squares, botanical gardens and bohemian boutiques. At night, the area comes to life with Lisbon’s best bars, restaurants and clubs all vying for your attention.
Located in the popular Lisbon suburb of Belem, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mosteiros dos Jeronimos is well worth visiting. The monastery and its adjacent church were built in the early 16th century, and amongst its ornate interior it tells a fascinating history of Lisbon’s prominent seafaring figures, with the likes of Vasco da Gama and Luis de Camoes tombs and a statue of Henry the Navigator.
The diverse Museu Gulbenkian displays collections from all around the world: start off in the Egyptian room, with its Old Empire (2700BC) art; move onto the Greco-Roman room with its exquisite jewellery; take in the Turkish tiles and mosque lamps in the Eastern Islamic arts section; and marvel at stunning 14th-century Japanese lacquerwork in the Far East room. The painting collection is one of the most remarkable highlights in the museum, with works by Flemish masters, Rubens and Turner.
Inside the Centro Cultural de Belem, one of Lisbon’s many cultural centres, is the magnificent Berardo Collection . It houses an assortment of modern art by celebrated artists in the last two centuries; the permanent collection includes the likes of works by Andy Warhol, Paula Rego and David Hockney. Two floors present temporary exhibitions - check the website for details.
Home to plenty of attractions, including the Oceanarium, Teleferico cable car and water gardens, the Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) is a must on any visit to Lisbon. This riverfront area is popular with Lisboetas, so expect swathes of locals at the attractive bars, restaurants and shops that fill the area – a perfect way to experience a slice of an enviable local life.