Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 547,631. The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million making it the 9th most populous urban area in the European Union.
Read more about some of our favorite areas and things to do in Lisbon.
Pastelaria de Belem
Famous for their ‘pasteis de Belem’, the Pastelaria de Belem is a stop that must be made if you are going to Lisbon from Cascais. The Pastelaria de Belem is famous for ‘pasteis de nata’ (custard tarts), whose recipe has been closely guarded for two centuries and today is known only to three bakers at any one time. The walls are tiled in typical Portuguese azuleijos and you may choose from several rooms in which to have your ‘pasteis’. Alternatively, if the weather permits, you may buy boxes of six pasteis and sit out in the gardens across the street to enjoy them.
Other sites in Belem include the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, the Torre de Belem, the Monument of the Discoveries, and the Cultural Centre of Belem. The Cultural Centre of Belem holds regular exhibitions, theatre productions, and has a music auditorium.
Rebuilt after the earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755, the Baixa now consists of several avenues lined with shops and cafes. Its main attraction is the Elevador de Santa Justa, a wrought iron elevator built by Raul Mesnier du Ponsard, a Gustave Eiffel student, which takes you up to the Bairro Alto. It also has a roof-top cafe which offers stunning views over the city.
The Bairro Alto is famous for its nightlife, offering bars, clubs, restaurants and fado houses. Arrive before 4 in the afternoon, and it may seem like a ghost town, but after 4 or 5, the cafes start to open, followed by the restaurants and the bars that stay open until the early hours of the morning.
The Brasileira Cafe
The Brasileira Cafe, in the Chiado, was a favorite of the famous Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, whose sculpture still marks his presence outside the cafe. The Cafe was and still is a meeting point for many writers and artists.
Alfama is one of the neighborhoods of Lisbon that retained its original appearance after the earthquake hit Lisbon in 1755. The Alfama has apartment buildings each painted different colours, some tiled from the outside, sitting shoulder to shoulder with wrought iron balconies and laundry hanging along window-sills and plotted as if stepped on the hill with Castelo Sao Jorge (The Castle of St George) at the top. The Alfama is well known for its Fado houses and typical restaurants.
From Cais do Sodre, or any point where you can look across the river to Cacilhas, you will see the Cristo Rei, a smaller version of Brasil’s giant Jesus, a religious icon with his arms outstretched. If you decide to go to visit the sculpture, you will also find the giftshop that sells religious art. At night the statue is lit adding another touch of beauty to the river views.
Vasco da Gama Bridge
Praca dos Restauradores
The Praca dos Restauradores is a square lined with cafe’s, restaurants, shops and offices. It is connected to the Praca Marques de Pombal by the Avenida da Liberdade, an avenue that bears a resemblance to Paris’ Champs Elysees.
Cafe Martinho da Arcada
Ginginha is a traditional Portuguese brandy made from fermented sour cherries. The Cafe Martinho da Arcada, on 3 Praca do Comercio, dates back to 1782 and is a wonderful place to stop and taste a typical drink of Portugal. Fernando Pessoa was a regular customer at this cafe.
Fado in Lisbon
The areas of Lisbon known for quality Fado venues are the Bairro Alto, the Mouraria, Madragoa and especially Alfama. The culture of Fado is generally after-hours, and although there are many fado specific restaurants, it is not uncommon to find that the best fado music is played at restaurants hidden away in the back streets and very difficult to find as a tourist. Fado music is often described as melancholic and soulful, which is not surprising considering that the themes of most fado music traditionally shared by noblemen, wanderers and seafarers, revolve around stories of fate, conflict, conquest, love affairs and intense suffering of the soul. Amalia was the most famous Fado singer, her voice and soul transmitting the sentiments of Portuguese writers and poets. Her former residence is now a museum that is worth a visit. The artist, Jose Malhoa depicted Fado in his art (photo).