What to see in Lisbon | City of Seven Hills

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There are few cities on earth that will capture your imagination at first sight. For me, Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is one of them. Straddling seven hills, Lisbon’s panoramic silhouette of domes and towers emerging out from a sea of terracotta rooftops impresses upon you an initial riveting impression.

Culture, cuisine, old-world lifestyle and the friendliness of people extend the enticing sensation to anyone stepping on its shores fringing the River Tagus, just before the mighty waterway dives into the Atlantic Ocean.

What to see in Lisbon if you only have a short time?

Here’s how I enjoyed my time there.

what to see in lisbon
Clockwise from left to right: Lisbon top view; Moorish Castle overlooking the city; Praca do Comercio, gateway of Lisbon

Lisbon’s history

The city brims with centuries of history pinned with ups and downs from maritime triumphs and royal feats to disastrous earthquakes, civil war and autocracy.

After naval legend, Vasco da Gama traced in 1498 the sea route to India, the city thrived as a global trading hub. 

With increased wealth and power, Portugal expanded its foothold in Asia, USA and Africa. You’ll see glimpses of Lisbon’s Portuguese architecture in Macau, Goa and Malacca

Later finding gold in colonial Brazil, then a Portuguese colony, kept Lisbon prosperity moving higher and higher until an earthquake in 1755 reduced the city to rubbles.

Subsequent rebuilding was hampered by revolutions and a long dictatorial era which ended in 1974.

Since then revitalisation accelerated and the city today draws 3.5 million visitors annually to see the fresher version of a grand old city.

what to see in lisbon
Clockwise from left to right: Illuminated Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II; Jeronimos Monastery; 12th century Se Cathedral; Triumph Arch

Lisbon’s Cityscape

Lisbon cityscape has architectural styles and urban layout patterns that were copied by Macau, Goa and Rio, all former Portuguese colonial outposts.

The most striking features are Lisbon’s church facades and wavelike mosaic designs paved on squares and pathways.

These pavements tell the story of how Lisbon spread its wings during its heyday of colonial expansion.

what to see in lisbon
Clockwise from left to right: Illuminated Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II; Jeronimos Monastery; 12th century Se Cathedral; Triumph Arch

What to see in Lisbon

Some must-see sights are royal residences, museums, towers and monuments. 

Then you might like savouring the sights and sounds of Lisbon’s lively neighbourhoods such as Baixa, Bairro Alto, Alfama and Belem. Check out these tips for your trip to Lisbon.

This is where you can experience the charm of Lisbon through its laidback lifestyle, food choices and Fado experience.

Fado is the traditional melancholic and gripping music of Lisbon.

A good way of exploring Lisbon’s neighbourhoods is by taking a ride on one of Lisbon’s famous vintage trams.

The most popular route is number 28, which rattles through the slender alleyways of the hilltop suburbs clattering past many epic sights.

Here are more things to know before visiting Lisbon.

tours in lisbon
Lisbon Patisserie

Discover Lisbon

Getting There: TAP Portugal is the full service, flag carrier airline of Portugal which links Lisbon with many cities in Europe.

Stay: Hotel Olissippo Saldanha is conveniently located and well serviced. If you’re on a budget you’ll find some excellent party hostels in Lisbon to stay

More Info: Turismo de Lisboa

what to see in lisbon

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Sandip Hor
I am a Sydney based international travel writer and photographer. Member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW), Member of the Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA) and Chairman of Australia, India Travel & Tourism Council (AITTC). To date I have produced over 350 travel features published in elite print and online publications in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Dubai, India and Sri Lanka – Sydney Morning Herald and Sunday Telegraph in Australia, Otago Daily Times in New Zealand Strait Times in Singapore, Toronto Star in Canada, The Statesman in India and Khaleej Times in Dubai are few of them. A key goal of mine is to visit at least 100 countries and see through my own eyes the Seven Wonders of the World. I have already touched my itchy feet on 76 countries in 6 continents and have glimpsed the beauty of 6 Wonders of the World.