Lisbon Photo Tour (Portugal)
As Portugal's capital city Lisbon (or Lisboa) flourished during the period of unprecedented expansion and wealth in the 16th century known as the Discoveries. It is often said that instead of investing the money wisely the Portuguese blew the lot on extravagant and ostentatious monuments and buildings. In retrospect the legacy that was left behind may have been worth every penny! Unfortunately in 1755 there was a huge earthquake followed by a tsunami which devastated much of coastal Portugal from the Algarve to Lisbon. Whilst many beautiful buildings in Lisbon were destroyed including the seafront palace, a few survived, some of which remain in ruins to this day.
The disaster heralded the birth of the Lisbon we see today with its wide downtown avenues, squares and fine buildings. Much of the Biaxa district's character is attributed to the Marquês de Pombal and as such the style of architecture is called Pombaline.
Besides the Baixa district everywhere else in Lisbon seems to be built on the side of or on top of a steep hill. The ramshackle Alfama and Bairro Alto districts and the stately Graca are all perched on Lisbon's steep slopes overlooking the city centre.
I spent 3 years living in Lisbon in the late 1990's and this collection of photos represent some of my favourite spots. Hopefully they will go some way towards conveying what a fantastic, unique and beautiful city this is.
Rossio Square is generally considered Lisbon's main city centre square - its official name is Praca de D. Pedro IV. This large open square sits in a valley overlooked by the Castle on one side and the ruins of the Carmo Convent (which you can see here) on the other. The square itself is surrounded by an array of Pombaline buildings and features a bronze fountain and traditional patterned block pavement found throughout Portugal.
View from the Castle
Looking out over the weathered bronze of one of the canons that once defended Lisbon. Down below you can see much of Lisbon's downtown Biaxa district with its regular grid of Pombaline style buildings. On the right are the squares of Rossio and Praça da Figueira and in the distance you can see the first span of the 25 de Abril bridge which spans the River Tagus (Tejo).
The Castle of São Jorge itself is on a 2nd century site and consists of a much renovated citadel and a large open garden, both of which are open to the public.
The Bairro Alto
Literally translated Bairro Alto means 'high neighbourhood'. If you have ever made the ascent from Rossio on a night out you would know why it has this name. Fortunately, for the elderly, infirm, drunk and lazy there is a funicular railway called the Elevador da Gloria!
Bairro Alto is a very different place by day, it is quiet and people go about there everyday life. At night this is Portugal's top spot for bars and restaurants. Don't be fooled by its appearance, this is where many of the city's finest restaurants are.
Carcavelos Beach is the closest sizeable expanse of sand to Lisbon. Located about halfway between Lisbon and Estoril the beach is a mecca for beach-goers in the summer and surfers all year around. The surf here is consistent and surprisingly powerful.
There is nothing particularly upmarket about Carcavelos but the couple of cafes on the beach do a decent coffee and tosta mista.
National Pantheon - Lisbon
The National Pantheon is housed in the 17th century Igreja de Santa Engrácia. I always find it impressive that even in 16-something buildings this complex were built. Located in the Alfama district the pantheon is home to the tombs of many of Portugal's eminent personalities and ex-presidents. Amongst those buried here are writers Almeida Garrett and Guerra Junqueiro and fado singer Amália Rodrigues.
Sao Roque Church Interior
Located in the Bairro Alto, Sao Roque church is widely regarded as having the finest chruch interior in Lisbon. It was built by Jesuits in the early 16th century and as you can see they didn't hold back with the decor! From the outside the church is a much more subdued affair hardly rating a second glance.
Elevador da Bica
The Elevador da Bica is a funicular railway leading from port-side district near Cais do Sadre to Santa Catarina near Chaido. From here there are some great views of the city and river below.
The Elevador was built in 1892 and of particular interest is the archway it passes under on Rua de S. Paulo at the bottom
No tour of Lisbon would be complete without a visit to Belém. Home not only to a world renown cake shop but to two of the finest Manueline structure in Portugal. The first of these the Geronimos monastery is located just across the way from this, the Torre de Belém.
Built in 1515, the tower was intended to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbour. It saw action in the 19th century against French ships during the Peninsula Wars. However, this monument is far from merely functional - it has a stunningly ornate exterior matched by an equally beautiful interior featuring cloisters, vaulted ceilings and a chapel.
Avenida da Liberdade
Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon's central boulevard. It runs from the downtown Restauradores Square to the grand Rotunda with its monument to the Marquis of Pombal overlooking the Eduardo VII Park. The tree lined street features some fine examples of typical Portuguese paving and the array of buildings lining it are highly eclectic in their styles and ages.
Apparently 'Avenida' as it is known in Lisbon is considered the 35th most expensive retail estate in the world with numerous luxury stores including Chanel, Versace, Gucci, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and Prada to name but a few.
Elevador de Santa Justa
The Elevador de Santa Justa is a 150 foot (45 metre) high lift joining the Baixa with Largo do Carmo. The lift was built in 1902 to designs of a student of Gustave Eiffel.
Whilst it is it a bit of drag having to walk up Rua Garrett to Chiado I think building a lift is a little excessive. Then again it looks nice and has nice views so I'm not complaining.
Arco da Rua Augusta
Sandwiched between the ministry of justice buildings the Arco da Rua Augusta is the centrepiece of Praca do Comercio and leads onto Lisbon's main pedistrianised street. It was built to mark the reconstruction of Lisbon after the devastating 1755 earthquake. The figures adorning it include famous explorer Vasco de Gama and the Marquis of Pombal who was responsible for much of the rebuilding of the city.
As arches go this is a pretty good one. When you see it from the other end of Rua Augusta it looks impressive and it is standing at well over 100 (30 metres) feet tall.
I hope some of these photos have whetted your appetite and conveyed what an amazing city Lisbon is. Given a finite amount of time and space it is hard to do Lisbon justice. There are numerous sites and scenes I haven't mentioned such as the olde worlde Alfama district of Lisbon, the 'Docas', the 'Parc dos Nacoes' and Estrela to name but a few.
I spent 3 years living and working in Lisbon and never grew bored of it. I lived in Saldanha, Carcavelos and spent a while out in the fishing village of Ericeira. Besides the traffic (and insane driving) I don't have a bad thing to say about this wonderful country. My advice to anyone visiting Lisbon is just start walking - you may get lost, but it is the best kind of lost!