Major Lisbon Tourist Attractions
Every one of the top Lisbon tourist attractions are all located within the greater Lisbon area - that being the main part of the city. You won't have to travel far to enjoy the best of days out, the finest architecture or some of the most wonderful sights and sounds you can imagine. And tastes. Lisbon really does produce some wonderfully flavoursome coffee.
Lisbon sits on one of the western most points in Europe - and certainly deserves more than a cursory glance. It's a city steeped in tradition, glorious architecture ... both old and new sitting companionably side by side - and enjoys one of the most temperate climates on the whole of the European continent.
What's more, it's filled with the warmest, friendliest and happiest of people you could ever hope to come across. Always a boon when you're a little lost or confused and need a little help pointing you in the right direction.
All five of the tourist attractions featured here have been personally perused, visited and enjoyed by myself and my husband, as well as family and friends whenever I had the opportunity to show them around Lisbon.
Enjoy all that this fabulous, vibrant and utterly beautiful city has to offer - just don't forget your map!
Five Best Lisbon Tourist Attractions
- The Oceanarium
All you will need to know, beyond the insider opinion on the left, about the top Lisbon attraction. The upper right of the home page is the location of the English translation version.
Of the five best Lisbon tourist attractions is The Oceanarium - Oceanário De Lisboa
It's one of the finest examples of indoor aquariums the world over and can be found on the Eastern side of the city. Located on the mighty Tagus river - Rio Tejo, the Oceanarium more than competes with its fantastic location.
Nestling among the stunning Nations Park - Parque das Nações - the attraction is futuristic in its appearance, almost akin to something you'd expect to see in an underwater Hollywood blockbuster.
A rather long, meandering walkway will take you from the ground to its elevated entrance and, along the way, you can listen to the sounds of some of natures most beautiful animals. For those that require a wheelchair, be assured that you are full catered for. Or, if you so please, insist on being pushed by your loved ones along the same route as everyone else. They may well be a little tired but you certainly won't be!
On entrance, you will find yourself enclosed within a darkened environment, something that's perfectly in keeping with the fact that you're about to behold the deep blue sea, up close and personal. And all without getting your feet wet. From this point, be prepared to become enthralled by the huge central tank that's host to some of the most beautiful, frightening and strangest looking sub-aquatic life that you can imagine.
From the tranquil rays, to the fearsome sharks, and the ever awe inspiring (if for all the wrong reasons) Sunfish, there's a fish, rock, plant and monster (or is there?) to please everyone. There are in excess of 40 separate species to be found in the Global Ocean and there are various aspects and levels upon which you can view the realistically recreated underwater realms.
Beyond the Global Ocean, there are also other watery habitats for you to enjoy:
- North Atlantic
- Temperate Pacific
- Tropical Indian
The central theme around which the whole aquarium rotates is the fact that there really is only one ocean - the Global Ocean. It's an interesting lesson to take on board and one delivered by way of a superbly arranged oceanarium.
There are more internal attractions than just the various tanks, such as:
- the starfish and bottom dwellers. Oddly entertaining - so long as you like creatures that prefer to hide from view rather than be viewed
- the 'science bit' - the whys, what's and how's of the Oceanarium
- a short but rather interesting film
- and much more
- take it slow - there's a lot to enjoy
- don't bother trying to take flash photos ... the staff are responsive!
- do view the penguins from beneath the water. if you're really lucky you'll get to see them annoying their fishy neighbours - makes for a very entertaining show!
- take the time to read the scientific illustrations - they're located around the whole attraction. Children especially enjoy knowing the 'facts'
- Metro - Red Line, exit at Oriente Station - Estacão Oriente
- Taxi - simply exit your hotel or lodgings and hail one on the street if you're not located near to a taxi rank.
The Oceanarium - Lisbon
- Nations Park
Unfortunately it doesn't actually do the English language it appears to have. However there are pictures and some of the site will make a little sense.
Parque das Nações - Nations Park
Nations Park - Parque das Nações - can become a whole day out, and it's definitely one of the top Lisbon tourist attractions. It's also a relatively cheap one, providing you don't actually spend any money. The fact is - you don't need to. There's so much to wander around, investigate, sit back and enjoy that spending money really isn't necessary - unless of course you want to.
It's located in the same area as the Oceanarium - in fact the previous attraction is situated inside the Nations Park. On arrival, you'll note that the architecture surrounding the park is contemporary, upbeat ... if anything, the complete opposite of much of what can be seen elsewhere in the city.
That because the park was originally built to host Expo '98. This end of Lisbon town needed a little spruce up, a little nipping and tucking and the investment poured in for the Expo exhibition certainly kick-started a whole new architectural era for the area.
Post exhibition, the park was closed down for a while. This allowed for further growth, both aesthetically and structurally. The Vasco da Gama shopping mall was built - for the women, a day out in itself! Hotels were designed and constructed, as were commercial and residential buildings. The park itself was spruced up, the Marina was added, which is a sight in itself. Designed to reflect Portugal's relationship with the sea, there are various sporting activities enjoyed here, as well as events related to nautical occasions.
Beyond the aquarium, there is:
- the gardens - some of the most beautiful open-use areas purposely created within Lisbon can be found here. Some are interactive, others are just to be viewed and enjoyed
- several restaurants - one or two of Lisbon's best eateries are located within the park's boundaries
- art - though art is usually viewed from the perspective of the beholder and is not every one's cup of tea, there really is some wonderful pieces dotted around the park. The Volcano's are the most fun. Trust me. They are ...
- architecture - it really is quite stunning. And don't forget to look at the floor. The whole of Lisbon is paved with small blocks that almost defy belief. The park is host to some of the most interesting designs, many of which are better viewed from above. If you enter the aquarium, use the cable cars or wander up into the shopping mall - don't forget to look down!
- hire a bike or a go-kart. They're quite cheap and a whole lot of fun. Plus there feels to be miles of open, flat areas that are easy to pedal around. You can even hire a family sized bike!
- take a ride on the cable cars. Take in the view across the magnificent River Tagus, enjoy the site of the Vasco da Gama bridge - one of the best (and longest)
- a science museum - huge, relatively cheap entry fees, lots to see and do should you choose to investigate. Do try the 'air bike' if you decide to take a look around. I have, several times ... it's really not as scary as it looks and quite a lot of fun!
- take a walk along the promenade. The area is host to some wonderful wildlife, in particular birds, due to it's position on the estuary. A definite for those that love bird-watching
There is also the Atlantic Pavilion - Pavilhão Atlântico - which is host to many world famous stars on tour, as well as fantastic shows, exhibitions and more. In my opinion it resembles a futuristic upside down flying saucer but it's still worthy of a look and some well placed mumbles of appreciation.
- don't rush - adopt a little of the Portuguese culture ... there's always time!
- Don't go halfway through the day - it is a big attraction and you may decide to take in the aquarium, the Science Museum and some of the other paid for attractions once there. For the ladies ... don't forget the glorious shopping mall. It really is that good!
- Don't worry about lunch (or dinner). The shopping mall has some fabulous restaurants that are not only cheap ... they're delicious too
- Around the actual park, you'll find many individuals can and will speak English when they realise that's all you can manage to communicate in
- Take your camera - you'll regret it otherwise
- in the event you take a taxi - which are cheap, hail and stop types and plentiful - don't try saying "Parque das Nações" ... you'll never manage to say it with the Portuguese twang and will probably confuse the driver. Instead simply say "Expo" - which usually suffices. And say it "eshpo". And add a please "se faz favor" ... said (literally) "ser sha vor"
Whatever you do - make sure you spend a day investigating all that the Nations Park has to offer. It really is a very pleasant, if tiring, experience.
- Taxis - as previously mentioned, they're everywhere. Hail and stop, unless you're on a dual carriage way.
- Metro - Red Line, exit at Oriente Station - Estação Oriente
- Lisbon Zoo - Jardim Zoolgico de Lisboa
The direct link to the Zoo, opening times, show schedules, entry fees and more. English version.
Lisbon Zoo - Jardim Zoológico De Lisboa
All I can say about Lisbon Zoo - Jardim Zoológico De Lisboa - is this ... go. More so if you're accompanied by young ones. If not then ... still go. It's an utterly fabulous day out and well worthy of being on the top Lisbon tourist attractions list.
The minute you walk through the entrance you just know you're in for a great day out. Lions and tigers and bears abound (I'm not kidding) and before you know it you'll be enthralled by the elephants, in awe of the majestic big cats and chattering like a monkey by the time you find ... the monkeys.
The zoo is home to a wealth of different animals, amphibians, serpents, creepy crawlies, sea going mammals and other sub-aquatic creatures. The best thing (without doubt) is the fact that once you've entered the Zoo, everything inside, barring the food of course, is free.
After paying your submission you can:
- visit every single one of the creatures housed within the Zoo's walls
- take a ride on the over head mini-cable cars. A must do activity due to the fact that it travels around the whole zoo, giving you not only a birds eye view of what's below but several great glimpses of the city itself. Plus it's fun. Just don't swing it about ...
- go and enjoy the sea-lion show. Fabulous fun - even if you're adults. It's likely that you'll end up standing behind all the young ones in order that they can see the show and in the event you feel a little sheepish due to the distinct lack of your own children ... don't worry. No one will notice. Either way, enjoy it - it's very entertaining. And remember your camera for when the 'girls and boys' come out to say hello!
- go and watch the sea-lion/dolphin/pilot whale show. I can't extol the virtues of this absolutely wonderful show enough. Every single time I've watched it (and I seen it quite a few times) I've sat utterly mesmerized throughout the entire show. It's aimed at children and yet it's still fantastic, engaging - magical. You'll appreciate it, thoroughly enjoy it ... love it! Tip - get a kiss from a sea-lion and buy the picture afterwards ... well worth it!
- take a train ride on the Zoo's train. Fun, jolty and just plain cool
- see the birds being fed - chiefly the pelicans and the free flying birds in the Enchanted Forest
The zoo truly is a worthy Lisbon tourist attraction and should be enjoyed for what it is - a place that allows you to come close to some of our worlds most beautiful, frightening and (unfortunately) endangered species.
There's a lot of conservation efforts intertwined within the zoo's ethos and it's more than just an over-sized animal house. Have fun, drink in the sights, sounds and smells and most of all ... don't stand too close to the sea-lion tank when they're performing. They tend to splash around an awful lot!
- Metro - Blue Line, exit at (station) Estação Jardim Zoológico
- Taxi - as before
- Castle of St George
A concise but factual account relating to the Castle's history, as well as info on opening times, entrance fees and other tourist related information.
Castle Of Saint George - Castelo De São Jorge
The Castle Of Saint George - Castelo De São Jorge - was originally a Moorish castle that's sited just above down town Lisbon - Baixa Chiado. Again, it's another top Lisbon tourist attraction and highly popular.
It is, without doubt, one of my favorite attractions in Lisbon. I first visited the castle in the summer of 2008 and have returned there on numerous occasions. Although it's quite the climb to reach it, it's well worth it. On the way up, you'll find yourself meandering through old Lisbon - the heart of the city, the rattle and hum of what makes Lisbon such a fantastically historical place - the Alfama District which is, in the opinion of many, a tourist attraction in itself.
You'll get a real feel for medieval Portugal, the Moors and their influence upon the city itself, the history and the people. In short, you'll feel as though you've taken a step back in time. That is ... providing you can mentally eliminate the taxi's, evidence of modern life in general and the fact that you're likely to be recording your climb with a piece of modern technology ... a camera.
Once you've recovered from the climb (or not if you decided to opt out and grab a taxi or the tram) and entered the grounds, the first thing you should do is walk over to the wall that overlooks the city. Be prepared for some of the most stunning views to be found in Lisbon. From your vantage point you can see the mighty Tagus estuary, as it flows out into the Atlantic after completing its lengthy journey that started many miles away to the North.
Directly in front and to the South is Rossio, Chiado and the buildings and streets that are known architecturally as Pombaline Downtown - so named after the man that rebuilt Lisbon post the devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the Marquis of Pombal - Marques De Pombal. All are worth a closer inspection but that's for the next attraction on the list.
Once you've enjoyed the view, take a walk around the grounds. You'll likely see the odd feral cat (not quite so feral - they appear to be selective about their wildness. Usually relating to eating, being petted and showing off their feline prowess) , the odd Peacock or two, geese and various other examples of flora and fauna.
Of course, the point of visiting the castle are the views, its history - of which there is a vast amount, all of which is interesting and engaging - and its architecture. The Moorish stronghold on long ago Lisbon is quite apparent and you'll find a lot to look at, if you're inclined toward buildings that were built ... well - to last.
There's a small but adequate cafe situated within the castle, which will more than suffice for those looking for a rest stop, a snack or a beer. Plus the ambiance around the cafe and castle itself is a rather tranquil one. A good place to stop, relax and enjoy the peace.
- although the climb is quite tiring, it is worth it for the sights you'll see on the way up
- hanging around or sitting on the castle walls not only allows you to view the city, it also makes for a great rest stop
- don't forget your camera
- don't rush round. Although the castle is all but a ruin, it's in the spirit of the site to simply take your time wandering around the grounds
- Metro - Green Line, exit at Rossio
- Taxi - as before
- Tram - Nº 28
Down Town Lisbon - Baixa
Now - down town Lisbon - Baixa - is not an actual Lisbon tourist attraction so much as a fine part of the city itself. However I'm classing it as one due to the fact that it should become one. There's a lot to see around the down town area, plus it's a gateway to Belém, which is just a little further along the estuary, towards the Atlantic.
Your starting point should be in Rossio Square - which is really called Praça de D. Pedro IV, or Pedro IV Square. Rossio is just above the Pombaline designed layout of Baixa and certainly worth a drift around. The square itself is beautiful, a busy hubbub of activity every day of the week and home to a rather impressive fountain and statue or two.
The square is surrounded by various restaurants, some of which are pretty good - others that aren't. You can judge those that are by the amount of Portuguese occupants - they take meal time rather seriously. The Café Nicola is well known and well used, and on the Western side of the square. There are shops, a bank or two and to the North of the square, the architecturally interesting Maria II Theatre. Just to the left and slightly down from the theatre is the Ginjinha store - it's easily located due to its small size and the bustle that usually surrounds it.
Ginjinha or Ginja, is a liqueur, made from sour ginja berries. It's rather potent and not to my taste but it may be to yours. To the left, on the Western side, you can see the stunning facade of Rossio Station - well worth a closer inspection.
To the South, allow yourself to meander through the Pombaline streets, enjoy the sights and sounds - this part of the city really is a well preserved aspect of Lisbon, post the 1755 earthquake. You will find the Santa Justa Elevator - on Rua de Santa Justa. It's a little Eiffel Tower-like in appearance and remains true to its original construction, back in the early 20th century. If you so wish, take a trip up and visit the cafe right at the top. Worth while for the views, though having taking the elevator - I didn't feel it was worth the ticket price. Alternatively you can climb up to the cafe if you're feeling energetic.
Further down, you will find Praça do Comércio - Commercial Square. Originally the site of the Royal Ribeira Palace, which was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, it is now home to a huge statue of King José I, sitting astride his horse. With your back to the river, you can see the Arco da Rua Augusta - the triumphal arch - which was created in 1875.
On three sides the square is surrounded by government buildings and in the upper North corner (almost at least!) is the much loved Café Martinho Da Arcada. It's over 200 years old and has provided coffee, pastries and perhaps refuge to some of Lisbon's more famous residents - Almeida Garrett and Fernando Pessoa, both poets, and novelist Eça de Queiroz.
You can choose to wander back up and through Baixa, beyond Rossio Square and round into Restauradores - which is pretty much an area filled with restaurants. It's not hard to find - just follow your nose and the hungry crowd! For those that like a little familiarity, you will find a welcome sight just off to the right of the square - there's a Hard Rock Cafe well within sight of the main square. Hamburger heaven!
If you still have time on your hands, hop onto tram 15 from Commercial Square and take a trip to Belém. There's a whole host of other tourist attractions, not least:
- Torre de Belém - Tower of Belem, the famous symbol of Portugal's triumphant seafaring past
- Antiga Confeitaria de Belem - a fantastic pastry house that serves up the most delicious custard type tart you will ever get the chance to experience. Not taste - experience!
- Jeronimos Monastery - a must-see place, if only for its beautiful architecture and the final resting place of the famed seafaring adventurer Vasca da Gama
- don't forget your camera
- ignore the bustle - enjoy it, it's part of what makes this area of the city so unique
- you will see beggars in and around (generally) church entrances and the odd shop front. Ignore them if you don't feel that way inclined. They're harmless and won't hassle you
- protect your belongings. I have never once been the victim of a pick pocket, nor has anyone I know but - it pays to be sensible as it is very busy
- make sure you already have some €'s prior to visiting the area. Many of the ATM's in the area have either a queue or have run out of cash
How to get there:
- Metro, Blue Line - get off at Restauradores Station
- Taxi - hail and stop as always. If ever you feel the driver has over charged you, on any taxi journey, ask for his I.D. and licence number ... "Gostaria que o seu nome, número e identificação, por favor" will suffice. If they've over charged you at all, they will flap a bit and likely become more honest. Note: don't do this if you feel the fare is reasonable as it's unnecessary with most of them ... they're usually very honest. This has happened to me on a few occasions and I know of someone that was charged over €30 for what should have been a €5/6 journey, so it's simply good advice
Portuguese - Basic Phrases
Below are some of the more common basic phrases in Portuguese that will help you get by/around. It's also customary to:
- say good day etc (time of day dependant, morning, evening) when you enter and exit shops, restaurants and so on
- place your cutlery together on the plate once you've finished eating. This signals to the waiting staff that you're done!
- boa tarde- good day
- bom dia - good morning
- olá - hello
- obrigado/a - thankyou
- Como está? - how are you (pronounce kom 'shta)
- até logo - see you later (pronounced atay logo)
- adeus - goodbye (pronounce adeyush)
- queria um/uma ... - I would like a ...
- gostaria de ir para *insert destinatation* - I would like to go to (in a taxi)
- tehno uma reserva ... - I have a reservation ...
- desculpe ... fala Inglês? - Excuse me ... do you speak English (pronounced deshculp)
- um café - coffee
- meia de lite - coffee with milk
- uma cerveja - a beer (pronounced ooma cerrveyshja)
- o menu - the menu (pronounced uu menoo)
- de nada - you're welcome
- sim - yes
- não - no
- hoje - today (prounounced hojsh)
- amanhã - tomorrow
- agora - now
- aqui - here (pronounced akee)
- por favor - please
- com licence - exuse me (when you accidentally brush into someone and prounounced kom lisensa)
Note: Although no one would expect you to be even slightly fluent in the language, do try and be sensitive to the fact that Portugal is a foreign language speaking country. Even though I'm not Portuguese, I was approached from time to time by tourists that were lost or unsure of something or other.
I was always asked for help in English - and it's the assumption that I (or the city dwellers) can understand what you're saying that's a little insensitive. Many of the residents can and will speak English but it's polite to at least:
greet whomever you approach with a 'bom dia' or 'boa tarde' - both said as they read
inform them you are an English speaker and don't speak any Portuguese - 'sou Americano/Inglês - e não falam Portugûes. Tu fala Inglês?' The pronounciation is: 'soo Americano/Inglaze - ee now falam Portoogaze. Too fala Inglaze? It really is quite simple and will likely engender you to the person you have approached!
Once you've got the above out of the way - speak English simply and bear in mind that you're not talking to a native English language speaker ... slowwwww down! Native speakers of Portuguese always had me scratching my head as I couldn't follow what they were saying. I always understood better when they spoke slower and used simpler terms.