A Weekend in Lisbon, Portugal

A view of Lisbon looking northeast along the River Tagus.

There are some great sights in and near Lisbon (‘Lisboa’ in Portuguese). I had a free weekend and another free afternoon during a business trip in May, and didn’t waste a moment. I was able to visit Belém, Sintra, and Tomar as well as Lisbon.

Locations visited in Portugal.

Lisbon has a very scenic setting along the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), just a few miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. Since an earthquake in 1755 leveled the city, most of the architecture is not old, but it is still quite beautiful. The Portuguese love white buildings with red roofs and that is the image in my mind that I’m taking away from my visit. May is a great time of year to visit; the temperature was in the low 80’s F, and clear. In this post I share a few key sights in Lisbon and some tips for getting around. In other posts I will share my travel experiences to Belém, Sintra and Tomar.

A view of Lisbon and the River Tagus from the Castelo de Sao Jorge (the Praça do Comércio (historical plaza) is in the middle left of this view).

Getting Around. Lisbon has a somewhat small city feel, making it easy to get around. There is a good bus and Metro (subway) system. The Metro is well-signposted, efficient, clean, and easy to navigate. The automatic ticket kiosks have an English navigation option, and an all-day ticket for the Metro and bus system is €5.50. I used it a lot during my stay. There is also a trolley system in the heart of Lisbon covered by the same ticket. For visiting sights, a ‘Lisboa Card’ available, which provides a cost-effective way to see a number of tourist locations. I found it easy to get by on English, even in less touristy places.

A Lisbon Metro station.

San Francisco? No, Lisbon! The street cars are a great way to get around this hilly city.

Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle of St. George). This Moorish castle dominates a hill overlooking the heart of Lisbon and Tagus River. It dates from the 11thcentury, and was a royal palace for 400 years. It is a great place to visit in the afternoon, as the sun is setting to the west overlooking the city. The castle is mainly a series of walls, and it was very enjoyable to walk the walls and take in all the different views of Lisbon from this vantage point. This spot has been inhabited for millennia. There are some ruins near the castle (part of the castle entrance fee) dating from the 7thcentury BC, now protected by modern shelters. The entry fee was €7.50.

The entrance to Castelo de Sao Jorge.

The walls of Castelo de Sao Jorge.

There are many restaurants right below the castle in this old part of Lisbon.

Sé Catedral (Lisbon Cathedral). This Romanesque 12thcentury cathedral looks out of place since it was one of the few medieval-era buildings to survive the earthquake of 1755. I was impressed with the interior. It is an enjoyable walk up hill from the cathedral to the castle area.

The Lisbon Cathedral.

The interior of the Lisbon Cathedral–rounded archways, heavy, thick walls and small windows, all typical features of Romanesque architecture.

Plazas.The Praça do Comércio is right at the waters’ edge and commemorates the seafaring history of Lisbon.

The Praca do Comercio in Lisbon. This plaza is right on the river waterfront.

Rossio Square is the center of Lisbon, and also has a train station (just to the west of the Square) from which the train to Sintra leaves (see separate post on Sintra). These plazas are connected by several avenues, one of which (Dos Correerios) is a pedestrian street where many restaurants are located.

Rossio Square – the heart of old Lisbon.

Dos Correerios pedestrian street in old Lisbon.

Elevador de Santa Justa (The Elevator). This elevator structure was built in the early 1900’s and is simply a viewing platform overlooking the central part of Lisbon and a lift for people visiting Barrio Alto where the ruins of Covent do Carmo are located. One can walk up the streets behind the tower and then take the walkway to the Tower for free (just below the observation deck). Lisbon is hilly and several lifts like this were in earlier years scattered throughout Lisbon.

Take this elevator to the top for a great view of old Lisbon.