I really enjoyed my first visit exploring Lisbon and hope to go back. After reading up on what to do, I decided that I wanted to focus mainly on the new Lisbon rather than the old and traditional Lisbon. That’s not to say that I didn’t see the historical sites, but I did find many of the things that are giving Lisbon its new image. Granted some of the new changes are slowing down since their economy has been struggling. I saw some areas that have been totally redone and are thriving while some are a little sketchy with empty buildings and a great deal of graffiti. It reminded me a little of Berlin in that way. But all in all, this is a very fun city to explore.
I found it a great walking city. But note it is hilly like San Francisco so bring good walking shoes. I also suggest that you consider buying the Lisboa Pass which includes admission to many of the museums and historical sites.
Things to do on my list include:
Explore Chiado and Bairro Alto: Walk the streets, see some great tiles decorating the old buildings, sit in a café, explore great retail stores and try some good restaurants! Make sure to stop in at Sao Roche at Largo Trindade Coelho which has wonderful altars and one of the most beautiful painted ceilings I have seen. You will definitely see the Electrico 28 in Chiado which is the old electric street car which adds to the charm of the city.
Baixa: I started at the huge triumphal arch in Praca de Comercio which leads into Rua Augusta. I walked the pedestrian mall up to Rossio, the center of town and the further up Avenida da Liberdade. It is a nice way to experience the city center. Stop in at the Confeitaria Nacional at Praca de Figueira 18B, a two story pastry shop which opened in 1829.
Castelo de Sao Jorge, Porta de S Jorge, Rua de Chao da Feira: This was a great place to end the perfect Sunday afternoon. This is the hilltop citadel that was transformed into the residence of the Portuguese kings. It was enjoyable walking the ramparts and seeing the red-tiled roofs of the city below. Walk down from the castle through winding streets that have small cafes, restaurants and some tourist shops and a few good antique stores. I bought two pieces from one of the antique stores.
Belem: Make sure to get to Belem which is west of downtown and along the river. Here you should see the Torre de Belem which was built as a fortress between 1515-21. Also see the Mosterio do Jeronimos Praca do Imperio which was commissioned in 1501. It was not opened the day I was there nor was the The Museu Nacional dos Coches. This collection of carriages is supposed to be really good.
But I was able to go to Museu Colecao Berardo which is a really good contemporary art museum. It is a part of the Centro Cultural de Belem which is a large complex. The museum focuses on contemporary art from 1900 to the present. You will see works by Picasso, Miro to Warhol and Dubuffet. There are also temporary exhibitions of which I saw two while there. The Centro Cultural also has great concerts, dance performances and other events. Check out their website.
Across from the Centro Cultural is the famous monument to discoveries which is sitting along the river showing Henry the Navigator and other Portuguese heroes associated with the Age of Discovery.
Estacao do Oriente/Parque dos Nacoes: I had to see Santiago Calatrava’s award winning railway station built for the 1998 World Expo. It reminded me of one of his projects in Valencia that I saw earlier in my trip in Spain. This station design is really wonderful. I headed then to Parque dos Nacoes to see some of the other great architecture. The first was the Portugal Pavilion which is the only publicly accessible building by the famous architect Alvaro Siza Vieira. In the park you will see the Peter Chermayeff’s Oceanarium and a Science Center which is very popular with children. The neighboring office buildings and the Vasco de Gama Shopping Center across form the train station are new and very attractive.
Museu Nacional do Azulejo: The National Tile Museum at Rua da Madre de deus 4, should be high on your list to see the beautiful tiles or azulejos that Lisbon is known for.