Lisbon’s Top 10 Underrated Attractions

Municipal Square

When you think of a European destination, the first places that come to mind are Paris, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, and maybe Venice. But Europe is a vast, spectacular continent filled with special cities to visit, and Lisbon is one of them. Although growing as a major city-break destination, Lisbon remains quite underrated in the European itinerary, and once travellers arrive in the Portuguese capital, they don’t know where to head first. That’s where comes in. It’s established itself as the primary online source for the grand city by the Tagus, directing visitors to the most noteworthy sights, restaurants, hotels, and much more. 

But even within Lisbon there are sights that are often overlooked and underrated. After deciding whether you visit the Gulbenkian, Berardo, or the Ancient Art Museum, and crossing Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, and St. George’s Castle off your list, what other places remain hidden around Lisbon’s seven hills and are often overlooked? Here are ten of them:

1. A museum with works by Tiepolo, Rubens or Brueghel, priceless Chinese porcelain, and historical pieces used by Napoleon would top the list of any art lover’s itinerary, but the MEDEIROS E ALMEIDA MUSEUM is still completely unknown to visitors – as well as locals!

2. The PORTUGAL PAVILION by Pritzker Award-winning architect Siza Vieira instantly grabs your attention with a gravity-defying concrete roof. Although everyone is usually running to the Oceanarium nearby and miss it…

3. An exotic TROPICAL GARDEN with rare vegetation from all corners of the globe is not found in many other big cities – but it is in Lisbon, and right next to the famous Jeronimos!

4. Lisbon’s cathedral is special for its fortress-like appearance, São Roque Church has outstanding baroque chapels, and São Vicente de Fora offers city views and some amazing tile panels –- but the prettiest and most monumental church in the city is ESTRELA BASILICA. Most tourists pass by during their tram 28 voyage, but don’t venture inside –- you should, if only to admire the beautiful large-scale nativity scene.

5. For a dose of royal extravagance in Portugal, everyone knows they should go to Sintra. In fact, its spectacular fairytale palaces may induce such regal overdose, that you may end up forgetting about AJUDA PALACE in Lisbon! Strange clocks, a charming interior Winter Garden, and grand decorated-to-impress rooms await you.

6. Mention EDWARD VII PARK to any local and they’ll surely tell you about the days when it was known for late-night young male prostitution… Forget that! Lisbon’s “Central Park” is safe, beautiful, and provides a postcard-worthy view of the city descending towards the river. If that wasn’t reason enough to come, there are some quite memorable jungle-like greenhouses and hothouses that make you forget you’re in the middle of a city.

7. Too bad it crosses major roads located right on the border with unattractive suburbs or you’d rank the FREE WATERS AQUEDUCT as one of your top sights to see in Lisbon. It’s a 1755 Earthquake survivor, and its architecture and engineering are quite impressive when you remember when it was built. The good news is that you may go on an organized tour that will provide you with all of the fascinating details.

8. You cool down by one of Rossio Square’s fountains, stop to take a photo by Comercio Square’s triumphal arch, and wait for tram 15 in Figueira Square as you watch skaters speed by the equestrian monument in the middle… But you don’t see anyone loitering around MUNICIPAL SQUARE! However, sit on one of the steps descending from the central pillory, and you’ll get Lisbon in a nutshell –- the trademark pavement with cobblestone patterns, old trams clanking on their way to Belem, pastel-colored buildings around you, and an elegant white 18th century palace (the City Hall) radiating sunshine… In short, you sense the serene atmosphere that defines Lisbon.

9. One of Milan’s great attractions is its La Scala opera house. Naples’ San Carlo Theater is also one of its must-sees. Then there’s Paris’ famous Opera, or New York’s great concert halls. Every city places great pride in its theatres, and Lisbon has great reason to be proud of its SÃO CARLOS THEATER. The neoclassical Dona Maria II Theater in Rossio Square may be the best-known classic theatre in the city, but to experience São Carlos is recalling European cultural excellence over the centuries. And to top it all off, there’s a very pleasant restaurant with outdoor tables on the terrace. So stop by and take it all in, in true Lisbon fashion.

10. For a daytrip from Lisbon you’ll be torn between a day by the sea in Cascais and Estoril, or climbing the magical hills of Sintra for its Disney-like palaces. Perhaps you’ll feel a little more adventurous and may go on a tour that includes Obidos or even go as far as Evora. So you forget there is MAFRA and its superlative palace. If you have read Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago’s novel Baltasar & Blimunda, you have read about the construction of this palace… You’ll surely want to see it in person.

One Reply to “Lisbon’s Top 10 Underrated Attractions”

  1. I just found out your blog through a google search and I’m love with it. I’m an ex-pat alfacinha in London, and I am proud to say that I have actually been in 8 of these, 9 if you take the Mae d’Agua for the Aqueduct – the only one I’m missing is the Sao Carlos…

    Still, I would add to your list the Fundacao Ricardo Espirito Santo (which you mention somewhere else), the palace of the Marqueses de Fronteira and the Casa-Museu Jose Malhoa near Picoas. Oh, and the facade of the Igreja da Conceicao Velha near Praca do Comercio.

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