Age of Discovery monuments and colorful streets and squares
The World Heritage Belem Tower
is to Lisbon what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or Big Ben is to London. It
is the city's most photographed landmark, which along with the marvelous Jeronimos
Monastery should top your list of must-see monuments.
But Lisbon's biggest attraction is the city itself, a city that is not spruced up for the tourist to see, but an authentic place that stands out in such an increasingly homogeneous world. Although it boasts a range of must-see sights, its biggest pleasures are its streetlife and setting, admired from a pavement cafe, from the top of a hilltop miradouro, or simply by wandering around the atmospheric "bairros."
Not too many other cities have such an intriguing mix of the old and the new, or so many contrasting faces, making this a city for unhurried exploration and a place to get lost in, discovering its many distinctive sights and characteristic images.
There are two unique architectural styles -- the elaborate 16th century Manueline of the Belem district (named after King Manuel I), and the uniform but elegant 18th century Pombaline of downtown (named after Marquês de Pombal who oversaw the area's rebuilding after the Great Earthquake of 1755) -- along with fine art nouveau shops and cafes that have almost disappeared elsewhere. Just as distinctive are its striking centuries-old tiled façades in the old quarters, and the turn-of-the-century trams and colorful funiculars that have been retired throughout Europe but that remain a common sight in this city, as there is no easier (or more charming) way to climb its hills.
Looking down at the pavements,the concrete and asphalt of other cities is replaced here by imaginative cobbled patterns, and even the most modern structures concentrated in the Parque das Nações district are unique in keeping a maritime theme in their architecture. They reflect the city's historical relationship with the sea, which makes it an ideal home to the fantastic Oceanarium. It too sets itself apart from other aquariums in the world for its innovative design, and even the museums house treasures not found anywhere else, from the unique Lalique jewelry displayed in the Gulbenkian Museum, to the one-of-a-kind collection of the Tile Museum.
All of this is what makes Lisbon such a memorable and charming city for seasoned travellers, although there are also the ostentatious palaces and old churches typical of any great historical capital, and the stunning contemporary architecture expected in any great modern city.
To help you decide where to go, we've included descriptions and pictures of all the main sights, and here's the must-do Lisbon itinerary. Below is a list of all the sights by category and to know what to see first, see our Top 10 - Best of Lisbon page.
Get FREE or reduced admission to most of Lisbon's attractions and ride the city's metro, buses, and trams for FREE with the Lisboa Card.
OPENING TIMES: Most of Lisbon's museums and monuments (especially those in Belem) close on Mondays, so that's the best day to go up to the castle or to visit the Oceanarium, which are both open every day.
TOURIST CARD: You may want to consider buying the tourism office's Lisboa Card that grants access to all public transportation (buses, trams, metro, and even CP trains to Sintra and Cascais) and free entrances or discounts on most attractions. Click here for more info.
TOURS: If you're short on time, you may want to consider an organized tour which may also include excursions to some of Portugal's most enchanting towns such as Sintra or Obidos.
THE BEST SIGHTS: See our Best of Lisbon page for the top 10 sights and experiences in Lisbon and the must-do itinerary for some ideas on how to plan your sight-seeing.