Lisbon is a beautiful city steeped in rich history and culture. The city is spread across seven hills at the estuary of River Tagus. It is home to 3 million residents and is the political centre of Portugal along with a hub of arts, trade & commerce, tourism, media, and fashion. It also has a rich history of maritime exploits and proud seafaring traditions.
Lisbon in the 15th and 16th centuries was the hub of several expeditions to discover ad navigate new routes to the spice islands of South Asia and the Far East. These successful exploits by Portuguese navigators heralded the Age of Discovery which further led to the Golden Age of Portugal, an era of massive construction of architectural marvels, rich art & culture, literature and much more.
Today, Lisbon is a vibrant and colourful destination that enjoys pleasant weather, plenty of sunshine and a rich collection of historic monuments, museums, and plenty of charming neighbourhoods like Belem, Baixa, Alfama, Bairro Alto, and Chiado. These neighbourhoods of Lisbon are full of heritage buildings, shops, restaurants, cafes, narrow lanes, parks, and gardens. Explore the city of Lisbon at a leisurely pace to experience the rich cultural treasures and the sights and sounds of the city.
Best Attractions for History Lovers & Culture Vultures in Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Castelo de Sao Jorge is also known as Saint George’s Castle in English. This historic castle is a key landmark of Lisbon with a long history that dates to the 1st Century BC. The castle has a commanding presence near Alfama and overlooks the city from the top of the hill. The castle is known for its sturdy walls and towers that are known for stunning panoramic views of Lisbon, River Tagus, and the Atlantic Ocean. The castle is also the site where the Christian defenders defeated the Moors in 1147, Lisbon’s siege by the Kingdom of Castile in 1373 and was the seat of Portugal’s rulers for over 400 years.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lisbon and one of the must-visit attractions for history seekers during the Lisbon holidays. This 16th-century monastery lies near the Tagus River and is one of the finest examples of Gothic – Manueline architecture in Portugal. The stunning monastery was commissioned by King Manuel I in 1501 to honour Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India in 1498 and was constructed using funds from the spice trade during the Age of Discovery of Pakistan. The monastery is also the official royal crypt of Portugal’s rulers including the tomb of Vasco da Gama and the stunning church of Santa Maria including the south portal and the Manueline cloister.
Torre de Belem
Torre de Belem is also known as the Tower of Saint Vincent. It is a 16th-century fort which is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a symbol of Europe’s Age of Discoveries. It used to be the embarkation and disembarkation point of Portuguese sailors venturing out into the ocean for exploration. Built during the period of Portugal Renaissance and constructed in a typical Manueline architecture and located near the shore of the city and is close to the Tagus River. The beautiful tower has a façade with maritime motifs, Manueline and architecture. This stunning tower is also known for its King’s Chamber designed in an ornate façade and houses the royal crest of arms of King Manuel I. Climb the steep spiral staircase and enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the river and the shore.
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is a must-see attraction for culture vultures during holidays to Lisbon. This rich museum is Portugal’s National Museum of Ancient Art and houses the largest collection of Portuguese 15th and 16th-century paintings and art objects. The museum houses a rich collection of European, African, and Oriental art. The museum is housed in a 17th-century palace over the ruins of a monastery that fell in the earthquake of 1755. Check out the exquisite 17th-century silver casket from India, furniture, tapestries, textiles, and Portuguese art. Check out the 16th-century Japanese paintings, jewellery, ceramics, gold, and silverware that Portuguese traders gathered from all over the world.
Museu do Oriente
Museu do Oriente is a museum dedicated to Asian art and lies in a revamped industrial building on the Alcantara waterfront. The museum opened its door in 2008 and is solely dedicated to showcasing Asian art from Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and China. The museum’s permanent exhibition is located on two floors and clubbed around geographical zones of the Far East. It houses art from India, Japan, Myanmar, Macau, Timor, and China. Check out the stunning 17th-century teak door from India, see the Japanese Namban screen showing Portuguese sailors arriving in Japan, and check out the terra-cotta figurines from the Chinese Ming and Qing dynasty.
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is one of the most important private art galleries and collections in the world. Located in a lush green park in the north of the city, the museum is named after the Armenian oil magnate, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, who donated his art collection to the government of Portugal following his death. The museum houses a rich collection of Islamic Art, China, Japan, Ancient Egypt, French decorative arts, Impressionist paintings, and jewellery of Rene Lalique. Check out the Roman medallions, 17th-century Persian and Turkish carpets, European paintings, French 18th Century decorative arts and plenty of gems and jewellery.
Museu do Fado
Fado is a unique music genre in Lisbon which is known for its soulful, melancholic singing often accompanied by melodious classical guitar tunes. Developed in the 19th century, Fado became popular among the sailor of Portugal. Today, Fado is widely used in Portugal’s cinema, radio, and television. Learn more about Portuguese national music at the Museu do Fado where visitors will learn the history and origin, legendary artists, and names, listen to classic records, and check out the photographs, posters, musical instruments, and plenty of memorabilia. The museum also hosts live Fado performances in the Alfama neighbourhood.
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