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An Essential Guide to Lisbon from A-Z

The Ultimate Lisbon Cheat Sheet    |   July 2017

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Full of custard tarts, yachts, sunshine and history, this is a comprehensive A-Z guide of Portugal’s capital-city, Lisbon

Guide to Lisbon | View of Lisbon © iStock/alanphillips

Located on the northern banks of the River Tagus, Lisbon’s a city of steep streets, green parks and historical districts. Famous for its maritime heritage, grand 19th century buildings and its balmy weather, visitors love its nearby beaches, unique monasteries and vibrant nightlife. With so much to do, however, it’s hard to organise your time in the Portuguese capital. Which is why we’ve compiled this A-Z guide, the perfect port-of-call for anything that intrigues you…

A is for Azulejo

Parts of Lisbon are covered in colourful tiles, which the Portuguese call “Azulejo”. Stuck to walls, ceilings and floors, the patterns are hypnotically beautiful.

B is for Belém

Famous for its concentration of beautiful monuments, Belém is also filled with pastry shops, palaces and museums, which makes it a must-visit on any trip to Lisbon.

C is for Custard Tarts

Known as Pasteis de Nata in Portugal, these custard tarts have a reputation for being the best in the world. Often infused with lemon and cinnamon for a twist, try one of these puff pastry delights – or maybe a bag of them.

D is for Districts

Known locally as bairros (neighbourhoods), each district in Lisbon has a clear style and culture. Many in the eastern parts of the city (such as Mouraria and Alfama) are the oldest, as they were built on a harder rock that resisted much of the 1755 earthquake.

E is for Elavador

Elavador is Portuguese for the funiculars that are mostly situated towards the north of Lisbon. Journeys cost roughly three euros and take customers from the low seafront up to the higher residential areas in the north.

Guide to Lisbon | Belem Tower © iStock/lite
Guide to Lisbon | Lisbon Tram © iStock/seanpavonephoto

F is for Fado

All over Lisbon you’ll hear the profoundly melancholic tunes of Fado, one of the country’s most popular musical exports. If you want nothing but the best, visit Bela in Santa Maria Maior.

G is for Great Earthquake

Lisbon is defined by the 1755 earthquake, which destroyed almost all of the city. Today, some of the most beautiful places are those that were never rebuilt, such as Carmo Convent.

H is for Hills

Lisbon, like Rome, Istanbul and Edinburgh is built on the back of seven hills. This can make getting around a little bit tricky, but also ensures that terraces on higher ground offer stunning views of the landscape below.

I is for Idiosyncrasy

From street art (try and find the urban crocodile!) to hospitals for dolls, Lisbon has more than its fair share of quirky attractions. Try to find what locals call a “Thieves Market” if you can, for stylish vintage gear – the largest and most famous is in the Campo de Santa Clara.

J is Jerónimos Monastery

No guide to Lisbon can be considered complete without including one of the most spectacular monasteries in Europe. Dating back to the 15th century, it contains the tomb of Portugal’s most famous explorer, Vasco de Gama.

K is for Kiosks

Kiosks are scattered all over Lisbon, and sell everything from refreshments to metro tickets. Many are surprisingly pretty, dating from the 19th century and reflecting both Art Nouveau and Moorish influences.

L is for Lisboa Card

Available for purchase from tourist information stores, the Lisboa card offers free use of all public transport in the city, as well as free (or reduced) price tickets to museums and galleries.

M is for Metro

There are four colour-coded metro lines in Lisbon. Most trips cost roughly one euro, and stops are often decorated with poetry and murals.

Guide to Lisbon | Vasco de Gama Bridge © iStock/mtmurado
Guide to Lisbon | Fountain in Rossio Square © iStock/eonaya

N is for Nações Park

The Park of Nations is Lisbon’s ultra-modern alter ego. An ocean of glass and steel, some of the fun stuff on offer includes cable cars, shopping centres, museums, restaurants and bars.

O is for O Policia

Founded in 1900, O Policia is one of the oldest restaurants in Lisbon. Named after the founder, Teotonio Miranda, who hung up his police uniform in favour of an apron, this top restaurant is still in the family – now being run by his great-grand-daughters, Cristina and Teresa.

P is for Pombaline

Almost all the architecture one can admire in Lisbon is Pombaline in style. Named after the first Marques de Pombal, who led attempts to rebuild the city after 1755, it’s one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction in Europe.

Q is for Queluz Palace

Located on the outskirts of Lisbon, Queluz Palace is one Europe’s last great Rococo buildings. Designed as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Braganza in the 18th century, it’s a must-see just for the extravagant Robollon wing alone.

Guide to Lisbon | Verdala Aerial View
Guide to Lisbon | Jeronimos Monastery © iStock/terraxplorer

R is for Rossio

Sitting at the heart of Lisbon, Rossio (the local name for Pedro IV square) is hard to miss. An enormous square with two baroque fountains and dozens of sculptures, it’s overlooked by the grand neoclassical façade of the National Theatre.

 

S is for Scooter

One of the most effective ways to get around Lisbon, scooters also mean that day trips to destinations like Sintra or Cascais are easy to accomplish. Some of the most reliable companies operate by the train station.

 

T is for Tram 28

Undeniably the most famous tram (out of the three traditional ones that are still operating), no.28 covers some of the best sights in old-town Lisbon, including Sao Jorge Castle, Alfama and Chiado.

U is for University of Lisbon

One of the country’s most unusual buildings, the Pavilhão de Portugal, is owned by the University of Lisbon, and modelled on a sheet of paper that rests on two bricks.

V is for Vasco da Gama Bridge

The longest bridge in Europe (and the ninth longest in the world), Vasco da Gama Bridge crosses 10.7 miles of the River Tagus in an incredible feat of engineering.

W is for Walking

Stroll down Rua Augusta to Comercio Square, or walk along the waterfront to Belem Tower. No matter what your destination, there’s sure to be plenty of restaurants, chapels and cobbled alleys to explore.

X is for Xerez

If you’re walking around Lisbon in the evening, xerez is the perfect refreshment to put a spring in your step. Portuguese for sherry, it’s sold at lots of bars and restaurants as a digestif.

Y is for Yachts

From luxury yachts to high-speed catamarans, from cheeky pirate ships to zippy sailboats, there are several boat hire companies in Lisbon that offer their services on both the River Tagus and the Atlantic.

Z is for Zoo

Founded in 1884, Lisbon’s zoo includes 300 species, a children’s farm, several conservation programmes and a daily dolphin show.

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