This extraordinary interactive exhibition chronicles Lisbon’s colorful and eventful timeline, from its days as a strategic Roman port, its role it played in Portugal’s golden Age of Discovery and, later, its resilience in the aftermath of the great 1755 earthquake. The tour ponders the “carnation” revolution of 1974 and highlights the city’s hosting of Expo 98 before visitors are regaled with Lisbon in the 21st century. It’s a fun way to get to know your hosts.
The history of Lisbon under one roof at the Lisboa Story Centre. — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Exiting the centre and ambling across the square will take you to the triumphal arch. Walk under this landmark to Rua do Conceição, in the Baixa (downtown). From here you can catch Tram 28 up to Castelo de São Jorge and admire stunning city and river views from the towers and battlements of this iconic Lisbon monument.
It’s worth allowing a couple of hours to explore the castle and nearby Alfama, the city’s oldest and most fascinating quarter. Lose yourself in its maze of snaking streets and narrow alleyways, and be sure to pause in one of the many hidden cafes to soak in the local flavor of this captivating neighborhood.
From here it’s a leisurely walk back down to the Baixa and Rua Augusta, the city’s lively pedestrian thoroughfare thronged with shops and restaurants and a museum devoted to fashion and design called MUDE, which is absolutely free to enter. Heading north along Rua Augusta will bring you into Rossio, where you might consider lunch or a snack at Café Nicola, one of the city’s most famous coffeehouses.
Rua Augusta in the city's Baixa (downtown) area — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Suitably refreshed, you're a short jaunt up to the elegant and sophisticated neighborhood of Chiado. This is the place to window shop for that special souvenir. Pop into Tous Rua Garrett Lisboa for beautiful jewellery displayed in one of the most striking and ornate shop interiors found anywhere in the city.
The gilded Louis XV-style interior of Tous Rua Garrett Lisboa — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Stopping at A Carioca also places you on Rua da Misericordia, a road that passes the 16th-century church of São Roque. The plain, unassuming façade of this church conceals an astonishing interior of gilded woodwork, opulent mosaics and semiprecious stones. It’s astonishing, and free to enter. The adjoining museum charges a modest entrance fee.
Afterwards, continue further up the hill to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. This attractive belvedere affords sweeping views of the city and the castle, and by now, the late afternoon sun will be bathing the rooftops in a golden hue–a real scene-stealer.
Picture-postcard views from Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
At this stage you might like to indulge in a drop of port wine tasting at Solar do Vinho do Porto, just across the street. On the other hand, if you’re in a more contemplative mood, double back to Largo do Carmo and the Gothic ruins of Igreja do Carmo, an evocative reminder of the devastation left by the 1755 earthquake, an event you will have learned about earlier at the story center.
The best way to end any sightseeing tour is on a high, so why not walk back down to the Baixa and watch the sun set over the Portuguese capital from the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa? Linger until nightfall and you’ll see the city sparkle like diamonds as dusk steals the last vestiges of the day.