Portugal Part 5: Lisbon
Updated: Aug 27
Lisbon, or Lisboa, is the capital of Portugal and its largest city. It lies on the estuary of the Tagos or Tijo River, in Western Portugal. While Lisbon is without question a modern metropolis, it has retained the enchantment of a city that is thousands of years old.
Like Porto, Lisbon is a city of rolling hills and gorgeous vistas. Lisbon is known as "a cidade das sete colinas" or "the city of seven hills," though critics say there are at least eight or more. Whatever the case, this is a splendid city full of beautiful sites and experiences, some of which I have highlighted below.
Parque Eduardo VII
This, the largest park in central Lisbon, was named after Britain's Edward VII after his visit in 1903. In addition to the impressively trimmed, symmetrical, hedges, the park has lovely views of central Lisbon and the River Tagus.
Praça do Comércio
This square, which opens onto the Tagus estuary, was once the reception area for visitors arriving to Lisbon by sea. This plaza, surrounded by bright, yellow, pombaline-style buildings (a native Portuguese architectural style), is one of the most beautiful in Portugal.
This 16th century monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Monument, was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama's journey, and later became the resting place for his tomb.
The Belém Tower was the gateway to the city of Lisbon. This fort once guarded the Tejo Estuary and was also the place from where explorers launched their ships.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Consequently, adjacent to the Belém Tower is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a 170-foot monument to those 15th and 16th century Portuguese explorers and idealists.
On the west side of the monument, you will find some of the visionaries who empowered exploration.
On the east side, are the great explorers themselves. The monument features at total of 32 historical figures who played a significant role in Portugal's Age of Discovery. There are 31 men depicted on the monument including, Vasco do Gama, Henry the Navigator and Ferdinand Magellan, and one woman - Queen Philippa of Lancaster.
Does the monument you see off in the distance look familiar? It was inspired by the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and is only four feet shorter in height. This 92-foot-tall, Cristo Rei (“Christ the King”), stands on a 269-foot pedestal on a hill in Almada, just across the Tagus River from Lisbon.
Ponte 25 de Abril
And does this bridge look familiar as well? The Ponte 25 de Abril bridge in Lisbon opened in 1966, nearly 30 years after construction finished on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. It was originally called the Salazar Bridge, after Portugal’s prime minister and dictator. After a revolution in 1974, the bridge's name was changed to "Ponte 25 de Abril" to reflect the new date of independence.
Fado is an emotion-infused, Portuguese, music genre. Fado, which translates to "fate," has its origins in the heart of Lisbon. Fado music is usually connected to feelings of saudade. It is melancholy in nature and evokes feelings of longing.
Rather than try to describe it, here is a short clip of a fado performance I attended in the Alfama district of Lisbon. Emotion and talent poured forth from the vocalist and the musicians.
In my next two posts, I will share the great dining experiences I had during my stay in Lisbon. Stay tuned.