Best Things to do in Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city is beautiful and enchanting. A fusion of history, a vibrant nightlife and a bohemian art scene, Portugal is a city that is truly alive.
A visit to Portugal is a life-enriching experience, and you will want to return time after time. Many enjoy a guruwalk in Lisbon, which translates to a ‘free walk in Lisbon’, to get a flavour of the city if it is the first time they are visiting. Now you’re here, where to go and what to see.
Torre de Belém
The Torre de Belém is arguably Lisbon’s most iconic landmark. It is an unmissable tower soaring from Lisborn Quay. Built in the 16th century, it features a range of architectural styles including Mudejar, Moorish, Gothic, and Romanesque. Its history has a romantic flavour. Many a tale is spun about Vasco da Gama and other New World adventurers, stating the Torre de Belém would have been the last thing they would see as they set off across the Atlantic.
The Alfama District is arguably Lisbon’s ‘old town’ and is well worth a visit, taking a stroll through the district enjoying the architecture which is mostly of Moorish design.
Delights you will see include the Lisbon Cathedral and the remains of the city walls. In various parts of your walk, you’ll also find great places to eat and enjoy a cup of coffee. A walk through the winding streets of Alfama is one of the most interesting things you can do.
Although a tram ride may not seem on the surface as something exciting, the route of Tram 28 is worth the price of a ticket. It runs through the Alfama district and takes you to Graça, Escolas Gerais, and stops beneath the domes of Estrela Basilica.
Along the way, you will see various architectural forms and see historic buildings from the past. You will marvel as the tram negotiates hairpin bends. Perhaps best of all you will see local people doing what local people do, and this, in of itself, is fascinating.
Although Sintra is not part of Lisbon, but a small town half an hour away by car, it is still a place you should make time for. The town is UNESCO protected and features baroque churches, palaces where former Kings and Queens once resided, and mansions.
This colourful town sits on the Mountains of the Moon. You may want to spend a few days here submersing yourself in this most eloquent of places.
Visit the National Tile Museum
Since Moorish times, tiles have been an important part of Portugal’s economy and indeed their worldwide reputation for producing the best ceramics.
The National Tile Museum gives an education on the history and importance of ceramic tile making and features different types of design. The star of the show is the blue-hued azulejos which stands apart from the rest of the exhibition.
St George’s Castle
Originally built by the Romans 2000 years ago, St George’s Castle stands watch, high over the Alfama District. Throughout its history, different rulers have developed the castle further. This impressive building demands your attention. The towers and palisades stand out along with the dry moat that surrounds the castle.
Make this part of your itinerary when you visit the Alfama District.
Monastery of Jerónimos
The UNESCO protected Monastery of Jerónimos was constructed during Portugal’s ‘Age of Exploration’. The monastery was built using money from the country’s profitable spice trade route. It was built in the Manueline style and features grand carvings and ornate spires. The fusion of architectural styles represents the different cultures encountered by Lisbon explorers.
It is situated near the Tagus River, and you should discover this important part of Portugal’s past.
While you’re near the Tagus River, a visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium should also feature on your places to visit list. It is also a nice change from discovering history by discovering ocean life. The oceanarium houses a host of marine life and exhibits.
There are several stars of the show, including sharks, penguins, moray eels, and pufferfish. If the weather is hot, you can rent a pedalo and enjoy the artificial lagoon.
National Museum of Art
For a blast of culture, why not spend some time in The National Museum of Art. Most of the paintings date from the 16th to the 19th century and include pieces from Nuno Gonçalves and Josefa de Óbidos.
The paintings from the Renaissance period and the Age of Discovery help to bring to life Portugal during this time.
Mercado da Ribeira
The Mercado da Ribeira is a famous and wonderous food market. The market features traditional fruits and vegetables downstairs while upstairs has more exotic foods. It also features amazing places to eat. You can try and polish off a gigantic francesinha sandwich, or try a fine Portuguese wine or custard tart.
The market offers a place where locals come to get their food for the week.