First settled during prehistoric times, Lisbon ranks as one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities. Its strategic position at the mouth of the Tagus River has long made it an ideal port for trade, and it was the object of bitter battles between the Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and later, Moors and Christians.
Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Lisbon was the center of the Age of Discovery. From these Portuguese shores, explorers from Bartolomeu Dias to Vasco da Gama sailed to the far reaches of the Earth, bringing back exotic spices, textiles, sugar and enormous wealth for the city’s merchants.
Today, the spirit of discovery is alive and well in Lisbon. This is a city ripe for exploration, where a rich past mingles with a vibrant present.
Lisbon Lifestyle and Culture
Lisbon’s architecture is rich and varied. Here, you’ll find grand examples of Romanesque, baroque, Gothic, Manueline, and modern structures.
A treasure trove for art lovers, the city is home to world-renowned art museums, including the National Museum of Ancient Art, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, and the National Tile Museum.
Lisbon Sights and Entertainment
The whitewashed buildings and red roofs of the hillside Alfama district comprise one of Lisbon’s most picturesque sights. Take tram 28 to the top and enjoy exploring the narrow cobblestone streets, inviting shops and local color of the city’s oldest quarter.
Along the northern bank of the Tagus River stands Portugal’s Monument to the Discoveries, a towering sculpture commemorating the nation’s spirit of exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries. The original Monument to the Discoveries was a temporary work intended as a showcase for the 1940 World Exhibition. It was destroyed after the exhibition closed. The monument you see today is a perfect replica of the original, built in 1960.
The Monument to the Discoveries looks out to sea from the city’s Belém district, a region that saw great wealth during the Age of Discovery. The nearby Jerónimos Monastery was built on that wealth. For its striking architectural features, this Hieronymite monastery—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is considered one of Lisbon’s most noteworthy buildings. Belém Tower is also here, a fortified tower commissioned by King John II in 1513. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tower was designed as part of Lisbon’s defense system. Then as now, it functioned as a ceremonial gateway to the city for those arriving via the Atlantic.
The Chiado district is one of Lisbon’s most stylish centers of commerce. In this historic neighborhood, you’ll find high-fashion boutiques and many local shops selling everything from handmade shoes to bespoke leather goods.
There are also ample opportunities to purchase the famed azulejo tilework for which local artisans have become known. The decorative tiles are a ubiquitous sight in Lisbon and throughout Portugal, typically found adorning the walls of churches, palaces and even railway stations. So prevalent are the tin-glazed ceramic tiles that they have become a significant element of Portuguese architecture.
Port wine is also central to Portugal. Produced in the Douro Valley in the country’s northern provinces, port is typically sweet and red and is often served as a dessert wine. For many, it’s an acquired taste. If you care to try or if you’re already a port lover, you’ll find ports of many varieties on any restaurant menu in Lisbon.View Cruises to Lisbon