Once the launch pad for many of the voyages of discovery (notably Vasco da Gama's epic journey to India), Lisbon was the first true world city, the capital of an empire spreading over all continents, from South America (Brazil) to Asia (Macao, China; Goa, India). It is forever known as the city of the explorers, and you too will be filled with the spirit of discovery as you retrace the footsteps of Prince Henry the Navigator or Ferdinand Magellan.
Situated on the north banks of the River Tagus, the charm of Lisbon exists in its strong links to the past. Its renovated palaces, magnificent churches and an impressive castle mirror the city's rich cultural heritage. Its eclectic blend of neighborhoods, culture and architecture distinguish this capital city uniquely from the other European capitals and make it a truly fascinating and comprehensive city to visit. A city set on seven hills, as the legend tells, with its cobble-stoned pavements and narrow streets full of Art Nouveau cafés promises a lot to discover.
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|Square of Commerce|
Be sure to stroll through Praça do Comércio, or Square of Commerce, the centrepiece of which is the equestrian statue of King José I, inaugurated in 1775 in the centre of the square. This bronze statue, the first monumental statue dedicated to a King in Lisbon, was designed by Joaquim Machado de Castro, Portugal's foremost sculptor of the time. Opening towards Augusta Street, which links the square with the other traditional Lisbon square, the Rossio, the original project by Eugénio dos Santos planned a triumphal arch, only realised in 1875. This arch, usually called the Arco da Rua Augusta, was designed by Veríssimo da Costa. It has a clock and statues of the Glory, Ingenuity and Valour (by the French sculptor Camels) and those of Viriatus, Nuno Álvares Pereira, Vasco da Gama and, of course, the Marquis of Pombal.
On 1 February 1908, the square was the scene of the assassination of Carlos I, the penultimate King of Portugal. On their way back from the palace of Vila Viçosa to the royal palace in Lisbon, the carriage with Carlos I and his family passed through the Terreiro do Paço. While crossing the square, shots were fired from the crowd by at least two men: Alfredo Costa and Manuel Buiça. The king died immediately, his heir Luís Filipe was mortally wounded, and Prince Manuel was hit in the arm. The assassins were shot on the spot by members of the bodyguard and later recognized as members of the Republican Party – which two years later overthrew the Portuguese monarchy.
Lisbon also hosts a great number of remarkable museums of ancient and modern art, some of which are Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, National Museum of Contemporary Art, National Coach Museum, Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and Carmo Archaeological Museum. But, Lisbon isn't all culture and history; Bairro Alto is the center of nightlife with various restaurants and bars where melancholic traditional Portuguese music, Fado, can also be listened.
When tired of sight-seeing, shopping in Lisbon will take all your tiredness away! The biggest shopping mall in Iberian Peninsula, Centro Commercial Colombo, will offer you innumerous options. For those who prefer to shop in local markets, there is a fascinating flea market at the Campo de Santa Clara.
The best way to discover Lisbon is to get lost in its narrow streets and up and down roads! Every narrow street will tell you a different story and every story will reach to your heart easily!
Getting around the city couldn't be easier, the quickest way undoubtedly is the Metro. Not because it is cheap and fast but also because the Metro stations are covered with amazing artistic decoration. Metro trains run every day from 6.00 a.m. until 1.00 a.m.
Trams offer a nostalgic trip through ancient neighborhoods such as the Bairro Alto in Alfama with fascinating views of the city, many of them are pre-World War One and still running.
- Belém Tower . Built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbor, the Belem Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland. It is a monument to Portugal's Age of Discovery, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument.
- The Jeronimos Monument. The Jeronimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal's power and wealth during the 'Age of Discovery'. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. It was built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama's voyage and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success. Vasco da Gama's tomb was placed inside by the entrance, as was the tomb of poet Luis de Camões, author of the epic The Lusiads in which he glorifies the triumphs of Da Gama and his compatriots. Other great figures in Portuguese history are also entombed here, like King Manuel and King Sebastião, and poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.
- Alfama District. This quaint medieval district (once the Moorish and Jewish quarter before it became a fishing community) is like a small village. It stands as a time capsule to the years before Lisbon was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, as it remained standing thanks to its rock-solid foundations.
Put away your map and wander aimlessly through its "becos" (alleys) and "largos" (small squares), allowing your senses to be the guides. Set in a visually stunning hill, this is Lisbon at its most picturesque and the very soul of the city. Life here continues much as it has for centuries, but walk down towards the river and you're once again in modern times: old warehouses have been renovated and turned into some of the city's coolest hotspots, from DeliDelux for brunch to Bica do Sapato for dinner, and Lux for drinks and dancing until sunrise.
- São Jorge Castle . Saint George's Castle can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Its oldest parts date from the 6th century, when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal's first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147 with the help of northern European crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, commemorating the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating from 1371, and became the royal palace until another one (that was destroyed in the Great Earthquake) was built in today's Comercio Square.
- Discoveries Monument. Across from Jeronimos Monastery, reached via an underpass by its gardens, is the Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.It represents a three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures such as King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, poet Camões holding verses from The Lusiads, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, following Prince Henry the Navigator at the prow holding a small vessel. The only female is queen Felipa of Lancaster, mother of Henry the navigator, the brains of the discoveries.