Top 10 monuments in Lisbon Portugal
It was not easy to choose my top 10 monuments in Lisbon, as Portugal’s capital is full of interesting and imposing places to see and enjoy.
With its seven hills overlooking Tagus River, Lisbon shines under its unique light and mild climate. Inhabited since early times, the Portuguese capital was under the influence of Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginian. Then, from the hill where it stands Lisbon’s castle, the city grew and prospered under the rule of Romans to decline with the several Germanic tribes that occupied the area. With the Arabs the city knew a new era of development, which marks are still visible, especially at the winding streets of Alfama.
Ever since it was conquered by Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese king, in 1147, Lisbon has been playing a decisive role on the country’s destiny as a major political, economic and cultural center.
With such a rich and ancient history, Lisbon offers a remarkable Heritage collection to be discovered, preferably slowly enough to enjoy all the precious details. For those who don’t have the time to visit all Lisbon monuments, here is the list of my Top 10 Lisbon Monuments no one should miss:
Photo of Hieronymites monastery, one of top 10 monuments in lisbon portugal, by B G
The Hieronymites monastery, or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, is set in the beautiful district of Belem, facing Tagus River, this imposing monastery, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1983, reveals the glory of the Portuguese Age of Discoveries. It is the greatest symbol of the Manueline style, a sort of Portuguese late-Gothic, which depicts navigation symbols along with sculptures of plants and exotic animals from the new lands discovered by the Portuguese explorers.
Belem Tower, one of top 10 monuments in lisbon portugal, photo by M@rg
Belem tower, or Torre de Belem is a fortified tower situated nearby the Hieronymites Monastery in the Belem area, built to be part of the defensive system for the Tagus River estuary, providing crossfire with the Fortress of São Sebastião da Caparica on the south bank of the river.
Lisbon Cathedral, one of top 10 monuments in lisbon portugal, photo by Matt from London
Lisbon Cathedral was built under the orders of Afonso Henriques, in 1147 (right after the city reconquest) over an old Muslim mosque. The initial project followed the Romanesque style of the Coimbra Cathedral, however it has been changed throughout the centuries, combining traces of different architectonic styles that result in an iconic monument.
São Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle, one of top 10 monuments in lisbon portugal, photo by Bernt Rostad
Rising up on the top of a Lisbon hill, São Jorge Castle is one of the most visited monuments of the Portuguese capital not just for its historical importance but also due to its beautiful gardens and breathtaking views from the city.
According to several archeological researches, it is known for a fact that the first construction existing in this site dates back from the 2nd century b.C.
Estrela Basílica, one of top 10 monuments in lisbon portugal, photo by robert.steinhoefel
Considering the age of the majority of Lisbon monuments, Estrela Basílica is quite recent. In fact, it was only built during the 18th century, between 1779 and 1790 to be more precise, under the orders of Queen Mary I of Portugal who was fulfilling the promise of erecting a convent for the Carmelite religious order if she would give birth to a son.
The Basilica, which combines Baroque and Neo-classic features, offers a Nativity scene, carved in cork and terracotta by Machado de Castro, as its biggest highlight.
Casa dos Bicos
Casa dos Bicos, one of top 10 monuments in lisbon portugal, photo by Miguel Cunha Duarte
Even though being closed to the public as it houses the Culture department of Lisbon City Council, Casa dos Bicos is worthy of a visit just for its original façade covered with diamond-shaped stones. Situated nearby Terreiro do Paço, it was built in 1523 by a rich business man named Brás de Albuquerque who was inspired by the Italian Renaissance architectonic style of the Diamond Palace of Ferrara and the Bevilácqua Palace in Bologna.
Nowadays it houses the headquarters of José Saramago foundation (Portuguese Literature Nobel Awarded).
Ajuda National Palace
Ended in the 19th century, the Ajuda National palace, constructed according to the neoclassic architectural style, was built on the location of a temporary wooden shelter erected to house the royal family after the 1755 earthquake. At this palace were held several important events until the end of the Monarchy and even nowadays it houses the most important State ceremonies held by the President of the Republic, such as banquets in honor of the highest dignitaries of other States.
Church of Santa Engrácia – National Pantheon
National Pantheon is situated in the Church of Santa Engrácia, in the São Vicente de Fora district. Built according to the Mannerist architectural style from the 17th century it also presents Baroque features from the 18th century renewal.
It functions as a Pantheon since 1916 and it houses the thumbs of Presidents of the Portuguese Republic, National Poets and Artists as well as high personalities of the Portuguese History.
Carmo convent ruins
Carmo Convent, one of top 10 monuments in lisbon portugal, photo by paulu
Set in the cosmopolitan Chiado quarter Carmo convent is one of Lisbon must visit spots as the ruins of its Church are one of the few still existing testimonies left by the 1755 earthquake.
After serving its original religious purpose, Carmo Convent was used as a military dependence and it will stay in the Portuguese history as the place where the President Marcelo Caetano took refuge from the rebellious soldiers during the 1974 coup d’état, named Carnation Revolution.
Nowadays, it houses the headquarters of the Portuguese Archaeological Association and the Carmo Archaeological Museum that offers pieces that portrait the city’s history from pre-historic times until the Middle Ages.
Monument to the Discovers
The Monument to the Discovers is shaped as a caravel prow was erected to honor the main characters of the Portuguese Discovery Age. Thus, Henry the Navigator, the Discoveries sponsor is sided by kings and queens, explorers, navigators, artists, scientists, cartographers and missionaries whose deeds granted them a place in Portugal’s history, during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Top Lisbon Monuments location
Main Image Credits
Photo by paulu