Vibrant, cultural, and with a rich history, Lisbon has all it takes to attract visitors. It’s easily accessible and located only a few hours away from any given European capital, making it the perfect destination for an action-packed city break. If your time is restricted, though, you’re better off planning ahead because the city offers an abundance of things to see and do. To make your selection process easier, we have listed our top 4 picks of must-visit sites in Lisbon.
1. Jerónimos Monastery
The 500-year-old Jerónimos Monastery is an architectural masterpiece and a UNESCO World Heritage monument located in the riverside suburb of Belém. The monastery and church were built to honor the great Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama who was the first European to have reached India by sea. Upon da Gama’s triumphant return from the Far East, King Manuel I, with the help of a myriad of architects, begun constructing the stunning Late Gothic monastery we are still able to admire today. Construction took nearly a century to complete but once finished, it became the archetype of Portugal’s Age of Discovery.
The main attraction here is the highly ornate Gothic chapel leading to the monastery, which also serves as the final resting place to some of Portugal’s greatest historical figures, including that of da Gama. This sumptuous piece of history and architecture is without doubt Lisbon’s number one heart-stealer.
2. Belém Tower
This charming little fort was constructed to guard Lisbon from intruders from the sea. The lower and middle levels served as a prison an armory, while the top floors were royal residences. Although its role was mainly to protect, the tower was lavished with stunning architectural details that are best viewed from the banks of the Rio Tejo river. Definitely worth a look-see!
3. The Chapel of St. John the Baptist, Igreja de São Roque
From the outside, the Igreja de São Roque is remarkably plain – its simple sand-coloured facade towering over a small town square is hardly anything to write home about. The interior, on the other hand, is nothing short of impressive.
The Chapel of St. John the Baptist that sits within this late 16th century church is, in fact, the world’s most expensive chapel. With stunning inlays, mosaic panels and precious stones covering the entire chapel, it’s considered to be a masterpiece unique in European art. The chapel also holds an important part in the history of architecture as it introduced the rococo style into Portuguese architecture. In addition to its impressive decor, the chapel also has a rich collection of religious liturgical ornaments, vestments and documentation that can be viewed at the Museum of São Roque just next door to the church.
4. Berardo Museum
The Berardo Museum is a must-see for art lovers. Located in the cultural center of Belém, it features stunning permanent displays of some of the world’s best modern and contemporary art. The Berardo Collection Museum contains a truly impressive collection of over a thousand pieces, including work of artists such as Dalí, Warhol, Miró and Lichtenstein. In addition to the remarkable permanent collection, the museum also offers a wide range of fantastic temporary exhibitions. Even better, admission to the museum is free.
This is a guest post sponsored by the Corinthia Hotel Lisbon and written by Steve Ewins. An avid traveller who has visited more than 80 countries.