This other Eden: the Azores, Europe’s secret islands of adventure

This other Eden: the Azores, Europe’s secret islands of adventure

Category : Azores , Portugal

For in-the-know travellers, the Azores have long represented a beckoning blip on the radar of possible destinations. Recognition from Unesco and other organisations has helped that blip to pulse more brightly over the years.

But most people still know little, if anything, about this far-flung archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic. And yet it is hard to imagine a place better suited to nature lovers, fans of adventure sports, or anyone looking for a beacon of sustainability. As if that wasn’t tantalising enough, there is a new reason to visit this autonomous region of Portugal: restrictions on air routes to the Azores recently eased, which means more carriers, more choice and cheaper fares for travellers trying to reach this other Eden.

Setes Citades, the Azores © James Kay / Lonely Planet

The twin green and blue crater lakes of Setes Citades are one of the Azores’ best-known sights © James Kay / Lonely Planet

The exposed tips of vast underwater mountains, the Azores lie on the nexus of the European, American and African tectonic plates, and they bear witness to the forces forever shaping our planet. This is a world of fumaroles, mudpots and scalding springs; of caverns, columns and grottoes formed from once molten rock; of blue lakes ringed by forests of laurel and cedar, and green pastures patterning the slopes of calderas.

Unesco designated three of them (Graciosa, Flores and Corvo) as biospheres, and the archipelago also contains 13 Ramsar sites (important wetlands) and over 30 Blue Flag beaches. Combine mineral-laden soil with a subtropical climate surrounded by Gulf Stream-warmed waters, and the result is a crucible for life.

The rim of Faial's caldera, the Azores © James Kay / Lonely Planet

The two-and-a-half-hour hike around the rim of Faial’s caldera is one of many spectacular routes for walkers © James Kay / Lonely Planet

Thankfully, Azoreans seem intent on preserving their treasures – the built environment covers just five per cent of the land; the rest is a patchwork of protected areas and marine reserves. The regional government aims to produce 75% of the islands’ energy from renewables by 2018.

Little wonder then that last year the Azores were named as the world’s top destination for sustainable tourism by Quality Coast, a European Commission-supported certification programme. In fact, it is the only place in the world to receive a Platinum Award, the organisation’s highest accolade.

Adventures at sea

Whale watching

The Azores are best known for whale and dolphin watching; the archipelago is a pit stop or home for about a third of the world’s species of cetacean. Year-round residents include sperm whales, common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Many other species (including blue whales – the largest animal in the history of the planet) pass through on migration routes.

Bottlenose dolphins in the Azores © James Kay / Lonely Planet

Up to a third of the world’s cetaceans can be found in the waters around the Azores, including bottlenose dolphins © James Kay / Lonely Planet

Well-organised tours run from the larger islands and go to great lengths to whale watch responsibly. A code of conduct governs how many boats can congregate near a whale, the direction from which they must approach the animals, and how long they’re allowed to shadow them.

Not so long ago, of course, people came armed with harpoons rather than cameras. Whale hunting – introduced by Americans in the 18th century – played a part in the Azorean economy until as recently as 1987. In one of many ironies, the vigia (watchtowers) once used for hunting these leviathans now help to steer tourist boats to their quarry. The Whalers’ Museum on Pico and the Whaling Station at Porto Pim on Faial tell the story of the industry and its demise.

Diving

Nutrient-rich water welling up from the deep – or rather the life it supports – is what attracts the whales; this is also what makes the Azores one of, if not the, best diving locations in the Atlantic. Warmed to between 17C and 24C, the seas truly teem, and visibility reaches 30 metres between May and October.

Blue shark and diver © Pommeyrol Vincent / Shutterstock

Blue sharks and many other large pelagic species of fish are regular visitors in the mid-Atlantic © Pommeyrol Vincent / Shutterstock

The kaleidoscope of species – from yellowmouth barracuda to devil rays, loggerhead turtles to slipper lobsters – arises from the extraordinary range of habitats. Wrasse, damsel fish and moray eels dwell in the coast’s jade-green bays; marlin, tuna and shark swirl around the peaks of barely submerged volcanoes; jacks, bonitos and grouper patrol the walls of underwater cliffs; more delicate life forms shelter in caves formed from lava tubes; and countless other species take up residence in the shipwrecks cluttering the seafloor.

All the islands apart from São Jorge and Corvo have accredited dive centres offering excursions and equipment hire.

Watersports

The mild weather, warm water and variety of the coastline also make the Azores a year-round destination for watersports. The attractions for sailors are obvious and Azorean harbours host a calendar of regattas and events. Horta, the main town of Faial, is the cosmopolitan centre of this transatlantic traffic, and its marina has become an open-air gallery of murals painted by superstitious crews before they depart on their voyages.

Murals in Horta's marina, the Azores © James Kay / Lonely Planet

The crews of visiting yachts paint murals on the concrete of Horta’s marina before they depart © James Kay / Lonely Planet

Over the last decade, word of the Azores’ consistent, crowd-free surf has spread; Santa Maria and São Miguel have reliable beach and point breaks; aficionados, meanwhile, head to the fajãs (flat land at the foot of cliffs) of São Jorge, where the Atlantic crashes upon reefs to create longer, tube-shaped waves.

The conditions also make for great windsurfing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and other water-based activities, while those seeking something more restful can always take a dip in one of the swimming holes formed by lava as it cooled flowing into the sea.

Adventures on land

Geotourism

Anyone remotely interested in geology will be in their element. The islands’ topography speaks of their volcanic origin in dramatic fashion, but there is more to see than just craters and cones; cave systems, rock formations, hot springs, and further ‘mistérios’ (mysteries, the name given to lava-covered patches of land) await investigation.

The Capelinhos volcano that surged up from the seabed off Faial in 1957 is one of the best documented sites in the world; the interpretation centre beneath its now abandoned lighthouse does a superb job of explaining the Earth’s occasional convulsions.

Signpost at Capelinhos, Faial, the Azores © James Kay / Lonely Planet

The eruption of Capelinhos off the coast of Faial in 1957 gave geologists a ringside seat to observe the development of a submerged volcano © James Kay / Lonely Planet

On Pico, you can descend into one of the world’s longest lava tubes, the Gruta das Torres, to inspect rare stalagmites of lava, as well as bizarre forms resembling benches, balls and lengths of rope.

Aside from a beautiful lake, the parish of Furnas on São Miguel has crowd-pleasing volcanic activity, including fumaroles and mudpots; Azoreans use the thermal heat to slow-cook their traditional cozido, a stew of meat and vegetables, under the ground. Try it, pig’s ear and all, at the art deco Terra Nostra Hotel, then slip into the thermal pool in the adjacent botanical gardens.

Hiking

At 7,713ft, Mt Pico is Portugal’s highest mountain. If conditions are right, the three-hour climb to catch sunrise or sunset is the Azores’ premier hiking experience; however, it faces stiff competition with about 60 marked trails crisscrossing the islands.

The vineyards of Pico, the Azores © James Kay / Lonely Planet

The vineyards of Pico enclosed by dry-stone walls made of black basalt © James Kay / Lonely Planet

A brochure shot par excellence, the twin crater lakes of São Miguel’s Setes Cidades are the focus of several routes. The two-hour trip from the Vista da Rei viewpoint to the caldera’s floor is a good primer to Azorean walking, but a hike down to the shore of mist-obscured Lagoa do Fogo has the edge.

Composed of a sheer-sided ridge, São Jorge is a hiker’s daydream, but those whose eyes are forever drawn to the edges of a map should probably look to far-flung Flores, the westernmost point of Europe, a real-life Jurassic Park praised for its beauty even among Azoreans. And they should know.

Other adventure sports

Fans of adventure sports might find themselves paralysed by indecision, such is the choice on offer. The many waterfalls cascading into ravines make for world-class canyoning. Between them, São Miguel, Santa Maria, São Jorge and Flores have more than 50 equipped routes, from small drops for beginners to hair-raising descents for pros.

Waterfalls on the Azorean island of Flores, which is particularly good for adventure activities © ABB Photo / Shutterstock

Horse riders and mountain bikers are well catered for, and both forms of transport fit the islands’ eco-friendly ethos. São Miguel, Terceira and Faial have stables, and you can hire bikes on São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, with trails ranging from ultra-technical tracks to gentle lakeside circuits.

The Azores have also hosted a paragliding festival for the past 20 years. The rims of São Miguel’s craters make for ideal take-off points, and there can be no better way of appreciating this fantastical landscape than from above.

Make it happen

How to get there

Azorean airline SATA flies direct from a dozen destinations in Europe and four in North America. Budget carriers Ryanair and easyJet shook up the local industry by introducing flights to the Azores earlier this year.

Travel between the islands

SATA runs daily flights between the islands. Alternatively, you can explore them all in leisurely fashion by ship with Atlanticoline or hop between São Jorge, Pico and Faial by ferry with Transmacor.

Thanks to: James Kay
Lonely Planet Writer
James Kay travelled to the archipelago with support from Visit Azores


10 Best Places to Visit in Portugal

Category : Europe , Portugal

Located on the western coast of the Iberian peninsula, Portugal is one of Europe’s most visited countries due to its idyllic climate, affordable travel costs and exceptional attractions. Portugal’s varied geography ranges from the verdant mountains and vineyards of the North to the rolling farmland and medieval villages of the Central region to the glamorous beaches of the Algarve along the southern coastline. Also belonging to Portugal but lying in the Atlantic Ocean are the archipelagos of Azores and Madeira, known for their lush landscapes and flower gardens. An overview of the best places to visit in Portugal.

10. Coimbra

Coimbra

 

A charming city situated by the Mondego River in Central Portugal, Coimbra is home to a treasure trove of historic sites, beautiful gardens, the country’s second style of fado music, and a lively culture that is centered around one of Europe’s oldest universities. One of the best things to do in Coimbra is to simply get lost and discover the many historic attractions from the stunning Old Cathedral to the Gothic Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, which contains the tomb of Queen Isabel. No trip to Coimbra would be complete without a visit to the University of Coimbra to admire one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, the Joanina Library.

9. Azores

Azores

 

The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of 9 volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, located about 1,500 km (930 miles) west of Lisbon. Renowned for world-class whale watching, hot mineral springs, and quaint seaside towns, each island has its own fascinating identity. São Miguel is the largest island of the Azores and is known as “The Green Island” while Pico is home to the highest mountain in Portugal.

8. Aveiro 

Aveiro

 

Hugging the country’s Atlantic Coast in Central Portugal, Aveiro is a bustling city often called “the Venice of Portugal” due to its picturesque setting of scenic canals connected by charming bridges and dotted with colorful gondolas and speed boats. Historic sites, gorgeous beaches and tasty cuisine also make Aveiro a popular tourist destination. Aveiro’s many sightseeing gems include the Aveiro Cathedral, the São Gonçalinho Chapel and the Convento de Jesus. These all offer lovely architecture and art works.

7. Evora

Evora

 

Evora may be a small town in the Alentejo plains region of southern Portugal, but it packs huge tourist appeal. With a history dating back more than 2,000 years, Evora was once a flourishing city under Roman rule. Today, Evora is the capital of the Alentejo region, regarded for its well-preserved Old Town, which shelters more than 4,000 historic structures including the old Roman walls and temples. Another highlight is the 13th century Cathedral of Evora, one of Portugal’s most important Gothic structures. Not far outside the city is Europe’s largest complex of prehistoric megaliths that are also worth a look.

6. Porto

Porto

 

World famous for its production of fine port wine, the busy city of Porto sprawls along the hills overlooking the Douro River in northern Portugal. At the heart of Porto is the charming pedestrian zone, the Ribeira, an atmospheric place on the river, buzzing in live music, cafes, restaurants and street vendors. Dominating this popular tourist setting is the Ponte Dom Luis, a metal, double-deck arch bridge that links Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, well-known for its port wine cellars.

 

5. Madeira

Madeira

 

Sporting the nickname “Floating Garden of the Atlantic,” Madeira is a fertile oasis in the Atlantic Ocean between Portugal and North Africa, popular for its lush green landscapes, flower gardens and wines. Must-see places in Madeira include the Orchid Garden and the Laurissilva Forest, which harbors the world’s largest concentration of laurel. The capital and largest city on Madeira is Funchal, home to historic churches, fortresses, tourist resorts and restaurants as well as the tree-lined Lido Promenade, which presents spectacular ocean views.

 

4. Sintra 

Sintra

 

Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains on the Lisbon Coast, just a day trip away from Portugal’s capital city, Sintra presents a spectacular setting of verdant hills, sprinkled with pretty villas, royal retreats, castles and palaces such as the famous Pena’s Palace, a fantastical castle reminiscent of Germany’s Neuschwanstein. Built in the mid-1800s and serving as a summer retreat for the Portuguese royal family, Pena’s Palace is surrounded by forested parklands containing exotic trees, plants and flowers. Also not to be missed are the ancient ruins of the Castle of the Moors crowning the city’s highest hill, and the romantic Monserrate Palace with its subtropical gardens.

 

3. Obidos

Obidos

 

Located on a hilltop in the Centro Region of western Portugal, Obidos is encircled by an old fortified wall. Besides the wall, the magnificent medieval castle and historic center of Obidos make up the city’s main attraction and can easily be walked. A labyrinth of narrow, cobbled streets leads visitors along busy squares, inviting cafes, quaint shops and whitewashed houses spruced with colorful flowers. The castle with its commanding edifice, huge gates, towers and battlements, is now a luxurious hotel but a marvel to behold nevertheless.

2. Algarve

Algarve

 

Sunny Mediterranean climate, gorgeous beaches, picturesque towns, historic sites, fabulous cuisine and affordable costs are just some of the reasons that make the Algarve one of the best places to visit in Portugal. Located in the country’s southernmost region, the Algarve offers a feast for the eyes, from tranquil landscapes of olive groves, traditional whitewashed villages to the wild, windswept coast with its dramatic cliffs dotted with summer resorts. Faro is the region’s capital, and Lagos is the area’s hot spot for nightlife. Looped by orange groves, Silves is best known for its red sandstone castle, while Tavira is an elegant town packed with Renaissance monuments, bridges and castles.

1. Lisbon

#1 of Best Places To Visit In Portugal

 

Stretching along the banks of the Tagus River near the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal’s capital and largest city winds upward among seven steep hills, forming an enchanting destination of warm weather, alluring alleys, quaint shops, Gothic cathedrals, impressive bridges and colorful neighborhoods, reverberating in traditional fado music. The city’s oldest district is Alfama, an old Moorish quarter, distinct for its maze of cobblestone streets, rustic architecture and St. George’s Castle. The best way to experience Lisbon is by taking one of the vintage trams such as the well known Tram 28, which winds along historic quarters, gardens and main attractions.


10 Top Tourist Attractions in Portugal

Category : Europe , Lisbon , Portugal

Portugal is a small country that faces the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Because of its beautiful coastline and historical heritage, it is one of the most visited countries in Europe. Its smaller size makes it easier to get around and see more places than say neighboring Spain in the same amount of time. The temperate climate makes it a year-round vacation destination, where travelers can see Roman and Moorish ruins among other tourist attractions in Portugal.

10. Alcobaca Monastery

Alcobaca Monastery

 

The Alcobaça Monastery is a Roman Catholic Monastery located in the town of Alcobaça, in central Portugal. It was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and maintained a close association with the Kings of Portugal throughout its history. The church and monastery were the first Gothic buildings in Portugal, and, together with the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, it is one of the most important of the medieval monasteries in Portugal.

9. University of Coimbra

University of Coimbra

 

The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest, continuous universities in Europe, having been established in 1290. It also is one of the largest universities in Portugal, with approximately 20,000 students. There are many sections of interest within the university complex. Built in the early 18th century at the instigation of King Joao V, the library Biblioteca Joanina is a fine example of Baroque architecture. The Sala dos Capelos, the original throne room, is where the doctorates are awarded.

8. Capela dos Ossos

Capela dos Ossos

 

The Capela dos Ossos would appear to come straight out of a Halloween movie, but, in reality, it was a simple solution by 16th century monks on what to do about too many cemeteries taking up space in Evora. They moved the human remains to a special chapel, known as Bone Chapel, where the bones decorate the interior of the chapel. The chapel is part of the Gothic Church of St. Francis. It’s estimated that 5,000 skeletons, including skulls, adorn the chapel walls and ceiling.

7. Cabo Girao

Cabo Girao

 

Cabo Girão is located in the southern coast of Madeira, in the Portuguese archipelago with the same name. At 570 meters (1,870 feet), the cliff is often referred to as the highest sea cliff in Europe but at least three European cliffs are higher. The view down the almost sheer drop to the ocean is thrilling nonetheless. In 2012 a glass-floored platform was installed creating an even scarier viewing experience.

6. Sao Jorge Castle

Sao Jorge Castle

 

The São Jorge Castle is one of the top tourist attractions in Lisbon as it can be seen from all over the city. It dates back to Roman times, though the Moors rebuilt the fortifications in the 10th century. The castle was freed from Moorish rule in 1147 during the Siege of Lisbon in the Second Crusade. It later served as the residence of King Alfonso III. The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Today, walls and 18 towers that visitors can climb remain.

5. Obidos Castle 

Obidos Castle

 

Obidos Castle is an impressive structure that sits on a hill at Obidos, a small city that dates back to Roman times on Portugal’s Atlantic coast. The Moors built the castle sometime in the eighth century. It was remodeled around the 14th century and a keep was added. The castle today houses a luxury pousada hotel. A traditional medieval market takes place in the castle every July.

4. Cais da Ribeira 

Cais da Ribeira

Cais da Ribeira is a charming picturesque district in Porto, sometimes referred to as “the soul of Porto.” It’s made up of medieval streets that end on a square by the Douro River. Medieval buildings are filled with bars, cafes and restaurants, making Ribeira a popular place for eating and drinking. Ribeira is especially popular on feast days when townspeople flock there to see fireworks. There’s a bronze cube in the middle of the square. Nearby is the house where Prince Henry the Navigator was born in 1394.

3. Praia da Marinha

Praia da Marinha

 

Praia da Marinha is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Located in the Atlantic coast region of Algarve, the beach is flanked by gorgeous blue waters on one side, and sandy beaches and high cliffs on the landside. Also known as Navy Beach, it is a small cove that is used extensively as an image in travel brochures. The beach’s clear waters make it a good place for snorkeling. This picturesque beach is about a 30-minute drive from Albuferia; free parking is available.

2. Belem Tower

Belem Tower

Belem Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, sits on what once was an island in the Tagus River in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Dating back to 1515, the imposing tower was built both to defend Lisbon from invaders and to welcome the city’s friends. Built in the Age of Discovery, the four-story limestone tower has a bastion connected to it; the bastion had space for 17 cannons that could fire long range shots. A statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, designed to protect sailors on their voyages, faces the river.

1. Pena National Palace
#1 of Tourist Attractions In Portugal

 

The Pena National Palace seems like a fairy tale castle as it stands above the clouds on overcast days. Yet, sitting atop a hill in Sintra, it can be seen from Lisbon on a clear day. Created by King Ferdinand II, it is an impressive example of 19th century Romanticism, not only in Portugal but also the world, as it combines Moorish and Manueline architectural styles. It started out as a chapel to Our Lady of Pena during the Middle Ages, and is used for state occasions today.

Cheap Flights to Lisbon

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Hotels in Lisbon: 4 stars

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My Story Hotel Figueira

★★★★

-18%

263216

View Hotel

Hotel Britania - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-22%

193150

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Hotel da Baixa

★★★★

-19%

211170

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Altis Prata Hotel

★★★★

-11%

165148

View Hotel

Portugal Boutique Hotel

★★★★

-28%

187133

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Heritage Avenida Liberdade - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-7%

203190

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Hotel Santa Justa

★★★★

-20%

200161

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As Janelas Verdes - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-16%

374315

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1908 Lisboa Hotel

★★★★

-6%

190179

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Lisboa Carmo Hotel

★★★★

-37%

199125

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Solar do Castelo - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-11%

192171

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Memmo Alfama - Design Hotel

★★★★

-7%

273252

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Hotel do Chiado

★★★★

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209181

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Casual Belle Epoque Lisboa

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-34%

152100

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SANA Lisboa Hotel

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Browns Central Hotel

★★★★

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148111

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Vincci Liberdade

★★★★

-33%

163109

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Lisboa Pessoa Hotel

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197114

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BessaHotel Liberdade

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Inspira Santa Marta Hotel & Spa

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15 Top Tourist Attractions in Lisbon

Category : Lisbon , Portugal

The capital of sunny Portugal, Lisbon is situated at the point where the Tagus River estuary meets the Atlantic Ocean. As a travel destination, the riverfront city is as rich and varied as the country’s long history. From the ruins of a Moorish castle perched atop one of the city’s seven hills to a sidewalk café snuggled against an ancient Visigoth wall, remnants of Lisbon’s colorful past are everywhere.

Lisbon is rightfully proud of the role it played during Portugal’s Age of Discovery, and monuments celebrating the voyages of explorers like Vasco da Gama are among the most important attractions in Lisbon. While Western Europe’s oldest city has taken steps to overhaul its transportation system, modernize its downtown area and revamp its waterfront, it’s the charm of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods that most attract visitors.

15. National Azulejo Museum

National Azulejo Museum

 

Plastered on structures from churches and shops to metro stations, the colorful ceramic tiles known as azulejos are found everywhere in Lisbon. The National Azulejo Museum chronicles their architectural and cultural significance in the city’s long history. A tradition that began in the 8th century with the arrival of the Moors, the art of tile-making in Portugal reached its height in the 16th century with the introduction of oxide coatings. The museum’s exhibits feature individual tiles as well as elaborate wall panels. The convent church located within the complex holds some of the most intricate examples of azulejo art.

14. Vasco da Gama Bridge

Vasco da Gama Bridge

 

Completed in 1998, the Vasco da Gama bridge is a modern feat of engineering and a popular attraction. Named after Portugal’s most famous explorer, it was built to alleviate Lisbon’s traffic congestion. Stretching for nearly 17 km (11 miles) across the Tagus River, the cable-stayed bridge is so long that its builders had to take the Earth’s curve into consideration when constructing it. Built at an expense of 1.1 billion dollars, the six-lane bridge is expected to stand for more than a century, ensuring that visitors can experience its breathtaking architecture for generations to come.

13. Time Out Market Lisboa

Time Out Market Lisboa

 

In 2014, the oldest food market in Lisbon reopened as the Time Out Market Lisboa after an extensive renovation. It has since become the city’s most popular tourist attraction. More than 3 million visitors flock to the food hall each year to explore Portugal’s regional cuisine. Boasting 35 kiosks and multiple restaurants, the marketplace offers everything from sheep’s cheese from Azeirao to Alentejo ham and Arcadia chocolates. Foodies can enjoy prepared meals, sample treats and purchase beautifully packaged food to take home. The market opens every day at 10 a.m., making it the perfect place to savor a late brunch or early dinner.

12. Cristo Rei Statue

Cristo Rei Statue

 

Inspired by Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, the Cristo Rei statue rises up from a hill overlooking the Targus River. The massive monument was built to express gratitude to God for allowing Portugal to escape the worst horrors of World War II. It was opened to the public in 1959. Standing with arms outstretched, the Christ figure is set atop a tall arch with a rectangular observation deck at the base. An interior elevator takes visitors to a platform beneath the figure’s feet for panoramic views of Lisbon, the Targus estuary and the Golden-Gate-style 25 de Abril Bridge.

11. Praca do Comercio

Praca do Comercio

 

One of the star attractions of Lisbon’s downtown waterfront, the Praca do Comercio is an expansive plaza flanked by elegant 18th-century buildings. Portugal’s Dom Jose I made his home here until the earthquake of 1755 reduced it to rubble. Locals still refer to the square as the Terreiro do Paco, or yard of the royal palace. A monument featuring the king on horseback dominates the center of the plaza. A large triumphal arch completed in 1873 anchors the northern side. Hotels, shops and restaurants located nearby make the sunny square a popular destination for visitors exploring Lisbon’s scenic waterfront.

10. Monument to the Discoveries

Monument to the Discoveries

 

The mammoth white-stone Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) stands like a ship with sails unfurled at shoreline of the Tagus River where many of Portugal’s most important voyages of exploration began. It was built as a memorial to Infante Dom Henrique, who later became known as Prince Henry the Navigator. The prince who ushered in Portugal’s Age of Discovery is featured at the prow of the stone sculpture with other national heroes and explorers lined up behind him. Visitors can ride an elevator to enjoy the view from the top of this Lisbon landmark.

9. Museu Gulbenkian

Museu Gulbenkian

 

Lisbon serves as the headquarters for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by the fortune of the late Armenian oil magnate. Built to display the private art collection that Gulbenkian amassed during his lifetime, the Museu Gulbenkian offers visitors a truly extraordinary experience. While the collection is small, the quality of each piece is extraordinary. From masterpieces by Monet, Renoir and Rembrandt to Lalique jewelry, Chinese jade and Persian porcelain, it’s a collection that encapsulates the best of every aspect and time period of art history. The museum often plays host to world-class traveling exhibitions as well.

8. Rossio Square (Pedro IV Square)

Rossio Square

 

There’s no better place in Lisbon to soak up the local atmosphere than at Pedro IV Square, Lisbon’s most famous plaza. Located in the elegant Pombaline Lower Town district in central Lisbon, the “Rossio,” has been the city’s main gathering place since the Middle Ages. During the Inquisition of the 16th century, the square served as a setting for public executions. Today, it’s the place where friends meet up to enjoy a beverage at a café or bar before attending the National Theater located on the north side of the square.

7. Santa Justa Elevator

Santa Justa Elevator

 

Located in the downtown district, the Santa Justa Elevator offers visitors delightful views of lovely Lisbon. Built in 1902, the “elevador” was designed by Raul Mésnier, who was inspired by the famous tower in Paris, which his colleague Gustav Eiffel created. The wrought-iron tower lifts passengers to a platform where a walkway leads to the ruins of Carmo Convent, a Gothic church that was partially destroyed during the great earthquake of 1755. Alternately, visitors can climb a staircase to the top of the elevator structure to enjoy vistas of the entire Baixa neighborhood.

6. Alfama

Alfama

 

The oldest quarter in historic Lisbon, the Alfama district is dotted with architectural landmarks, including some that date back to the city’s Moorish past, but it’s the charm of the neighborhood’s meandering streets, tasty eateries and Fado clubs that make the Alfama a can’t-miss destination. Lined with Fado bars and clubs, Largo do Charariz de Dentro is the best place to go to enjoy the traditional Portuguese folk music. The plaza is just one of the many observation decks scattered around this hilly neighborhood. For an expansive view of the Alfama and the Tagus River, visitors head to Lisbon’s original Moorish gateway, Largo das Portas do Sol.

5. Lisbon Oceanarium

Lisbon Oceanarium

 

One of the best modern tourist attractions in Lisbon, the Oceanarium was built as part of the improvements the city made when it hosted the 1998 World Exposition. Located in the Parque das Nações in northeast Lisbon, the Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. It’s organized into four unique habitats, with each representing a different ocean. In addition to all manner of sea life ranging from sharks and sting rays to penguins and otters, flora and fauna from each ecosystem are represented as well. Strolling pasts tank of colorful fish with tropical birds flitting overhead offers an immersive experience not to be missed.

4. Jeronimos Monastery

Jeronimos Monastery

 

With its Gothic and Moorish influences, the striking Manueline architecture of the Jeronimos Monastery makes it a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Lisbon. Located in the city’s riverside Belém district, the grand complex was constructed during the 1500s to commemorate the discoveries made by Portuguese explorers. Built largely from gold-colored limestone, the monastery is a masterpiece of carved stone portals, latticework ceilings and windows with tracery set upon delicate mullions. In the nave of the church is the tomb of Vasco da Gama, whose voyages to India made Lisbon a wealthy maritime city.

3. Tram 28

Tram 28

 

Most of the decades-old trolley cars that were once a primary mode of transportation in Lisbon are long gone, but visitors can still enjoy a ride on an antique streetcar on tram line 28. The historic “eléctrico” takes passengers through the city’s oldest sectors past some of Lisbon’s most popular sights and attractions. Tourists often take tram 28 to the hilltop São Jorge Castle to take in the panoramic views, but the line is used by locals for their daily commutes too. The old tram line offers a great way to get oriented in the city and meet new people.

2. Sao Jorge Castle

Sao Jorge Castle

 

One of Lisbon’s oldest treasures, São Jorge Castle (or St. George’s Castle) is situated at the top of a hill in the Alfama District. The city’s most popular attraction evokes the period when Lisbon was under Moorish rule, but the site was fortified centuries earlier when the Romans and Visigoths were in power as well. After driving out the Moors in 1147, the Portuguese used the castle as a royal residence until the early 16th century. Today, the royal quarters are home to a museum featuring archeological exhibits. Climbing the castle ramparts is a must-do activity in Lisbon, and it’s easy to understand why. The views from the parapets and battlements are simply breathtaking.

1. Belem Tower

#1 of Tourist Attractions In Lisbon

 

Belem Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, sits on what once was an island in the Tagus River. Dating back to 1515, the imposing tower was built both to defend Lisbon from invaders and to welcome the city’s friends. Built in the Age of Discovery, the four-story limestone tower has a bastion connected to it; the bastion had space for 17 cannons that could fire long range shots. A statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, designed to protect sailors on their voyages, faces the river.

Cheap Flights to Lisbon

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Marseille

28.11.2019

01.12.2019

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17.01.2020

30.01.2020

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Paris

23.01.2020

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20.01.2020

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26.01.2020

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12.02.2020

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12.12.2019

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Ponta Delgada

17.01.2020

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14.12.2019

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04.12.2019

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28.01.2020

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29.11.2019

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06.12.2019

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22.01.2020

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01.12.2019

04.01.2020

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03.12.2019

10.12.2019

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Prague

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05.12.2019

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Porto

16.11.2019

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30.11.2019

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Venice

30.11.2019

07.12.2019

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06.02.2020

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06.01.2020

11.01.2020

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Stockholm

28.11.2019

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Naples

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Tel Aviv-Yafo

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Malaga

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Bristol

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Lyon

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29.11.2019

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Hotels in Lisbon: 4 stars

Hotel Stars Discount Price per night, from Choose dates

My Story Hotel Figueira

★★★★

-18%

263216

View Hotel

Hotel Britania - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-22%

193150

View Hotel

Hotel da Baixa

★★★★

-19%

211170

View Hotel

Altis Prata Hotel

★★★★

-11%

165148

View Hotel

Portugal Boutique Hotel

★★★★

-28%

187133

View Hotel

Heritage Avenida Liberdade - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-7%

203190

View Hotel

Hotel Santa Justa

★★★★

-20%

200161

View Hotel

As Janelas Verdes - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-16%

374315

View Hotel

1908 Lisboa Hotel

★★★★

-6%

190179

View Hotel

Lisboa Carmo Hotel

★★★★

-37%

199125

View Hotel

Solar do Castelo - Lisbon Heritage Collection

★★★★

-11%

192171

View Hotel

Memmo Alfama - Design Hotel

★★★★

-7%

273252

View Hotel

Hotel do Chiado

★★★★

-14%

209181

View Hotel

Casual Belle Epoque Lisboa

★★★★

-34%

152100

View Hotel

SANA Lisboa Hotel

★★★★

-49%

243123

View Hotel

Browns Central Hotel

★★★★

-25%

148111

View Hotel

Vincci Liberdade

★★★★

-33%

163109

View Hotel

Lisboa Pessoa Hotel

★★★★

-42%

197114

View Hotel

BessaHotel Liberdade

★★★★

-16%

178148

View Hotel

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel & Spa

★★★★

-8%

145134

View Hotel


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