Lisbon Introduction Walking Tour, Lisbon

Lisbon Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Lisbon

Legend goes that Lisbon's name has derived either from Allis Ubbo, meaning "safe harbor" in Phoenician, or from the pre-Roman name of the River Tagus, Lisso. Nestled at Europe's western edge and featuring numerous architectural styles, it ranks as the world's 10th oldest city and traces its roots back to the Phoenician Civilization, who settled it approximately three millennia ago.

Over the ages, the Greeks, Romans, Moors and Christians moved in, each leaving their own cultural footprints. The conquest in 714 by Islamic Moors, who were mostly Berbers and Arabs from the Maghreb, has certainly left a big mark in the city, with Moorish architecture and planning still quite present in Lisbon's oldest quarters, around São Jorge Castle.

Among other course-changing events in Lisbon's history was the discovery in 1498 of the sea route to India, which turned the city into one of the world's most important mercantile centers, bringing unmatched prosperity; but also the Great Earthquake on November 1, 1755, followed by a tsunami and fires, which caused near-total destruction and prompted the construction of the – at the time very modern – Baixa district.

This self-guided tour will help you explore Lisbon's three most centrally located districts, or "bairros": Chiado, Baixa, and Bairro Alto, each carrying great historical, cultural and social significance and counted among the best to see and enjoy the city's life as it is really lived.
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Lisbon Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Lisbon Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Portugal » Lisbon (See other walking tours in Lisbon)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: ray
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square)
  • Arco da Rua Augusta
  • Santa Justa Lift
  • Chafariz do Carmo / Largo do Carmo
  • Carmo Archaeological Museum
  • Church of Saint Roch (Igreja de Sao Roque)
  • Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
  • Gloria Funicular (Elevador da Gloria)
  • Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue)
  • Praca dos Restauradores (Restauradores Square)
  • Praca do Rossio (Rossio Square)
  • Praca da Figueira (Square of the Fig Tree)
  • Sao Jorge Castle
Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square)

1) Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square) (must see)

Lisbon's waterfront Praça do Comércio was completely rebuilt after the devastating 1755 earthquake and subsequent tsunami (a small description of which was written by Voltaire in 1756 and can be found in his "Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne"), meaning that its overall layout that has been progressing throughout centuries was razed to the ground and its new symmetrical buildings were filled with government bureaus regulating customs and port activities (hence, "comércio").

The centerpiece of the 35,000 sqm square, the equestrian statue of King José I, on whose watch the earthquake happened and whose efforts initiated the city's massive rebuilding, is very interesting. Note an elephant on the eastern side of the pedestal – a symbol of the great overseas Portuguese empire, also featured in the 2008 novel, "The Elephant's Journey", by the greatest Portuguese modern writer José Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. A stylized elephant footprint can be seen today at the José Saramago Foundation, less than 5 minutes' walk from Praça do Comércio.

At the square's northern side, Arco da Rua Augusta – a triumphal arch linking the square with Rua Augusta – should not be missed; also, the Cais das Colunas, a small riverfront pier with two columns, or pillars, and marble steps, usually half-covered by water, that served as the "noble entrance" into the city, and through which kings, queens, heads of state and other official "celebrities" arrived during Portugal's maritime era, definitely merits a quick stop.

At the western side, the corner of Praça do Comércio and Rua do Arsenal, look up to discover a plaque commemorating the assassination of Carlos I, the then 44-year-old King of Portugal, who was shot at that spot, together with his 20-year-old heir apparent (Luís Filipe), by two assassins calling for a republican government. King Carlos I was succeeded by his other son, Manuel II, who would rule for only two years before the whole family was exiled and the monarchy jettisoned.

Of course, all around the vast and spacious square, under the arcades, there are souvenir shops, cafés, restaurants, wine cellars, etc., where tourists and locals alike come to enjoy a meal, watch ships sail by, look downstream at the 25 de Abril Bridge, or just get some air away from the sometimes cramped lanes and alleyways.

Images of the pre-1775 square can be found through reproductions of the contemporary engravings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and on the modern ceramic tile mural ("azulejos") at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, in Alfama.
Arco da Rua Augusta

2) Arco da Rua Augusta

An easily overlooked bargain at €3, the top of this iconic archway – built to commemorate Lisbon's rebirth after the Great Earthquake of 1755 – provides brilliant vistas over the Praça do Comércio and river beyond, as well as back towards the little streets leading off Rua Augusta; a perspective one doesn't really appreciate at ground level and an opportunity to point out all of the other attractions one has either visited or will be visiting.

There is an elevator most of the way up, but then there are a couple of additional flights of winding stairs to climb while taking note of the stop/go traffic lights that help to avoid potentially dangerous jams. The history of the area's development and of the old clock are depicted on the landings, for extra educational content. On the very top, Glory anoints Valour and Genius with laurel leaves, and there is a bell to ring if you wish.

Free with the Lisbon Card; credit cards accepted. Go early before it gets too hot or too crowded.
Santa Justa Lift

3) Santa Justa Lift (must see)

A unique Lisbon attraction, this vertical street lift at the end of Rua de Santa Justa dazzles everyone with its views over the downtown Baixa neighborhood, the Rossio Square, and the São Jorge Castle. The lift, more precisely, dates from 1902, was built by Raoul Mésnier and was originally powered by steam, having been converted to electrical operation in 1907. With an iron lace exterior decorated in neogothic style, it's an impressive piece of engineering and art testifying to the connection with Gustave Eiffel's work, as Mésnier was his disciple.

There are two lift cages, each with a wooden interior and accommodation for a maximum of 20 passengers. Be warned that you need a head for heights to climb the iron spiral staircase leading to the viewing platform, but if shaking knees can be overcome, the views are spectacular and very worth it. Note also that you're quite exposed at the top, so you may wish to check the weather conditions before deciding on your day to visit.

If the queue is too long, enter the cork store/shop on Rua do Carmo, walk up the stairs and then cross the street using the walkway. You'll have to physically climb up the stairs to the top, but that saves time and money (not to mention, it allows more stops along the way to enjoy the views). It is also possible to walk to the BELLALISA ELEVADOR restaurant (9am–12am) at the top of the Santa Justa viewing platform, without using the lift. The staff there speaks good English, serves good food and a nice selection of drinks.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 7am–11pm; Sun: 9am–11pm
Chafariz do Carmo / Largo do Carmo

4) Chafariz do Carmo / Largo do Carmo

One of the several – and most remarkable – public fountains built in Lisbon through the 15th-18th centuries, the Chafariz do Carmo sits in the Largo do Carmo plaza, beside the convent of the same name. Of late Baroque architecture, the fountain is enclosed within a porch supported by four majestic pillars and was raised on an aqueduct that once carried water to the city. Purely decorative today, it certainly adds to the place's atmosphere and is worth having a quick look-see.

Great at all times, the cool, shaded plaza has it all: a stellar Archeological Museum (housed in the 1755 earthquake-damaged Carmo Convent), the headquarters of the National Guard (an iconic landmark in Portugal's Carnation Revolution, where on April 25, 1974, the last of Portugal's dictators, Caetano, officially ceded power to the rebels), some of the best restaurants in town offering al fresco table service, a cozy round-shaped kiosk café where there is typically a musician or group of musicians providing entertainment, and even a little market on Sundays.
Carmo Archaeological Museum

5) Carmo Archaeological Museum (must see)

The Carmo Convent that was home to Carmelite nuns until 1755, the year of the devastating earthquake that shook Lisbon, still stands atop a hillock overlooking the busy Rossio Square and facing the Lisbon Castle Hill. During the Carnation Revolution, it was the place of refuge of Marcelo Caetano (successor of the dictatorial president, Antonio de Oliviera Salazar) and those loyal to him. He was later deposed, ending over half a century of authoritarian rule in Portugal.

Today, the nave and apse of the Carmo Church are the setting for a small archaeological museum, with pieces from all periods of Portuguese history. The nave has a series of tombs, fountains, windows and other architectural relics from different places and styles. The old apse chapels are also used as exhibition rooms: one of them houses notable pre-historical objects excavated from a fortification near Azambuja (3500–1500 BC). It only costs €5 to enter, but there's a lot to explore, including a projected show of the history of the place, very well done.

You'll need about 80-90 minutes to get a comprehensive look, though you might want to save some extra time for the surrounding terraces, to enjoy the views to the castle of the Moors.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful remains, perfect for pictures against the blue sky, but fascinating to experience during the sunset as well.
A charming and novel way to appreciate architecture, history and art in one setting.
There are lots of interesting artifacts inside with a sense of local history.

If you're looking for a way to get back down the hill into Lisbon your best bet is to take the Santa Justa Lift which can be accessed by a footbridge through the Bellalisa Restaurant just to the right of the convent.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–7pm (May–Sep); 10am–6pm (Oct–Apr)
Closed: Sundays, January 1, May 1, December 25
Church of Saint Roch (Igreja de Sao Roque)

6) Church of Saint Roch (Igreja de Sao Roque)

The Church of Saint Roch was the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world and one of the first Jesuit churches anywhere, having served as the Society's home church in Portugal for over two centuries before the power-hungry Jesuits were expelled from the country. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the church and its ancillary residence were given to the Lisbon Holy House of Mercy who still owns and operates the site today as one of its many heritage buildings.

São Roque was one of the few buildings in Lisbon to astonishingly survive the earthquake relatively unscathed. Its plain 16th-century façade should not dissuade you from entering inside; as the old adage goes, "don't judge a book by its cover", because it is radiant with Royal wealth: gilded gold altars, marbles and alabasters, stones of amethyst and lapis lazuli, highly inlaid artistry that climbs the wall, and some of the finest 'azulejos' (tiles) adding a further luster to the glorious space.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most stunning churches you can see in Lisbon, though perhaps it can feel a bit too high baroque in places. Inside the trompe l'oeil painting on the ceiling is a triumph, while each of the 8 chapels lining the nave is a decorative masterpiece.

If you have the time, visit the adjacent São Roque Museum, where you'll find two floors filled with artworks, antiquities, reliquaries and other precious possessions accumulated over the centuries by the church (free entry on Sundays until 2pm). The finest possessions are the treasures originally located in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist in the church nave.

Opening Hours:
[Church] Mon: 2–6pm, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun: 9am–6pm; Thu: 9am–9pm
[Museum] Mon: 2–6pm; Tue-Sun: 10am–6pm (Oct–Mar);
Mon: 2–7pm; Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun: 10am–7pm; Thu: 10am–8pm (Apr–Sep)
Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara

7) Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara (must see)

This small, well-designed park serves as one of the many viewpoints found around Lisbon, offering another spectacular view over the central part of the city – especially São Jorge Castle and the Graça Hills. Laid in two levels, it has a map made of typical Portuguese tiles to help visitors in spotting landmarks they see on the horizon.

The upper part has a fountain and a monument in honor of Eduardo Coelho, founder of the popular 'Diario de Noticias', joined by the figure of a newspaper boy who once sold the paper in the streets of Lisbon. At the lower level, there are flower beds and busts of famous heroes and gods from Greek and Roman mythology (such as Minerva and Ulysses), and a beautiful small waterfall built into a walled archway.

The lower open area has benches where visitors can relax, take in the view and listen to the music played by locals, but also stalls for food and beverage vendors, making it a great place for lunch. Additionally, across the street, in an 18th-century building, is the Solar do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Institute), where you can sample some 300 different types of Port, either by enjoying a glass in a comfortable ambiance or by purchasing a bottle to have a phenomenal waterfront picnic.

Why You Should Visit:
Truly a gorgeous sight overlooking the old city, including the São Jorge Castle and many of the points of interest.
Gloria Funicular (Elevador da Gloria)

8) Gloria Funicular (Elevador da Gloria)

Try not to imagine this as a tourist attraction, but as a marvelous feat of engineering! Inaugurated in 1885 and recognized as a national historic site in 2002, this famous Lisbon tram features antiquated, partially wooden streetcars that connect the Praça (Square) dos Restauradores at its downhill starting point to Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara at its terminal point, a few steps away from the eponymous 'miraduro' (lookout point).

The steep incline is about 900 feet or less (270 meters), so a tram ride lasts roughly 2-3 minutes, while a walk down along the track takes anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes, depending on age and/or physical endurance. Either way, by climbing or descending the Calçada da Glória, you will pass one of the best displays of neighborhood graffiti in all Lisbon, mostly on the right (in the uphill direction), since the area is officially dedicated to legal street art.

In the end, this is a fun form of public transportation, especially for those who have not experienced similar funicular trams. Good photo opportunities from the top, and a good way to start exploring the Bairro Alto in a descending way.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Thu: 7am–11:55pm, Fri: 7am–12:25am, Sat: 8:30am–12:20am, Sun/Holidays: 9am–11:55pm
One-way ticket: €3.8 (or €1.35 with Viva Viagem card); free with a metro pass
Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue)

9) Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue)

Once home to statesmen and public figures, this spacious, tree-lined pedestrian walkway leading to the squares at the heart of Lisbon has beautiful paving, designer shops, and trendy bars either side, but also small kiosks where you can get coffee/drinks/snacks and rest for a while. Between the luxurious and exclusive decadence, there are fine examples of classical 19th-century architecture and the two central plazas contain charming water features and grand statues.

Right at the beginning of the Avenida, you'll find two marble ponds, one on either side of the main way; further up there are, similarly, two fine cascades encircled by luxuriant vegetation, the waters of which come from two figures representing the rivers Douro and Tagus, while the garden plots that follow on are closed by four marble statues representing Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The avenue houses two theatres, four cinemas and several cafés and confectioners; it also contains some palatial residences. During the summer months, some of the cafés spread their service up into the profusely-lit central garden-plots; this open-air service, with the music added to it, enlivens the whole atmosphere in the evenings.

The avenue's upper end (Lisbon's most expensive real estate) houses many of the city's designer shops, the likes of Armani and Louis Vuitton, and ends in a swirl of traffic at the landmark roundabout of Praça Marquês de Pombal, also known as Rotunda, right next to the city's principal park, Parque Eduardo VII, best known for its views and immense hothouses.
Praca dos Restauradores (Restauradores Square)

10) Praca dos Restauradores (Restauradores Square)

The elongated Restauradores Square lies at the southeast end of Avenida da Liberdade, near Rossio Square, and takes its name from the renewal of Portugal's independence in 1640, after 80 years of Spanish domination. Inaugurated in 1886, the obelisk in the middle carries the names and dates of the battles fought during the Portuguese Restoration War, along with statues symbolizing Independence and Victory.

The square has the signature patterned tiles that Lisbon is famous for, and is surrounded by 19th and early 20th century buildings, of which the most remarkable is Palácio Foz, the pink palace that once housed the Ministry of Propaganda under the Salazar regime (1932–74) but is now home to the Portuguese Tourist Office (where you can buy your Lisboa Card) and hosts free concerts open to the public in its Hall of Mirrors (check the official Facebook page for more information).

Also notable are the old Éden Cinema (now a hotel), with a beautiful Art Deco façade dating from the 1930s, as well as the former Condes Cinema, built in 1950 in Modernist style, which now hosts Lisbon's Hard Rock Cafe. Beyond that, the fountain is amazing and a lovely location for photography (yes, selfie-friendly).

North of the square, the Glória Funicular (Elevador da Glória) offers access to the Bairro Alto.
Praca do Rossio (Rossio Square)

11) Praca do Rossio (Rossio Square)

One of Lisbon's main squares since the middle ages, Rossio has been a popular meeting/strolling place for locals and visitors for centuries. It may not have many places to relax, but you could sit in one of its cafés all day long and not get bored. The place looks active always, but if you have time, visit at night: the fountains are lit, and the crowd can be a bit livelier, too.

The square itself is laid out in the beautiful wave-patterned Portuguese paving, "calçada portuguesa" (the paving style traditionally used in Portugal and many of its colonies), with two baroque fountains at the southern and northern edges and a column dedicated to Pedro IV, King of Portugal and first Emperor of Brazil. The square is actually officially called Praça de Dom Pedro IV, but this newer name never stuck and Lisboetas keep referring to it by the old "rossio" name, roughly equivalent to the English word "commons", or a commonly-owned terrain.

On the square's northern edge is Lisbon's most important National Theatre, Donna Maria II, built in the neoclassical style on the place of the infamous Inquisition Palace destroyed in 1836. To the right of it, you'll find the historic Largo São Domingos, with its church, memorial to the Jewish victims of the 1506 massacre, several small joints selling 'ginjinha' (the local sweetish cherry liquor), and the other neighboring important square, Praça da Figueira. To the left of the theatre, you have the Rossio Train Station (be sure to check out the elaborate facade and striking horseshoe entry arches), the Hotel Avenida Palace, and Rua do Carmo, among other major sightseeing points. Finally, right behind the theater, is Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, a famous so-called "food street" with multiple cafés and restaurants.
Praca da Figueira (Square of the Fig Tree)

12) Praca da Figueira (Square of the Fig Tree)

Once the site of Lisbon's main market, the conveniently located Praça da Figueira has been re-purposed as a major traffic hub, but still houses the smaller outdoor MERCADO DA BAIXA (9am–9pm) with varied Portuguese food/drink specialties, as well as shops for authentic goods and wares; a perfect spot for a small break, especially if you aren't looking for a sit-down meal. If thirsty, try the sangria or Vinho Verde they sell there – both really good and very refreshing on a hot summer's day.

The square is surrounded by uniform four-storied buildings housing several cozy cafés with appealing views of the surroundings, one of which, FIGU'S (7:30am–10:30am / 12–11pm), is well-known for friendly service, but mostly for good-quality food in very large portions. For equally exemplary service, beyond delicious food, creative cocktails, and very hip decor, BASTARDO (7am–10:30pm) is another must, though pre-booking is mandatory to avoid being refused.

The fine equestrian monument to the heroic King João I was unveiled in 1971. João's long reign of 48 years, the most extensive of all Portuguese monarchs, saw the beginning of Portugal's overseas expansion. His well-remembered reign earned him the epithet of Fond Memory (de Boa Memória); he was also referred to as "the Good" (o Bom), sometimes "the Great" (o Grande), and more rarely, especially in Spain, as "the Bastard" (Bastardo).
Sao Jorge Castle

13) Sao Jorge Castle (must see)

The São Jorge Castle occupies a commanding position overlooking the city of Lisbon and the broad Tagus River beyond. The strongly-fortified citadel, which, in its present configuration, dates from medieval times, is located atop the highest hill in the historic center of the city. Its footprint is roughly square in shape and was originally encircled by a wall.

The complex consists of the castle proper ('castelejo'), some ancillary buildings (including the ruins of the royal palace), gardens, and a large terraced square from which impressive panoramas of Lisbon are afforded. The main entrance to the citadel is a 19th-century gate surmounted by the coat-of-arms of Portugal, the name of Queen Maria II, and the date, 1846.

Restaurants, cafes, wine bar, ice cream stand, and public restrooms are available once inside. Peacocks live and run wild throughout, especially around one of the main dining areas. The food is more expensive in the castle walls than in areas outside, but not terribly expensive; you can also pack your own foods and beverages and walk around with open containers. €10 per adult; kids are free. A great activity for international guests!

Why You Should Visit:
The castle certainly offers commanding views of the entire city, can be a very peaceful place first thing in the morning, and a magical one at sunset. There is also a permanent exhibition worth looking at, as well as an excellent 'camera obscura' in one of the Moorish towers (shows every 20min with languages rotating between English/Portuguese/Spanish).

Walking to the site is very much uphill, but still a wonderful walk through the narrow streets of old Lisbon, and there are plenty of places to stop to eat. Alternatively, take the cable car #28 to admire the neighborhood with its cute and varied architecture (great photo ops!).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–6pm

Walking Tours in Lisbon, Portugal

Create Your Own Walk in Lisbon

Create Your Own Walk in Lisbon

Creating your own self-guided walk in Lisbon is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral Walking Tour

Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral Walking Tour

This self-guided walk takes you from the breathtaking Sao Jorge historic castle to the city's oldest church, the Lisbon Cathedral, while taking in the picturesque Alfama district – where it is said Fado originated – along the way. Included also are several unique museums, as well as two viewpoints from where you can look out over Alfama and the Tagus River. A classic Lisbon walk!

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Alfama Walking Tour

Alfama Walking Tour

Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, spreading downhill between the medieval former royal Castle of São Jorge and the Tagus river. Under the Islamic rule, Alfama constituted the largest part of the city, and was increasingly inhabited by fishermen and the poor. The reputation of being a poor area still lives on. The name Alfama derives from the Arabic al-ḥamma, which means "hot...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Belem Walking Tour

Belem Walking Tour

Also known as Santa Maria de Belem, the district of Belém is one of the most visited in Lisbon. Situated not far from the city center, it lines the Tagus River and is the original location of Lisbon's port – the starting point of the many great voyages of discovery by Portuguese explorers, such as Vasco da Gama – departed from here for India in 1497, and Pedro Álvares Cabral – for...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles

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