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 (Rua Augusta Arch)
  • Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift)
  • Chafariz do Carmo & Largo do Carmo (Carmo Fountain and Square)
  • Museu Arqueologico do Carmo (Carmo Archaeological Museum)
  • Igreja de Sao Roque (Church of St. Roch)
  • Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara (Saint Peter's Viewpoint)
  • Ascensor da Gloria (Gloria Funicular)
  • Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue)
  • Praca dos Restauradores (Restorers Square)
  • Praca do Rossio (Rossio Square)
  • Praca da Figueira (Fig Tree Square)
  • Castelo de Sao Jorge (Saint George's Castle)
Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square)

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

The Commerce Square on Lisbon's waterfront underwent a complete reconstruction following the devastating 1755 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, briefly described in Voltaire's 1756 work "Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne". This reconstruction erased the centuries-old layout of the square, replacing it with symmetrical government buildings dedicated to regulating customs and port activities, hence the name "comércio."

The centerpiece of the 35,000 square meter square is the equestrian statue of King José I, who reigned during the earthquake and played a pivotal role in the city's massive rebuilding effort. Notably, there is an elephant depicted on the eastern side of the statue's pedestal, symbolizing Portugal's vast overseas empire. This elephant motif also appears in the novel "The Elephant's Journey", written by the renowned Portuguese author and Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, José Saramago.

At the square's northern side, you'll encounter the Arco da Rua Augusta, a triumphal arch that connects the square to Rua Augusta, as well as the Cais das Colunas, a riverfront pier adorned with two columns and marble steps. These steps were typically partly submerged and served as the "noble entrance" to the city during Portugal's maritime era, used by kings, queens, heads of state, and other dignitaries.

On the western side, at the intersection of Praça do Comércio and Rua do Arsenal, you can find a plaque commemorating the assassination of King Carlos I, who was shot there along with his heir apparent, Luís Filipe, by two individuals advocating for a republican government. Following this tragedy, King Carlos I was succeeded by his other son, Manuel II, but the monarchy was soon abolished, leading to the family's exile.

Throughout the expansive square, under the arcades, you'll discover souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, and wine cellars. These establishments attract both tourists and locals who come to savor a meal, observe passing ships, gaze at the 25th of April Bridge downstream, or simply enjoy some fresh air away from the occasionally cramped streets and alleyways.

For a glimpse of what the square looked like before the 1755 earthquake, you can find reproductions of contemporary engravings from the 17th and 18th centuries and a modern ceramic tile mural ("azulejos") at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia in Alfama.
Arco da Rua Augusta (Rua Augusta Arch)

2) Arco da Rua Augusta (Rua Augusta Arch)

An easily overlooked bargain at just €3, the summit of this iconic arch, constructed to commemorate Lisbon's resurgence following the Great Earthquake of 1755, offers magnificent panoramic views of the Commerce Square ("Praça do Comércio") and the river beyond. It also provides a unique perspective of the narrow streets branching off Rua Augusta that is not easily appreciated at street level. This vantage point presents an ideal opportunity to point out other attractions you've either already visited or plan to explore.

While an elevator takes you most of the way up, you'll encounter a few additional flights of winding stairs. Along the way, you'll notice stop-and-go traffic lights that help prevent potential congestion. Along the landings, you can explore informative displays depicting the history of the area's development and the story of the old clock, adding an educational dimension to your visit. At the very top, you'll find a depiction of Glory bestowing laurel leaves upon Valour and Genius, and there is even a bell you can ring if you wish.

If you have the Lisbon Card, admission is free, and credit cards are accepted.
It's advisable to go early to avoid both the scorching heat and the crowds.
Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift)

3) Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift) (must see)

A distinctive attraction in Lisbon, this vertical street elevator located at the end of Rua de Santa Justa dazzles everyone with its views over the downtown Baixa neighborhood, Rossio Square, and São Jorge Castle. The lift, dating precisely from 1902, was designed by Raoul Mésnier and originally operated using steam power, having been converted to electrical operation in 1907. Adorned with an iron lace exterior in a neogothic style, it stands as an impressive blend of engineering and art, bearing a resemblance to the work of Gustave Eiffel, as Mésnier was his disciple.

The elevator comprises two lift cabins, each with a wooden interior and accommodation for a maximum of 20 passengers. It's important to note that ascending the iron spiral staircase to reach the viewing platform requires a head for heights. However, if you can conquer any nervousness, the views are truly spectacular and well worth the effort. Additionally, keep in mind that the top platform is quite exposed, so it's advisable to check the weather conditions before planning your visit.

If you find the queue too long, consider entering the cork store on Rua do Carmo, ascending the stairs, and then crossing the street via the walkway. Although this option requires physical effort to climb the stairs, it saves time and money while allowing for more opportunities to savor the views along the way.
Chafariz do Carmo & Largo do Carmo (Carmo Fountain and Square)

4) Chafariz do Carmo & Largo do Carmo (Carmo Fountain and Square)

One of the many public fountains constructed in Lisbon during the 15th to 18th centuries, the Chafariz do Carmo stands out as a remarkable example. It graces the Largo do Carmo square, situated alongside the convent bearing the same name. This late Baroque fountain is characterized by a structure enclosed within an elegant porch supported by four grand pillars and was originally built atop an aqueduct that once supplied water to the city. Purely decorative today, it undeniably contributes to the ambiance of the area and is well worth a brief visit.

Throughout the year, the shaded and inviting plaza offers a range of attractions. These include a distinguished Archaeological Museum, housed within the Carmo Convent damaged during the 1755 earthquake. The square also hosts the headquarters of the National Guard, a significant landmark in Portugal's Carnation Revolution. It was on April 25, 1974, at this location that the last of Portugal's dictators, Caetano, officially relinquished power to the rebels.

Additionally, the Largo do Carmo boasts some of the city's finest restaurants with outdoor seating, creating an excellent dining experience. Visitors can also enjoy the cozy, circular kiosk café, where musicians often provide entertainment. On Sundays, there's even a small market to explore.
Museu Arqueologico do Carmo (Carmo Archaeological Museum)

5) Museu Arqueologico do Carmo (Carmo Archaeological Museum) (must see)

The Carmo Convent, once the residence of Carmelite nuns until 1755, the year of the devastating earthquake that shook Lisbon, still proudly stands atop a small hill overlooking the busy Rossio Square and facing the Lisbon Castle Hill. During the Carnation Revolution, this historic site served as a refuge for Marcelo Caetano, the successor to the dictatorial president, Antonio de Oliviera Salazar, and his loyal supporters. It was here that he was eventually ousted, marking the end of over half a century of authoritarian rule in Portugal.

Today, the Carmo Church's nave and apse house an archaeological museum featuring artifacts from all periods of Portuguese history. The nave showcases a collection of tombs, fountains, windows, and architectural remnants from diverse locations and architectural styles. The former apse chapels have been repurposed as exhibition spaces, with one of them displaying remarkable pre-historical objects excavated from a fortification near Azambuja dating from 3500 to 1500 BC. The entrance fee is a reasonable €5, and there is much to explore, including a well-executed multimedia presentation recounting the site's history.

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, offering splendid vistas of the Castle of the Moors.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful and photogenic 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 the city, your best bet is to take the Santa Justa Lift, accessible via a footbridge through the Bellalisa Restaurant located just to the right of the convent.
Igreja de Sao Roque (Church of St. Roch)

6) Igreja de Sao Roque (Church of St. Roch)

The Church of Saint Roch holds the distinction of being the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world and one of the pioneers of Jesuit churches globally. It served as the principal church for the Jesuit Society in Portugal for over two centuries until the Jesuits were expelled from the country due to their power-seeking endeavors. Following the devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the church, along with its accompanying residence, came under the ownership and management of the Lisbon Holy House of Mercy. This organization continues to oversee the site today as one of its many historical properties.

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.

Remarkably, this was one of the few buildings in Lisbon to endure the earthquake with relatively minimal damage. Despite its unassuming 16th-century facade, don't be deterred from venturing inside. As the saying goes, "don't judge a book by its cover". The interior gleams with royal opulence, featuring gilded gold altars, intricate marbles and alabasters, precious stones like amethyst and lapis lazuli, intricate wall adornments, and some of the most exquisite 'azulejos' (tiles) that enhance the overall grandeur of the space.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most stunning churches in Lisbon, even though its baroque design may feel a bit too lavish in places. Inside, the trompe l'oeil painting on the ceiling is a true masterpiece, while each of the eight chapels flanking the nave is a testament to decorative excellence.

If you have the luxury of time, consider exploring the adjacent São Roque Museum, where you'll find two floors filled with artworks, antiquities, reliquaries, and other valuable possessions collected over centuries by the church. On Sundays until 2pm, entry is free. Among the most precious items are the treasures originally situated in the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist within the church nave.
Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara (Saint Peter's Viewpoint)

7) Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara (Saint Peter's Viewpoint) (must see)

This small, well-designed terrace stands as one of the many viewpoints scattered throughout Lisbon. Providing yet another breathtaking vantage point over the city's central area, it particularly highlights the São Jorge Castle and the Graça Hills. The terrace is divided into two levels, with a map crafted from traditional Portuguese tiles aiding visitors in identifying landmarks they see on the horizon.

The upper level features a charming fountain and a monument dedicated to Eduardo Coelho, the founder of the popular newspaper 'Diario de Noticias'. The monument is accompanied by a statue of a newsboy, reminiscent of those who once sold the newspaper on Lisbon's streets. Descending to the lower level, you'll encounter vibrant flower beds and sculptures of renowned figures from Greek and Roman mythology, such as Minerva and Ulysses. Additionally, a picturesque small waterfall is built within a walled archway.

The lower open area offers benches where visitors can unwind, soak in the mesmerizing vistas, and enjoy the music often performed by locals. You'll also find food and beverage stalls, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely lunch. Just across the street, within an 18th-century building, lies the Port Wine Institute ("Solar do Vinho do Porto"), where you can savor a selection of 300 different types of Port wine in a cozy atmosphere, either by sipping a glass or purchasing a bottle to relish during a splendid waterside picnic.

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

8) Ascensor da Gloria (Gloria Funicular)

Instead of viewing this as merely a tourist attraction, consider it an extraordinary engineering achievement! Established in 1885 and designated a national historic site in 2002, this renowned Lisbon tram system boasts vintage, partially wooden streetcars that link Restorers Square ("Praça dos Restauradores") at its lower point to Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara at its upper terminus, just a stone's throw from the equally famous lookout point (or "miradouro").

The steep incline covers a distance of about 900 feet or less (270 meters), so a tram journey typically spans about 2-3 minutes, while a descent along the track takes anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes, depending on one's age and physical stamina. Whichever way you choose, whether riding up or down the Glória Slope ("Calçada da Glória"), you'll pass through one of Lisbon's finest showcases of neighborhood graffiti, predominantly on the right side (when going uphill), as this area is officially dedicated to sanctioned street art.

An entertaining mode of public transportation, particularly for those unfamiliar with the charm of funicular trams. There are excellent photo opportunities from the summit, making it an excellent starting point for exploring the Bairro Alto neighborhood as you descend.
Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue)

9) Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue)

Once home to statesmen and prominent figures, this expansive, tree-lined pedestrian promenade that leads to the bustling heart of Lisbon boasts exquisite cobblestone paving, high-end boutiques, and chic bars flanking its sides. Yet, amidst this blend of luxury and sophistication, you'll discover charming glimpses of classical 19th-century architecture. At the center of it all, the two main squares feature picturesque water features and imposing statues.

As you embark on this avenue's journey, you'll encounter two elegant marble ponds flanking the main path at its outset. Further along, two graceful cascades, framed by lush greenery, grace the thoroughfare. These cascades represent the rivers Douro and Tagus. Following this, you'll encounter landscaped garden areas enclosed by four marble statues symbolizing Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

The avenue is also home to several palatial residences, as well as two theaters, four cinemas, and numerous cafes and patisseries. During the summer months, some of these cafes extend their services into the well-lit central gardens, creating a lively evening atmosphere enriched with music.

Towards the upper stretch of the avenue, which features some of Lisbon's most upscale real estate, you'll find an array of designer shops, including renowned brands like Armani and Louis Vuitton. It culminates in a bustling traffic circle known as Marquis of Pombal Square ("Praça Marquês de Pombal"), also referred to as the Rotunda. This landmark is situated adjacent to the city's principal park, Parque Eduardo VII, celebrated for its panoramic vistas and immense hothouses.
Praca dos Restauradores (Restorers Square)

10) Praca dos Restauradores (Restorers Square)

Situated at the southeastern terminus of Liberty Avenue ("Avenida da Liberdade"), adjacent to Rossio Square, the elongated Restorers Square derives its name from the momentous reinstatement of Portugal's independence in 1640, following 80 years of Spanish rule. Inaugurated in 1886, a prominent obelisk at its center commemorates the battles waged during the Portuguese Restoration War, with statues symbolizing Independence and Victory.

Distinguished by the iconic patterned tiles characteristic of Lisbon, this square is encircled by architectural gems from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among these, Palácio Foz stands out, a pink palace that once served as the Ministry of Propaganda during the Salazar regime (1932–74). Today, it houses the Portuguese Tourist Office, where you can conveniently purchase your Lisboa Card. Additionally, the palace's Hall of Mirrors hosts free public concerts, and you can find more details on their official Facebook page.

Other noteworthy landmarks include the former Éden Cinema, now transformed into a hotel, adorned with a splendid Art Deco façade dating to the 1930s. The former Condes Cinema, built in a Modernist style in 1950, now hosts Lisbon's Hard Rock Cafe. Beyond that, don't miss the splendid fountain, which provides an excellent backdrop for photography and is particularly selfie-friendly.

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

11) Praca do Rossio (Rossio Square)

Rossio has served as one of Lisbon's primary squares since the Middle Ages, making it a cherished gathering and leisure spot for both locals and tourists over the centuries. While it may not offer numerous places to unwind, spending an entire day in one of its cafes would never leave you feeling bored. The square maintains a vibrant atmosphere at all times, but if you have the opportunity, consider visiting at night, when the fountains are illuminated, and the crowd tends to be more lively.

The square itself boasts a stunning wavelike pattern of Portuguese pavement known as "calçada portuguesa", a traditional paving style used in Portugal and many of its colonies. It features two baroque fountains situated at its southern and northern perimeters, as well as a dedicated column honoring Pedro IV, the King of Portugal and the first Emperor of Brazil. Despite its official name being Praça de Dom Pedro IV, the older name "Rossio" has endured among the locals, akin to the English term "Commons", signifying a shared public space.

Noteworthy attractions around the square include Lisbon's esteemed National Theatre, "Donna Maria II", constructed in the neoclassical style on the site where the infamous Inquisition Palace was demolished in 1836. Adjacent to it on the right lies the historic Largo São Domingos, featuring a church, a memorial commemorating the Jewish victims of the 1506 massacre, various small establishments offering 'ginjinha' (the local sweet cherry liqueur), and the neighboring significant square, Praça da Figueira ("Fig Tree Square"). On the left side of the theatre, you'll find the Rossio Train Station (be sure to admire its intricate facade and striking horseshoe entry arches), the Hotel Avenida Palace, and Rua do Carmo, among other prominent landmarks. Finally, just behind the theater, Rua das Portas de Santo Antão awaits, renowned as a famous "food street" replete with numerous cafes and restaurants.
Praca da Figueira (Fig Tree Square)

12) Praca da Figueira (Fig Tree Square)

Once the site of Lisbon's main market, Fig Tree Square, conveniently situated, has been repurposed into a bustling transportation hub. However, it still accommodates the smaller open-air Mercado da Baixa, open from 10 am to 10 pm, offering an array of Portuguese culinary delights and beverages. Additionally, you'll find shops vending authentic goods and merchandise, making it an ideal spot for a quick break, particularly if you're not in the mood for a sit-down meal. If you're parched, consider indulging in their sangria or Vinho Verde – both exceptionally delicious and incredibly refreshing, especially on a scorching summer day.

The square is encompassed by uniform four-story buildings that house several charming cafes offering delightful views of the surroundings. Among them, FIGUS (open from 7:30am to 11pm) is renowned for its friendly service and, more notably, for its generously portioned high-quality dishes. For equally exceptional service, along with delectable cuisine, inventive cocktails, and trendy decor, BASTARDO (open from 7:30am to 11pm) is a must-visit; however, keep in mind that advance reservations are essential.

In 1971, an impressive equestrian monument honoring the heroic King João I was unveiled in the square. King João's lengthy reign, spanning an impressive 48 years—the longest in Portuguese monarch history—marked the inception of Portugal's global expansion. His memorable reign earned him the epithet "de Boa Memória" (Fond Memory) and he was also affectionately referred to as "o Bom" (the Good), occasionally even "o Grande" (the Great). In rare instances, particularly in Spain, he was known as "the Bastard" (Bastardo).
Castelo de Sao Jorge (Saint George's Castle)

13) Castelo de Sao Jorge (Saint George's Castle) (must see)

Saint George's Castle commands a prominent position, affording captivating vistas over Lisbon and the expansive Tagus River. This fortified stronghold, in its current form, traces its origins to the medieval era and is perched atop the highest hill in the city's historic heart. Its layout is approximately square, and it was initially encircled by a protective wall.

Within this complex, you'll find the central castle ('castelejo'), alongside auxiliary structures, including the remnants of the royal palace, well-tended gardens, and an expansive terraced square that offers breathtaking panoramic views of Lisbon. The citadel's primary entrance features a 19th-century gate adorned with Portugal's coat of arms, Queen Maria II's name, and the date 1846.

Once inside, visitors can enjoy a range of amenities, including restaurants, cafes, a wine bar, an ice cream stand, and public restrooms. Peacocks roam freely throughout the grounds, particularly in one of the primary dining areas. While dining within the castle walls may be slightly pricier than in the surrounding areas, it is not excessively so. Alternatively, you have the option to bring your own food and beverages and explore the grounds with open containers. Admission is €10 per adult, and children enter for free, making it an excellent attraction for international guests.

Why You Should Visit:
The castle certainly offers sweeping views of the entire city and can be a tranquil oasis in the early morning and a magical setting during sunset. Additionally, there is a permanent exhibition worth exploring, as well as an exceptional 'camera obscura' located in one of the Moorish towers, offering shows every 20 minutes in various languages, including English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Although the journey to the castle involves a steep uphill climb, it provides a delightful stroll through the narrow streets of historic Lisbon, with numerous opportunities to stop and savor local cuisine. Alternatively, you can take cable car #28 to admire the neighborhood's charming and diverse architecture, providing excellent photo opportunities.

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.
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 Belem 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 Alvares Cabral – for...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral Walking Tour

Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral Walking Tour

Spreading on the slope between Saint George's Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) and the Tagus River, the oldest neighborhood of the Portuguese capital, Alfama, captivates visitors with its rich cultural heritage and picturesque ambiance. The area is home to numerous historical attractions and as such makes a perfect destination for a classic Lisbon walk!

Perhaps the best starting point for it...  view more

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

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