10 Historical Monuments in Lisbon
Lisbon: the city of tiles,pastel de natas, outstanding Portuguese food and a city filled with historical monuments.
Seemingly one around every corner, in fact. The following are ten that I would consider unmissable if this is an area where your interest lies while traveling.
The great thing about Lisbon’s monuments is that they are all quite easy to explore on one’s own, or via a guided walking tour through the city center.
1. The Tower of Belem in Lisbon
The Tower of Belem is largely considered the most popular tourist attraction in Portugal. Even travelers uninterested in exploring Lisbon will make time to day trip into Belem just to see this monument.
The tower was constructed in the 1500s as part of a replacement project for the permanent boat stationed at all times in the bay, intended to protect from incoming threats.
The tower was originally built on a small island in the middle of the bay, but the changing tides moved the land inward over the centuries, and today the tower sits right on the water’s edge, accessible by just a short wooden bridge.
2. Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon
A short walk from the Belem Tower will bring you to the Jerónimos Monastery. This monument is one of the most beautiful exhibits of architecture in all of Lisbon; it is also one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders, along with the afore mentioned Tower of Belem.
The monastery took over one hundred years to complete, with attention to detail being of the utmost importance. The monks then lived in the monument for close to three hundred years, praying for the wellbeing of the king in power and the good fortune of sailors departing for months at sea.
Entrance into the monastery is absolutely free to all.
3. Carmo Convent in Lisbon
Carmo Convent is a quick and easy monument to visit at any time while exploring Lisbon’s city center. It’s a short walk north from Chiado; uphill, but worth it.
Carmo Convent is the famous church that survived the Great Earthquake of 1755… almost. The church retained all of its infrastructure, unaffected by the moving land beneath it. The roof, however, was not as fortunate.
The entire roofing structure of Carmo Convent was lost in the quake. The church lives on, with the blue sky as its only ceiling. It’s an unforgettable sight!
4. Church of Sao Roque in Lisbon
This was one of the first Jesuit churches in Portugal, as well as one of the first in the world. The great power that the Jesuits had is reflected in the unfathomable ornate interior, where seemingly everything is coated in gold.
The Jesuits occupied this space for over two hundred years, up until they were expelled from the country for good.
Much of the original church interior still remains and can be visited for free while in Lisbon.
5. National Pantheon in Lisbon
Some locals will know this monument as the Church of Santa Engrácia, as it was only officially converted to and renamed the National Pantheon in the 20th century.
It served its function as a church for many years, but the grand dome atop the building made it the most ideal location for the Pantheon. It is now the burial site for influentially significant Portuguese individuals from around the country.
It is situated in the Alfama district, and the dome can be spotted from just about all of the miradouros (viewpoints) throughout the city center, making it an important component to the Lisbon city skyline.
6. Praça do Comércio in Lisbon
Another Lisbon monument commonly known by two names, one might hear locals call the Praça do Comércio the Terreiro do Paço.
This famous public square is situated right on the Tagus water’s edge on the coast of the city center. One can walk to the Terreiro do Paço in just a few minutes from Chiado and/or Bairro Alto.
Considered the grandest of Lisbon’s squares, this magnificent plaza is bordered by ornate municipal buildings, with restaurants sitting underneath them forming small entertainment blocks.
There are few better places to be during sunset in Lisbon. The day-end light bouncing between the buildings and central statues is something to behold as you slowly make your way to the water.
7. Ajuda National Palace in Lisbon
The Ajuda National Palace is a beautiful neoclassical monument in the civil parish of Ajuda in Lisbon. For location perspective, Ajuda lies between the LX Factory and Belem.
After the earthquake in 1755, a temporary wooden building was constructed to house the royal family. A permanent place of residency was then built on the same site, and this is the Ajuda National Palace.
It became the official royal residency in Lisbon during the reign of King Luis I. Most of the palace interiors are the work of the king’s then wife, Queen Maria Pia.
8. Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon
Back to Belem we go for one more very important historical monument.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is the Monument of the Discoverers. It’s a short walk from the Tower of Belem, and is, in some ways, far more interesting to observe.
This monument was constructed as an ode to the period of discoveries during with Portugal reigned supreme, with explorers venturing all over the planet.
All off the most influential discoverers of the time are sculpted into the sides of the monument, in great proportions. Standing beneath it is quite something.
9. Basílica da Estrela in Lisbon
Also known as the Royal Basilica and Convent of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Basílica da Estrela is an ornate baroque church dating back to the 18th century.
Lovers of this kind of architecture will enjoy basking in the peace and quiet that the church holds, and will also be given the chance to see the site of Queen Maria I’s tomb.
10. The Monuments in Sintra near Lisbon
Sintra is technically not part of Lisbon; one can get to it by catching the train about forty minutes north outside of the city center.
The Sintra Valley is, however, filled with phenomenal monuments that shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to their historical significance.
The Pena National Palace, situated here, is actually one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. The Igreja de Santa Maria, Quinta da Regaleira and the Castle of the Moors are unmissable historical monuments, as well.