Widely regarded by frequent travelers as one of the greatest cities in the world, the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon is known for its dramatic colonialist history, beautiful landscapes, amazing cuisine, must-see museums, and traditional Fado music. But no tourist should leave the city without completing a thorough tour of its one-of-a-kind landmarks, architectural attractions, and official monuments. Here are just five places that you don’t want to miss during your Lisbon vacation:
- The Santa Justa Lift
A striking structure in the heart of downtown Lisbon, the Santa Justa Lift (Elevador de Santa Justa) is unique to say the least. An industrial marvel from the 19th century, this 45-meter iron tracery and functional elevator was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, a Portuguese disciple of Gustave Eiffel. Guests can ride to the top of this beloved national monument to take in spectacular views of St. George’s Castle among other architectural wonders.
- Carmo Convent
Many historic cities, including Lisbon, are home to a number of breathtaking cathedrals that are fully intact. But none evoke the truly unusual, haunting beauty of the ruined Carmo Convent (Convento do Carmo). In fact, many people regard it as Lisbon’s most extraordinary church even though it has been roofless since the damage it sustained in the massive earthquake of 1755. Its sweeping gothic arches date back to the 1300s, while its Manueline windows and other details were added in the 16th and 18th centuries.
- St. George’s Castle
Located at the top of the highest hill in the city, St. George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) offers excellent views of Lisbon and the surrounding landscape. Over the centuries, this extremely beautiful castle has served as a key fortification for the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Moors, as well as the Portuguese monarchy. Many of St. George’s Castle’s historical features remain intact including its 18 towers, miliary canons, underground chambers, and camera obscura.
- Águas Livres Aqueduct
An 18th century engineering marvel, the Águas Livres Aqueduct (Aqueduto das Águas Livres) was constructed to bring fresh water to Lisbon from the hills to its north. It covers roughly 14 kilometers from its Caneças to the city reservoir of Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras. Visitors can schedule tours of the inside of the aqueduct through the Water Museum and the Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras serves as the site for regular cultural events and exhibitions.
- The Monastery of St. Jerome
A World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Monastery of St. Jerome (Jerónimos Monastery) was built in the 16th century as a home and workplace for the monks of the Order of Saint Jerome. The monastery’s church (Igreja de Santa Maria de Belém) is home to the tombs of several prominent historical figures including Sebastião I, whose remains were interred there by King Filipe I to end the popular belief that Sebastião I was destined to return for Portugal’s salvation.