Lying on seven hills on the river Tejo, the capital of Portugal is a lovely city, a blend of old fashioned and modern, of tradition and cultural diversity. Tiny, it can be visited by foot. But, if you feel the hills will kill you, you can either catch the tram, the bus, the taxi, several funiculars and...elevators.
Alfama is the oldest quarter of the city, with its maze of small alleys, built on a plant of a Moor kasbah, hence permitting to defend it against military attacks and enabling the houses to stay cool. Its life revolves around small shops and cantinas, and the flea market of Feira da Ladra (the Thiefs' fair) which is held every Tuesday and Saturday but, off the beaten path, there are some alternative shops in the area of Doca do Jardim do Tabaco, and some trendy eateries. Alfama is the historical soul of Lisbon, where - among the other things - the Castelo de São Jorge and the Sé Cathedral are. The castle was built in 1511, after that the king Alphonse Henriques had conquered Lisboa back from the Moors. Used as a real residence, theatre, prison and warehouse, the castle was ruined by the earthquake of 1755, but - in 1938 - Salazar decided to have it back to its ancient splendour. Even though not all you will see is hence authentic, the Castelo is a must see, and a stroll among the bastions is highly recommended. Built on the foundations of a mosque, the Sé Cathedral was built in 1150, always by decision of Alphonse Henriques. Today the cathedral is either the oldest of Lisbon, or a blend of several architectural styles: the result of years of renovations (it has been hit and destroyed by three earthquakes...). Remember to pay a visit to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, that hosts an impressive collection of tiles, which range from the Moors' times to the XX century. The museum is located inside the building of what - in the past - was a cloister. The tiles' panels offer several outstanding images, such as the Panorama of Lisbon or the altar of Nossa Senhora da Vida. Take the chance to unwind in the courtyard.
The quarters of Baixa and Avenida were built by the Marquis of Pombal in 1755 and their difference from Alfama is striking. As the alleys in Alfama are small, there the roads are broad, and several squares, such as the Praça do Comércio, Praça do Municipio and Praça Dom Pedro IV (a.k.a. the Rossio) are often filled with people. Mosaics decorate entire streets, the neoclassical design is king, and everything is the result of the first urban planning in Europe. Lively zones either by day of by night, with coffees, restaurants and theatres, they are today the commercial heart of Lisbon, where several shops (try Rua Augusta...), banks and offices are. The Elevador de Santa Justa is an impressive structure, built by the French architect Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard - Eiffel's disciple -, at the end of the XVIII century to connect Largo do Carmo to the Bairro Alto. Praça do Comercio is known to the inhabitants of Lisbon as the Plaza of the Palace, considered that - there - Manuel I - in 1511 - transferred the royal palace.
The quarter of Bairro Alto is an incredibly picturesque place in Lisbon. Its history began when - during the XVI century - the richest people of the capital decided to move from Alfama. By the end of the XIX century it had transformed into the red light district of the city, but it was able to regain its beauty thanks to the efforts of small restaurants, cantinas, bars and artisans' shops. By night it's still vibrant, with traditional restaurants, bars and the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (built on the style of the Scala of Milan and the San Carlo of Naples), that will offer you a variety of performances. Do not miss the Igreja do Carmo, with its Gothic ruins, memory of the earthquake of 1755, which hosts today an archaeological museum. Hermes, Cartier, jewellers, antiques, designers, bookshops can all be found there, and it's a prestigious area to go shopping. Do not miss the chance!
But Belém is for sure among the wonders of the city, with its gardens, monasteries, historical buildings and monuments. Neighboorhood built thanks to the king Manuel I during the period of discoveries, the quarter lies on the river Tejo, and it is a wonderful place where strolling and relaxing. The Palacio de Belém was built in 1559 by the count de Aveiras and is today the residence of the President of the Republic, and even hosts the Museu Nacional dos Coches that will take you into other historical eras, while exploring the several coaches, chariot, four wheelers ad gigs exposed. The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos isn't only an emblematic example of the architecture of the Golden times of Portugal, but a place where you will find the tomb of Vasco de Gama and - meanwhile exploring - enjoy the serenity and calm that the place is able to offer. And Vasco da Gama can be seen at the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a monument built in order to commemorate all the people who gave their life to the development of Portugal during its golden years. The Torre de Belém was the starting point in the navigation to the new world, and symbol of the expansionistic era of Portugal. Even though outside it's quite austere, inside it hosts the governor rooms, and - from the terrace at the first floor - you will have an outstanding view of the city. Remember to stop by the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem to have a tart, or buy some pastries and enjoy them while walking into the Tropical Garden...
Cross either the Bridge XXV Abril or the Bridge Vasco da Gama, to visit the Parque das Nações. Built for the Exposition of 1998, it is the most modern part of the city, with a futuristic architecture. This part of the city, built on what once was a military harbour, is today a residential and commercial place, where the modernity of the buildings respects the nature and where pollutions is fought. Remember that inside the Estaçao do Oriente, every Sunday flea markets are held, but if you need to shop til you drop, try the Vasca da Gama Shopping Center. By the way, do not forget to visit the Oceanarium, and give a glance to the Vasco da Gama's twin towers.
In the outskirts of the city there are several beauties too. One is for sure the Cristo Rei, the impressive statue of Jesus Christ, built taking as a model the famous one of Rio de Janeiro. With its 28 meters of height and placed on an enormous plinth, it can be seen from every corner of the city. The Parque Eduardo VII is the biggest and most famous park of the city, with its beautiful English gardens, the Estufa Fria and the Pavilhão Carlos Lopes.
Not far away from Lisbon, the beautiful settlement of Sintra is part of the UNESCO heritage, since 1995. Settled among woods and rivers, Sintra has some impressive historical buildings, such as the Palacio Nacional de Sintra and the Palacio da Pena. Blend of several styles, ranging from the Gothic to the Moresque, the Paço was the royal residence until 1880, and it's dominated by...the kitchen chimneys. The Sala dos Brasões, the kitchens and the chapel cannot be missed. But if the Palacio National is a fusion of styles, the Palacio da Pena isn't any different. Built in the XIX century, it was the summer residence of Maria II's husband. Commissioned to the Baron von Eschwege, the Palacio da Pena is inspired by the castles of Bavaria.
Queluz is another place that must be visited, often compared to Versailles. The royal hunting lodge - under the care of Mateus Vicente - was transformed into summer residence, and further developed with the works of Jean Baptiste Robillion. The cries of Mary I - queen who suffered from melancholy and hallucinations - cannot be heard today, but the beauty of the several rooms, their luxury and the gardens, can still be visited.
Profit from everything Lisbon has to offer, from the beautiful places to the exquisite and strange Portuguese kitchen (try the pasteis de bacalhau, the frango a piri piri and the sardinhas assadas), to its wines and portos; from its shopping centers and boutiques, to its beaches; from its fados, to its nightlife. You will discover that Lisbon is all that, and even more too...