Lisbon Travel Guide

Geography

Physical geography

Lisbon is located at, situated at the mouth of the Tagus River and is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country.

The westernmost part of Lisbon is occupied by the Parque Florestal de Monsanto (English: Monsanto Forest Park), an urban park, one the largest in Europe, and occupying ten percent of the municipality.

The city occupies an area of, and its city boundaries, unlike those of most major cities, are narrowly defined by its historical centre. The rest of the urbanised area of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, known generically as Greater Lisbon, is actually several administratively defined cities and municipalities, such as Amadora, Queluz, Agualva-Cacém, Odivelas, Loures, Sacavém, Almada, Barreiro, Seixal and Oeiras

Climate

Lisbon has a Subtropical-Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa) with mild winters and warm to hot summers. The average annual temperature is during the day and at night. Average annual temperature of the sea is .

In the coldest month – January – the high temperature during the day typically ranges from, the low temperature at night ranges from and the average sea temperature is . In the warmest month – August – the high temperature during the day typically ranges from, the low temperature at night ranges from and the average sea temperature is . Generally, a summer season lasts about 6 months, from May to October. Three months – March, April and November – are transitional, sometimes the temperature exceeds, with an average temperature in these three months of during the day and at night. December, January and February are the coldest months, with an average temperature of during the day and at night. Among all metropolises (together with Valencia) and capitals (together with Malta) in Europe, Lisbon has the warmest winters, and the mildest nighttime temperatures in Europe: among the warmest in the winter – from an average of in the coldest month, and comfortable in the warmest month.

Rain occurs mainly in winter, the summers being generally dry. Sunshine hours are about 2,800 per year, from an average of 4.6 hours of sunshine duration at day in December to an average of 11.4 hours of sunshine duration at day in July.

Civil parishes

The municipality of Lisbon included 53 freguesias (civil parishes) until November 2012. A new law ("Lei n.º 56/2012") reduced the number of freguesias to 24.

Districts

Locally, Lisbon's inhabitants may more commonly refer to the spaces of Lisbon in terms of historic bairros (neighbourhoods). These communities have no clearly defined boundaries and represent distinctive quarters of the city that have in common an historical culture, similar living standards, and identifiable architectural landmarks, as exemplified by the Bairro Alto, Alfama, Chiado, and so forth.

Alcântara

Although today it is quite central, it was once a mere suburb of Lisbon, comprising mostly farms and country estates of the nobility with their palaces. In the 16th century, there was a brook there which the nobles used to promenade in their boats. During the late 19th century, Alcântara became a popular industrial area, with lots of small factories and warehouses.

In the early 1990s, Alcântara began to attract youth because of the number of pubs and discothèques. This was mainly due its outer area of mostly commercial buildings, which acted as barriers to the noise-generating nightlife (which acted as a buffer to the residential communities surrounding it). In the meantime, some of these areas began to become gentrified, attracting loft developments and new flats, which have profited from its river views and central location.

Alfama

The oldest district of Lisbon, it spreads down the southern slope from the Castle of São Jorge to the River Tagus. Its name, derived from the Arabic Al-hamma, means fountains or baths. During the Islamic invasion of Iberia, the Alfama constituted the largest part of the city, extending west to the Baixa neighbourhood. Increasingly, the Alfama became inhabited by fishermen and the poor: its fame as a poor neighbourhood continues to this day. While the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake caused considerable damage throughout the capital, the Alfama survived with little damage, thanks to its compact labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares. It is an historical quarter of mixed-use buildings occupied by Fado bars, restaurants, and homes with small shops downstairs. Modernising trends have invigorated the district: old houses have been re-purposed or remodelled, while new buildings have been constructed. Fado, the typically Portuguese style of melancholy music, is common (but not obligatory) in the restaurants of the district.

Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto (literally the upper quarter in Portuguese) is an area of central Lisbon that functions as a residential, shopping and entertainment district; it is the centre of the Portuguese capital's nightlife, attracting hipster youth and members of various music subcultures. Lisbon's Punk, Gay, Metal, Goth, Hip Hop and Reggae scenes all find a home in the Bairro with its many clubs and bars that cater to them. The crowds in the Bairro Alto are a multicultural mix of people representing a broad cross-section of modern Portuguese society, many of them being entertainment seekers and devotees of various music genres outside the mainstream, yet Fado, Portugal's national music, still survives in the midst of the new nightlife.

Baixa

The heart of the city is the Baixa or city centre; the Pombaline Baixa is an elegant district, primarily constructed after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, taking its name from its benefactor, 1st Marquess of Pombal, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, who was the minister of Joseph I of Portugal (1750–1777) and a key figure during the Portuguese Enlightenment. Following the 1755 disaster, Pombal took the lead in rebuilding Lisbon, imposing strict conditions and guidelines on the construction of the city, and transforming the organic street plan that characterised the district before the earthquake into its current grid pattern. As a result, the Pombaline Baixa is one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction. Architectural models were tested by having troops march around them to simulate an earthquake. Notable features of Pombaline structures include the Pombaline cage, a symmetrical wood-lattice framework aimed at distributing earthquake forces, and inter-terrace walls that were built higher than roof timbers to inhibit the spread of fires.

Belém

Belém is famous as the place from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery. In particular, it is the place from which Vasco da Gama departed for India in 1497 and Pedro Álvares Cabral departed for Brazil in 1499. It is also a former royal residence and features the 17th–18th century Belém Palace, former royal residence and now occupied by the President of Portugal, and the Ajuda Palace, begun in 1802 but never completed.

Perhaps Belém's most famous feature is its tower, Torre de Belém, whose image is much used by Lisbon's tourist board. The tower was built as a fortified lighthouse late in the reign of Dom Manuel (1515–1520) to guard the entrance to the port. It stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water. Belém's other major historical building is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), which the Torre de Belém was built partly to defend. Belém's most notable modern feature is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries). In the heart of Belém is the Praça do Império: gardens centred upon a large fountain, laid out during World War II. To the west of the gardens lies the Centro Cultural de Belém. Belém is one of the most visited Lisbon districts.

Chiado

The Chiado is a traditional shopping area that mixes old and modern commercial establishments, concentrated specially in the Carmo's and Garrett's streets. Locals as well as tourists visit the Chiado to buy books, garments and pottery as well as to have a cup of coffee. The most famous café of Chiado is A Brasileira, famous for having had poet Fernando Pessoa among its customers. The Chiado is also an important cultural area, with several museums and theatres. Several buildings of the Chiado were destroyed in a fire in 1988, an event that deeply shocked the country. Thanks to a renovation project that lasted more than 10 years, coordinated by celebrated architect Siza Vieira, the affected area is now recovered.

Estrela

The Baroque-Neoclassical Estrela Basilica is the main attraction of this district. The huge church has a giant dome, and is located on a hill in what was at the time the western part of Lisbon and can be viewed from great distances. The style is similar to that of the Mafra National Palace, in late baroque and neoclassical. The façade has two twin bell towers and includes statues of saints and some allegoric figures. Sao Bento Palace, the seat of Portuguese parliament and the official residences of the Prime Minister of Portugal and the President of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal, is in this district.

Parque das Nações

Parque das Nações is the newest district in Lisbon, having emerged from an urban renewal programme leading to the World Exhibition of Lisbon 1998, also known as Expo'98. The area suffered massive changes giving Parque das Nações a futuristic look. A long lasting legacy of the same, the area has become another commercial and higher end residential area for the city. Central to this is the Gare do Oriente (Orient railway station), one of the main transport hubs of Lisbon for trains, buses, taxis and the metro. Its glass and steel columns are inspired by Gothic architecture, lending the whole structure a visual fascination (especially in sunlight or when illuminated at night). It was designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava from Valencia, Spain. Across the street, through Vasco da Gama Mall, is Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations), site of the 1998 World Expo.

The area is pedestrian-friendly with new buildings, restaurants, gardens, the Casino Lisbon, the FIL building (International Exhibition and Fair), the Camões Theatre, as well as the Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Oceanarium), the second largest in the world. The district's MEO Arena has become Lisbon's "jack-of-all-trades" performance arena. Seating 20,000, it has staged events from concerts to basketball tournaments.


source: Wikipedia

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