Ever since arriving in Lisbon, we had been aware of the Igreja da Santa Engrácia, with its massive dome capping the skyline of Alfama, and wondered how beautiful the church inside must be. Upon visiting, we immediately realized that, while beautiful it is… a church it isn’t. At least, not anymore. Today, the Santa Engrácia holds the National Pantheon, which honors some of the country’s most prestigious historical figures.
In 1998, Portugal honored the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s historic journey to India by constructing the longest bridge in Europe. A gondola provides incredible views over the bridge, the Tagus estuary which it spans, and the former pavilions of the 1998 World Expo.
Connecting the Praça dos Restauradores to the Bairro Alto, the Ascensor da Glória has been in operation since 1885. We took a ride to the top, where we checked out the views from the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, one of the most popular viewpoints in the city.
What is it that Christians are supposed to ask themselves? Ah yes… “what would Jesus do?” Well, if Jesus were alive in Lisbon on Christmas Eve, he’d definitely visit the huge statue of himself in Almada. How could he resist? I bet he’d even take a selfie, posing with his arms up in front of his own likeness. Jesus is so meta.
One of the most photographed sights in Lisbon is the Santa Justa Lift, connecting Baixa to the Bairro Alto. Built at the turn of the 20th century, this eye-catching Gothic elevator is still in use, although it’s currently more for tourists than for locals.
The Jardim do Torel is set high on a hill in the neighborhood of Santo António, and the easiest way to reach it is with the Ascensor do Lavra. Once at the top, the garden and the surrounding neighborhood provide plenty of sights for an entertaining day out.
Set within a 17th-century palace across from the popular Miradouro das Portas do Sol, a viewpoint that looks over Alfama and the cruise ship docks, the Museu de Artes Decorativas (also called the Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva, or FRISS) introduces visitors to the exquisite furniture and design of Lisbon during the Age of Exploration.
We were surprised to learn that the patron saint of our adopted hometown of Valencia, San Vicente Martir, is also the patron saint of Lisbon. Although he’d never visited Portugal in life, his mortal remains were brought here in 1173. We visited the ancient church and monastery named in his honor, set on a hill in Alfama.
If a city can be said to have a birthplace, Lisbon’s is the massive stone bluff which soars over the Tagus River Basin. This hill was home to the earliest humans to populate the area, and has served as a fortress and a castle for centuries of Romans, Moors and Christians. Today, the remains of the Castelo de São Jorge serve mostly tourists, who show up in droves to take in the best views in the city.
The Basilica da Estrela lies west of the Baixa, in the upscale neighborhood of Lapa. Built by the Queen of Portugal to fulfill a promise to God, the church sits atop a hill, with a giant dome that’s visible throughout Lisbon. We visited both it, and the adjacent Jardim da Estrela on an overcast Sunday.