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.
The neighborhood of Mouraria will be our base of operations during these 91 days in Lisbon. Ranged along the hill east of the center, underneath the shadow of the Castle of São Jorge, this has historically been the city’s most ethnically diverse section. We took a long self-guided tour, to get to know our new home a little better.
Rivaling the nearby Praça do Comérico in history and prestige, is the Praça do Rossio. Officially named Praça de Don Pedro IV, in honor of the former king who stands atop a massive column in the plaza’s center, Rossio has been at the heart of Lisboan life since the earliest days of the city.
We’ve only been here for a couple days, so it’s hard to be definitive, but one of the most unforgettable sights in Lisbon must surely be the Jerónimos Monastery, in the western neighborhood of Belém. Construction began in 1501, during the height of Portuguese power, and the complex has remained in incredible condition. UNESCO inscribed it as a World Heritage Site in 1983.
What better place to begin our exploration of Lisbon, than the square which has long served as its entrance gate? The Praça do Comércio, usually called the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard), is situated at the base of the Tagus River, where ships laden with riches from around the world once came to shore.
Our home for the next three months is going to be Lisbon, Portugal’s capital and the oldest city in Western Europe. Within the past few years, this city has become extremely fashionable among both tourists and expats, and it’s no wonder. Lisbon boasts a fascinating history, affordable way-of-life, eclectic culture, excellent cuisine, thousands of things to see and do… and a whole lot of hills.