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World > Portugal > Lisbon
City Guide Lisbon
General Information
Lisbon is a beautiful city located on the banks of Targus River. Its charm and attraction for many tourists has a deep connection to Lisbon's strong links to the past. As one walks down the city's streets, it is difficult not to notice its rich cultural heritage in all of the wonderful churches, castles and restored palaces. It is best to come prepared and bring with you a pair of good walking shoes. Although you are visiting a European city and not a trek in the jungle, it is best to keep in mind that Lisbon is set on seven hills and every walk in it, even if you take the public transportation, requires a bit of an effort. But this is also part of Lisbon's charm; from every street and corner, the view is different and surprising. Lisbon is a little different from other European capitals by its mix of colors, smells and noises. The special atmosphere is felt every where around the city; the smell of fresh coffee from every street corner strikes the senses, the noise of public transportation mixes with the smell of the sea and the sight of the colorful Portuguese tiles blends in with the washing hung from terraces and roofs. There is no doubt that Lisbon has a lot to offer for every one with a friendly hospitality, a pleasant weather, plenty of culture and good food.
Lisbon offers a mild climate with long summers and short winters. During summer temperatures reach approximately 28 Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit). The rainy season lasts from December to March, but temperatures rarely fall to freezing point. During winter, temperatures average around 10 Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
The official language is Portuguese. English is widely spoken within the business community and at the touristy places.
The Euro is the official currency of Portugal. Euro (€) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2, 1 and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
Method of payment
Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks and other exchange places. It is best to take travellers cheques in Euros, US Dollars or Pounds Sterling.
Tipping is not taken for granted and will be very appreciative for leaving them a tip. An acceptable tip is between 5% - 10% of the total bill.
Value added tax (called IVA in Portugal) rangers from 8% for books and food to 17% - 19% for luxury goods. Usually the tax is already added in the final price of items and services. The Value added tax can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU as long as the purchase exceeds € 60 (VAT included) and was purchased at one store on the same day. In order to do that, look for shops displaying the sign „Europe Tax – Free Shopping Portugal“. Ask in the store for a tax refund cheque containing the description of goods, the personal data of the non European resident as well as the particulars of his passport or of any such equivalent document. At the airport your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance before checking the luggage in. The cheques are stamped by customs and cashed on the spot by Global Refund Tax – Free Shopping staff at the airport.
To call Lisbon from abroad, first dial +351 for Portugal and then 21 for Lisbon. There can be high charges on calls made from hotels, restaurants and bars and it is generally cheaper to use a calling card. Public telephone boxes take coins or phone cards for local and international calls and in some cases also credit cards.
Most shopping malls have wi – fi zones. There is also a number of cybercaf’es around Lisbon, mainly in Bairro Alto and Chiado. Some good cyber caf’es are Webc@fe at Rua Diario de Noticias 126 and Blue Net Caf’e At Rua da Rosa 165.
Emergency Numbers
National Emergency number: 112 Lisbon Police station: +351 21 3588300 Ambulance: 808 20 1068 On Duty pharmacies: 800 20 2134 Fire-fighters: +351 21 3422222 Portuguese Red Cross: +351 21 3030360
Opening times
Banks are usually open Monday through Friday from 8.30 am to 3 pm. In the Algarve, the bank in Vilamoura Marina shopping centre is open daily from 9 am through 9 pm. Post offices (correios) are usually open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 10 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to 6 pm. Many shops and businesses close for a lunch break of two hours at midday. Usually, shops are open from 9 am to 1 pm and from3 pm to 7 pm from Monday to Friday. Large department stores and shopping centres usually stay open from 9 am to 9 pm. On Saturdays, small shops are normally open from 9 am to 1 pm. Most large supermarkets and department stores will stay open a little later on. Official business hours in most companies are Monday through Friday from 9 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 7 pm.
Public Holidays
· January 1 New Years Day · April 25 Day of Liberty · May 1 Labour Day · June 10 Day of Portugal · August 15 Assumption Day · October 5 Day of the Republic · November 1 All Saint’s Day · December 1 Restoration of Independence · December 8 Day of Our Lady · December 25 Christmas Day
Lisbon is a pretty safe city according to European standards, but you should look out for pickpockets that act mostly upon tourists. Make sure to keep your valuables out of sight especially in crowded places.
The best way to discover Lisbon is to walk down its historical streets. The city centre is easily navigable on foot and if you get tired you can enjoy the efficient public transportation system. Being built on seven hills, Lisbon has plentiful of viewpoints looking over the city. To explore Lisbon's culture, history, architecture and people, it is essential to stroll the historical neighbourhoods of the city. The Bairro Alto is one of the most characteristic neighbourhoods of the city. It has an interesting mix of old architecture, new bars, sophisticated boutiques, restaurants and design shops. Another attractive neighbourhood is Chiado, which offers a sophisticated atmosphere with its art schools, theatres and cafes for the intellectual young people that occupy this neighbourhood. If you are a history fan, you should explore the Carmo area, which hosts some of the most fascinating historical sites and museums, such as the Convent and Church of Carmo, Museu Arquelogico do Carmo and Largo de Carmo. Lisbon enjoys many museums, wonderful view and attractions for every visitor. The main tourist office is located at Lisboa Welcome Centre in Praca de Comercio and is open daily from 9 am to 8 pm. Other offices are located at Praca dos Restauradores, Mercado da Ribeira, Rua Augusta, Belem and Santa Apolonia station.
Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle o
The Castle of St George was built by the Visigoths in the 5th century on the highest of Lisbon's seven hills just above the Moorish Quarter. The Moors were the ones that enlarged the castle in the 9th century. The impressive castle demonstrates the early history of the city and offers a breath taking view of Lisbon and Tagus River. During summer, there are many festivals on the castle grounds. Opening times: Daily: 9 am - 6 pm.
Casa dos Bicos (House of the P
The House of the Pointed Stones drives its name from the unusual 1125 diamond shaped stones that cover its entire facade. The house was built in 1523 and belonged to Afonso de Albuquerque, the viceroy of India. This is one of the only buildings in the area that have survived the earthquake of 1755, but its two upper floors were destroyed at the time and were repaired only in the 1980s. Its interior is not usually open to public, except when it hosts special exhibitions.
Torre de Belem (Belem Tower)
This is one of the most famous sites of Lisbon and no visitor can leave the city without a visit to Belem Tower. This 16th century monument was built as a fortress in order to defend the Tagus River bank. The decoration of its exterior is fascinating and is decorated with rope carved into the fortress stones. In 1983 UNESCO has classified the Belen Tower as a World Heritage Site. Opening times: Tue - Sun: 10 am - 5 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Oceanario de Lisboa (Lisbon Oc
This oceanarium is the largest oceanarium in Europe and it is inhabited by 16,000 animals and plants representing over 450 different species. This impressing oceanarium was built as the main attraction of the Expo 98 world exposition. The oceanarium's aquariums represent the eco system of the Indian Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific and Antarctica. Opening times: Daily: 10 am - 7 pm.
Discoveries Monument
This monument was built in 1960 on the north bank of Tagus River to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator (1394 - 1460), who laid the foundations for Portugal's maritime expansion during the 15th and 16th centuries. The 52 meter high monument represents three ships ready to depart and sculptures of king Manuel I, Afonso V, poet Luis de Camoes, navigators Vasco da Gama and Fernao Magalhaes and of course, Prince Henry. Opening times: Tue - Sun: 9 am - 5 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Vasco da Gama Bridge
If you enjoy modern architecture, you should visit this beautiful bridge. It is 17 km (11 miles) long, making it the longest bridge in Europe at the time it was completed in 1998. This is a magnificent engineering project with foundations extending 85 meters below sea level and it was completed after only 18 months of construction with a cost of one billion US dollars.
25 de Abril Bridge
This bridge was designed by the same architect who designed the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and is actually the sister bridge of the Golden Gate. Originally named after dictator Salazar, the name of the bridge was changed after the revolution of April 25 in 1974. The bridge that connects Lisbon with the Setubal peninsula across the Tagus River is a spectacular sight from any direction. The bridge is best seen from Doca de Santo Amaro.
Jeronimos Monastery
This impressive monastery was built as homage to Portugal's courageous sailors and explorers such as Vasco de Gama who left Portugal to discover new places around the world. It was built on the site where Vasco de Gama and his crew spent their last night before leaving to India. Construction work took up the most of the 16th century and has led to a splendid monastery. Each and every column around the monastery is differently carved with sea monsters, rope, coral and many more sea motifs. The church interior is very spacious and walking through it, you get an appreciation of the richness of the past. Opening times: Oct - Apr: Tue - Sun: 10 am - 5 pm May - Sep: Tue - Sun: 10 am - 6 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Basilica de Estrela
This neoclassical church is set on a hill is the district of Estrela and is visible from most parts of Lisbon. It was built in 1779 after Queen Maria I gave birth to a son and an heir to the Portuguese throne. The interior of the church contains the tomb of Queen Maria I. The lovely church has a huge dome and a facade with twin bell towers. It is possible to go up to the dome for wonderful view of the city. Opening times: Daily: 8 am - 12.30 am and 3 pm - 7.30 pm.
The National Pantheon
The National Pantheon (Santa Engracia Church) is set on a site of a former church that was destroyed in 1630. The reconstruction works took several centuries and the huge dome was recently completed only in 1966. The National Pantheon houses the tombs of several Portuguese presidents, writer Almeida Garret and many other leading figures. It is possible to take a lift to dome and enjoy a 360 degrees view of Alfama district and Tagus River. Opening times: Tue - Sun: 10 am - 5 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Sao Vicente De Fora
This magnificent monastery and church is one of Lisbon's most striking landmarks. It was designed by Italian architect Filippo Terzi and was officially opened in 1629, but was severely damaged in the 1755 earthquake that caused the dome to collapse. The entrance is through a gate on the right of the facade and inside the church you will find Machado de Castro's Baroque canopy which hangs over the altar. Opening times: Tue - Fri: 9 am - 6 pm, Sat: 9 am - 5 pm, Sun: 9 am - 12.30 am and 3 pm - 5 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Se Cathedral
This ancient cathedral was built in 1147 on the site of an old mosque when the city was taken from the Moors by Portugal's first king. The cathedral is a must site for tourists as for its eclectic styles; the facade is Romanesque with touches of Baroque and the chapel is Gothic style. The cathedral is a very important place for Portugal's people as the casket containing the remains of St. Vincent, the official patron of Lisbon is held in the cathedral. Opening times: Tue - Sat: 9 am - 7 pm, Sun - Mon: 9 am - 5 pm.
Edward VII Park
Lisbon's largest inner city park is named after Britain's king Edward VII, who visited the city in 1903. The main attraction of this wonderful park is its green house, which houses exotic tropical trees, flowers and bushes. The park, which stretches all the way down to Tagus River, has a nice lakeside restaurant and a sports pavilion that hosts concerts and cultural events. Opening times: Daily: 9 am - 5.30 pm.
The Botanical Garden
The city's main botanical garden was laid out in 1874 and once was considered the most impressive botanical garden in Southern Europe. The garden is almost invisible as it is hidden between back streets, but don't let this fact mislead you; the garden has one of the largest collections of exotic plants and nearly 15,000 species of subtropical vegetations. This is definitely one of the most relaxing spots in the city. Opening times: May - Oct: Daily: 9 am - 8 pm. Nov - Apr: Daily: 9 am - 6 pm.
Tropical Garden
This beautiful garden maintains lovely ponds, tall palm trees and over 4,000 species of rare tropical and subtropical plants. The Tropical Garden is well - known among the international scientists and botanists community and is integrated within the Tropical Science Institute. Visitors can also visit the Tropical Museum that is housed in a near 18th century palace. Opening times: Tue - Sun: 10 am - 5 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Estrela Gardens
This is one of the loveliest parks in the city and it lies in the shadow of the Estrela Basilica. It is one of the favourite places of local families as they enjoy an afternoon stroll between the flower - beds and a drink at the pond - side cafe. Opening times: Daily: 7 am - midnight.