Lisbon city guide

An A-Z of just some of the sites and sights of the Portuguese capital.

A: Alfama & Bairro Alto
The two most iconic neighbourhoods of Lisbon; Alfama is the oldest and most traditional, while picturesque Bairro Alto is quiet in the day and lively at night. Both are full of cosy places to eat, drink and listen to Fado – Portugal's national music.

B: Belem
Predominantly known for the Jerónimos Monastery – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Belem is the perfect area to spend a lazy afternoon near the river. The Belém Tower, the Belém Cultural Centre, the Monument to the Discoveries and the Belém Custards (Pastéis de Belém) are all found here.

C: Churches
The Lisbon Cathedral (Sé) dates back to the 12th century and is the oldest church in the capital. Also worth a visit are the Estrela Basilica, as well as the churches of Carmo, São Roque, São Domingos, Santa Engrácia (also known as the National Pantheon) and São Vicente de Fora.

D: Docks
Located by the river in Alcântara below the 25 April Bridge – which resembles San Francisco's Golden Gate equivalent – the Santo Amaro Docks, or Docas, is a pleasant place to eat and drink late in the afternoon, and is particularly lively at night.

E: Eating out
Though dried and salted cod (bacalhau) is the national dish, sardines are often the star of summer gastronomy here in Lisbon. They are especially popular when celebrating the local Saint António (Anthony) in June.

F: Fado
This uniquely Portuguese music originated in Lisbon and is still sung in many typical 'tascas', restaurants and clubs throughout the city, especially in iconic districts such Alfama, Bairro Alto and Mouraria.

G: Graça
On top of the highest hill, Graça Church and Convent dominate the landscape. This is a famous vantage point with an open-air bar and splendid terrace that offers panoramic views of the castle, river and central Lisbon.

H: Hills
Much like Rome, Lisbon, according to legend, was originally built over seven hills: São Jorge (Mouraria), São Vicente (Alfama), Sant'Ana (Anunciada), Santo André (Graça), Chagas (Carmo), Santa Catarina (Camões) and São Roque (Bairro Alto). There are breathtaking views to be had from some of these.

I: International
The most famous international brands, shops, hotels, theatres and architecture: you can find it all in Avenida da Liberdade, the main avenue that goes from Marquês de Pombal Square to Restauradores Square. Nearby Martim Moniz Square includes supermarkets from around the world and offers a vibrant atmosphere.

J: Jerónimos Monastery
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, construction of the monastery was ordered by King Manuel I and started in 1501. It is located near the river in Belem and is testament to Portugal's rich Age of Discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries.

K: Kaleidoscopic city
Stroll around the city, especially in Baixa, and look at the bright tiles that adorn so many buildings, discover the colours of the fruits, vegetables and flowers in the market places, the stained-glass windows and the assorted graffiti.

L: Lifts & funiculars
The most recent lift opened last year and takes you from Baixa almost to the castle. The most famous is the spectacular Santa Justa Lift – a cast-iron structure enriched with filigrana detailing which takes you to the beautiful Carmo Square, a traditional shopping and cultural area. There are also three funiculars still in use: Lavra, Glória and Bica.

M: Monsanto Forest Park
A protected forest known as the 'lung of Lisbon', Monsanto offers a tree-covered area with a unique ecosystem. Perfect for walking, running or cycling, the park hosted the Portuguese Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1959 and also staged the 2001 World Cycling Championship.

N: National Museum of Ancient Art
One of the most important art museums in the country, paintings, sculptures and other decorative art forms from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century can be found here. Among the main attractions are the 15th century São Vicente Panels by Nuno Gonçalves and the Triptych of the Temptation of Santo Antão by Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch.

O: Oceanarium
Built for the 1998 Lisbon World Exhibition, the Lisbon Oceanarium is located by the river in Parque das Nações – the city's newest quarter. With over 1 million visitors per year, it is Europe's largest indoor aquarium and has a collection of around 500 marine species and around 16,000 animals in all.

P: Pastéis de Belém
The most famous piece of pastry in Portugal, the Pastéis de Belém is an egg tart born in a sugar cane refinery near Jerónimos Monestary. It is best eaten with powdered white sugar and cinnamon on top. Not to be confused with another Portuguese classic – the more common 'pastel de nata'.

Q: Quiet places
Despite all its vivacity, cosmopolitan Lisbon also has several beautiful and peaceful places to relax, enjoy the view, the silence and the sun. The Botanical and Tropical Gardens, the Eduardo VII Park, the Estrela Garden, the Calouste Gulbenkian Garden are all handily located in the city.

R: River Tagus
The city and the river are inseparable. The longest Iberian river – 1,038km in total – the Tagus ends in Lisbon before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean near Cascais. It is well worth taking the ferry to try some fresh fish plates in the restaurants located on the south bank.

S: St George's Castle
Located on top of the tallest of Lisbon's seven hills, over the historical centre, the castle is clearly visible from all around and is famous for its panoramic views of the city. Its oldest parts date back to the sixth century.

T: Terreiro do Paço
Rebuilt after the great 1755 earthquake and renamed Praça do Comércio (Square of Commerce) to mark its new role in the economy of the city, it is famous for its symmetry and the equestrian statue of King José I in the centre. There is also the iconic triumphal arch that leads to pedestrianised Rua Augusta that connects with Rossio, Lisbon's main square where the beautiful National Theatre is situated.

U: Underground
For at least one weekend a year, usually in September, hordes of people can be seen queuing to go down a small hole in the pavement right in the middle of Rua da Conceição in Baixa. This is to see at first hand the ancient Roman Galleries that date back to the first century. The cryptoportico can be visited two days a year.

V: Viewpoints
Lisbon has fantastic viewing points – or 'miradouros' – mostly located atop its seven hills. Very popular with tourists and locals alike, most have terraces to sit, rest and enjoy the city.

W: Water
Built to solve the 18th-century water supply problems in the city, the Águas Livres Aqueduct is 58km long and runs from Belas near Sintra to Lisbon. It was finished in 1799, having taken 67 years to build, and remains as a remarkable example of architectural engineering.

X: Xabregas
Situated in the parish of Beato, here you can find the Madre de Deus Convent, also known as São Francisco de Xabregas Convent. Located here is the National Tile Museum, important for its unique collection of tiles (azulejos) – a distinctive artistic expression of Portuguese culture.

Y: Yellow trams
The vintage yellow trams are iconic to the city and have been operating since 1936. Go back in time and take a ride in the crowded No28, up and down the hills and through the historic city centre and medieval streets.

Z: Zoo
Founded in 1864, the Zoological Garden, located not far away from the city centre, has more than 2,000 animals of more than 300 species. Visitors can be enchanted by attractions such as the dolphins' bay, the reptile house and the suspended cable car that travels round the whole park.