Lisbon

Attraction

São Jorge Castle

Many European cities stand a spectacular castle, for example, the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, the Prague Castle in the Czech Republic and the Mont Saint-Michel Castle in France. They may not be the royal residence anymore, and have already retired from the country’s defence system. Still, they serve as a symbol of the nation’s glorious past. In Lisbon, you can see São Jorge Castle when you raise your head from basically every corner of the city. Setting high on the hilltop, the castle does its best to guard the capital.


The mountain on which the castle stands was occupied successively by Phoenicians from the Mediterranean, Carthaginians from North Africa, Romans and Moors to serve as the location of fortifications. It was not until the 12th century that Portugal seized the city and turned it to its capital. Since then, the castle stood as a royal residence and a military barrack to defend against the Moors. The São Jorge Castle lost its significance after the erection of the Ribeira Palace. Yet, it has never stopped contributing. Not only was it where the nation’s first geodetic observatory was constructed, but also where “the Casa Pia”, a charitable organisation dedicated to the education of poor children, was established. The way of going up to the castle could be steep. You can either walk up the hill or take a bus. Upon reaching the highest point of the Alfama district, you should definitely take this advantageous location to enjoy the city’s stunning view. There are various gift shops at the castle entrance. Don’t forget to get yourself some lovely souvenirs!

Jerónimos Monastery

Pastel de nata is one of the pastry desserts Hong Kongers are familiar with. Since you are in Portugal, the origin of pastel de nata, there is no way you will miss trying the most authentic taste of it. In Belém district, not only can you visit the oldest patisserie, but also the Jerónimos Monastery, the most prominent monastery in the region. The world-famous pastel de nata is believed to have been first developed during the 18th century by the nuns based in this monastery.


The Jerónimos Monastery is said to be the quintessence of the Manueline style of architecture in Portugal. You may not distinguish the monastery from other institutional buildings with similar magnificent facades in Europe when having a glance from a distance. Yet, when you look at it close enough, you will be astonished by the elaborate carvings all over the architecture, including beautiful patterns and sculptures of different saints. The cloisters are elaborately decorated with Manueline ornamentation. The royal tombs of King Manuel I of Portugal and his wife Maria of Aragon are placed on the left side of the church choir, while the two on the right side belong to King João III and his wife Queen Catherine of Austria in the main chapel. Their stone coffins all rest on marble elephants. The monastery, along with the Belém Tower nearby, were listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. After looking at some of the most impressive architectures, don’t forget to visit the oldest patisserie in the neighbourhood - Pastéis de Belém nearby, and sample the most genuine taste of pastel de nata!

Belém Tower

If there is one building that best represents the Age of Discovery era of Portugal, it has to be the Belém Tower. Visitors who disembark at Lisbon harbour will be first welcomed by the Belém Tower built at the Tagus river's estuary. It stands as a loyal soldier guarding the port and the Jerónimos Monastery nearby.


Lisbon developed into a vital harbour city after the Age of Discovery had begun. The Belém Tower, a five-storey fortification, served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers, and played an important role in safeguarding Lisbon, the pivotal seafaring city. Guards observed from the tower the sea condition, and ships coming in and out of the harbour. They fired cannons if attacked. The Belém Tower with highly elaborate carvings were mainly built in the Manueline style, incorporating artistic features of the Arabs and the Moors. When you put your hands on the solid arched hallways, walls and stone stairs in the tower, it feels like they brought you back to the 16th century when the building was newly established. Standing on the terrace overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it would be quite a time for you to imagine what the guards had on their minds when protecting the harbour.

Alfama

If you only have time for a quick visit to Lisbon, the Alfama district is the must-see attraction on your itinerary. Blanketing the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tagus river, the district is the oldest and the most beautiful neighbourhood in the city. Looking down at the old town from the hilltop, you will find the tile roofs of the quaint houses form a tangerine ocean. The view is even more stunning at sunset.


This famous old town was transformed from a slum. It remained a deprived district where sailors and dock workers lived even after Lisbon grew into a major harbour city. Today, Alfama has turned into a charismatic historical area containing some of the essential time-honoured buildings in Lisbon, trendy cafés and shops with unique characters. Cobbled alleys, side streets and little plazas entwine into a maze that one will be delighted to get lost in. You can put aside your map, and stroll within the labyrinth of lanes and streets to observe the local life. Or you may hop on the nostalgic number 28 tram to enjoy the sea breeze while admiring the architectural beauty outside the window on the way. It is highly recommended to capture the sunset view at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, where the tangerine-tiled roofs and the sparkling ocean together with the drowning sun form a picturesque scene. After that, enjoy your superb Lisbon night with Portuguese music and food at a local bar!

Commerce Square

The Portuguese Empire’s colonies dotted throughout the Americas, Africa and Asia during its heyday, including Brazil, Goa in India, Malacca in Malaysia, Macao in China and East Timor. Although Portugal's power declined after its colonies proclaimed independence followed by the bloodless Carnation Revolution, the Commerce Square in downtown still offers you a glimpse of the glorious past of this European empire.


Commerce Square is a vast rectangular square sitting near the Tagus river. It was the location of the splendid Ribeira Palace, with shipbuilding facilities, and other administrative establishments that managed the commercial activities between Portugal and other parts of Europe, and its colonies in the Americas, Africa and Asia erected in the area. Unfortunately, an earthquake followed by a tsunami and fire reduced the palace and the buildings to ruins in 1755. After a massive reconstruction, the area was named “Commerce Square”, indicating its new role in Lisbon’s economy. The magnificent U-shaped square is Lisbon's formal entrance, and one of the most visited attractions in the city.


Under the gorgeous arched corridors on both sides of the square are the many artistic vendors, cafés and offices. It would be such a delight to buy a book that interests you, and read it at an elegant bistro. The plaza is also home to Martinho da Arcada, the oldest restaurant in the city established in 1782. It witnessed the ups and downs of Lisbon in the past two centuries. When it comes to The Day of Portugal on every 10th June, the plaza is packed with citizens and tourists for the military parades. It is one of the most anticipated festivals throughout the year.