Lisbon is filled with places and monuments where real historical moments took place and have resisted the test of time. In this article, we distinguish some of the historical places to visit in Lisbon, so you can learn a little more about the fascinating history of the city and of Portugal.
Belém Tower was erected between the years 1514 and 152. It was formerly called the Tower of São Vicente a Par de Belém and officially Tower of São Vicente and built by the military architect Francisco de Arruda.
The influence of Moorish art is present in the delicate details of the windows, balconies, and watchtowers because this architect had already designed several fortresses in Morocco.
It is estimated that the first architect of the Jerónimos Monastery also participated in the decor of this building.
Belém Tower had the function of protecting Tejo’s estuary but, when in 1580 Lisbon was invaded by Spanish troops, the tower was given to the Duke of Alva during the fight for the Portuguese throne. The Belém Tower was, during the following centuries, used mainly as a prison, whose cells underground often flooded. With the encouragement of the writer Almeida Garret, the Belém Tower was eventually restored in the 1840s by King Ferdinand II of Portugal. It was declared a national monument in 1910 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
It is a great place to walk around and admire the beautiful Manueline architecture.
St. George’s Castle
St. George Castle in Lisbon is a fortress that originated in the second century BC, having been rebuilt several times by various peoples and had many different names. The current name comes from the devotion to Saint George, patron saint of knights and crusades by order of D. João I in the fourteenth century. St. George Castle benefits from a privileged location of critical strategic importance, occupying the highest hill in Lisbon.
With the help of archaeology, traces of various cultures have been discovered, from Phoenicians, Greeks to Romans, and Muslims. It is evident the constant human occupation since ancient times. The Castle’s construction started in the 10th century when Lisbon was still a relevant Muslim port city. Several historical moments are experienced in this fortress as the reception of D. Manuel to Vasco da Gama after his sea voyage to India. It was also where the first Portuguese play written by Gil Vicente was performed on the occasion of the birth of D. João III.
Honored with the designation of a national monument in 1910, it underwent major restoration works during the 20th century that restored the monument to its current state. Inside St. George Castle, you can also find the museum nucleus, where you can learn about Lisbon’s history, and you can also find the Ulysses Tower.
It is a popular leisure space, one of the most meaningful places in the city and, it has of the best views over Tejo that the city has to offer.
The Jerónimos Monastery, also known as the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém, was founded at the beginning of the last century by King D. Manuel I. In 1452, where this Monastery stands today, there was initially a chapel dedicated to Santa Maria, which the Infante D. Henrique had ordered to be built. However, at the beginning of the 16th century, King Manuel I received a blessing to build an imposing monastery there, then donated to the Order of the Friars of Saint Jerome.
The Jerónimos Monastery is associated with some of the most significant moments in national history, such as the Discoveries. This masterpiece of Portuguese architecture is located next to the Tejo River, where the Discoveries’ ships and caravels set sail. The Monastery is also classified as a national monument. Along with the Belém Tower, it was considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Visit this incredible monument with a majestic façade, which has a dimension of three hundred meters, in one of the noblest areas of Lisbon.
The Comércio Square, located by the Tejo estuary, is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Its history goes back to when air transport did not exist, so the square was the reception area for those who came to Lisbon by boat. This was the pier chosen by Kings and Heads of State who came to Portugal.
Terreiro do Paço was the name of this square before the earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755. This disaster made D. José’s Minister during the Pombal era distinguish and value the commercial, financial, and bourgeois class, which he considered had contributed a lot to the reconstruction of Lisbon. Thus, he gave this place a new name: Comércio Square.
In the center of the square, facing the river, is an equestrian statue of D. José I, mounted on Gentil, his horse. But before you move on to Rua Augusta, don’t forget to look in detail at the Arco Triunfal, a work of impressive architecture as well.
Monument to the Discoveries
Architect Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida were the authors of the Monument to the Discoveries that was erected for the first time in 1940 as part of the Portuguese World Exhibition. The piece was built using perishable materials and consisted of a light iron and cement structure and the sculptural composition molded in stafe.
In 1960, the Monument to the Discoveries was rebuilt to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. Concrete and stonework were used. With architect Fernando Ramalho in charge of remodeling the interior, he added an auditorium, an exhibition hall, and a viewpoint.
Situated on the wall by the Tejo River, the Monument recalls the Portuguese maritime expansion, a glorious past full of Discoveries.
Isolated and prominent on the Tejo river wall, the Monument to the Discoveries evokes the Portuguese overseas expansion, synthesizes a glorious past, and symbolizes the greatness of the work of Infante D. Henrique, the driving force behind the discoveries.
The Carmo Convent is placed in Largo do Carmo in Lisbon and was erected in 1423, 34 years after it started its construction. It’s an ancient convent that belonged to the Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance. It was the greatest Gothic monument in Lisbon of the century until it was struck by the 1755 earthquake. Because of this, the roof of the building completely disappeared. The convent still stood up, but due to the fire that broke out after the earthquake, much of the artistic heritage preserved was lost. Its restoration did not completely erase the damage, yet the Carmo Convent maintains its unique and superb beauty.
Today it serves as the Carmo Archaeological Museum and headquarters of the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists. The museum is located in the Carmo Ruins. There you can find items of historical, archaeological, and artistic value from prehistoric to contemporary times.
Hotel Portuense hopes that you enjoy the best that Lisbon has to offer and have become curious about the fantastic historical sites that the city of the seven hills offers you.