You know it’s a good trip when you’re already planning a trip back before you even leave! That’s how it was for me with Lisbon. It’s an absolutely beautiful city, from the architecture to the bright colors, from the historic tilework to the peacocks, from the pasteis de nata to the kindness of the people. Here are the essential things to know before you go to Lisbon!
It’s an Uphill City
Bring your sturdy walking shoes, and maybe do a little warm-up before you leave for the day! Lisbon is uphill, emphasis on the “up!” You’ll love the beautiful views (called “miradors!”) and old world charm, but you’ll probably also feel it in your booty in the morning. Just be prepared, and remember there is no shame in taking the trams as needed!
Fuel your uphill journey: The Best Places to Eat in Lisbon
Many Businesses are Closed on Monday
This could throw a wrench in your plans, unless you know about it while you’re making those plans. It’s not that hard to plan around Monday closures, but it does take a little research and willingness to Google. Plan to do some outdoor activities (those miradors are calling your name) and save things like taking Tram 28 for your Monday adventures!
Keep reading: What to Do in Lisbon on a Monday
You Will Stand in Line
The Lisboa Card is fantastic, and it allows you to skip some lines, but others, not so much! Even with our Lisboa Cards, we still had to wait in line to go up into the tower of Torre de Belem and to get into Jeronimos Monastery. It was great to skip the ticket lines, but those popular spots almost always have a line to get in anyway. You’ll also stand in line for Pasties de Belem (make sure you’re in the right line–there are three!), possibly to get into the Discoveries Monument, and even to get on Tram 28 if you don’t take my advice below!
(Coming soon) Read next: What to Know Before You Visit Portugal
Take Tram 28 Early
Tram 28 is in high demand with tourists because its route passes by many popular sites. It’s also historic, charming, and adorable! It’s also jam-packed for the vast majority of the day. Tram 28 has seats for 20 and standing room for 38 more, but many more cram in somehow!
Prefer a more refined experience? Take the tram early in the day! The tram starts its first run just before 6:00am, so, depending on daylight and your own personal schedule, if you can board between 6:00-8:30am, you might just have some breathing room, and you may even snag a coveted seat!
There was a Devastating Earthquake in 1755
You’ll see, read, and hear about the 1755 earthquake all over Lisbon. It was one of the deadliest earthquakes in history, killing an estimated 50,000 people and doing incalculable damage to Lisbon and surrounds. Very few buildings survive from before the earthquake, but some were rebuilt or repaired.
The earthquake happened on November 1, All Saint’s Day. As such, all the candles that had been lit for the occasion were turned over, starting a devastating and far-reaching fire. The earthquake also caused a tsunami that engulfed much of the city. After shocks were felt as far away as Finland, the Caribbean, and Greenland. One of the most fascinating pieces of evidence still standing is the Carmo Cathedral and Archaeological Museum, pictured below.
More here: Ruined: Beauty in the Broken Places
You’re Going to Want the Lisboa Card
Want the best savings in town? Snag your Lisboa Card in advance! You’ll get FREE transportation (including from the airport to the city center, so pick it up when you land!), FREE admission into some of the city’s most popular attractions, and discounts on many others as well. You can choose from 24-, 48-, or 72-hour cards, and if that’s not enough, you could also consider the Lisbon-Sintra Pass, good for transportation and sight-seeing in the ever-popular and nearby city of Sintra as well.
Keep reading: Your Ultimate Guide to the Lisboa Card
You’ll See a LOT of Moorish History and Architecture!
What’s “Moorish Architecture,” you ask? It’s Western Islamic-style architecture that was popular throughout Iberian Europe and North Africa. If you’ve been to Morocco, you’ll notice some similarities! Arabesque patterns and pointed arches are distinctive features, as are riad gardens and the iconic tilework for which Portugal is known. Both Spain and Portugal were ruled by Islamic governments between the years 711-1492, and there is still very much Moorish influence in the architecture in particular.
Want more? Get everything you need to know on my dedicated Portugal Page!
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