Lisbon- Europe’s Most Underrated City

When looking at lists of Europe’s great cities, I rarely see Lisbon, Portugal on that list. My guess would be that this is due to Lisbon’s geographic position, located on Europe’s far Western end. For anyone who has visited Lisbon, it is quickly clear that Portugal’s capital deserves to be mentioned with London, Paris, Rome, Vienna & Berlin.
Plaza de Commercio on the Tagus River
Lisbon is one of Europe’s oldest cities, pre-dating Rome and London. The city has benefited from many cultural influences. In the early 700s AD, the city was taken by the Moors of North Africa, and many of their archaeological styles continue to been seen around the city today. 
On a platform overlooking the Alfama
Lisbon’s oldest district, The Alfama, is located on the south side of the city. It is a maze of small, narrow, winding streets. The area remain mostly residential today, and is an area of great character. Lisbon’s grand old cathedral, The Se, is located in the Alfama.
The stolid Castelo Sao Jorge overlooking the city
Uphill from the Alfama is Castelo Sao Jorge. The top of the hill where the castle lies has been home to some sort of fortification since the 2nd Century AD. The current castle was built in the 11th Century AD, but suffered severe damage during the devastating earthquake of 1755, an event which left much of Lisbon in ruins.
Views over Lisbon from the castle
The views from the Castle are remarkable, as the city and the estuary of the Tagus River open up in every direction. The castle is a great place to start sightseeing in Lisbon, the map of the city becomes so much easier to read once you have seen the streets from above.
The are still visible ruins from the Earthquake of 1755. The cathedral seen above stand on a hill on the north side of town, serving as a somber monument to the vast devastation left by that natural disaster.
Elevador de Gloria, connecting the Barrio Alto & Baxia
Lisbon has some of the best transportation in all of Europe. Trams cover the city, and many of the hills are covered by funicular railways. 
Plaza Dom Pedro
Lisbon’s central area is the Barrio Alto. It is Lisbon’s commercial and entertainment district, and it is the heart of much of Lisbon’s nightlife. It is also home to many of Lisbon’s best restaurants and nightclubs, as well as many of the city’s finest museums. The Baxia, Lisbon’s most modern neighborhood, is located just to the north of the Barrio Alto, and was mostly built after the 1775 earthquake, and one of the world’s first neighborhoods built to be earthquake resistant. 
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Located 6 kilometers from the city center is Belem, the city home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, one of the best examples of Manueline Architecture, and the 16th Century Torre de Belem, designed as a gateway to Tagus River and the sight that told ancient mariners the they had returned home.
The Torre de Belem
Belem is also home to the Monument to the Discoveries, which celebrates Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, when Portuguese ships traveled from the Americas to India and China expanding the world as it was known at the time. The voyages also brought great wealth to the Portuguese empire through trade.
Monument to the Discoveries
The figure at the front of the monument is that of Henry the Navigator. It was Henry’s vision of an expansive empire built through exploration and trade that ushered in Portugal’s most prosperous era.
It is a shame that more people do not include Lisbon and Portugal on their European itineraries. Those who do are rewarded with an, as of yet, undiscovered gem- a thoroughly walkable city, with arts and culture to match the outstanding vistas that seemingly lie around every corner.

14 Responses to “Lisbon- Europe’s Most Underrated City”

  1. Very nice post and very useful, I’m going to Lisbon in Spring 🙂

  2. eriksmithdotcom says:

    @d4a93485a9a0102f07dfbe69e499258f Thanks! Like most people, I had high hopes for Lisbon, but I had no idea how great it would really be. I've been encouraging people to go for years, but it doesn't fit neatly into many itineraries, unfortunately.

  3. Most definitely! In fact its one of the most beautiful cities in the world I would think. Love Lisbon and the amazing scenery. Thanks for sharing

  4. I never really knew much about Lisbon, but just recently I stumbled upon a fantastic apartment in the city (from airbnb) that made me excited to go. So between that gorgeous+cheap accommodation and this post, Lisbon has officially been added to my list!

  5. Isabel says:

    Dear Erik,

    My name is Isabel and I'm from Lisbon. It was a pleasure to read your comments about my city. She (Lisbon is a woman :-)) is a very beautiful city but with many areas to improve.
    Another fact to inform, and very characteristic, is our food. Our gastronomy is one of the best of the world, togehter with our wines.
    To those who visited us, thank you. To the others who whisch to visit, you will be most welcomed.
    The best to all
    Isabel

  6. Mary Goudie says:

    I agree with “Lisbon” much of the city is still real & Gur hits the nail on the head it is a city that does not give up its secrets in one flashy show but needs to be discovered and savored slowly. Giving private guided tours here in my adopted home port I love showing my guests this city & explaining things that they might otherwise miss by only looking at the surface and there is a lot to tell – as in the opening remarks of the article explains – “Lisbon is one of Europe's oldest cities, pre-dating Rome and London.”

  7. Ryan O says:

    Great post here Erik. Although I had an unfortunate incident in Lisbon, the charm hasn't been forgotten. Sintra deserves a mention, as it still remains as probably my favorite day trip in Europe.

  8. GUR says:

    Thank you for your pictures and comments about Lisbon.
    It´s a jewell that needs to be discovered little by little, but always with a fantastic blue sky and a large variety of colors.. a powerful romantism.
    ;o) carlos

  9. Lisbon truly is beautiful! I visited the city earlier this summer and was mesmerized by the colourful tiles and architecture. The views of Alfama from the lookout point were my favourite. 🙂

  10. Lisbon says:

    Some of your photos look like postcards, and your title says it all. Lisbon really is Europe's most underrated capital and I think it's because despite getting its fair share of tourists, it still doesn't target mass tourism the way other major European cities do.
    That's why many of its oldest neighborhoods remain “raw” and were not “Disneyfied” or prettified for tourists or to keep up appearances. In fact, many neighborhoods are quite run-down and if the city had major tourism aspirations, it would not be that way. Somehow, that “faded glory” gives the city a certain charm.

  11. Lisbon and Portugal are high on my must-see list, if only because the Portuguese (along with the Spanish and the English) were once one of the great exploring (and conquering) powers in the world. That period of history is so fascinating to me.
    Also – are your pictures taken with a film camera? I love the way they look and I almost wish the world wasn't so digitalized today.

  12. Erik Smith says:

    I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

  13. Kris Koeller says:

    Great photos. I'm dying to make it here. I've been the Iberian penninsula many times, just need to make the stop over to Portugal.

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