Top Historic Sights in Lisbon, Portugal

Explore the historic highlights of Lisbon

Rua Augusta Arch

The Rua Augusta Arch was built to commemorate the city"s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. It has six columns (some 11 m high) and is adorned with statues of various historical figures. Significant height from the arch crown to the cornice imparts an appearance of heaviness to the structure. The associated space is filled with the coat of arms of Portugal. The allegorical group at the top, made by French scul ...
Founded: 1755 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Santa Justa Lift

The Santa Justa Lift is an elevator, or lift, in the civil parish of Santa Justa, in the historical city of Lisbon. Situated at the end of Rua de Santa Justa, it connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). Since its construction, the Lift has become a tourist attraction for Lisbon as, among the urban lifts in the city, Santa Justa is the only remaining vertical (conventional) on ...
Founded: 1902 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Rossio Square

Rossio Square is the popular name of the Pedro IV Square. It is located in the Pombaline Downtown of Lisbon and has been one of its main squares since the Middle Ages. It has been the setting of popular revolts and celebrations, bullfights and executions, and is now a preferred meeting place of Lisbon natives and tourists alike. The Rossio became an important place in the city during the 13th and 14th centuries, when the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon. Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in t ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. It was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém, in 1983. The Jeronimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal's power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a herm ...
Founded: 1502 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Carmo Convent Ruins

The Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel medieval convent was ruined during the sequence of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The destroyed Gothic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the southern facade of the convent is the main trace of the great earthquake still visible in the old city. The convent was founded in 1389 by the Constable D. Nuno Álvares Pereira (supreme military commander of the King), from the small C ...
Founded: 1389 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Sé Catedral (Cathedral of Lisbon)

Lisbon's cathedral has a stark interior and differs from other European cathedrals in looking more like a castle.It was built over an old mosque and mixes the Romanesque and Gothic styles. While in other cities the cathedral is the grandest religious monument, in Lisbon that honor actually goes to the Hieronymus Monastery or even Basilica da Estrela. The site where it stands was the principal mosque of Lisbon when it was ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre)

This museum shows Lisbon during the time of the Roman Empire. The theater was built in the first century BC by Emperor Augustus, then renovated in the time of Emperor Nero, 57 AD , such as to accommodate some 5,000 spectators.
Founded: c. 27 BC | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Igreja de Santo António (Saint Anthony Church)

This is the Church of Santo Antonio, or Saint Anthony of Padua (Italy). Despite his name, the saint was born in Lisbon 1195 in what is now the crypt of this church. The site of the family house where Anthony was born was turned into a small chapel in the 15th century. This early building, from which nothing remains, was rebuilt in the early 16th century, during the reign of King Manuel I. After long missionary pursuits, ...
Founded: 1730 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Belém Tower

Belém Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery) because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defence system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. The tower was built around 1514 by Francisco de Arruda and is ...
Founded: 1514 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Baixa District

The Pombaline Lower Town (called usually as Baixa) area covers about 235,620 square metres of central Lisbon. It is an elegant district, primarily constructed after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. It takes its name from Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Prime Minister to Joseph I of Portugal from 1750 to 1777 and key figure of the Enlightenment in Portugal, who took the lead in ordering the rebuilding of Lisbon after t ...
Founded: 1755 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Igreja da Madalena (Magdalena Church)

The original church was erected in 1150 over a roman temple build in honor of the goddess Cybele, the mother-God. Three times destroyed, three times has been rebuilt. In 1363, a fire completely destroyed the church. In 1600 it was partially destroyed in a cyclone before succumbing to the earthquake in 1755. Queen Maria I of Portugal, in 1783 ordered to rebuild the church again. The Vestibule of this ch ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) is located along the river where ships departed to explore and trade with India and Orient. The monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1958 the Ministry of Public Works, the Overseas Provinces and the Câmara Municipal of Lisbon, promoted the intent to construct a permanent Monument to the Discoveries. ...
Founded: 1958-1960 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Igreja de São Roque

The Igreja de São Roque (Church of Saint Roch) in Lisbon was the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, and one of the first Jesuit churches anywhere. It served as the Society’s home church in Portugal for over 200 years, before the Jesuits were expelled from that country. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the church and its ancillary residence were given to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de L ...
Founded: 1506 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum was founded in conformity with Calouste Gulbenkian"s (1869-1955) last will and testament. He was a British businessman and philanthropist of Armenian origin. He played a major role in making the petroleum reserves of the Middle East available to Western development and is credited with being the first person to exploit Iraqi oil. The permanent exhibition and galleries are distributed chron ...
Founded: 1957 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Santa Engrácia Church

The Church of Santa Engrácia is a 17th-century monument which was converted into the National Pantheon (in which important Portuguese personalities are buried) in the 20th century. The current building of the Church of Santa Engrácia substituted previous churches dedicated to a martyr of the city of Braga, Saint Engrácia. The first church dedicated to the Saint was sponsored by Infanta Maria of Portu ...
Founded: 1681-1712 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal. The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriq ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Convento da Graça (Graça Convent)

Graça Convent is one of the oldest convents in Lisbon. According the legend, in 1362 the statue of Our Lady of Grace appeared in the network of a fisherman. The convent part is nowadays used by the army and is not open for visits, but the church is still in use. Most of the original Graça Church collapsed in the earthquake of 1755, so what you see today is an 18th century baroque monument. Inside it is partly decorated ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

São Bento Palace

The Palácio de São Bento is the home of the Assembly of the Republic, the Portuguese parliament. The Palace has its origin in the first Benedictine monastery of Lisbon, established in 1598. In 1615, the monks settled in the area of the Casa da Saúde (Health House), that housed people sick with the plague. The new monastery was built during the 17th century following a Mannerist project by Jesuit architect Baltazar Álv ...
Founded: 1598 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Belém Palace

Situated high up in gardens on a gently sloped hill, the Belem Palace is the official residence of Portugal"s president since 1910. It was built in 1559 and altered in the 18th century by King João V. In 1755 King Jose I was inside the palace where the Great Earthquake was felt only to a slight extent, and just like most buildings in this area, it wasn"t severely damaged. It still retains its richly furn ...
Founded: 1726 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Queluz Palace

The Palace of Queluz is a Portuguese 18th-century palace located at Queluz in the Lisbon District. One of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe, the palace was conceived as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Braganza, later to become husband and then king consort to his own niece, Queen Maria I. It served as a discreet place of incarceration for Queen Maria as her descent into madness continued in the ye ...
Founded: 1747 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Estrela Basilica

The Estrela Basilica is a former carmelite convent built by order of Queen Maria I of Portugal, as a fulfilled promise for giving birth to a son (José, Prince of Brazil). The official name of the church is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Construction started in 1779 and the basilica was finished in 1790, after the death of José caused by smallpox in 1788. The Estrela Basilica was the first church ...
Founded: 1779-1790 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Palace of the Marquises of Fronteira

The Palace of the Marquesses of Fronteira was built in 1671 as a hunting pavilion to Dom João de Mascarenhas, 1st Marquis of Fronteira, who received his title from King Afonso VI of Portugal for his loyalty to the House of Braganza in the Portuguese Restoration War. The house and the garden have glazed tiles representing different themes such as battles or monkeys playing trumpets. The Room of the Battles has pane ...
Founded: 1671 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.