Sept. 28, 2012: Tourists take pictures by a fountain in Lisbon's central Rossio square.AP
The Jeronimos MonasteryAP
Portugal's romantic city of Lisbon boasts beautiful weather, historical landmarks and amazing cuisine. To help you make the most of your trip, here are five must-see spots in Portugal's charming capital.
Praça do Comércio
Lisbon's large plaza was once part of the royal palace grounds, until the square was destroyed by a disastrous earthquake in 1755. The square looks out onto the Tagus River, where Portugal used to receive imports from colonies like Brazil. You can grab a bite to eat by the water and watch a plethora of street entertainers. The square feeds into lively downtown Augusta Street, where you can grab a bite to eat, shop for souvenirs or drink an espresso and people-watch. If you walk far enough along the street, you will eventually find yourself in another of the city's lovely hubs: Rossio Square.
Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belem
These two monuments are grouped into one spot, as the two incredible, historical structures are right near one another, along Lisbon's shore neighborhood of Belem. The Jeronimos Monastery is a stunning example of the Manueline style of architecture, which mixes Gothic drama with natural images, inspired by Portugal's colonies at the time. The sprawling monastery simultaneously charms and impresses, as highly ornate limestone arches line open-air cloisters. Once you have wandered these hallowed halls, take a short walk to a fellow UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Tower of Belem. This imposing tower rises up from the water, granting visitors a stunning view of the coast.
Lisbon Botanical Garden
The botanical garden combines the lush greenery of a Mediterranean climate with the polished pruning of a classic European garden. The garden spans 10 acres, and high walls and a hilly landscape tuck the garden away into its own little corner. You can visit the oasis and view over 18,000 plant species from all over the world. Stroll along quaint paths flanked by towering trees as you are greeted by curious swans. Do not be surprised if you run into resident roosters.
Sao Domingos Church
Sao Domingos Church has survived fires and earthquakes and stands today as a reminder of Lisbon's past. At first sight, the church does not seem particularly worth visiting. The pillars are scorched and off-putting red paint is peeling off scorched walls. However, all of this damage is testament to a difficult history. This spot was a scene of the Spanish Inquisition in Lisbon, as sentences were read out from the convent. The poor renovation job indicates the poverty and oppression citizens were forced to endure during oppressive regimes. A monument immediately outside the church reflects on the persecution of thousands of Jewish people in Lisbon. While these dark historical memories may seem antithetical to a vacation, Lisbon is a city with a long history of trouble and triumph, and understanding both sides is essential to experiencing the city.
The Carmo Convent is the remaining structure of a church after an earthquake in 1755. The roof collapsed, but the archways are still there, so visitors can see pillars climb toward the sky. The ultimate effect is almost an optical illusion, in which the sky looks like a roof itself.
Once a religious hub in the city, the building now houses an impressive archaeology museum, where you can view mosaics, sculptures and the tomb of King Ferdinand I. In the 20th century, the Carmo Convent was a central site in the Carnation Revolution, a civil struggle against Lisbon's authoritarian regime. As such, this site marks an important moment in Portuguese democracy.