advertisement

Visitor Information

The main tourist office in Lisbon is at the Palácio da Foz, Praça dos Restauradores (tel. 21/12-05-050; www.visitportugal.com), at the Baixa end of Avenida da Liberdade. Open daily from 9am to 8pm (Metro: Restauradores), it sells the Lisbon Card, which provides free city transportation and entrance fees to museums and other attractions, plus discounts on admission to events. For adults, a 1-day pass costs 16€, a 2-day pass costs 27€, and a 3-day pass costs 34€. Children 5 to 11 pay 9.50€ for a 1-day pass, 14€ for a 2-day pass, and 17€ for a 3-day pass. Another tourist office is located across from the general post office in Lisbon on Rua do Arsenal 15, 1100-038 Lisbon (tel. 21/031-27-00; www.visitlisboa.com). This tourist office is open daily from 9am to 7pm.

City Layout

Main Streets & Squares -- Lisbon is the westernmost capital of continental Europe. According to legend, it spreads across seven hills, like Rome. That statement has long been outdated -- Lisbon now sprawls across more hills than that. Most of the city lies on the north bank of the Tagus.

No one ever claimed that getting around Lisbon was a breeze. Streets rise and fall across the hills, at times dwindling into mere alleyways. Exploring the city, however, is well worth the effort.

Lisbon is best approached through its gateway, Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), bordering the Tagus. It's one of the most perfectly planned squares in Europe, rivaled only by the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia in Trieste, Italy. Before the 1755 earthquake, Praça do Comércio was known as Terreiro do Paço, the Palace Grounds, because the king and his court lived in now-destroyed buildings on that site. To confuse matters further, English-speaking residents often refer to it as Black Horse Square because of its statue (actually a bronze-green color) of José I.

Today the square is the site of the Stock Exchange and various government ministries. Its center is used as a parking lot, which destroys some of its harmony. In 1908, Carlos I and his elder son, Luís Filipe, were fatally shot here by an assassin. The monarchy held on for another 2 years, but the House of Bragança effectively came to an end that day.

Directly west of the square stands the City Hall, fronting Praça do Município. The building, erected in the late 19th century, was designed by the architect Domingos Parente.

Heading north from Black Horse or Commerce Square, you enter the hustle and bustle of Praça de Dom Pedro IV, popularly known as the Rossio. The "drunken" undulation of the sidewalks, with their arabesques of black and white, have led to the appellation "the dizzy praça." Here you can sit sipping strong unblended coffee from the former Portuguese provinces in Africa. The statue on the square is that of the Portuguese-born emperor of Brazil.

Opening onto the Rossio is the Teatro Nacional de Dona Maria II, a free-standing building whose facade has been preserved. From 1967 to 1970, workers gutted the interior to rebuild it completely. If you arrive by train, you'll enter the Estação do Rossio, whose exuberant Manueline architecture is worth seeing.

Separating the Rossio from Avenida da Liberdade is Praça dos Restauradores, named in honor of the Restoration, when the Portuguese chose their own king and freed themselves from 60 years of Spanish rule. An obelisk commemorates the event.

Lisbon's main avenue is Avenida da Liberdade (Avenue of Liberty). The handsomely laid-out street dates from 1880. Avenida da Liberdade is like a 1.5km-long (1 mile) park, with shade trees, gardens, and center walks for the promenading crowds. Flanking it are fine shops, the headquarters of many major airlines, travel agents, coffeehouses with sidewalk tables, and hotels. The comparable street in Paris is the Champs-Elysées; in Rome, it's via Vittorio Veneto.

At the top of the avenue is Praça do Marquês de Pombal, with a statue erected in honor of the 18th-century prime minister credited with Lisbon's reconstruction in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Proceeding north, you'll enter Parque Eduardo VII, named in honor of the son of Queen Victoria, who paid a state visit to Lisbon. In the park is the Estufa Fria, a greenhouse well worth a visit.

Finding an Address -- Finding an address in the old quarters of Lisbon is difficult because street numbering at times follows no predictable pattern. When trying to locate an address, always ask for the nearest cross street before setting out. Addresses consist of a street name followed by a number. Sometimes the floor of the building is given as well. For example, Avenida Casal Ribeiro 18 3 means that the building is at number 18 and the address is on the third floor.

Street Maps -- Arm yourself with a good city map before setting out. Maps with complete indexes of streets are available at most newsstands and kiosks. Those given away by tourist offices and hotels aren't adequate because they don't show the maze of little streets.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.