Lisbon is a city rich in variety and is one of the most exciting yet underrated European capitals. One of the least-known facts is that Portugal’s capital is built on hills—a lot of hills. Getting around Lisbon is a hilly story, so make sure to bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Your reward for hiking will be a stunning, picture of the city, with splendid views from the miradouros (viewing points), and the many landmarks waiting to be explored.
Baixa and Barrio Alto with Elevador de Santa Justa
If you’re interested in a comfortable walk, start at Praça de Comércio, pass under the arch and follow Rua Augusta through Baixa, Lisbon’s elegant shopping district. Old Baixa was completely destroyed by the severe earthquake of 1755, but the district has been rebuilt with a clearly laid-out street pattern and elegant buildings. Take your time shopping at Rua Augusta and the more modern Rua Nova do Almada while moving slowly up one of the streets towards Elevador de Santa Justa.
The Elevador is a picturesque iron lift built in 1900 to connect lower Baixa and upper Barrio Alto, which is located on a steep hill. Today the elevator is an important tourist attraction and still the best way to get to the top, and absolutely worth a visit. Once you arrive, a spiral staircase leads you up to a viewing platform where you can enjoy a one-of-kind 360° view from Castelo de São Jorge and Alfama with Sé Cathedral to Baixa, Barrio Alto and the newer districts.
As you leave the Elevador de San Justa you pass the ruins of Convento do Carmo on your right. The monastery was destroyed during the earthquake of 1577. Cross the Largo do Carmo square to get to the small streets of Barrio Alto with hundreds of bars and restaurants—a wonderful opportunity to find an authentic place for dinner.
Castelo de São Jorge, miradouros Portas do Sol and Santa Luzia
A more challenging walk takes you through the historical quarters. Don’t worry, you will be richly rewarded for your effort. Go up to Miradouro de Santa Luzia or Portas do Sol with the famous historic tram 28, a taxi or maybe one of the tuk-tuks awaiting passengers at many of the tourist sites.
The viewing points are located close to each other, presenting a perfect view over the roofs and churches of Alfama, Lisbon’s famous old town, and the Eastern part of the River Tejo estuary.
Start your walk at Miradouro Santa Luzia, a small and peaceful square in the gardens of Santa Luzia church, decorated with the typical Portuguese “azulejos,” glazed white and blue tile images, and flourishing bougainvillea. From Santa Luzia, a 10-minute walk on a small steep street leads you up to Castelo de São Jorge. Visit the castle for another amazing panoramic view. From the castle walls, you can see the western part of the River Tejo estuary with the large Ponte 25 de Abril bridge and Central Baixa, the city center.
Find your way back to Miradouro Portas do Sol, the perfect place for a refreshment and a last panoramic view before taking the stairs down to Alfama. Stroll around and spend some time in the small alleys and stairways of this oldest part of the city, heading towards Rua de São João da Praça with its Fado clubs and Sé Cathedral. To find your way, a little help from Google Maps may be helpful.
—The images in this article are courtesy of Claudia Schillinger.