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Getting To Know Lisbon – Cruise Port Guide
Port Snapshot 📸
Positioned on the banks of the mighty Tagus River amongst seven hills that provide stunning vistas down to the water’s edge and out to the Atlantic, Lisbon is the most western capital city of mainland Europe and a delight for the senses. With a skyline punctuated by domes, towers, crenelations and scattered with red tiled roofs, it’s a city to admire at every turn. It is full of history and heritage, with so much to see and do.
What you see today in the city is the result of two major eras of history for the city. First the Age of Discoveries, when Lisbon was host to a naval school for ship builders and cartographers, funded by the wealthy royal prince Henry the Navigator. In the 15th Century Portugal dominated trade through conquest across the known world, capturing parts of North Africa, discovering the islands of Madeira and The Azores, and pushing on to search for a route to the East. They finally achieved this with the voyage of Vasco da Gama, who discovered the sea route around Africa to India in 1498. The wealth these lucrative trade routes brought to the city allowed for elaborate architectural expansion along the Tagus River, the lifeblood of the city.
The river was also sadly to be the demise of this booming city, when on 1 November 1755, an earthquake in the Atlantic Ocean south of the city, caused a huge tsunami to sweep up the river and flood the city. The tremors, which modern geologists believe would have measured around 9 on the moment magnitude scale, destroyed around 85% of the cities structures and killed almost 40,000 of the city’s residents. Thankfully, despite the destruction, some of the most ornate Manueline style structures survived the earthquake, and under the guidance of the Marquis of Pombal, the new city was born and is what you see today, a masterpiece of modern city planning when it was designed in the 18th Century.
You really are spoilt for choice in Lisbon, so let our handy Lisbon cruise port guide give you some handy tips to make the most of your time ashore.
Port Location and Facilities
When your ship comes to her berth, you’ll find yourself at one of four busy cruise terminals and these are Alcantâra, Rocha Conde de Óbidos, Jardim do Tabaco and Santa Apolónia. All of the terminals are within walking distance of Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s main square.
Most ships now berth at the Lisbon Cruise Port at the Jardim do Tobaco Quay. This is a large, modern cruise terminal with duty free shopping, tourist information and access to mulitiple transport options for exploring the city. It is approximately 1km walking distance from Praça do Comércio, the true start of the city centre.
What not to miss
Praça do Comércio
The former location of the Ribeira Palace that was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, the square emerged as the new centre piece of the Pombaline Downtown. It now acts as a grand entrance to the commercial and shopping areas of the city, known as Baixa. The entrance to the main shopping street, Rua Augusta, is through the triumphal Rua Augusta Arch, which you can ascend for views of the square and the river. Around the square in the vaulted arcades, you will find shops and restaurants, which look out onto the square and its central focal point, the equestrian statue of King José I, unveiled in 1775.
The main shopping street of the city centre, it forms the central thoroughfare of the grid system of streets designed by the Marquis of Pombal to protect the city from further destruction by earthquakes in the future. This is the perfect place to find souvenirs and also to sample the real delicacy of Lisbon, the Pastel de Nata, a derivative of the famous Pastéis de Belém that were first created by the monks of the Jeronimos Monastery in 1837.
Santa Justa Lift
You would be forgiven for mistaking this rather unusual metal structure for something out of a Bond movie, but it is in fact an elevator that functions as a link between the lower town Baixa and the higher Carmo Square in the Barrio Alto. It has a viewing platform at the top with wonderful views across to the Castle of Saint George.
The colloquial name for King Pedro IV Square, it is located at the end of Rua Augusta connecting the centre of the city with the riverfront and Praça do Comércio. All around the square you will find more restaurants and shops, as well as the National Theatre and the stunning oriental inspired façade of the Rossio Train Station that connects the city with the magical town of Sintra.
São Jorge (Saint George) Castle
The original site of a Roman fortification dating to 48BC, the current castle dates to the 10th Century when Lisbon was controlled by Muslim Berbers from North Africa. It was the location of the final reconquest of the city by the Crusaders of the Second Crusade enroute to the Holy Land in 1147, during the Siege of Lisbon. It offers more stunning views, this time down the river towards the Atlantic Ocean, and also houses a camera obscura for a detailed 360 degree panorama of the city in real time.
Lisbon Cathedral (Sé)
This is the oldest church in the city, dating to 1147 after the Christian reconquest. It is in the heart of the Alfama district, a network of winding cobbled streets and shabby chic pastel-coloured homes. Inside it has a beautiful rose window and outside is where you can find artists painting one of the iconic images of the city, with the passing yellow trams framing the cathedral perfectly.
Monument of the Discoveries
You will first see this towering monument as you arrive in to the city, as it is located on the north bank of the Tagus in the district of Belém. It was built to commemorate the Portuguese Age of Discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries, and is adorned on either side by historical figures who played a key role in this golden era. At the front of the monument, which is designed to resemble a Portuguese caraval sailing ship, stands Henry the Navigator. The monument, with a height of 52m (171ft) contains an exhibition space and a viewing platform at the top to take in the views of Belém and also admire the wonderful mosaic Compass Rose, a gift from South Africa showing a detailed map of the world with the sailing routes the Portuguese explorers undertook.
The ceremonial gateway to the city along the north bank of Tagus, another highlight you can see from your ship as you sail in. This 16th century fortification also acted as a defensive tower and is a great example of the Manueline architecture so dominant for that period. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery.
Another example of the Gothic Manueline style of architecture, the monastery was home to the military-religious Order of Christ, who supported seafarers. It is also the resting place of famous Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama.
Sanctuary of Christ the King
If you wake up late and look out of your cabin window on arrival into Lisbon, you may actually believe you’ve been transported to far off Rio de Janeiro if you see this iconic statue first. Overlooking the city from a clifftop on the southern side of the Tagus, this statue of Christ with his arms out wide took its inspiration from Christ the Redeemer in Rio and was a gift to the city to express gratitude for remaining neutral during the Second World War.
April 25th Bridge
Make sure you’re up on deck for either the sail in or the sail away from Lisbon, as you wont want to miss the sight of your ship sailing underneath this stunning suspension bridge. Designed by the same company that built the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the April 25th Bridge is so named after the April 25th Revolution that ended the last dictatorship of the Estado Novo in 1974, also called the Carnation Revolution. It is the 27th largest suspension bridge in the world and has a clearance to the waterline of 70 metres, just enough room for even the largest cruise ships to pass under, although that still doesn’t stop you from holiday your breath for a moment!
If you’ve visited Lisbon before and are looking for something new to enjoy, then we’d recommend a day trip to Sintra, a town in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains which are just 15-miles outside of Lisbon. Sintra is home to the Pena Palace of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders. To this day, the palace is often used for state occasions. Sintra also offers The Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Castelos dos Mouros and the Quinta de Regaleria – the latter of which being a truly fascinating experience! Quinta de Regaleria is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the ‘Cultural Landscapes of Sintra’ and it is simply out of this world. The building itself is magnificent and the grounds feature a chapel, grottos, fountains, lakes, wells and more. The lavish mansion also features hidden tunnels and numerous secretive religious symbols.
NoFlyCruises recommends https://www.visitlisboa.com/en the official website of the Turismo de Lisboa Visitors & Convention Bureau.
The currency in Portugal is the Euro.
Summers in Lisbon are usually hot and humid owing to the proximity to the Tagus and the Atlantic Ocean. Average July and August temperatures reach 26 degrees Celsius. Winters are mild again due to the influence of water on the climate.
Most of the main attractions and shopping and dining opportunities are within easy walking distance of the port area. As the capital city, Lisbon has an extensive integrated public transport system that consists of buses, trains, trams, metro, funiculars and ferries. A Lisboa Card is a great way to explore the city, as it includes free transportation on all transport options as well as entry into museums and other tourist attractions, and can be bought for periods up to 78 hours of use. A 24 hour pass costs just 20 Euros per person. For more information on the Lisboa Card, check out https://shop.visitlisboa.com/products/lisboa-card
For more information on public transport, including prices, routes and schedules check out https://www.carris.pt/en/
For Hop On Hop Off services, including information on the routes and prices, check out https://city-sightseeing.com/en/80/lisbon
Safety whilst ashore
Lisbon does have issues with petty crime and pickpockets tend to operate within the city centre around the main squares. There is a police presence to combat this, however do take extra care of personal belongings when wandering around the city.
Where to Eat
NoFlyCruises recommends the following eateries:
Time Out Market Lisbon, Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisboa, Portugal
Youll be spoilt for choice in this atmospheric food market, located in the old Mercado da Ribeira, with its selection of 26 restaurants and 8 bars. You can choose from burgers, sushi, peri peri chicken, croquettes (a typical Portuguese snack), ice cream, Pastels and more. You’ll have sensory overload and need to come back again and again to try everything out.
Fábrica Lisbon, R. da Madalena 121, 1100-319 Lisboa, Portugal
This hidden gem is the perfect spot for breakfast or brunch, in a vintage inspired cosy little dining room. It’s quite popular so do expect a wait as there are only a few tables inside and you’ll be shoulder to shoulder almost with the tables around you. Simple dishes are on the menu, croissants and toast with avocado and smoked salmon, but it’s the buzz of the place and the surroundings that make this a nice alternative option.
Bonjardim, Tv. de Santo Antão 12, 1150-265 Lisboa, Portugal
Forget Nandos, this is the place to try proper spit roasted chicken in piri piri seasonings, served on simple silver platters surrounded by chips. It sounds simple, but it’s a taste sensation that keeps repeat visitors coming back for more.
Key highlights of Lisbon
- Praça do Comércio
- Augusta Arch
- Rua Augusta
- Santa Justa Lift
- São Jorge Castle
- Lisbon Cathedral/Sé
- Monument to the Discoveries
- Belém Tower
- Jerónimos Monastery
- April 25th Bridge
- Sanctuary of Christ the King
- Museu Caloustie Gulbenkian
- National Pantheon
- Church of São Vicente de Fora
- Carmo Convent
- Time Out Market
- Day trip to Sintra
Regular cruise line visitors
- MSC Cruises
- P&O Cruises
- Saga Cruises
- Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
- Princess Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Cruise Expert Insider 🔎 Lisbon Port by Hazel Griffiths
I fell in love with Lisbon on my very first cruise. Since then, I have been back dozens of times and never tire of visiting this delightful city.
Sailing in, along the River Tagus is a good start to our day – it feels like Lisbon’s best sights have come to greet us. Starting with the Belém Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries, with the Jerónimos Monastery behind them – a trio well-worth visiting once ashore.
As we sail past the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology we see how an old Power Station has been transformed. And then pass under the April 25th Bridge – a style reminiscent of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, which then opens up a view of a stature of Christ the King just like Rio!
So much to see before we even reach our berth.
Once ashore, walk along the revitalised waterfront to the Praça do Comércio (often called Black Horse Square by tourists). Once here you could pick up Tram #15 to take you to Belém to see the trio of delights we saw as we sailed in.
The Jerónimos Monastery is far more than the name implies – a spectacular church built to give thanks for the discovery of India. Its architecture is in the Manueline style – extravagant and expensive, for Portugal was one of the richest countries in the world then, thanks to its explorers. But not just a church (which has the tomb of Vasco da Gama) – there are peaceful cloisters and two Museums (one Maritime and one Archaeological). You could pass a whole day in this one building, but you won’t want to miss seeing the Monument to the Discoveries close up. You can take a lift to the top for some lovely views too.
Coming back to our start point in the Praça do Comércio, look for the Archway, your gateway to the Baixa district of the city. Lisbon was almost destroyed by an earthquake in 1755 and this arch is a triumphal sign of its recovery. Once through the arch, you find the streets are in a regular grid pattern, thanks to the rebuilding scheme. This makes for easy navigation in this part of the city but beyond here, the streets are winding and often very steep – Lisbon is built on seven hills.
The street from the arch to the next square is called Rua Augusta, one of the city’s main streets – great place to stop for a coffee and to people-watch. Don’t forget to order a pasteis de nata – a Portuguese custard tart
As you walk up the street, keep glancing to the left to find an old iron elevator. Built to take locals uphill to their homes, it is now a popular tourist attraction.
At the top of Rua Augusta, you find Rossio Square – ringed with pavement cafes and boutique shops. I love the old-fashioned milliners and my favourite shoe shop is here too.
From there, you have a choice of what to do next. The Gulbenkian Museum is a wonderful collection amassed by an oil magnate who loved to accumulate all sorts of things. Or you might take Tram #28 and rattle your way uphill to the cathedral and the castle. The castle is Moorish and offers lot to see and amazing views across the city. I do have to say that the cathedral is rather plain compared to the church at the Monastery – so if you are a “one church a day” sort of person, then the Jerónimos Monastery is the better option.
Whatever you decide to do in Lisbon, you will be sure to want to return and see more of it.
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