Monday, 16 July 2012

Lisbon Tour - I

My sisters and I went for the real tourist experience and took a bus tour around Lisbon. The hop on- hop off bus is a great way to visit a city, as you can get out anywhere, visit that museum or monument and join the next bus.
In Lisbon "The yellow bus company" has various bus and tram tours and even a river cruise. There was a 24h or 48h ticket, but our time was limited so we just bought the 1 day ticket for 15Euros. The 48h tour is a lot cheaper as for 19Euros you can do 3 tours - the Tagus, the Olisipo and the Belém tour, and you can throw in the Hills tramcar tour for an extra 6Euros (on it´s own it would cost 18E). Included in any of these tours are the use of any Carris public transport, such as trams, Stª Justa lift and other funiculars and buses. (underground (metro) transport not included)
We chose the Tagus tour as we had already seen part of the sights on the Olisipo tour route. The starting point for our tour was in Praça da Figueira (Fig Tree Square) in the centre of Lisbon.

Having lunch at one of the cafés in Praça da Figueira. On the hill you can see St George Castle and on the left corner the statue of King John I.
This area was originally occupied by a huge hospital that was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and later demolished to make way for an a large covered market of about 8000m². In 1949 the market was demolished and the area is now an open space with a statue of King John I in one of the corners, so as to make it visible from Praça do Comércio (Commerce square) near the Tagus River.

Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio - through the arch you can walk in Rua Augusta to Praça da Figueira

Bronze statue of King Joseph I, from 1775 (the Lisbon earthquake took place during his reign)
Praça do Comércio or Terreiro do Paço (Commerce Square or Palace Square) as is commonly known was also designed after the Lisbon earthquake, in the shape of an U open towards the River, with a tower at each end. The symmetrical buildings of the square with galleries on the groundfloor housed government offices that regulated customs and port activities. The arch toward Rua Augusta (Augusta Street) has a clock and statues of the Glory, Ingenuity and Valour, as well as other Portuguese heroes such as Vasco da Gama, Viriato and Marquis of Pombal.
On the 1st of February 1908, this square was the scene of the assassination of King Charles I, the penultimate king of Portugal. On the way back to the royal palace, the carriage where he traveled with his family was shot at by 2 men. The king died instantly, while his heir Luis Filipe died a short while later. Queen Amelie of Orleans survived, as well as the youngest son, Prince Manuel was hit in the arm, but survived to be crowned King Manuel II the next day. The two assassins were shot by royal bodyguards, and were later recognized as members of the Portuguese Republican party, which two years later overthrew the Portuguese monarchy on 5th of October 1910.
Queen Amelie left Portugal with the rest of the royal family to live in France. During World War II the Portuguese government invited them to return to Portugal but the offer was declined, and she last visited Portugal in 1945. The monarchy was never restored.

Our next stop was the Basílica da Estrela (Estrela Basilica). On giving birth to a son, Joseph, king of Brazil, Queen Mary I,  ordered the building of this church. Her tomb is is in this church. Construction stared in 1779 and finished in 1790, after the death of Joseph in 1788, at the age of 27 from smallpox.

The basilica with its huge dome, is located in a hill in the western suburbs of Lisbon, so it can be seen from far away. Built in baroque and neoclassical style, it has two bell towers and includes various statues of saints in niches outside the building.The floors and walls are covered in grey, pink and yellow marble in geometric patterns.

The Estrela Basilica with the double bell tower and various Saint statues
Inside the Basilica, with the daylight streaming from the dome
Across the road is the Jardim da Estrela (Estrela garden) with its well maintained gardens, exotic plants, duck pond, full of young families enjoying the good weather, sipping a café or having a light lunch at the restaurant closest to the Estrela entrance. The garden has 6 entrances with wrought-iron gates.
A focal point if a green wrought-iron bandstand built in 1884, which was originally located in what is now Avenida da Liberdade, and was moved to the gardens in 1936. In summer it is used for outdoor concerts. North of the garden is the British cemetery, where the tomb of the English writer Henry Fielding is located. There is a small green book kiosk that is part of the Municipal library.

The duck pond at the Estrela Garden
The cute Garden Library is used as a meeting place for a chat

The wrought iron bandstand, used for music concerts during the summer months

On the road again and our next stop was at Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery) in Belém. The construction of the Monastery began in 1501 and took over 100 years to be completed.

King Manuel I funded the original project with the tax money from the African and Asian commerce (equivalent to 70kgs of gold per year) during the discoveries period. 

The order of the Hieronymite monks were chosen to occupy the monastery, to pray for the King´s eternal soul and provide spiritual assistance to the sailors who departed to discover the new world. This religious order was dissolved in 1833 and the monastery was then unoccupied for many years.

When Portugal regained independence in 1640, the monastery regained its importance, becoming the burial place for the Royal family.It´s design is in a style later known as Manueline (from King Manuel) or late Gothic: very ornate designs incorporating maritime elements and objects discovered during the naval expeditions, carved in limestone. Construction stopped when the King died in 1521 and in 1550 building was resumed with the addition of the main chapel, choir, and the second floor of the monastery. Construction stopped again in 1580 when Portugal and Spain became the Iberian Union, as funds were now being used for the construction of the Escorial, north of Madrid. In 1604, Philip of Spain, ruler of the Iberian union, prohibited anyone but the Royal family and the Hieronymite monks from entering the building.
During the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the monastery withstood it without too much damage.
Because it had stood empty for many years it had to have restoration work, which was undertaken from 1860 until the late 1890´s.

The Western portal, added in 1577 -  transition from the Gothic style to Renaissance
Inside the Chapel (from the Western portal)

Together with Belém Tower and the Discovery Monument, the three monuments symbolise the Age of Discovery and are the main tourist attractions of Lisbon. In 1983 the Monastery was classified as a Unesco world Heritage site, along with the nearly Belém Tower.

When Portugal joined the European Economic Community in 1885 the formal ceremonies were held in the cloister, and in 2007 the Treaty of Lisbon was also signed here, laying out the basis for reform to the European Union.
The Maritime Museum, created in 1909 and the Calouste Gulbenkian Planetary in 1962, are both housed in buildings annexed to the monastery.

Luminous Fountain in front of the Monastery
In the garden square in front of the Monastery, there is a Luminous Fountain (Fonte Luminosa), that projects about 70 designs in water to music. It´s show last about an hour - in the evenings only.
In the next post I will continue the tour with the other Discovery monuments, and other interesting sights not to be missed when visiting Lisbon.
Don´t you think the Jerónimos Monastery is such an imposing building? I often wonder how so many centuries ago, they had such clever and enterprising people who designed and built such beautiful monuments.


  1. És uma verdadeira embaixatriz de Portugal. Através das tuas fotos e dos teus textos, qualquer estrangeiro se apaixonará por Portugal facilmente. Parabéns pela maneira como descreves. Beijos

  2. Haven't managed the Monastery yet. Had my purse pinched waiting for the tram to Belem and spent the day with the police! 2nd visit, so 3rd time lucky?
    Great post Sami.

  3. Obrigada mamã. bjs

    Hi Joanne - bad luck about the purse. Hope you are 3rd time lucky and manage to visit the Monastery as well as the other monuments in the area -they are really beautiful!

  4. Love the Basilica!

    Beats my holiday hands down! LOL

  5. Love your Lisbon photos makes me happy looking at them wish I was still there, we lived in Setubal for 3 years only left 18 months ago and this time i felt things were a bit down in Portugal many of our friends are out of work. I loved going back to the Market in Setubal the fish there is just wonderful and the fruit and vegatables much cheaper than here.
    Ailsa Rodrigues

  6. Esse céu azul! Ai as saudades...:-)
    Lisboa e, de facto, uma cidade muito bonita!
    Belo percurso! Gostei especialmente da foto do Padrao dos Decobrimentos! E de rever o interior da Basilica da Estrela! E o pastel de nata que parece tao suculento! Ai, Meu Deus!
    Well done, Sami!! :-)

  7. Olá Sandra - sim, Lisboa tem monumentos maravilhosos. O pastel de nata estava uma delicia, como sempre!

  8. Thanks Robyn for enjoying my Lisbon tour.
    Hi Ailsa, thanks for visiting my blog. I agree with you, the Portuguese are suffering a bit due to the economic problems. Luckily with the strong Australian dollar and the act that our salaries are higher, things were cheaper for us there than they are here. The food is just so fresh and great, that is one of the things I miss most!

  9. Há anos que não vou ao Jardim da Estrela e esse coreto é lindo! Já nem me lembrava.

  10. O jardim da Estrela é interessante, nao tive tempo de ver tudo...O coreto é lindo!


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