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Lisbon is a gorgeous city in Portugal and a stunning stop on a European cruise that effortlessly combines history and the modern age. The buildings are a mixture of opulent Baroque and Neoclassical style among late Gothic design. A big part of this is the 1755 earthquake that practically destroyed the entire city, resulting in most of the buildings that once stood there being demolished and new structures built that were of a different style. This gives Lisbon a unique look that is all its own, and Lisbon cruise passengers can easily explore it and get a taste of the city’s special vibe.
Cruises to Lisbon, Portugal, are excellent from a day in port standpoint since the city is surprisingly compact and easy to get around despite being one of the major economic centers in Europe. Lisbon cruise passengers can quickly get from the port to the city center, and there are also many shore excursion opportunities to enthralling places near Lisbon.
The historic district of Alfama in Lisbon is one of the most popular places to stroll through while visiting the city. Narrow alleys and streets criss cross around whitewashed buildings. The streets are often topped with colorful streamers hung overhead that add delightful bursts of color to the pale shades of the town. Alfama has a distinctly artisan vibe with a big focus on cuisine and music. Alfama is home to some of Portugal’s most iconic sites including Se Cathedral, St. George’s Castle, Saint Anthony’s Church, and the National Pantheon.
The site of St. George’s Castle (referred to locally as Castelo de São Jorge) consists of the remains of this Medieval-era castle that was mostly destroyed in the 1755 earthquake that devastated Lisbon. Though the castle is in ruins, it is still incredible to walk around thanks to castle walls and towers you can still walk along and a hilltop location that boasts fabulous views of the red-tinged roofs of Lisbon and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean beyond.
For those who love castles and palaces, especially ones that look like they are straight out of a romantic fairytale, a visit to Sintra is a must-do. Sintra is located about 18 miles from Lisbon and is famous for its 19th century Romanticist architecture, which extends to the breathtakingly lovely Pena Palace. This hilltop palace has an exterior in shades of yellow and red with princess-worthy towers and elaborate stone carvings throughout the palace. Also in Sintra, you’ll find the medieval Castle of the Moors and the Portuguese Renaissance Sintra National Palace.
If you want to find some authentic Portuguese music, attending a Fado show should be at the top of your list of things to do during your Lisbon cruise stop. Fado is known for its hauntingly beautiful sound and melancholy lyrics, and its origin dates back to the 1820s. The soulful melodies can often be found performed at bars and restaurants in the Alfama District.
Portugal’s location right at the western end of Europe with nearly one half of its circumference bordered by the Atlantic Ocean has made it a prime location for maritime comings and goings over the centuries. This history is on display at the Maritime Museum (also referred to as the Navy Museum), which has over 17,000 items on display that relate to the seas, ships, and voyages across the ocean.
This peaceful palace is located near Lisbon’s Monsanto Forest Park. It was built in 1671 to serve as a hunting pavilion for the 1st Marquis of Fronteira, hence its name. The palace grounds consist of a stately mansion in a bold shade of red and is surrounded by gardens. A standout part of the grounds is the large wall covered in glazed tiles that feature different moments in time and animals.
The Sanctuary of Fatima is an important religious site for Catholics located near Lisbon, making it possible for a day trip there. The Sanctuary of Fatima is a collection of religious buildings in Cova da Iria. Fatima is the location where the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in 1917. The site now has a shrine dedicated to this event as well as other monuments, a chapel, and a basilica.
Lisbon has a thriving gastronomic scene, and it’s smart to take some time to feast on Portuguese cuisine during cruises to Lisbon, Portugal. Restaurants and cafes are located all over the city, but here are some things to look for on the menu when deciding where to eat.
Piri Piri Chicken
This dish consists of spit-roasted or chargrilled chicken served alongside spicy piri piri sauce. It’s often served with fries and a salad.
Pastéis de Nata
Perfect for breakfast or a snack, Pastéis de Nata has a creamy egg custard served up inside a crisp pastry sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Most bakeries serve Pastéis de Nata.
With a location right by the wild Atlantic, it’s no surprise that Lisbon has a plethora of delicious seafood offerings. You might be surprised to learn that its signature seafood dish is sardines. Before visions of slimy sardines from a can enter your head, rest assured that the sardines of Lisbon are fresh and grilled on street barbeques right in front of you. The sardines are typically served on bread and are flaky and salty, making for a delicious, quintessential Lisboa meal.
If you want to try a traditional Portuguese liqueur, order a shot of Ginja, which is served in a shot glass with a cherry in it. Ginja is made from sour cherries, alcohol, and sugar. The result is a sweet drink with a dark red hue.
Another drink to try in Lisbon is a port tonic. Port wine is famous in Portugal, and a white port wine served with tonic water and lime makes for a refreshing drink on a hot summer day that will have you feeling like a local.
The history of Lisbon is a vastly rich and varied. Seafaring, exploration, earthquakes, and even festivals have impacted the city you see today. Lisbon is the westernmost capital city in continental Europe and has a thriving commercial and tourism center. Its natural harbor is what helped Lisbon grow and become a European powerhouse starting centuries ago. Its harbor was the center of operations for many of the Portuguese explorations that took place, which was especially underway during the 15th century. After a major earthquake in 1755, most of the city center was destroyed. It took a long time for it all to be rebuilt, and much of the repairs occurred under the command of the Marquês de Pombal. Further revitalization happened a couple centuries later when Lisbon hosted the World’s Fair in 1998.
While Lisbon continues to see modern advancements in terms of its transportation, technology, and architecture, the vibe of the city still has an old European flair thanks to gorgeously designed buildings, the melancholy vibe that finds a pinnacle in Fado music, and a bustling commercial area with shops and businesses.
Lisbon’s cruise terminal is located along the Rio Teja. It encompasses five different places where ships can dock, and how close you are to the city varies depending on which berth your ship is docked in. Regardless of where your ship docks, you can find fast and convenient public transportation into the city and a modern cruise terminal with standard amenities.
The trams of Lisbon aren’t only a great way to get around the city, they’re also one of the top things to do in Lisbon. Taking a ride on one of the vintage trams is a must-do tourist experience in Lisbon, particularly Tram 28, which will take you to many of Lisbon’s top sights.
If the tram can’t get you to where you want to go (or the line to get on it is too long), one of the many city buses might be a good choice for you. Lisbon has an extensive bus system that covers over 140 different routes, and most of the lines run throughout the day. Lisbon also has a quick and clean metro that services many areas, though with just four lines it may not get you right next to everywhere you’d like to go like the buses can.
A unique way to get from one of Lisbon’s most popular neighborhoods to the next is the Santa Justa Lift, which is an elevator that connects the central Baixa neighborhood to the historic Bairro Alto district. It was a much-needed addition to Lisbon’s public transportation since it makes it much faster to travel between upper and lower Lisbon. Taxis are also available in Lisbon, and you can often find some waiting outside the Lisbon cruise terminal.
Cruises to Lisbon, Portugal take you to some great shopping, and you don’t even have to go far from the cruise port to find it. Head to Amar Lisboa for artisan ware or Bababodo for jewelry and fashionable clothing. To really get an iconic shopping experience while in Lisbon, head farther away from the port to Avenida Liberdade, one of the most expensive streets in Lisbon lined by a variety of upscale and luxury stores and boutiques.
The currency accepted in Lisbon is the Euro, and you’ll find ATMs all over the city dispensing Euro notes. Most places in Lisbon take credit cards, but not all do, so it’s good to double check beforehand. Taxi drivers also aren’t required to accept credit cards, though some do.
Tipping is acceptable, but there is no customary amount. Generally, 10% to 15% of your total bill is a fair amount to leave for good service while in Portugal.