I witnessed the beauty of an enchanting city last summer, and came home with one thought in my head — I must go back. Soon.
I fell in love with Lisbon, with its cobbled streets, mosaic sidewalks, and squares. Its rows of houses clad in tiles that date back to the 15th century, its picturesque doors and windows, its deserted houses that hide secrets from the city’s rich but turbulent history, and its welcoming atmosphere that embraces all who step onto the old streets of Alfama and Bairro Alto. I fell in love with everything, altogether. I was head over heels.
My first impression of the city was one of inspiration. I could see Lisbon enchanting other writers and painters, eliciting the very best of their talents. And that is precisely how I felt as a photographer in the city. I didn’t have to look for particular spots to take photos, I found inspiration at every corner, on every street.
Though I collected a handful of favorite locations across the city, these five truly captivated me.
The viewpoints of Lisbon
Since it’s situated on the hills, Lisbon offers numerous viewpoints — or, as the locals call them, ”miradouros” — overlooking various areas of the city, which are suitable for taking photos and for recovering your breath after walking along the steep streets. Popular among photographers is Miradouro das Portas do Sol in Alfama, which is the perfect stop to capture views of colorful rooftops and beautiful domes with the Tagus river as the backdrop.
But if you continue another 10 minutes uphill, you’ll reach my favorite view of all: Miradouro da Graça. The terrace in front of Graça Church offers a splendid panoramic view of the city and the castle beyond, with the river and the 25 de Abril Bridge in the background. If you happen to reach this fabulous spot, you’ll be lucky enough to find an open-air café situated on the terrace where you can quench your thirst and enjoy the view. Another option is to grab a drink in one of the small shops along the way, and to just sit on the parapet and enjoy the view from there. If you arrive in the area in the late afternoon, the sunset offers a special treat. The atmosphere is lively, yet peaceful and romantic, making it especially enjoyable for all who visit.
Bairro Alto & Bica
If you want to capture the architecture, streets, and alleyways of Bairro Alto and spot locals running their daily errands without the crush of the crowds, be sure to arrive during the morning or afternoon. Once night falls, Bairro transforms into a lively, crowded area full of tourists and visitors of all ages until the late-night hours. If you’re interested in catching the party atmosphere and observing the mixture of the city’s old-fashioned and urban nightlife, visit Bairro in the evening. After all, once you are happy with your photos from the day, it’s best to tuck your camera away and have some fun!
Just across the street from Bairro is the famous Elevador da Bica. This extremely steep street is covered with tram lines and remains one of the most famous and most photographed spots in Lisbon. What’s more, there are cafés dotting the street. Since they are too small to allow everyone a seat inside, patrons spill onto the street and add to the lively afternoon atmosphere. By evening, the street is buzzing with life.
Another popular funicular is Elevador da Glória, which connects Bairro Alto with Restauradores Square. If street art and long stairways are appealing to you, a stroll around the area is a must.
Alfama is one of the oldest districts in Lisbon, a labyrinth of cobbled streets, tiny squares, narrow lanes, and steep stairways. Let yourself get lost and soak up its unique atmosphere. Spared from the 1755 earthquake that shook the rest of the city, Alfama’s streets and houses preserve authentic Moorish and medieval architecture. Colorful facades, iron balconies, picturesque doors, and windows framed with tiles are guaranteed sights when you you set foot in this charming neighborhood. So, before leaving your hotel, grab a spare SD card — you’ll definitely need one.
Though once considered a rundown area, Mouraria — or the “Moorish quarter” — has undergone a lot of renovation in the last few years that has led to it becoming increasingly popular among tourists. This authentic and multicultural neighborhood is the birthplace of Fado music and, likewise, many famous Fado musicians. If you turn right out of Martim Monic Square onto Rua da Mouraria, you’ll come across Rua do Capelao and a stone carving of a Portuguese guitar, a monument to the legacy of Fado music. Follow the narrow alleyway behind the monument and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Mouraria, where you can enjoy the area’s diversity and the lively, relaxed atmosphere created by locals who often enjoy their drinks in the street. Don’t be surprised if you stumble across some interesting street art as well — the area is filled with plenty of Fado-inspired murals!
Historic Tram 28 route
Historic Tram 28 is not only the most popular attraction in Lisbon, but it also provides a tour through many of the city’s most well-known sites, including the aforementioned Portas do Sol. So, if you want to get a bit of a different impression of historical Lisbon, hop on! It’s likely that you’ll get some good shots from the tram along the way, as it never exceeds 50 km/h and makes frequent stops. That said, be ready to wait in a long line before boarding the tram or try to claim an early morning ride. Besides enjoying the ride itself, you’ll also want to snap a couple of shots of the colorful tram itself. The best way to capture this slow-moving vehicle is to follow the tracks, find your favorite scene, and have your camera ready when the rattling yellow tram comes into view. One of the most iconic shots might be of the tram in front of the Lisbon Cathedral.
Some seven kilometers away from the city center on the bank of the Tagus river lies the photogenic Belem Tower, built in the 16th century as part of the city’s defense system. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a monument to Portugal’s great explorers. Near the tower, you ’ll find the richly decorated Jeronimos Monastery with its prominent and eye-catching bell tower. If you have time, roam the back streets of Belem for a chance to take some more unique shots of the area. If you’re willing to explore, you can also walk to the Belem area in hopes that you’ll stumble upon some hidden corner waiting to be discovered. You’ll find an old factory that’s been transformed into a cool and lively hang-out spot, numerous restaurants, bars, pastry shops, art galleries, vintage stores, music and clothes stalls, and the unique Ler Devagar bookshop. This neighborhood is a delight for photographers and wanderers alike.
No matter the area of Lisbon you visit, you’re sure to have the perfect time in this picturesque Portuguese city.