Let’s face it, this pastel-colored, Portuguese city by the sea is picture-perfect. Between its winding alleyways, beautiful viewpoints, intricate tilework, and lovely atmosphere, there’s just something about Lisbon that inspires photographers.
If you’re heading to Lisbon soon and want to plan a photo itinerary for the books, look no further. This guide maps out nine incredible photography locations across the City of Seven Hills.
Miradouro das Portas do Sol Viewpoint
Start your photo journey at one of the most gorgeous vistas in all of Lisbon: the Miradouro das Portas do Sol Viewpoint. Located in the middle of Alfama, the city’s oldest neighborhood, this lookout provides a panorama of pastel buildings and orange rooftops, and a view of the stunning Monastery of São Vincente de Fora nearby. Visit at sunrise for the best light, but don’t forget to come back during the day when Historic Tram 28 trundles by and street artists set up their stalls on the viewpoint balcony.
The Pink Street
Running through the neighborhood formerly known as Lisbon’s red-light district is Rua Nova do Carvalho, though it’s probably known better as, “the Pink Street.” Despite its varied history, this vibrant thoroughfare is now a popular nightlife destination. Head there after dinner for late-night cocktails, but for the best photos, visit in the afternoon.
This Manueline tower sits dramatically off the bank of the Tagus River in Lisbon’s Belém district. Built in the 16th century as part of the defense system and ceremonial gateway to the city, Belém Tower now stands as one of the most popular sites in the Portuguese capital. Photograph the tower’s unique setting by walking along the river bank, but use aperture priority mode to get the best lighting in your shots. Then, venture inside the tower and capture the interior and the view of Lisbon back on the mainland.
Lisbon is known for its dilapidated beauty, so take advantage of that and visit the ruins of this Gothic church, located in the middle of the city. Partially destroyed during the 1755 earthquake that devastated the Portuguese capital, Carmo Convent remains a reminder of the catastrophic natural disaster and the strength of the city.
Although there are two small archaeological museums located inside the Convent, the real sight is the open-roof ruins. Be sure to pack several different lenses to photograph this crumbling landmark — a wide-angle lens will help capture the entirety of the Convent, while a zoom lens will be best for detailed shots of the site’s arches and bricks. For long exposures, pack a tripod.
Ler Devagar Bookstore
“Read slowly” — that’s what the name of this Lisbon bookstore translates to. This former printing factory features antique machinery, intersecting staircases, a hanging bicycle, and shelves filled with books as colorful as the Lisbon’s buildings. But the shop is a creative haven in other ways as well; Ler Devagar features a wide cultural program that includes workshops, concerts, exhibitions, and theatre performances.
Azulejos cover the facades of many of Lisbon’s buildings (especially in Alfama) and display more colors, patterns, and designs that you could imagine. These handmade tiles are fascinating, and perfect for photography. But, there’s a trick to photographing the tall tiled buildings. Use a small aperture to maximize depth of field, compose a shot that includes the edge of the building to show scale, and utilize a tripod to avoid shakiness. As always, remember to experiment with various perspectives until you find that happy medium.
Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood is a tangle of narrow cobblestone alleyways. The best way to photograph it in a unique way is to just set out intending to get lost. Lace up a pair of sturdy sneakers (this part of Lisbon is all hills), grab a camera, and get going. Watch for flashes of Historic Tram 28 trudging up and down the alleyways, snap photos of the tiled buildings’ facades, and stop in at a café or two for a well-deserved break!
Rua Augusta Arch
After an earthquake destroyed most of Lisbon in 1755, the Rua Augusta Arch was built in triumph of the city’s resilience. Today, this beautiful, white stone archway stands in commemoration of the capital city it represents. Photograph the arch from both sides — a feat best done early in the morning when the light is at its softest. On the other hand, to capture the hustle and bustle of the eponymous pedestrian street or the Praça do Comércio square that border the arch, stick it out until midday and utilize your long-exposure settings.
To snap amazing photos of the city from the top of the arch, pay a few euro to climb to the top.
Before explorer Vasco da Gama set sail for the Far East, he spent his last night on land in this ornate monastery in the modern-day Belém district of Lisbon. The Jeronimos Monastery features Manueline, Plateresque, and Renaissance architecture styles, which include massive vaulted ceilings, detailed carvings, and a grand dome. Bring a zoom lens to photograph the exterior, and a wide-angle lens to capture the monastery in its entirety.
Cover photo by Derek Stewart