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In this article we’ll be sharing with you viewpoints in national monuments of Lisbon. Did you know that their rooftops are open to the public and have beautiful views?
Here you’ll not only find buildings that are probably familiar to you but also curious details that you might not know about them…
Let’s dive in!
Get to know Lisbon’s historic neighbourhoods in a guided tour and discover unmissable places of this magnificent city.
The 8 Selected Viewpoints in National Monuments of Lisbon
Due to its geographical characteristics Lisbon could only be a city of viewpoints!
From the top of the hill, from a steeper street or from the top of some stairs, we’re constantly faced with different perspectives of the city, the Tagus river and of the south bank.
Rugged hills that culminate in a large river are associated to exceptional buildings from different times, and these are definitely worth sharing.
São Jorge Castle
The highest of the mythical seven hills of Lisbon is crowned by São Jorge Castle, classified as a national monument in 1910.
A construction that dates back to the 1st century BC and that throughout the centuries was occupied by different peoples, given different names, and was a target of transformations, additions and destructions.
The kingdom’s Books of Tombo were kept in a tower of the castle, the first national archive. Today they’re preserved in the National Archive of the Tombo Tower.
In the 19th century, inside the fortress there was a building from the Philippine period that until then served as a military barrack. The origins of the Portuguese pavement are in its parade: a black and white zigzag that was lost after the renovation work led by DGEMN (National Directorate of Buildings and National Monuments).
This intervention of restoration and reconstruction of heritage, carried over between 1938 and 1940, was focused on the purity of the styles with ideological purposes and thus, destroyed testimonies of different periods after the period of the foundation of Portugal.
Despite this radical and destructive intervention, this old fortress that has an interpretive centre and obviously a privileged view over the city is definitely worth a visit.
Belém Tower or Tower of Saint Vincent is an undeniable symbol, situated in the west zone of the city and is one of the viewpoints in national monuments of Lisbon that we’ve picked for you.
It was classified as one in 1907 and since 1983 it has also been included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO. Plus, it is also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
This tower was part of a tripartite defense system projected during the reign of King João II, composed by the bulwark of Cascais and the Fort of São Sebastião de Caparica.
Built in the river between 1514 and 1520, it is an icon of the Manueline architecture and a mix of a keep and a bulwark. More than a defense instrument for the city of Lisbon, it is an affirmation of the nationalism of the great power that the kingdom was at the time.
From the rooftop of the tower there’s a superb view over the river and the city.
Don’t miss this opportunity of trying the delicious pastéis de Belém. And in case you happen to be there on the third Sunday of the month you can also take the chance to see the spectacular Changing of the Guard next to Belém Palace.
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
There’s no picture of Alfama that doesn’t include the large building with simple lines, the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora.
This religious house, dedicated to Saint Vincent, whose story you can find in the article the Symbol of the City of Lisbon, is one of the constructions carried over in Lisbon during the Philippine period (1581-1640).
The construction of the church started in 1590 in the same location where there used to exist a convent of Saint Vincent, handed over by King Afonso Henriques to the Order of Canons Regular of St. Augustine. It was called Fora (outside) because it was located outside of the walls of the urban perimeter of the city, i.e. out of doors, and because it was out of the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Lisbon.
Product of the joint work of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese architects, the monastery was completed in 1627 and became a model for the religious constructions that have taken place since then. Over the centuries, elements were added that enriched it, presenting, therefore, characteristics of different styles. Here is located the pantheon of the Bragança dynasty.
A monumental staircase covered in tilework from the King João V era gives access to a rooftop where the view is particularly different from the traditional viewpoints.
Santa Engrácia Church – National Pantheon
The dome of the Santa Engrácia Church really stands out in the relief of Lisbon that it almost seems impossible that it is only just over five decades old.
This magnificent baroque building took so long to be concluded that it gave rise to the expression “obras de Santa Engrácia”, used when we want to refer to something that drags on.
In truth, this building was only concluded in 1966 when the dome that tops off the construction initiated three hundred years before, in 1682, was finally built.
Even unfinished it was classified in 1910 as a national monument.
It is one of the oldest baroque buildings of the country, featuring wavy walls and inlaid work in the pavements.
The building serves as the National Pantheon, where illustrious intellectuals, writers and politicians, but also the outstanding football player Eusébio and the most international interpreter of fado, Amália Rodrigues rest in peace.
When visiting this place going up to the dome and admiring the magnificent view is a must. Make this a 2-in-1 visit by going there on one of the days of the Lisbon’s Flea Market.
Águas Livres Aqueduct and the Mãe d’Água Reservoir of the Amoreiras
The Águas Livres Aqueduct (Aqueduct of the Free Waters) ordered built by King João V, is one of the most monumental buildings in the city of Lisbon and was too classified in 1910 as a national monument.
This is a vast system for capturing and transporting water by gravity, built between 1731 and 1799, that survived the earthquake of 1755.
The most emblematic visible section are the arches of the valley of Alcântara. It extends to 941m and is composed by 35 arches, in which among them is the biggest ogival arch of the world, in stone with 65,29m of height and 28,86m of width.
It’s from here that it’s possible to freely or through a guided visit, enjoy a magnificent view of the valley of Alcântara.
But the Aqueduct offers more when it comes to viewpoints. The Mãe d’Água (Mother of the Water) reservoir of the Amoreiras offers the visitor a rooftop with a 360º view over the Amoreiras/Cais do Sodré zone that you shouldn’t miss.
The complex of the Estrela Basilica and the Convent of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is classified as a national monument since 1907.
It was ordered built in the end of the 18th century by queen Maria I as the commitment of a promise and it is the first temple in the world that is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The project is from the architects of the Mafra School that opted for a baroque style, slightly outdated for the time, but no less interesting.
In the transept of the church, the queen lies in a black and white marble tomb from the 1st half of the 19th century. This magnificent mausoleum disguises the entrance of a small room where we can find a baroque nativity scene by Machado de Castro that we’ve talked about in the article The Extraordinary Nativity Scene of the Estrela Basilica.
The building is topped by a dome that stands out from the relief of the city and its rooftop is one of the viewpoints in national monuments of Lisbon with a beautiful view.
Triumphal Arch of Praça do Comércio
Situated in one of the most beautiful squares in the world, the Triumphal Arch of Praça do Comércio has been since 2013 one of the unavoidable viewpoints of Lisbon that attracts both locals and foreigners.
This is a construction that results from the reconstruction of the city after the earthquake of 1755. Finishing the monumental square off with an arch was planned since the first day, but the definitive project was only concluded and inaugurated in 1873, more than 100 years after the dreadful tragedy.
From the rooftop of this imposing and symbolic construction, in a 360º angle, we can observe a privileged perspective of the Praça do Comércio, the river and the south bank, the Christ King and the 25 de Abril Bridge, the entire pombaline downtown, the São Jorge Castle and the hillside of Sé all the way to the Church of Conceição Velha.
This is yet another national monument classified in 1910, which is integrated in the protected area of the Pombaline Lisbon that is a great spot for amazing photos.
Santa Justa Lift
The Santa Justa Lift, built between 1900 and 1902, started by being one of the lifts and funiculars of Lisbon that helped the population go up the steep slopes of the city.
Located in the heart of the pombaline downtown, it is a unique construction that brings together the novelty of railway engineering and the revival taste, in this case neo-gothic from the architecture of the romantic era.
This is one of the symbols of the city that brings us to a level above the roofs of the pombaline buildings and offers us a panoramic view over the entire historic area of the city.
Classified since 2002 as a National Monument, it continues to operate daily for the tourists that stand in long queues for the privilege of not only enjoying the view, but also the two beautiful original wooden booths with brass ornaments and mirrors.
Follow our suggestions and visit the viewpoints in national monuments of Lisbon.
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