Maybe when someone’s told you that Lisbon is known as “the city of seven hills”, you’ve rolled your eyes and thought ‘Pffft, bet it’s not that bad’.
Well, we’re here to reiterate: Lisbon gets steep. And a visit to the pretty Portuguese capital really does involve a lot of walking vertically.
But if there’s one positive thing to take from the hills and stairways – other than feeling like you’ve burned off a lot of tapas/port/numerous custard tarts – it’s the amazing views you get at the top.
Here are the city viewpoints that you simply can’t miss out on.
1. Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
Lisbon’s Miradouros are terraces or viewpoints usually located at the highest point of a hill, often with spaces to rest. You’ll find this particularly pretty miradouro, with a huge fountain and benches dotted around little gardens, on the edge of the energetic Bairro Alto district. There are great for views of Sao Jorge Castle and it’s also a superb sunset sangria spot.
Bairro Alto is known for its cheap bars, colourful alleys and amazing tapas – so, after plenty of snaps of the city’s panoramas, head to eat at much-talked-about Tapa Bucho.
2. Park Bar
A favourite among Instagram fiends, because of – you’ve guessed it – the 180-degree views of the city and river.
The bar, which sometimes also puts on events like outdoor movie nights, is notoriously difficult to find. It may involve a certain amount of creeping in the Bairro Alto district until you come across its entrance (no-one’s judging if you stop off for a few drinks in other cool bars along the way…)
But it’s oh-so-worth exploring for. Transformed into a drinking spot from a deserted car park, the sprawling garden terrace has plenty of comfy chairs to settle into with a big drink in hand while DJs play.
Go for the cocktails; stay for the sunset trickling down over the terracotta-tiled roofs.
3. Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora
There are many beautiful churches to visit in Lisbon – seriously, loads – but this one has a bit of a winning secret.
You can head up through a tower of this beautiful 16th century monument to the roof, where there’s a terrace for various perfect camera angles of the National Pantheon and the Tagus River.
Entrance to the church is free, and it’s located in Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon – which is also a popular neighbourhood for a night of Fado.
Fado is traditional folk music popular in the Lisbon area, by the way. You can hear it while you dine and sip wine in some restaurants – try the cosy Clube de Fado.
4. Sao Jorge Castle
This is a spot high up in the Alfama district – and you can spend ages exploring the grounds of this castle, admiring the wild peacocks that roam here and peeking through the crumbling towers and arches. And there’s legit a cart selling drinks called “wine with a view”.
You can see almost the entire city from the terrace and battlements of the Sao Jorge Castle – there are even cannons here still, which we really don’t recommend trying to climb after making the most of that drinks cart… take it from us.
On the journey to and from the castle, keep an eye out for a steep staircases lined with dazzlingly bright street art and, of course, the famously-beautiful tiles adorning many of the houses.
5. Santa Justa elevator
Absolutely worn out from exploring Lisbon? There’s a much less sweaty alternative for views in the Baxia district – this lift that overlooks the downtown area below. Spot the sherbet-coloured houses sprawled across the city.
You’ll spy the Santa Justa lift from elsewhere in the city – for example, Sao Jorge castle if you head up there – as it stands out size-wise and architecturally compared with the rest of Lisbon.
This will surely be one of the more beautiful lifts you’ll have ever travelled in (admittedly not something we ever thought about much before but, seriously, just look at the wooden carriages).
Its open from 7am until 11pm and there’s a way of riding for free, sort of – if you buy the Viva Viagem, an unlimited 24-hour travel pass for €6.00, it includes the elevator too. Oh, and it’s a particularly good way to see the lights of Lisbon at night.
6. Discoveries Monument
If you take a short train journey from central Lisbon to the Belem district, you’ll find this jaw-dropping spot on the Tagus River – go for the incredible sculptures looming over the side of the monument if nothing else.
And then there’s the lift inside that takes visitors to the top, where you can tick off some must-see Lisbon sights in this area of the city – nearby is Belem Tower, jutting out to sea, and opposite is the mighty Jeronimos monastery.
While the Discoveries Monument isn’t a free viewpoint, if you pay to go inside you also get to see temporary art exhibitions. It’s worth remembering that tourist attractions in Lisbon tend to be shut on a Monday. Luckily most buildings in Lisbon are just as beautiful from the outside.