UPDATED MARCH 2018. Lisbon or Lisboa, the Capital City of Portugal, spreads itself across seven hills. This abundance of hills provides an unusual amount of Lisbon sightseeing viewpoints, or as the Portuguese say miradouros. This post explores six different Lisbon miradouros, where and how to find them and their endearing features.
Lisbon’s hills are dotted with trees, divided by ancient walls, decorated with castles and pastel tile covered buildings. I love these hills, but not necessarily climbing them.
After our first getting to know Lisbon Streets walk, we soon discovered the charming hill-taming trams of Lisbon. Not only did we ride the iconic yellow tourist Tram 28 (one of our favourite things to do in Lisbon), but also the modern E15 which whisked us efficiently from Baixa in the Lisbon city centre to Belem (no metro connection). As far as Lisbon attractions go Belem district has two Unesco sites – Belem Tower on the Tagus River and the nearby Jeronimos monastery.
Lisbon sightseeing was liberating for us. We didn’t carry a Lisbon travel guide book and only occasionally used free wifi, but even so managed to discover six recognised viewpoints amongst many unofficial ones. When you’re planning what to do in Lisbon, put the miradouros near the top of your list because they all have breathtaking views.
The first miradouro offers a unique way to ascend Lisbon’s hills.
What You Will Find in This Post
Santa Justa Lift
Having just purchased a green Viva Viagem Card from a metro machine for .50 Euro and loaded it with 5 Euro and immediately used it to access the lift. Although the entry line can be long, Santa Justa has a capacity of 20 going up, with numbers strictly controlled by the attendant. The lift ascends 32 metres vertically from Baixa at the bottom to Chiado at the top.
When it was built in 1902, the problem of the hard slog up Carmo Hill was solved. By the end of 1902 more than half a million people had used it. The electric motor fitted in 1907 still powers the lift today. Santa Justa is from the Eiffel Tower stable being designed and built by Raul Ponsard a student of Gustave Eiffel. It has been referred to as a mini Eiffel.
After taking in the best close up city views cross the connecting foot bridge into Largo do Carmo or Carmo Square. Memories of our favourite little square in Madrid flooded back when we stepped into the square, but Carmo was even more charming with the addition of lilac flowering Jacaranda trees.
Things to know:
- Best time for photographs is late afternoon when the Castelo opposite, is lit by the setting sun.
- It is romantic after dark when city lights twinkle across Baixa to the Castelo (closes 10 pm winter and 11 pm summer). Mark this as one of your things to do in Lisbon at night.
- Best time to avoid crowds is 7 am (opening time).
- Return ticket 5 Euro. Free when using the 24 hour (6.30 euro) Viagem card. 1.30 euro on a Viagem card loaded with money for individual rides.
- The lower of the two viewing platforms can be accessed free of charge from Largo do Carmo via the Bellalisa Elevador restaurant. 1.30 euro (with viagem card) to access the higher viewing platform.
Atmosphere – Lift – Popular Carmo Square – Picturesque.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia and nearby Das Portas do Sol.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia is more or less twinned with Das Portas do Sol (see our Lisbon map).
Walk along Miradouro de Santa Luzia beneath the brilliant vine covered terrace, where Artists display paintings for sale and continue beside the purple flowering bougainvilleas to the kiosk and viewpoint.
Both have extra-ordinary Tagus River views.
The Scene at Santa Luzia.
Picture a Jamaican band busking and every available space taken up by people sipping coffee, wine, beer and cocktails. Toddlers move to the beat, Parents watch on indulgently, there is a buzz of conversation and laughter. Scattered chairs accommodate people just soaking up the sunshine and the views.
A late afternoon visit here is one of our fun things to do in Lisbon.
After lingering in the sun, appreciating the music and feeling like the luckiest people in the world, we decided to leave Castelo Sao Jorge till the next day.
Continue walking toward Das Portas do Sol and you will come to a set of stairs leading down to Alfama. I thoroughly recommend taking them. This district is a fascinating look into the past, has loads of Fado bars, plus it’s always best to walk down rather than up, wouldn’t you agree?
Things to know:
- Number 28 Tram stops here for the Castelo Sao Jorge.
- The bar stays open till 1 or 2 a.m. and this joint viewpoint is also a great place to watch a Lisbon Sunset.
- Both viewpoints are Free
Atmosphere – Festive holiday.
Castelo Sao Jorge
The walk from Miradouro de Santa Luzia, to the hilltop castle is pleasantly full of restaurants, cafes and shops. Coming from Australia I was astonished to find an open urinal tucked into a corner of a walkway.
I was so happy we left the castle for the morning – it deserves not to be rushed. We spent hours, admiring the river and city views from the shaded terrace, climbing the ramparts and exploring the castle. There is a nice modern Museum of excavated items, which Marty poured over.
The castle towers over Alfama, Lisbon’s Old Town which winds it’s way through a confusing maze of alleys on the south-eastern slope of the hill.
Things to know:
- Entrance – 8.50 Euro. Children under 10 are free. Family Ticket (2 + 2) 20 Euro.
- Open 9 am to 9 pm Summer. 9 am to 6 pm Winter.
- Allow 60 to 90 minutes.
- Last entry 30 minutes prior to closing.
Atmosphere – History
Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara.
Elevador de Gloria, the most popular way to access this miradouro was out of action during our visit (see photo below). Try bus 785 for access from the river end. It’s proximity to the top of the elevador no doubt contributes to Alcantara’s popularity, but it is a particularly beautiful viewpoint – one of my favourites.
This iconic observation point has a pretty, formal flower garden on the lower level with plenty of room to spread out and take in the view. The Kiosk on the top level serves delicious scones with butter and Jam, good snack food and drinks.
While admiring the views across to the castle, we spotted another miradouro close to the castle, by a cluster of trees, and decided it must be in Gracia – the best place to stay in Lisbon. Of course I’m biased because we were very happily staying in a local’s Gracia apartment. And now I realised we had our own previously unexplored miradouro! Marty then remembered seeing a neighbourhood sign for it the day before. Bonus.
Things to Know.
- Entrance is Free.
- Watch your belongings on the Elevador/and or bus (we were warned by the locals).
- From June 2017 major reconstruction work was happening to reinforce the walls. Bottom level fenced off and top level restricted. Hopefully work will be complete by the time you visit Lisbon.
Atmosphere – Classic and Classy.
Graca Church built in 1271 is known for it’s Baroque interior and 17th century tiles. The miradouro fronts the Church, with views to the left back to the Castle and forward over the Lisbon city centre. The “L” shaped cobblestoned space is leafy and frequented by locals – grandparents, parents, children, dogs and us – with great Lisbon views from both sides of the “L”. Visitors were sparse in early May, but it does get crowded in peak season.
Things to Know.
- 10 minutes walk from Castelo Sao Jorge.
- No. 28 Tram Gracia Stop.
- Pleasant Cafe On-Site
- Church is being renovated.
Atmosphere – Local
Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
Otherwise known as Miradouro do Adamastor (after the statue in the park), it has views over the river and the 25 de Abril Bridge. Adamastor is a Greek-type mythological sea monster used by the Portuguese poet Luis de Camoes in his epic nationalistic poem – the Lusiads. The poem’s 1102 stanzas are an ode to Portuguese voyages of discovery.
The cafe sells cheap sangria and beer, attracting a youngish fun loving crowd, who spill from the cafe, enjoying the sunny grassed area beside the statue.
Atmosphere – Vibrant Bohemian
Lisbon Map – Miradouros
This map shows a walking route. We did not view the miradouros consecutively or even in the one day. They materialised as we walked and used trams to get around the city.
Miradouros – Santa Luzia/Portas do Sol, Castelo de S. Jorge and Graca – are all within walking distance of each other, so you may like to see them at the one time. We lived in this area so they evolved individually. In early may Portas do Sol did not seem open so we didn’t go there and detoured down into Alfama instead. Their views would be very similar in any case but probably their atmospheres would be individual especially in busy season.
When to visit Lisbon Spain
May in Lisbon is shoulder tourist season, crowds are minimal and Lisbon weather is accommodating (as it is most of the year). Getting a seat at the cafes was easy, and joining in the Cafe life was a great way to enjoy the individuality of the Lisbon miradouros.
Best of all was Lisbon’s affordable prices meant we could enjoy the cafes without breaking our budget!