Grand structures and architecture, Lisbon
S. Bento is one of the two main political points of Lisbon and Portugal. The other is Belem, where lives the President of the Republic. Here, in S. Bento, you have the Prime-Minister's residence (from which you can only see the walls, gate, and discreet security), and the Parliament.
Open to escorted visits, it has two important references to me: Democracy, and... allow me...four of my grand uncle's best paintings (some more may be seen in Military Museum and Contemporary art Museum, and other).
This bridge will take you over the Tejo (Tagus) river, connecting Alcântara to Almada and until the construction of the Vasco da Gama bridge, was the only possibility in the Lisbon area, to cross the river (except for the ferries, of course).
The "Ponte 25 Abril" (25th of April Bridge), was originally named "Ponte Salazar" after the dictator that ordered its construction, but was renamed after the 1974 revolution (obviously it happened on the 25th of April). It took 4 years to complete and was inaugurated in 1966.
Modelled after the more famous Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco (and if I am not mistaken, built or at least designed by the same American company) the similarities between the two are obvious. The setting is not as beautiful as the one in the US, but the bridge is equally nice.
You pay toll only in one direction (coming back to Lisbon), so you can expect some traffic jams, specially at the end of the day and weekends when the weather is nice.
Recently (1999), a train track was added under the bridge. The bridge is NOT pedestrian nor does it have a bike lane, so car or train are the only options.
On the other side, you will find many beaches, particularly the area known as "Costa da Caparica" which is very popular for its endless sand beaches.
The Vasco da Gama Bridge is the most recent bridge over the Tejo (Tagus) river and was opened in april 1998 (built over 3 years). It is also the longest bridge in Europe and one of the longest in the world measuring just over 17 km.
It is actually a highway bridge, as very high speed are allowed when crossing it (I think it is a highway, so it should be 120 kms/h). Unfortunately, this has also caused some problems, with illegal street racing taking place at night. Many accidents have happened, but don't let this put you off, it is impressive.
The reason for building this bridge was to create an alternative to deroute some of the traffic from the old one (25 de Abril) and to prevent transport trucks from entering the city.
Toll is one-way, coming back to Lisbon, just as the other bridge (for obvious reasons) and is 4.70 Eur, which is quite a bit more than the old one.
This site contains some architectural information.
It is located very close to the Expo 98 site (now Parque das Nações).
Utopia Pavilion is a quite futuristic structure and a joint American-Portuguese design and is used as a multi-purpose arena where sports events, concerts, congresses, etc. all take place.
It features Europe’s largest glue laminated timber roof, with ribs resembling the hull of an upturned boat, which makes it quite unusual. The usable area is about 30000 m2 and it can seat up to 17500 people. During the Expo 98 it was used for a multimedia show about the history of mankind imagination and the Oceans Utopias.
Designed by Portugal's most famous architect, Álvaro Siza Vieira, this is an amazing architectural creation, with a huge suspended "roof" between the buildings. If you look at it carefully, you will notice it is tilting to one of the sides in order to not accumulate water on top (it would make it collapse).
During Expo 98 it was where official ceremonies took place.
Currently it is an official government building.
From the cliffs of the south banks of the Rio Tejo, just east of the Ponte 25 de Abril (that red bridge that resembles the Golden Gate Bridge), stands the Cristo Rei of Lisboa. It was a gift to Lisboa in 1959 by ex-dicator Salazar because of the pre-existing one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was given to the country because Portugal didn't fight in WWII. So yes, for those of you who are curious, the one in Rio was the original. The statue stands 110 m high, with most of that height belonging to the pedestal. The statue itself is merely 28 meters tall. You can pay 2.50 euros and take an elevator to the top, climb a few stairs, and stand at the top of the pedestal.
Cristo Rei is a bit of a pain to get to using public transportation, but it's worth it to see the wonderful surrounding views.
The easiest way from Cais do Sodre is to take a ferry to Cacilhas (0.65 Euros) and then catch bus 101 (0.80 Euros) up to Cristo Rei. It is a steep ride to the monument, so beware of car-sickness (for those of you who easily become motion sick like myself).
After the elevator ride to the pedestal (2.50 Euros) you arrive at Christ's feet. This is as far as you can climb up the statue. Unfortunately you can't make it up to his head or arms, unless you're crazy and want to climb him. FYI I DO NOT recommend trying this. Not only will you plummet to your death, but I don't want to be liable ;-)
Although the Baixa portion of Lisbon was rebuilt in a systematic fashion following it's destruction in the great earthquake of 1755, it's 'piece de resistance', the triumphal arch, Arco da Victoria, was not completed until well over 100 years later, in 1873.
After we had finished with the hilltop castle in the Alfama district, we descended to the level of the Tejo River and wandered through the amazing pedestrian friendly streets of the Baixo into the 'Commercial Square' on the river front. This impressive arch is what formal visitors to Lisbon would pass beneath after they disembarked from their ship on the waterfront.
The 'Padrao dos Descobrimentos', located in Belem along the Tajo River, pays tribute to those brave Portugese sailors and their patrons who led to the great Age of Discovery as they sailed the world.
Built in 1960, on the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, this 52 m (170 foot) high concrete structure is designed to depict the shape of an ancient sailing caraval as it heads out of Lisbon for places unknown. Arranged along each side, are limestone sculptures of 30 leading Portugese who were involved in these endeavors over the centuries. At the head of the line is Henry the Navigator, who sponsored Portugese navigation along the North African coast in the early 1400s.
There is a lot to see here, including a huge tiled map of the world on the landward side of the monument and interior rooms and elevators that allow you to get a great view of the waterfront from the top of the monument!
Please see my 'Belem' page for more details on this part of Lisbon.
This magnificent elevator was designed by one of Gustave Eiffel's students, Raul Mesnier du Ponsard. If you glance at this huge structure in Baixa, you'll notice how strikingly similar the architecture is to Eiffel Tower. Although this functioned as a major transportation option between Baixa and Largo do Carmo when built in the early 1900s, it is nowadays used for tourism. If you take the elevator up, you can climb up some spiral stairs to reach a cafe on the terrace. From the top there are fantastic views of Baixa and nearby Convento do Carmo. Because of a fire that destroyed the platform between the top of the shaft and the top of the hill, you can't use this as a source of transportation anymore. You have to descend and find another option to get up that darned hill (walk, bus, or take Elevador da Gloria)
The Vasco da Gama bridge is one of the mightiest bridges in the world. It is one of two bridges crossing over the Rio Tejo in Lisboa. At 17.2 km, it is the longest bridge in Europe.
You can catch of the glimpse of the bridge from various parts of the city, but head to Parque das Nacoes for a close-up.
If you admire modern architecture, modern gardens, modern art and modern people, Parque das Nações (Expo 98) is for you.
The site of the 1998 exhibition has been reestrutured as a new neighbourhood, preserving most of the common areas and comercial services.
There are several attractions in the area, with a predominance of young costumers (and foreigners).
Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations) is located east of Lisbon on the banks of the Tejo (Tagus) river.
When Lisbon was chosen for Expo 98, this formerly almost abandoned and decadent area was completely transformed into a very modern and stylish (in my opinion) "Park". The project for the "urban upgrade" of this neighbourhood started in 1993 and lasted until after the Expo 98. Just a few months before the opening, and by the look of things, almost no one believed it would be finished in time and, amazingly enough, work progressed 24 hours a day and the Expo opened almost as planned (there were still some piles of building materials scattered all over the place).
The expo itself was quite successful with record official presence of 160 countries and international organizations and over 10 million visitors.
When the expo ended, the area was transformed into a modern business, residential and entertainment area. As a visitor, you can find many interesting features like the "Oceanário" aquarium and "Pavilhão da Utopia" concert/sports hall, the Vasco da Gama shopping center, etc. There are also quite a few restaurants and nightclubs that are particularly active in the Summer.
Many of the buildings/structures inside the Park received awards and commendations for their outstanding architectural features.
Although it is located outside the center of Lisbon, it can be easily reached by metro (Estação do Oriente - Red line) and is a very enjoyable place to spend some time. It is also a good place to visit if you have children as there are quite a few attractions (many in the form of outdoor decoration, like the "volcanoes" or the "waterfall").
The Lisbon Oceanarium is actually the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world and I can say that it is really amazing. It was probably Expo 98's main attraction and during the Exhibition, lines were extremely long and waiting times were up to 4 hours!
The actual building is composed of a large central tank - the open ocean- and four small tanks each representing the coastal habitat of the Indian, Pacific, North Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans. There are over 300 species of animals and plants to be seen. It cost over 60 million Euros to Build.
One of the main attractions is the pair of sea otters, named Amalia and Eusebio after Portugals most famous singer and football player. When we were there they treated us to a mating ritual that re-started every 10 minutes, it was amazing! We were told that they had lost a "baby" a few weeks earlier and the female had just overcome her depression and that they were trying to procriate again. In any case, it was a unique experience.
Check out the travelogues for some pictures of you might see:
- Lisbon Oceanarium - Sea Otters
- Lisbon Oceanarium - Open Ocean
- Lisbon Oceanarium - Other
You might want to plan you visit to coincide with the feeding of the animals, which can be quite interesting to see:
Monday - Open Ocean day
11.15 Rays and Sunfish
Tuesday - Penguin day
15.30 Penguins and Inca-terns
Wednesday - Atlantic Day
11.30 Fish, Sharks and Anemones
Thursday - Sea Otter day
10.30/13.00/15.30 Sea Otters
Friday - Open Ocean day
11.15 Rays and Sunfish
Entrance is 10 Eur and there are reduced fees for children (5 Eur), over 66 and Groups.
Open daily from 10.00-20.00 (in the Summer) and 10.00-19.00 (in the Winter), please note that the ticket office closes one hour before.
One of the jewels in the modern area of Parque das Nações (Expo 98), the station, is an outstanding project of the Spanish Calatrava.
It fits perfectly in the modern buildings that surround it, and besides the important role if plays in actual public transport network, it became an attraction on itself.
One of the things I really like about Lisbon are its impressive bridges over the Tejo. Especially the Ponte 25 de Abril is well worth seeing.
The iron suspension bridge looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It is 2,3 km long and was inaugurated in 1966. Its former name was "Salzar Bridge" after the name of the dictator who had built it.
The Ponte 25 de Abril leads from Alcantara on the northern side of the Tejo to Almada on the southern bank of the river. To get to Alcantara take tram #15 from Praca do Comercio and get off somewhere near the bridge.
Another possibilty is to take a suburban train from Cais Sodre to Alcantara.