Miradouros (overlooks), Lisbon
Lisbon, like Rome, is built on 7 hills and this makes miradouros (or overlook places) a popular spot to see the lower parts of the city, the river and the sides across it. One popular miradouro we found in Alfama is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, next to the church with the same name.
In this area there are street entertainers (like some guys playing instruments and a girl juggling some bowling pins), restaurants and cafés with outdoor sitting for you to relax, have a beer/coffee and enjoy the views.
Not very many cities possess views such as these. Pause from a walk and from a roaming about the old city and go up to one of her fine miradouros or lookout and contemplate the place.
The miradouros of Lisbon are the ideal vantage points from which to look at and admire this city. A city that is without comparison. Lisbon has many hills and upon these hills there are three most prominent perches or miradouros perfect to survey the breathtaking expanse of the city. The highest point above the Baixa is the most famous of all, the besieged and war-weary walls and terraces of the Castelo de Sao Jorge. Right pararell to it on the next hill is the miradouro of Nossa Senhora do Monte - solemn and least visited.
The other great and astonishing lookout is the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara in the Bairro Alto district on the opposite hill across. This is a miradouro with a view of a thousand histories. A view like no other...so captivating and let's you never forget...to not forget her shattered past, triumph and a most generous face. A past traversed by Phoenicians, Celts, Vandals, Sueves and Alans, Romans and the Moors. Not to mention the brazen Spaniards. The first king of Portugal Afonso Henriques made the final claim in 1147.
You will never see a view of a city from a hill such as hers. Embracing and potent in her eternal narcissism. In the mid-1800's, an English traveller upon seeing the city declared Lisbon to be 'the most narcissistic city of all cities.' A narcissism which came about as a result of her frontal face having been smashed, defiled and shattered by the a most devastating earthquake of 1755.
From this destruction which brought about a wholesale flattening of land mass, a tsunami killing more than 40,000 souls, a conflagration that followed levelling everything in its path. The high-rising hill which all had sat there before, brought down in gravel and dust. A sunken and flattened out plateau, afterwards a concerted rebuilding carried out to resurrect the levelled off area to make the Baixa which has since become the lower part of town and the central hub of Lisbon.
On both sides, the other hills stood intact, shaken but unrepentant. A new and much-reconstructed face of Lisbon after 1776.
You look down below either from the citadel upon the ramparts of the castelo high above the Alfama or from a slope in Bairro Alto. From either miradouros you survey a sentiment-filled city caldera and across the entire expanse of Lisboa's countenance. As your look lingers, her hand touches your face and a gaze to make you - along with her - so gladdened and forever longing for returns.
If you're into watching and enjoying the sunset, the city of Lisbon has several hills, seven prominent ones, from which you can situate yourself with a 'bica' or tea with a 'pastel de nata' or 'bolo de arroz', my favorite and proceed to find a moment's contentment under a cool protective dark goggles to watch the sun go down.
One of city's great spots to do this is high up in the Castelo de Sao Jorge upon its craggy ramparts, battlements and highly evocative grounds set among ancient olive trees and aleppo pines overlooking the westerly and southerly skies of the city into which the paling ball of fire sets itself free to retire. Down beneath lies the old city with her jigsaw puzzle of a uniquely Portuguese architectural expression, orange tile roofing of houses. From this magnificent vantage can also be enjoyed Lisbon's ambitious suspension bridge - the Ponte 24 de Abril -and nearby the sky-touching statue of an open-armed Christ seeming to be the city's protector with hills cascading down towards the vast expanse of the River Tejo.
Best time to get here is from early afternoon onwards til gate closing.
Just inside the main entrance to Castelo de Sao Jorge there is a shady terrace which is home to a couple of statues of ancient kings; rusting canons which hint of the part played by the castle in defending the city in past conflicts; some even older gnarled olive trees and some of the best panoramic views of Lisbon.
We were there on a very warm, sunny morning in October and there was quite a haze but with the help of binoculars and the Ceramic map of the panorama we were able to see nearby housing , the Baixa and Bairro areas and out to the river and the famous suspension bridge - Ponte de 25 Abril.
It's onlty to be expected that, with all those hills, there are fabulous views to be had over Lisbon. You'll catch lovely glimpes of the city through gaps between the buildings and down the narrow streets (photo 5) but for the best and widest views you need to make your way to the specially built miradouros to see over the whole panorama spread out before you.
You'll find the miradouros at the highest point of the hills, their wide balustrades allowing for a clear view out over the city. They're not just the haunt of photo-snapping tourists however; there's bound to be a few locals there. During the day they'll be gossiping with friends or neighbors, taking time out for a coffee over a newspaper if there's a cafe, playing dominos. Come evening, the miradouros are a favourite haunt of the more romantically minded. Whatever the time - the views are spectacular.
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara is a lovely tree-shaded space at the top of the Elevadore de Gloria in the Bairro Alto. From here you look straight across to the castle and down on the Baixa.
There are wonderful views from the castle of course, but if you walk down the hill a little way, you'll come to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a long shady balcony that looks out across the Alfama to the river beyond. There are a couple of lovely old tiled panoramas of the city on the back wall of the balcony.
The Miradouro de Graça is a beloved meeting point for the inhabitants of Lisbon, especially early in the evening, when they sit at the tables under the pinetrees overlooking the city.
Established on the square is the great monasterychurch Igreja da Graça
Just a few steps away from Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a balcony opens onto the river offering truly spectacular views over Alfama.
Faced by soft-toned buildings and the Decorative Arts Museum, this is a popular stop for photographers, with its stunning view from São Vicente de Fora Church to the river.
There is also a statue of St. Vincent (the city's patron saint) holding a boat with two ravens, the symbols of Lisbon.
I was originally confused between the part and outlook here and the park of Príncipe Real. It is located right at near the entrance to the upper part of the Elevador de Glória and allows you good views over the northern part of the historic lower city. But the draw of the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara is not just the view. There is also a beautiful park here with some very interesting sculptures and a great tree that is screaming "photograph me!".
The Miradouro de Sao Pedrode Alcantara is located at the top end of Gloria's funicular route.
From here you have a magnificent view of Lisbon. This wonderful vantage point will give you a unique chance to take some of the best photos of your trip.
When you travel, don't you too pick a spot and decide "this is my spot. I will make this my emotional base, and I will orient myself from here"? Well, this miradouro (outlook) was my spot in Lisbon. Only minutes from my hotel, with a good view of my beloved Sao Vicente monastery, a stop of tram #28, a cheap cyber-cafe and a plain good restaurant nearby (Kome Ka - Rua Das Escolas Gerais 57). I came back here every day, and a little like with a multiple choice water slide, I found a new way down to the Alfama every time.
Castelo de Sao Jorge was built where it was because it has a commanding view of the area and, it still does! This is the view out over the Baixa toward the Tejo (Tagus) River and its opposite shore.
On the distant far right is one of the supports of the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge, which was modelled on San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge. Completed in 1966, this 2-km double deck bridge was modified in 1999 so its lower deck could carry rail traffic across the mighty Tejo River. This was made possible by the opening in 1998 of Europe's longest bridge, across the Tejo just north of Lisbon, the 17-km Vasco da Gama.
To the left of the suspension bridge tower is another tall structure, this one being 'Cristo Rei', an 82 m (270 foot) pedestal supporting a 28 m (90 foot) figure of Christ. This answer to Rio de Janeiro's 'Cristo Redentor' was built between 1949-59 by Spain's dictator Francisco Franco at the behest of Portugal's dictator Salazar.
Since Lisbon was built on seven hills, you have quite a few places with spectacular sights. One of our favourite ones was the miradouro St. Lucia, halfway between Sé Cathedral and the Castello S. Jorge.
We went there in the morning on our way to the castle and in the evening to enjoy the sunset - couldn't say which one was nicer!!!
Since Lisbon is built on 7 hills, there are quite some overlooks (miradouros) from which you have great views of the city.
I am not going to write a different tip about every single one of them, here you have an overview of the ones that I saw:
1/ Castle of Sao Jorge: probably the most beautiful and complete one. You can see very, very far and I just couldn't stop looking, it's amazing!
2/ Jardim de Torel: when taking the Elevador da Lavra, going left, from there it's signposted. Wonderful views over Baixa and Bairro Alto from a small park. Especially fantastic during sunset!
3/ Miradouro de Santa Luzia: pretty close to the castle, next to the church. From here you have an overview over the roofs of Alfama. Pretty charming.
4/ Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara: views over Baixa and the Castle. Just to your right when you get out of the Elevador da Gloria.
5/ View from Elevador da Santa Justa. If you get out of the elevator, take the steps towards the terrace. Beautiful views of Rossio and the river Tagus.
6/ Miradouro de S. Catarina: views over the Tagus, the least impressive one, in my eyes.
7/ McDonalds, indeed the fastfood restaurant. :-)) I entered in the one on Rossio, which offers a great view over the square. And from the McDonalds terrace in Vasco Da Gama shopping centre, you have a great overview of the Parque das Naçoes! ( no, I didn't eat in this one too, don't worry:-))
Perhaps the most amazing trip I made in Lisbon is to Capo Espichel. There is a pagan fisherman festival on the last Sunday of September which we tried to go to but just missed- the aftermath looked amazing though so I still recommend it!!
To get there you can get a bus to Azoia from Sesimbra (get to Sesimbra for all sorts of day trips, you can reach it by ferry from the rest of Lisbon, costs about 35p and very quick!). From Azoia you have a 3Km walk approx to Capo Espichel, when I went we met a lovely old shepherd herding his sheep along who gave us some water- it is a walk along a deserted track so bring supplies!!!
The place itself is basically a clifftop with an old deserted church really close to the edge. It's breathtaking seeing the atlantic stretching away into infinity from the top.
HArd to put into words but really 100000% highly recommended. Bring some rolls and some chorizo and eat while watching the sea. Brave people who want to stick their heads over the edge will see car crashes on the way down. It's pretty empty too, barely another tourist in the 3 hours I was there.
A pic of looking off the end of the world in off the beaten track section.
If you're walking to the Alfama or Castelo de São Jorge you will pass the Santa Luzia's Church with its miradouro. Although you can overlook the huddle of Alfama's roofs down to the Tejo river, there are more beautiful outlooks in Lisbon.
This miradouro is special for another reason: There are several artistic wall-paintings consisting out of azulejos at the facade of the church. The most exceptional is one depicting Lisbon before the great earthquake in 1755 in a very vivid scene.
Park benches will also invite you to rest a little in the shadow before you continue your arduous walk through Alfama or to Castelo de São Jorge.