With so many top Lisbon attractions to tick off, your city sightseeing checklist could get very long indeed. That’s why we've put together this list of the city’s essential sights – here you’ll find architectural wonders, spectacular palaces and the best lookout points in Lisbon.
The best Lisbon attractions
The ornate white dome of the Basílica da Estrela is one of Lisbon's best-loved landmarks. Construction took ten years (1779-89), with statues sculpted by artists from the Mafra School. The church is richly decorated inside with Portuguese marble, although many of the paintings are by Italian masters. Climb the 114 steps for fine views of the city.
The industrial-age iron tracery of the Santa Justa lift - sometimes called the Elevador do Carmo - is one of Lisbon's most beloved landmarks but became a national monument only in 2002. It links downtown Rua do Ouro with the square next to the Carmo church up above, via a 15m viaduct. On the top floor, up a spiral staircase, a viewing platform offers 360º views. The Elevador is part of the public transport system, so if you have a payment card a one-way trip is equivalent to a bus journey; on board only pricey return tickets are on sale. For a budget alternative view, head for department store Pollux, whose top-floor café also has cheap coffee.
Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques, laid the foundation stone for the first church of St Vincent 'Outside' - that is, beyond the then city walls - hardly a month after taking Lisbon from the Moors in 1147. With Italian architect Filippo Terzi, Herrera designed a new church in Italian mannerist style. The big draw are the cloisters, richly decorated with early 18th-century tile panels, some illustrating La Fontaine fables. Inside there's the royal pantheon of the Braganza family, the last dynasty to rule Portugal. The figure of a weeping woman kneels before the twin tombs of Dom Carlos I and Crown Prince Luís Filipe, shot by assassins in 1908.
Jerónimos is the masterpiece of the Manueline style, the Portuguese twist to late Gothic. Construction of the church and cloisters for the Hieronymite religious order began in 1502 on the orders of Dom Manuel I, in thanks for the divine favour bestowed through the Discoveries and to commemorate Portugal's maritime prowess. The exquisite cloisters, designed by master architect Diogo de Boytac and completed by João de Castilho, are often the setting for concerts and other events. Boytac is also thought to have overseen the construction in 1514 of a pretty hermitage uphill, the Capela de São Jerónimo (guided visits, Wed only, can be booked at the monastery).
Europe's largest aquarium, Oceanário has a vast central tank plus four smaller ones representing the Antarctic, Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, each topped by a room representing the respective coastal habitat. There are observation decks on two levels, while mini-aquariums showcase exotic species.
The idyllic setting of this palace, at the foot of Monsanto Forest Park, is in sharp contrast to the concrete jungle of Sete Rios, across the railway tracks. The palace was built for the Mascarenhas family, who still own it. You may visit the garden independently but the palace is only accessible with a guided tour. Tours last about an hour; arrive a few minutes early.
Lisbon's cathedral is a symbol of the Christian Reconquest, having been built in the 12th century on the site of the main mosque. The treasury has artefacts and vestments, but visitors may be more interested in the cloisters, where parts of the mosque wall have been uncovered, as well as a section of Roman road and remains of the Visigothic occupation.
The Tower of Belém was put up to guard the river entrance into Lisbon harbour. Built on the orders of Dom Manuel the Fortunate, it has stonework motifs recalling the Discoveries, among them twisted rope and the Catholic Crosses of Christ, as well as Lisbon's patron saint St Vincent and a rhinoceros.