The Portuguese often refer to Lisbon as the cidade das sete colinas, or “city of the seven hills.” This is not an exaggeration as we found out on our first day. Climbing all of the stairs in Lisbon was a challenge, but the outstanding views from the top make the trips worthwhile. Each miradouro offers different perspectives of the city, with panoramic views of popular landmarks from the castle down to the river.
As much as I love everything about Porto, I have to admit that the miradouros of Lisbon were better. These high points around the city are developed public spaces with seating areas and cafés where you can buy food and drinks. Coupled with the sweeping views of the city, these terraces are the perfect place to hang out, day and night. Here are a few of my favorite lookout points around Lisbon, popular with both locals and visitors:
São Pedro de Alcântara
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is a garden with a panoramic view across central Lisbon all the way to St. George’s Castle. This is one of the largest lookout points in the city with both an upper and lower terrace. The lower area has a beautifully landscaped garden filled with fountains and sculptures of heroes and gods from Greco-Roman mythology, adding regal air to the surroundings. Located near the bars of Bairro Alto, this park is quite popular with students. There are open-air kiosk and drink carts that sell a variety of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, which you can enjoy while listening to live music and taking in the castle views.
Like most of the other miradouros, getting up the steep hill can be quite a challenge. If you want to skip the 10 plus flights of stairs, head over to Restauradores Square on Avenida da Liberdade where you can hitch a ride on the Elevador da Gloria. This old school funicular has been taking passengers up and down the hill since 1885. The ride on the tram will cost you 3.60 Euro per person per ride, which is a bit of a rip off in my opinion. We choose to huff and puff our way up the hill, but if you’re tired, the funicular is a good way to get you to the top so you can enjoy the most glorious view of Lisbon.
Miradouro de Santa Catarina is a popular local hangout place overlooking the harbor. Facing the Tagus River, there are clear views of the ‘25 de Abril’ Bridge, known for its similar appearance to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the surrounding neighborhood of Madragoa. At night you can see the suspension bridge all lit up creating a spectacular view. This pleasant miradouro is the perfect place to spend a hot afternoon, sitting under the shade and catching the cool breeze coming in from the water.
The terrace next to a small church of the same name, offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city’s oldest district. The dome of the National Pantheon and the bell-tower of São Miguel stand out among the rooftops of Alfama. The convoluted maze of small streets leading down to the river Tagus where two large cruise ships were docked at the harbor for the day, letting off visitors from far and wide.
This has long been considered one of the most romantic spots in Lisbon. On the lower terrace, the vibrant bougainvillea garden stand out against the blue ceramic tiles. At the top, the long vines hanging down from the pergola not only provide much welcome shade during a hot day, but also a romantic backdrop for many lovers.
Castelo de São Jorge
Towering dramatically above Lisbon, the mid-11th-century Moorish castle stands out prominently in most photos of the city. The hilltop fortification was built on the highest hill with vantage points over the Tagus river, chosen for its defensive position. The majority of the castle was destroyed over the years, especially in the Great Earthquake of 1755. Today only a long extension of the wall remained along with the 18 towers.
Aside from the historical significance, this unofficial miradouro has one of the best views of the city. Spectacular vistas of many popular landmarks can be seen from the battlements of the castle including the Igreja do Carmo, the squares of Baixa, and the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. The crumbling ramparts snaking around the castle encircling the shaded courtyards provide an uninterrupted panorama over the city’s red rooftops.
Unlike other miradouros, the entrance fee for the castle will cost you €8.5. Once inside there are lots of places to sit and enjoy the view. There are even carts selling €4 glasses of wine, and as a bonus, you get to keep the unbreakable glass at the end as souvenir. If you don’t want to shell out the money, bring your own bottle (and bottle opener). With a wine glass in hand, soaking in the afternoon sun as a light breeze tussled my hair, watching the city below, there really was nothing better.
A bonus view from our AirBnB apartment at sunset: