Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Lisbon Metropolitan Area
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

At the western edge of the Iberian Peninsular, Lisbon is mainland Europe’s most western city. Not far from the city is Cabo da Roca – the westernmost point of mainland Europe. Lisbon is a truly global city – in terms of finance and media, and increasingly becoming a major tourist destination. The devastating earthquake of 1755 was a defining moment for the city. Despite much of the city being destroyed by the quake itself, the tsunami that followed and then the fires that raged out of control for about a week, Lisbon has managed to retain much of its historical charm. The vast estuary of the Tagus River has made this an ideal location for millennia, as attested by the archaeological record. The natural harbour has been important for the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Moors, and finally the Christians in establishing the power and influence of the Kingdom of Portugal in Europe. Each of these periods is represented in Lisbon and its wider metropolitan area today, making this an ideal destination for travellers who enjoy exploring Europe’s history.

Archaeology & History Sites in the Lisbon Area

Belém Tower - Torre de Belém

Also known as St Vincent’s Tower after Lisbon’s Patron Saint St. Vincent, the tower was built to supplement existing defences of Lisbon on the Tagus River, the first phase of the fortress was completed by 1519. Later a bastion was added, as well as the ornate tower. In the 19th century the tower was used as a lighthouse. The best feature of the tower is the rich exterior decoration, including a representation of a rhinoceros as a gargoyle. The interior includes a 16th century chapel and the King’s Room.

Castle of the Moors

The Castle of the Moors is strategically situated on top of a hill within the Parque Nacional da Pena. The fortification was built by the Moors, who might have been re-using a pre-existing structure built by the Visigoths. The Moorish castle was abandoned following the Christian Reconquista of Portugal from the Arabs. Although in ruins, the hilltop remains of the barbican, keep and walls can be visited today, and is a popular day-trip from Lisbon.

Jerónimos Monastery - Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Founded by King D. Manuel I – hence also known of as the Royal monastery, construction of the monastery began in 1501, and completed 100 years later. Together with the Tower of Belém, these sites were added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 1983 as the most outstanding examples of Portuguese Late Gothic architecture. Secularised in 1833, parts of the monastery are open to the public, the building also houses national museums (maritime history and archaeology).


Situated at the mouth of the Tagus River, the Portuguese capital is one of Europe’s oldest cities. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, with millions of people arriving each year to explore thousands of years of heritage and culture. Dive into Lisbon’s past at such landmarks as the Moorish São Jorge Castle, or the Gothic style intricate Jerónimos Monastery. The city’s many museums hold world-class collections of artefacts and art from prehistory to the contemporary.

São Jorge Castle - Castelo de São Jorge

Although there is evidence of prehistoric occupation on the hill, the first fortifications on the castle hill are from the 1st century BC. Much of what we see from the streets below was built during the 11th century during the Moorish period. The castle was taken by the Portuguese in 1147, and since then the castle has been a royal palace, served as a military barracks, before finally becoming a national monument and museum, and ne of Lisbon’s most popular attractions.

Museums & Art Galleries in the Lisbon Area

Maritime Museum - Museu de Marinha

As a nation with a significant maritime history, the national maritime museum is going to be impressive. Founded by King Luis in 1863, initially a a collection of naval ships, today the collection comprises over 17,000 objects. Objects come from all around the globe, reflecting Portugal’s powerful maritime heritage. Of these, the permanent display has a selection of around 2,500 artefacts.

National Museum of Archaeology - Museu Nacional de Arqueologia

Housed in the west wing of the Gothic Jerónimos Monastery, this is the largest and most important archaeology museum in Portugal. Artefacts from all periods of Portugal’s past, from archaeological sites throughout the country on permanent display in ‘Treasures of Portuguese Archaeology’. The museum also has an extensive collection of Egyptian antiquities, of which about 300 objects are on permanent display.