Portugal has never been viewed as an exciting European holiday destination until recently. Previously overshadowed by major players of European tourism such as France, Germany and Italy, Portugal – or rather its capital city, Lisbon – has had been a short detour for most tourists travelling in Spain. But Lisbon is now one of the hottest new destinations that offers a rich and varied history, lively nightlife and mostly sunny weather all-year round.
Sitting on seven hills, Lisbon is a treasure chest of historical monuments and grand plazas. To discover a city like Lisbon, you will invariably spend some amount of money on entrance fees to historical monuments, castles and museums, and on transportation to get to those sights. And in all likelihood, you will be spending two or three days maximum in Lisbon, covering as many places of interests as possible within those days before moving on to other destinations within the country.
This means, you will be asking, what is the best possible way to visit many sights at an affordable cost? Consider the Lisboa Card.
What is the Lisboa Card?
The Lisboa Card is a travel card that provides the following:
- Free entry to Lisbon’s 28 museums, monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Free unlimited travel on bus, metro, tram, elevators and funiculars.
- Free travel by train to Sintra and Cascais
- Sintra-Rossio-Oriente line
- Cascais- Cais do Sodré line
- 10% to 50% discount on tourist/cultural attractions and services.
- 5% to 10% discount in various shops selling genuine Portuguese products.
- Complimentary tourist guidebook.
The Lisboa Card is essentially a 3-in-1 museum, transport and discount card.
Types of Lisboa Card
The Lisboa Card is available in 24, 48 or 72 consecutive hour options, and the costs for the respective travel cards are as follows:
- 24-hr Lisboa Card: €19
- 48-hr Lisboa Card: €32
- 72-hr Lisboa Card: €40
You may purchase the travel card based on the duration of your stay in Lisbon. The Lisboa Card is valid for a full calendar year after its purchase date but the duration of the card takes effect at the time when you start using the card (signed with the date and time).
For example, if you purchased the 48-hour travel card on 1st November 2017, the card is valid until 31st October 2018. However, once you use the card on the metro or at the museum on 3rd November (signed with the date and time), the card expires on 6th November 2017.
Lisboa Card can be purchased online or at the Lisboa Tourist Centre (Ask Me Lisboa) in the city centre (Praça do Comércio) or at Lisboa Airport.
What did I use Lisboa Card for?
I had the 72-hour Lisboa Card, and had used the card on my commute from my accommodation in the suburb Odivelas to the city centre – the commute was 20-30 minutes by metro.
Here are some of the sights that I had visited, some of which I enjoyed free access or a discounted fee with the card:
- Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (St Jerome Monastery) in Belém is known for their honey-coloured Manueline cloisters built of limestone with ornate arches, delicate carvings of leaves, vines and knots in turrets and columns. The monastery was constructed in extravagant architecture to celebrate the nautical successes achieved by Portuguese early navigators and explorers, namely, Vasco da Gama who set sail from Belém for distant shores of the Far East and the Orient with crusading zeal, and love and lust for gold and power. Navigators and sailors were said to have sought refuge and prayer in Mosteiro dos Jerónimos before they moved on with their voyage to the Far East.
Situated on the western entrance of the monastery is a church in which you will find the tomb of Vasco da Gama. You can also view the church from the upper choir accessed from the monastery.
Entrance Fees: €10
Lisboa Card: Free (do look out for the separate queue for Lisboa Cardholders)
- Padraõ dos Descobrimentos
Padraõ dos Descobrimentos is a 52-metre high monument located opposite Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. This iconic monument was constructed and inaugurated in 1960 on the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death to commemorate the triumphs of Portuguese explorers during the 15th and 16th centuries.
On both sides of the monuments, you will find statues representing important figures from the Portuguese Age of Discovery, some of whom are Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Bartholomew Dias, Ferdinand Magellan, Alfonso de Albuquerque, St Francis Xavier and others.
At the foot of the monument is a mosaic of the world map, marking Portugal’s discoveries of ports in the Far East – my hometown Malacca in South-East Asia, and a few places in southern India where Vasco da Gama and his motley crew of sailors had first arrived in Calicut after sailing down from Portugal to India around Africa.
The Padraõ dos Descobrimentos monument has a viewing platform that offers panoramic views of the municipality of Belém and the Tagus River.
Entrance Fees to the viewing platform: €5
Lisboa Card: €3.50
Note: There is another historical site along the Tagus River in Belém – Torre de Belém or the Tower of St. Vincent. The tower was a fort and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. I chose not to go to the tower for there was a long queue that day (no separate queue for Lisboa Cardholders).
Entrance Fees: €6
Lisboa Card: Free
- Telecabine Lisboa (cable car) at Parque das Nações
Constructed for the 1998 Lisbon World Expo, Parque das Nações (Nations Park) is a redeveloped area on the Tagus River with green spaces, contemporary buildings and amenities such as parks and playgrounds, oceanarium, science centre, entertainment venue, cafes, restaurants, shopping mall and a cable car ride over the park with impressive views of the Vasco da Gama Bridge and the river.
Entrance Fees for cable car: One way €3.95, Return €5.90
Lisboa Card: 10% discount.
- Palace of Pena
Sintra is a picturesque town up in the hills of Serra de Sintra, and is a common destination for day-trippers from Lisbon. The town is known for their colourful and almost whimsical 19th century Portuguese Romanticism style of architecture especially its castles and palaces of which Palace of Pena was one of their finest examples, featuring harmonious blends of Manueline and Moorish elements in architecture and decorative styles.
Entrance Fees: €14 entry to the palace only; €7.50 entry to the palace terraces (exclude state rooms) and park.
Lisboa Card: 10% discount.
- National Palace of Sintra
Situated right in the heart of Sintra town, the National Palace of Sintra was formerly a Moorish palace but was taken over by the Portuguese Crown after Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon and became the first King of Portugal in 1147. The Moorish links are quite evident in the decorative styles of the palace with the use of ceramic tiles (azulejos) and other glazed tiles with rich geometrical patterns.
Entrance Fees: €9
Lisboa Card: 10% discount
Is it worth getting the Lisboa Card?
If you are a history buff and enjoy exploring museums, historical castles and palaces, it is worth the savings to get the Lisboa Card. Imagine not buying the travel card but pay for individual tickets to these historical sites – that’s a lot of money to be spent on entrance fees!
However, if you are planning to stay in the city centre and not keen on historical monuments, it is better do without the card for transportation costs of metro and tram are relatively cheap.
Having said that, Lisbon is so rich in history and heritage that it’s a shame to skip the city’s top attractions. For the full listing of free access, deals and discounts with Lisboa Card, you may click on the ‘Lisboa Card Guide’ here, and decide for yourself if it’s worth buying the travel card.
My 72-hour Lisboa Card was complimentary from Turismo de Lisboa. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.