Exploring the best of Lisbon, Oeiras and Sintra.
Selected points of interest.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jeronimos Monastery)
The Jeronimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal's power and wealth during the Age of Discoveries. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. It was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama's voyage and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success. Vasco da Gama's tomb was placed inside by the entrance, as was the tomb of poet Luis de Camões, author of the epic The Lusiads in which he glorifies the triumphs of Vasco da Gama and his compatriots.
It is one of the great triumphs of European Gothic (UNESCO has classified it a World Heritage monument), with much of the design characterized by elaborate sculptural details and maritime motifs. This style of architecture became known as Manueline, a style of art that served to glorify the great discoveries of the age.
The church interior is spacious with octagonal piers richly decorated with reliefs, and outside is a garden laid out in 1940 consisting of hedges cut in the shape of various municipal coats of arms of Portugal. In the center is a large fountain also decorated with coats of arms, often illuminated on special occasions.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument)
Across from Jeronimos Monastery, reached via an underpass by its gardens, is the Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.
It represents a three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures such as King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, poet Luís de Camões holding verses from The Lusiads, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, following Prince Henry the Navigator at the prow holding a small vessel.
Inside is an exhibition space with temporary exhibits, an interesting film about the city of Lisbon, and an elevator that takes visitors to the top for some bird's-eye views of Belém and its monuments.
The pavement in front of the monument is decorated with a mosaic that was offered by the South African government in 1960, representing a compass with the map of the world charting the routes taken by the Portuguese explorers. Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
Built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbour, the Belém Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland.
It is a monument to Portugal's Age of Discoveries, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument.
Built in the Manueline style, it incorporates many stonework motifs of the Discoveries, sculptures depicting historical figures such as St. Vincent and an exotic rhinoceros that inspired Dürer's drawing of the beast.
The architect, Francisco de Arruda, had previously worked on Portuguese fortifications in Morocco, so there are also Moorish-style watchtowers and other Moorish influences. Facing the river are arcaded windows, delicate Venetian-style loggias, and a statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, a symbol of protection for sailors on their voyages. Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum)
One of Lisbon's most visited sites, the Coach Museum has the largest and most valuable collection of its type in the world. It is housed in a richly decorated 18th century royal riding school that is part of Belém Palace, illustrating the ostentation and staggering wealth of the old Portuguese elite.
Each coach is more magnificent than the other, showing how coach-makers went to extraordinary lengths to make their vehicles stand out. One of the most outstanding has gilded figures on the tailgate showing Lisbon crowned by Fame and Abundance and a dragon trampling the Muslim crescent.
More wonderful examples belonged to several European royal families, from Spain to England, including a 19th century coach built in London last used by Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit. Castelo de S. Jorge (St. George's Castle)
Bus: 28 or 37
Saint George's Castle can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Its oldest parts date from the 6th century, when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal's first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147 with the help of northern European crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, commemorating the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating from 1371, and became the royal palace until another one (that was destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1755) was built in today's Comércio Square.
Most of the castle was destroyed over the years, especially in the Great Earthquake, but still includes a long extension of walls and 18 towers. Visitors can climb the towers and walk along the ramparts for the most breathtaking views of the city, or relax in the gardens where peacocks, geese and ducks strut around. One of the castle's inner towers, the Tower of Ulysses, holds the Câmara Escura, a periscope that projects sights from around the city. In Oeiras
Igreja Matriz de Oeiras (Oeiras Parish Church)
Largo 5 de Outubro, Oeiras
Consecrated to Our Lady of Purification, was built in the 18th century.
It is located exactly in the town center and has three bell-towers and a neo-classical architecture. Inside, it has only one nave and some frescoes.
A very nice organ can also be seen in the choir.
Centro Cultural Palácio do Egipto (Palácio do Egipto Cultural Centre)
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday - 11h30 to 18h00.
The library is open from Monday to Sunday - 10h00 to 19h00.
At the heart of the historic centre of Oeiras, it is a new facility devoted to culture. Located in the old Palácio do Egipto, this seventeenth-century building has recently been restored and adapted to offer the people of this town and its visitors a new and modern area for sociocultural initiatives.
The Palácio do Egipto Cultural Centre (CCPE for its Portuguese abbreviation) includes a gallery for temporary exhibitions, a library with all publications edited by the municipality, a tearoom and terraces.
Livraria-Galeria Municipal Verney (Verney Municipal Bookshop-Gallery)
Opening hours: Tuesday to friday - 10h00 to 13h00 and 14h00 to 18h00.
Saturday and Sunday - 14h00 to 18h00.
Located at the historic town centre of Oeiras, this bookshop displays all the municipality's publications and is also a space for several exhibitions, combining literature and the visual arts.
Fábrica da Pólvora de Barcarena (Gunpowder Factory)
Opens every day from 9h00 to 2h00
In activity between 1540 and 1940, the factory played an important role in the lifes of the local population by creating jobs and promoting the region´s and the country´s development through the production of gunpowder.
Having remained abandoned for some years, the Town Council of Oeiras decided to retrieve the old factory and to transform it into a leisure and cultural center that now presents a variety of motives of interest.
Near the entrance you can admire the enormous sun-dial on the ground, both a work of art and an historical object. On your right, the Museum of Black Powder offers the opportunity to learn about the factory´s history over the ages; nearby stands an enormous lake that used to serve as the main cistern. On the left, you will find a restaurant and a bar with live music, as well as an art gallery and the Pátio do Enxugo (Drying Yard), with water games and where open-air shows are organized. Museu da Pólvora de Barcarena (Black Powder Museum)
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday - 10h00 to 13h00 and 14h00 to 18h00
The museum, which is located in the 17th century Mill House (the oldest of the complex), covers both the manufacturing process and the factory history including vivid accounts of some of the fatal explosions which occurred.
The museum is divided in four nucleuses.
Parque dos Poetas (Poets Park)
The Poets Park is the result of the desire to honor the national poets and poetry. The initial concept meant to celebrate poetry and poets through sculpture. This led to a "Poets Alley", from which depart several paths, each one connected to the work and personality of a particular poet.
The park then evolved to a larger concept of an urban park also with sports facilities, in a 25 ha area.
Jardim da Cascata (Quinta Real de Caxias Garden)
It is located in Caxias quite close to the train station. It is part of a leisure residence of Queen Maria I, as well as the home of King Luís I for a few weeks. In these enchanting gardens, inspired by the Palace of Versailles, you will find lakes, water games and bushes with geometrical shapes, evoking Baroque opulence. The waterfall, ornamented with terracotta statues of Machado de Castro school, is particularly striking, as well as Brazilian pines that help embellishing the garden. The recovery works carried out by Oeiras City Hall has granted the European Prize for the Recovery of Historical Gardens.
Palácio do Marquês de Pombal (Pombal Palace)
Opening hours: 9h00 to 20h00
The 18th century manor house was created by the Hungarian architect Carlos Mardel and built for Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the first Count of Oeiras, but better known as the Marquis of Pombal (1699-1782). He was largely responsible for the rebuilding of Lisbon after the great 1755 earthquake. The house was a summer residence and the grounds include farming land, gardens, waterfalls, statues and its own chapel amongst other features, the whole exemplifies the style of life of wealthy families of the age.
Had the Baroque continued to evolve as a style of garden layout, instead of being supplanted by the landscape park, a plentiful crop of Rococco gardens would have been made. Pombal Palace gardens show what might have happened elsewere. The gardens are richly decorated with rustic columns and pebble paving. There is also a cascade, a grotto, a pillar, a waterfall with semi-circular basins. Passeio Marítimo (Sea Promenade)
With a 3850 m extension, from the S. Julião da Barra Fortress to Paço d’ Arcos beach, is ideal for relaxing seaside walks or sporting activities such as jogging or cycling. There are some restaurants along the way and even an Oceanic Swimming Pool.
The promenade leads to the new Oeiras marina.
Porto de Recreio de Oeiras (Oeiras Marina)
The new marina at Oeiras is situated approximately halfway between Cascais and Lisbon and immediately to the east of S. Julião da Barra Fortress. The marina is fairly small and intimate with just the right amount of high quality shops, restaurants and cafés, since its management puts a particular emphasis on the protection of the environment.
There are a total of 274 berths for vessels of up to 25 metres in length.
Adjacent to the marina is a salt water swimming pool and wonderful beaches.
Actividades de Ar Livre em Oeiras (Open Air Activities)
The municipality has a Programme of Open Air Activities, allowing participants to combine physical exercice to culture and sightseeing. Besides walking, you can practice BTT, canoeing, sail, ...
Quinta da Regaleira
Built at the close of the 19th century in Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance styles, it sprouts turrets and towers. It is surrounded by a garden filled with mythological and esoteric symbols - statues of gods, mysterious wells, ponds, and grottoes. The highlight is an almost supernatural tunnel staircase that symbolizes death leading into a "Garden of Eden," symbolizing "rebirth" or the entrance to Heaven. You are free to look around unguided, although the option of a guided tour is worth taking to get the full flavor of the place.
Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace)
The most famous building in Sintra is Pena Palace. Built in the 1840s, it is one of Europe's most fantastic palaces, often compared to Neuschwanstein and the other mock-medieval castles of Ludwig of Bavaria in Germany, although it was actually built more than two decades before those. It includes a drawbridge, a conglomeration of turrets, ramparts, and domes, and a gargoyle above a Neo-Manueline arch, all washed in an array of pastel shades. The extravagant interior is decorated in late Victorian and Edwardian furnishings, rich ornaments, paintings, and priceless porcelain preserved just as the royal family left them. Other highlights include the spacious ballroom, the marvelous "Arab Room", and an impressive 16th-century chapel altarpiece (part of an original convent founded to celebrate the first sight of Vasco da Gama's returning fleet).
The Seven Suns Seven Moons is a cultural Network characterized by 10 countries – Brazil, Cape Verde, Croatia, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Spain - that highlight lively and direct relations with small centers and artists. It offers contemporary folk music and figurative art from the Mediterranean and lusophone world.
Further information and programme here.
The music and art Optimus Alive Festival will take place in Oeiras during the same days of the Conference. For further information, you are invited to follow this link.