As a foreigner whose first language isn’t Portuguese, it’s easier to visit the more touristic areas as the likelihood to find people and staff at the establishments who speak English is bigger. Granted that visiting the most popular places in Portugal is a great experience to have in order to know more about the culture and people of the country, it’s impossible to grasp the real essence of Portugal just by visiting those places. And if you really want to know the country of which the language you are learning, as you should, then try to visit those hidden, less known places. If you do this, will also be a good opportunity to try and improve your knowledge of the language with the locals. To help you with that, we’ve prepared a list of some of the secret places in Lisbon to visit and to give you a peak of many other places to discover.
The Livraria Simão is known as the smallest bookstore in the world and it’s basically a small hall with an area of only 3.8 meters. It’s so small that only one person can fit in there at the time and even the seller has to exit the bookstore so the potential buyer has space to move around. But don’t let yourself be fooled if you think that such a small bookstore has little to offer. In fact, this bookstore sells more than 4.000 different books. Besides books, you can also find vinyl records there. If you are a book lover, this is definitely the place to visit, however, it would be an advantage to speak Portuguese well as you are likely to find many books in written in Portuguese. If you are learning the language, this will certainly help you to improve it.
Also known as the Palace of the Marquesses of Fronteira is work of art worth a visit if you are a fan of architecture and art history, mainly the classic and baroque styles. Since it was built between 1671 and 1672 you can identify many influences of the French and Italian renaissance architecture. Although the luxury of the interiors has received a big influence of the early baroque architecture. Not only the interiors are worthy visiting, but also the gardens of the Palace, for which it’s also famous for. In these geometric gardens you can find many elements characteristic of the neo-classic period such as sculptures, bridges, decorations in tiles (which is also a very common feature in Portuguese architecture) and many lakes.
If you’re coming to Portugal to visit Lisbon, you probably know that the city is known as the “city with seven hills” and that you’ve mentally prepared to climb to high spots to explore the sights. So, it’s no wonder that we suggest you to visit the Torel Garden to enjoy the panoramic view of Lisbon. Lisbon is full of viewpoints to go and enjoy the sights but this one is not visited by many and you can enjoy the city in a more quite space. This is also appropriate to spend an afternoon outdoors it the weather is pleasant. It has cafés and restaurants, but if you want to have a picnic, there are places with shade perfect for that. You can enjoy the garden with its lakes in peace and quiet right in the middle of the city.
Underground Gallery of Loreto
You’re probably surprised by the suggestion of visiting and underground passage, but in reality, if you really want to get a taste of the city and its history, you should visit this gallery. This is one of the five tunnels that made part of the water system for the “Águas Livres Aqueduct”. This aqueduct is famous in Lisbon since it is one to the roman influences that remain from the time of the roman empire and it used to provide water to the entire city of Lisbon. If you decide to visit Lisbon in one of the hottest months (between July and September) you should probably consider taking a walk through these ancient galleries as it will protect you from the heat.
Viewpoint of Nossa Senhora do Monte
The viewpoint of Torel Garden is a good secluded place, but if it’s not convenient for you to go there you can opt for visiting the viewpoint of Nossa Senhora do Monte, located at the “Bairro da Graça” which is also beautiful and not well known. It’s also another place to find some peace and enjoy the superb panoramic view which includes the Castle of St. George, the downtown, the Tagus River, Bairro Alto and the Forest Park of Monsanto. Similar to the Torel Garden there are places to eat and have picnics at this viewpoint, which allows to spend more time there.
These were just a few places in Lisbon that are less known and somewhat hidden from the public that will give you a more genuine feeling of what Lisbon is and what it was in the past. If you already feel comfortable with your level of Portuguese you can to the exploring and discover new places without a touristic guide. The reason for this is that, most guides won’t take you to these places, only going through the most common and popular sightseeing. Another advantage is that you will have more time to explore the places you discover without that rush feeling that you sometimes get when participating in a tour guide group. We strongly recommend you to do this as Lisbon is a city that was founded many centuries ago and has been a stage for many historical events, so only visiting the most popular and touristic places won’t cover half of it. Since you’ll be inserted in a more genuine Portuguese environment, this will give you the opportunity to interact and talk with Portuguese people and learn more about the city directly from them as well as improving your language level along the way.