The dome of Basílica da Estrela
Estrela, located halfway up the hill between São Bento and Campo de Ourique, is home to a beautiful landmark, the domed Basílica da Estrela, which faces one of the city’s most delightful parks, the Jardim da Estrela.
The neighborhood was once home to a sizeable British community, which was mostly made up of merchants. As Anglicans, they weren’t buried in Catholic cemeteries, so the English Cemetery was laid out across from Jardim da Estrela, and is the resting place of two distinguished personalities (see below).
The ceramics-covered Palacete do Visconde de Sacavém on Rua do Sacramento à Lapa
Behind the basilica is the affluent quarter of Lapa, home to several mansions that are now embassies. Most are found down Rua do Sacramento à Lapa, where you see one of the city’s most romantic residences. Known as Palacete do Visconde de Sacavém, it’s on number 24 and was built in the late 1800s, featuring neo-Manueline windows with exuberant ceramics and tiles with naturalistic motifs.
River view from Rua da Lapa
Nearby, on Rua da Lapa, there are river views from the top of its perpendicular streets, which go down the steep hill.
What to See and Do in Estrela
Built in 1790, this basilica houses the tomb of Queen Maria I and a remarkable baroque nativity scene with over 500 terracotta and cork images. Queen Maria I was responsible for its construction, when she gave birth to her son, who she believed was born through divine intervention. A set of steep stairs leads to the roof by the ornate dome, which overlooks the city. It’s one of Lisbon’s main landmarks, and one that most tourists end up visiting, as both trams 25 and 28 stop right outside.
See the Basílica da Estrela Visitor's Guide.
A favorite of local families, who meet around the duck ponds, outdoor cafés, and a wrought-iron bandstand that once stood on Avenida da Liberdade, this park is also a popular picnic spot. It was laid out in a romantic and English style in 1852, with sculptures and exotic plants. It’s officially named after poet Guerra Junqueiro, but everyone knows it as Jardim da Estrela (“Garden of Estrela”). On the first weekend of each month it holds a crafts and design market, and on summer weekends it's often a stage of music festivals.
See the Jardim da Estrela Visitor's Guide.
The resting place of Lisbon’s British (or Anglican) community over the centuries opens in the mornings, to visitors looking for the tomb of its most famous resident, novelist Henry Fielding, author of "Tom Jones". He moved to Lisbon hoping that better weather would give him better health, but ended up dying in the city in 1754. Also buried here (as attested by a plaque) is Thomas Barclay, who was appointed by George Washington as the first American consul in France and Morocco, but died in Lisbon in 1793. Other gravestones reveal a local Anglo-Portuguese culture since the 17th century, with both English and Portuguese surnames, and phrases mixing English and Portuguese words such as "My Ever-Living Saudade."
How to Get to Estrela
Both trams 25 and 28 stop right in front of the basilica, but the fastest way to reach Estrela is taking bus 709. It departs from Restauradores Square downtown, and has Campo de Ourique as its destination, but stops across from Jardim da Estrela and just a few feet from the basilica.
Alternatively, take the metro to Rato (yellow line), and walk up Avenida Álvares Cabral towards the basilica (about 10 minutes away).
You may ride the trams and the metro, as well as the city's buses, funiculars and trains for free with the Lisboa Card.
Where to Stay in Estrela
This grand hotel has welcomed celebrities like Cher, Bono, Sting, Tina Turner, Selena Gomez, Seal and Heidi Klum. It's located in the tranquil residential Lapa neighborhood, in a 19th century palace that served as a noble residence, and is surrounded by a beautiful subtropical garden. All of the 109 rooms are tastefully decorated (in neoclassical or Art Deco styles) and its pool (by a tiled waterfall) is among the best places to relax in Lisbon. Because of the location on a hill, there are city and river views even from the rooms on the lower level. There are many distinctly Portuguese features throughout the building, from the beautiful tile panels to the marble bathrooms, to a fresco by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, who’s considered the greatest Portuguese painter of the 19th century. The restaurant is known to serve some of the most sophisticated Italian/Mediterranean cuisine in the city, and there is also an excellent spa.
Found in a palatial building, this is a small, unique hotel for those looking for tranquility. The interior is by one of Portugal's leading designers (Miguel Câncio Martins), and many of the rooms have views across the city. Because it's connected to a tourism school (it's also a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World), the décor has a school theme mixed with contemporary features. The restaurant serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.