At the terminal of the Lisbon Metro’s Yellow Line, Odivelas is an outlying northern suburb of Portugal’s capital. There’s a monastery in Odivelas, founded by a 14th-century King and moments away is the Monteiro-Mor palace, containing two superb museums and with calm botanical gardens in its grounds. Via the Metro you’ll have all of northern Lisbon in your grasp, and its array of sporting arenas, national museums and shopping destinations.
Go a bit further and you’ll be in the centre of Lisbon, in colourful, tangled neighbourhoods with boutiques and the sound of fado music on the air, or down on the waterfront where people like Christopher Columbus moored their ships in the Age of Discovery.
Lets explore the best things to do in Odivelas:
1. Monastery of São Dinis de Odivelas
There’s a piece of Portuguese royal history at this monastery in the middle of Odivelas.
This was founded by King Denis I, himself a Cistercian, at the turn of the 14th century.
The 1755 earthquake took its toll, but there are still lots of original Gothic elements in the cloister, the main facade and the chapels around the apse.
The unmissable feature is the Gothic tomb of the king, who died in 1325. His daughter Princess Maria Afonso is also buried in the church.
A lovely element from the 18th-century rebuild is the refectory, which has azulejos on the walls and wooden panels on its ceiling.
2. Parque do Monteiro-Mor
The Palácio do Monteiro-Mor stands in 11 hectares of grounds, and these are divided into a botanical garden in the lower section and forest area up the hill.
The botanical garden dates to the 1700s when it was planted by the Italian botanist Domenico Vandelli under the orders of the Marquis of Angeja who owned the estate.
This is in a free, English style, which was in fashion at the time, and has fountains, boxwood and flowerbeds with roses, hydrangeas, amaryllis and many more.
Exotic tree species from the New World were also planted in the forest like cypresses, aurocarias, acacias and a giant sequoia.
3. Museu Nacional do Traje
One of two museums to occupy the Monteiro-Mor Palace, the National Costume Museum maps the history of fashion in Portugal from the 1700s to the present day.
Most of the attention is on women’s clothing from the 18th and 19th century, and these lovingly tailored dresses and corsets were once worn by aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie.
There’s also some menswear, mostly from the early 20th century when wealthy Portuguese men were apt to dress in silk and linen.
The palace’s Rococo interior design complements the displays with tile panels and moulded plasterwork.
4. Museu Nacional do Teatro e da Dança
In the palace’s modernised wing, this museum, which opened in 1985, deals with Portuguese theatre and dance, paying tribute to its most celebrated figures and productions.
The collection is immense and counts around 260,000 pieces.
These are displayed on rotation and include props, programs, costumes, model sets, backdrops, posters, leaflets puppets and a lot more memorabilia from the 1700s to the 1900s.
There’s also a huge archive of 25,000 photographs of productions since the 19th century, to round the experience off for theatre fans.
You can visit this and the costume museum on a combined ticket or with the Lisboa Card.
If you catch the Metro down to Campo Grande, Saldanha or Marquês de Pombal you can change for the Green, Red or Blue Lines, opening up the entire city.
The hardest bit will be knowing where to begin.
There are world-beating attractions and museums like the Oceanarium (Red Line), National Tile Museum (Blue Line) and the new Time Out Market (Green Line). But a lot of the magic of Lisbon is setting off on foot and seeing what you’ll bump into at neighbourhoods like Bairra Alta and Alfama or the waterfront at Cais do Sodré.
Each quarter has enough for at least a day, to give you a sense of how much there is waiting for you in Portugal’s capital!
6. Museu da Cidade
Another noble property nearby houses another museum.
In this case it’s the Palácio Pimenta, commissioned by King John V in the 1740s.
Despite its royal purpose the design of this palace is quite restrained on the outside, with little more than wrought iron balconies and a pair of pilasters either side of the door.
In front there’s a charming formal garden with trimmed hedges.
Inside there’s a huge assortment of archaeology from prehistory to the 1900s, paintings, drawings and a mysterious lapidary collection.
There’s also a scale model of Lisbon from before the 1755 earthquake.
These displays mingle with the interior decor, which is exquisite and has many tile panels lining the walls.
7. Estádio José Alvalade
One of Portugal’s Big Three football teams plays its home games a few minutes from Odivelas.
Sporting Lisbon are a little less successful than Benfica and Porto, but have still won the Primeira Liga 18 times and won the cup in 2015. Some of Portugal’s greats have donned the iconic green and white strip, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo.
And 10 of the 14 victorious players who appeared in the Euro 2016 final came through Sporting’s academy.
The stadium is a marvel, able to seat more than 50,000, and you can combine a tour with a visit to the museum, which has silverware and shirts worn by stars like Ronaldo and Nani.
8. Museu Bordalo Pinheiro
Close to the stadium, a ten-minute Metro ride from Odivelas, is a museum for the cherished 19th-century artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro.
He is loved for his caricatures, which he moulded into ceramics, and is often considered Portugal’s first comic illustrator.
There’s a large trove of his ceramics here, shaped into grotesques, or with turkeys, boars, ducks and chickens in his inimitable style.
Also on display are wonderful tiles, paintings and sketches, all opening a window on 19th century popular culture in Portugal.
The museum is in a house that was owned by the artist’s son, Manuel Gustavo.
9. Centro Colombo
Easier by road, this immense shopping centre is one of the largest in the Lisbon Area, and is practically a tourist attraction in its own right.
That’s partly due to the design, which recalls the Age of Discovery, when Portuguese expeditions in the 15th and 16th centuries gave the country the upper hand in world affairs.
There are 404 shops in all so there’s everything you could want within reason here.
And, maybe best of all, you can work your shopping trip around your schedule as the mall stays open until midnight.
If you have kids and teenagers in tow you can park them at the “Fun Zone”, which has amusements like air hockey, table football and even an indoor rollercoaster to keep them entertained.
10. Museu da Música
Close to Centro Colombo is Portugal’s National Music Museum, which , like the theatre and costume museums, is a wonderland for people with a passion for the field.
This holds one of the largest collections of antique instruments in Europe, with more than a thousand in its showcases.
Some of these go back to the 1500s, and though these are mostly European, there are also examples from Africa and Asia.
Some are extremely rare and precious, like the Boisselot & Fils piano Franz Liszt brought with him to Lisbon from France, or the Stradivarius cello owned by King Luís I in the 19th century.
11. Lisbon Zoo
The specialty museums around Odivelas will have experts purring, but might not be ideal for younger tourists.
But one attraction that will surely meet their approval is Lisbon’s fab zoo, sprawling over expansive parkland in the northwest of the city.
The zoo has more than 2,000 animals from all environments and areas of the planet; by way of introduction, there are Californian sea lions, Madagascan lemurs, pelicans from Asia, chimpanzees and gorillas from Africa, and that’s hardly scratching the surface.
There’s also a petting zoo with Portuguese farmyard animals, and a cable-car will lift you on a 20-minute ride with views of the zoo’s enclosures and Lisbon’s cityscape.
12. Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Calouste Gulbenkian was an enigmatic character, an Armenian-Briton who became fabulously wealthy when he helped pioneer oil exploitation in the Middle East.
And he spent the first decades of the 20th century investing that money in an art collection that needs to be seen to be believed.
There are treasures from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, arranged chronologically and according to where they originated.
And then in a separate circuit you’ll be confronted by a jaw-dropping array of art, with paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet and Degas, sculpture by Rodin and applied arts by René Lalique, to name but a few.
13. Nossa Senhora Rosario de Fatima
As you work your way down towards the centre of Lisbon you enter the Avenidas Novas (New Avenues) parish.
This was the name given to the new developments in the 19th and early 20th centuries, made up of wide avenues cutting through former countryside and edged with bold new buildings.
Maybe the most ostentatious of these is this Art Deco church from the 1930s.
It’s an awe-inspiring building that could be a temple from a dystopian movie.
Best of all are the Futurist stained glass windows designed by the artist José de Almada Negreiros.
14. Campo Pequeno
Another of the imposing constructions in Avenidas Novas is the city’s bullring.
This was built from red brick at the start of the 1890s and is in the Neo-Moorish style.
Portuguese bullfighting differs from Spanish and French in that the bull isn’t killed in the end.
This tradition goes back to the 1820s and began with a decree by King Miguel I. But it’s not all about bullfighting at this venue; you can catch live music, while high-profile musical theatre shows also have runs here.
Underneath there’s a handy shopping centre.
15. Reservatório da Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras
One way to get to grips with Lisbon is to understand its historic water supply problems, and the astonishing projects completed in the 18th and 19th centuries to solve them.
The Mãe d’Água is the beautifully designed reservoir where the 19-kilometre-long Águas Livres Aqueduct would deposit its water.
This colossal structure was no longer needed after the 1960s, but you can go in to admire the vaults, columns and water tank 7.5 metres deep and still filled with transparent water.
You can also climb the aqueduct and walk a kilometre-long stretch from Calçada da Quintinha, a little way northwest of the reservoir.