“The ruins proclaim the building was beautiful.” Mohsin Hamid
A trip to Lisbon had been on my bucket list for a while. Once there, I fell completely under its spell. Portugal is a stunning country with so much to see and do. There’s a rustic elegance to Lisbon that feels different than other European cities I’ve visited. There’s no pretense. It’s not trying to be anything more than what it is. Because what it is, is amazing. In a city full of must-sees, one must-see is the Carmo Ruins.
We rented an apartment in the Baixa-Chiado area of the city. The location was perfect and we walked everywhere. I enjoy renting apartments because it lets me indulge in the fantasy that I actually live there.
As we walked to and from our apartment, I kept noticing some skeletal ruins peeking out from behind a building. I was intrigued, but I hadn’t read anything about the Carmo Ruins before our visit. Then I came across some information about the ruins while skimming a travel guide in our apartment. It struck me that they were literally just down the road from where we were staying. We promptly added a visit to our itinerary.
I’m so glad we didn’t miss this beautiful place! So many tourist destinations sort of smack the visitor in the face with long lines, expensive tickets, and stuff to buy. Not here, we walked right in. And we never felt crowded or rushed even with plenty of other visitors.
Carmo Ruins History
The ruins were once the Church of Santa Maria do Carmo. Founded in 1389, the church was known as one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Lisbon until it sustained serious damage in the earthquake of 1755. Reconstruction began in 1756 but was stopped in 1834 when religious orders were abolished in Portugal. The building was never completed but some of the basic structures are intact giving visitors the opportunity to experience a glimpse of what was planned.
The ruins are sparse and I found the space and the monochrome colors to be incredibly peaceful. Just thinking about it now, I sighed and felt myself relax. This lovely spot was one of my favorites attractions in Lisbon.
I find ruins to be kind of dreamy. I get lost in thought while walking where others walked so many years before us and contemplating the amount of work that went into building such elaborate structures. The fact that anything remains after hundreds of years is a testament to the longevity of our world. Especially in our modern times where so many things are disposable. The ruins are an oasis in the midst of the bustle of the city. We took advantage of the seats placed on the front entrance to enjoy the calm and to just feel the sun on our faces.
There is so much beauty here. I love photographing architectural elements and I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. While the arches soaring into the blue sky are the main attraction here, I was also awed by the details on the walls of the ruins.
The open space forced me to not only look but see and react, to what’s around me. A bit of a spiritual experience which we can all use more of, yes?
Plan Your Visit to Carmo Ruins
While I was there to see the ruins, there is also a lovely archaeological museum you can visit. Space is small but still encourages wandering and admiring the many time-worn pieces on display from ruined buildings. I was surprised at how many interesting items there were to see and how much we enjoyed this part of our visit.
This low-key site is definitely a must-see when visiting Lisbon. And at only 4 Euro to enter, it’s a bargain. Located in the center of the tourist area of Lisbon on Largo do Carmo, it’s tucked away on a side street. Opening hours and more information can be found at the Museu Arqueologico Do Carmo website.