Queen Mary I of Portugal built the rococo-style Estrela Basilica (Basílica da Estrela), a church and convent, in the late 1700s to honor the birth of her son, Prince Jose. Unfortunately Prince Jose died two years before the completion of the Lisbon basilica, which is now a memorial to the fallen prince—and the tomb of the grief-stricken queen.
Estrela Basilica’s sugar-white dome and twin bell towers are hard to miss on the city skyline. Its interior is covered in intricate geometric patterns of black, pink, and yellow marble. The famous Nativity scene—500 cork and terracotta figures sculpted by Joaquim Machado de Castro—attracts numerous visitors. Climb the 112 steps to the rococo dome for sweeping Lisbon views.
The basilica is generally included in most hop-on hop-off and tuk-tuk tours. If you want a more intimate experience, book a small-group or private tour to learn more about the basilica and the western neighborhoods of Lisbon.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Estrela Basilica is a must-visit for architecture lovers and religious patrons.
- Visitors generally spend about 30 minutes exploring the basilica.
- Admission to the basilica is free but there are small fees to see the Nativity scene and to access the dome.
- There is no accessible entrance, however the ground floor of the basilica does not have any hindrances for wheelchairs.
How to Get There
The basilica is located at Largo da Estrela, sitting on one of Lisbon’s seven hills. Take the historic tram 25 or 28 to the Estrela stop, or city bus 713, 773, or 774. The closest metro station is Rato, about a 15-minute walk from the church.
When to Get There
The basilica is open from 7:30am to 8pm daily. Though it is rarely crowded, for the most contemplative experience visit in the early morning en route to exploring the nearby historic town of Belem, or in late afternoon before heading to the popular LX Factory in Alcantara.
The Story of the Estrela Basilica
Queen Mary I was the first monarch to rule over all of what is today Portugal and Brazil, and she desperately wanted an heir to the throne. A religious devotee, she prayed to God for a healthy child and, in return, would build the greatest church in Lisbon. Once her son Jose was was born, she immediately began construction on the basilica. Due to its intricate details and grand size, the complex took a long time to construct—and Jose died from smallpox before its completion.