Refugees and spies in Lisbon

During World War II Lisbon became the „waiting room“ for refugees and was also one of the many stages of international espionage.

Private und exclusive Tour

Praça Marquês Pombal or Hotel (in Lisbon)
3 Stunden
Max. 5
Level 1 – Easy

Level 1 – Easy: Flat terrain without obstacles. Wheelchair accessible. Duration 2h

Level 2 – Easy to Moderate : Mainly flat terrain (about 70% flat), gentle climbs and descents. Some steps. Wheelchair accessible only with the help of a third party. Duration is around 2 to 3 hours.

Level 3 – Moderate: Terrain about 40 to 60% flat. Moderate climbs and descents. Steps. not wheelchair accessible. Duration 3 hours 

Level 4 – Demanding: Terrain about 20% to 40% flat. Some steep climbs and descends. Steps and uneven surfaces. Recommend for fit travelers. Duration between 3 to 5 hours.

Level 5 – Difficult: Rolling and often steep terrain, 10 to 20% flat terrain. Uneven surfaces. Recommended for travelers used to hiking tours in nature. 


Leonor Abrantes

Leonor Abrantes

Take a deep dive into the history of the war and the neutrality of Lisbon with our 3-hour tour “Refugees and spies in Lisbon”.

During the 2nd World War Portugal was under the dictatorship of António Oliveira Salazar and remained neutral during the conflict. Between 1932 and 1945 the country, particularly Lisbon, received thousands of refugees looking to escape the war and the nazi persecution, waiting for a visa to departure Europe.

During those years Lisbon became the „waiting room“ or the „sad paradise“ for the refugees but was also one of the many stages of international espionage. Spies of different nationalities, British, German, and American roamed the city and its surroundings under the surveillance of the Portuguese political police.

The route starts next to Marquês de Pombal, close to the location of the Hotel Aviz, at the time, one of the most renowned hotels in the capital. Crossing the avenue we find the pensions and assistance organizations that helped the refugees in a strange land.

On this guided tour, we highlight the policy of the Estado Novo toward the refugees and glimpse the shadow of the various spies that crossed the city. In the old cafes of the city, such as Café Chave d’Ouro or Pastelaria Suiça, news of the war was received with excitement, and the presence of spies from both belligerent camps was feared. Also, the threat of the invasion of Portugal by the Axis forces, broke the normality in the Portuguese capital, with different monuments and important buildings to be covered and protected in case of an eventual bombing.

Different international personalities visited Lisbon or were forced to stay in the city for long weeks. Josephine Baker, Alfred Döblin, and Leslie Howard, among others, were some of those who traveled to Portugal. They wrote about the city and its inhabitants and caused surprise and shock to the Portuguese mentality.

Come with us and discover the city of Lisbon of the late 1930s and 1940s.

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