Lisbon is a fun city to explore, but with so many options, it can be difficult to figure out the real must-dos; especially when some of the best bits aren’t super obvious. With one week in Portugal, I only spent three days in Lisbon. And while I crammed those three days as full as I could, I still missed a few things. Which is why I asked some fellow travellers to share their favourite things about Lisbon to create this article. From attractions and sights to food and drink, and even day trips; here are the best things to do in Lisbon.
Best Things to do in Lisbon: Attractions
The Iconic Tram 28
One of the most iconic things about Lisbon is the quaint yellow trams and a ride on Tram 28 really is one of the best things to do in Lisbon. Hop on this tram to go on a classic route across the popular neighbourhoods of the city, taking in views of the sea, colourful houses, and old streets. An adventure awaits you at the top of the hill as you get off at Alfama to get great views over Lisbon and then walk up to the São Jorge Castle. Prepare to stand in a crowded tram if you get on this route in the middle of the day; a lot of people use the tram due to its connectivity and popularity. The best way to avoid the crowds and get a seat might be to start early. Trams run from 7 am to 10 pm and while a single ticket costs almost 3 Euros, a 24 hour ticket costs about 6 Euros. If you’d like to cover the complete route (and get a seat), start your journey from one of the departure points; either Martim Moniz or Campo Ourique. –from: Europe Diaries
Lisbon is popularly also known as the seven hills and it is no wonder that there are so many viewpoints around the city. These viewpoints are known as Miradouros in Portugal and seeing the views from these locations are one of the must do things in Lisbon. It is difficult to choose a favourite after visiting so many of them in Lisbon; the gorgeous views of the brown tiled houses around the city can never get boring. Many of them have free entrances while some of these Miradouros charge a small entry fee. If you are in Lisbon, don’t forget to check Miradouro da Portas Do Sol, Santa Justa Elevator, Sao Jorge Castle, View from the top of Age of Discoveries monument, and the view from Santa Engracia church. Also, don’t forget to check some of these Miradouros at night. –from: Travel, Books, and Food
São Jorge Castle
A historic moorish castle perched on a hilltop, São Jorge Castle offers stunning views over the city and a lot to see and explore. You need to purchase a ticket to enter the grounds which will allow you to explore the gardens, ruins of the palace, a terrace miradouro, and of course the castle itself. A visit to São Jorge Castle is definitely one of the top things to do in Lisbon.
If you thought you had to go all the way to Brazil to see the towering majesty of this statue, you’d be wrong. Lisbon is home to its very own imposing statue, called Cristo Rei, along the banks of the River Tejo. You’ll want to visit for the stunning views, where the city spreads out like an ant farm beneath you and the breadth of the iconic 25 de Abril Bridge looks inviting and rosy. Like almost any famous spot, though, it can get crowded. Skip the tours in any case, this site is incredibly easy to reach by public transport. In my opinion, the Cais do Sodre ferry is the hands down winner for getting there. The ferry ride is relaxed and you might get the best shot you’ll take of the statue from its deck. Board at the terminal and make for Cacilhas – it takes less than a half hour. When you land, walk up the sandy hill and get your head for heights together for the lift that will take you to the statue’s viewing platform. It costs a few euros, whereas getting wowed from the ground level is free, but it’s definitely worth it. –from: Live in 10 Countries
Fronteira Palace is one of my all-time favourite hidden gems of Lisbon. You can choose to visit just the gardens of the palace or to visit both the interior and the exterior. Fronteira Palace isn´t a big palace, its architecture is nowhere near as magnificent as Pena Palace in Sintra. But this red mansion has its very own charm. It has sumptuous interiors and delightful gardens of Italian inspiration on the outside. This property has been in the family of the Marqueses de Fronteira for 13 generations so far and it remains till today the residence of the family. Of all the rooms inside the palace, one of my favourites is Sala das Batalhas (Battles room), where 8 episodes of the Restoration War are portrayed.
Fun fact: Did you know that Fronteira Palace garden was one of the chosen to appear on the top 250 list, in the prestigious book “The Gardener”s Garden”? – from: Heart of Everywhere
For me, one of the best things to do in Lisbon is to visit Carmo Convent. Located in the historic centre of Baixa, Carmo Convent was originally built in 1389. It was once Lisbon’s largest church, with a library that held 5000 books, but after the devastating earthquake of 1755 is was nearly all but destroyed. But the ruins of this once grand Gothic church are hauntingly beautiful. With an entrance that leads you down a berth of stone steps, you can’t help but bring your gaze upward to the open sky above. All that remains of the roof are the majestic arches that now frame the sky.
What was once the main altar now houses an archaeological museum. Here you’ll discover an assortment of strange and striking pieces, including; South America mummies, shrunken heads, and impressive tiled art. And if you’re looking for the best time to visit, try visiting in the late afternoon, between 3 – 5pm, and you’ll have the place to yourself! A visit here is definitely one of the top things to do in Lisbon. – from: The World As I See It
Wander Down The Pink Street
Cais do Sodre, located near the old port used to be the red-light district of Lisbon. The daily business consisted of thieves, weird guys lurking around and prostitutes. Fortunately, this has changed, well, almost: There are still nightclubs, bars and drunk people that walk around at night, however, the area had a huge revival in 2011: Rua Nova da Carvalho was painted pink and became one of the hotspots for tourists that are looking for creative pictures. To be honest, the colour looks a bit kitschy and even unreal, but taking photos here is still one of the top things to do in Lisbon. Today, the once shabby places have made space for fancy and cozy restaurants, bars and taverns. Cais do Sodre has become one of the most popular areas of Lisbon in such a short time that some locals even call it a «rebirth». The Pink street is located extremely close to the city center and is reachable by walking in under 10 minutes from the Commerce Square or, even better, in three minutes after a meal in the TimeOut Market. -from Michael Gerber
The LX Factory
Águas Livres Aqueduct
Just a little outside the centre of the city rests the mighty remains of the Águas Livres Aqueduct.
Perhaps it’s the aqueduct’s location that means it receives fewer visitors than most Lisbon sights. This immense landmark was built under the guidance of King John V back in the 18th century because the city of Lisbon was in dire need of drinking water. The full aqueduct actually spans around 58km, but for visitors to Lisbon, the centrepiece in the Campolide district is the nearest part. It is said to be an exquisite example of baroque architectural infrastructure which is why it is currently on the tentative list for UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The aqueduct is able to be visited and crossed as part of a visit to the Museu da Água. If you climb up to the end of the aqueduct that leads into the Alto da Serafina park, you’re treated to some spectacular views along the aqueduct and out over the city to the Tagus River. That being said, the aqueduct itself is most impressive from below, as its arches loom high above you. All in all, a magnificent sight and a monumental feat of engineering. –From: Travelsewhere
Sail the Targas River
I visited Lisbon with kids and one of our absolute favourite experiences was a sailing cruise on the Tagus river. It’s such a relaxing way to see some of Lisbon’s main landmarks from the water. Our yacht sailed in the direction of Belem district where we could admire the Monument of the Discoveries, Jeronimos Monastery, and of course the beautiful Tower of Belem. We could even see the Cristo Rei statue in the distance.
There are several companies offering sailing tours in Lisbon, I recommend booking a sunset sailing tour. I can’t imagine a better way to end a day in Lisbon than sipping a glass of wine on the deck of a yacht while watching the sunset over this beautiful city. *TIP: if you are traveling with a big family or a group of friends, it may be worthwhile booking a private sailing tour. The prices are very reasonable and it’s an activity the whole family will love. –from: Full Suitcase
The National Coach Museum
The National Coach Museum is the world’s first Coach Museum and one of the most unique things to do in Lisbon. It was constructed in 1905, ordered by Queen Amelia, Princess of France who married King Carlos I of Portugal. In 1908 the King was shot and Queen Amelia became the last queen of Portugal. The museum was constructed in the Royal Riding School and later it was relocated, although you can still visit the old riding school. The museum accommodates exhibitions of horse-drawn vehicles, coaches, from the 16th to the 19h century, until the use of motor vehicles. While visiting the museum you will have the opportunity to see the elaborated vehicles of the Royal House of Portugal, even the vehicle where our last king was shot, with the shooting holes. The coach of King Felipe III of Spain ( king Felipe II of Portugal) and even field beds. Besides the Coaches, you will find other articles connected to the equestrian arts and games. A visit to the museum is an afternoon well spent, you will learn about all type coaches and about Portuguese history. The price to the museum is 8€ and the royal riding school is 4 € (10€ if you but to both). The museum is on walking distance from Jeronimos Monastery (10 min). -from: Travel Drafts
The National Azulejo Museum
Azulejos are the beautiful tiles that Portugal is so famous for. The collection here is stunning, and showcases tiles from the 15th century onwards. The museum is set in the Madre de Deus Convent which is equally stunning and provides a gorgeous atmpshere for this popular Portugese museum. If you love Portugal’s Azulejo’s, then a visit to this museum is one of the top things in Lisbon.
Get Lost in the Alfama District
The Alfama district was my favourite to explore. Narrow, winding, cobblestone streets, family run restaurants, and great viewpoints. In a big city like Lisbon, it can be hard to find ‘local’ spots, but as I stepped aside for little old ladies, and dodged a few running childen, I felt like I had found the real Lisbon in this district. There are a few attractions here such as Se Cathedral, the Feira da Ladra Fle Market (Tuesdays and Sundays), and São Jorge Castle that may be of interest, but the real charm here is just putting down the map and exploring. Wandering through the Alfama District is a must-do when it comes to the best things to do in Lisbon.
Things to do in Lisbon: Food& Drink
Try Plenty of Pasteis De Nata
1. Pastéis de Belém – Rua Belém 84-92 – Lisbon
2. Confeitaria Nacional – Praça da Figueira 18B – Lisbon
Eat Petiscos at By the Wine
You may be familiar with tapas, which is the Spanish expression for little bites or
snacks. But, do you know about petiscos? Petiscos are part of Portugal’s gastronomy
and they are Portugal’s answer to Spanish tapas. They are also small bites, but
generally small versions of large plates. Eaten in social settings, you can expect to find sardines, codfish or bacalhau, local sausage, regional cheeses, all washed down with delicious Portuguese wines. Petiscos are trendy in Lisbon and can be found at restaurants as appetizers and most
commonly at Tascas, which are traditional taverns or cafés. One of the best places in Lisbon for petiscos is “By The Wine José Maria da Fonseca.” Located in the trendy Chiado neighbourhood, this is the flagship store of the famous Portuguese winemaker José Maria da Fonseca. Try the black pig Iberico ham and other cold meats served on fresh bread from Algarve and don’t forget to indulge in Portuguese sweets and pastries paired with a traditional dessert wine. -from: Authentic Food Quest
Take a Break at Quiosque do Carmo
Cool Down with Gelato from Gelateria Nannarella
I visited Lisbon in 2015 to attend a friend’s wedding and fell in love with the city at first glance. One particular experience that stayed with me was eating some delicious gelato at Gelateria Nannarella at R. Nova da Piedade 64, 1200-263 Lisboa, Portugal. They are famous for making their gelatos with quality ingredients and their scoops are reasonably priced. You can request either a cup or a cone for your gelato. There are several fruit flavours offered, so you will be spoiled for choice. Although there is no place to sit inside in this tiny gelateria, one can easily enjoy the ice cream in a nearby park like we did.– from: Year of the Monkey
Time Out Market
Lisbon certainly has no shortage of fantastic restaurants, bars and cafes. Time Out Market Lisboa, which opened in 2014 in the Cais do Sodré neighbourhood, helps narrow down the options for you by putting more 32 of the city’s best – along with numerous meat, fish and vegetable vendors as well as a live music venue – under one roof. During my second trip back to Lisbon this past June, I spent an evening sampling many of the market’s offerings with a group of friends. I was surprised that despite the warm summer weather we struggled to find enough space to stand inside the historic hall while we stuffed our faces with burgers, sushi, and pizza, and consumed glass after glass of beer and wine (both local and imported). Just like the city’s more traditional establishments, there’s an incredible energy within Time Out Market that not only makes you want to slow down and enjoy the experience but also keeps you coming back time and time again. Grabbing a meal (or several) here is definitely one of the top things to do in Lisbon. from- A Traveling Life
Lisbon Sardine Festival (The Feast of Saint Anthony)
Every year, from June 12-14, Lisbon honors St. Anthony of Padua with the Lisbon Sardine Festival – the biggest block party in the city. There are massive parties on many street corners, parades, and makeshift grill stations and bars that sell Portuguese sardines, beer, and sangria. It’s an all night party that doesn’t end till sunrise.Why sardines? Because they are associated with the poor and St. Anthony, a Franciscan, took a vow of poverty.
Tips for attending:
- Weather: At night, it’ll be around 16-20C.
- Smells: Your clothing will reek of grilled fish by morning!
- Money: Bring small bills, coins, a debit card, and a color copy of your ID. No credit cards.
- Safety: Pickpockets are not a huge problem, but just know they are there.
- Toilets: There are very few public toilets. We saw dozens of men & women duck into alleys to relieve themselves. And it seemed acceptable.
So, go! The Lisbon Sardine Festival was one of the best festivals we’ve ever attended. The whole city celebrates, with some neighborhoods so packed they can be difficult to navigate. It is a blast! – from: The RTW Guys
Order a Bica at Café A Brasileira
Sipping on good coffee is a key part of everyday Portuguese life and a great way of observing people in Lisbon. The Café A Brasileira (Rua Garret 122) in the chic Chiado quarter of the city, is one of Portugal’s best-known cafés.The eye-catching Art Nouveau façade gives way to atmospheric Art Deco interiors featuring mirrored walls, oak panelling and brass fittings. The Café A Brasileira first opened its doors in 1905 to sell coffee imported from Brazil. It lays claim to being the first place that espresso-style bica coffee was served. Rich in flavour, that is now the typical Portuguese way of serving the drink.
Ordering a bica at the Café A Brasileira is more than merely sitting down for a coffee, it’s a way of experiencing Lisbon’s heritage. Outside on the terrace, you’ll see a bronze statue of a bespectacled, poet Fernando Pessoa, who drank regularly at the café. Travellers regularly pose for photos next to him. Choosing to sit on the terrace means you can view the nearby statue of another poet, António Ribeiro, the man nicknamed Chiado. It’s in his honour that this part of Lisbon is named. -from: Go Eat Do
Dinner and Fado in Barrio Alto
Bairro Alto has established itself as one of the liveliest neighbourhoods to find yourself for a night out in Lisbon, but it’s worth knowing about a great place to kickstart your evening in the area before you start exploring the bars. I stumbled upon Patio di Bairro because my friends and I were staying just outside and we saw some very manly looking men standing outside wearing frilly pinafore-style aprons. We were naturally intrigued! Indeed inside the mostly all male staff were wearing aprons and proceeded to treat us to some excellent service and great Portuguese food. The atmosphere was welcoming and lively and as we tucked into our main course, a live performance of Fado music with both a male and female singer began. If you’ve never heard Fado before it’s a really emotion-driven way of singing, usually only accompanied by a guitar, and even though we didn’t understand a word it felt like we knew the singer’s pain and experience. We stayed long after our food was finished but nobody seemed to mind and they kept the sangria coming! It was the perfect start to a night out in Bairro Alto. -from: As the Bird Flies
Party at Park Bar (If you can find it!)
Have you been sightseeing all day and need a place to kick back and relax in Lisbon? Then head to Park Bar in the Barrio Alto neighborhood. That’s if you can find it of course! This “speakeasy style” bar has no official website, no sign, and can be very tricky to locate. The locals don’t even want to tell you where it is, just to see if you can find it.
After arriving at what you think is the address, you will see a sign for a parking garage. The bar is located on the roof of that parking garage. I don’t want to give away too much, you will just have to find your way up to the top on your own! Once at the top you will be greeted by a chill vibe. 20-30 something year old’s, listening to beats, drinking cocktails and dancing into the night. from: Jet Set and Forget
Best Day Trips from Lisbon
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of colorful Sintra, especially of the famous Pena Palace, somewhere on Instagram already – this place is one of the most picturesque spots of Portugal! Luckily, you can visit Sintra easily as a daytrip from Lisbon.
There are many (mostly overpriced) tour operators offering a daytrip to Sintra, however it’s also very easy to visit on your own. You can reach the village of Sintra by train from Lisbon – trains run regularly and the journey only takes half an hour. There are several places to visit, with the Pena Palace, Moorish Castle and the Palace of Sintra as the most popular destinations. Each sight has an extra entrance fee. From the train station of Sintra, there’s public transport available with a bus connecting the popular sights. Moorish Castle and Pena Palace are located on top of a hill, it’s also possible to hike up there if you’re looking for a nice workout on your daytrip to Sintra. The hiking trail is quite steep, but it’s doable and a nice experience, with great views on the countryside. Keep in mind that Sintra is a very popular tourist destination and especially in summer during main season, it will be very crowded and full of tourists. Therefore, try to leave Lisbon as early as possible in order to beat the crowds. There are also many other less-known destinations around Sintra, so if you got enough time, you could also spend a night in the village to explore a little bit more of the area. -from: German Backpacker
It’s hard to find a city that would make as pretty of a painting as Cascais. And for a city once revered as a retreat for Portuguese royals, Cascais feels surprisingly unpretentious with chipping tilework, family-owned restaurants, and yesterday’s laundry hung out to dry. The city is just 30km outside of Lisbon and can make for an easy retreat from all things urban. Go for the day to hang out on the beach, go for a surf, feast on seafood, eat too much ice cream, and watch the sunset at the infamous Boca do Inferno; there are plenty of things to do in Cascais. It’s the cutest Portuguese town you’ve (probably) never heard of, and well worth the day trip from Lisbon. -from: Travel Outlandish
Located south of the river from Lisbon, Seixal is a great place to spend a day outside of the hustle and bustle of the big city. This tiny town is a just a ferry ride away from the capital (find the schedule here). A land of fishermen a thousand years ago, modern Seixal has undergone a number of transformations. In the 15th century the shipyards spring up and it was from here, Seixal, that Vasco da Gama built vessels for his trip to India. By the 18th century, the place became a retreat for the aristocratic crowd from Lisbon. By the end of the 19th century, Seixal became known as a center for cork and wool production. The Mundet Cork Factory closed its doors in 1988, but the name hasn’t disappeared from Seixal. Do not miss a chance to enjoy an excellent lunch at Mundet Factory Restaurant. After that, burn some calories by exploring the quaint narrow streets and admire colorful azulejos. From there, walk toward Quinta da Fidalga; dating back to the 15th century, it is one of the oldest and best-preserved estates in the region. Stroll along the water and have a glass of an excellent local wine at Lisboa à Vista and, in the summertime when days get longer, you can witness amazing sunsets and still catch the last ferry back to Lisbon. –from: Traveling Bytes
Belem is just a short tram ride (Tram #15) from Lisbon city centre. It’s a fun place to explore for a day, or even half a day, with plenty to see and do including:
Jeronimos Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 16th century located in the Lisbon neighborhood of Belem. It was the home of the monks of the Order of St Jerome until the order was dissolved in 1833. Then, the monastery became a school and orphanage until about 1940. The Monastery is popular so I suggest you buy a combined ticket for the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery to skip the line at one attraction. You can understand why the building took nearly 100 years to be completed, there are so many intricate details. The gardens outside the Monastery are beautiful too. Inside, we first visited the Cloisters. Be sure to peek into the confessionals and go upstairs for a better view.
Lastly, we visited the Church of Santa Maria de Belém which is connected to Jeronimos Monastery. On the ground floor level, you can find the ornate tombs of some important figures from Portugal’s history including King Manual I, Vasco da Gama (an explorer), and Luís de Camões (poet). -from: Two Traveling Texans
Have you been to Lisbon? What would you add to this list?
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