Known for its rich, diverse, and interesting history, Lisbon is over 3,000 years old. Many different cultures have inhabited the city over its history. Its unique cultural melting pot makes it one of the most charming and beautiful cities in Europe. Its seven hills, narrow streets, beautiful architecture, brightly colored houses, and excellent weather will leave you in awe. You’ll be planning your next getaway in no time, with so many excellent things to do in Lisbon.
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Best Time to Visit Lisbon
Locals will argue that you can visit Lisbon at any time! Despite this truth, there are some months of the year during which newcomers will have a better time experiencing the city for the first time.
Lisbon is best visited in the spring and fall since the weather is still pleasant, hotels are more affordable, and fewer tourists are there than during the summer. It’s also possible to go to the beach during these seasons. During the summer months, temperatures rise excessively, beaches are crowded, prices rise, and tourists flock to the area.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Where is the best place to stay in Lisbon for first-time visitors? The best areas for those seeking a central location are Chiado, Baixa, Principe Real, Bairro Alto, and maybe Alfama. You will be within walking distance of major landmarks, restaurants, and shops in these neighborhoods.
Best Things to do in Lisbon
1. Discover Lisbon’s History on a Free Walking Tour
Taking a free walking tour is the best way to get to know a new city. You can join them for free (just remember to tip your guide)! You’ll get a feel for a new city on a walking tour, learn some history, and discover some places that a local would know about. My previous experiences have shown me that guides are able to provide lesser-known facts and personal anecdotes that help to enhance an experience.
2. Sample local delicacies
The food and wine of Portugal are among the most coveted in Western Europe. In addition to the obvious contenders such as Italy and France, I’ve tasted some amazing food in Portugal. Surely you ought to try Pastéis de Nata, the incredibly yummy egg-based tarts that are delicious with a cup of coffee and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Among the nation’s most popular dishes, you should try Portuguese chorizo, salted cod, bifanas, and chicken piri piri.
Portuguese cuisine is not the only type worth trying in Portugal. A variety of ethnic cuisines are available as well. Portugal used to be a colonial power, which makes it the perfect destination for cuisine from countries like Mozambique, Angola, and Brazil. It’s also good to eat Indian food there – Goa used to be a colony.
You can make sure you try everything Lisbon has to offer by taking a food tour. Guides will ensure you sample a variety of Portuguese delicacies and other foods the city is known for.
3. See astonishing viewpoints
Miradouro, in Portuguese, means ‘view point’. There are 13 scenic overlooks scattered throughout the city, and many of them have terraces with breathtaking views. This isn’t surprising considering the fact that Lisbon stands on seven hills.
Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte (for the best sunsets in Lisbon), Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara (for spectacular views of Sao Jorge Castle), and Miradouro das Portas do Sol (for great views of Alfama rooftops) are among the most popular miradoures in Lisbon.
4. Tour the Tower of Belém
In Belém, near the mouth of the Tagus River, stands the Torre de Belém. Because it is the city’s most iconic symbol, it is, of course, one of the best things to do in Lisbon. Originally intended as a lighthouse, King Manuel I had the tower built as a defensive fortress.
At the time it was erected in 1521, it was a great deal farther from the shore than it is now. As a result of the 1755 earthquake, the course of the river changed, and the land was reclaimed on the north bank in the 19th century which narrowed the river.
The Belém Tower was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Lisbon. The narrow walkway off Belém esplanade leads to this unique Manueline treasure.
Kids will enjoy hiding and seeking among the parapets on the narrow spiral staircases. In the minds of adults, this landmark commemorates the achievements of Portugal’s most brave navigators, who set out five hundred years ago from near it to chart new lands.
5. Take a walk around Alfama
The steep, hillside neighborhood of Alfama, with its cobblestone streets and historic houses, borders the Tejo Estuary and the Castelo de So Jorge. Several of Lisbon’s most important historic buildings are located in such a diverse and charismatic area. The Se Cathedral, the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the Panteao Nacional, and the Igreja de Santo Antônio are some of them.
Alfama was historically a poor section of Lisbon, filled with filth and poverty. Despite Lisbon’s development as a major seaport, the district remained the tough, impoverished quarter where sailors and dock workers lived. Despite its reputation for grimy rabble-rousing, Alfama has emerged as a trendy and artisanal district. The neighborhood has, fortunately, managed to preserve its rich history and unique culture.
You can best explore Alfama by getting lost among its maze of alleyways and streets. At every corner or steep ascent, you will find a charming plaza, a trendy café, an independent shop, or a panoramic viewpoint. Exploring Alfama on foot is undoubtedly one of the best ways to experience Lisbon.
6. Ride the Bica Funicular
Lisbon’s Bica Funicular, also known as the Elevador da Bica, is a funicular railway line connecting the Rua de Sao Paulo to the Calçada do Combro / Rua do Loreto.
Lisbon vacation photos are synonymous with yellow funiculars. You will not be able to escape them. Local residents originally built the funicular to help them climb a hill in the Santa Caterina neighborhood. Apart from that, it’s also become a popular tourist attraction, ranking as one of the best things to do in Lisbon to discover life as a local.
7. Explore the Castelo de São Jorge
Formerly a Moorish castle, Sao Jorge has been so heavily altered by successive occupants that little remains of its original structure. It has not lost much of its splendor, though, since it served as a royal palace for over a century.
Regardless, the castle’s most captivating aspect is its panoramic city views. It is from here that you can snap in a picture of the patchwork of terracotta roofs that line narrow, meandering paths in Lisbon.
Romans built the great citadel over 2,000 years ago, overlooking the streets of the old Alfama District. The development of the city was overseen by successive rulers, from the Berbers to the Reconquista knights. Among its fortifications are mighty ramparts, intricately carved towers, and a dry moat.
8. Check out the Museu Nacional do Azulejo
If you love Portuguese tiles, the National Tile Museum is a great place to visit just 15 minutes outside of downtown Lisbon. You can learn about Portugal’s rich history while seeing some of the oldest preserved tiles in the country.
In Iberia, tile making and its related technologies can be traced back to the time of the Moors. As you can imagine, the traditional cobalt azulejos are the main draw of the museum. Ceramic art made this country famous for its craftsmanship.
Learn about the enchanting ornamental designs adorning their cerulean surfaces and observe a variety of types, sizes, and designs. In the heat of Lisbon during the summer months, it’s the perfect way to cool off. It’s also a great place for photos.
9. Grab a snack at Time Out Market
There are many fine dining options in Lisbon. In addition to checking out some amazing restaurants in Lisbon, Time Out Market is a unique experience that everyone should enjoy while in the city! It’s also a great option for travelers exploring on a budget.
In the market, there are two levels, each offering its own unique interpretation of Lisbon food and culture. Every morning, you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables being sold downstairs. You must get there early to beat the crowds if you are cooking from a vacation rental or Airbnb.
The story is entirely different upstairs. You’ll find something similar to a gourmet food court here. The menus are diverse, usually serving up something modern and eclectic as well as some traditional Portuguese dishes. Michelin-tier restaurants here have booths where you can try their cuisine in a casual setting without having to pay an arm and a leg.
10. Hop on the Iconic Tram 28
As in San Francisco, the Portuguese capital is well known for its rattling trams. Tram 28 has been climbing steep, cobbled streets for decades, making it one of Lisbon’s most iconic trams.
It winds its way through the hairpin alleyways of Escolas Gerais before stopping at Estrela Basilica, beneath the palm-dotted hills of Graça. Tram 28 is the best way to plan a sightseeing tour in Lisbon. Taking Martim Moniz as a starting point, the route climbs through Alfama, continues through Baixa, and ascends to Chiado.
While watching people go by from the windows, you’ll be able to discover decades of history as you pass majestic palaces and castles.
Avoid crowds by getting to the tram early. Alternatively, you can begin at Praça Martim Moniz, which is the second stop after where most tourists begin. No matter when you go, there is no guarantee of a seat, but that’s part of the fun.
Be careful with your belongings on the tram. Tram 28 is jokingly called “the pickpocket ride” by locals. Also worth noting is that Tram 28 does not have a loop. You’ll either have to walk back to your starting point or take it in the opposite direction if you go all the way.
11. Virtually voyage to Portugal’s former colonies at the Museo do Oriente
In places such as Sri Lanka and Goa, you can see how far the Portuguese empire had reached. Still, Lisbon is where you are!
The Museu do Oriente in Lisbon offers a comprehensive perspective on these far-away eastern corners. Modern exhibition rooms have been built in a former fish processing factory.
With tales about seafaring across the South China Sea and Chinese rituals, this book focuses on all things Asian and Portugal’s role in Asian exploration.
12. Discover the Monastery of Jerónimos
As you walk along the banks of the Tagus River, you can appreciate the significance of the Monastery of Jerónimos, with its elaborate spires and grand carvings.
Portugal’s most glorious era, the Age of Exploration, is commemorated in this building. Portugal’s Manueline architecture stands as a testimony to the cultures Lisbon’s explorers encountered. Cloves, cumin, and exotic spices were traded internationally to fund the construction of the structure.
One of the most popular attractions in the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Many magnificent monuments were built as a result of the wealth generated during Portugal’s Age of Discovery. The Jerónimos Monastery, built to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s return from India, is one of the most notable. He is buried here as well. Luis de Camoes, a Portuguese poet, is also buried in this church.
Stained-glass windows illuminate the tombs in an eerie, ethereal manner, along with beautifully sculpted, towering columns. The cloister boasts a vaulted ceiling adorned with intricately carved stone pillars.
The entry fee is €10, but you get a lot out of the experience. Portugal’s golden arches of the inner courtyard are a great place to take breathtaking photos.
13. Check out the National Museum of Ancient Art
The National Museum of Ancient Art in Portugal houses a prestigious collection of national art.
Nuno Gonçalves and Josefa de Biidos are represented in this exhibition, depicting saints, atonement portraits, and chiaroscuro portraits.
There are paintings in the collection that date from the 16th to the 19th century. In the early modern period, after the Liberal Wars which shook the country, they came under public ownership.
The museum also features traveling exhibitions showcasing historical paintings from the Age of Discovery as well as past collections reflecting Lisbon’s Renaissance period.
14. Take a Ride on the Santa Justa Lift
Elevador da Bica’s history is somewhat similar to that of Santa Justa Lift. The bridge was also built in 1902 to connect the lower neighborhood of Baixa with the higher neighborhood of Bairro Alto.
The line can be extremely long, so riding it is not necessary. Even though riding the Santa Justa lift is one of the best things to do in Lisbon, there’s another way to appreciate it. The Travessa Dom Pedro de Menezes is the means of entry on the Bairro Alto side of the neighborhood. You can begin your climb to the top of the observation deck right here, where you can enjoy stunning views of Lisbon’s rooftops.
A great rooftop bar near the Santa Justa Lift offers spectacular views of the city afterward, Topo Chiado. Therefore, it’s a great way to relax at sunset in Lisbon.
15. Visit Rossio Square
Lisbon’s local life is centered on Rossio Square. The Plaza Pedro IV, as it is officially known, is the center of Pombaline Lower Town, which is spread across broad boulevards between the Tagus and Baixa rivers.
On the cobblestones of this plaza have occurred public beheadings and bullfights since the medieval era. In the present day, the square is a popular place for people-watching and strolling.
Enjoy sunbathing on the shaded benches, watching the locals play dominoes, and admiring the babbling Baroque fountains in the park.
16. Experience Nightlife on Pink Street or in Bairro Alto
There are throngs of partygoers in Lisbon. Even if you don’t seek out the nightlife, you’ll find it here! After-hours activities on Pink Street make it one of the most popular places in town. The streets in this famous area are filled with bars and clubs that stay open until the early hours of the morning.
There was a red-light district in Lisbon around this area. It was a place where sailors, criminals, and prostitutes gathered. However, in 2011 the city decided to revitalize the neighborhood, and as a part of the campaign, the road was painted pink.
If you prefer a less boisterous night, you can do a bar crawl through Cais do Sodre or Bairro Alto. Barrios Alto is another great spot for nightlife.
There aren’t really any establishments open until late in the evening, but when they do, you can find pastelarias and bohemian bars. Fado bars and breweries coexist with beatnik bars and breweries here, creating an atmosphere full of artistry and debauchery.
17. Check out LX Factory
Former industrial buildings have been transformed into a creative, cultural, and gastronomic hub called LX Factory. A variety of artisans can be found here, along with specialty food shops, quaint cafes, and inspiring art studios. It won’t take you long to wander from store to store here.
The restaurant scene at LXF is defined by sustainable modern fare and traditional Portuguese dishes with a twist. If your schedule allows, try to grab dinner at Taberna 1300!
There are cooking classes, tattoo parlors, acting schools, pole dancing studios, and even a tour company called We Hate Tourism Tours.
18. Take a Day Trip
One of the best ways to spend a day in Lisbon is taking a day trip from the capital, depending on your stay. Sintra is the most popular, but since Portugal isn’t a very large country, you can choose from a variety of options.
Surfers will enjoy Nazaré, while some will enjoy Fatimá if you appreciate religious institutions and culture. Obidos is a beautifully preserved medieval village with a fascinating history.
Take a drive north to picture-perfect Porto if you’re not afraid of a little driving time! It is definitely worth spending a couple of days in Porto, rather than just one day. Porto is also an excellent base for taking day trips.
19. Explore the Gardens of the Palace of the Marquises of Fronteira
The grand Palace of the Marquises of Fronteira stands at the very edge of Lisbon’s northwestern frontier. It dates all the way back to 1681 and is one of the more off-the-beaten-path remnants of Lisbon’s former glory.
As part of his loyalty to the Portuguese royal name, the Marquis of Fronteira received his land and wealth during the Restoration War of the mid-17th century.
Enjoy the manicured gardens today, which are full of different plant varieties and flower species.
Even though it is remote, it still offers a glimpse of the majestic architecture that dominated Portugal during the 17th and 18th centuries.
20. Find a Bargain at Feira da Ladra
Prepare your haggling skills before you visit Feira da Ladra if you want to find quirky, curious, and often downright odd knickknacks and antiques. Flea markets like this one are popular with tourists, and the prices reflect that!
Even though it is hard to believe, the bustling bazaar dates back as far as the 12th century. You can almost picture gypsy traders and talisman dealers thronging the streets.
Tuesdays and Saturdays are market days. Getting to the store early is the only way to get anything worthwhile. If you just want to browse, it doesn’t matter what time you go – except that the crowds grow as the day goes on. Feira da Ladra is also reachable via the historic Tram 28.
In any case, it’s one of the quirkier things to do in Lisbon. You can find everything you don’t need there, such as old rotary phones, broken mannequins, and pre-owned vinyl. You can also find plenty of handmade items in addition to eclectic oddities, military objects, and discarded furniture from your grandparents.
At one of the tables overlooking the market, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in the culture of Lisbon. No matter what day of the week it is, you can still enjoy traditional Portuguese cuisine at the restaurants near the square.
21. Catch a Tan at Praia de Carcavelos
Lisbon’s Carcavelos becomes a popular destination once spring arrives. North of the Tagus, this is the most visited beach. You can easily reach this beach by train from the center of Lisbon.
Several bars and restaurants line a 1.5km-long promenade above the beach’s honey-colored sand. These bars offer cocktails, smoothies, and other refreshments under the shade of wide, red umbrellas, a welcome retreat from the summer sun.
Amateur surfers can learn the basics of surfing at Carcavelos with its relatively gentle waves. Portuguese and English are both spoken at the surf schools. There are a few rocks at the very eastern end of the beach, which lead to the Sao Juliao da Barra Fort, a 16th-century fort that once controlled access to Lisbon’s port.