Underrated and often ignored for the more popular destinations in Europe, Lisbon is a thriving and intriguing city.
Perfect for a short weekend break, or as a base to explore greater Portugal, there is quite literally something for everyone in this fascinating city.
The only warning to give here to is make sure you wear comfortable shoes as you will get a workout! Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills, and your legs will either hate you or love you after this trip!
By no means a comprehensive or complete list, here are 20 things I think you should try next time you visit Lisbon, Portugal:
1. TAKE A RIDE ON TRAM 28
Tram 28 is possibly the most famous tram in Lisbon and is the perfect cheat way to see the city. From Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique, this is a great way to see some of the highlights and the old town while saving your energy for all the hills! This is a popular tram line though, so avoid midday and peak hours if you want a seat.
This iconic tram begins below the hills of Graça before winding up through the streets of Lisbon all the way to the Estrela Basilica. Tip- use the Tram 28 as your own hop-on/hop-off tram to explore the city.
2. TAKE IN THE VIEWS OVER LISBON
There are several Miradouros (viewpoints) that look over Lisbon, so if you are someone who likes to see skylines (and have some great photo ops) then here are three of the must-visit Miradouros overlooking Lisbon:
Miradouro São Pedro de Alcantara
How to get there: take the Gloria funicular to R. de São Pedro de Alcântara
Best time: From sunset onwards
Good to know: this is a popular student meeting point
Miradouro do Graça
How to get there: take Tram 28 to Calçada da Graça
Best time: during the day so you can see the Sao Jorge castle in the distance
Good to know: there is a great little open air café for a coffee break with an incredible view
Miradouro do Monte Agudo
How to get there: take the underground train to Graça, then walk to Rua Heliodoro Salgado
Best time: during the day
Good to know: this is a little off the beaten path so you won’t have to fight the crowds
3. EXPLORE ALFAMA
Alfama is the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon, dating back to when the Moors conquered Portugal. Alfama is also one of the few areas that survived the 1775 earthquake which devastated most of Lisbon.
Forget the map, and google won’t be much help, so just take it easy and get lost the old-fashioned way in this authentic and historic area.
There are several monuments and sites to see in Alfama, including Largo da Sé, which is the oldest church in Lisbon; the Museu do Fado (Fado museum) and Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George’s Castle).
If you prefer to join a tour, then have a look at this 2hr 30min walking tour of the Alfama district > here
4. FEEL LIKE ROYALTY IN CASTELO DE SAO JORGE
While you are in Alfama, a visit to Castelo de Sao Jorge (St George’s castle) is a must.
Sitting above the city, this impressive citadel is an integral part of Lisbon’s history. There have been fortifications on this hill-top for the as long as there have been people living there. The castle in its mostly current shape, was built by the Romans in 200BC before they fell to the Visigoths, and overtime subsequent rulers added to the fortifications before the castle was heavily damaged in the 1175 earthquake.
During the 1940s the castle underwent a signification restoration to restore the ramparts, fix the watchtowers and add in gardens for visitors.
Open Hours: Everyday from 9am-6pm (November to February) and 9am-9pm (March to October)
Entry: The castle is open 7 days a week and the entry fee is €10.
Prefer not to wait in line? Then consider this skip-the-line ticket.
5. WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF EXPLORERS IN THE MONASTERY OF JERONIMOS
Constructed during the Age of Discovery in 1502 to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, the Monastery of Jerónimos is a symbol of Portugal’s devotion to both Church and exploration.
The ornate carvings and design throughout the Monastery are a breath taking and reflect the European Gothic style at the time. Though this particular style of architecture became known as ‘Manueline’, a term used to describe any monument built in honour of the discoveries being made at the time.
This is a UNESCO world heritage site that is well worth your time.
Open Hours: Tuesdays to Sunday 10am-5pm (October to April), 10am-6pm (May to September)
Entry: €10 or FREE with the Lisboa Card
6. TRY A SHOT OF GINJINHA
Possibly Portugal’s answer to the Italian Limoncello, Ginjinha is a traditional home-made liquor made from the Ginja berry (which is similar to cherries).
The best place to try this drink is at A Ginjinha (Located at Rossio, Largo de São Domingos 8) and it costs about 1 Euro. Though of course you will find it at cafés around Lisbon.
7. INDULDGE YOUR SWEET TOOTH
Something you will notice very quickly is that Lisbon has bakeries that rival Paris for patisseries. While you won’t find a French croissant or baguette, you will find an incredible array of pastries to satisfy any sweet tooth.
8. ENJOY A NIGHT OUT IN BAIRRO ALTO
There might not be much to see during the day in Bairro Alto, but by night it is a very different story!
Feel free to bar hop, this is not the area to base yourself in one bar for the evening… cocktails and shots start at around 4 Euro so you won’t break the bank – so just follow the sounds of the Fado music.
The best night to see Bairro Alto at its best is on Thursday, as most students and workers go home on Fridays.
9. SEE THE HISTORIC AREA OF BELÉM
Take the tram number 15 to Cais do Sodré station and you will find yourself in the historic neighbourhood of Belém.
Give yourself at least half a day here to explore some of the famous monuments such as the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (The Jerónimos Monastery) and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).
Make sure to visit the world famous Pasteis de Belem bakery to try a pastéis de nata (custard tart). Have one in store with a glass of the local port before taking some to go!
Short on time? Try this 3 hr small group walking tour of Belem.
10. TASTE YOUR WAY THROUGH THE LOCAL FOOD MARKETS
If you love to try local cuisine, then a visit to the Mercado de Alvalade Norte is a must. The Mercado de Alvalade Norte is a traditional daily farmers market.
You will find everything from farm fresh produce to freshly made bread. Perfect if you want to make your own picnic, or meals if you are staying more then a few days.
Location: Avenida Rio de Janeiro
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 7am to 3pm and Saturday 7am to 4pm
Alternatively, there is also the Mercado 31 de Janeiro, which is a local neighbourhood market in the Saldanha district.
Location: Rua Engenheiro Vieira da Silva
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 12.30pm to 3pm and 7.30pm-11pm and Sundays 12.30pm to 3pm
11. SEE A FADO PERFORMANCE
Fado is traditional music style in Lisbon and is even on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Usually performed by a solo singer accompanied by a wire-strung acoustic guitar and the Portuguese guitarra (a pear-shaped cittern with twelve wire strings – unique to Portugal)
Fado music tends to be very melancholy but is also mesmerising to hear the incredible emotion that pours out of these performers. Because it is so popular with tourists, you need to be careful to choose a place that caters more to locals. Be wary of places that have signs with cheap ‘food & fado’ packages.
You can join a walking tour such as this one which blends food & fado for a unique tour of Alfama by a live fado singer.
If you prefer to wander somewhere yourself where you can enjoy a drink and relax (without breaking the budget), then Tasca do Chico in Barro Alto is rated as one of the best Fado places in Lisbon. Every Monday and Wednesday from 9pm, Fado performers come up and perform. Just make sure to arrive early if you want a seat!
12. VISIT THE OCEANÁRIO DE LISBOA
I’m always fascinated by Oceanariums and Aquariums, and if I have time I try to visit. The ones in Europe especially are interesting because they tend to be in buildings which are uniquely designed (a win for any architecture lovers as well).
The Oceanário de Lisboa is no different. Built over water in a building which looks like it would not be out of place as an oilrig in the middle of the ocean, this incredible building houses over 450 species of sea life in four marine habitats. Explore terrestrial and marine ecosytems in this world renowned Oceanarium.
Tickets are €19 for adults.
The Oceanário de Lisboa is located at Doca dos Olivais, Parque das Nações, and is accessible by bus, the underground, train and even by boat!
Skip the line and pre-purchase your ticket here
13. SHOP FOR AN UNUSUAL SOUVENIR IN FEIRA DA LADRA
If you love shopping for vintage goods or simply want a souvenir that is out of the ordinary, then you must visit Feira da Ladra, the famous flea market in Lisbon. The name of the market should give you a hint – it means “thieves market” in English, so be prepared to find the unexpected!
This market runs every Tuesday and Saturday from 9am to 6pm. To get here take the Tram 28 to Arco de São Vicente.
14. TAKE A MINI PILGRAMAGE TO CRISTO REI
Inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, the Christo Rei was constructed in the 1950s to represent Portugal’s religious gratitude for avoiding the worst of World War II.
Standing above the southern banks of the Tejo Estuary, the 80m high viewing platform provide incredible panoramic views over Lisbon. The monument sits in a sprawling complex of religious buildings and gardens, which all overlook the Tejo Estuary and the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge (which looks very similar to San Franciso’s Golden Gate bridge).
Tickets to go to the viewing platform is €6 for adults.
The Christo Rei is open daily from 9.30am-6.30pm
To get here simply head to the Cais do Sodré ferry terminal in Cacilhas. The ferry takes roughly 15 minutes and is only €1.30 and is the last stop on the green metro line. There are approximately three ferry departures every hour.
15. VISIT LUZ STADIUM – HOME OF THE SL BENFICA FOOTBALL CLUB
One for the football lovers! Visit the Luz Stadium, home to the 2014 final of the Champions League.
Attached to stadium is the Museum Benfica Cosme Damião. The museum was named for Cosme Damião, one of the club’s founding members. Spread across three floors, this museum showcases the history of Benfica and the history of football.
Want to see the stadium as well as the museum? Then consider this guided tour
16. ADMIRE THE AZULEJOS
Azulejos are the famous blue tiles that you will see all over Lisbon (and Portugal for that matter). If you are curious about the history of these distinctive tiles, then a visit to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum) is a must.
Here you’ll learn about the history of tile making from when the Moors first introduced tiles to Portugal, to now. There are also exhibits showcasing all the different styles of Azulejos.
The Museum is also housed in a former convent – Madre de Deus Convent, which was founded in 1509 and is an amazing example of Portuguese baroque architecture.
Address: National Tile Museum Rua da Madre de Deus, 4, 1900-312
Open Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm (closed for lunch between 1-2pm)
17. TAKE A STEP BACK IN TIME IN THE MUSEU NACIONAL DE ARTE ANTIGA
No visit to a city is complete without a stop in at least one major museum. If your time in Lisbon is limited, then this museum is a must.
While not as largely advertised as some of the others in Lisbon, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art) is a masterclass in Portuguese history and culture.
Opened in 1884, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga holds the largest collection of public art in Lisbon with pieces dating back from the Middle Ages to now.
Highlights include pieces from Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, as well as some incredibly intricate gold and silverware. There are also regular temporary exhibits.
Don’t forget to take a break in the terrace garden and wander through the sculptures while enjoying the view over the Tagus River.
Address: R. das Janelas Verdes, Lisbon, 249-017
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm
Entry: €6.00 for adults
18. VISIT THE WORLD’S OLDEST BOOKSTORE
As a self-confessed book worm, this is a must visit for me.
The Livraria Bertrand was first opened in 1732 (right before *that earthquake*), but it has stayed open and operating since then – 289 years! In that time Lisbon and Portugal have experienced natural disasters, civil ear, regicide, the first Republic and more.
Initially opened as a small bookshop, it has expanded over the years to include a printing press and other stores, resulting in Bertrand becoming the oldest and largest bookstore chain in Portugal.
If you pick up a book here, you can even get the staff to stamp the book, so it shows it was brought at the world’s oldest bookstore.
Address: Bertrand Chiado, R. Garrett 73 75, 1200-203 Lisboa
Hours: Monday to Friday 9am-8pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-7pm
19. TAKE A CRUISE ON THE RIO TEJO
The Rio Tejo (Tagus River) is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal & Morocco) and it is definitely a different way to see Lisbon’s landscape.
There are a variety of boat tours available, though I do recommend this 2 hour City Cruise with drinks where you can choose either a daytime or sunset option.
20. FOLLOW THE STREET ART
Lisbon is filled with incredible street art, and different areas even have themed street art. While there is unfortunately some tagging, overall, the quality and creativity behind some of the designs is incredible!
The Mouraria neighbourhood, which is believed to be where Fado began, is known for its art dedicated to Fado. Bairro Alto has some of the best urban street art – especially around Rua de São Boaventura and Travessa dos Fiéis de Deus. Or head to the Alfama and Graça neighbourhoods where you will need to head of the main streets to find the hidden gems in laneways and narrow paths.
The best way to learn about the local street art culture is to join a walking tour, such as this 3 hour alternative walking tour with an expert local guide.
Top Tip – The Lisbon Card
The Lisboa Card is a must-have if you are planning a visit to Lisbon.
This handy discount card comes in three versions – 24 hours for (€20 Euro), 48 hours (€34 Euro) and 72 hours (€42 Euro) and is valid for a full calendar year after its purchase.
Something which is useful if you prefer to plan in advance, or if you have to make any last minute changes to your travel plans. Just remember that is becomes active from when you validate it. The card also comes with a complimentary guide book filled with useful information.
The Lisboa Card includes:
- Unlimited rides on Metro, Carris, Buses, Trams (including Tram 28), Funiculars and CP trains to Cascais and Sintra.
- Free admission to 26 of the most popular museums and monuments including the Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, and Santa Justa Elevator.
- Discounts to more the 70 attractions and venues