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.