Lisbon Guide: What To Do In Lisbon
Lisbon, the coastal capital of Portugal and also the second oldest capital city in Europe is a wonderful mixture of history, art and culture and there are just so many places to visit in Lisbon including some really great restaurants and bars. If you are planning to visit the city, pack some flat shoes as Lisbon is best explore on foot at your own pace with the chance to stop when you spot something interesting – and you will! Wondering what to do in Lisbon? Here are our top things to do in Lisbon:
1Ride Tram 28
Lisbon in well known for its trams, in fact, many regard them as a symbol of the city. The trams in Lisbon have a certain retro feel about them all wooden on the inside and painted yellow on the outside. A ride on tram 28 is one of the ‘must’ things to do whilst you are in Lisbon, especially if it your first time in Lisbon as it drives past all the main point of interest in the city.
Tram 28 starts at Martim Moniz and ends at Campo de Ourique. Climbing its way up the steep cobbled streets through the shopping areas of Baixa and Chicado before passing churches and castles on the hillsides of the Alfama district. It also passes the Palácio da Assembleia (Parliament building) before coming to its final stop outside the beautiful Basilica de Estrela in Campo de Ourique.
Tip: Given the popularity of this tram 28 most people start their journey from Martim Moniz towards Campo de Ourique. To avoid the crowd we recommend starting your journey from Campo de Ourique working your day way. The tram 28 route also gives you the chance to stop by 2 viewpoints: Miradouro das Portas do Sol and Miradouro de Santa Luzia
2São Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle is Lisbon’s most visible landmark and the most popular place to visit. It stands on the city’s highest hilltop above the buildings of the Alfama District and overlooking the red roof tops of Baixa district and the river Tagus. Its grand entrance bears the Portuguese Royal seal – reminding visitors of the power of the royal family. There is so much to see including its beautiful Gothic chapel where some of Portugal’s greatest figures are buried. There are 11 castle towers, various look outs and a camera obscura which offers a 360º views over Lisbon and the river.
After visiting the castle, spend time wandering in the narrow and colourful cobbled streets below the castle. As you wander, you will see the locals continuing with their day to day life including laundry, shopping, gardening and a quick chat with their neighbours! head downhill from the castle towards 28 Café – the interior mimics that of the iconic 28 tram.
One of the great things about Lisbon is that you can combine both a city break and a beach holiday. If you are visiting Lisbon during the summer months a trip to the beach is highly recommended. The closest beach to Lisbon is 30 minutes away from the centre. Praia Carcavelos Beach is just 30 minutes from Lisbon city centre this golden sands beach is easily accessible, great for surfing, sunbathing or even catching the sunset. Some other beaches in close proximity include: Praia de Conceicao, Costa da Caparica, Praia de Santo Amaro de Oeiras and Praia do Tamariz.
4Get Lost in the Alfama District – the Oldest District in Lisbon
Alfama District dates from medieval times making it one of the oldest districts in Lisbon. It is also home to the São Jorge Castle. It is fun to simply wander and get lost in the narrow picture perfect streets which are lined with cafes and restuarnts, steep flights of steps and you will find Azulejos (Portuguese tiles) on every street you turn along with plenty of street art on the walls.
One of the best viewpoints in Lisbon is also in the Alfama District : Miradouro das portas do sol. This viewpoint is best visited for sunrise. If you are an early bird you will be rewarded with an insight into people’s day to day life here with many traditional scenes including women selling fresh fish from their doorways.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays it bustles because it has Feira da Ladra – one of Lisbon’s most popular markets. This market is also known at ‘thieves’ market’ and has stalls selling everything. The perfect way to get down to the city centre is to hop on a tram 28 which passes through this fascinating district. Alfama is popular with walking groups and there are a selection to choose from including a free walking tour reveals so many interesting snippets about local life.
5Head to Docas de Santo Amaro to enjoy the Waterfront Views
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What was once a warehouse is now one of the Lisbon’s coolest places to visit for some waterfront food and drinks. Located in the dock area below the 25 de Abril Bridge along the river in Alcantara between Baixa and Belem ‘Docas’ is lined with cafes and restuarnts and clubs in the night that overlook the marina. Not only that it also offers great view of 25 de Abril Bridge. Walk along the river enjoying the views and before you know it you will arrive at Torre de Belém.
6Torre de Belém
This instantly recognisable tower is an iconic landmark in the city and is top of the list of places to visit in Lisbon. Torre de Belém stands protectively overlooking the mouth of the River Tagus (Tejo) as it has done since the 16th century and is a glorious mixture of different architectural styles including Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance.
There are stairs to climb up the five floors to the rooftop terrace. It is best to get to the tower first thing in the morning as a maximum of 150 people are allowed up the tower at any one time. The wait is worth it as the views from the top of the river are spectacular. Those ‘in the know’ often return to the Torre just before it closes so that they can watch the sunset from the top – very special.
Close by to Torre de Belém stands the beautiful Jerónimos Monastery – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and one of the top Lisbon attractions. Inside Jeronimos Monastery which lies the tomb of Vasco de Gama. This 500 year-old masterpiece of Gothic architecture has ornate spires and grand carvings and was funded by the sale of clover, cumin and other exotic spices. The monastery has always been closely linked with early seafarers and Vasco da Gama the Portuguese explorer spent the night before he left for the Far East at the monastery.
Interestingly, the recipe for the delicious local pastries pastéis de nata which you will regularly see when you are Lisbon sightseeing was created by the monks in this monastery.
8Enjoy the City’s Vibrant Food Scene
One of Lisbon’s most popular foods is its signature delicacy -pastel de nata (cinnamon-dusted egg custard tarts). These delicious little tarts are available everywhere in the city but amusingly, there is great competition between the various bakeries! Pastéis de Belém is said to be one of the best in the city.
The Timeout Market in Lisbon is an another must visit in Lisbon. Situated in Cais do Sodre this food market has around 40 different restaurants, bars, shops as well as live performances. Perfect option for a relaxed and fun evening in Lisbon. Lisbon is also home to an ice cream parlour which is known to sell ‘world’s best ice cream’. Santini has 60 years of history and is known for its unique taste. There are so many flavours to choose from – more than 70 in fact – and each is carefully handmade to a secret recipe.
9Try the Traditional Ginjinha
When it comes to drinks, Sangria and Porto wine are both well known and much loved, but whilst you are exploring Lisbon, why not try a traditional Ginjinha? or simply known as Ginja is a cherry liqueur at is both sweet and sour? The Portuguese have been drinking it since the 17th-century and it is sold in majority of the bars in the city. If you seeking some of the best bars and restaurants in Lisbon, head for Bairro Alto.
10Stroll Around LX factory
LX Factory was once an abandoned industrial site but it has ingenious been turned into a truly creative, cultural and gastronomic area! The site once housed Lisbon’s most prosperous fabric factories but after a dynamic makeover has become one of the coolest and quirkiest places in Lisbon with more than 50 shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants – this is certainly different to anything else in the city but a great place to visit while you are in Lisbon. The first floor is called the ‘Ethical Market’ and is dedicated to art design and culture and showcases artists and brands of quality.
A ‘must see’ whilst you are there is the Ler Devagar Bookstore – which feels like stepping into yesterday. It was once a printing press and the old machines have been preserved and can still be seen, It has been renovated and its new look is certainly hip but at the end of the day, it is one of the world’s best bookshops with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books of every description.
11Visit the world’s most beautiful lift – Santa Justa Lift (Carmo Lift)
This is a really quirky thing to have on your list of ‘Things to do in Lisbon’ but you won’t regret it! The viewing platform has an unbelievable view over central Lisbon! Known as Elevador do Carmo, or (Carmo Lift) this vertical lift started in 1902 and to this day is a unique tourist attractions of Lisbon. The outside of the lift is adorned in neo-Gothic arches and geometric patterns and inside two polished wood carriages to whisk passengers up in style!
Needless to say it is popular and there are queues, but it is well worth doing and a little known fact is that it stays open until 10.45 pm and a night-time view over Lisbon is especially beautiful.
12Relish some Great Viewpoints
Lisbon spreads across 7 hills facing the the Tagus River, given the location Lisbon is home to some great viewpoints. Some of the best viewpoints include: the most popular viewpoint Miradouro das Portas do Sol, the hidden gem that is Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, view from top of a castle at Castelo de São Jorge or the latest addition Experiência Pilar 7 also known as the suspension viewpoint. View our guide to best viewpoints in Lisbon here.
13Take a day trip to Sintra
The best way to describe Sintra is like a fairytale town. Just 30 minutes from Lisbon this fairy tale town in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains is well worth a visit. A UNESCO World Heritage which nestles in the forested landscape along with numerous lavish villas. Ancient castles and palaces lined along the slope and the hilltop of Sintra. Sintra is the wealthiest municipality in Lisbon and as well as being well known for its castles and palaces, it is known for its beautiful gardens. It is arguably one of the most alluring cities in the world.
Castles and places aren’t the only thing Sintra has to offer, there are several Michelin starred restaurants, if you are feeling adventurous trek through woodland or head to the coast for beaches underneath the dramatic cliffs.
14Explore the National Azulejo Museum
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When you are out and about visiting the Lisbon attractions, you will soon become aware of the beautiful tile work that is found in the city and may well be curious to find out more about this beautiful form of art.
The National Azulejo Museum will reveal to you the long history of tile making – azulejo- and the importance of this craft tradition in Portugal. The museum is situated in the old Deus Convent that dates from 1509 and traces the history of tile making through the centuries from the Moorish influence to the modern day. Tile making is one of Portugal’s most important traditions and the tiles are commonly beautifully hand painted in shades of blue and white.