15 Best Things (Must Dos) to do in Lisbon
In the last few years, Portugal has become one of the most searched destinations for tourists from all over the world. Besides its natural beauty and history, this coastal country facing the Atlantic Ocean has one of the best climates in Europe in which temperatures are rarely below 5º C in winter. This is why its capital, Lisbon, is the perfect destination for travellers seeking good weather, history and tasty food. Known for its nightlife, Lisbon is vibrant and traditional.
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Lisbon attractions are full of culture, colour and a sense of uniqueness. A perfect example of such personality are the graffiti walls located all over the city. There are many things to see in Lisbon and the most famous Lisbon sights include Mosteiro dos Jeronimos where Vasco da Gama’s tomb is located, Oceanário de Lisboa, Sé de Lisboa (or Cathedral) and Museu Nacional do Azulejo.
There are two easy ways to make the most of your Lisbon sightseeing. Lisbon Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour takes you to the main Lisbon attractions. On the other hand, if you are more into mingling with the locals and experiencing their routine, there is the option of Lisbon Seven Hills Electric Bike Tour, which takes approximately 2.5 hours. To help you decide what to do when visiting the capital of Portugal, here are 15 things to do in Lisbon.
3 “Must Do’s” in Lisbon
You can start your sightseeing at Lisbon’s most famous square and one of its main attractions, located in Pombaline Lower Town district, in the centre of the city. Rossio Square or Pedro IV Square has been the meeting place for the locals since the Middle Age. Nowadays, it is the place to go for a coffee or drink before attending the National Theater, located right there.
Alfama (Lisbon’s Old Town)
In one of the oldest neighbourhoods of historic Lisbon, the charming Alfama brings architectural landmarks, windy streets and tasty food. However, what this district is famous for are its traditional Portuguese folk music performances every night of the week, the Fado music. And what a better way to start your experience in Alfama than visiting Largo do Charariz de Dentro where many Fado bars and clubs are located.
Check out our guide to the best things to do in Alfama.
Time Out Market
For those who enjoy trying new types of food a visit to the oldest food market in the city, Time Out Market (or Mercado da Ribeira), is mandatory. Opening every day at 10 am, it is the perfect place to enjoy a meal at one of its restaurants, buy packaged food to take as souvenirs at a kiosk or even try some free samples. At Time Out Market, same as everywhere else in Portugal, it is guaranteed to find some Pastel de Nata (custard tart). This puff pastry comes from Belém and you can take the tram there, to see where this delicious dessert comes from. While you are there, take the time to visit the Belém Tower facing the Tagus River.
Lisbon From Above
Best Lisbon Viewpoints
Lisbon is a beautiful colourful city and its viewpoints are not to be missed. Walking through the streets and up the hills of the city, you can find places such as Santa Catarina, Portas do Sol and, of course, Castelo de Sao Jorge.
Largo das Portas do Sol rewards you with a view of the Tagus River and the Alfama neighbourhood. Moreover, just like Alfama and many other neighbourhoods in Lisbon, Santa Catarina is also located on top of the hills offering a beautiful view of the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Tagus River, as well. The Miradouro de Santa Catarina is one of the best spots in Lisbon to take photos of the landscape, watch the sunset and enjoy an afternoon with outdoor entertainment.
At the centre of the capital of Portugal, Castelo de Sao Jorge (or Lisbon Castle), is one of Lisbon highlights due to its historic importance and the view of the city. Overlooking the historic Lisbon and Tagus River, this fortified castle was home for the seat of power of Portugal for over 400 years. The walk there can be tough in summer, the ticket queues can be long and it is usually crowded with tourists, but it is definitely worth the visit.
However, not only viewpoints have nice views in Lisbon. If you are the type of person who prefers to be indoors, I recommend visiting the LX Factory and the Park. The LX Factory is a historic industrial complex where you can find many art shops, restaurants and bars. Rio Maravilha is one of the bars you can have a drink when visiting the LX Factory. Located at the top of the building, you can enjoy a drink at the rooftop looking out at an amazing view. From there you can even see the 25 de Abril Bridge. The Park is another rooftop bar with a great view, mainly because of its location at Santa Catarina neighbourhood.
Day Trips Around Lisbon
You can go on many day trips around Lisbon if you want to get away from the busy city for the day and return to enjoy the nightlife or a delicious dinner at one of its traditional restaurants. A visit to Sintra is a great way to do it. The romantic Sintra is just a 40-minute train ride away from Lisbon and is famous for its elegant palaces, fairytale castles and fortresses scattered through green grassy hills. There you can go for a walk to see and visit these outstanding sights.
2 Lisbon Beaches
On the other hand, if you prefer discovering the beach side of Lisbon, Cascais and Costa de Caprica are the best options for a day trip away from the city. From Lisbon, you can take a train for 40 minutes and arrive at the picturesque town of Cascais. This surfers’ paradise offers sandy beaches and a busy marina. From there you can walk around and visit many cool beaches, such as Ribeira Beach, Guincho, Praia da Cresmina and Praia da Adraga.
If you want something more relaxing and less touristic, Coasta de Caprica is the way to go. Just like most places in the world, the best choice is to drive yourself with a car so you have more freedom. However, if this is not possible you can get a bus from Lisbon and enjoy a lovely ride. Crossing the 25 de Abril Bridge over the Tagus River and passing by the Cristo Rei Statue you reach your destination where the long white beach is located. All the acacia and eucalyptus trees give a peaceful atmosphere to the beach, which has several campsites and baches to be rented.
Thinking Outside the Box (Lisbon Neighbourhoods)
In order to experience the city and go on an alternative tour around Lisbon there is no better option than to visit the neighbourhoods of the moment. Chiado is one of the liveliest places you can find there, with all its live music performances and perfect spots to go for drinks.
Cais do Sodré
Cais do Sodré is probably another “Must Do” in Lisbon in the minds of most people. Its highlight is definitely the Pink Street, where you can find several bars, coffee shops and bookshops. Moreover, if you are into different scenes and random decorations, the nightclub Pensão do Amor is worth your time. This busy and euphoric neighbourhood is also the home of the Time Out Market.
Unlike Chiado and Alfama, the Intendente neighbourhood is not fancy which, in fact, makes it another destiny of the moment in Lisbon. Ever since it has been revitalised, Intendente has become the hippiest and coolest area in the city, mainly because of its community of designers, musicians and artists. In addition, as most districts in Lisbon this one has the hot spot to go for drinks and coffee. Casa Intendente is a big mansion located at main square, Largo do Intendente, and worth the visit.
Mingling with the Locals
Restaurante Cantinho do Alfredo
Restaurante Cantinho do Alfredo is a hidden gem of Lisbon located at Campolide. This tiny restaurant has only four or five tables and the best dishes include seafood such as codfish and calamari, for approximately 6 euros a meal. Do not let the owner’s mood fool you, it is a very traditional Portuguese restaurant and he serves, cooks and pours the wine directly from a jar himself.
Caloute Gulbenkian Museum Gardens
Any tour guide or travel blog about Lisbon highlights and sights will tell you to go to the Caloute Gulbenkian Museum. However, what they leave out is how to enjoy this attraction as a local. The beautiful green gardens around the museum are a perfect spot to relax after lunch under a tree or take a nap in your busy touristic day. It is normal to see the locals reading a book, studying or enjoying the sun around there, as it is a common meeting place in the city.
Lisbon Jazz Festivals
Finally, if you happen to be in Lisbon during summer, I recommend attending the Jazz Festivals, like the locals do. The Jazz Festivals happen throughout the season and each month it moves to a different park in the city. Every Sunday there is a Jazz band playing in the afternoon and afterwards a DJ entertains the crowd. It is the perfect way to end a summer day in Europe with good music and outside, enjoying the good weather.