There’s just something about Lisbon that takes hold of your heart. It might have something to do with the friendly locals, the almost constant presence of sunshine illuminating Lisbon’s squares, or the impossible-to-stop-at-one addictive custard tarts. There are so many things to do, see, and experience, that you might find yourself lamenting that you need more time in Lisbon at the end of your trip. A week might not even be enough! If vacation time is limited for you, have a look at our list of 10 things to do for a start. Once you’re hooked, there will always be a next time …
1. Do a walking tour of the city
I went on two tours through the hostels I was staying at: one of Alfama and Graça with Hugo and one of Baixa and Bairro Alto with Sofia. Both tours were superb and hands down the best free (tips based) tours I've been on: funny, informative and engaging. Neither hold back on their tours and the honesty makes the tours all the more rewarding. Being half Portuguese, I appreciated their candour even more. Some spectacular viewpoints along the way. Highly recommended! mrsammysam
There really is no better way to get your bearings of a city than by doing a walking tour. Your guide (usually a local) will bring you around the main landmarks and attractions, and tell you about their cultural or historical significance. Sometimes, they will even point out details about the landmark that you would most probably not have noticed if you had visited on your own. The walking tour will also usually come with an introduction to the city’s history and any interesting myths or stories that are embedded in its identity. However, the best thing about doing a walking tour is that you get a local’s perspective on the city and helpful tips that only someone intimately familiar with the city can give. Nothing can get more authentic than that, and we all know that the best spots are usually only known by the locals. When in Lisbon, check out Wild Walkers. They offer free tip-based walking tours led by a passionate local guide who will give you his / her honest (and refreshing) opinion on the attractions of the city. From personal experience, the tours are so engaging that you won’t notice the time go by.
Wild Walkers Walking Tour
Starting Point: Rossio Square (Look out for the red umbrella and red t-shirt)
Price: Free (Tip-based)
Starting Time: 10.30 am daily
Duration: Around 2.5 hours
Contact: +351 918 921 589
2. Look out for the scenic viewpoints
Sometimes referred to as as “cidade das sete colinas” (the city of seven hills), Lisbon’s hilly terrain has resulted in there being a good number of miradouros (viewpoints) from where you can admire its distinctive skyline. There really isn’t a need for you to pay to go up to a touristy viewing platform when there are many places where you can admire the view for free. The walk up makes for a good workout but you get rewarded with spectacular scenery and splendid photo opportunities. Some of the popular viewpoints include the Miradouro Santa Catarina, Miradouro da Graca, and Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte. Each of these hilltop terraces provides unobstructed views of different aspects of the city.
Miradouro Santa Catarina is known for its clear view of the port and stunning 25 de Abril Bridge, reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Against the backdrop of the castle and the River Tagus in the distance, Miradouro da Graca is the perfect place to watch the changing colours of the city awash with the hues of sunset. Shaded by leafy trees, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, (Our Lady of the Hill), is the city’s highest lookout point. It is a hidden gem as tourists often overlook it because it is located slightly further away from the downtown area of Lisbon. However, this means you get a more exclusive panoramic view of Lisbon.
3. Eat your way through Lisbon
After burning off all those calories from navigating the steep hills, there is nothing better than to gain them all back again at lunch / dinner. Lisbon’s culinary culture is rich and diverse, and you will find that seafood and Mediterranean flavours feature prominently on many menus. For a gourmet food experience at reasonable prices, visit the Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira), which is a collection of 35 kiosks selling Portuguese and international cuisine. You will find yourself spoilt for choice because everything looks, smells, and sounds absolutely mouthwatering in this indoor venue. If seafood is what you are craving, Cervejaria Ramiro is a popular choice for both locals and tourists alike. This bustling restaurant serves fresh seafood and gets very crowded, especially during dinner time. Make a reservation ahead of time to avoid the long queues. The 2 Michelin-starred Belcanto by acclaimed Chef José Avillez will suit the palates of those seeking a fine dining experience. Belcanto serves contemporary Portuguese cuisine and his innovative creations have won him the praise of many diners. Reservations are essential as they do not accept walk-in customers.
Finally, round off your meal with a shot of Ginjinha (or Ginja for short), a traditional Portuguese liquor made from sour cherries. A popular place to try it is at A Ginjinha, a small hole-in-the-wall bar located near Rossio Square. You can choose to have it with a cherry (com Ginja) or without (sem Ginja).
Time Out Market, Lisbon
Address: Av. 24 de Julho 49, Portugal
Opening Hours: Sun to Wed 10 am - 12 midnight; Thurs to Sat 10 am - 2 am
Access: 3-minute walk from Cais do Sodre metro station
Contact: +351 21 346 1199
Website: Time Out Market
Address: Avenida Almirante Reis 1, 1150-007 Lisbon
Opening Hours: Tues - Sun 12 noon - 12.30 am. Closed on Mondays
Access: 4-minute walk from Intendente metro station
Website: Cervejaria Ramiro
Address: Largo de São Carlos 10, 1200-410 Lisboa, Portugal
Opening Hours: 12.30 pm - 3 pm, 7 pm - 11 pm. Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Access: 5-minute walk from Baixa-Chiado metro station
Contact: +351 213 420 607
Address: Largo de Sao Domingos, 8 | Rossio, Lisbon 11520-320, Portugal
Price: 1.40 EUR (1.54 USD) per shot
Opening Hours: 9 am - 10 pm daily
Access: 1 minute from Rossio metro station
4. Visit Lisbon's grandest square, Praça do Comércio
With your belly full, it’s time to do more exploring! Walk in the direction of the riverfront and you will be met with a scene of grandeur. One of the largest squares in Europe, the Praça do Comércio, or Terreiro do Paco (Royal Palace Square) as it used to be known, instills a sense of awe. With its elaborate 18th-century arcades, sunny yellow facades, and mosaic cobbles, the riverfront Praça do Comércio used to function as a grand gateway for all visitors arriving by sea. It is a lovely place to take some pictures and people-watch. History lovers should visit the Lisboa Story Centre, a museum located on the square that presents the history of Lisbon (pre and post-earthquake) in a 60-minute interactive exhibition (with an audio guide). The highlight is the ‘Earthquake Room’, which creates a 4-D simulation of the 1755 earthquake. There is also a beer museum and restaurant (Museu da Cerveja) where visitors can learn about the history of beers from the Portuguese-speaking community.
Lisboa Story Centre
Address: Terreiro do Paco, 78- 81, Lisbon 1100-148, Portugal
Price: Adults 7 EUR (7.70 USD); Senior (+65 years) / Student (> 16 years) 5 EUR (5.50 USD); Child (6 to 15 years old) 3 EUR (3.30 USD); Child (< 5 years old) Free
Opening Hours: 10 am - 8 pm daily
Contact: +351 21 194 10 99
Website: Lisboa Story Centre
Museu da Cerveja (Beer Museum)
Address: Praça do Comércio - Ala Nascente, 62-65, Lisbon
Price: Adults 3.50 EUR (3.85 USD); Free for under 16s
Opening Hours: 10 am - 10 pm daily
Contact: (+351) 210 987 656
5. See a legacy of the earthquake at Igreja do Carmo
The open ruins of the church give a special impression, also because you can escape from the rush of the city. The artifacts in the museum are also quite interesting, especially the mummies. Jothih
There are not many signs of the wreckage from the 1755 earthquake, as the city has undergone massive reconstruction since then. Igreja do Carmo (Church of the Carmelites) was one of the churches that collapsed on the morning of November 1st, 1755, All Saints’ Day, as the devastating earthquake swept through the city. Now, only a bare skeletal frame remains of the church as it was never rebuilt, and it now serves as a testimony to that fateful morning. It is now used as an archaeological museum and houses a series of tombs, Spanish-Moorish azulejos, and other artefacts from different locations. As you walk among the ruins, let your imagination take over and reflect upon the power of the forces of nature.
Igreja do Carmo
Address: Largo do Carmo, 1200-092 Lisboa, Portugal
Price: 3.50 EUR (3.85 USD)
Opening Hours: May - Sept: 10 am - 6 pm, Oct - April: 10 am - 5 pm. Closed Sundays
Contact: +351 21 347 86 29
6. Delve into Lisbon's past at the Núcleo Arqueológico (Archaeological Centre)
One of the best attractions in Lisbon, and very often missed by tourist. Located in Rua Augusta near the BCP Bank, it takes you back to history, for free. Museum is opened everyday, and there are obligatory guided tours every hour. This site displays history of Lisbon starting from Phoenicians and the Romans. On this site is preserved Roman factory of Garum and later constructions from middle ages until time of Marques Pombal. Everything is underground and pretty low, so tall people could find this a problem. Tour was very interesting and they do it on several languages. Besides this on upper floors there are temporary exhibitions from time to time. Ines_de_Castro24
Between 1991 and 1995, renovation works carried out at the Millennium BCP building (a bank) uncovered a treasure of archaeological remains in the basement. Rather than demolish everything, the bank decided to build a museum over the site. Glass floors offer visitors a glimpse of the excavated basement. These remains are from the Roman, Islamic, and medieval eras, and also from the 15th to mid-18th century occupation, and they are a precious subterranean portal to Lisbon’s past. Entrance is free and there are also free guided tours available for you to join. This is a hidden gem because many people tend to walk past it without knowing it’s even there, as it is not visible from the street.
Address: Rua dos Correeiros, nº 21 (NARC entry) or nº 9 (reception desk), 1100-061 Lisboa
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat from 10 am - 12 noon and 2 pm - 5 pm
Duration: Around 1 - 2 hours
Contact: +351 211 131 004
Website: Núcleo Arqueológico
7. Stuff yourself with pastels de natas
Best enjoyed with a cup of espresso and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon powder, the Portuguese sweet egg tart pastry is a must-eat when in Lisbon. Nowhere else will you find such delicious pastries baked to absolute perfection. While the most famous pastelaria is the one in Belém, it might not necessarily be the most tasty and you have to take a train to get to Belém. Plus, you have to stand in line for quite a while to get a seat as the place is packed with tourists. However, there are some places that you can get equally tasty pastels de nata without having to travel far and wait in a long line. In downtown Lisbon, there are a handful of pastelarias that sell pastels de nata on par with, or perhaps even tastier, than those in Belém. Two pastelarias of worthy mention are Pastelaria Aloma and Manteigaria. Slightly off the beaten path, Pastelaria Aloma won the award for best pastel in Lisbon in 2012, while Manteigaria is more centrally located and comes recommended by locals. You can watch the pastels being made on site at this small gem of a pastelaria.
Every pastelaria does its own version of pastel de nata, with slight twists and variations. So depending on your personal preferences, you might find that the most famous one does not necessarily mean the most delicious ones. Try them all and give your verdict.
Address: R. Francisco Metrass 67, 1350 Lisboa, Portugal
Opening Hours: 8 am - 7 pm daily
Contact: +351 21 396 3797
Website: Pastelaria Aloma
Address: Rua do Loreto 2, Portugal
Opening Hours: 8 am - 12 midnight daily
Access: 8-teminu walk from Baixa-Chiado metro station
Contact: +351 21 347 1492
8. Listen to fado, the soundtrack of Lisbon
The hills of Lisbon are alive with the soulful strains of fado at night. Fado comes from the Latin word fatum, and it means fate or destiny. It is a melancholic Portuguese folk music, and the lyrics are often related to the themes of lost love, sorrow, nostalgia, and death. Even if you don’t understand a word of Portuguese, the soulful voices and heartrending guitar melodies convey the emotions loud and clear. A Tasca do Chico is a cosy little tavern with regular live performances of fado on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 9 pm. Each session lasts about 30 minutes. You don’t need to pay to watch the show; just get a drink from the bar and you’re set. As the bar gets packed really quickly, do go early to get a good spot. Another place to check out is SR Fado. It is slightly more pricey at 45 EUR (49.50 USD), as it includes a dinner (pre-fixed menu course), but reviews say it is an incredible experience and the food is delicious.
A Tasca do Chico
Address: Rua do Diário de Notícias 39, 1200-333 Lisboa, Portugal
Opening Hours: 7 pm - 3 am daily
Access: 10-minute walk from Baixa-Chiado metro station
Contact: +351 965 059 670
Address: Rua dos Remedios 176 | Alfama, Lisbon 1100, Portugal
Opening Hours: Wed to Sat 8 pm - 2 am
Contact: +351 914 431 971
Website: SR Fado
9. Discover the historical charm of Belém
Belém is a suburb of Lisbon and is perhaps best-known for Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, the cafe that sells the famous pastéis de Belém. However, Belém is home to a wealth of impressive UNESCO-listed monuments and museums that are well worth the short journey from Lisbon. Belém stands as a celebration of the Age of Discoveries, and many of its monuments are dedicated to the explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries. One of the top attractions is the Jerónimos Monastery, a grand ornate building that was built to honour the discovery of a sea route to India by the explorer Vasco de Gama. The monastery is a good representation of Manueline architecture, a style unique to Portugal and characterised by extravagant sculptural detail and maritime motifs. Another notable structure is Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), an iconic site by the marina in Belém, the starting point for many of Portugal’s explorers. The main feature of the sculpture is the thirty statues of people who played an important role in the discoveries, led by Henry the Navigator who led Portugal’s discovery expeditions into the New World in the 15th century. Look down at the foot of the monument and you will see a giant marble mosaic wind rose on the pavement. A map of the world at the centre of the wind rose charts the routes of Portuguese explorations. Don’t forget to visit the Torre of Belém, another iconic symbol of Lisbon that was built to guard the entrance to Lisbon.
It is easy to get to Belém from Lisbon. If travelling from Cais de Sodre station, board a train that says Todas on the front, which indicates that it stops at all stations on the way to Cascais. You can also take tram 15 or tram 127 from the Praça da Figueira or Praça do Comércio.
Address: Praça do Imperio, 1400-206 Lisbon, Portugal
Price: 10 EUR (11 USD) (Students and the elderly get 50% discount)
Opening Hours: May to Sep 10 am - 6.30 pm (last admission at 6.00 pm) Closed on Mondays. Oct to May 10 am - 5.30 pm (last admission at 5.00 pm)
Contact: +351 213 620 034
Website: Jeronimos Monastery
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Address: Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal
Price: 4 EUR (4.40 USD)
Opening Hours: Summer Schedule (Mar to Sep) 10 am - 7 pm daily (closed on Mondays during March). Last admissions: 6.30 pm
Contact: +351 21 303 1950
Website: Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Torre de Belém
Address: Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal
Price: 6 EUR (6.60 USD)
Opening Hours: May to Sep 10 am - 6.30 pm (last admission at 5.00 pm)
Website: Torre de Belém
A trip to Lisbon cannot be considered complete without doing a day trip to Sintra. Sintra looks like it was brought to life from the pages of a fairytale. With its whimsical romantic palaces, verdant pine forests, and mysterious labyrinth, you might find yourself expecting to see a princess and a wicked witch in Sintra. Perched high above in the clouds, the colourful Pena Palace is a must-visit. The intense and eclectic mixture of styles and vibrant colours make it an architectural gem to behold. The enigmatic Quinta da Regaleira is an intriguing palace with grottoes, underground tunnels, and a 27-metre-deep (88.6-foot-deep) Initiation Well. Entering the Quinta da Regaleira is like stepping into another world where time seems to flow at a different pace. See if you can spot symbols related to Freemasonry and alchemy around the gardens.
It is easy to get around Sintra. Specifically designed for tourists, the bus 434 circular route connects the train station to the town centre, and then climbs into the hills for the Pena Palace and the Moors Castle, before returning back to the train station.
Address: Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal
Price: 14 EUR (15.40 USD)
Opening Hours: 9.45 am - 7 pm daily
Website: Pena Palace
Quinta da Regaleira
Address: R. Barbosa do Bocage 5, 2710-567 Sintra, Portugal
Price: Adult 6 EUR (6.60 USD), Child (9 - 14 years old) 3 EUR (3.30 USD)
Opening Hours: 10 am - 8 pm (April - September)
Duration: Around 2 - 3 hours required
Contact: +351 21 910 66 56
Website: Quinta da Regaleria
Sintra Day Trip From Lisbon
Price: From 80.96 USD
Duration: 8.5 hours approximately (9 am - 5.30 pm)
This enthralling capital of Portugal will capture your heart and take your breath away. It has a lot of heart and character, which will keep you yearning to go back once you have visited. With so many things to see and do, both in the lively heart of the city and a bit further afield on the outskirts, you will certainly find plenty to occupy your time and keep you captivated.
Boa viagem, Lisboa espera por ti. Have a good trip, Lisbon awaits you!
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