Lisbon is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. It offers its visitors endless things to discover. Check out this list of 30 Things to do in Lisbon – a definitive guide to the best local spots, and find out why people love this city!
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos – Padrão dos Descobrimentos
The Jerónimos Monastery was built in honor of Vasco da Gama’s historic trip to India, and is now acclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this exquisite monument to the golden age of discoveries, you will enjoy admirable Portuguese Manueline architecture and the São Jerónimo Chapel, where you can find the tombs of Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese historical figures.
Castelo de São Jorge – The Old Castle
The Castelo de São Jorge is at the top of the highest hill in the Alfama neighborhood and can hardly be forgotten when you stroll through the city. This ancient Moorish castle from the 11th century not only offers abundant history and tales, but also stunning views over the historic center of Lisbon and the Tagus River, making it a must for all tourists visiting for the first time.
Torre de Belém
If there is just one landmark you visit when touring through the Portuguese capital, make it this one.
Soaring high above the seafront of the Lisbon quays, this great tower displays a veritable fusion of architectural styles from the Mudejar to the Moorish, the Gothic to the Romanesque.
It has stood watch over the mouth of the Tagus River since its construction under the patronage of Saint John back in the 16th century.
Since then, it has risen to become perhaps the most iconic feature of the city, famed as the last sight adventurers like the prodigal Vasco da Gama would have seen as they drifted out into the vast Atlantic Ocean.
Lisbon Cathedral – The Must See and Oldest Cathedral in the City
The Lisbon Cathedral, the cathedral with an imposing exterior, is the oldest and most important cathedral in the city, built in 1150, right after the Christians recovered the city from the Moors. Having survived several earthquakes and been rebuilt several times, the cathedral is now a mixture of different architectural styles and includes an impressive Gothic cloister. It is an iconic old complex that every visitor should not miss.
Ride Tram 28
Like San Francisco in the United States, Lisbon is a city famed for its historic, rattling tram lines.
None are more iconic than Tram 28 which has been working its way up the steep, cobbled roads and into the old Alfama district for decades.
The journey starts below the palm-spotted hills of Graça, and weaves toward the hair-pin alleys of Escolas Gerais, before pulling up to a halt beneath the gorgeous domes of the Estrela Basilica.
Sintra – Land of Fairy Tales
Sintra is a picturesque city full of colorful houses located northwest of Lisbon. The entire city is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for its fairytale style. The Pena Palace and the National Palace of Sintra are among the best places to see in Sintra and will take amazing pictures! It would be a perfect day trip to stroll through this mesmerizing city and admire the green landscapes along the hill. Sintra can also be visited with many day trips from Lisbon.
The people-watching opportunities from the windows are second-to-none, and you’re bound to discover decades of history as you pass the various majestic palaces and castles along the route.
Go underwater in the Lisbon Oceanarium
Located out in the blue waters of the Tagus Estuary, the huge Lisbon Oceanarium rises like a hulking aircraft carrier.
Inside, the structure houses countless exhibits related to marine life, which together pull in over one million visitors each year.
You can get up close to colorful puffer fish as well as watch the marauding sharks.
You’ll see curious moray eels and meet cuddly penguins.
There are also interesting collections of sea anemones and corals, not to mention an artificial boating lagoon out front where you can rent a pedalo if it is sunny.
Hop aboard the funiculars
Like Rome, Lisbon was built on seven hills.
Unlike Rome, the city planners here developed a series of funicular railways to help with transport to and from the neighborhoods above the city.
It’s a real joy to ride on some of the tracks such as the old Ascensor do Lavra which dates all the way back to the late 1800s and has been honored with a national heritage tag.
There is also the Ascensor da Bica, which winds up the tight-knit cobbled lanes off Largo do Calhariz.
Let’s also not forget the soaring Santa Justa Elevator which lifts people from Baixa to Carmo and offers sweeping views of the Lisbon downtown area along the way.
Bairro Alto is the core of Lisbon’s nightlife. Once the center of Lisbon’s bohemians, Bairro Alto today has a large concentration of bars and clubs. From traditional wine bars to glamorous rooftops, there is always a place for you. Otherwise, you can also simply relax on the streets where you will never be alone. After midnight, the streets are always full of people. You will like the extremely friendly atmosphere!
Cascais – Relax on a pristine beach
Cascais and the other neighboring coastal cities, along the Cascais train line, are the best seaside suburbs in Lisbon. Once a small fishing village, Cascais is now a privileged place for weekend getaways and has one of the best beaches in Portugal. If you want to stroll through the colorful old town, or enjoy sunbathing on a beautiful, stunning beach, this place will not disappoint you. A holiday in Lisbon without visiting Cascais is far from complete. Don’t forget to put it on your list of things to do in Lisbon!
Mercado da Ribeira
There are two distinct sides to Lisbon’s most famous food market.
First of all there is the downstairs part, which throbs with local fruit and vegetable sellers touting succulent legumes and Mediterranean fruits every morning of the week, so make sure to get there early if you want to get the best deals.
Then there is the upstairs section which comes packed with more modern, often quirky food stalls and cutting-edge eateries.
It is there that you will be able to taste the local specialty of custard tarts, sip fine Portuguese wines, and even attempt to conquer a massive francesinha sandwich which is one of the treats to come out of Porto in the north.
Wallow in the natural beauty of Tróia
You’ll have to hop, skip and jump over both the Tagus River Estuary and the Sado River Estuary to reach the sparkling beaches of the Tróia Peninsula.
But the approximately two-hour journey is definitely worth it.
Running for mile upon mile down the Atlantic Coast, the region has some of the top beachfronts in the entire Lower Alentejo.
The sands glow a soft yellow under the sun and the seas are surprisingly calm for this western section of the country.
The beautiful Parque Natural da Arrábida can be seen on the headlands opposite, while regular tours depart from Tróia to spot bottlenose dolphins out at sea.
Arrábida Natural Park – Get closer to Mother Nature
If you love nature, beautiful beaches and wildlife, the Arrábida Natural Park is perfect for you in every way. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Arrábida National Park offers breathtaking mountain views, extremely clean white sand beaches and a unique flora and fauna to discover. You will fall in love with its magical panoramas! In addition, it is a great place for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and snorkeling. All in all, it will make an ideal weekend trip for your visit to Lisbon!
Haggle at the Feira da Ladra
Polish your haggling skills for a trip to Feira da Ladra, because this sprawling midweek and weekend market is the place to go for quirky, curious and often downright weird trinkets and antiques.
Believe it or not, the history of the buzzing bazaar goes all the way back to the 12th century, when you can almost imagine a similar array of gypsy traders and motley talisman dealers assembling on the sidewalks of Campo de Santa Clara.
You will need to arrive early if you want to be in with a chance of grabbing anything worthwhile, and you can even travel to the market on historic Tram 28.
Pastéis de Belém – The First and Only Pastry You Need
There is nothing like Pastéis de Belém. As soon as you finish eating you will already miss your taste. The moment you take a bite – crunchy, delicious mix of cream, sugar and egg – you know you’re going to eat more than just one. You can find other pastries throughout the city, but only the Pastéis de Belém are the original and the best. It is a perfect place for breakfast or brunch and always a delight to eat while you visit Lisbon. A tip is to arrive before 10 am to avoid the long line, especially on weekends.
Bifana – the Best Sandwich in Town
Speaking of the most typical sandwich in Portugal, you cannot miss the tasty bifana. Usually enjoyed as a beer snack, it is a pork sandwich consisting of a roll of crusty bread with a succulent pork chop, seasoned with spices and garlic – a perfect mix of crunchy and porridge. Bifana is so popular that you can find it almost anywhere in the country. Forget the burgers, get a bifana while you’re in Lisbon!