TOP 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LISBON
Here are the best things to do in Lisbon during your travels.
Here are the best things to do in Lisbon during your travels.
Ready to discover the ultimate best things to do during your trip to Lisbon. This list represents the best activities that every traveler has to do when they are in the amazing town of Lisbon in Portugal. Get ready to be amazed by amazing views, fun activities, great food and historical wanders... Lisbon is truly an easy-to-visit city with a lot of activities. You will never get bored!
If you need more ideas, don't forget to check our larger list of 50 things to do in Lisbon with more of off the beaten track ideas!
Portugal's capital and her trams go hand in hand. With two of the most famous, the 28E and the 25E Lisbon trams rumbling through the narrow city streets day and night, there is always an opportunity to hop onboard. The routes followed by the streetcars allow riders to pass by the most touristy neighborhoods, the ceremonial Rua Augusta Arch, the alternative and street art filled districts of Bairro Alto and Anjos and up the steep hills of impressively posh areas such as Estrela and Lapa.
While there is much to distract you outside, take time to admire the inside of the historic street cars, some of which have been running since WWII. Wood paneled walls and floor, leathered bench seating and brass detailing make them a rarity from a bygone era. If you catch the tram in the touristy neighborhoods, expect open seating to be harder to come by. We suggest hopping on at a station outside Alfama or Baixa and stay onboard for a full loop, departing after at your desired destination.
Catch the coastal train to Belém and visit the cultural attractions which pay tribute to the power of Portugal's history. While today Portugal is a quiet player on the global stage, at one point it was a political force leading trade, discovering new routes and expanding its reach to colonies abroad. Such notable figures as Vasco de Gama, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan all spent time in Belém before departing for their influential voyages.
The riverfront district is loaded with sights and attractions to keep visitors entertained for days. Our top suggestions are to visit the castle-like Belém Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, the UNESCO World Heritage Jerónimos Monastery, Berardo Cultural Center, the MAAT and the Tropical Botanical Gardens. Of course, no day trip in Belém is complete without a stop at the most famous bakery, Pastéis de Belém. Grab a box of custard cream pastries to go and stroll through the historic downtown area and along the waterfront. Belém has a large pedestrian riverside walking path which leads back to Lisbon.
From its hilltop position São Jorge Castle has overlooked the sprawling city below since 200 BC. This location was once the ideal spot for defense but today it simply offers spectacular views of Portugal's capital. As you walk through the opening of the fortification, decorated with Portugal's coat of arms, get ready to step back in time. São Jorge Castle functioned as a defense post for Romans and Visigoths and later a palace for the Moors until Afonso Henriques captured and occupied it as the first king of Portugal. A visit here is a great way to spend a few hours, touring the towers, the gardens, the weaponry and the archaeological site. If you're not afraid of heights, head up to the walking path along the top of the walls to get a stellar view of Lisbon.
Alfama is at the top of the list for every visitor that comes to Lisbon, and there is no arguing why. The historic village-like district of Lisbon captures the magic and character of the Portuguese soul.
Before you embark on your discovery of this neighborhood, the first thing you should know is comfortable walking shoes are a must. Alfama rises as quickly as it falls, with hills that shoot straight up and the steepest cobble stone stairways you’ll be asked to climb in the city. The streets are a winding maze of centuries old white-stucco architecture and roads so narrow the famous tram cars only just squeeze through on their way to Graça. While the area is becoming more dense with tourism, it still maintains the charming old feeling of what Lisbon used to be. In this tiny but generously giving neighborhood, you will find the best viewpoints, traditional fado taverns, azulejo tiled buildings and murals, the National Pantheon, the Lisbon Cathedral and Saint George's Castle.
→ For more information on Alfama and the best of the neighborhood, make sure to read our Guide to the Alfama Quarter.
Lisbon is often referred to as the city of light. Despite the narrow streets and rising historical architecture, there is always a warm light that seems to drape itself around the city. And what better place to meet the warmth and sunny glow of Lisbon than at one of their many romantic terraces? Known in Portuguese as a miradouro, you will find signs around the city relentlessly directing you to the closest one. In Alfama you’ll discover a handful of the most popular, such as Portas do Sol, Graça and Santa Luzia miradouros.
To see the city from a different angle, head to the terraces beside the Carmo Convent, the viewing deck of the Santa Justa Lift or the park, São Pedro de Alcântara in Bairro Alto. At the top of the Estrela Basilica you can view the city from the roof, or if you're looking for a very unique experience, head to Pillar 7 on the Abril 25 Bridge to view the city from within a glass panoramic box at a height of 80 meters.
With year-round pleasant weather, one of the best ways to spend an afternoon in Lisbon is at a park. While the city has small parks partnered with their green kiosks in almost every neighborhood plaza, at the heart of the city is Park Eduardo VII, landscaped in the English romantic style and topped with a viewpoint.
On the western side of the city, in the neighborhood of Estrela, you will find the Jardim de Estrela, a beautiful park that was once the favorite of the queen. The two kiosks are always buzzing with park goers who have come to sit in the outdoor cafes, enjoying cheap beers, Portuguese wine or savory snacks. In the summer concerts and craft fairs are held and the playground is a favorite with children.
If you’re willing to head a bit outside of Lisbon's center, you will discover Monsanto, the largest park in the area. Covering more than 120 acres, it offers anything you're looking for. From fantastic playgrounds, small amusement parks, biking, camping, recreational sports or just picnicking, you’ll find it at Monsanto. And of course, the panoramic of Monsanto, another incredible spot to look out at the city from.
Parks are a fantastic way to spend a day in the city with children. For more ideas on activities in Lisbon with kids, check out of list of the top 15 suggestions.
When people think of Portuguese cuisine the first thing that comes to mind is seafood. And Lisbon, with her feet in the ocean, is the best place to find it. The most popular fish you’ll come across in Portugal is absolutely salted cod, which they call bacalhau. It makes its way onto every menu, into pastries and snacks and rumor has it, can be prepared more than 300 ways. Sardines are a strong runner up, and during the summer festivals take over the city and the smell of coal roasted sardines permeates Lisbon.
The Portuguese love feasting on seafood so much that they even have a name for it- mariscada. Another traditional dish is the grilled octopus, polvo grelhado, which is prepared in olive oil so that the meat stays melt-in-your-mouth tender.
While these are all fantastic options, when in doubt, ask for the catch of the day often written on a chalkboard posted outside. This is an indicator of what’s fresh, in season and a specialty of the chef. And with any fish you order, pairing it with Portugal’s famous green sparkling wine, vinho verde, is a must. For the best seafood in the city, heading to Cervejaria Ramiro is a must.
On day one in Lisbon it's mandatory that you pop into a bakery and sink your teeth into the custardy, cinnamon-sprinkled, little cup-shaped pastel de nata. The sweet desert is more than just that, but a bite of Portuguese history and culture. It was during the Medieval Ages, when the convents and monasteries were using egg whites to starch clothes that they found themselves with the predicament of excessive yolk. The bright idea of adding them to baked goods was proposed and tah-dah! The pastel de nata was born.
The Jerónimos Monastery monks were the first to bake them during the 18th century. Following the 1820 Liberal Revolution, when the state ordered all religious groups to disband, the secret recipe was passed to Casa Pastéis de Belém. Since then, the recipe has remained in a select number of hands and Pastéis de Belém has become the most famous place to buy them. We suggest either heading there or to Manteigaria, which is also a well known bakery around the city. And make sure to pair it with a nice strong espresso, known here as a bica.
When in Lisbon it's mandatory that you make a trip to LX Factory- a thriving hive of life and energy in a once abandoned manufacturing district. It's easy to spend a few hours here, as there is shopping, restaurants, cafes, bars, vintage retailers, tattoo parlors, art exhibitions, working ateliers and even an ax throwing saloon. One of the most unique aspects of LX Factory is the Ler Devagar bookstore, which includes a record section, fully stocked bar, restaurant and books that reach from floor to ceiling. Oh and did we mention, it was also the first printing factory in Lisbon? The bookstore maintains the industrial feel and you can view the original machinery that was used in the printing business. Actually, if you choose to dine here, you can sit shoulder to shoulder with many of the out-of-use machines. For those who love street art, LX Factory does not disappoint. The complex is decorated with colorful murals and even a recycled art installation from Bordalo II.
With the bright and boldly colored Pena Palace seated on the highest hill in Sintra, it's easy to be distracted from the rest of the attractions that are nestled into the overgrown vegetation of the mountains. Pena Palace is magnificent, no doubt about it, but equally impressive is the Monserrate Palace, the Quinta da Regaleira and the National Palace of Sintra. All feel as if they have been directly pulled from the pages of a fairy tale - with ornate decorations, tiled azulejo exteriors, lavish furnishings, enchanting gardens and the most unforgettable views.
Sintra does not disappoint, which is why it is a favorite for anyone coming to visit Lisbon and was once a romantic holiday escape for the royal family. While the cultural monuments are large and impressive, take time to explore the village below, which has also been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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