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!

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Explore the City on the Iconic Yellow Tram 28

1. The Iconic Yellow Tram 28

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, except 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.  

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A Full Day of Entertainment in the Cultural District of Belém

2. Belém Tower & District of Belém

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. One of the top attractions is of course the castle-like Belém Tower. The historical landmark served as both the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon and acted as the defense system for those trying the city from the ocean. Other sights not to miss are the Monument to the Discoveries, the UNESCO World Heritage Jerónimos Monastery, 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. 

  • For an in-depth look at the tower, check out our article on the history of the Belém Tower.

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Step Back in Time at the Saint George's Castle

3. São Jorge Castle

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. 

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Get Lost in the Old-World Streets of the Historic Neighborhood of Alfama

4. Lisbon Cathedral & the Historic Alfama District

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 captures the magic and character of the Portuguese soul. The streets are a winding maze of centuries old white-stucco architecture and roads so narrow the famous yellow tram 28 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. Here, you will find the best viewpoints, traditional fado taverns, azulejo tiled buildings and murals, as well as attractions like the National Pantheon, and St. George's Castle. 

Be sure to visit the impressive Lisbon Cathedral, Lisbon’s oldest and most important religious site. First constructed in 1147 by the Christian Crusaders, the church, also known as Se Cathedral or simply Se, was an initiative of King Afonso Henriquez, who defeated the prior Alfama residents, the Moors. Like many structures in the city, the Lisbon Cathedral was hit hard by the earthquake of 1755 as well as other natural disasters. The accumulated damage resulted in a blending of architectural styles, which incorporates Baroque, gothic, neoclassical and rococo. 

→ 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 cobblestone stairways you’ll be asked to climb in the city. For more tips, read our Guide to the Alfama Quarter. 

→ Read more: Complete Guide about Lisbon Cathedral 

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Things to do at the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon

5. Jerónimos Monastery

Admiring the incredible architecture of the 16th century Jerónimos Monastery is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Lisbon. The monastery honors Vasco da Gama, the first Portuguese explorer to complete the journey to India.  Before setting sail, Da Gama and his crew stayed at the monastery and prayed in the chapel Ermida do Restelo for a successful and safe expedition. 

Jerónimos Monastery is an incredible example of Manueline style and a testament to the wealth and success of Portugal during the Age of Discovery.  It is strongly influenced by a maritime theme, and the designs feature discoveries made during empire expansion voyages. Within the monastery are tombstones dedicated to the greatest explorers, poets, kings and politicians in Portugal, with Da Gama’s tombstone near the entrance. 

  • Address: Praça do Império
  • By Train: Belém Station

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Eat the World’s Best Seafood

6. Portuguese Cuisine: Seafood

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. 

  • Address: Av. Alm. Reis 1 H
  • Don't miss your opportunity to dine at Lisbon's best restaurants for seafood and other traditional dishes. 

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From Terraces to Miradouros, Lisbon is a City of Views

7. From Terraces to Miradouros: Viewing Points

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. 

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Enjoy the History Desert Pastel de Nata

8. Pastel de Nata

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.

Attend an authentic Fado Show in Lisbon

9. Fado Show

If you are looking for an authentic local experience, then visiting a Fado show is a must! Fado is the famed music of Portugal which tells stories of history, tradition and of course, heartbreak. It became popular in the 19th century as women sang pain-filled love songs for the men who had gone on seafaring journeys with no certainty of return.

What makes Fado unlike other music and specific to the history of Portugal is that it evokes feelings of melancholia, passion and saudade- the emotion of missing something that no longer exists. A great location for authentic fado shows is the Alfama neighborhood. Bairro Alto is also a good option, for example Tasca Do Chic.

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10. Day Trip to Sintra

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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