Are you planning a trip to Portugal and looking for the top things to do in Lisbon Portugal? Gorgeous Lisboa has seen its popularity surge in recent years, mostly due to the fact that this stunning city has won worldwide acclaim and top travel awards for several years running now.
It’s a city filled with incredible architecture, a wonderful climate, warm and hospitable people, a vibrant food scene and not to even mention the breath-taking views and viewpoints scattered all across Lisbon.
It is no wonder that so many travellers visiting sunny Lisboa fall head over heels in love with the place and vow to return again.
Having been lucky enough to call Lisbon my home over the past 3 years, I’ve had ample time to explore and get to grips with all of Lisbon’s hidden treasures. This has prompted me to put together this guide, outlining my top 10 things to do in Lisbon, that you should absolutely consider adding to your Lisbon Itinerary when visiting next.
How to get to Lisbon & Getting around
Getting to Lisbon is pretty straightforward. By air, you can fly into Lisbon’s international airport, which receives International, European and Domestic flights. You can also travel in by train or bus from other neighbouring European countries if required.
Getting around Lisbon is also hassle-free. The city has a great metro system that operates four different lines, one connecting to the airport too.
It’s worth noting that downtown Lisbon is actually quite small and compact, making it easy to get around to almost all major sites on foot. But you can opt to make use of the metro, buses, or even cab-hailing services such as Uber, Kapten or Bolt, who all operate within the city and often work out surprisingly cost-effective.
Where to stay in Lisbon
Whenever I get asked where to stay in Lisbon, I always recommend that visitors stay in centrally located areas such as in downtown Baixa and Chiado or even slightly up in the trendy neighbourhood of Principe Real.
If you prefer to avoid the throngs of tourists that decent on Lisbon, then consider staying in the green leafy Avenida Liberdade area. This gorgeous tree-lined Avenue is one of Lisbon’s most luxurious stretches of real estate, but here you will find hotels befitting of any budget, so don’t rule it out.
When to visit Lisbon
It’s no secret that Lisbon enjoys great weather almost all year round. Of course, the winter months that span from December through to March and even into April are colder and also rainier since Lisbon receives most of its rain in winter. Needless to say, Lisbon’s winter is far more temperate than other neighbouring European counterparts and over the festive holidays in December, Lisbon comes alive with festive cheer.
Try to avoid the busier and hotter summer months of July through to around mid-September when Lisbon sees a steep increase in tourists flocking to take advantage of the hot weather.
I personally believe that the best time to visit Lisbon would be either May to June or mid-September to October when the weather is still sunny and warm and crowds of holidaymakers have died down somewhat.
10 Top Things to do in Lisbon
I am often confused when I hear of travelers planning to stopover in Lisbon for one night. This is simply not enough time to get to grips with and enjoy this magnificent city. Do yourself a favor and plan at least a minimum of 3 days in Lisbon when visiting next, you’ll definitely need it as there are so many things to do in Lisbon.
1. Explore Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, Alfama
Much of downtown Lisbon was destroyed during the devasting earthquake and tsunami of 1755, meaning that most of what you see in Lisbon today is regarded as ‘newer’. But, if like me, you love the old-worldly charm and history of a place, then head over to Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, Alfama and its surroundings, that managed to survive much of the devastation.
Wandering through the cobbled alleyways and streets of Alfama is an absolute must-do. Getting lost in the maze, exploring the interesting buildings, and eating at one of the traditional Tasca’s will no doubt give you a sense of Lisbon’s history and essence.
A word of warning, Lisbon is a very hilly and steep city and Alfama is no exception. Be aware that many of its top sights do require trekking up steep hills, so make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes.
When exploring Alfama, be sure to check out two of my favorite viewpoints, the Miradouro das Portas do Sol and the Miradouro Santa Luzia.
Head further up the hill to the top where you’ll find Lisbon’s castle, the São Jorge Castle. To be completely honest, there’s not much to really since inside as it’s more of a ruin of a castle, but the views are incredible and the streets around the castle are extremely pretty and charming. You may even bump into the castle peacocks who often wander along through these side streets.
If your stay in Lisbon happens to fall over a Saturday or Tuesday, then be sure to visit the famous Feira da Ladra (Thieves Market) flea-market that operates on these days in Alfama, just behind the Panteão Nacional (The National Pantheon).
2. Check out the UNESCO sites in Belém
If you do follow my advice and plan to spend a couple of days in Lisbon, then make sure to catch the train or tram from the Cais do Sodré station and head to the riverfront neighborhood of Belém. This is a top thing to do in Lisbon.
Here you will find some of Lisbon’s most notable UNESCO World Heritage monuments and sites. This includes the much-photographed Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) as well as the awe-inspiring Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos). The Santa Maria church which is linked to the monastery is one of my absolute favorite churches in Lisbon and is a fantastic example of Portugal’s Manueline architectural style.
Other attractions in Belém includes the Discoveries Monument (Padrão dos Descobrimentos), the National Coach Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches) as well as the Ajuda Palace, located further up the hill from Belém in Ajuda.
3. Visit the National Tile Museum
One of Portugal’s most loved architectural features is undoubtedly the beautiful traditional tiles and tilework that adorn many a building throughout the country. And this too is the case throughout Lisbon.
Differing in designs, colors, and styles, traditional Portuguese tiles (known as Azulejos) is a true art form and absolutely exquisite!
So, what better place to learn more about them from the National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo). I absolutely adore this museum and can spend hours admiring the vast collection of Portuguese tiles and is without a doubt one of the top places I recommend you visit when traveling to Lisbon.
4. Admire the incredible views & viewpoints
As I’ve already alluded to earlier on, Lisbon is a city of many hills. In fact, it is known as being the city of seven hills. Along with the hills, come the views and viewpoints, of which Lisbon certainly has no shortage.
This is one of the things I love most about Lisbon. Being able to simply head to a viewpoint to admire the sweeping views out over the city as you sit back, drink in hand, and enjoy the beauty of the city.
Some of my favorite viewpoints include the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara in the neighborhood of Principe Real as well as the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen in Graça.
Of course, you’re not limited to only viewpoints, there are plenty of great restaurants and bars that also offer incredible vistas out over the city, such as Topo Chiado as well as Lost In.
5. Day Trips from Lisbon
One of the great advantages of a visit to Lisbon is that there is so much to explore beyond the city, all within easy reach by train in under an hour. That’s why planning a day trip from Lisbon is a perfect addition to your Lisbon Itinerary.
If I had to choose one particular day trip to recommend, I’d have to say a visit from Lisbon to Sintra is a must. Magical Sintra used to be the favored summer residence of the Portuguese royals and nobility, back in the day when Portugal was still considered a monarchy. Today, what’s left is the incredible array of palaces, castles and noble estates, strewn across this enchanted village. At only an hour from Lisbon by train, a visit to Sintra should definitely be top of your list.
Other notable day trips from Lisbon include travelling to seaside Cascais, medieval Óbidos or Évora to name but a few.
With fantastic rail and bus links at affordable prices, there’s no excuse for not venturing beyond Lisbon.
6. Sample the Local cuisine
Portugal is without a doubt a food and wine lovers’ ideal destination to visit. Not only is the wines world-class, the pastries and desserts out of this world but the traditional Portuguese cuisine is a must-try.
One of the best ways to savor the very best of Portuguese gastronomy is to head to the well-known Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira) located opposite the Cais do Sodré metro and train station. It is a large food hall with a wide variety of different food stalls and restaurants from which to pick and choose. In fact, some of Lisbon’s top chefs also have food stalls here.
When it comes to pastries and desserts, you have to give the much-loved Pastel de Nata a try. These famous egg yolk custard tarts were first produced by the monks of Jerónimos Monastery before they sold the recipe (when the monastery closed down) to the neighboring Pasteis de Belém bakery that still produces these delicious delights.
In relation to drinks to give a go, don’t miss out on a shot of Ginjinha, a sour cherry liqueur that is usually served in a small edible chocolate cup.
7. Experience a dinner and Fado show
If you are after a truly immersive cultural experience, then do yourself a favor and book a dinner and Fado show where you’ll get to listen to the haunting and somewhat melancholic sounds of Fado, Portugal’s traditional folk music.
Believed to have originated in Alfama, I would recommend you try out Fama D’Alfama restaurant. They have excellent food, a laid back Fado show, and best of all, they don’t overcharge as other tourist trap Fado restaurants do.
Either way, I’m sure you will appreciate the incredible sounds of Fado, it’s definitely an unforgettable experience and journey into true Portuguese culture.
8. Head to the beach
In search of some ‘vitamin sea’, the great news is that you are never far away from a beach in Lisbon. Whilst the city itself doesn’t necessarily have its own beaches; you can head along the coast towards Cascais where you will find an endless selection of fantastic beaches.
Alternatively, you can also head across the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge to the area known as Costa da Caparica. Here you will find the coastline stretches on for miles without end. There are several good quality and wide expansive beaches to choose from along this coastline.
Lastly, venture a bit further out (although you would need to hire a car for this) and head to some of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches found in the Arrábida Natural park, such as the gorgeous Galapinhos Beach.
9. Party it up in Bairro Alto
Consider yourself a party animal? Then the neighborhood of Bairro Alto, located just beside Chiado, is the place to be to party up a storm in true Lisbon style.
Bairro Alto is a maze of narrow cobbled streets that are lined with a selection of bars, restaurants, and clubs to enjoy and is usually vibrant and buzzing, especially over the weekends.
A word of warning, I usually don’t recommend visitors to book themselves into this area. With partying usually lasting till the early hours of the morning (until 3 am when bars and clubs have to close), it is usually packed and can get very noisy. Not great if you are a light sleeper and prefer some peace and quiet.
10. Take a sightseeing tour
Last but not least, if you do have limited time to spend in Lisbon, then the best way to see as much of the city as possible is to book yourself on a city sightseeing tour.
Lisbon has a couple of operators that all offer different tourists and sightseeing routes, allowing you to hop on and off as you see fit.
For a truly unique Lisbon sightseeing tour, why not book yourself a Tuk Tuk city tour. These are extremely good for explore the best of Alfama as they’re able to easy whiz up and down the narrow, cobbled streets and hills of Alfama.
Top Things to do in Lisbon Conclusion
Lisbon is an incredibly special place and unlike any other city that I’ve visited before. I have no doubt that you will fall in love with wonderful Lisboa as you tick off all these top things to do in Lisbon on your next visit.
Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 2 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way. Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain, and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo.