Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, is a fascinating city with a mixture of modern and old and plenty of things to do – good and cheap food, good weather, several cultural and historical landmarks to visit, and fantastic beaches to relax in. So if you feel like everyone you know is traveling to Lisbon or Portugal, you’re not alone!
12 Things to Do in Lisbon Portugal
It is a charming town to visit, but it is one of the most affordable capitals in Western Europe. Unfortunately, while Lisbon is astonishing in summer, it is also crowded as it has become extremely popular. For this reason, we suggest you travel during shoulder season, between April and June, and then in September and October to enjoy all the things the city has to offer minus large crowds.
Here are the best things to do in Lisbon for all tastes and wallets.
1. Castelo de São Jorge
We start this list of things to do in Lisbon where everything began in Castelo of Saint Jorge. The Moors built the castle in the 11th century. In 1147, it was conquered by D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, becoming the Royal Palace in the 13th century. Needless to say that the castle is an important landmark in Portugal.
The castle is located in the Alfama district, on the highest hill of Lisbon. It is the ideal place to learn about the history of Lisbon and admire the breathtaking views of the city.
The entrance fee is 10€, and the castle is open from 9:00 to 18:00 (from November to February) and 9:00 to 21:00 (from March to October).
2. Get lost in the Alfama District
Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods, and it portrays the Moorish heritage in the capital. With typical small streets and labyrinth alleys, it reveals the architecture of the Muslim era. The neighborhood is also the oldest part of the capital as it didn’t have to be rebuilt after the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed the city in 1755.
In the past, this neighborhood had a poor reputation; it used to be where the most impoverished people lived. But nowadays it is one of the hippest places in Libon with cool cafes and restaurants. In addition, the buildings were rehabilitated, making it very pleasant to wander around. Plus it has several of the best lookouts of the city: Miradouro da Graça, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Miradouro das Portas do Sol.
In and around Alfama, you will also find some of the most important landmarks of Lisbon, like the Castelo de São Jorge, the National Pantheon of Portugal, and the Cathedral of Lisbon.
Alfama is one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Lisbon, with several places to stay for affordable prices.
3. Ride the iconic tram 28
One of the most iconic things to do in Lisbon ride its yellow trams, used as public transportation since 1872. There are 63 trams in Lisbon – 45 of them are historical and are called “remodelados” (remodeled). The remodelados tram retains its original features with polished wood interior and brass dials; they are classy.
The most iconic tram is tram 28, as it follows a very scenic route passing through the narrow streets of Graça, Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela. Along the way, you will pass by famous landmarks like Lisbon Cathedral, Praça Luís de Camões, and Portas do Sol viewpoint.
Be aware that the train is very touristic and can get very crowded. If you prefer a less busy route, you can catch the trams 12 or 24.
To ride the tram, you can buy a single ticket of 3 € or a 24-hour pass with an unlimited public transport ticket that costs 6,45€
4. Lisbon Cathedral
Lisbon Cathedral, or simply Sé as it is known, is one of the oldest buildings in Lisbon. It was built in 1147, after Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal conquered it from the Moors. After the earthquake of 1755, the Cathedral was rebuilt. Due to that fact, the Cathedral has a mixture of different architectural styles.
The Cathedral is located in the heart of Alfama, close to the Baixa Pombalina. You can visit the Cathedral for free, but it costs 2.5€ to enter the cloisters.
5. Discover Baixa Pombalina
Baixa Pombalina is Lisbon’s Downtown. It is an elegant district reconstructed in 1755 by the Marquis of Pombal. Unfortunately, Lisbon was severely destroyed by an earthquake, a tsunami, and multiple fires.
The Marquis of Pombal, the prime minister, reconstructed the city in a modern style. With long straight parallel streets forming a grid pattern, wide avenues, neoclassical buildings, and plazas. You will see that this part of the capital is very organized and impressive.
Baixa Pombalina is also the ideal place to go shopping. While strolling the streets, don’t forget to go to Augusta street and appreciate its arch, Comercio Square, Rossio, Brasileira cafe, and the oldest bookstore in the country, Bertrand.
6. Jerónimos Monastery and Belem tower
Located in Belem, Jerónimos Monastery and Belem tower are very close to each other, by the Tagus river. They were both built in the 15th century in a Manueline style and earned the UNESCO World Heritage status in 1983.
The Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most beautifully decorated buildings in the country. Initially, it used to be a monastery, but from the 19th century, it was a church and a Pantheon. It is well worth visiting as it is an important Portuguese landmark and a gorgeous building. The entrance fee is 10€.
Next to Jerónimos Monastery, the Belem Tower was built to be a defensive tower on the river banks. The tower symbolizes the age of Discoveries with several nautical and nationalistic motifs. You can visit the tower’s interior for 6€, but it is closed on Mondays.
7. Eat a pastel of Belém
One of the things to do in Lisbon everyone should experience is trying a pastel of Belém. Known in English as custard tarts, Pastel de Belém is a sweet made with crispy puff pastry stuffed with egg cream and then baked in the oven. The details of the original recipe are a secret kept under lock and key.
Pastel of Belém was created in Jerónimos monastery by the monks. When the religious orders ended, the pastry recipe was passed to the pastry shop next to the monastery, the Antiga Pastelaria de Belém.
You can buy a pastel de Belém in this pastry shop next to Jerónimos monastery called Pastel de Belém. They are delicious, and you may not be able to eat only one.
Note that Pastel de Nata is delicious and nearly the same as the Pastel de Belem and can be found in almost every pastry shop in Lisbon.
8. Enjoy the view from Cristo Rei (Christ the King Statue)
Located on the south bank of Tagus River in Almada, overlooking Lisbon, the Christ, the King Statue is a giant statue with 28 meters high placed on a massive pedestal of 82 meters.
The statue of Christ has his arms raised, blessing the city, and was inspired by the Brazilian statue: Christ, The Redeemer. However, it isn’t as big.
The Sanctuary was built in 1959 by the church, and it symbolizes Portugal’s gratitude for being spared from the destruction of WW II. The Sanctuary is a pilgrimage site, and you can climb up to the top of the statue by elevator. From the top, you have a breathtaking panoramic view of Lisbon, the Tagus River, and the bridge 25 of April – these are the best views of Lisbon. The entrance fee is 6€.
The best way to go to the Sanctuary is by ferry boat, crossing the Tagus River to Cacilhas in Almada. It is a cool experience and very panoramic. From the Cacilhas side of the river, you can catch a metro.
Cacilhas is also very famous for its seafood restaurants that we recommend. Besides the restaurants, it has a trail along the river with beautiful views of Lisbon. It is a pleasant walk and an excellent spot to relax and enjoy a sunset and the view of Lisbon.
9. Go underwater in the Lisbon Oceanarium
Going to the Oceanarium is one of the family-friendly things to do in Lisbon. The Oceanarium is located in the Parque das Nações, and it was built for the world fair Expo 98.
It is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, with a colossal tank that gives the illusion of an open ocean and four large tanks representing the world’s four major ocean ecosystems. In the Oceanarium, you will find species like penguins, seagulls, birds, sharks, sunfish, octopuses, and jellyfish. In addition, it is full of Marine Life.
The entrance fee for the Oceanarium is 19€ for adults and 13€ for children.
When visiting the Oceanarium, you also should explore the evolving Parque das Nações, the site of Expo 98. There are still some exposition features, like water fountains, the pavilion of Knowledge (science museum), and a cable car that glides above the park by the Tagus River. The park also has several cafes and good restaurants. It is the ideal place to run, bike, and play with the kids; it is a delightful area.
10. Go parting in Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is the Bohemian quarter of Lisbon – the party district. It is quiet, and nothing happens during the day, but it comes alive with thousands of people at night.
It is packed with bars, places to eat, and Fado houses, so it’s an excellent place to eat traditional Portuguese food and go to a fado show. Typically, people in Bairo Alto party in the streets, hopping from bar to bar and drinking in the streets.
Bairro Alto is on top of the hill, so to reach it, you will have to do a steep hike, or you can catch the Bica Funicular. It is one of the most iconic and photographed funiculars in Lisbon. The district also has a beautiful viewpoint, São Pedro de Alcântra Viewpoint.
11. Go beach hopping
The beaches are one of the most famous things about Portugal; thus, beach hopping in Summer is always a good idea when in Portugal. Fortunately, Lisbon has several fantastic beaches to go to for a dip and sunbathe.
Some of these best beaches are: Caxias beach, Paço de Arcos beach, Torres beach, Carcavelos Beach, São Pedro de Estoril beach, Conceição beach. You can reach them by public transportation taking 30 to 40 min. Some of them are in the resort town of Cascais, which belongs to the metropolitan area of Lisbon.
You can explore other well-known beaches if you have a car, like Costa da Caparica, Guincho beach, Meco beach, and Peninsula de Troia.
Take into consideration that the water of the beaches around Lisbon is cold and sometimes windy. But, on the other hand, they have soft yellow sand and turquoise water, plus Lisbon is fortunate to have good weather most of the year.
12. Make a trip to Sintra
Sintra is a charming Portuguese town located 30 km from Libon. The city is packed with exciting things to do. The most popular is the famous Pena Palace, but Quinta Regaleira, the Moors Castle, the Palace of Monserrate, and the beautiful Pena Park. You will need at least a full day to explore Sintra.
The most important thing to visit in Sintra is the Palácio Nacional da Pena. This eclectic palace was built on top of a hill in the Sintra mountains. The palace is unique, built in different styles, Medieval, Islamic, and Manueline, and with vibrant colors.
It used to be the royal residence in the 18th century. The palace’s inside is beautifully decorated, maintaining the style of the kings and queens who lived there. Naturally, it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Surrounding the palace is a luxurious park, Pena park, with a dense pine forest, routes to walk, and beautiful gardens.
The best way to get to Sintra is by bus or trail, and be aware that it is very crowded in summer.