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Best things to do in Lisbon

It is difficult for Lisbon not to leave a mark on the traveler: its streets, its culture and its tasty gastronomy will always make you want more. I leave you a list of my essentials in Lisbon.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

Jul 8, 2021 • 6 min read

Best things to do in Lisbon

©Claudio Schwarz

The capital of Portugal has something special and authentic that cannot be described in words. Lisbon is the rooftops of Alfama, the cafés of Chiado, the atmosphere of the Bairro Alto, the facades of the historic center, the gardens of Belem and the banks of the Tagus River.

1. Tour the city with a guided tour

Walk the picturesque streets of Lisbon I ©Nima Izadi
Walk the picturesque streets of Lisbon I ©Nima Izadi

I will never tire of defending that the best way to get to know a city is to walk its streets and get lost in its corners. For this reason, my first recommendation for all of you who are thinking of going to this city is to take a guided tour of Lisbon.

Lisbon has many neighborhoods and each of them has a character and a special personalityl, so, if you have time, I advise you to take several tours through the different neighborhoods of the Portuguese capital. If on the other hand you are short on time or want to try the experience in a general way, you will also find guided walking tours of the most important places in Lisbon.

2. Up and down its slopes by streetcar.

Trainway on a slope in Lisbon | ©Lucy-Claire
Trainway on a slope in Lisbon | ©Lucy-Claire

The yellow wooden trams that run through Lisbon are a tourist attraction in themselves, but they are also a perfect way to get around the city getting comfortably and quickly to the points of interest furthest from the center. To ride a streetcar you have two options: take a regular ticket for a trip as if it were a regular bus or hire a streetcar route in advance.

In addition, there is also the possibility of combining tickets for the streetcar with those of the tourist bus, so that you can comfortably move around all corners of the city. I leave you here my practical guide about Hop on Hop off Bus Tours so that you can organize your trip more easily.

3. Attend a fado show

The Art of Fado I ©Ricardo Santos
The Art of Fado I ©Ricardo Santos

To know a city is also to know its culture and traditions and in the case of Lisbon that goes through the fado. Fado is a melancholic song based on feelings that emerged in the poor neighborhoods of Lisbon and that is still alive today in the Portuguese capital.

Scattered throughout the capital, there are different venues where you can enjoy a fado show with or without dinner included and also different packages to combine a fado show and a sightseeing tour of Lisbon.

4. Visit Sintra and other nearby villages

Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra | ©Raja Sen
Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra | ©Raja Sen

If after strolling around Lisbon you think nothing can match the beauty of the Portuguese capital, wait until you take a excursion to Sintra. This World Heritage Site is full of beautiful palaces such as the Palacio da Pena and the National Palace of Sintra, with colorful facades and is probably the best day trip from Lisbon.

5. Take a guided tour of Pena Palace

Palacio Da Pena, Sintra | ©Mark Lawson
Palacio Da Pena, Sintra | ©Mark Lawson

One of the main sites to see during a visit to Lisbon is not in Lisbon. It is the Palacio da Pena and is located in Sintra.

If the excursion to Sintra is a "must", entering the Pena Palace is another one. You can buy tickets or hire a guided tour of the palace, but the most important thing is that you reserve at least one morning to see it all as the Pena Palace also has huge gardens that are worth a visit.

6. Taste Portuguese gastronomy

Enjoy the delicious Belem cakes ©André Luís
Enjoy the delicious Belem cakes ©André Luís

Are you going to leave Portugal without tasting its most typical dishes? For any self-respecting traveler, trying different flavors and textures is part of the trip and in Lisbon you are spoilt for choice. On the one hand, being a big city you will have multitude of restaurants to choose from (I recommend you to book in advance if you are interested in a particular one).

If you take a guided tour of Lisbon, ask your guide for recommendations. On the other hand, there are typical Lisbon specialties that you cannot miss; especially the cod, the green wine, the francesinha and the famous pasteles de Belem that you will find for sale in this area.

7. Visit the Carmo Convent

Ceiling of the Convento da Carmo | ©grassrootsgroundswell
Ceiling of the Convento da Carmo | ©grassrootsgroundswell

After a few days walking around the city you will have already noticed that many of its buildings were affected by the different earthquakes that have devastated Lisbon throughout its history. This is the case of the Convento da Carmo, once belonging to the Carmelite order, which lacks a roof.

However, this peculiarity makes it, precisely, one of the favorite places for travelers. On Sundays it is closed, but the rest of the week you can visit it from 10 am to 6 pm and I assure you that it is worth it both for its structure and for its views.

8. Party in the Upper Quarter

Enjoy the Lisbon nightlife in Bairro Alto | ©Senhor Estilo
Enjoy the Lisbon nightlife in Bairro Alto | ©Senhor Estilo

Not everything is going to be tourism and those who have been in Lisbon in summer know it well. If you stay near the Barrio Alto a crowd of people in the streets will surprise you when you go out for dinner; music, partying, drinking, joy and a smile on every corner of the narrow and steep streets that run through this neighborhood are the main characteristics of the Lisbon party.

In the middle of a bohemian atmosphere, the Bairro Alto concentrates a multitude of pubs and bars in many of which you can also listen to fado.

9. Visit the Jerónimos Monastery

Monasterio de los Jerónimos | ©balavenise
Monasterio de los Jerónimos | ©balavenise

When you visit the neighborhood of Belem you will be struck by the structure of the Jerónimos Monastery; do not hesitate to enter and, if you can, book the guided tour. Completed in the 16th century in the Manueline style, the Jeronimos Monastery is considered a World Heritage Site.

10. See Lisbon's rooftops from its lookouts

Views of Lisbon from the Portas do Sol viewpoint | ©Shadowgate
Views of Lisbon from the Portas do Sol viewpoint | ©Shadowgate

It would have been a sin not to include in the list the wonderful viewpoints that Lisbon has. The Portuguese capital is known as The City of 7 Hills and this nickname assures the traveler extraordinary views from different points of the city. These are some of the viewpoints that you should not miss:

  • Portas do Sol viewpoint: my favorite because of the charm of the orange roofs of the Alfama district.
  • Mirador de San Pedro de Alcántara: located in the Barrio Alto and overlooking the Castle of San Jorge.
  • St. George's Castle: from the tower of Ulysses you can see a 360-degree panoramic view of the city.
  • Mirador de Gracia: located next to the church of the same name. Ideal for watching the sunset.

11. Enjoy the best sunset in the city with a boat ride on the Tagus.

Yes, you read that right. Every afternoon, several sailboats leave from the pier ready to sail the waters of the Tagus during sunset, allowing you to enjoy a spectacular sunset and a glass of wine in the meantime. The truth is that for me, it was one of the best plans I could do during the trip and best of all is that the budget you need is not excessive, since you can get to make a cruise on the Tagus for from about 30 Euros. I tell you all the details in my article about the best Tagus cruises.

Things to do in Lisbon