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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 leave you wanting more. Here is a list of my must-sees in Lisbon.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

8 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 cafes 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. Walk around the city with a guided tour

Walk through Lisbon's picturesque streets| © Nima Izadi
Walk through Lisbon's picturesque streets| © 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 specialcharacter and personality, so if you have time, I advise you to make several tours through the different neighborhoods of the Portuguese capital. If on the other hand you have little 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.

Book a guided tour of Lisbon

2. Up and down the slopes by streetcar

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

The yellow wooden streetcars that run through Lisbon are a tourist attraction in themselves, but they are also a perfect way to get around the city, reaching the points of interest farthest away from the sights of Lisbon's historic center in a comfortable and fast way. 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 the streetcar tickets with the tourist bus tickets, so that you can comfortably move around all corners of the city. Here is my practical guide to the Lisbon Hop on Hop off Bus Tours so that you can organize your trip more easily.

3. Attend a fado show

The art of fado| ©Ricardo Santos
The art of fado| ©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 and well 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 with which to combine a fado show and a sightseeing tour of Lisbon. I recommend you to check this article about the best fado dinner options in Lisbon to make up your mind.

Book a ticket for a fado show

4. Visit Sintra on an organized tour

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

If after walking around Lisbon you think that nothing can match the beauty of the Portuguese capital, wait until you get to know everything there is to see in Sintra. This World Heritage Site is full of beautiful palaces such as the Pena Palace and the National Palace of Sintra, with colorful facades. Getting to Sintra from Lisbon is easy and will only take you an hour, but if you can, my recommendation is to hire an organized excursion to Sintra from Lisbon to forget about the details of the journey and get to know the area with an expert guide.

Book a tour to Sintra

5. Take a guided tour of the Pena Palace

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

One of the main sites to see during a visit to Lisbon is not in Lisbon. It is the Pena Palace and it 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 Pena Palace, but the most important thing is that you set aside at least one morning to see it all as the Pena Palace also has huge gardens that are worth a visit. If you go with children to Lisbon, this plan will seduce them especially because in the gardens of the Palace they will feel like in a fun fairy tale.

Book a guided tour of Pena Palace

6. Taste the Portuguese gastronomy

Enjoy the delicious pastries of Belem| ©André Luís
Enjoy the delicious pastries of Belem| ©André Luís

Are you going to leave Portugal without tasting its most typical dishes on a gastronomic tour of Lisbon? 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 plenty of restaurants to choose from (I recommend you to book in advance if you are interested in any particular restaurant).

There are typical Lisbon specialties that you can not miss, especially the cod, green wine, francesinha and the famous Belem cakes that you will find for sale in this area. On the other hand, you also have the possibility of doing a wine tasting in Lisbon or surroundings, something also very typical of the Portuguese capital.

Book a gastronomic tour in Lisbon

7. Visit the Convento da Carmo

Roof of the Convento da Carmo| ©grassrootsgroundswell
Roof 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 various earthquakes that have ravaged 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 its views.

8. Party in the Bairro Alto

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 gone in summer to Lisbon know it well. If you stay near the Bairro 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 midst of a bohemian atmosphere, the Bairro Alto is the protagonist of Lisbon's nightlife and concentrates a multitude of pubs and bars in many of which, in addition, you can listen to fado.

9. Visit the Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery| ©balavenise
Jerónimos Monastery| ©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 a guided tour. Completed in the 16th century in the Manueline style, the Jeronimos Monastery is considered a World Heritage Site.

10. See the rooftops of Lisbon from its viewpoints

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 rooftops of the Alfama neighborhood.
  • St. Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint: located in the Barrio Alto and overlooking the Castle of St. George.
  • 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

Views of the port of Lisbon
Views of the port of Lisbon

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 cruises on the Tagus.

Book a cruise on the Tagus

12. Take a trip to Fatima or Porto

Porto Sightseeing
Porto Sightseeing

If you are going to be in Lisbon for 4 days or even extend your stay in Lisbon for 5 days, you will probably want to visit other parts of Portugal. I recommend two: Fatima and Porto. Both getting from Lisbon to Fatima and from Lisbon to Porto is quite easy and you have at your disposal both guided tours to Fatima and organized excursions to Porto from Lisbon.

As for what you will see in each place, you have to know that Fatima is a mostly religious destination that owes its fame to the appearance of the Virgin to three shepherds. As for Porto is the other big city of Lisbon and even many have doubts whether it is better Porto or Lisbon; my recommendation, of course, is to visit both.

Book a tour to Fatima from Lisbon

Choose the best date to visit Lisbon

Plane at Lisbon airport
Plane at Lisbon airport

The temperatures in the Portuguese capital make it possible to visit at any time of the year; in fact, many people visit Lisbon in winter and, specifically, Lisbon at Christmas. Although you will need to wrap up warm, the cold is perfectly bearable (more so than the heat that can be experienced in summer) and that is why the months of January, February, March, October, November and December are among the most popular months to visit Lisbon.

Finally, you are probably wondering how many days you need to visit Lisbon. In my opinion, the ideal is to spend two days in Lisbon or three days in Lisbon, but if you go to Lisbon for only one day you will also be able to enjoy the most important points of a city that is quite manageable. However, in the latter case make sure you hire your transfer from the airport to the center of Lisbon in advance to save time and add it to the hours of sightseeing in this beautiful city.

Book your transfer from the airport to Lisbon city center