Lisbon, Portugal is a charming, vibrantly colored city filled with unique architecture, delicious food, and darling cobblestone streets. Intricate blue tile work covers the old buildings and the steep hills provide spectacular views of the bustling city below. In fact, Lisbon is known as “The City of Seven Hills”. You’ll love riding the old cable cars up and down the streets while enjoying the sights and sounds of this captivating European city!
If you’re planning a trip to Lisbon, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled a list of the top 30 things to do in Lisbon and the surrounding area to help you experience all of the highlights. Enjoy!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: Incredible Things to do in Lisbon
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The Top 30 Things to do in Lisbon, Portugal
1. See the View From a Miradouro
Miradouros are viewpoints on top of the many hills around Lisbon. It’s a bit of a climb to reach them but worth it for the view from the top. They are free of charge and a great place to get some impressive photos of the beautiful city below making them our top thing to do in Lisbon.
The Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is the best place in Lisbon to watch the sunset! The views of the city are incredible and it’s always a lively scene, with drink vendors and occasional local live music.
2. Admire the Tilework
You’ll see the beautiful blue and green tilework (known locally as “Azulejo“) all over the city of Lisbon – covering old buildings and decorating walls with artistic masterpieces.
Our favorite spot in Lisbon to appreciate the tilework is the Miradouro de Santa Luzia where you’ll get to appreciate the stunning views of the city as well as the intricate bright blue tilework. And if the time of year is right, the entire area will be covered with vibrant pink flowers!
3. Visit the National Tile Museum
If you really want to see the best tilework that the city of Lisbon has to offer, then you must check out the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, also known as the National Tile Museum. It’s the best place in Lisbon to get up close and personal to some of the most amazing tilework you’ll ever see! The painting on the tile takes incredible precision and we were in awe of the beauty and uniqueness of each work of art.
The National Tile Museum is more of an off-the-beaten-path attraction but we still think it’s one of the best things to do in Lisbon. Be sure to spend some time in the incredible golden church housed inside the museum. The walls are full of tilework that conveys old bible stories and there are the most opulent golden adornments throughout the huge room.
There is also a lovely little cafe and restaurant in the tile museum if you want to enjoy a snack in the central courtyard. It’s the perfect place to relax after spending a few hours wandering around the museum.
4. Climb to the Top of the Belém Tower
One of the most popular things to see in Lisbon, the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) is located about a 20-minute drive west of downtown and is an activity that you absolutely shouldn’t miss during your visit! This magnificent fortress was built between 1514 and 1520 in a classic Portuguese Manuelino style. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
Beginning at the bottom of the tower, you’ll find several cannons facing out of windows that look out to the Tagus River. This tower was originally used to defend the city and was later transformed into a lighthouse. You’ll need to climb several floors on a narrow spiral staircase to reach the lookout at the top. However, we would highly recommend stopping to explore each floor along the way.
Due to congestion in the narrow staircase, there are traffic indicators above each doorway to show you whether you can travel up or down at a given time. And for safety reasons, there are only 120 people allowed in the tower at a time. To avoid a wait you can either get to the tower right at opening time or purchase your tickets in advance to bypass the line.
5. Explore the Jerónimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos), along with the Belém Tower, are the two most visited sites in Lisbon. And for good reason. Both were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1983 and both should definitely not be missed during your trip to Lisbon.
The architecture on the Jeronimos Monastery is absolutely incredible, with intricately designed archways surrounding a massive interior courtyard. Photographers will want to spend a good amount of time here, wandering down the hallways on the two floors, admiring the views of the courtyard from every angle. It is truly the most spectacular architecture in the city of Lisbon.
Due to its popularity, the Jeronimos Monastery gets very crowded. Expect a long line to purchase tickets and a ton of people walking around the monastery. Go early or later in the day to avoid the masses. Or purchase a Lisboa Card in advance so you can skip the ticket line.
6. Check out the Padrão dos Descobrimentos Monument
As you walk from the Belém Tower to the monastery along the river, you’ll see the 170-foot tall Padrão dos Descobrimentos Monument (Monument to the Discoveries) rising from the banks. The monument was designed to commemorate the age of discoveries in Portugal. For a small fee, you can enter the monument and climb to the observation deck on the top.
Be sure to check out the impressive map inlaid on the ground out front!
7. Explore the MAAT: Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology
The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology is also located near the Belém Tower and is another historical attraction in Lisbon. It’s most certainly worth a stop if you are interested in Lisbon’s old and new architectural designs. There are exhibitions housed in two buildings, one of which is the old Tejo Power Station, and both buildings are fun to explore for all ages.
8. Take a Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is the most darling little town just about 20 miles west of Lisbon, and an area that you must explore during your trip to Portugal! Not only is there a stunning palace and some old castle ruins to explore, but the town of Sintra is full of cute coffee shops, darling boutiques, and quaint narrow pedestrian alleyways. Sintra is definitely one of the best day trips from Lisbon!
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra:
Driving to Sintra is not encouraged because the streets are quite narrow and parking is limited. Trains depart frequently throughout the day from Rossio Station, right in downtown Lisbon. The train ride takes approximately 40 minutes. Check the Lisbon to Sintra train schedule here.
The most popular site to visit in Sintra is Pena Palace, a bright red and yellow palace that sits high in the hills overlooking the town below. From the train station, you’ll want to take an Uber to the palace to avoid a strenuous uphill walk. The price to enter the palace is €14 per adult for both the palace and the park and you should expect a long wait to actually enter the palace. It’s worth it to see the views from the various balconies!
And just a short, downhill walk from the ticket office of the Pena Palace you’ll find the Moorish Castle. It was built in the 9th century to defend the town of Sintra but has since fallen into disrepair. Really all that is left is a long fortress wall where visitors can walk along to enjoy views of the park and the town below. Adults will pay €8 to enter the Moorish Castle.
You’ll probably have some trouble catching an Uber back to town from the Moorish Castle but luckily there are plenty of overpriced rickshaws waiting outside the entrance.
Other highlights of the town of Sintra include the Quinta da Regaleira, the Palacio de Monserrate, the Palace of Sintra, and the Palácio Nacional e Jardins de Queluz. Keep in mind that all of the sites in Sintra are quite large and impressive but also exhausting. Best to pick your top 3 sites rather than worry about seeing everything during your day trip from Lisbon.
Also, if you don’t want to try to navigate Portugal’s train system you can always book a guided day tour from Lisbon to Sintra.
9. Lounge at the Beach
One of the best things to do in Lisbon is to spend a day at the beach! There are several quaint beach towns all within a rather short distance from Lisbon, and all easily accessible by train. We recommend a day trip to Cascais, a nearby coastal town that offers a nice, sandy beach and a cute pedestrian old town with cobblestone streets and tons of bars and restaurants.
You’ll love lounging at the Cascais beach, just a short walk from the train station, on summer sunny days. It’s where the Lisbon locals go to escape the city as well. Beach chairs are quite expensive to rent but if you bring a towel there is plenty of sandy space to lay out. And if you don’t have a towel, don’t worry, there are loads of shops and beach vendors selling inexpensive blankets.
How to get from Lisbon to Cascais:
Trains depart every 10-20 minutes daily from the Cais do Sodré train station in Lisbon. The trip takes about 30 minutes each way.
If you’d rather skip the hassle of the train, simply catch an Uber to Cascais!
10. Enjoy a Fado Show
Fado music is a traditional style of Portuguese singing that originated in the 1820s. Songs are generally quite melancholy and reflect on the difficulties of daily life. Censorship during the 1920s caused some major changes to the Fado industry but its popularity prevailed and today it is known around the world.
Enjoying dinner and a Fado show is definitely one of the things you must do during a trip to Lisbon and you’ll see Fado advertisements all over the city. Beware that some establishments charge an entrance fee and others may have a minimum spend in order to sit at a table.
We enjoyed a Fado show at Mascote da Atalaia, a restaurant that we found to be quite intimate with totally reasonable food and drink prices.
11. Ride the Tram
The town of Lisbon is very hilly so walking around, especially in the heat will have you huffing and puffing. We found Uber to be the most convenient way to get around town, but another, more traditional method of transportation is the tram.
Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular tourist activities in Lisbon so expect long queues at the tram stops in the center of the city, especially on the famous Tram 28. And it’s also not the fastest means of transportation as delivery vans often block the tracks when picking up or dropping off. Plus, the cable cars get VERY crowded. But it is most certainly an entertaining thing to do during a trip to Lisbon.
If you’d rather skip the lines and the crowds but want a great photo with one of Lisbon’s famous trams, head to the top of the Elevador da Bica tram route (also known as the Ascensor da Bica). Here you’ll find the classic Instagram photo spot of a steep, narrow street covered in graffiti. You’ll probably have to wait your turn as tourists love posing for photos with the icon tram when it stops at the top of the hill.
12. Try a Pastéis de Nata (or 10!)
If you’re wondering what to eat in Lisbon then this one is for you. The incredibly decadent Pastéis de Nata is the most popular dessert in all of Lisbon and one that you must try during your trip! This small, round pastry has a flaky crust with egg custard and is served warm.
You’ll find small pastry shops selling these delicious sweet treats all over Lisbon but our absolute favorite spot to enjoy a pastéis was the popular Manteigaria. You can see them making the sweets right there in front of you, and they have just the right amount of custard with a light sprinkling of cinnamon on top. Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk, but make sure you eat them while they’re hot!
13. Bask in the Sun in the Praça do Comércio Square
The Praça do Comércio Square is on the Tagus River and is a hub of activity in Lisbon. At the center of this large, open square is a bronze equestrian statue of King José I. And lining the edges are various restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy an afternoon cocktail.
While you’re at Praça do Comércio Square, head around the corner to Conserveira de Lisboa to try some of their famous sardines. This historic little shop has been selling this Lisbon delicacy since the 1930s!
14. Check out the Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira
The Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira is a palace that was built in 1640 and is still inhabited today. Visitors can take a guided tour to see the gorgeous rooms covered in traditional tilework and oil paintings. While the palace is certainly worth touring, you won’t want to miss the formal gardens outside! Here you’ll find fountains, statues, and even more tilework. It’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon in Lisbon.
15. Visit the Oldest Bookstore in the World
Livraria Bertrand is a bookstore in the city center of Lisbon that originally opened in 1732. And today it holds the Guinness record as the world’s oldest bookstore still in operation. It’s worth popping inside to check out their huge selection of books (and to use the toilet if you need it) since it’s truly one of Lisbon’s historic landmarks.
16. See the Carmo Archaeological Museum
Another one of the best things to see in Lisbon, the Carmo Archaeological Museum is a gorgeous set of ruins that used to be the Church of Santa Maria do Carmo. It was built in a gothic style and founded in 1389 but unfortunately sustained serious damage during the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. Repairs have been made since but today it stands as an open-air structure with large arches supported by tall pillars.
If you walk through the center of the old church, you will come upon the museum section of the ruins, where several elaborate tombs are on display. Here you’ll also find some spectacular tilework on the walls and two mummified bodies encased in glass.
The Carmo Archaeological Museum is well worth a visit during a trip to Lisbon, just to witness the fantastic old church ruins for yourself!
17. People Watch on Rossio Square
Rossio Square is a lively place for people watching and one of the best places in Lisbon to see the black and white wave-patterned cobblestones that are popular all over Brazil. The square has two beautiful baroque fountains and is lined by cute cafes, perfect for an afternoon coffee. It’s an ideal spot to spend a lazy afternoon in the sunshine.
18. Dine on Seafood at Time Out Market
Time Out Market is a busy indoor food market where you can get some of the best seafood in all of Lisbon! Here you’ll find 24 unique restaurants, eight bars, and lots of cafeteria-style seating. You can wander around the perimeter, checking out each restaurant offering before settling on your favorite.
We had some amazing mussels in a creamy garlic sauce and a grilled octopus on a bed of mashed potatoes. It’s busy and a little hectic but worth it for the delectable fare.
Prices at Time Out Market aren’t as reasonable as you’d normally expect to find in a market-style dining situation. You’ll pay $10-20 per entree and you’ll need to wait in line to order at the most popular restaurants.
It’s also self-service so you’ll need to find a spot at one of the long tables. Then, get your own food once your buzzer goes off.
19. Indulge Your Taste Buds at Belcanto
If you want to indulge in a really exquisite meal during your trip to Lisbon, then you’ll want to make a reservation at the Michelin Star-rated restaurant, Belcanto. With unique flavor combinations and outrageously creative food presentation, you’ll have a wonderful dining experience!
If you’re a serious foodie then dining at Belecanto is probably the best thing to do in Lisbon for you!
20. Ride the Elevador de Santa Justa
The Elevador de Santa Justa is a tourist attraction located in central Lisbon that connects the lower city streets of the Baixa neighborhood with the Bairro Alto district. The elevator is housed inside a 147-foot-tall gothic-style tower that was built in the same style as the French architect, Eiffel.
The lift can carry 20 people at a time for the bargain price (sarcasm) of €5.15 per person for the elevator and €1.50 for the viewpoint. An observation deck at the top offers lovely views of the city.
21. Party in Bairro Alto
If you’re looking to experience Lisbon’s nightlife, then look no further than the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Here you’ll find rowdy late-night bars, dance clubs, and people wandering around the cobblestone streets drinking out of plastic cups.
Barrio Alto is THE place to go if you want to party in Lisbon, but don’t show up until after 10 pm – that’s when things really get going. A night of exploring clubs and bars in Bairro Alto is one of the best things to do in Lisbon if you came here to party!
22. Shop at the Santa Rosa Flea Market
The Santa Rosa Flea Market (also known as the Feira da Ladra) is a massive flea market in Lisbon. You can visit every Tuesday and Saturday from around 9 am until 6 pm. Here you’ll find everything from old books to records to antiques to jewelry, and everything in between.
Many of the vendors are just selling their old second-hand junk but there are a few treasures hidden throughout. Expect to do some haggling on price here.
23. Visit the Museu do Oriente
The Museu do Oriente (Orient Museum) is a museum that was opened in 2008. It is dedicated to Asian artwork, specifically the Portuguese trade presence in the East. Don’t miss the Gods of Asia exhibition, it’s a highlight of the museum!
24. Enjoy the Aquarium
The Lisbon Aquarium, known as the Oceanário de Lisboa, is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. It will undoubtedly be fun for the whole family! There is a permanent and temporary exhibition, and both are certainly worth visiting. The aquarium houses over 450 different species. The main permanent exhibition tank holds 1,300,000 gallons of water and 100 species from around the world.
You’ll appreciate the aquarium’s focus on conservation during your visit. If you are traveling as a family, this is one of the best things to do in Lisbon with kids.
25. Admire the Basílica da Estrela
There are several beautiful churches around the city of Lisbon. But the most ornate of them all is the Basílica da Estrela. The church was completed in 1790 at the direction of Queen Maria I after the birth of her son and heir. Featuring twin bell towers and a grand dome, this basilica is one of the best things to see in Lisbon – the architecture is simply breathtaking. Don’t miss the nativity scene composed of 500 cork figures.
For a small fee you can climb to the rooftop terrace to enjoy spectacular views of the city below.
26. Tour the Castelo de São Jorge
The Castelo de São Jorge is a castle in Lisbon that was built in the mid-11th century. It was never meant to be a residence, but rather as a place for military troops in case of a siege. Today you can visit the castle and walk along the ramparts, enjoying spectacular views of the city of Lisbon below.
During your trip to the Castelo de São Jorge, don’t miss the Camera Obscura exhibition! Using lenses and mirrors, you are able to see a 360º real-time view of the city of Lisbon, on a massive white screen right in front of you. You’ll need to line up before the allotted tour time (tours are offered on a schedule throughout the day in English, Spanish, and Portuguese). There is only a limited amount of people are allowed in at a time.
27. Check out the LX Factory Sunday Market
The LX Factory is a trendy, up-and-coming area in an old, abandoned industrial area of Lisbon. The old buildings have been repurposed into boutique shops and hip restaurants. The area is fairly popular with younger Lisbon locals all throughout the week. But, Sunday is by far the most popular day. On Sundays from 10 am – 6 pm, there is an open-air market here filled with vintage goods, handmade artisan pieces, vinyl, food, and so much more.
28. Marvel at the Street Art
You’ll see graffiti all over the streets of Lisbon during your visit. Most of it is just random words or phrases that aren’t particularly interesting to look at. But there are a few real artistic pieces sprinkled throughout the city. Our favorite was the impressive Raposa de Bordalo II, located near the Time Out Market. It’s a colorful fox-like creature that was created using paint and other materials that give it a 3D effect. You’ll definitely want to check it out while wandering around the streets of Lisbon.
29. Take a Ride on the Ferry
Ferries depart regularly throughout the day from the Cais do Sodré Ferry Terminal to the town of Almada, just across the river. Here you can head west down the riverfront and enjoy views of Lisbon from a distance. There is a ton of creative street art to enjoy all along this street.
Near the end of the walk, you’ll come to Ponto Final, one of the most popular restaurants in all of Lisbon. Atira-te au Rio is also here if you’d rather just enjoy a glass of wine by the river. Continue past Ponto Final and you’ll find an elevator that will take you up to a lovely lookout high above.
If you’re feeling spry, you can continue west to the Santuario Nacional de Cristo Rei, the large statue that bears a striking resemblance to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. Or you can walk through the town of Almada back down to the port to catch the ferry back home.
30. Use the “Sexiest WC on Earth”
The self-awarded “sexiest WC on Earth” is just off the Praça do Comércio Square in Lisbon. It will cost you €1 per person to use it, but it’s worth getting a look at the massive wall of vibrantly colored toilet paper. It may not be the sexiest WC we’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly one of the most unique (and cleanest) public bathrooms in Lisbon!
Do you have a favorite thing to do in Lisbon? Let us know in the comments below!
Lisbon Travel Tips
- The currency of Portugal is the Euro (€) and while most establishments take credit cards, you’ll probably want to get at least a little cash out at the ATM at the airport.
- Portuguese is the official language of Portugal but you’ll find that most people speak at least a little English.
- Many tourist sites in Lisbon are not open on Mondays so plan for that in advance.
- We always prefer exploring a new city on our own, but if you’re short on time then you should consider booking a guided tour of Lisbon so you can see all the major sights in a single day.
When to visit Lisbon
The best months to visit Lisbon are during the shoulder season: March-May or September-October. During these months, the temperatures are a bit cooler and the crowds smaller.
The peak tourist season for Lisbon (and the rest of Europe). If you come during that time expect sweltering temperatures and sky-high hotel rates. The one advantage of visiting Lisbon in the heat of summer is that you’ll have ideal conditions for enjoying all of the nearby beaches.
Lisbon is a great European city to visit in the winter. The beaches will be too cold for swimming, but you’ll appreciate the cooler temperatures while you’re hiking up and down all of the hills of Lisbon
How Long to Spend in Lisbon
There is so much to do in Lisbon you could easily spend a week there or more. This is especially true in the summer when you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days at the nearby beaches. Based on this, 3 days in Lisbon should give you enough time to see all the highlights of the city. And if you have more time, you can add on a day trip to Sintra!
Getting Around Lisbon
Because the city of Lisbon is so hilly, you’ll find that walking everywhere you want to go isn’t exactly feasible. Luckily, Lisbon has a fantastic public transportation system that includes trains, buses, and trams.
You’ll also see tuk-tuks (rickshaws) all over the city, vying to take you on a tour. We found Uber to be the most convenient (and cheap!) method for getting us where we needed to go.
The Lisboa Card: Is it Worth it?
If you are planning to visit the most popular sites in Lisbon, consider investing in a Lisboa Card. You can choose a 24, 48, or 72-hour card which gives you free admission to 23 museums and historic buildings, various discounts around the city, and unlimited free access to the public transportation system.
If you’re planning on visiting popular Lisbon attractions like the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower, and the Santa Justa elevator, you should definitely pre-purchase a Lisboa Card. You’ll save money and avoid the hassle of the ticket lines!
Safety in Lisbon
Lisbon is relatively safe but as with all large cities, opportunistic crime can be a problem. Pickpocketing is the most common crime against tourists in Lisbon. Be especially careful about your purse and/or wallet in busy touristy areas.
You’ll also find very questionable men looking to sell tourists drugs around the Praça do Comércio square and late at night in the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Best to avoid them altogether.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Casa do Barão is a tranquil oasis in the middle of the busy city of Lisbon. The pool in the central courtyard is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon in the sun. And the daily breakfast is absolutely outstanding! You’ll love the beautifully decorated, spacious rooms and the super helpful staff. Be sure to book this one in advance!
The Casa Balthazar is a gorgeous hotel located right in the center of Lisbon. Every room is incredibly spacious, the beds are unbelievably comfortable, and they have all the amenities that you’ll need during your stay. Lisbon city views from the terrace are spectacular and you’ll love relaxing in your hotel pool on hot summer days during your trip.
Casas de São Bento is located in a safe and quiet neighborhood, just outside of the hustle and bustle of Lisbon’s city center. You’ll be treated like family at the beautiful, well-appointed guesthouse with large, comfortable rooms. Guests love the small touches from the hotel staff that makes them feel so welcome during their trip to Lisbon.