From vintage tram rides to eerie mausoleums; historic flea markets and buzzing nightlight, get the most out of the Portuguese capital with our guide to cool things to do in Lisbon

My life of crime began in Lisbon.  

On a night hitting the bars in Bairro Alto (one of the unmissable things to do in Lisbon), we heard rumors of a black market in pastel de nata operating underground in Bairro Alto.

The bakeries that create these delicious masterpieces, work through the night to get them delivered to local cafes first thing in the morning. Entrepreneurial bakers sold them to partygoers direct from the bakery’s basement window.

After some speedy research, we located said bakery and I was nominated to transact the deal. I waited my turn and purchased 4 bootleg baked goods at €1 each. Extortion. But this was the black market after all.

Someone yelled that the cops were coming so we fled the scene with our pastries. Adrenaline was high. Shame and guilt followed. Then fear.

But as I bit into my pastel de nata, fresh from the oven, the pastry audibly crackling from freshness, the custard still warm, all other thoughts surrendered to pure bliss.

My life of crime ended that night, and I’ve since moved on to other more tourist-friendly things to do in Lisbon.


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Liston things to do - The ornate Jeronimos Monastery in the afternoon light

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN LISBON

After several visits to Lisbon, we’ve put together our list of the best experiences, the hottest tourist attractions, and our favorite local neighborhoods, along with useful visiting information.

MAP | WHERE TO STAY | LISBON DISCOUNTS | GETTING AROUND


1 – SÃO JORGE CASTLE

Castelo de São Jorge was once a Moorish castle, but subsequent occupiers have altered the building so much that little of its original construction remains. However, as it operated as the Royal Palace from the 13th to the 16th century, it’s lost little of its grandeur.  

The most compelling aspect of the castle, however, is the stunning view over the city walls and the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon’s patchwork of terracotta tiles interrupted only by narrow rambling lanes is in itself a wonderful thing to do in Lisbon.

The small museum in the castle has seen better days, so hurry through after your visit to explore the São Jorge Hill neighborhood.

Things to do in Lisbon
Neighborhood streets near São Jorge

São Jorge Neighborhood – The old town streets surrounding the castle all the way down to the Lisbon Cathedral are full of atmosphere. Stroll down from the castle to the cathedral to soak up the charming Lisbon atmosphere.

Wine Stop – If it’s not too early, stop in at Chapitô à Mesa for a glass of Portuguese wine with a view to remember. If it is too early, do it anyway.

DETAILS | SÃO JORGE CASTLE

hours – 9 am to 9 pm daily (March – November); 9 am to 7 pm daily (November – March) | tickets – book skip-the-line tickets with a 15-minute guided introduction

2 – SÃO VICENTE DE FORA

The Church of São Vicente de Fora has had a chequered history, including being devastated in the 1755 earthquake. Thoroughly renovated throughout the 17th century, today it’s an exquisite hidden gem that houses the tombs of many Portuguese Kings.

The church itself is decent, but the cloisters next door are thoroughly impressive. Lisbon’s story-telling azulejos cover the walls under white vaulted ceilings.

The sacristy walls are covered with elaborate marble designs and intricately painted ceilings.

the exterior of sao vicente de fora in lisbon with the blue azulejo tiles
São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon

Royal Pantheon – The highlight at São Vicente de Fora is the Royal Pantheon which contains the tombs of crusaders. Keep an eye out for the cloaked weeping woman standing watch over one of the tombs.

São Vicente Terraces – The rooftop terraces provide one of the best 360° views of the Lisbon skyline.

DETAILS | SÃO VICENTE DE FORA

hours – 10 AM – 6 PM Tuesday to Saturday | cost – €5 for the cloister, crypt, cistern & roof.

3 – FEIRA DA LADRA (THIEVES’ MARKET)

At the square beside the National Pantheon, the Feira da Ladra flea market (also known as the Thieves’ Market) takes place twice a week (Tue & Sat).

Stories suggest the name is due to the fact that the market is stocked with stolen goods, however, it actually comes from ladro referring to a bug found in antiques. 

The market sells everything from old rotary phones, to broken mannequins plus pre-loved vinyl, handmade crafts, CD’s, military objects, and vintage furniture.

Stroll around soaking up the atmosphere and you’ll be enjoying one of the best free things to do in Lisbon.

LUNCH | FEIRA DA LADRA

There are plenty of atmospheric places to grab lunch near the market. Tabernita is a cheery spot for traditional Portuguese or you could try a hip break at Copenhagen Coffee Lab just a few minutes walk away.

4 – PANTEÃO NACIONAL

The striking baroque National Palace was originally built as a church but now houses monuments to the great and the good, linked to the golden era of Portuguese history.

Like many landmarks in Lisbon, it pays particular homage to Vasco da Gama, the sea-faring hero who returned fabulous wealth to Portugal.

Climbing the stairs to reach the internal perimeter of the domed roof provides the best view of what 16th-century money can buy. The entrance is lavishly adorned with geometrical marble flooring, plush gold detailing, and grand stone columns.  

Rooftop Views – As a dominant feature in the Lisbon skyline, the exceptional view from the roof was one of our favourite experiences in Lisbon.

DETAILS | PANTEÃO NACIONAL

hours – 10 AM – 5 PM (October – March); 10 AM – 6 PM (April – September); closed Monday | cost – €4 | tickets – onsite or online

5 – JERÓNIMO’S CHURCH & MONASTERY

Some of the wealth generated from Portugal’s Age of Discovery was spent erecting magnificent monuments. Few are more impressive than Jerónimos Monastery.

Built to commemorate the return of Vasco da Gama from India, it’s one of Lisbon’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The church also contains the tomb of Luís de Camões, a Portuguese poet. His tomb is facing that of his wife so they can be together when they are resurrected. Stained-glass windows illuminate the tombs in an eerie ethereal manner, beside beautifully sculpted, towering columns.

The cloister has a remarkable vaulted ceiling, held aloft by intricately carved stone pillars. Although there’s a fee to enter, it’s well worth it. Capturing the photo opportunities of the golden arches of the inner courtyard is a magical thing to do in Lisbon. 

DETAILS | JERÓNIMO’S CHURCH & MONASTERY

hours – 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM (October – April); 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM (May – September); closed Monday | cost – €10 | tickets – book skip-the-line tickets

6 – MUSEU COLEÇÃO BERARDO

Museu Coleção Berardo is Lisbon’s best modern art offering. Located near the popular Belem area, the gallery has two permanent collections and generally runs two temporary exhibitions along with other installations.

The gallery is an excellent space to stroll around and something we highly recommend making time for while visiting Lisbon. The permanent collection is well-labeled and offers a history lesson in the development of modern art.

Expect to bump into some big names such as Picasso, Duchamp, Miró, Warhol, along with some lesser-known Portuguese artists.

The British and American pop-art exhibition was a highlight with works from both sides of the pond, featuring Andy Warhol and David Hockney. The gallery has an educational program aimed at children 2 years and up, designed to help them interact with art.

DETAILS | MUSEU COLEÇÃO BERARDO

hours – 10 AM – 7 PM Tuesday to Sunday; closed Monday | cost – €5; free entry first Sunday of every month | tickets – on-site or online

7 – BELÉM

Sitting on the banks of the Tagus River, the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) was initially built to protect Lisbon. As an excellent example of Manueline architecture, it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike Jerónimos, Belém Tower wears its beauty on the outside.

The queue to climb to the top can be oppressive and we actually don’t recommend it. A much better idea is to spend your time strolling the Belém promenade. On a balmy evening, this is one of our favorite things to do in Lisbon for free.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos lisbon portugal
Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Belem, Lisbon

Here are a few things to do in the area –

  • Photograph Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the monument to Portugal’s navigational prowess.
  • Find a spot on the front to take in the views of Lisbon’s Ponte 25 de Abri Bridge.
  • Belém embraces Lisbon’s love of music with various live bands busking on the promenade or in the nearby park.
  • Scoff the best pastal de nata at Antiga Confeitara de Belém – one institution that is worth queueing for.

8 – LX FACTORY

LX Factory was an old textile factory that has been converted into a modern and creative space. Located under a railway line, it’s a model of urban renewal.

There’s a collection of independent shops including design outlets, art supplies, vegan footwear, and vintage boutiques.

The restaurant scene is dominated by environmentally considerate modern offerings, delivered with a traditional Portuguese twist. We loved Taberna 1300 for dinner and Landeau Chocolate for their mouth-watering desserts.  

LX Factory probably caters more to tourists than locals. But with cooking classes, a tattooist, an acting school, and a pole dancing studio, it’s worth a bit of time to scratch beneath the surface.

DON’T MISS | LIVRARIA LER DEVAGAR

The Ler Devagar Bookstore in the LX Factory is one of the most photographic locations in Lisbon.

9 – TRAM 28

If you were to design the perfect sightseeing route through Lisbon, it would be the number 28 tram. It starts from Martim Moniz, climbs through the narrow streets of the old town, progresses through Baixa, and up the hill to Chiado.

The whole experience is like being in an old movie. The chrome details, the scent of polished wood, the hiss of breaks, and the rattle of the ancient machine tackling Lisbon’s hills.

Here are some of the highlights on the Tram 28 route –

  • Stop at R Palma to see the beautiful Chafariz do Intendente fountain built in 1823.
  • The Igreja Dos Anjos is a stunning baroque church located near stop Ingreja Anjos.
  • Some of the best views are at Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte.
  • Stop for a drink at Miradouro das Portas do So while admiring the red rooftops and pastel-colored houses of Alfama.
Tram 28 Lisbon - Things to do in Lisbon

TIP | AVOIDING THE QUEUES ON TRAM 28

The starting point for Tram 28 is Martim Moniz, but if you get on at the second stop, R. Palma, you’ll find it much easier to get on.

The Viva Viagem Card can be used to pay for Tram 28 making it one of the best cheap things to do in Lisbon

10 – MIRADOURO DE SÃO PEDRO DE ALCÃNTARA

Set high on a panoramic garden, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcãntara is one of the best lookout points in Lisbon. Greek busts and ornate fountains give the place a lofty regal feel. It has sweeping views across Lisbon and the Tagus River, collecting all the distinctive buildings that make this such an alluring city.

There are plenty of places at the top to grab a drink and take in the view. 

Elevador de Glória – The best way to get to the viewpoint is via the Elevador de Glória, a funicular that trudges up the hill from Rossio. The area is well known as the center of Lisbon’s street art scene, with the tram itself covered in graffiti.

The wall on the side of the track has works by well-known local and international street art stars. Exploring this side of the city is one of the coolest things to do in Lisbon.

WALKING TOUR | NEIGHBOURHOODS OF LISBON

This guided tour explores life in the local neighborhoods of Lisbon and includes the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara.

11 – IGREJA DE SÃO DOMINGOS

The Igreja de São Domingos is an atmospheric church that has had its fair share of suffering.

It was severely damaged in the 1755 earthquake, then devastated by a fire in 1959. The roof was destroyed and has been rebuilt, but the reconstruction left the walls still badly scarred – a physical reminder of both events.

The drama is visible when you enter the church. Huge, gashed pillars and badly damaged walls give it a macabre yet somehow enchanting atmosphere.

Most of the artwork that was damaged in the fire hasn’t been replaced, leaving orange walls lit by harsh unfiltered light looking bare and exposed.

Some say you can still smell the fire today. It certainly has the musty feel of somewhere that was recently devastated, and walking around the church, it easily engages other senses. It’s one of the most interesting things to see and do in Lisbon.

DETAILS | IGREJA DE SÃO DOMINGOS

hours – 7:30 AM to 7 PM daily | cost – free | don’t miss – Lisbon’s famous cherry brandy shop, A Ginjinha in the square.

12 – PRÍNCIPE REAL

One of the cool things about Lisbon is the diversity of its areas. For a lazy stroll exploring the local bohemian side of town, head for Príncipe Real. Home to artists and writers, pop-up designers and creatives, this corner of Lisbon is an enclave of relaxed, relatively tourist-free shopping and dining.

Get your bearings – Most of the sights are centered around Praça do Príncipe Real, a small garden lined with mansions that have been converted into design studios and concept stores.

Shopping – Embaixada is a shopping center in a stunning Moorish palace that features Portuguese designers, food, and experiences.

Cocktails – After exploring the shopping, try a cocktail at Cinco Lounge. Their blend of classic and contemporary cocktails are served in a plush candle-lit setting.

Dinner – For a great dinner in the area, it’s hard to go past Gin Lovers for their innovative food and love of the botanical.

13 – CONVENTO DO CARMO

What remains of the gothic Convento do Carmo is a reminder of the devastation of the 1755 earthquake. It’s also a product of 19th-century fashion for leaving ruins unrestored.

Now open to the sky, the exposed arches and freestanding walls are a romantic archaeological site scattered with statues, tombstones, and pillars. 

The Carmo Archaeological Museum is located in the old nave of the church. It houses a weird and wacky collection of artifacts donated in the 19th century. Among the treasures, you can find the tomb of King Ferdinand I, an Egyptian mummy, and two very gruesome Peruvian mummies. Slightly less disturbing is the 16th-century azulejo (hand-painted tile) collection.

Convento do Carmo lisbon
The ruined nave of Convento do Carmo

The convent is used as the backdrop for summer concerts held in the square in front of the ruins, which is also a nice place to hang out and grab a coffee. 

DETAILS | CONVENTO DO CARMO

hours – 10 AM to 6 PM Monday – Saturday (November – April); 10 AM to 7 PM Monday – Saturday (May – October) | cost – €5

14 – A CEVICHERIA

After a morning shopping in Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real, stop for lunch at A Cevicheria. The basis of the menu is the Peruvian dish Ceviche, served with Portuguese flavours and flair. The scallops with celery, ginger, tapioca and green apple were a huge hit with us.

Try and score a seat at the counter where you can watch the handiwork of the chefs creating dishes with careful precision. If you like lunch served with a bit of drama this is the place for you. With a giant octopus attached to the roof, it captures the attention of passers-by, jealous of your ringside seat.

They have an extensive wine list, but everything is washed down perfectly with their pisco sours.   

15 – FADO

Listening to the wistful warbling of Fado music is one of those things to do in Lisbon that everyone should experience at least once. A night of Fado usually takes place in a small local restaurant. Traditional Portuguese dishes are interrupted with interludes of singing by a solo voice, accompanied by Portuguese guitarra.

It’s a thoroughly moving experience. A cramped noisy bar comes to complete silence to listen intensively to the voices wafting through the venue. Few other live performances are so utterly absorbing.

Online you’ll hear a lot about authentic and not-so-authentic Fado, which no doubt has some merit. But as a tourist new to the experience, it’s probably best to just settle on a place you’re happy with. A good approach is to stroll through Bairro Alto.

Pick a place where you hear singing wafting onto the street. Alternatively, A Tasca do Chico offers a great value fado experience. 

Outside a Fado bar in Lisbon

16 – DAY TRIP TO SINTRA

Sintra is a flamboyant nod to Romanticism just 40 minutes from Lisbon. The decorative summer retreat of King Ferdinand II contains an eclectic mix of Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance architecture. The result is a fairy tale location with whimsical palaces, exotic gardens and a host of magical places to explore.

The centre of the hilltop town is a maze of pedestrian laneways and narrow stairways weaving past cute shops, hidden churches and traditional restaurants. It’s the perfect place to finish your Sintra excursion after a day strolling through the grounds of the palaces.

The best way to get to Sintra is on the train from Rossio Station which takes just 40 minutes. All the details are in our guide to visiting Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon.

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN LISBON

Lisbons has so many world-class attractions, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and wonderful things to do that it’s impossible to fit them all in one curated guide. If you have more time, here are a few more things to consider. For more read our 3 days in Lisbon itinerary.

LISBON CATHEDRAL

The Romanesque Lisbon Cathedral dates back to the 12th century. With an imposing facade and two bell towers on either side, it rises like a medieval fortress from the old town. It’s open from 9 am to 7 pm and cost €5 to enter.

CALOUSTE GULBENKIAN FOUNDATION

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is considered one of the most important private art collections in the world. Masterpieces from ancient Egypt sit alongside works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Turner. The museum is open from 10 am to 6pm Monday to Wednesday and costs €10. Admission is free on Sundays after 2 pm. More details at – gulbenkian.pt

lisbon cathedral interior
Lisbon Cathedral

SANTA JUSTA ELEVATOR

Riding the sumptuous polished wood carriages with geometric wrought-iron frames on the Elevator de Santa Justa is one of the most popular things to do in Lisbon. Skip-the-line tickets are not available but you can use your Viva Viagem card for entry. (see details below)

QUAKE

The earthquake of 1755 had a transformative effect on Lisbon. Quake – Lisbon’s newest immersive experience – combines video mapping, interactive technology and state-of-the-art simulators to relive the events of 1755.

The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm (Mon-Sun), 10 am to 6 pm (Sat-Sun). Book tickets online via their website – lisbonquake.com

PRAÇA DO COMÉRCIO

The harbor-facing plaza, Praça do Comércio, is one of the largest in Portugal and the most beautiful in Europe. The square was completely remodeled after the earthquake and today it’s the seat of the Portuguese state departments.

LIVE MUSIC IN LISBON

It’s no surprise that the nightlife in Lisbon is alive and kicking. Bairro Alto is one big street party and the epicenter of the live music scene in Lisbon.

Páginas Tantas // Follow the smooth sounds of jazz drifting out of this small neighborhood bar and you won’t be disappointed.

Portas Largas // Hit the dance floor to 80’s classics with Portuguese sympathies at this fun little bar in the heart of Bairro Alto.

Museu da Musica // Music buffs shouldn’t miss this museum with a range of instruments from well-known to obscure. Concerts are held regularly.

WINE & COCKTAILS IN LISBON

Portugal’s love affair with wine can be an all-consuming experience and there’s nothing wrong with that. Here are some of our favorites.

Antiga Wine Bar // This cozy little wine bar in Alfama has a curated list served with excellent tapas made from local ingredients.

Cinco Lounge // A beautiful space with crafty and innovative cocktails, Cino Lounge is perfect for a quite sophisticated drink.

wine bars in lisbon

OUR PICK OF THE LISBON FOOD SCENE

A Cevicheria // Perfectly crafted seafood dishes are prepared at the bar of this special experience. Watch deft hands creating unusual ceviche dishes while you sip a sparkling.

Taberna da Rua das Flores // This tiny but charming eatery has a small menu of traditional Portuguese offerings cooked with simple loving flair.

Restaurante Pharmacia // A modern fine dining establishment that takes the pharmacy theme with commitment from decor to dish.

Artis Wine Bar // The dark and intimate Artis Wine Bar was our favorite place to eat. Simple well-cooked Portuguese classics with a small menu and local charm.

Time Out Market // This sprawling food market is a very popular place to eat with a huge selection of eating places under one roof.

COFFEE IN LISBON

Coffee is something we don’t skimp on when we travel and the artisanal coffee scene has left its mark on Lisbon.

Hello, Kristof // This is a training center for specialty coffee perfectly crafted. They also have a small selection of breakfast choices.

Copenhagen Coffee Lab // There are a few in Lisbon now but they are still an easy go-to choice for a consistently good coffee in a nice space.

Heim Café // This is a bright fun spot with decent coffee, but it is their excellent brunch offerings that really make it stand out from the rest.

Fábrica Coffee Roaster // If you are looking for a broody, well-textured dark roast this is the place for you.

LISBON PORTUGAL MAP

We collected all our must-see Lisbon attractions on a map to help you navigate your way around. For some suggestions on how to put it all together over a short trip, read our Lisbon itinerary for 3 days.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


WHERE TO STAY IN LISBON

Unfortunately, Airbnb has priced many locals out of Lisbon, so we’d recommend booking a hotel if possible.

Lisbon is a relatively compact city, but it’s still a good idea to stay as centrally as possible. We recommend staying in Baixa/Chiado, Bairro Alto or Alfama. All these areas ooze the charm you’re looking for in Lisbon and they’re centrally located.

BUDGET

CASA C’ALMA

Casa C’Alma is a beautifully decorated B&B with a small, friendly vibe and a big continental breakfast. It’s located in a lovely neighborhood about 1 mile from the city center with plenty of restaurant options nearby.


MID-MARKET

CASA BALTHAZAR

The modern, self-catering apartments of Casa Balthazar are bang in the center of town, yet exude a relaxed chilled-out calm. The views are superb but upgrade to the Jacuzzi Terrace room for spacious luxury with landmark views.


UPMARKET

MEMMO ALFAMA

For an emphasis on design with all the latest gadgets, it’s hard to go past Memmo Alfama for your Lisbon stay. Although surrounded by some of the best attractions in Lisbon, it will be hard to leave the rooftop bar and pool with sweeping views over the Tagus River.


LISBON DISCOUNT CARDS & ATTRACTION TICKETS

Most attractions in Lisbon don’t require pre-booking. But, if you’re visiting during peak times, you may want to book ahead to beat the queue.

LISBON CARD

The Lisbon Card provides access to 23 museums making it a very cost-effective way to see the main sights. It also includes free tram passes and elevators, including access to the Elevator de Santa Justa.

ATTRACTIONS TO PRE-BOOK

Fado // Nothing takes you into the soul of Lisbon more than a Fado show. The 50-minute performance features 2 singers and 2 guitarists who will serenade you into the wee hours. Book tickets here.

Number 28 Tram // The number 28 tram can be busy and difficult to get on to. If you want to take the stress away, book this tram and walking tour experience to learn more about Lisbon’s different neighborhoods and its history of intriguing street art.

Museu Coleção Berardo // Queues at Lisbon’s best modern art offering can be long, so pre-book skip the queue tickets before you go.

HOW TO GET AROUND LISBON

Lisbon is a compact city and the best way to see it is on foot. However, it also has a comprehensive public transport network including trams, funiculars, buses and a metro which easily connects you to various parts of the city.

Viva Viagam Card // Lisbon’s public transport card is Viva Viagem, a quick and easy way to pay for all your travel. The card costs €.50 and can be charged with individual tickets, a day pass (€6.40 / £5.95 / $7.90), or with a balance of up to €40 to use as pay-as-you-go.

Our Lisbon Itinerary // Our 3-day Lisbon itinerary puts everything in the right order, and allows you to walk between most of the top things to do in Lisbon.

BEST TIME TO GO TO LISBON

The best time to visit Lisbon is during the shoulder seasons of March to May and September to October. This is the best time to explore the city on foot when the temperatures are generally comfortable and there are fewer visitors.

You might also snap up a bargain with accommodation places slightly cheaper over this period.

As with most European destinations, summer is the peak season when both the temperature and visitor numbers are high. In winter it can be wet and windy, although in Lisbon it’s rarely uncomfortably cold.

HOW LONG DO YOU NEED IN LISBON?

Most of the main sights in Lisbon could be seen in 2 days. It’s a relatively compact city with good local transport, therefore, getting between all the main attractions is efficient.  

However, our recommendation is to spend 3 days in Lisbon. This allows you to see all the impressive historical sights and enjoy some local experiences. It also leaves a little time to wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere.  

Add a fourth day and take a day trip to Sintra. It’s a wonderful place to visit and easy to do either on your own or by joining a tour.

bar in lison portugal

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