Picture a city with hills, where each climb feels like a step back in time, and going down brings you right back to the lively present. Lisbon, known as the City of Seven Hills, mixes old stories with new energy. Your heart might race as you see the bright blue Atlantic Ocean peeking through the buildings, and the smell of warm pastéis de nata pastries leads you down tight, sunny streets. But there’s more to find here. There’s a whole list of the best things to do in Lisbon that’s just waiting for curious visitors to discover.
From the old stories you can feel in the walls of São Jorge Castle to the fresh, new art popping up around the city, Lisbon offers more than just lovely views. It’s about going on an adventure. This journey grabs your attention, makes you want more, and pushes you to actually go—to walk those stone streets, hear Fado’s deep music in the evening, and see the stories painted on tiles. Lisbon’s magic isn’t just in its sights; it’s in the busy mix of things waiting for you to come and live. So, are you set to fall for Lisbon’s unique charm?
15 Best Things to Do in Lisbon, Portugal
1. Marvel at the Architecture in Belém
Belém is like a grand open-air museum, proudly showing off Portugal’s great moments from the past. Every building and monument has a story, especially about the famous Age of Discoveries, when Portuguese explorers sailed off to unknown parts of the world.
Standing tall by the river is the Belém Tower, a real surprise and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built around 500 years ago, and back then, it was the starting point for many voyages. It’s not just a tower; it’s a piece of history. Its beautiful carvings and details tell us about a time when sailors and explorers were heroes.
You’ll see the Jerónimos Monastery, another breathtaking building not far from the tower. It’s enormous and beautiful, with many details that will make you want to keep looking. The style of the buildings in Belém, including the monastery, is called “Manueline,” named after King Manuel I. It mixes ideas from the sea, like ropes and the armillary sphere, with religious images and plants, all carved into stone. It’s unique to Portugal and something you won’t see anywhere else.
Belém is a special place because it takes old stories and presents them in a way we can see and touch. Walking around here is like stepping back in time; you can almost hear the sailors and feel the excitement of their adventures. It’s more than just old buildings; it’s a place where the past is still alive.
Top places to see in Lisbon:
2. Explore the Alfama District
Alfama isn’t just a neighborhood; it’s the beating heart of Lisbon, alive with memories of the past and the rhythms of traditional life. It’s the kind of place where the streets are so narrow that neighbors can chat from their windows, and you never know what you’ll find around the next corner. Maybe a tiny shop selling homemade goods, a hidden courtyard filled with flowers or a group of locals chatting and laughing together.
This part of the city is ancient, but in an excellent way. It survived a big earthquake over 200 years ago, so walking here is like stepping back in time. But it’s not just the buildings and streets that are full of history; it’s also the music. Alfama is the birthplace of Fado, a type of music that’s all about feelings. In the cozy, dimly lit bars, you can listen to singers pour their hearts out about love, hope, and sadness. It’s so powerful that it can give you goosebumps.
And let’s remember the amazing views! Alfama is set on a hill, so as you wander upwards, you’ll find spots where you can see right across Lisbon, with the river sparkling in the distance. It’s the perfect place for photos or just taking a moment to enjoy the city’s beauty. In Alfama, every step tells a story, every corner sings a song, and every visit creates unforgettable memories.
3. Visit São Jorge Castle
Imagine standing high above a bustling city, seeing everything from the rolling hills to the sparkling river below. That’s what you get when you visit São Jorge Castle, one of Lisbon’s most magical spots. This castle takes you back in time when you enter its mighty walls. It’s a place where history lingers in every stone and pathway.
Now, climbing to the top might be a workout, but every step is worth it. Why? Because you’ll have the most amazing view of Lisbon! It’s like the city was laid out just for you to admire. The mix of old and new, nature and architecture—it’s all there. And when the wind blows, it carries the sounds and stories of a city alive with culture and spirit.
But São Jorge Castle is more than just a pretty view. It symbolizes Lisbon’s rich past, standing strong through time. Walking through its grounds, you can almost hear the echoes of ancient whispers, piecing together tales of kings, soldiers, and common folk alike.
4. Wander through the Bairro Alto
When the sun sets and the city lights start to flicker on, there’s no place in Lisbon more exciting than Bairro Alto. With its narrow streets and traditional Portuguese cobbled pavements, this lively district transforms as the night draws in, revealing a vibrant world of entertainment.
Start your evening with a walk. Yes, that’s the best way to truly feel the pulse of Bairro Alto. As music spills from the bars and mixes with the laughter of patrons spilling onto the streets, you’ll find an infectious energy that can’t be resisted. From traditional fado music that tugs at your heartstrings to modern beats that make you want to dance, there’s a sound for every soul here.
But Bairro Alto isn’t just about the music; it’s a haven for foodies, too! The district is sprinkled with restaurants that serve everything from authentic Portuguese tapas to innovative fusion cuisine. And the bars! Oh, the bars are in a league of their own. Whether you prefer a cozy spot for a quiet chat or a bustling tavern with crafty cocktails, there’s a nook in Bairro Alto calling your name.
5. Take a Tram 28 Ride
What better way to explore a city defined by its hills than aboard the iconic Tram 28? This isn’t just public transport; it’s a rolling piece of Lisbon’s history. It is a genuine relic from the 1930s that rattles and rumbles its way through the city’s most scenic quarters.
Climb aboard and grab a window seat if you can, because you’re about to witness Lisbon in all its diversity. The tram weaves through the famous Graca district, dives into the soul of Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, and climbs the steep hills up to the spectacular vistas of Estrela. Look out the wooden-framed windows, and you’ll be greeted with views of sun-drenched terracotta rooftops, historic monuments, and bustling local life at every turn.
But Tram 28 is more than a sightseeing opportunity; it’s a cultural immersion. You’ll find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with a mix of tourists and locals, the latter going about their daily lives. Overhear snippets of Portuguese conversations, absorb the melodic rhythm of life in Lisbon and feel a connection with the city that’s impossible to replicate in a car or tour bus.
Remember, a ride on Tram 28 isn’t about reaching a destination—it’s about the journey. It’s about the clanging of the bell, the steep inclines, the tight squeezes through narrow alleys, and the sudden, breathtaking glimpses of the city.
6. Discover the LX Factory
Step into the LX Factory, and you’ve just opened the door to Lisbon’s vibrant creative soul. What once was an industrial fabric complex has been transformed into a dynamic cultural space buzzing with energy and artistic expression.
Nestled beneath the striking 25 de Abril Bridge, the LX Factory is a microcosm of contemporary creativity. Wander through its cobbled streets, and you’ll encounter a variety of unique shops and boutiques, each offering an array of unconventional products and handcrafted wares that you won’t find in typical high-street stores. From quirky fashion and bespoke furniture to cutting-edge design and handmade crafts, the diversity here is boundless, reflecting the city’s burgeoning artistic community.
Yet, the LX Factory isn’t just a place for retail therapy; it’s a thriving cultural hub. Its former factory spaces have been reimagined into art studios and galleries, where local and international artists showcase their work. Wander into any of these venues, and you’ll be plunged into a world of contemporary art, thought-provoking installations, and innovative exhibitions. But art at LX Factory isn’t confined to galleries — it spills out onto the streets. Murals, street art, and installations turn the entire site into an open-air museum, reflecting Lisbon’s prominent street art scene.
7. Enjoy Pastéis de Belém
No trip to Lisbon would be complete without savoring the iconic Pastéis de Belém, a culinary treasure with a secret recipe locked in a vault. These renowned Portuguese custard tarts beckon from the historic district of Belém, demanding a pilgrimage to the place where they first began: the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém.
Since 1837, this venerable bakery has been producing its scrumptious tarts, generating daily queues of eager food enthusiasts. The allure lies in its time-honored recipe, known only to a select few and unchanged since the monks of the nearby Jerónimos Monastery first created it. Each tart is a masterpiece of culinary craft: the crisp, flaky crust provides the perfect counterpoint to the creamy, rich custard filling, slightly caramelized on top for that extra touch of heaven.
Stepping into the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, you’re immersed in a traditional atmosphere. Azulejos tiles adorn the walls, staff move with practiced ease, and the air is heavy with the scent of sugar and pastry. This isn’t just a quick snack stop; it’s a dive into Lisbon’s cultural heritage, one delicious bite at a time.
8. Relax in the Gardens of Estrela
In the bustling metropolis of Lisbon, the Estrela Gardens offer a verdant retreat from the city’s ceaseless rhythm. This enchanting green space, or “Jardim da Estrela,” is an invitation to rejuvenate amidst lush flora, captivating sculptures, and serene water features.
The garden was designed during the 19th century, showcasing the beautiful Romanticism era. It has winding paths, strategically placed benches, and a diverse range of plant species, providing an ever-changing display throughout the year. The garden is visually appealing and serves as a cultural center, hosting open-air concerts, craft fairs, and children’s playgrounds. This makes it the perfect place for family outings or solitary reflection. Any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors have been corrected.
The Estrela Gardens, however, aren’t merely about leisure. They hold a botanical treasure trove, including various exotic species and some of the city’s oldest and most monumental trees. The giant kapok tree, towering over its counterparts, has been a silent witness to the garden’s evolution and Lisbon’s historical chapters.
Adjacent to the striking Estrela Basilica, this urban sanctuary provides a contrasting tranquility to the nearby lively districts. As you wander along its paths, listen for the rustle of leaves, the whispering fountains, and the distant city sounds blending into a calming symphony. Whether you’re seeking a lazy afternoon basking in the sun, a casual stroll under the cooling shade, or a cozy picnic on its sprawling lawns, the Estrela Gardens is where Lisbon’s heart beats a little more softly.
9. Explore the Vibrant Mercado da Ribeira
Dive into the spirited heart of Lisbon’s culinary scene at Mercado da Ribeira, the city’s largest and most exuberant food market. Also known as Time Out Market Lisboa, due to its revival by Time Out Magazine in 2014, this gastronomic haven brings together a vibrant mix of high-quality local produce and gourmet dining experiences, all under one roof.
Initially a 13th-century fish market, the Mercado da Ribeira has evolved over the centuries into a bustling foodie paradise. Its cavernous interior is a mosaic of tantalizing aromas, flavors, and sounds today. As you meander through the stalls, you’ll encounter a cornucopia of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, and seafood, reflecting Portugal’s rich agricultural and fishing heritage.
But it’s not just about the produce. The market’s crown jewel is its vast array of food kiosks and restaurants, curated by Time Out, offering everything from traditional Portuguese dishes to innovative culinary creations by some of the country’s top chefs. Whether you’re craving the comfort of a warm pastel de nata, the freshness of just-caught seafood, or the exotic flavors of international cuisine, Mercado da Ribeira satisfies all tastes.
10. Take a Day Trip to Sintra
Journey into the pages of a fairytale with a day trip to Sintra, a town nestled amidst the cooling hills and lush forests of the Serra de Sintra. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, just a short trip from Lisbon’s bustling cityscape, is a sanctuary of mystical beauty and romantic architecture.
Sintra is a wonderful place, with a breathtaking landscape dominated by the colorful Pena Palace, a masterpiece of 19th-century Romanticism. The palace is situated on one of the highest peaks in the area, and its vivid terraces, decorative battlements, and mythic statues are truly enchanting. The nearby ruins of the Moorish Castle are equally captivating and tell the story of an era long gone. The castle’s walls and towers weave through the lush forest, offering panoramic vistas stretching all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
The town itself is a charming spectacle, with its narrow lanes winding through an array of traditional houses, quaint shops, and authentic Portuguese restaurants. Beyond the artificial marvels, Sintra’s natural landscapes are equally compelling. Venture into the cool, mist-veiled forests dotted with hidden wells, serene gardens, and quiet pathways, making it apparent why this spectacular destination has inspired poets and captured the imaginations of monarchs.
11. Walk along the Tagus River
The Tagus River isn’t just a waterway; it’s a shimmering vein that breathes life and beauty into Lisbon’s grandeur. A leisurely stroll along its banks isn’t merely a walk but an immersive journey through Lisbon’s soul, offering a serene escape from the city’s lively buzz while affording some of the most stunning views of the cityscape.
As you stroll along the river, the rhythmic lapping of the water creates a tranquil soundtrack accompanying the visual feast of historical landmarks. On one side, the iconic 25 de Abril Bridge stretches across the water with its mighty structure, reminiscent of San Francisco’s Golden Gate, while on the other, the majestic Tower of Belém stands guard at the river’s mouth, a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries.
The riverside is a photographer’s paradise, especially at the golden hour. The setting sun bathes the city in a warm glow, reflecting off the buildings and the river, a spectacle that seems to put the world on pause. There are numerous spots to relax along the way: lush gardens, cozy benches, and even vibrant terraces of local cafés offering a sip of rich Portuguese coffee or a taste of delicious, freshly caught seafood.
12. Visit the National Tile Museum
Azulejos, the famous Portuguese tiles, are more than just decorative elements. They are ceramic paintings that depict the stories of Portugal’s rich history. The National Tile Museum, also known as Museu Nacional do Azulejo, is the keeper of these stories, featuring an impressive collection of tiles that will take you on a journey through different periods, artistic styles, and cultural influences that have shaped Portugal’s history.
Located in the Madre de Deus Convent, the museum is a tribute to the intricate art of tile-making. The chronological exhibition starts with the simplicity of Moorish designs, progresses to the complex patterns of the Renaissance, and culminates in the elaborate, pictorial scenes of the Baroque period. The museum showcases the visual journey and narrates the evolution of technique, form, and color, highlighting how global influences from Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands have influenced Portuguese artistry.
One of the museum’s treasures is a panoramic view of pre-earthquake Lisbon, offering a rare glimpse into the city’s past. Aside from historical tiles, contemporary exhibits feature how modern artists reinvent this traditional art form, ensuring its continuity into the 21st century. Visiting the museum is not just about admiring the beauty of azulejos; it’s about understanding Portugal’s identity and artistic soul, captured and preserved on glazed ceramic.
13. Explore the Oceanarium
Embark on an aquatic adventure as you step into the Oceanarium, one of Europe’s most extensive marine sanctuaries. Nestled in the modern expanse of the Parque das Nações, Lisbon’s Oceanarium emerges as a realm where the ocean’s mysteries come to life, offering visitors a deep dive into the undersea world across global marine ecosystems.
Here, the vastness of the oceans is brought closer through meticulously designed habitats that house an astounding diversity of marine life. You’ll find yourself wandering through expansive viewing galleries, coming face-to-face with graceful rays, formidable sharks, and an array of colorful fish species that dart through the water, painting a moving tapestry of life. It’s not just the smaller creatures; the Oceanarium also hosts enchanting sea otters, pulsating jellyfish, and many other marine species that will captivate both young and old.
What sets the Oceanarium apart is its commitment to conservation. Beyond being a window into marine biodiversity, it plays a pivotal role in educating visitors about the fragility of our oceans and the importance of preserving these aquatic ecosystems. Interactive exhibits, educational films, and engaging talks by marine experts enrich the experience, leaving visitors with a profound understanding of our oceans’ vital role in sustaining life on Earth. This immersive experience isn’t just an exploration of marine life; it’s a clarion call to preserve the natural beauty beneath the waves for future generations.
14. Shop at the Time Out Market
A visit to Lisbon is incomplete without exploring the Time Out Market, a lively epicurean paradise located in the city’s Cais do Sodré district. The market combines the best Portuguese cuisine and local artisanal products under one roof. The discerning palates behind Time Out Magazine carefully select all the food and products.
Upon entering, you’ll find yourself in a vibrant, open hall bustling with kiosks offering many options. From traditional dishes such as the rich and creamy ‘pasties de nata’ (custard tarts) and savory ‘bacalhau’ (salted cod) to innovative culinary creations by renowned chefs, the market is an array of flavors waiting to be explored. But it’s not just about the food; you can also indulge in a curated selection of Portuguese wines or handcrafted cocktails brimming with local spirits.
The Time Out Market is more than just a food court; it’s a cultural hub. In addition to the food, you can browse a range of high-quality, locally sourced products such as artisanal crafts, souvenirs, and gourmet groceries. The market also hosts live music, art exhibits, and cooking workshops, making it a platform for cultural events and fostering a community vibe that’s palpably infectious.
In a city renowned for its gastronomic prowess, the Time Out Market stands out as a culinary crossroads that captures the essence of Lisbon’s food scene in all its flavorful, creative, and vibrant glory. It is a gathering place where locals and visitors come together because they both enjoy good food and good company.
15. Experience the Nightlife in Bairro Alto
Lisbon’s Bairro Alto district comes alive with its vibrant nightlife as the sun sets and dusk embraces the city. This historic district is a maze of cobbled streets and centuries-old buildings that pulsate with infectious energy from various bars, clubs, and live music venues. Bairro Alto promises a night like no other, catering to every taste and preference. Whether you are looking for the strums of a classic Portuguese guitar accompanying a fado singer or the invigorating beats from a live DJ set, you will find it all here.
The diversity of Bairro Alto’s nightlife sets it apart from other destinations. Within its compact labyrinth, you can stumble upon a rustic bar hosting an intimate jazz night. In this pulsating dance club, DJs spin the latest tracks or a quiet spot perfect for a late-night conversation over a glass of ‘ginjinha’ (a local cherry liqueur). The streets are a social affair, a mix of locals and travelers alike, all drawn by the allure of music, camaraderie, and the sheer zest of Lisbon nights.
For the dedicated night owls, the party doesn’t end when the bars close. The nearby district of Cais do Sodré caters to late-night spots that keep the city alive until dawn. The eclectic culture of Lisbon is on full display in Bairro Alto, making it an unforgettable highlight of any trip to Portugal’s capital. Every turn holds a new rhythm, a fresh experience, and a slice of authentic Lisbon culture.
Final thoughts on things to do in Lisbon
It is clear that Lisbon is not just a place on the map but a living and lively city. It is steeped in tradition yet pulsing with youthful energy, offering more than just picturesque landscapes. Lisbon is a mosaic of experiences, tastes, and sounds that intertwine with the city’s soul.
The city’s architectural wonders stand as a testament to its rich history, while innovative cultural hubs such as LX Factory signal its future. Lisbon, with its unique quirks and lively street life, doesn’t just host visitors; it adopts them, teaching them the true meaning of saudade as they leave. Remember that Lisbon is not a once-in-a-lifetime destination; it’s a place you’ll want to return to, a chapter you’ll want to read again, and a melody you’ll want to replay.