Welcome to Lisbon, Portugal!
Once a quiet, sleepy town, Lisbon has become one of the most exciting cities in Europe. From nightlife to beach life, from hipster cafes to shopping streets – you name it, they’ve got it.
First time to Lisbon? Start with what Lisbon is known for, where I bring you on a tour of Lisbon’s best districts and introduce what’s famous in Lisbon.
Furnishing on from there, here are 11 top things to do in Lisbon for a complete experience while you’re in the “city of seven hills”.
Lisbon’s 11 Must See Sights
1. Take a tram ride
This tops my list of things to do in Lisbon for a reason. While the tram is a common means of transport for the locals, the tram is iconic of Lisbon. If you want a quick guide to the best of Lisbon’s attractions, Tram 28 is for you. Tram 28 runs through the city, taking you around the historic neighbourhoods. It is the tram you have got to sit it at least once during your visit to Lisbon.
2. Go up the Santa Justa elevator
Just as you have to take Tram 28, the Santa Justa elevator is another popular attraction for visiting tourists.
Designed by Ponsard, a disciple of the legendary Gustave Eiffel, this iron elevator has been built in the since the 1880s to connect the lower districts to the elevated suburbs. No other city does an elevator like Lisbon does.
Today, tourists hop on it to be offered an overview of Lisbon’s sighseeing spots through the downtown district.
3. Listen to Fado
Who would have thought that Fado, a traditional Portuguese music genre that can be traced back since the early 1800s, is still very vibrant in Lisbon today? Do not pass up Lisbon without taking in their traditional folk music.
Fado can be best found in a fado house along the streets of Alfama, Mouraria or Madragoa. You can find Fado in almost all corners of Lisbon in all forms – whether it’s in a classy theatre or in a downtown bar. One of the top places to catch Fado over good music is at Clube de Fado, a restaurant that has occasional “Fado Nights” accompanied by great, traditional food.
Another great restaurant to visit is Sr Fado de Alfama. The family-run restaurant provides great Fado music and you can expect to get up close and personal with the musicians. Simply sit back, relax as you admire the warmth and beauty of Fado music.
For a history about Fado, the Fado Museum shares the origins of Fado in the museum’s documentation centre.
4. Get lost in Alfama
While we’re covering Alfama, you should also take a walk down the area and witness the vibrant district yourself. The district, with its many alley ways, is often alive and upbeat due to the many tourists and good music from the numerous street restaurants.
It’s hard to believe what you can expect at each turn – whether it’s a historical landmark, a beautiful coffee shop, or stunning views of the city. This city on the hills, as Lisbon is so famously known for, is totally worth a visit!
Don’t worry about getting lost or getting too caught up in the Alfama district; that is the point! Every little step here makes for memorable moments for yourself, so I highly encourage you to have fun getting lost in this maze called Alfama. 🙂
5. Hunt for Lisbon’s best panoramic views
Lisbon spans a series of hills, making it one of the best places to capture panoramic pictures. The best of these are the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, with dazzling views over the Alfama; the Miradouro das Portas Do Sol and Miraduoro Senora Do Monte, that offer a view of Alfama’s rooftops, towers, and domes descending towards the river; the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, overlooking the Baixa; and the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, the preferred spot for Lisbon’s guitar-strumming bohemians.
Be warned, this takes considerable physical effort, since most of the viewpoints are atop steep hills.
6. Visit Castelo de Sao Jorge (St George’s Castle)
A journey to Castelo de Sao Jorge is an experience on its own. Be amazed by the beauty of the medieval architecture and view you get from the castle, which sits prettily on top of the Alfama hills. For an even better view, you should head to the Tower of Ulysses within the castle and use a periscope (Camera Obscura) to get a panoramic 360 degree view of Alfama, Lisbon.
This will be a fantastic chance for you to go with your families and friends and hang out at one of Lisbon’s most famous sites. The castle is open from 9am to 9pm, with tickets priced at around 8.5€ each. To get here, you can choose to walk up from Alfama or take bus 37 to get there. Grab your cameras, you won’t want to be miss a single sight of this!
7. Museum-hop for free
Come the first Sunday of every month, catch some of the Lisbon’s best attractions at no cost, including the Museu Nacional do Azulejo tile museum, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belém, the Torre de Belém and the unmissable art collection of the Museu Gulbenkian.
8. Taste authentic Portuguese custard tart
Mmm… Lisbon best attraction, if I must admit.
It is this reason why anyone would come to Portugal, no? Portuguese custard tart is an emblem of Portuguese cuisine, with its recipe so closely guarded that you cannot find a tart that tastes the same anywhere else. These tarts are best enjoyed with a dash of cinnamon powder, and some like to pair it with coffee.
The captivating smell and delightful texture and taste of the egg tarts at breakfast makes for a sweet start to your day. You can opt for other types of pastries or even sit and have a cup of coffee with your friends and family.
Pasteis de Belem specialises in the preparation of these tarts, so much so that you can’t stop at one (which was what happened in my case!). Pasteis de Belem is often open till late at night, past midnight. Read my full review of them here.
To get here, you can choose to take tram 15 or 127 from Figuiera Square or Commercio Square and alight after Jeronimos Monastery. Be sure to stop by if you’re in the area!
9. Taste Portugal’s very own cherry liqueur, ginjinha.
A Portuguese liquer made by using ginja (sour) berries, Ginjinha has received lots of attention worldwide for being a sweet alcoholic drink fit for any social events. T
rying this liquer was quite an eye-opening experience for me. Some shops offer you ginjinha in chocolate cups, while others leave a surprise for you at the bottom. Finishing off the liqueur with something sweet is said to complement the strong taste of liqueur well.
You can find amazing Ginjinha all over Lisbon, but none compares quite as well as those found at A Ginjinha and Ginjinha Sem Rival.
A Ginjinha has received numerous great reviews, and quite rightly so – the ambience of the bar and quality of the ginjinhas are top notch.
Ginjinha Sem Rival does it really well, too – the bar is designed to be more traditional and cosier, making it easier to interact with friends over the great ginjinhas. Plus, if you’re looking to try a sip, they have sample cups for under 2 Euros!
A journey to Lisbon would not be complete if you don’t try this drink. Ttrust me!
10. Party the night away in Bairro Alto
Think you’ve finished your list of things to do in Lisbon? There is nothing like ending your fulfilling day in Lisbon at Bairro Alto. It is the place to be for those hankering after a fun night out, and promises to leave you feeling more energetic than you came in with. Lisbon’s nightlife is one not to be missed.
In an attempt to soak in the atmosphere, we once (accidentally) walked into a gay crowd – did I not mention how Lisbon is an increasingly popular gay destination?
11. Soak in Lisbon’s sun in Cascais
Beach lovers, rejoice! In a region where the weather is mostly cold and rainy, Cascais in Lisbon provides visitors, both locals and tourists, a great day out in the sun and sea.
Situated on the west of Lisbon, the beach town of Cascais (pronounced Kush-Kaish) is filled with luxurious sea-side hotels and low-cost rental apartments, making it a fantastic option for you to wrap up your Lisbon trip.
There are lots to do here in Cascais – you can choose to explore the town in all its beautiful colours and historical building designs, rent a bicycle to cycle around the town, or simply head to the beaches, which is arguably Cascais’ most popular attraction, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the most popular one being Guincho beach.
There are tons of museums and historical landmarks here for you to see, such as the Cascais Historic Centre, Casa Das Historias – Paulo Rego, and Centro Cultural de Cascais.
Another popular attraction would be the Boca do Inferno cliff lookout point, which gives you great panoramic views of the ocean atop beautiful rock formations – a perfect location for nature lovers!
Read the rest of my posts on Portugal:
- What is Lisbon Known For?
- What to Eat in Lisbon – 10 Restaurants and Cafes for Portuguese Food
- 8 Top Bars and Clubs in Lisbon, Portugal
What was the most memorable thing you did in Lisbon?