Top ten best things to do in Lisbon.
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal is an amazing place to visit for either a day trip, a weekend or as a holiday base.
There is so much to see and do, from historical buildings to hip bars, river cruises to strolling streets lined with cafes and shops.
Whatever you are looking for Lisbon will have it in abundance. The only problem is trying to squeeze it all in.
That is where we will help you, with this list of our top ten things to see and do.
1 - Ride the trams
Photo credit: A Globe Trotter World
Lisbon has six tram routes, three funiculars, and one vertical lift, so you are not short of an experience.
Although the old trams are now part of the tourist scene they are still used regularly by locals as public transport to get around the city (you may notice that Lisbon is very hilly).
These trams are a great way to see the city, and you may be surprised at how close they are to the buildings on the very narrow cobbled streets once out of the main centre.
The most popular tram route offers a scenic ride through Lisbon’s most typical neighbourhoods. Tram 28 is the most iconic tram, but there may be long queues and you are not guaranteed a seat.
The interiors are still original and they really are the best way to get around the city and visit the wonderful areas of Lisbon such a Alfama, Graca and Baixa.
If using the tram buy a day ticket, these are available from metro stations and cost approx. 6.90 Euros (2019) the card is called, Viva Viagem reusable card. This card will allow you to use the trams, metros and busses all day. If you paid per ride, the cost would be considerably more so it’s worth buying.
Pay attention crossing the tramways if walking.
2. Visit a roof top bar.
Photo credit: Limão Rooftop Bar
Lisbon has some amazing views and one of the best places to enjoy these is at The Limão roof top bar. Located on the 10th floor of the H10 Duque de Loulé hotel.
The bar offers two seating areas, one interior and one exterior terrace, so you can enjoy the stunning panoramic views across Lisbon all the way to the River Tagus, what ever the weather.
This is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset and watch the city come to life at night with a signature cocktail and a selection of Portuguese tapas.
3. Belem tower (Torre de Belem)
Built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbour, this historic landmark is now a main tourist attraction in Lisbon that has been granted UNESCO world heritage site status.
You are able to visit the inside of the tower, but to be honest the main beauty is the exterior architecture, which is best before you cross the small bridge before you enter.
If time allows, visiting at sunset is absolutely stunning and gives a great photography experience.
Do not visit on a Monday, if you want to visit the interior as it is closed (but this also means it may be less busy)
As it is located in Belem, the tower is approx. 2.5 kilometres from Lisbon centre. The easiest way to visit is either by tram or train on the Cascais route.
4. Take a river cruise
Photo credit: SeaBookings Modern Lisbon by electric boat
As Lisbon is located on the Tagus River, a boat trip is a must.
There are many to choose from, so depending on the nature of your trip, you will not be short of options.
If you are a group of friends celebrating an occasion why not try a boat party? If you are looking at enjoying old Lisbon, try the historical Lisbon sailing boat tour, that sets off from Belem (so you can really enjoy the tower).
If modernity is your thing, there is an electric boat tour to enjoy the modern version of Lisbon. You can even enjoy a dolphin watching tour.
Choose your trip before you book, as you could spend a large part of your time trying to choose just one.
Check the minimum age if you have children and make sure you bring sunscreen.
5. Miradouro Largo das Portas do sol
One of the most beautiful and free spots to enjoy a view of Lisbon is at the Miradouro Largo das Portas do Sol (the gateway of the sun).
The panoramic views include the Tagus river and the National Pantheon with a stunning view of the Alfama neighbourhood.
There is a large café below where you can enjoy the views, but the best point is on the balcony. There is a small kiosk bar here, with a limited selection of drinks and open seating area, though this can get quite crowded.
As you can see from the view, this balcony is quite high. You can get there easily using a tram (especially if you have a day ticket) and then use a Tuk Tuk to get back down to the city.
6. Take a Tuk Tuk ride
Tuk Tuks can be found all over Lisbon, not only are they a tourist attraction, they are a great way to get around the city. You may need to be brave as you can whip round corners and slip in and out of traffic on the very narrow streets.
The majority of drivers are multi lingual and will give you a full commentary of where you are visiting.
You do not need to take the full tours and can just get a Tuk Tuk from one area to another (for example up a steep hill).
Take at least one Tuk Tuk ride just for the experience and agree the price before you set off.
7. Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio is the grandest of Lisbon’s plaza’s enclosed on 3 sides by the elegant 18thcentury arcades and distinctive yellow buildings.
To the south is an open view of the river Tagus and at the rear in the centre of the yellow buildings is the triumphal Arco da Rua Augusta which leads on to Lisbon’s busiest pedestrianised street.
In the centre of the plaza is the Equestrian Statue of Joseph I, designed by Machado de Castro in 1775.
This is the perfect place to enjoy a drink and some tapas or a meal with a great selection of Portuguese and international bars and restaurants.
Take your time to choose a restaurant, the prices can vary dramatically, due to the location.
If you are in one of the busiest areas, be aware of your possessions, Lisbon is a very safe city, but it is still a city.
8. O Mundo Fantástico das Conservas Portuguesas (The Fantastic World of Portuguese Sardines)
Photo credit: @jenstarlet on Instagram
This is an amazing shop located on Rossio square in the centre of Lisbon. The shop theme is a circus, with the the staff dressed in costume and a Ferris wheel inside the store.
Brightly lit and always busy, you may wonder what is in there, well, it is fish, or to be precise, tinned sardines!
Each tin of sardines has a different year from 1916 onwards, with over 100 years to choose from, each decade is a different colour and each year of the decade has a tonal difference.
The tins are decorated with vintage designs and a year on them, making these a perfect souvenir or gift.
Along with the year is an interesting fact from that year, for example did you know in 1941 the first all terrain car (jeep) was invented or that it was the year bob Dylan and Alex Ferguson were born?
If you buy this as a present you don’t have to worry for the rest of your trip as they are small enough to fit in any bag.
9. Visit the beach
You may not consider the beach high on your list of priorities for a trip to Lisbon, but there are many stunning beaches to visit all along the coast close to Lisbon.
Cascais is probably the most famous and is on the suburban train route from Lisbon.
Cascais was a traditional fishing town, but now is more of a holiday destination. Historically it was reserved as the summer retreat of choice for the Portuguese nobility, so you will notice many stunning period properties. Now the beautiful beaches are available to all.
A little further along the coast (walking from Cascais) is Estoril where you will find a great beach with a long promenade. Here you will find some great beachside cafes and restaurants.
Estoril boasts the largest casino in Europe that also hosts theatre, concerts and an art gallery.
If you have a Viva Viagem day card, you can use this on the suburban railways as well as the trams, metro and busses.
Sintra is a small town approx. 40 minutes by train from Lisbon. Though this may seem quite far for a trip, it is definitely worth it.
One of the most most impressive areas in Portugal, so much so, the area, not just one building, was granted UNESCO world heritage status.
The town itself is very pretty with cobbled streets lined with restaurants and small shops.
But the main draw are the many castles in the area.
For a quick visit it is better to choose where you want to visit before arriving and to book your tickets on line to save the queues.
Pena Palace is probably the most famous with its brightly coloured turrets and towers and is an instagrammers dream.
Or closer to the town is Quinta da Regaleira, not nearly as old as the other palaces and castles (built between 1904 and 1910) it is no less impressive. The building is more a work of art, built in a gothic style with many follies. As you wander the grounds and building you could easily believe you are in the set of an Alice in Wonderland scene.
Take a train or bus to Sintra, parking can be difficult in the busy season.
Book your tickets in advance.
Where to stay in Lisbon
There are many options for accommodation in Lisbon, but to really get a feel for the city we would recommend staying in an apartment in the city centre
Here are two of our recommended apartments:
Casa de Paz Lisbon - A gorgeous well positioned and spaced apartment, very centrally located in the heart of Lisbon. The 28 tram is metres from your door.
The White House, Graça, Lisbon Centre - Located right in the center of picturesque and historical Lisbon "Bairro". You’ll really feel like part of the town, with less than 15 minutes stroll from the main avenue and markets.
Or if you would like to enjoy Lisbon, but have a little more space to yourself:
Casa René at Cacilhas, Almada, Lisbon - Is located in Almada and provides you with gardens and a swimming pool in a beautifully renovated building offering four seperate 2 bed apartments
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Jenny Lovett moved to Portugal in 2018 and together with her husband John bought a derelict Manor House in a small rural village, (which they are are still renovating).
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Vidya Sury "Portugal is so very beautiful. I want to go everywhere. Your advice for each of the ten places listed is excellent. The more I read your posts and see your photos, the more desperately I want to plan a trip, Jenny! Thank you. So gorgeous!"
Rajlakshmi "Omg look at these beauties. The roof top bar looks enchanting. I love fishing villages... Not only they are pretty but you also get to enjoy some amazing seafood delicacies. Thank you for this list. I will keep in my when planning a trip."
Hi Rajlakshmi Lisbon is truly beautiful and that roof top bar has some of the best views over city when you want ot relax with a drink or somethig to eat
Felicia Austin "Wow! There are so many places to visit in Lisbon. We were just looking at places in Portugal and was wondering which places have the most old town feel to it and I see that Sintra looks like that! Are there places to stay that are in between the two or do you suggest just staying in Lisbon and taking the train or staying in Sintra and taking the train to Lisbon? Btw all three of the cities mentioned are on our list to visit lol so how long do you think minimum to catch all the highlights of each town?"
Hi Felicia, You could easily spend a week in Lisbon, depending on how much you want to see. If time is limited we would recommend staying in Lisbon, so you don't need to move accommodation. You can easily catch a train to Sintra and spend the day exploring and on another day catch a train to Cascais, this is a beautiful beach area. if you stay in Lisbon, the public transport is excellent so you do not need a car. You could do it all in a weekend, but you would be rushed, a week is a perfect length of time
Shilpa Garg "Wow! Lisbon has soooo much to offer to the visitors. I'd definitely travel by tram (to take in the old world charm) and take the river cruise (for the scenic beauty and of course the dolphins). The view from the rooftop is simply breathtaking beautiful and I wouldnt miss that too. And Sintra is so fairy-tale like! :)"