Looking for the best things to do in Lisbon, Portugal?! You’ve come to the right place!
I’ve just returned home from a long weekend in Lisbon, and let me tell you, a few days in this part of Portugal has me begging for more.
From the moment you arrive, you’ll notice that Lisbon is such a city of contrasts. You’ve got the historic parts of the city with its grungy-but-beautiful buildings decked out in tile on windy cobblestone streets, and the newer Lisbon with modern architecture and an upcoming art scene. In other words, it’s one of those cities where you’ll find lovely spots on each corner, and getting lost (which is inevitable in the older parts of town) is just part of the charm. The pastries are to die for, the nearby beaches will have you longing for more sunscreen, and the beauty of the many miradouros (lookout points) are just undeniable!
Before I left for my long weekend in Lisbon, I asked my friend Nicola from Suitcase and Wanderlust to share her favorite things to do in Lisbon. I followed her advice and my 3 days in Lisbon were full of excitement, lots of awe-inspiring moments, and let’s be honest – too much food (no regrets however).
Top Things to do in Lisbon, Portugal
#1 | Stroll through the Alfama District
Alfama is one of the oldest parts of Lisbon and used to be a very dark, possibly unsafe district – but all that’s changed! Today there’s nothing left from that unpolished neighborhood. Instead, it’s a lovely maze of narrow cobblestone streets reaching from the Tejo River up to the hill. One of the best things to do in Lisbon is to get lost in the labyrinth of the Alfama streets and soak up the young, trendy, and charming flair. Switch off Google Maps (I double dare you!) and let yourself into the heart of Alfama. Grab a drink or listen to Fado music in one of the bars. Don’t forget to try a shot of Ginjinha (a typical Portuguese berry liquor) in a chocolate cup!
If you’re worried about getting lost (I did multiple times), there are a few different guided options.
- Walking Tour: Sign up for a walking tour through the Alfama district and other popular parts of the city – with a guide to explain everything, it’s a great way to start off your trip and get your bearings in Lisbon.
- Segway Tour: Don’t feel like walking? Roll around Lisbon via Segway (psst – it’s easier than it looks!)
- Tuk Tuk: You’ll see them ALL around Lisbon, and yes, they are an easy way to get around and explore! Take a guided tour of Lisbon via Tuk Tuk (Alfama district included) and watch all those other suckers struggle up and down the hills!
#2 | Take a ride on the Nostalgic #12 or #28 Tram
One of the top-rated things to do in Lisbon is to hop on one of the historic trams. Number 12 routes through sharp corners and narrow streets in Baixa and the steep hills in Alfama and is less busy than the other touristic routes. For only €2,90 (or €1,45 with a pre-paid Viva Viagem card) you will be taken on an unforgettable journey through Lisbon’s historical parts.
Number 28, the most popular tram, passes through Graca, Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela, a very calm district. It may be crowded, and you may need to wait a little while to get on, but you really can’t leave Lisbon without a quintessential tram ride! Sit in the front or back for the ultimate experience and feel the cool Lisbon breeze throughout your hair (feels absolutely splendid on a hot, sticky day). Buy your ticket here for an included walking tour of the Alfama District as well.
#3 | Practice your Lisbon Photography during Blue Hour
If you didn’t know, the blue hour is always the most beautiful time of the day to capture a stunning photo, and with all of Lisbon’s spectacular viewpoints, the city is full of epic shots just waiting to be created! Miradouro das Portas do Sol is the perfect spot for a wonderful view over the colorful roofs of Lisbon and the Tejo River especially before and after sunset. You will surely impress your friends with some amazing photos – and your Instagram followers will most definitely be jealous! Looking for more creative spaces for photography? Sign up for a 2.5 hour Sunset and Dusk Photography Tour and Workshop of Lisbon – something I will definitely be doing next time I visit the city!
#4 | Take a Day Trip to Sintra and Cascais
Yes, not necessarily a thing to do in the heart of Lisbon, but if you’re visiting for a few days, you can’t leave without getting out of the city proper! Sintra and Cascais are Lisbon’s top-rated day trips, and I highly urge you to keep a day open to properly explore both!
Numerous tours are available which are recommended as the tourist bus in Sintra gets extremely over-crowded. I wish I had booked something in advance instead of attempting to wing it myself (my DIY tour of Sintra did not work out well as I only had 20 minutes for the Pena Palace – the most impressive castle of all- as the tourist bus ended earlier than I had wanted).
Read Next: Best Day Trips from Lisbon You Can’t Miss!
Tours are surprisingly not expensive, and even take you to Cascais and Copa da Ropa – Europe’s most western point. This Sintra Full Day Sightseeing Tour takes you to all of the best spots in the area, even the beach! This tour got raving reviews as well, and includes admission to Pena National Palace.
#5 | Eat Pastéis de Nata
You better not leave Lisbon without trying Pastéis de Nata – a few times! This egg-tart pastry is a Portuguese delicacy with a history dating back to 1837, and tastes absolutely phenomenal. Case in point – I had them for breakfast a few too many times. You can find these little sweets in every pastry shop in the city, however, for the absolute best ones, head to Pastéis de Belém in Belém. Absolute heaven – the pastry is handmade following the century old recipe. And don’t worry about the calories, you’ll burn them easily by walking up and down the hills of the city!
#6 | Hang out in LX Factory
Looking for a few quirky things to do in Lisbon? The LX Factory has you covered. For many years, the area has been out of order, but has since been revitalized and turned into a creative space for fashion, art, communication, and architecture. Take the tram number 15, get off at Calvário, and hang out in this popular site for locals, hipsters, artists, and visitors from all over the world. The little cafés, restaurants, and shops off the beaten track will make you want to stay there for a while.
#7 | Overindulge at the Time Out Market
Hungry? Head on over to Lisbon’s Time Out Market. This huge food hall houses the best restaurants of the city (all 24 of them) under one roof. From curated burgers, steaks, nigiris, fresh seafood, tartare, rice dishes, traditional Portuguese food, pastries, and croquetes, you’ll find anything your heart desires here. And everything has been chosen and tested by independent journalists and experts. It’s definitely one of my favorite things to do in Lisbon for lunch or dinner!
Calling all foodies – you’ll absolutely love this food and Segway tour all in one. Not only will you roll around the city exploring Lisbon’s most popular sites, but you’ll stuff your face as well. Sounds like my kinda day!
If you’re looking to splurge a bit, consider this private 3-hour food and wine tour -learn all about Portuguese cuisine while sampling delicacies all around the city! This food tour looks just as good, although is not a private tour, being less expensive.
#8 | Visit the MAAT
Don’t miss the MAAT, Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, right by the Tejo River. It’s not only an exceptional architectural building, but also an amazing place to see national and international exhibitions of contemporary artists and architects. The two buildings, the iconic power station and the new modern hall, can both be visited with a combined ticket for 9€ or separately at 5€ each. The cultural program offered is quite diverse: from art installations and architectural designs, to living platforms and video and film exhibitions, there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss the roof of the MAAT, a full garden area which offers beautiful views of the river and bridge.
Read Next: A Day Trip to the Troia Peninsula
#9 | Stroll the Expo Area
The total opposite of historic Lisbon is the Expo area, which extends along the Tejo River in the Northeast. It used to be a desolate industrial area before it was completely rejuvenated for the Expo in 1998. You can reach the Parque das Nações with the red metro line and exit at Orient train station. One must-do thing here is to fly over the park with the cable car. It’s a fun experience with great views on the park and the city.
Doesn’t sound like your kind of fun? Don’t fret – there are plenty of other things to do in this area. The Lisbon Oceanarium is a huge complex with 5 tanks that represent the oceanic ecosystems with an enormous variety of fish, sharks, sea otters, crabs and penguins, and will enthuse any ocean lover.
Architecture enthusiasts will love the Vasco da Gama Bridge with its simple, but stunning design, which seems to be never-ending. Instead of walking back all the way to Oriente station you can use the bus 728 which goes directly to Belém but also stops at Oriente.
#10 | Have a Beer in Bairro Alto
Looking for a few things to do in Lisbon after hours? Head over to Bairro Alto – the “it” place to be at night! The district awakens in the evening, with tons of both traditional and modern bars and restaurants included in the vibrant nightlife. Portas Largas is an excellent choice, with its beautiful azulejo tiles, daily live performances, and large cocktails at reasonable prices. Lisbon experts agree that Pensão Amor in Rua do Alecrim, located in a very old building and former brothel, is actually the best nightlife venue in town! With burlesque decor, velvety furnishings, and framed mirrors, combined with a great variety of drinks and regular live performances makes your night out in Lisbon an unforgettable experience.
#11 | Ride Elevador da Bica
One of the most well known tourist spots in Lisbon is the Elevador da Bica and definitely worth a ride. The yellow train starts in Baixa and goes down to Rua de S. Paolo, where you can head over to the viewpoint Miradouro de Santa Catarina. Enjoy the scenic view on the Tejo River and the dockyards during the ride on one of Lisbon’s icons. Don’t be confused – this is not an elevator, but a tram that ascends up a very steep hill.
#12 | Have a Drink with a Killer View
In Lisbon’s historic city center, you’ll find several rooftop bars with panoramic views. A few suggestions if you’re getting a little thirsty:
- There’s the exclusive “Silk” in Chiado known for its nearly 360° view, Japanese food, and cocktails served late into the night.
- “Terraço BA” on top of the Bairro Alto Hotel offers a river view and is perfect for a drink before dinner. Since it’s quite small, you might have to wait a little while to get a spot, but it’s well worth the wait.
- If you want to go for tapas and Portuguese wines, “Memmo Alfama Terrace” with its contemporary design is your spot. Although it’s not actually on a rooftop,with amazing views of scenic Alfama and the river Tejo, you won’t mind.
- At the top of the Altis Avenida Hotel you will find the stylish “Rossio” rooftop bar, which is open throughout the day. You can watch the hustle and bustle on Avenida de Liberdade while sipping a glass of chilled white wine. Nothing better than that in my book!
#13 | Ride a Bike to Belém Tower
One of the must-do things when visiting Lisbon is Belém tower, the monument by the river that Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama used as a starting point for his sea voyages. The monument is a symbol of the country and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can rent a bike in the city center close to Praça do Comércio and ride along the river passing the bridge 25 de Abril and the MAAT towards the Belém tower. Once you’re in Belem, you can check out the other monuments nearby, and don’t forget to try the famed pastries at Pastéis de Belém. If walking/riding the hills of the city scare you, and there ARE hills (pretty steep ones at that), I suggest renting an electric bike and exploring Lisbon via electric bike tour! Your calves and thighs will thank you later.
#14 | Relax by the River
On Av. Brasilia right next to the 25 de Abril bridge, there’s an area with several restaurants and bars to relax and hang out for a while. The chilling atmosphere invites visitors to have a break from the city center or to dine in one of the seafront restaurants. If you’re tired of exploring the city by foot, there’s the hippobus, a bus and a boat in one vehicle, that drives through the heart of Lisbon and on the river in a 90-minute tour. If you’re looking to add some romantic things to do in Lisbon, consider a 2-hour sunset cruise along the Tagus River – sure to serenade any lover into your Lisbon abyss!
#15 | Take a Cooking Class
The best way to learn about traditional food in a country is to take a cooking class with a local! The chefs will show you how to prepare classic Portuguese meat and fish dishes with fresh ingredients and olive oil. Not only will you learn how to cook the meal, you will have the chance to make new friends while enjoying a beautiful dinner with Portuguese wine together.
I traveled to Lisbon solo and felt exceptionally safe! Although I don’t speak the language I was able to get around quite easily and make friends at my hostel! Heading to Portugal solo? Check out this guide to solo travel in Portugal.