Most guides to things to do in Lisbon will focus on the various neighborhoods. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty directionally challenged! So I will just be giving you the places you should visit and things you should do. I recommend you put all of them into Google Maps and plan your days based on which are closest to each other.
Lisbon is one of my favorite cities in the world. It truly is like nowhere else. For the pessimistic travelers who insist all European towns look the same, the bright colors of Lisbon are sure to change their minds. Be sure to also check out my Two Week Portugal Itinerary for more great ideas!
Experience a Fado Performance
Fado is an amazing and beautiful thing to experience. The voices are incredible, the emotions it causes to well up in you…any trip to Portugal must include fado.
There are a few ways to do this. The most common is to experience a dinner with a fado performance. However, I don’t recommend this. These prix fix meals seem reasonable, but they stretch them out for hours. I’m not someone who eats a lot, but after four hours (!) the bread, small soup, small mousse, and chicken main were just not sustaining me.
I highly recommend you attend a full performance, where it takes an hour, you get some nibbles, and then you head out for your real dinner.
Orientate Yourself With a Tuktuk Tour
Just how these became so iconic to Portugal is beyond me, but they are a ton of fun. I highly recommend doing a tuktuk tour as the first thing when you arrive. It’s a great way to get an idea of how Lisbon is laid out, and see some sites that are otherwise quite difficult to access.
Also, it’s just a ton of fun to power your way up the many, many hills of Lisbon in a tuktuk. Climbing these hills can get exhausting so taking a break, or doing this on a rainy day, is a great option.
Visit Belem Tower – Things to do in Lisbon
Located in the Belém district, Belém Tower (Avenida Brasília) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an iconic symbol of Lisbon. Explore the fortress, enjoy river views, and learn about Portugal’s maritime history.
This is a fairly small site and it, along with Jeronimos Monastery, are perhaps the two most visited sites in Lisbon. If you plan to visit both in the same day, I recommend hitting up Belem Tower first. Missing the crowds here is more crucial with the narrow entrances and overall smaller site.
Also, you absolutely must visit the famous Pasteis de Belem on your way to the tower. If you’re early for the tower there won’t be a line for the bakery either and it’s the perfect option for a quick breakfast.
Indulge in Portuguese Cuisine
Taste the flavors of Lisbon by trying traditional dishes such as Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts), Bacalhau à Brás (codfish), and grilled sardines. Explore local markets like Mercado da Ribeira (Avenida 24 de Julho) for a culinary adventure.
I’ll be honest, while those dishes are definitely ones I recommend, it is almost impossible to have a bad meal in Portugal. Just…eat everything! But, if I have to makes some specific recommendations:
High Budget: 100 Maneiras, a Michelin star restaurant with some of the most creatively delicious food ever. This is my favorite Micheline star restaurant I’ve been to. The traditional Portuguese ingredients with the story from the Bosnian chef is, well, chef’s kiss! I highly recommend.
Mid-Budget: The Bistro at 100 Maneiras offers a more laid back and reasonably priced option if you still want to sample the cuisine from the Michelin starred chef. Time Out Market is a classic favorite with tons of great options for reasonable prices from various stalls. Be aware that this place is incredibly crowded, but it’s not just tourists that come here there were tons of Portuguese locals as well. For the famous tapas, Petisqueira Conquistador has some great options like Octopus Salad and Bacalhau a Bras for decent prices.
Low-Budget: Literally any cafe or bakery is going to have some of the cheapest fare in Europe, that still tastes amazing. Even the super famous bakeries such as Pasteis de Belem have delicious options for 1-2 euros a piece. Little meat pieces and other pastries are the way to go for the budget conscious.
Jeronimos Monastery – Things to do in Lisbon
Discover the Jerónimos Monastery! Adjacent to Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery (Praça do Império) is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Marvel at its intricate Manueline architecture and visit the resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama. The architecture is truly one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. The level of detail in every single area of this monastery is on another level. Although it’s not covered in gold, the detail is comparable to The Vatican (check out my guide!)
As I said above, this is one of the most visited places in Lisbon. And frankly, the crowd control is abysmal – those timed tickets are literally useless, you’re going to be there for an hour even in off season. But do definitely purchase them online, or you’ll have to wait in another line to get that. If you can, plan Belem and Jeronimos on different days and get there before opening to avoid lines. The queue for the cathedral and the Vasco da Gama burial is separate (and also insanely long) so plan for a long day.
Ride Tram 28 – Things to do in Lisbon
Experience a classic Lisbon tram ride on Tram 28, which winds its way through the city’s historic neighborhoods. Hop on at Martim Moniz and enjoy the scenic journey to Prazeres or Campo de Ourique. There are a few different trams available to ride in Lisbon, but Tram 28 will take you to the most popular destinations.
Like most adventures in Lisbon, arriving early to the first departure point at Martim Moniz is crucial. The iconic journey will take you rattling through the narrowest streets and past the most beautifully painted buildings. I recommend taking the tram to Basilica da Estrela, a lovely cathedral that was my favorite in all of Portugal. This is the guide I followed to plan my journey!
Visit the LX Factory
This creative hub in Alcântara (Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103) offers a mix of art, culture, shopping, and dining. Explore the trendy shops, art galleries, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. This is just a fun area to wander around and enjoy people watching from a cafe. It’s definitely an up-and-coming area of Lisbon that’s worth checking out.
Stroll Through the Iconic Rossio Square
Portugal as empire is on full display here, so get a taste of the Old World with the bright yellow square. Dating back to the Roman era it has witnessed numerous historical events, including political gatherings, celebrations, and public demonstrations. The square has played a role in shaping Portugal’s history and is deeply rooted in the nation’s collective memory. And, ya know, it’s beautiful.
Check out Palacio Nacional da Ajuda
The Ajuda National Palace is an impressive neoclassical palace that was initially intended to be a royal residence. Its construction began in the 19th century but was never fully completed. The palace showcases magnificent architecture, opulent interiors, and intricate details, providing a glimpse into Portugal’s royal history and the grandeur of a bygone era.
While it’s not the most impressive site on this list, if you can’t make it to Sintra for some reason, you need to visit at least one palace! It’s within walking distance of the Tower of Belem and takes you through some more laid back neighborhoods that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see. I recommend it for those looking to see a less touristy site, since there were hardly any people here.
Climb to the Castelo de Sao Jorge
Castelo de São Jorge has a history dating back over 2,000 years. It was originally built by the Moors in the 11th century and played a crucial role in Portugal’s history as a defensive stronghold. Exploring the castle allows visitors to immerse themselves in the captivating stories and events that have unfolded within its walls. You can frequently see the castle towering over Lisbon such as in the photo above, so indulge your curiosity and give it a visit!
The peacocks randomly wandering the grounds are a delightful surprise amongst the classic castle architecture. This is also one of the best areas to get those coveted views over the city of Lisbon! If you haven’t picked up on it yet, Lisbon is basically San Francisco with the amount of hills it has everywhere, so expect a decent hike with just about every location.
Relax at Parque Eduardo VII
Parque Eduardo VII is located on a hill, offering magnificent panoramic views of the city. From the top, you can enjoy a sweeping vista of Lisbon’s skyline, the Tagus River, and even as far as the São Jorge Castle. It’s a perfect spot to capture memorable photos and appreciate the beauty of the city.
The maze like gardens are also fun to look down upon. I found this to be a lovely area from which to watch the sunset and relax after a long day of walking.
For Fans of the Unusual: Visit the Old Aqueducts
Immersivus Gallery Lisboa is using historical venues as it should. This lovely old aqueduct is using sound and projected light shows to highlight the impressive, if small space. What would have been a quick 10 minute jaunt now becomes a nice little show. The Frida Kahlo exhibit is quite cool although I did not think the light show in the actual aqueduct was as relevant as the Egyptian show is. Essentially, this is a nice way to take a break and learn about something a little different in Lisbon!
If you like your aqueducts, Aqueduto das Aguas Livres is a bit out of the way but not by too much and has a lovely huge section that’s pretty cool to look at.
Experience Lisbon Cathedral
Lisbon Cathedral is one of the oldest and most important religious sites in Lisbon. It dates back to the 12th century and has witnessed significant events throughout the city’s history, including the reconquest of Lisbon from the Moors and the devastating earthquake of 1755. Portugal is home to frankly too many stunning cathedrals and it’s pretty easy to get exhausted with them. However, this is a great example, one of the oldest, and easy to visit. It also grants some very nice views over the city!
Honorable Mentions – Things to do in Lisbon
You might note that this list is missing two items that almost every other list is going to give you. Namely, the iconic Elevators and the many birds-eye view locations in the city. I’ll be honest, I don’t find the elevators worth the time. Unless you get there very early, the lines are generally enormous. The tram can give you just as much, if not more thrill. They are fun to watch though!
As for those bird’s eye views, I just feel you can get those views from just about anywhere. Some of the most stunning were from my tuktuk tour, which are areas that are otherwise pretty difficult to get to. Other options are easy to find such as at the Parque Eduardo VII that I mention earlier.
Finally, Carmo Convent, pictured above, is gorgeous. It is a bit of a quick visit, hence why it’s in the honorable mentions on things to do in Lisbon. But it’s a reminder of what that famous Lisbon earthquake did to the city that looks so perfect now.