Discover the charm of Lisbon, also known as the city of the seven hills. Its historic streets are home to the flavourful pastelarias and the famous trams. Take a look at the best things to do in Lisbon to prepare your trip and enjoy the city to the fullest once you’re there. The Portuguese capital is considered one of the most beautiful European cities. Elegant, modern, traditional, vibrant and melancholic… These are just some of the contrasting adjectives associated with Lisbon. It is also good to know that the prices in Lisbon tend to be lower than in the rest of Europe.
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Located next to the Tagus River, the Belem Tower was used as a defense system and later on as a prison, lighthouse, and customs post. The Belem Tower has been a World Heritage Site since 1983 and its construction was completed in 1520. Today it is the symbol of Europe’s Age of Discoveries and the symbol of the Portuguese capital.
The Jerónimos Monastery has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Today, it is the most telling testimony of the greatness of Portugal in the era of the Great Discoveries. It is one of the most exuberant examples of the so-called “Manueline style”, somewhat similar to the Plateresque style in Spain. It was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s return from India after his tour of Africa.
The Castle of São Jorge (Castelo de São Jorge)
From this castle, standing on its own hill above the city, visitors can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon and the Tagus estuary. Admission to the castle costs €10 for adults. You can get a guided tour in English, Portuguese or Spanish with this ticket.
The Lisbon Cathedral
The cathedral is called Santa Maria Maior, but is also known as the Sé (Sé de Lisboa). It is the most important religious building in the city. Once inside, you can climb to the top, where several ancient relics are kept.
The Baixa neighborhood
The central and lively neighborhood of Baixa is one of the most important commercial areas of the capital. In addition to stores and bars, you will also find several monuments, such as the obelisk in Plaza de los Restauradores or the Santo Domingo church. In this neighborhood you can also discover the Rossio Square, where you can find the Doña María II National Theater and the statue of Pedro IV.
The Alfama is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. It survived the great earthquake of 1755. Its streets, intersected by crossings and dead ends, can look like a labyrinth, or remind you of a Moroccan medina. It is pleasant to walk around, without necessarily having a precise destination.
If you’re looking to see the alternative side of Lisbon and enjoy a lively nightlife, don’t miss the streets of Bairro Alto (the Upper District). Take the opportunity to go for a walk in the elegant Chiado, which is nearby. You can get there from the Baixa neighborhood by the Santa Justa elevator and enjoy the magnificent views of San Pedro de Alcantara or Santa Catalina over the lower part of Lisbon.
The Berardo Museum
This museum comes from the impressive personal collection of modern art of the Portuguese businessman Joe Berardo. His collection is quite impressive, with nearly 4,000 works, among which you will find Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Magritte, Miro, Andy Warhol, Dali, Jackson Pollock, Jeff Koons… A must for modern art lovers.
In the footsteps of Fernando Pessoa
A great way to discover Lisbon is to follow the footsteps of its most important poet. Fernando Pessoa walked the streets of the city so many times that many people say that Lisbon cannot be imagined without Pessoa and reciprocally.
You can start at the Antica Casa de Pessoa, one of the writer’s 20 homes in the city. It has now been turned into a museum. Second stop: the Café A Brasileira, where the poet used to stop regularly. A sculpture of Pessoa is sitting there today as a reminder of this habit. You can enjoy sitting on this terrace with a bica (coffee in Portuguese).
Cais do Sodré
If you are looking to relax in a place with a privileged view while tasting some local specialties, Cais do Sodré is one of the places you should not miss.
This area stretches along the banks of the Tagus River and, although it was once a port area, it is now a renovated and lively place that offers many leisure possibilities. Perhaps most notable is the gastronomic offer, as the restaurants of some of the most renowned Portuguese chefs are located here. Food lovers can also visit the Mercado da Ribeira, an old 19th-century market that has been restored.
The mysterious city of Sintra is located only 25 km away. You can easily go by train or rent a car in Lisbon to get there. The city is home to one of the most famous monuments in the country: the Palacio da Pena. It is a UNESCO World Heritage building that seems to have been imagined by a child.
It was built on the orders of Prince Fernando II. Looking at its architecture, one could say that he was trying to build a custom Disneyland. As it was built in the 19th century, it is a condensation of Gothic, Manueline and pre-Renaissance styles. The Palace overlooks the highest hill of Sintra, which allows you to take fabulous pictures.
You can’t miss them, and Lisbon won’t let you leave without trying the legendary pastéis de nata. The traditional recipe contains milk and eggs, but you can also find vegan ones, as Lisbon is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Europe. There is no shortage of pastry shops in the streets of the Portuguese capital. You can try to take up the challenge of finding the best pastelaria in the city, testing them all. If you are not a gambler, we reveal our favorite address, which is also the most famous: the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém.
Visiting Lisbon: practical information
- Population: 3M (2021)
- Currency: euro (€)
- Climate: hot in summer and temperate the rest of the year. The average annual temperature is about 17 degrees.
- Time zone: GMT or UTC time (the same as in London or Dublin) during the winter months, and GMT+1 during the summer.
- Important dates: The most impressive celebrations that take place every year in Lisbon are San Antonio in June and Carnival in February / March.
- Visa: Portugal is part of the Schengen area. A visa is not required for American, Canadian, British and Irish citizens for stays in the under 90 days and within a 180-day period.
When is the best time to visit Lisbon?
Lisbon is a city with a mild climate all year round, so it is pleasant to visit at any time. However, the most appropriate season to enjoy the beautiful Portuguese beaches is surely summer. However, if you want to learn more about the city’s historical and architectural heritage, as well as its famous gastronomy, you can also come during the rest of the year and avoid the tourist crowds.
How to get around Lisbon?
Since Lisbon is a medium-sized city with a very pedestrian-friendly city center, we recommend walking or taking public transportation.
Lisbon has a very efficient transportation network that includes the metro, streetcars, buses, and cabs. The streetcar runs through the center and is one of the most popular transportation options for tourists. If you want to go through the most touristic parts of the city, it is best to take the famous line 28. You can also travel by boat to get to the other side of the Tagus, for example.
Ready to discover the must-sees of the enchanting Lisbon? 🙂