12 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LISBON, PORTUGAL
Last summer I spent a week in Lisbon, Portugal and it quickly became one of my favorite European destinations! This charming city was so reminiscent of San Francisco with its historic trams, hilly streets, coastal views and even its very own version of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re planning to visit soon, you’ll likely be met with the task of choosing from so many wonderful things to see, eat and do. Leisurely stroll around town or pack your day full of plans and conquer it all — no matter which direction you choose, you really can’t go wrong!
How to get to Lisbon?
Since Lisbon is not a central city in Europe, taking a flight is your best option! Once you arrive at Lisbon Airport, Lisbon city center is only about 20 minutes away. There are several ways to get to the city center: car rental, Uber / Cabify, metro, bus, or private transfer (basically, anything but a Taxi to avoid overpaying) .
How long should you stay?
I spent a week here since I was visiting for an art festival, but 3-4 days is the perfect length of time to fully appreciate Lisbon. You’ll have enough time to see all the main tourist hot spots, get a taste of the local cuisine, experience its nightlife and even take a quick day trip to see the magical castles in the neighboring city of Sintra.
Need a little help planning your trip?
Here’s a list of the 12 best things to do while in Lisbon!
TOUR LISBON ON TRAM 28
The famous Tram 28 is a whimsical yellow tram that can be spotted all around Lisbon and is a great way to see some of the top sights in the city! You can quickly and easily be transported around Lisbon by hopping off at different places to explore both popular spots and hidden gems. Ride the tram early in the day to avoid the crowds. The best value for riding the tram is to purchase the 24-hour public transport ticket from any metro station (as opposed to purchasing a single ticket on the tram) since it includes access to the tram as well as all metro and bus services. You can also walk or opt for a ride share (such as Uber or Cabify) to get around!
2. VISIT THE miradouros (Lookout Points)
One thing Shahzeb and I both always love searching for when we travel? Killer views and Lisbon has plenty! Miradouros are lookout points in Lisbon that offer expansive views over the city. I instantly fell for each one of the breathtaking viewpoints all throughout Lisbon. Here are some of the best spots to enjoy a good view in the city:
Miradouro das Portas do SoL
Overlooking the classic, tiled Alfama rooftops and the Tagus River, Portas do Sol is a terrace with a lovely little restaurant and cafe where you can enjoy coffee or a cocktail while admiring a picturesque view of Lisbon. As the most photographed viewpoint in the city, this is the perfect spot to park yourself for sunset!
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
This beautiful viewpoint is a sight to see on its own! Covered in decorative tiles and bougainvillea trees, adorned with a fountain and colorful buildings in the background — this miradouro is as picture-perfect as the view. When I visited, there was even a charming musician singing and serenading visitors!
Miradouro da Graca
Another day, another stunning viewpoint! From here, you'll catch sight of the famous terracotta-colored rooftops from one of the best miradouros in the city. I took so many photos here – it is so beautiful and peaceful looking out towards the water with views of the bridge in the distance.
3. EAT ALL THE PASTEIS DE NATA
You cannot leave Lisbon without trying a pastel de nata. A specialty all over Portugal, pastel de nata is a famous Portuguese egg tart pastry with a flaky crust and a creamy custard filling. They are extremely delicious and highly addicting. Though you’ll find these in almost every bakery in Lisbon, there are two famous places you must try: Manteigaria and Pastéis de Belém. I’ve included a quick breakdown of both in a separate blog post here.
4. SIP ON ESPRESSO
My first time trying espresso straight up (you know, the all-black stuff that comes in a tiny cup — no milk, no sugar, no frills) was in Lisbon and I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful it was. Even with all the amazing cafes that exist, my favorite thing was a simple cup of espresso. And the best part? You don’t have to look far and wide. You can get fantastic espresso no matter where you go! I did try one specialty coffee shop (Fabrica Coffee Roasters located on Rua das Flores) and it was great for third-wave coffee. But when in Europe, I’ll forever opt for espresso!
5. Explore Castelo de S. Jorge (São Jorge Castle)
São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon. Not only are the grounds a beauty to explore, but the 360-degree view from the top of this historic castle is one that should not be missed! It was one of my favorite viewpoints, because not only do you get a glimpse of the famed orange rooftops below but also an incredible view of two famous monuments. If you look closely, you’ll see Christ the King to my left (which looks similar to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro) and 25 de Abril Bridge to my right (almost identical to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco). You could spend a couple of hours here exploring the castle and taking in the views. The castle is open 7 days a week and tickets are available to purchase at the entrance.
6. Praça do Comércio
Lisbon's most emblematic square, Praça do Comércio (better known by locals as Terreiro do Paço), is built on the site where the former Royal Palace stood for over two centuries until 1755, when it was destroyed by the earthquake. Today, Praça do Comércio is a grand square on the northern bank of the Tagus River that welcomes tourists from all over to enjoy its shops, cafes and museums. We visited early in the morning, and it was so wonderful to see the square slowly come to life as more and more people passed through.
7. Take A Day Trip TO SINTRA
When in Lisbon, one thing you absolutely shouldn’t miss is a day trip to Sintra. Just 40 minutes from the city, this magical town holds the most stunning fairytale castles and intricately designed palaces. On your way back, stop by Cabo da Roca to see the westernmost point of Europe!
And if you have more than a day to spare, make the trip to Lagos to see the famous Benagil Caves in the Algarve, or spend a weekend in Porto!
8. Jerónimos Monastery
Located near the Tagus River, the highly ornate Jerónimos Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a very popular tourist attraction in Lisbon. It is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in the city. The exterior is absolutely gorgeous and gives you all the European vibes! Since we were short on time, we didn’t have the opportunity to tour the inside, but I imagine the interior to be just as fascinating. It can get quite crowded by the afternoon (check out the line behind me!), so if you plan to take a tour, plan ahead and come early!
9. Torre de Belém (Belem Tower)
Built between 1514 and 1520 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, Belém Tower is one of Lisbon's most iconic monuments and is probably the most postcard-worthy landmark to photograph in the city. Belem Tower is located on the northern bank of the Tagus River, close to Jerónimos Monastery, and is best visited early in the day to avoid the afternoon crowds!
10. Taste Fresh Seafood
The food scene in Lisbon is beyond amazing, so it’s no surprise that the seafood in this coastal city is particularly exquisite! If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll definitely enjoy the quality, variety and freshness that awaits in Lisbon’s famed seafood spots. My top two must-try restaurants are Cervejaria Ramiro (this legendary place is loved by locals and tourists alike — order the tiger prawn, shrimps on garlic sauce and edible crab) & Cantinho do Avillez (quaint little restaurant with a patio and the best customer service — order the tuna tartare, cod cakes and scallops).
11. stroll down Pink Street
The charming Pink Street is located on Rua Nova do Carvalho and is one of the most popular places to experience Lisbon's nightlife. During the day, the street is a lovely and colorful spot to capture the perfect Instagram photo . By night, the street is brimming with clubs, bars and restaurants! I visited Pink Street mid-morning and it was a bit dirty from all the partying the night before. Before I left, there was a woman who had just began cleaning the street, so I imagine it to be bright and clean by afternoon.
12. Carmo Convent
Experience a piece of Lisbon’s history with a visit to Carmo Convent, where you will find the romantic gothic ruins from the 1755 earthquake. Before the earthquake, it was the largest church in Lisbon. Today, it is maintained as an archeological museum and the beautiful skeleton that remains also functions as a roofless outdoor music venue. I would have loved to attend a concert here! If you plan to visit Lisbon during the summer, be sure to check for any upcoming events!
I had so much fun exploring Lisbon over the summer and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun European travel destination year round. We were able to pack so many memorable activities into just one week — I could easily return and still find plenty to see, eat and do. You can bet I’ll be back someday, even if it’s just to have more pasteis!