Lisbon is a modern capital with a charming historic heart, wonderful neighborhoods, drenched in vivid colors and a bohemian atmosphere. Whether you are on a city break or a tour of Portugal, a keen culture connoisseur, a history lover, or a foodie, Lisbon is the perfect destination for every occasion. If we listed every remarkable thing to see in Lisbon, Portugal, this post would never end. And with so much already written about the capital, you can find must-see lists of attractions with a click of a button. So instead, we’ll tell you our favorite things to do in Lisbon that made us fall in love with it and why you will too.
Climb Up High to Enjoy the Magnificent Views
The views in Lisbon, Portugal are breathtaking, but they need to be earned. Before you are rewarded with unbelievable sunsets and river-straddling city views, there are many cobblestone inclines to climb, thanks to the surrounding seven hills. They are adorned with multiple miradouros, or viewpoints, spread out all over the city, each offering a unique perspective of Lisbon.
Castelo de Sao Jorge, originally a Moorish castle, offers unparalleled views over the ocean, winding lanes in the city below, and terracotta roofs that contrast against the bluest sky so well. After slowly tracing the landscape, wander around the castle and meet the resident peacocks.
Miradouro da Graca captures a panorama from the castle to the river and downtown Lisbon. It pairs as a terrace sheltered by trees where you can enjoy a beverage and maybe stay for sunset.
On another day, cozy up at the terrace bar by Miradouro das Portas do Sol and take in the details of the charming Alfama neighborhood. But just like with azulejo tile patterns, you can go hunting for stunning views all over Lisbon, so don’t limit yourself to just these three if you have the time.
Visit the Remnants of the 1755 Earthquake at Convento do Carmo
The core of Lisbon’s architecture still shows traces of Moorish and Gothic elements, but after the city center was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, much of it was rebuilt in a modern European style. Not only did the horrific event cause immense devastation that shaped Lisbon into what we see today, but it also birthed modern seismology. We recommend taking a Free Walking Tour to learn about the incredible history and appreciate Lisbon and its residents on a new level.
The exposed remains of Convento do Carmo serve as a reminder of the 1755 earthquake. Part of the site serves as the Carmo Archaeological Museum, which houses artifacts like tombs and mummies.
Wander around Alfama
The old part of town, Alfama, was not affected by the earthquake, so head there to see what Lisbon looked like before reconstruction. It’s a quaint Lisbon neighborhood with labyrinthine alleys that lead you to new discoveries. You’ll see older Lisboetas charging up the staircases, small plazas filled with intimate café seating, cats peeking over the balconies, and what looked like decorative garlands from afar are actually residents’ laundry hung up to dry. It’s all part of the charm of on of the best Lisbon neighborhoods.
Catch a Fado Performance
Fado music perfectly captures Portuguese people. The art of deeply emotional and melancholic songs emphasized by gestures is so unique that it has been included as part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. And lucky for you, it’s easy to find. There are numerous Casas de Fado sprinkled through Alfama and Bairro Alto. Stroll through the neighborhoods, pop your head in when you hear music, and stay for a while. Or, head directly to Mesa de Frades for a Fado performance over a white tablecloth dinner located in an atmospheric 18th-century former chapel decorated with azulejo inside. For a more rustic experience, watch musicians perform in the close quarters of Tasca do Chico over traditional bar dishes.
Admire Azulejo Tiles
Azulejo tiles are a Portuguese classic. The intricate patterns are the main thing that will constantly stop you in your tracks to take photos. But aside from decoration and story-telling, they serve an important purpose. The glazed tiles reflect the sun, acting as a form of ancient air conditioning, and are more durable than paint. You’ll see them all over the city. Some are showing age and chipping away, some are used as décor in hip places, and a breathtaking collection at the National Museum of Azulejo housed in an old convent from 1509.
Join the Locals for a Stroll along the Tagus River
Through our travels in Spain and now Portugal, countless churros and pasteis de nata were consumed. Yes, yes, the question that everyone is dying to ask is – How do we stay in such great shape? Only joking, of course. But we are obsessed with exploring destinations on foot. One of the best ways to feel a place is to try on a local’s routine, and in Lisbon, this meant going for walks and runs along the Tagus river. The riverside path stretches for nearly 4.5 miles, popular with runners and cyclists in the mornings and sunset strollers in the evenings.
The path will lead you to Belem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site used as a dock by Portuguese explorers. Take in the atmosphere on the promenade across it and continue your trek to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge look-alike, Ponte 25 de Abril.
Find Your Treasure at the Thieves’ Market
Unfortunately, people assume Feira da Ladra flea market offers stolen items for sale thanks to the second meaning of the name. Ladra translates to lady thief, but the word actually refers to the meaning of fleas (ladro). Taking part in this flea market is a fun activity in this Lisbon neighborhood to indulge in, examining the treasures and wondering about their past lives.
Explore the Jeronimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery is a popular tourist site because of its beautiful Gothic architecture and UNESCO World Heritage status. The architecture and gardens are breathtaking but what amused us, even more, is that this monastery is also the birthplace of Pasteis de Nata. The monks created the recipe from leftover yolks and opened a pastry shop right next to the monastery – Pasteis de Belem. The shop is still wildly popular today.
Indulge in Local Cuisine
Discovering a destination through food is one of our favorite activities. And in Lisbon, Portugal, a simple dish like chicken Piri-Piri is edible history. So, here is a little checklist of dishes to try to get you acquainted with the history and culture of Lisbon, Portugal.
- Amendoa Amarga – traditional Portuguese lemon almond liqueur.
- Ginjinha – a sweet liqueur made of sour cherries. The best place to grab a few shots of this deliciousness is at Ginjinha Sem Rival.
- Pasteis de Nata – custard-filled pastry sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon.
- Bacalhau – Portugal’s national dish of cod fish that is prepared in various ways.
- Cozido a Portuguesa – mixed meat and vegetable stew.
- Bifana – white wine-marinated pork strips fried and enveloped in a bread bun with sauce. Have the best bifana in the city at As Bifanas do Afonso!
To experience the best of the best of everything, head to Time Out Market. Compilation of stalls representing the best restaurants in every category, this market is foodie heaven. It’s a great way to sample everything, even from Michelin-star restaurants. Do that, or embark on a Lisbon food tour, especially if you are short on time. But make sure to pop into Manteigaria to enjoy Pasteis de Nata fresh from the oven.
And finally, for the love of creativity, head to Café a Brasileira, where the magic happens. Where Portugal’s most famous writer and the cafe’s frequent visitor, Fernando Pessoa, still sits. But instead of inserting the passerby into his stories, he is now the center of attention. Who knows what ideas might come to you over a cup of bica sitting across from his statue?