This post is also available in: Dutch

Latest update: 8 August 2023

After Athens, Lisbon is the oldest city in Europe. And it is gorgeous! The narrow streets that wind up and down (hello, calf muscles!) take you past dozens of sights. Make the most of your visit with these tips for things to do in Lisbon, Portugal. Including some unusual things to do.

This is Lisbon

What stands out in Lisbon are the yellow trams, the colored and tiled houses, and the narrow, steep winding roads and endless staircases. The colors, Azulejo tiles, and cozy corners always invite you to take another picture – even if you already have hundreds on your phone. Lisbon is a city with a lot of charm, with many small, friendly restaurants and bars where you can enjoy the local cuisine and wines. But at the same time, it is modern: you can also find everything from Mexican to Japanese.

Ideal travel period for Lisbon

The best time to travel to Lisbon is in April, May, and June, and then again in September and October. So spring and autumn. Then the temperature is pleasant, and you avoid the scorching hot days. It is also a bit quieter in terms of tourists, although Lisbon actually attracts people all year round.

For example, I visit Lisbon at the beginning of December and regularly hear Dutch around me. Christmas markets brighten up the city, and regarding the weather in December: I can drink coffee or lunch on a terrace, sometimes even with my coat off. But the next day, the rain suddenly pours down from the sky. Even in the city with the most hours of sunshine in Europe, it can rain!

First, some practical info on Lisbon….

Before I share the best sights and activities in Lisbon, I want to share some practical tips with you. Hopefully you’ll find them useful.

Coming from the Netherlands, there is a time difference! Yes, yes, a three-hour flight suddenly puts you an hour back in time.

Taxis in Lisbon are a lot cheaper than in the Netherlands. So if you want to go from the center to the airport or Belém, it is worth considering taking a taxi. Uber runs in Lisbon, but Bolt is usually cheaper. Because I had not used Bolt before, I received various discounts by signing up. So I paid less than 7 euros between the airport and the center, and from the center to Belém cost me less than 5 euros. Which means Lisbon’s taxis are very affordable! This is why they are also a great option to travel to the slightly more distant sights of Lisbon.

All the sights in Lisbon come at fair prices or even for free. But it quickly adds up if you’re out sightseeing in Lisbon for a few days. A museum for 5 euros, a castle visit for 10 euros, a tram ticket for 3 euros… The Lisbon Card will be a good deal for most people. You can use it for free entrance to many sights, attractions, and public transport. Check the value here or book it directly below.

What to do in Lisbon?

That’s it for practicalities. Now, let’s quickly move on to the best sights in Lisbon!

Pastel de Nata: all day, every day

You haven’t been to Lisbon if you haven’t eaten Pastel de Nata (Pastéis de Nata). Pastel de Nata is a traditional Portuguese pastry originally made by monks in the monasteries of Lisbon. It is a crispy puff pastry filled with creamy cream. The Portuguese also sprinkle cinnamon on it; follow their lead!

You can get a Pastel de Nata at almost every coffee shop and bakery. You usually pay between € 1 and € 1.50. The battle for the tastiest Pastel de Nata is fierce. A competition is even held every year. In 2022 the winner was Casa do Padeira (Google Maps location). The Pastel de Natas that are always well regarded are those of Manteigaria and Fábrica de Nata, both of which have several locations in Lisbon. Did you know that Manteigaria is open until midnight? Then they will gladly sell you a shot of Ginja to go with your pastel de nata: it’s a kind of cherry liqueur.

Taste the original: Pastéis de Belém

The Pastel de Nata is perhaps the best known, but Pastéis de Belém is the original. This ‘pastry’ was originally made in the convent bakery of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in the Belém district. Pastel de Belém is unique because it is made according to a secret recipe handed down from friar to friar. The recipe has never been disclosed and is still carefully preserved by the bakery. It is a protected brand and recipe, so you can only get it at the Pastéis de Belem bakery.

And it’s a huge bakery, by the way. Huge in size and popularity. I read online about large queues, but apparently, it’s my lucky day as only a few people are waiting before me. Inside is an enormous space where you can try a coffee and a Pastéis de Belém at one of the tables. You can also quickly look in the kitchen or pick up Pastéis de Belém. I’m curious, can you taste the difference?!

A little warning: you should eat the Pastéis de Belém as soon as possible; they will be dry the next day. Not suitable as a souvenir. You can take Pastel de Natas home with you; they will keep for a few days.

Google Maps location

A Pastel de Nata workshop in Lisbon

Ok, can’t get enough of Pastel de Nata? I understand, me neither. And that’s why I join the Pastel de Nata workshop in Lisbon, and that’s so much fun! We make Pastel de Natas (four each) and cod fritters (endless supply) in two hours. The cod is a bonus to the workshop as it is so popular in Portugal. The Portuguese eat about ten kilos of cod a year!

But, back to the Pastel de Nata. A lot of work goes into it. Certainly in the dough, and luckily our workshop supervisor has already prepared it for us in advance. So we get a crash course in making dough. We all have our own kitchen unit, and we build up the Pastel de Nata step by step. I can’t believe how much butter goes into it! Check out the video.

There are several providers of Pastel de Nata workshops in Lisbon. Check the location carefully – some are very far from the center. I went to this one and enjoyed it a lot.

Praça do Comércio in Lisbon

Praça do Comércio is the mega square in the heart of Lisbon. On one side is the river; on the other, you can walk straight into the busy shopping area. You walk under the beautiful triumphal arch, the ‘door to Lisbon’. For a bargain price, you can also go to the top of the arch for a beautiful view over the square and the water. You can already buy a ticket online.

You will find terraces on the square and it is often teeming with street artists and tour groups. The square is also called the “Terreiro do Paço”, which means “Palace Square” because it was initially where the king’s palace stood. The square was built in the eighteenth century after the earthquake of 1755, which destroyed a large part of the city.

Google Maps location

Get lost in Alfama

According to many, Alfama is the most beautiful neighborhood in Lisbon. I do understand the claim. It is a maze of streets, it is colorful, and the yellow tram completes the picture. Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. There are no specific places that you must see; just wander through the streets, turn a few corners, and explore the narrow alleys. If you’re up for it, I recommend a photography tour in the district. A local photographer will show you the prettiest spots and teach you about photography. Sound interesting? Read my blog about the photography tour in Lisbon.

Tip! Are you looking for a unique tour in Lisbon? Then be sure to check out WithLocals. Lisbon locals take you on themed tours: football, family, food, etc….

The yellow trams of Lisbon

Characteristic of Lisbon are the yellow trams. Walk into any souvenir shop in Lisbon, and the yellow tram is printed on almost every imaginable object. A ride with such a tram is not to be missed – and this way, you also give your legs some rest.

Tram 28 is the ‘tourist tram’. It drives past many sights in the Graca, Alfama, and Baixa districts. So you get a full sightseeing tour on an old-fashioned tram for 3 euros (you pay it to the conductor). Tram 28 has been running since 1930. All stops can be found here.

On Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo, a tram goes up and down the steep hill all day long. A pretty sight, but, unfortunately, people find it necessary to daub the cute tram with ugly graffiti. Take some waiting time into account, by the way, there is often a queue for the Da Bica tram.

Google Maps location tram Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo

Pink Street & Green Street in Lisbon

In Lisbon, you will find a pink and a green street. In the evening you come to Pink Street for the nightlife and during the day for the photos. The pink street is quite a crowd-puller, so it is difficult to take a picture without people in it.

Google Maps location

A little further from the center, you will find Green Street. I think this is a much nicer street. It is called Green Street because the residents and entrepreneurs grow plants and flowers everywhere. There are a few small shops and restaurants. It’s a nice place to have a drink. And if you miss the Netherlands: there is a Dutch Corner (here) with croquettes and frikadellen.

Google Maps location

A day at the beach in Lisbon

On the other side of the water, across the iconic red bridge, you will find good beaches for a sunny day in Lisbon. Go by bus or taxi to, for example:

Ponte 25 de Abril bridge

The long red bridge over the water is called Ponte 25 de Abril. The bridge was previously named after a Portuguese dictator but was renamed Ponte 25 de Abril on April 25, 1974. The bridge might remind you of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Well, it was built by the same makers. So no coincidence.

Are you fascinated by the bridge? Not many people know that you can see the traffic rushing past you at the top. The Pillar 7 Bridge Experience is a multimedia and virtual reality experience where you learn more about the bridge’s history and thus enjoy the view. For just a few euros! Book a ticket.

Google Maps location

Tip! You can easily spend a day in the Belém district. Find out what to do in Bélem.

Visit the LX Factory in Lisbon

The LX Factory is a creative industrial area in Lisbon. The site is housed in old factory buildings converted into a cultural center with art galleries, restaurants, bars, and shops. It is located under the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, and I definitely recommend visiting the LX Factory while you’re in Lisbon. Check out the shops, eat something and have a drink. There is also a flea market on Sundays. And those who love the vibe can spend the night in the LX Hostel.

Google Maps location

Food market: Time Out Market

The Time Out Market has been a popular place in Lisbon for years. At busy times, security is at the door to ensure it does not get too crowded inside. It is a huge hall full of eateries. In the middle are extremely long tables, and on the edges, you will find the restaurants. You can also eat at the bar on the outer edge.

From local specialties to juicy burgers, you’ll find it all here. I try the Pastel de Bacalhau with Vinho Verde – both typical Lisbon. The Pastel de Bacalhau is a kind of cod croquette. Honestly, I think it’s a bit bland. The Vinho Verde is a young white wine that is nice and fresh. If you want to try them too, go to Sea Me in the Time Out Market.

Google Maps location

Go to the Fado Museum in Lisbon

Fado is the Portuguese song of life. It comes from Lisbon, so it is the place to discover the music. The Museu do Fado is an excellent introduction to Fado music. With an audio guide, you walk through the museum and learn about the origins of the music. Learn how Fado moved from living rooms to Fado houses and how the genre became increasingly professional with permits and outfits, and from oral transmission to copyrighted songs. You will also become acquainted with the Portuguese guitar that has double strings, and you can listen to different singers.

Google Maps location

Visit a Fado house

If you want to experience Fado live, there is no better place than Lisbon. The music is usually sad and is usually about (lost) love. A Fado house is typically a restaurant where fadistas perform. Sometimes it’s simply a cafe. You will find many of these places, especially in the Alfama district, so walk around, and you will likely come across something.

If you want to go to one of the more popular Fado houses, you should make a reservation. Here are a few options:

Walk along the Tagus River

Lisbon is right on the water. So get some fresh air along the river. There are kilometers of walking and cycling paths along the Tagus. Completely free.

Flea market Feira da Ladra

One calls it junk; the other calls it vintage. But if you are in Lisbon on a Tuesday or Saturday, the Feira da Ladra market is an attraction you should not miss. You will find everything at the market. Clothing, antiques, ceramics, old toys, stacks of DVDs, you name it. The market opens at 9 am. The earlier you get there, the better the stuff on sale. Around four o’clock, most stalls start packing up.

Google Maps location

Lisbon’s rooftop bars

With so many height differences in the city, visiting a rooftop bar is lovely. For the beautiful view and to have a refreshing drink. My favorite is the Park Rooftop Bar. You have to know where it is (here) because otherwise you’ll miss it. The rooftop bar is on top of a parking garage. There is an elevator, but whether it works… So you can also just circle up through the parking garage. The view is really great, but the service is not really. They are either too afraid to speak English, or they just don’t feel like it. But hey, don’t let them spoil your fun!

Other rooftop bars in Lisbon:

Santa Justa elevator

In the middle of the center of Lisbon, there is suddenly a 45-meter-high iron elevator. A student of Gustave Eiffel designed it, so you probably recognize the style a bit. With the elevator, you can quickly go from street level to the higher hill, but it costs 5 euros, and there is often a long queue. It is more of a tourist thing than it is convenient. But if you pass it anyway, why not take a picture?

Google Maps location

Catch the sunset in Lisbon

Because Lisbon is so hilly, you have beautiful views at various places in the city. Especially as the sunset approaches, it gets busy at the top spots. So where should you go for a beautiful sunset in Lisbon?

Tear through the streets with GoCars

Officially this is a sightseeing tour, but once you get excited, you forget to look around and you are mainly racing through the streets. GoCars are small yellow cars that you can drive in pairs. I wrote an article about it: Cool activity in Lisbon: GoCar tour.

Lisbon Castle: Castelo de São Jorge

Lisbon Castle is on the highest hill in the city. This is also a top spot to watch the sunset. Castelo de São Jorge is extremely popular, and there is almost always a queue. So I pass up a visit twice because of the queue until I walk by and hardly anyone is there. This is my chance!

For a tenner, you can visit the Moorish castle, including the ruins, the archaeological museum, and the huge courtyard. You can walk over the castle walls, and dozens of peacocks wander around. They completely distract me, and I have more peacock photos than castle photos.

If you want, you can also get a tour of the castle. Book it here.

Google Maps location

Monument to explorers in Lisbon

On the river Tagus, near the Torre de Belém, there is a colossal monument for explorers. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos. It is 52 meters high, and you can see many important people from the time that the explorers set out. The building has a small exhibition, and you can take the elevator up for the view. It only costs 3 euros (2023) per person. Also, don’t forget to check out the huge mosaic in front of the monument. All the voyages of discovery are depicted here.

Google Maps location

Breathtaking Monastery: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Because I had never heard of it, I decided to ‘quickly’ check out the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery. But apparently, many other people know about its existence because the queue was discouraging. And so I only admired the monastery from the outside and went to eat a Pastéis de Belém on the corner. Time well spent, of course, but I want to return to the monastery next time. Because this 16th-century monastery certainly looks promising from the outside. Be smarter than me and buy your ticket online in advance.

Google Maps location

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos Monastery Lisbon: Monastery with line of people in front

Torre de Belém in Lisbon

Vasco de Gama is a Portuguese explorer who led Portugal’s first expedition to India. The Tower of Belém is on the spot where that expedition started. The tower was built in the 16th century as a defensive structure. You can visit it now, but secretly, it is the most beautiful from the outside. In the Torre de Belém, you can learn more about the tower’s history and look out over the river. It is one of the most famous sights of Lisbon. Buy your ticket online in advance.

Google Maps location

Wonderful massage at Ecomassage

Need a moment of rest? At Ecomassage, they know what to do. I book super last-minute (read: an hour in advance) an excellent deep tissue massage on a rainy day. Ecomassage has two neat massage parlors in the center of Lisbon. The service is excellent: I receive a warm welcome, and we discuss the massage options. The massage room is small but nice and warm, with soothing music. My masseuse has to work hard on my shoulders, and my calves are on fire, haha. But she’s excellent. Book your massage – you can also do this via the WhatsApp icon on the site. They responded super fast.

Museum of Modern Art (Museu do Chiado)

The MNAC, Museu do Chiado, or Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea: it’s all the same museum. Everything revolves around modern art. There are changing exhibitions, so check for yourself whether there is something to see that appeals to you. I am particularly impressed by the nature photography and a documentary-style work about street violence and school shootings. They are portraits of the perpetrators constructed from newspaper clippings about their deeds. The entrance fee is low, less than 5 euros. But as I said at the beginning of this blog: it all adds up. So consider that Lisbon Card.

Google Maps location

Go graffiti hunting in Lisbon

If you wander through the streets of Lisbon, you will regularly come across street art. Sometimes just simple drawings, but also beautiful murals. Mural Graffiti Fado Vadio is one place where you can see some graffiti. Honestly, it is a bit of faded glory, although it is a cute place because of the stairs. A short stop is enough (Google Maps location).

If you want a guarantee of beautiful graffiti, I recommend a street art tour. Then you don’t have to look for yourself, but a guide will take you to the best graffiti spots. Check out these options:

Day trip from Lisbon: Sintra

From Lisbon, you can easily make a few day trips. I try a day trip to Sintra because it’s full of castles there, which seems fantastic. My timing is anything but fantastic. Some rain is predicted, but I’m not made of sugar, am I?! Right? Well, it ends up being terrible weather, and there’s hardly any visibility. Such a pity. After the Pena castle and the Moorish castle, I give up. Back to the city and get that massage. Read more about my rainy Sintra visit.

But if I end up in Lisbon again, I will certainly give it another try because the pictures of the castles with blue skies are fantastic. You can visit them and buy individual tickets or join a tour.

Hotels in Lisbon

If you want hostel vibes with hotel comfort, I highly recommend Selina Secret Garden and Living Lounge Hostel.

The Living Lounge Hostel is in the center, close to many Lisbon sights. I reserved a single room, and the tiny space has been optimally used. A bed, a wardrobe and nice decorations on the wall. I can’t turn my back, but the common area is too relaxed to stay in my room constantly. It feels like a living room. It’s clean and cozy. Read more reviews and book with Booking.com.

Selina Secret Garden is a bit out of the center but in a nice neighborhood and easily walkable. It is a hostel with both dormitories and private rooms. Including luxury private rooms. There is a lot to experience in and around the building. There is a bar with a restaurant, a swimming pool, a large roof terrace, a yoga room, and a beautiful coworking space. Join the welcome drink to get to know new people and participate in all kinds of activities: yoga, sound healing, pub crawls, and day trips.

I stay in Selina for a week. After the first evening, I do ask for another room, because mine is directly above the bar and it is all quite noisy. I can imagine that the rooftop bar can also bother you in high season. You come here for the liveliness, otherwise, there are better places for you. View the options at Selina.

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