Top things to do in Lisbon

Let us show you the best of Portugal's capital city

Lisbon is a cosmopolitan city filled with history and beauty. There are so many things to do in Lisbon, so much to see that sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t have enough time. Save this post and use it as a guide line of the best to do, see and eat in Portugal’s capital.

One of the bets features of this amazing city is the super well connected airport and low prices. In other words, I’m saying that Portugal is the place to visit to maximize your fun while you save your wallet from major damage.

Put on your best and most comfortable pair of shoes because I’m going to make you walk. And Lisbon is one of those cities, like Turku, built mainly in 7 hills. You can eat as much as you please there because all the calories will be gone by the end of the day. I assure you.

Alfama and Castelo de São Jorge

Once you’re in Lisbon it is impossible to miss the castle on the highest point of the city. It is on the very top of Alfama, a neighborhood known for the bohemian vibe, the parties and of course, the legendary fado nights.

One curious fact about Alfama is that the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake did almost nothing to Alfama. It remained a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares and of course, whorehouses and drunk people.

Since the earthquake happened on 1 November, the holy day of All Saints’ Day, every “good Christian” was inside the churches. And all the churches have collapsed, killing the majority of those people and leaving the drunks, the fools and the prostitutes alive and well. Many started to doubt the existence of god because of it. How come god would punish their followers and save the others? Made no sense to them. This earthquake and the survival of Alfama’s residents was the flap of the butterfly’s wing that eventually resulted in the over throne of Portugal’s king.

Prepare your camera before going up and down Alfama because it is one of the most typical and historical places in Lisbon – after all, all the old buildings are there!

Go to a Fado night

Fado is to Portugal as Samba is to Brazil, as Schlager Music is to Germany and as Country is to the south of USA. And you must save one night for it.

Just go, ok? I’m not asking if you like the music or not. A candle light dinner with some good wine and fado in the background is a must in Lisbon.

Some say the best are in Alfama, so find yourself a place and enjoy Portugal to the fullest.

A visit to Terreiro do Paço

Lisbon’s biggest square is our second item here. Terreiro do Paço is one of the most emblematic symbols of Lisbon. Terreiro do Paço was completely destroyed after the 1755 earthquake and it was rebuilt in all its glory.

Now a days it is one of the nicest spaces for a walk in the afternoon and enjoy the fantastic view. When I went to Lisbon the whole place was filled with construction workers and a stage was being built for the festival of popular saints, or “Festas dos Santos Populares” in Portuguese. So I’m sorry for the photos, I promise that without all this noise, the place looks way nicer.

The majestestic Elevador de Santa Justa

If you’re walking around Baixa, you’ll see this gigantic piece of architecture for sure. From it you’ll have one of the best views of Lisbon’s old town.

It was built more than 100 years ago by Ponsard, one of the disciples of the great Gustave Eiffel. Yes, Eiffel from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

This lift follows the same style as the iconic Parisian tower and it is just wonderful. Connecting the streets of Baixa with the Largo do Carmo, the Elevador de Santa Justa – or just Carmo Lift – is a must.

Take the train to enjoy what is outside the city center

Mosteiro Jeronimos and Torre de Belem are very well known postcards of this incredible city. But in any way this means that they are ok to skip. They are a bit outside of the city center but it is just a train or bus ride away.

The architectural beauty of both of those places are just overshadowed by the beauty of Lisbon’s sunset. That you can see coloring the sky right behind Belem Tower or the Mosteiro. Since one is on one side and the other on opposite, you can capture the full spectrum of colors if you’re fast enough. They are close but not necessarily that close. And if you have to choose one, go with the Belem Tower.

And while you’re there, please pay close attention to the next 2 items

Spend a few moments contemplating the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Golden Gate Bridge

This massive sculpture is an homage for the brave men that once went to the unknown, exploring the world in their ships. Lets forget about the part where they arrive in my country (Brazil) and killed and raped the natives over there, ok? Back in those days, unfortunately, it was very common. Just take a look on what Europeans did to Africa. HEH

But nevertheless this monument is a must see and you can also go on top of it to overlook the whole area. And, I know you’re asking yourself “What dafuq this girls was talking about when she wrote ‘Golden Gate Bridge’?”

Let me answer that in 1 image:

Ring any bell? It did, right?

So, the name of Lisbon’s Golden Gate Bridge is actually 25 of April Bridge, or Ponte de 25 de Abril.

It is a suspension bridge connecting the city of Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the left (south) bank of the Tejo river. Because it is a suspension bridge and has similar colors to the San Francisco’s iconic landmark, it is often compared to it. Everybody can see the resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Curious fact: The bridge was built by the American Bridge Company. This company is responsible for the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, but not the Golden Gate. Go figure.

Ring any bell? It did, right?

So, the name of Lisbon’s Golden Gate Bridge is actually 25 of April Bridge, or Ponte de 25 de Abril.

It is a suspension bridge connecting the city of Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the left (south) bank of the Tejo river. Because it is a suspension bridge and has similar colors to the San Francisco’s iconic landmark, it is often compared to it. Everybody can see the resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Curious fact: The bridge was built by the American Bridge Company. This company is responsible for the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, but not the Golden Gate. Go figure.

Try the legendary pastel de Belém

Did you know that the reason why you always see “pastel de nata” and not “pastel de Belém” on the menus is that this tiny place in Lisbon trademarked this pastry? And yes. Pastel de Belem is 1000x better than any pastel de nata I’ve ever ate in my entire life.

The place is always crowded because attracts people from all over the world. Everybody wants and needs to try the world famous pastel de Belém, not just you. But since you love this blog and all the pro tips I give – and show me that by sharing this article with all your friends – I will tell you a secret that will save you hours in line.

People usually see a huge line in front of the place and assume that is the place they need to be. Otherwise why the hell so many people would be there? Standing under the hot sun in one of the warmest countries in Europe? Well, the reason is simple: they are stupid.

The line is for take away. If you enter the place and find yourself a table, you will not pay anything extra and can order your pastel de Belém without any hassle. And add a nice coffee because this pastry goes perfectly with  it.

Leave me a comment and tell me if my trick worked for you too!

Go a bit further now

If you take a 30~45 minutes train ride you will arrive in Cascais. And believe me you want to do this item on the list of things to do in Lisbon – and maybe transform into “things to do in Lisbon and around”??.

Cascais is so beautiful that deserves a whole post dedicated to its beauty. It is where nature meets perfection. From Cascais main beach to Boca do Inferno (Hell’s mouth) to Cascais Art District to its wonderful streets. This place will for sure amaze you.

There are several day trips you can take from Lisbon and if you know the minimum about this city, you know what I’m talking about. Sintra, Cabo da Roca and National Palace of Queluz are some of the names. But I didn’t have much time in Lisbon so I decided to do only Cascais. I rather get to spend a whole and enjoyable day in one place than do two or three in a hurry.

The small village of Cascais is about 25 kilometers west of Lisbon.You just need to get the train to Cais do Sodré-Cascais and you’re there. Go before lunch and stay until the sunset. You’ll have more than enough time to enjoy this piece of heaven if you save 1 entire day for it.

Cascais combines tradition with nobility. This place evolved from a simple fishing port to what it is after the King Luis I moved to what is today the Cascais Art District, the Palácio da Cidadela. This citadel hosts a 5 star hotel, art exhibitions and occasional high class events. Think of Cascais as a glamorous and cosmopolitan destination rather than just a nice place to visit.

You can easily walk around Cascais and there’s no need for taking a bus or taxi. Keep in mind that if you want to reach places like Boca do Inferno and Casa das Histórias, you must wear comfortable shoes. It is a nice walk but in total from the old town to Boca do Inferno, I took around 30 to 40 minutes walking slowly and taking loads of breaks for photos.

I would recommend you to do all the walking and photo part of your visit before you decide to lay on the beach and enjoy the sun. By doing that you can find out where the best hidden beaches are and avoid the massive tourist mass.

The old town is particularly alluring. Try to get lost by wandering the narrow streets that snake away from the harbor. It is magical.

I will leave you with some of my favorite images of Cascais and soon, if you like, I can do a post about Cascais only and link to this list of thing to do in Lisbon.

 

Find all the viewpoints in Lisbon

I have already pointed out some of my favorite viewpoints on this wonderful city. The Castle and the Lift and on top of Padrão dos Descobrimentos. But there are a few more you must visit.

I will do a complete second post of things to do in Lisbon with all the viewpoints to visit but only if you guys ask me to, ok?

Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, Miradouro do Parque Eduardo VII, Miradouro de Santa Catarina, the Amoreiras 360° Panoramic View, Miradouro das Portas do Sol, Miradouro da Graça, Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Miradouro do Arco da Rua Augusta, Miradouro do Largo da Academia das Belas Artes, Miradouro do Cristo Rei are just some of the names.

If you want me to do a whole post about all the viewpoints in Lisbon, please let me know in the comments below. I will do a complete second post of things to do in Lisbon with all the viewpoints to visit but only if you guys ask me to, ok? And if you have any cool photo about any of those miradouros, share with me on our Facebook Group. I’ll make sure to include it if it fits.

On the photos here on the side you can see photos of Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara, from the Castle and the viewpoint next to Calçada do Carmo. From each and every viewpoint you see a different Lisbon and this is fantastic. You can easily spend a whole day chasing the next best view of this fantastic destination.

I strongly suggest you to go down the stair on the miradouro of Calçada do Carmo and right there in the end of the old staircase you’ll find a tiny store/bar. Over there you must try ginjinha. Ginjinha is a cherry liquor very typical from Portugal. And don’t be afraid of the taste, my friend. I also hate the taste of fake cherry that most cherry-flavored things have and this is not the case here. It is super good, super alcoholic and very smooth.

Pro tip of the day: Order your ginjinha with the chocolate glass and get the 2nd shot for free.

 

Try the best chefs in just one place

Time Out Lisbon has reopened one of the oldest foos markets in the city with a new face. Mercado da Ribeira is its name and everything inside is delicious.

The building is from the 13th century and it was one of the most famous fish markets in Europe back in the days. Now is home to many restaurants divided into sections. One side it is dedicated to pasta, the other to seafood, desserts… You got the picture.

The prices are definitely better than going to the real restaurants for sure, but are a bit higher than going to a traditional Portuguese place. Of course. Time Out is about hip, modern, good and quality foods and drinks.

I went there with my mom and my friend for a night of oysters and bacalhau. All washed down with fantastic wine from Portugal. Each person spent around 15€ if I’m not mistaken. In comparison to the regular prices of 8~10€ a meal, it is a tiny bit pricier but not much.

Save this place for a special dinner and then go out and enjoy the Lisbon nightlife in the area.

Where to stay in Lisbon

If you’re already familiar with this blog, you know I’m not a big fan of hostels since I travel with a lot of equipment and I never feel 100% safe. But I open exceptions to hostels with private rooms because I do enjoy the feel of not having to behave in a certain way. Some 4 or 5 star hotels demands a level of elegance that I just cannot deliver before my morning coffee.

In Lisbon I had the pleasure to try the Good Morning Hostel. I contact them and they were super open and reserved me their private room for me and my mom. It was her first time in a hostel and I didn’t want to put her in a dorm or something.

The hostel is just amazing. I guarantee you that you’ll have all the nice features of a hotel without the formality of one. Besides that, I feel in love with their freshly prepared breakfast. Pancakes and toasts with tomato and cheese, all nice and warm waiting for you to wake up with the smell. All I needed to endure the summer in Portugal’s capital.

The list of top things to do in Lisbon could would not be complete without a tip of where to stay. You know it, I know it, we all know it!

Besides the breakfast and the level of bed comfort, I gotta say that this place wins extra points for the magnificent location. Super central, well connected with tons of buses and subway and filled with restaurants around it. Everything a traveler needs with a ridiculous low price. Make your booking and tell them you saw this post.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, maybe the photos you find on the side can do the job. I’ve selected a few of my favorites. There are numerous photos of sunsets and sunrises seen from the window of my room, from the inside and outside of the hostel and much more.

Did I mentioned that even tho it is a hostel, they have AC? And how important this is for Lisbon during summer? Ok, now you know.

This is the end of my list but not before I give you a map with all the places for your to locate yourself in Lisbon. This is the list for now and again, if you want me to do another post with more places to visit and things to do in Lisbon, please let me know here in the comments. I would love to know exactly what you guys want to see before I start to write. I want to do useful posts for my audience and cities so wonderful and alive like Lisbon, makes me lost. Too much to say, so much to show, not enough room to post.

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