What to visit in Lisbon?
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
Fascinating capital city on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is the destination for every traveler, whether you are romantic, adventurous, passionate about history, music, art... whatever your personality as a tourist, Lisbon is the city that appeals to all, conserving an intense vitality, liveliness, cosmopolitan character rooted in an invaluable cultural heritage. Breath-taking panoramas, uphill and downhill streets, colorful neighborhoods, the famous azulejos, the old trams, the opulent squares, the river Tejo, fervent nightlife, festive markets, rich museums, and a lot of events will be the stars of your visit to Lisbon.
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What not to miss?
The Belem district stands on the banks of the river Tejo with a peculiar maritime charm reminiscent of the expeditions of Portuguese ships that set out to conquer unknown lands. Today, it offers many unmissable tourist attractions, considered the capital's emblem. Among the first is undoubtedly the Belem Tower, a fortified tower classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another gem of Manueline Gothic is surely the Jerónimo Monastery, which celebrates the great navigator Vasco de Gama and the achievements of Portuguese sea power. Exploring the neighborhood, you will also come across the Monument of Discoveries, a huge white stone caravel with all the Portuguese explorers seemingly on the move in the direction of the endless sea. The neighborhood is charming to walk or even cycle through, with the impressive 25 April bridge, the Cristo Rey as background, vibrant parks and gardens, small riverside restaurants, and museums.
Also known as the Fado district, a typically Portuguese folk music genre characterized by melancholic and nostalgic music is the capital's most characteristic district. Lisbon, rising on seven hills, has many uphill streets that allow you to admire many views called Miradouro. The famous one in Alfama is the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a large terrace with beautiful azulejos-covered arcades overlooking the neighborhood of colorful houses and the river. If you want to learn about the history and protagonists of the musical genre, it's the district of Museu do Fado! It's a permanent exhibition with documents, exhibits, and cafés that organize concerts. While if your wish is to experience the magic of this ancient tradition, there are many taverns offering concerts and shows during your fado dinner. Be enchanted by the melody of poems during your dinner!
If you want to have a Fado experience, don't choose the first thing that tells you they have a Fado show just to lure tourists in, this is an outstanding experience and should be felt in the best places for it, so do your research and spend a bit more and go to one of the top houses of Fado in Portugal, you won't regret it! If you want to have a complete experience of a tour with Fado as well check out our own Fado tour you will love it!
São Jorge Castle
Dominating the city center from above, was a fortified citadel that also served as a royal palace founded by the Romans and where Visigoths and Arabs settled. Magical at night and also one of the best vantage points for admiring the beautiful city. Don't miss the periscope, a 'camera obscura' located inside the Tower of Ulysses, observing the city in real-time at 360° thanks to a 'simple' optical system of lenses and mirrors will make your visit super exciting.
Tips for you: the neighborhood of Alfama and the castle of São Jorge can be reached by the Tram 28, which is not just any tram but one of the most historic ones. The 1930s rail vehicle, is by rights one of the city's attractions. Indeed, taking a ride is one of the musts in this city.
Praça do Commercio
The beating heart of the city center, this square represents the hub that was formerly called Terreiro do Paço. The Paço da Ribeira, the main residence of the Portuguese monarchy since the Age of Discovery, was also located here. After the 1755 earthquake destroyed many parts of the capital, it was rebuilt under the command of the prime minister of the time, the Marques do Pombal. In the center of the square, you will find the statue of St. José, the king of Portugal during the period of the earthquake, and in front of it is the Arco da Rua Augusta, from where you can access Lisbon's historical center from the Rua Augusta (Augusta Street). In the distance, you can see how the statue sits perfectly in the center of the arch. On the sides of the arch, you will find many cafés and restaurants under the arcades, such as café Martinho da Arcada, loved by the famous Portuguese, Fernando Pessoa.
What else to visit?
Oceanário de Lisboa
Located in Parque das Nações, a neighborhood reborn for Expo 98, it is considered to be one of the largest aquariums in Europe. You can observe the fauna and flora of the various oceans of our planet. The perfect place where both adults and children are fascinated by the majesty and the marine riches present.
Do you love to spend time outdoor? Lx Factory is an industrial complex reborn as a place for creativity and experience. Located in the Alcântara district, it includes many shops, restaurants, bars, and many events that are organized within it. The most important is undoubtedly the Open Day with concerts, exhibitions, workshops, and performances. You certainly have seen pictures of its famous bookshop 'Ler e Devagar', its colorful graffiti, art installations, and its Market every Sunday. So, do you understand how unmissable it is? However, remember not to leave without tasting the Landeau Chocolate cake, considered the best cake in Lisbon!
How to travel there?
The fastest and most convenient way to reach Lisbon is definitely by plane. The capital has an airport: Lisbon-Portela Airport, located 8 km from the center.
In fact, from this airport, you can reach the city center by taking the metro “vermelha” to São Sebastião and then change to the “Azul” line to Santa Apolonia in about 30 minutes.
Alternatively, you could take the bus denominated Aerobus Linha 1 bus from the terminal towards Cais do Sodre which leaves you at Praça do Commercio, the heart of the city. Another solution would be to take a taxi or if you rent a car at the airport, just take the Segunda Circular.
We advise against traveling by train because it is the most expensive and slowest option. Nevertheless, if you are more convinced to travel by it, we can recommend a reference station that is Santa Apolónia, which is the arrival point of many trains from different countries. And above all, this station is very close to the center. Another reference if your town does not serve this station is Oriente, which is further away from the center but still well connected.
If you are arriving by car the A1 and A2 are the best roads to enter Lisbon. While arriving by ship you can land at several points Santa Apolónia, Alcântara or Rocha Conde de Óbidos.
Another tip for you: if you are planning to stay within the city, do not rent a car, it is a hard city to drive and even harder to park, your life will be much easier without. Rent it only for the days you want to travel outside of Lisbon.
When to travel there?
Lisbon enjoys a very pleasant climate throughout the year, which is why the city always has tourists. In general, the best time to travel is between spring and the end of summer, when temperatures are not at their hottest, avoiding the rainfall that characterizes much of the autumn and winter period. Between April and September, the heat is not extremely sultry. In fact, in the evenings you should always take something with you as Lisbon is alwa
ys windy! Think that summers are indeed hot, and windy, with long days and blue skies.
Lisbon compared to many other capital cities is one of the least expensive. So, in general, based on your spending habits, you will find affordable things. Keep in mind that it is still a capital city so don't expect super low prices. A meal in a cheap bar range from 6-8€ per person while in a mid-range restaurant is 15-20€.
In general, it’s an easily explored city on foot but if you want to use transport, a one-way ticket for the metro is 1.40€ and lasts 1 hour while for the bus is 2,00€ and for the tram is 3,00€. Also, you have to count plus 1,50€ because the first time you are taking transport in the city you should create a card to be recharged for any trip. So, you only pay once to get the card and then top it up each time you need to travel. Moreover, taxis are very cheap in Lisbon, so consider this tip.
As for accommodation, a room in a hostel has a range of €15 to €18 per night, a 3-star hotel €60 to €75 per night in the high season prices can go from €95 upwards, which in any case puts Lisbon less costly than other capital cities during peak seasons. The price for a night in a 5 stars hotel can go from 150 euros per night.
We can advise you to get your Lisboa Card allowing you to visit the major museums and attractions including transport for free or at a discounted price. Here’s the link to get more info: https://www.golisbon.com/Lisboa-Card/
What to be aware of?
When you're visiting any place, it’s always good to acquire some knowledge about the city to find traveling much easier and enjoyable. Here are some precious tips:
Portugal always ranks on the top of the safest countries in the world, and there is a reason for it, however as in all places, there is the occasional pickpocketing if you are riding the tram 28 as it is a hotspot for distracted tourists. Just keep your wallet too accessible and you will be fine;
Restaurants often put bread and cheese on the table, if you choose to eat them, those things are not free, however if you don't you will not pay for them;
Traffic lights for pedestrians in Lisbon are no more than suggestions, if there are no cars passing, red won't stop the Portuguese from crossing;
Lisbon is the city of the seven hills, so walking through it is already a challenge, however, adding to that the traditional and beautiful cobbled stoned roads and sidewalks, your high heels which for sure you look stunning in are better off if left at home;
Nightlife in Portugal starts late. If you were told that a certain area, like Bairro alto, for example, is always buzzing full of people at night, and you are there at 10 pm and see it empty, you were not duped, the Portuguese just prefer to start going to bars around 11 and only after midnight you will see the real atmosphere of the Portuguese nightlife;
Beers are generally served in glasses of 0,2l, if you are from the Nordic countries specially you might find this weird, but the locals will tell you it is because here, there is good weather, half a litre beer would get warm before you get to half of it;
You don't need to go for the most expensive wines to be well served, Portugal has a great quality of wine for great prices;
If you like to admire the city from above and adore panoramic terraces, you cannot miss climbing the Elevadora de Santa Justa. You can climb it for free and enjoy breathtaking views of the elegant Baixa, the bustling Rossio, the imposing São Jorge Castle, and the vastness of the Tagus River.
Where to eat?
In Lisbon many restaurants serve “petiscos”, the Portuguese version of tapas, nd most dishes are fish-based. Here are sexamples for you: Pastéis de Bacalhau (croquettes with codfish), Camarao Mozambique (spiced shrimps with a garlic sauce), pica-pau (fried meat accompanied by pickles).
However, the iconic dish of Lisbon cuisine is undoubtedly Bacalhau á Brás to be enjoyed with a nice glass of Vinho Verde (green wine). Find a bad-looking restaurant, old-styled, with as much wear and tear as you can imagine, most people from other countries would not even dare to enter. The Portuguese called them the real Tascas. If this place is crowded then you should not miss it because it means it is one of the Portuguese favorites: family-run restaurants, great food and unbelievable prices.
To get in touch with the secrets and traditions of Lisbon's gastronomy, we can recommend our Food Tour Lisbon to make your trip an authentic journey into the local culture. A mix of history, context, and flavors will allow you to immerse yourself in local customs and feel a little part of them.
If, on the other hand, you are only interested in stopping over, we can recommend a few restaurants you absolutely must try:
First of all, the restaurant called Ramiro for some of the best fish in the country and all the traditional Portuguese recipes. Here for more info: https://www.cervejariaramiro.com/
Pub Português if you are in Bairro and want a great quality Portuguese dish in a night out vibe. Here for more info: https://pub-portugues.business.site/
If your budget is not an issue and you want to see Portuguese cuisine taken to the extreme, check out the two Michelin star restaurant called Belcanto;
Moreover, there are those famous meat sandwiches in Portugal such as Bifana and Prego, if you are in the mood for the second, there is no better place than Prego na Peixaria;
Casa do Alentejo, the place itself is worth the visit, the food, it is as Portuguese as it gets, so enjoy.
If you are downtown, check out Mercado da Ribeira, a cool reinvented food market that has a ton of great eating options.
Please don't forget to check out our amazing Portuguese food guide to learn exactly what to eat when traveling in Portugal.
Feira da Ladra (year-round)
Event held every Tuesday and Saturday of the year from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. This is an open-air second-hand market held in Campo de Santa Clara behind the monastery of São Vicente. Precious jewellery, azulejos, antiques and handicrafts from garments to antique cameras, coins, CD's, books, military objects and so on.
Festa do Santo Antonio (June)
One of the most famous events related to the celebration of the patron Saint of the Portuguese capital. Music, party atmosphere, dancing, marches and the delicious smell of grilled sardines will flood your days on holiday. Every district organizes at least one arraial where you can eat with friends, dance and drink an imperial. Tradition also includes the custom of giving a manjerico seedling (a kind of wild basil) to your sweetheart with a little poem attached. That is why around the city you will find decorations in the shape of this pretty little plant.
Super bock super rock (July)
This event is an annual festival where popular music is the protagonist. Several international pop, electronic music and hip-hop stars perform side by side with the most popular names in indie and alternative music, including emerging artists from the Portuguese music scene. We advise you to check the location of the event as it has changed several locations in Lisbon to the south of the capital.
Feira do Livro de Lisboa (August - September)
This event is held at Edward VII Park, one of the largest parks in the city, featuring books and reading. Rare and antique books are mixed with exhibitions, lectures, meetings with writers and publishers. Doesn't that sound perfect in a park where you can also relax with a good read?
Somersby Out Jazz Festival (May - September)
An event with a rich programme for your summer evenings. From May to September, whenever you decide to go, check the calendar and head to the defined destination. The festival starts at Oeiras Gardens and continues at other iconic gardens in the city, such as the Jamor Urban Park, the Miraflores Urban Park, the Quinta Real de Caxias Garden and the Marquês de Pombal Palace Gardens. So, get ready to experience the city's major squares and vantage points to the sound of the best jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop. And, entry is free!
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