15 awesome things to do in Lisbon

15 Awesome Things To Do in Lisbon

Last June we hopped on a plane in Budapest to land in the Portuguese capital city a few hours later. We chose to visit Portugal in the summer season, because besides city sightseeing we also wanted to experience the Algarve coast’s fabulous beaches. We spent 3 full days exploring the vibrant, colorful city of Lisbon. Looking back a few good months after the trip, I’d say that those days were not enough. We could’ve easily spent a week there and still wouldn’t have managed to see everything the city has to offer. Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of a few unmissable things to do and see in the Portuguese capital for first-time visitors.

Here are a few awesome things to do in Lisbon:

Enjoy the view from the city’s many Miradouros

I am a huge fan of viewpoints and always go the extra mile to get to admire a place from above. Since I’ve previously seen some amazing images of the stunning red-tiled roofs of Lisbon with the majestic Tejo River in the background, I knew I couldn’t miss the city’s miradouros. The Portuguese capital city has more then ten such miradouros (look-out points) offering exceptional views over different neighborhoods and areas. The climb up requires little to no effort, as the road is merely a steep walk upwards, and the view is always worth it. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water to clench your thirst, or better yet, buy a well-deserved beer after the “climb” and enjoy the view!

View of Lisbon Portugal

View of Lisbon Portugal

View of Lisbon Portugal

View of Lisbon Portugal

Visit the iconic Sé Church

The imposing Cathedral of Lisbon, known locally as Sé de Lisboa, is the oldest religious edifice in the city, with construction beginning as early as the 12th century. Although the city has been shaken by numerous earthquakes throughout history, the cathedral stood the test of time and still remains strong today, boasting a mixture of various architectural elements. The church can be visited daily from 9 AM to 7 PM and is a must-see for anyone exploring the Alfama neighborhood.

Se Church Lisbon Portugal

Take time to get the feel of the city’s streets

Whether you’re strolling through Baixa or wandering around Avenida de la Libertad, take time to observe and breathe in your surroundings. I honestly think that a huge part of Lisbon’s charm lies in its streets. The alluring streetlamps with art nouveau details, the small terraces and steep streets all contribute to a picturesque cityscape, worthy of your camera. So if you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with a ton of tourist attractions, take a leisurely stroll through Lisbon and you’ll surely find a ton of amazing details to photograph.

Streets of Lisbon, Portugal

streets of Lisbon, Portugal

Streets of Lisbon, Portugal

Get a shot of Ginjinha at the Historic Shop

They say you haven’t actually visited Lisbon until you’ve had a shot of Ginjinha (also known as Ginja) at the first bar which started selling it. (OK, THEY might not be saying that, but I highly recommend it!) The A Ginjinha bar can be found in Praça de São DomingosOnce the bar opened its doors in 1840, the red alcoholic drink made from ginja berries (sour cherry) became a major success, eventually becoming Lisbon’s signature drink. A shot of Ginja costs around 1.20 euros and contains a piece of cherry fruit in each cup. It’s a pretty sweet way of kickstarting your day of sightseeing!

A Ginjinha Lisbon Portugal

Support local artists

When you decide to walk around Lisbon’s streets, don’t overlook the local artists scattered around the city. From musicians to painters, dancers and pantomimes, you’ll surely encounter all types of colorful people throughout the 7 hills of the city. They make up a major part of the city’s attractions, so take a few minutes to really pay attention to them and acknowledge them. At the end, if you liked their show, don’t forget to show a bit of gratitude and encouragement.

Local artist in Lisbon, Portugal

Go on a tram ride

Going on a tram ride in the city is another unmissable thing to do in Lisbon. Although other cities might’ve put them in a museum by now, the trams dating back to the 1930’s are still making their way through the Portuguese capital. They still have their original wooden benches, along with their original levers and dials. Granted, they received new breaks in the 1990’s, lengthening their lifespan even further.

One of the most iconic lines in the city is the 28 tram, offering an encompassing tour of Lisbon’s main districts. A single ride costs around 3 euros and tickets are sold at the driver. However, if you plan on using public transport again, a 6 euro 24-hour pass might be more worthwhile, as it includes not only tram, but also metro and bus lines. These tickets can be purchased at any metro station.

trams of Lisbon, Portugal

Find unique treasures at the local Flea Market

Although an overlooked attraction by many, the flea market offers an excellent photography opportunity along with the chance to buy some unique souvenirs for your loved ones back at home. Lisbon’s flea market is known locally as the Feira da Ladra, and is located in the Alfama district, on the Campo de Santa Clara Street.

Historians argue that the market has been in place since the 12th century. The traditional fair held every Tuesday and Saturday. Here you can find all the popular souvenirs sold all around the city, along with unique findings spanning from books, maps, vintage cameras and typewriters, all the way to handmade jewelry, clothing, antiques and even houseware.

Lisbon Flea Market, Portugal

Visit the Oceanarium

I am an avid fan of the underwater life, aiming to snorkel whenever I have the chance. This is why I regularly visit aquariums and oceanariums when in a new city, and Lisbon couldn’t be the exception from that rule. The city’s oceanarium has the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, so that alone was reason enough to put it on the to-do list. Besides the regular aquariums, you can generally enjoy a nice tropical atmosphere inside, see penguins and puffins and have a chill day in a cool atmosphere.

The Lisbon Oceanarium is open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM. Tickets cost 18 euros for adults, which include both the permanent and temporary exhibitions. Children under 3 have free admittance, while seniors beyond 65 and kids between ages 4 and 12 pay a fee of 12 euros.

Lisbon Oceanarium, Portugal

Lisbon Oceanarium, Portugal

Admire the beautiful doors, windows and facades of the buildings surrounding you

Pretty windows and doors are definitely a sight for sore eyes. They catch my attention wherever I go and I just can’t say no to photographing them. Out of all the cities I’ve visited in Europe, Lisbon surely knows how to do #windowporn. The details in this city (and in the whole country, in fact) are insane! I came home with hundreds of photos of the doors (even beautiful doorknobs!) and windows – I even put together a small compilation of them. Check them out below and let me know if you also have an unhealthy obsession with them!

Doors and Windows of Portugal

Doors and Windows of Portugal

Doors and Windows of Portugal

Check out Carmo Lift

The unique elevator located in the heart of Lisbon, also known as the Santa Justa Lift, is another quirky lookout tower. Built between 1900 and 1902, this elevator was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, a student of the famous Gustave Eiffel. Its main purpose was to ascend the city’s steep hills in a matter of minutes – not so easy to do by foot in the summer heatwave.

The elevator is actually part of the local transport system with the price of a single ticket setting you back 2.8 euros. An observation deck can be found atop the lift, offering a one-of-a-kind cityscape of Lisbon. The elevator is open daily between 7 am and 11 PM.

Santa Justa Lift, Lisbon, Portugal

Santa Justa Lift, Lisbon, Portugal

view from Santa Justa Lift, Lisbon, Portugal

Go see the charming Belém Tower

If you type “Lisbon” into your search engine, chances are high that Belém Tower, known locally as Torre de Belém will pop up among the first results. Enumerated among the Seven Wonders of Portugal, the tower defended Lisbon against pirates for hundreds of years. It was built in the 15th century and served the city well throughout history. In 1983 Belém Tower became a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site. It can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday between 10 AM and 5:30 PM in exchange of a 6 euro admission fee.

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal

Treat yourself to a well-deserved Pastel de Nata

Similarly to the Ginja, you can’t leave Portugal until you’ve eaten at least one Pastel de Nata. And by one, I mean a dozen. I am not at all sweet-toothed, but in my eyes this pastry is the KING/QUEEN of all sweets. This is the souvenir I brought home with me for my family. Actually, ever since we came home I baked it myself twice after a recipe I found online. Naturally, it doesn’t taste the same but it’s a pretty fair replica.

So whatever you do, you definitely need to try this heavenly pastry while in Portugal. Sit down at the A Brasileira café in Lisbon and order a Pastel next to your coffee. Or, if you travel to the Belém district, you can actually visit the factory where it all started. Based on a secret recipe originating from Jerónimos Monastery, the Pasteis de Belém gained popularity in the early 19th century. These fabulous pastries are handmade in the “factory”, after the traditional recipe. The enormous restaurant can seat hundreds of people. They also offer numerous other delicacies besides the Pasteis de Belém, the pastry-star which attracts a myriad of people daily to the enormous bakery café.

Pastel de Nata at A Brasileira, Lisbon

Pasteis de Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

Visit the UNESCO-protected Jerónimos Monastery

This monastery is probably one of the most fascinating buildings in all of Portugal. Its construction began 1501 and took 100 years to complete. The work was financed by the incoming spices from the Indies and the gold brought in from Brazil. The monastery is a Manuelin masterpiece, a Portuguese version of the Late Gothic period. Thanks to its exemplary construction work, Jerónimos was one of the few buildings which didn’t collapse during the massive earthquake shaking Lisbon in 1755. Its exceptional ornamentations throughout, the large interior, the impressive altar and the beautiful courtyard are merely a few of the many reasons it deserves a visit.

This beautiful historic and religious monument was included on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List in 1983. It is also part of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. The epic 5 century-old monastery can be visited from every Tuesday to Sunday between 10 AM and 5:30 PM. The entrance fee costs 10 euros for a single entry. Combined tickets of 12 euros, which include entrance to both the Monastery and Torre de Belém can also be found.

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal

Chill by the waterfront

After a long day of sightseeing, there’s no better way to chill than sit by the mighty Tejo River. Whether you’re in the Belem district or near the city center, take a breather by the waterfront. Eat a Pastel de Nata, play cards with your friends or just enjoy the waves. You might encounter a few local fishermen eagerly awaiting their catch of the day whilst listening to the radio, like we did. 🙂

Lisbon Waterfront, Portugal

Lisbon Waterfront, Portugal

Lisbon Waterfront, Portugal

Look down every once in a while – you might be surprised

Lisbon is known for it’s surprising, quirky details. This can be seen not only on the buildings, streets and in the local architecture, but sometimes also on the ground. I think it’s pretty cool that you can walk over such careful details in many parts of the city. So keep your eyes peeled and watch your step!

Lisbon Details

All in all, I feel that our 3 days in Lisbon were well spent. However, I think that there’s still plenty of things left to see and do in the Portuguese capital, so I’ll definitely be back for more! In this final note I’d like to say special thanks to Hoch Zsófia, who tirelessly guided us through some of the best places in Lisbon, after previously living there for 5 months.

How many of these 15 things to do in Lisbon did you actually experience yourself?

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15 Awesome Things to do in Lisbon

9 Responses to “15 awesome things to do in Lisbon

  • The architecture in Lisbon is so intricate and impressive! It’s certainly giving the city a romantic vibe.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Therie!
      It does, doesn’t it? It’s truly underrated though, but in my opinion it can compete with Paris anytime when it comes to how romantic it is 🙂

  • Gosh, I miss Lisbon so much, I can’t wait to return! I can’t believe I’ve been there twice and didn’t drink Ginjinha, oops! What is the taste like? Is it like the Romanian “visinata” ?
    Vlad recently posted…A Relaxing Weekend In Puglia, ItalyMy Profile

    • Yep, it’s a lot like visinata 🙂 except they put a sour cherry inside the shot, which is soaked in alcohol and you should eat it. It’s not strong, more of a ladies’ drink, just like our visinata
      cityoftheweek recently posted…Visit Pena Palace in SintraMy Profile

  • You nailed Lisbon! With the exception of the drink and the flea market, I experienced everything on the list. I wholeheartedly agree with you on the architecture – from the windows to the doors and from the tiles to the patterns in the streets. I recognized several of the buildings you photographed as I have my own photos of them. The only way to truly experience and get to know Lisbon is to leisurely walk around and see what you find.

    • Thank you for your comment, April!
      Indeed, by foot is the best way to see and experience Lisbon. I also loved the streets, all the tiny details and the colors. It’s such an exciting and somehow pretty unique city compared to other capitals in Europe.

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