Haven’t been to Lisbon yet? Then you’re missing out because there’s a huge amount number of amazing things to do in this city!
Yes if you weren’t already in the know, then Lisbon is the hot European city to visit at the moment and with its gorgeous tiled buildings, amazing café and bar scene, plus the city’s incredible lookouts, it’s really no surprise!
But if you’re expecting a super ancient and monument-filled European capital, then you might need to think again, because sadly many of Lisbon’s major historic buildings were destroyed in a huge earthquake in 1755.
The serious damage caused to the city during this major tremor meant much of the city failed to survive and therefore most of what you’ll see in Lisbon during your time there only dates back to the 19th century.
But don’t fear, this doesn’t make Lisbon any less charming, it just means that sightseeing in this city might be slightly different to that in other European countries you’ve visited.
Indeed Lisbon probably isn’t best described as a city to sightsee in, more it is a city to wander and get lost in, a city to sip drinks and savour cafes in – a city you visit to soak in the ambience.
But if you’re anything like me, then this might just be music to your ears!
So get ready for your travels to one of Europe’s vibe-ist (no it’s not a word, but I’m still using it!) capitals with my guide to the 21 best things to do in Lisbon…
- Ultimate 3 Day Lisbon Itinerary
- How to Visit Sintra from Lisbon by Train
- How Best to Travel from Lisbon to Porto
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#1 Don’t Miss Lisbon Cathedral
Ok, so I know I said Lisbon wasn’t a city to really sightsee in and here I am kicking off this list with a visit to the city’s cathedral, but come on, you’re in Europe, and a big old church has to feature somewhere!
And rightly so, especially since this is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
Officially called the Cathedral of Saint Mary Major and colloquially known as Sé de Lisboa (Sé for short), a religious building has actually stood on this spot since 1147.
However, due to the aforementioned earthquake, it’s had to be renovated and restored numerous times, meaning it’s now a delightful mix and match of architectural styles!
Located centrally, it’s easy to walk to Lisbon’s Cathedral and the main building is free to enter.
Combined tickets to view the Cloisters and the Treasure cost 4€ are well worth the price in my opinion!
#2 Climb the Arco da Rua Augusta
And just near the Lisbon Cathedral is another of this city’s top icons – and that is the glorious Rue Augusta Arch.
Located in (yes you guessed it) Rua Augusta, this huge structure towers over the city’s central district and scaling it offers some seriously impressive 360 degree views over the area and across to the Baixa River.
Constructed to symbolise the rebirth of a new Lisbon after the tragedy of the earthquake in 1755, puffing your way up to the top of this magnificent archway is well worth it for the 3€ entrance fee – or else get in for free with your Lisbon Card.
#3 Visit the Carmo Convent
Next up on the sightseeing game – and I know, I know, I said Lisbon wasn’t a sightseeing city but allow me some grace here! – is the Carmo Convent.
Strolling and exploring here is definitely one of the top things to do in Lisbon, not least thanks to its beautiful ruined appearance and peaceful atmosphere.
A reminder of the 1755 earthquake (promise I’ll stop going on about the earthquake soon!), huge swathes of the convent were destroyed in this tragic event and, even today, the roof of this religious building still has not been replaced.
In fact, the roof actually collapsed on the congregation during that day and the building has been left open to the heavens to serve as a reminder of those who lost their lives.
Despite this sad tale, this is a lovely place to wander and admire the gothic arches and some of the stonework that remains, along with the small museum here.
In the summer, there are often open-air performances that take place here, so if your visit coincides with one of them, it’s almost certainly a great thing to check out if you can.
#4 Take the Santa Justa Lift
And right by the Carmo Convent is the kinda weird, kinda brilliant Santa Justa Lift.
Built in 1902, this cast-iron icon was created to connect the lower streets of Lisbon with Carmo Square because yes, if you weren’t already in the know, the Portuguese capital is one heck of a hilly place.
In fact, in my experience, so are most places in Portugal.
So give your calves a bit of a rest and enjoying catching this lovely historic lift instead!
A ride is free with your Lisbon Card.
#5 Catch a Tram
Of course the other thing to catch if your legs are a bit tired in Lisbon is a tram.
And trust me, Lisbon has plenty of these.
Still in use, the historic carriages of this public transport network have become synonymous with the city, and their distinctive yellow and wooden design can be found on many a Lisbon Insta post.
And for good reason too… they are really beautiful.
The most famous tram line to catch is the number 28, which takes you past many of the city’s main attractions and it’s well worth joining the crowds to enjoy a ride for just a few euros!
#6 Check out the Castelo de São Jorge
And one of the places you can ride the number 28 tram to is the lovely Castelo de São Jorge.
Ok, so the tram doesn’t take you all the way there – there’s still a bit of hill to walk up after the last stop – but it can get you close enough to enjoy this historic icon that overlooks the city in spectacular style.
Set on the highest hill in the capital and illuminated at night, it’s hard to miss this historic giant, and visiting it is absolutely one of the top things to do in Lisbon.
Built in the 5th century, you’ll want to allow at least 3 hours to explore this fortification, its 11 towers, plus the onsite museum.
Open from 9am-9pm in the summer months (until 6pm from Nov – Feb), tickets cost 10€ and can be purchased at the entrance.
#7 Enjoy Sunset at a Miradouro
There’s no question that Lisbon’s castle also boasts one of the best views in the city, but there’s also plenty of free places to take in a great view of the capital too.
Known as miradouros, lookouts scatter the capital (all those hills do have their advantage!) and heading to one of them at sunset is absolutely a top thing to do in Lisbon.
Although there’s plenty to choose from, my favourites include Miradouro de Soa Pedro De Alcantara, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and Miradouro das Portas do Sol – head to them all if you can to take in this city from multiple magnificent angles.
#8 Head to the Graça District
And one more lookout should definitely get to if you can is Miradouro da Graça.
Located in one of the city’s hip-est neighbourhoods (and you’ll quickly learn Lisbon is all about hip neighbourhoods), this guy is well worth the climb (or the tram ride!)
Awash with cute cafes, cool street art, as well as great bars and restaurants, this part of the city still retains a more local feel than many of the other top tourist spots and is a great place to base yourself if you’re looking for an authentic but trendy district.
Quiet gardens, churches and old villas also dot this part of Lisbon and make exploring it a top thing to do in the capital if you want to get away from the heavy tourist crowds!
#9 Find the Street Art
So yes, as I mentioned, the Graça district is one of the top places to discover great Lisbon street art – don’t miss the famous Shepard Fairey or the piece commemorating the April 25 Revolution.
To learn more about the street art in this suburb, as well as many others in Lisbon, I highly recommend hopping on a street art tour when you visit this city.
Here are my top picks:
#10 Enjoy a Night in Barrio Alto
Another top area to view street art in is Barrio Alto, which sits on the other side of the city from Graça.
Once also an authentic neighbourhood filled with artists, this district is now dominated by hipster-searching tourists and the streets are lined with cafes and bars.
It’s not wholly inauthentic (so don’t avoid it if you fear the worst), but do be warned this is one of the nightlife hotspots in Lisbon.
Yes if you’re looking to enjoy a few drinks, then the historic Barrio Alto – set up on a hill as the name suggests – is definitely a good spot to head for and, in the summer months, the bars that pop up in the tiny streets here give a great atmosphere and offer plenty of opportunities to let your hair down.
Otherwise, at the base of this hilly part, the so-called Pink Street (Rua Cor de Rosa) is another key area if you want to find a party in this city.
#11 Get your Tile Fix
Back on a more sophisticated track now, there’s no question that one of the top things to do in Lisbon is to check out some of the beautiful blue and white tiles this country is famous.
Honestly, nothing makes me think of Portugal more and there’s plenty of lovely buildings in the capital that showcase this traditional form of decoration.
Some of my favourites were near to the Church of Sao Roque in Barrio Alto, but really they can be found all over the city, so have your camera at the ready!
#12 Shop Till You Drop
And on the subject of tiles, please do not forget that Portugal is one of the best European countries to pick up some gorgeous ceramics – so much so that I’d definitely advise leaving a bit of room in your suitcase!
Many people had told me to wait until Porto to buy ceramic homeware – think mugs, plates and bowls to die for – but actually, I found Lisbon had by far the better selection of shops.
Many of the main places to pick up pieces are clustered around the central district of Baixa, but head up the hill towards Graça and you’re more likely to find some serious bargains.
#13 Get Your Cocktail Fix at Onda
And also in Graça is one of the best cocktail places in the whole of Lisbon.
Honestly, the great sunset views, coupled with the laidback atmosphere of this area, make it a feast for cocktail bars and there’s plenty of rooftop and streetside options to choose from.
But my top recommendation has to go to Onda Cocktail Room on Rue Damasceno Monteiro – you won’t regret it!
#14 Café Away!
And while we’re talking about great places to drink in Lisbon, there’s no question eating your way through this city is also a must-do.
With café culture at its heart, pulling up a chair at just about any spot in the capital is likely to guarantee you a good feed, but as a trending digital nomad destination, there’s also a wealth of vegan, gluten-free and health-orientated places that I loved too.
Centrally located Eight is a great option along these lines, as is Seagull Method Café in Barrio Alto – but really there’s too many to choose from!
And don’t even get me started on restaurants!
This city really is a foodie paradise, meaning eating is absolutely one of the top things to enjoy in Lisbon!
And if you want to dig in deeper, this food tasting tour could be just the answer!
#15 Eat Your Weight in Pastel de Nata
I mean really, need I say more!
Make your own pastel de nata at this great bakery workshop.
#16 Wander the Gardens
Then it’s time to work off all that food and drink – if you haven’t done this by mounting the hills of Lisbon, then you will do by wandering some of its beautiful gardens.
These are perfect places to again escape the tourist crowds of the city and enjoy a bit of downtime, especially if you’re after a break from all the sightseeing (or lack there of!)
My top picks include Jardim do Torel and Principe Real Garden, which is located very near to the Jardim Botanico de Lisboa aka the botanic gardens!
#17 Don’t Miss the LX Factory
But now it’s time to get out of the city a little and explore some of the areas around Lisbon because there really is plenty to do there too.
First up, it’s a quirky little number, because the LX Factory, close to the city, is a must-visit in Lisbon.
Located through an archway in a hidden street, this place is filled with cute cafes, independent shops, great restaurants and bars.
My tip is to head here at sunset and enjoy a rooftop tipple with a view!
#18 Check out Belem
And if you’re coming out to LX Factory, then I highly suggest hopping in an Uber, or jumping on a tram, to head slightly further west to the outer-lying suburb of Belem.
Visiting here is again definitely one of the top things to do in Lisbon.
Don’t miss the amazing tower of Belem, the Jerónimos Monastery or the most famous patisserie in Portugal – Pasteis De Belem.
Founded in 1837, there’s no prizes for guessing what they make here and yes, they are still some of the best!
Check out this top-rated walking tour if you want to explore and learn more about Belem when you’re there.
#19 Hit the Beach at Cascais
And for something a bit more chilled, why not continue the journey west and head to Lisbon’s most famous beach resort – Cascais.
Technically not part of the city, this is still a favourite for those who want to hit the coast however, so join the crowds and enjoy a day on the sand at this great beach resort.
You can learn more about how to get here via public transport in this article I wrote about the 8 best Lisbon day trips!
#20 Marvel at the Sintra Castles
And another great Lisbon day trip you can’t miss is the Disney-liked colourful towers of the Pena Palace in Sintra.
Did you know there’s actually a lot of castles in Sintra and the nearby national park, so it’s worth factoring in at least a few if you’re planning on a day trip here.
Learn more about my top 4 Sintra castle picks in this article I wrote, and don’t forget you can easily get to this lovely area either by local train or via an organised day tour.
Check out my top picks for the latter below…
#21 Day Trip to Obidos & Batalha
And last but not least, it’s another great day trip that brings this list of the best things to do in Lisbon to a close.
And that’s because while Lisbon is a fab city, Portugal is a fab country and if you come here and don’t see beyond the capital, you really are missing a trick.
So if you do have another day you can squeeze out of your itinerary, an excursion to the stunningly quaint town of Obidos and the UNESCO-listed mammoth monastery of Batalha are definitely worth it.
With your own vehicle, you can easily visit these places independently – they are actually located north of Lisbon so if you’re road tripping to Porto, they make a good stopover – otherwise guided tours offer a great chance to sit back, relax and soak up the history of these top 2 spots as part of a great day trip from the capital.
Here’s the organised day trips from Lisbon I recommend…
When to Visit Lisbon?
No question in my mind that the best time to visit Lisbon is during the months of April through June, plus September and October.
This is when the warm weather will allow you to take full advantage of this city’s charm, but you won’t be wilting in the summer heat.
How to Get to Lisbon?
Most people fly into Lisbon’s international airport.
Check out Skyscanner for the best flight deals.
Otherwise, if you’re travelling to this city from nearby, then I highly recommend using Omio to buy bus or train tickets to the city from Spain, France or elsewhere in Portugal.
Where to Stay in Lisbon?
I highly recommend the districts of Baixa, Barrio Alto and Graça when it comes to the best places to stay in Lisbon.
Check out these top accommodation picks, including hostels, hostels, guesthouses and apartments and use the handy map feature to filter between districts.
5 Packing Essentials for Lisbon
- Decent day pack
- Supportive walking shoes
- Natural SPF sunscreen
- Good insect repellent
- Sony A6000 camera
Travel Insurance for Lisbon
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
How to Pay for Things in Portugal
When it comes to getting paying for things in Portugal, I always recommend using card payments as much as possible, because many ATM machines here charge hefty withdrawal fees.
But of course, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when you use your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise Card away with me.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups, no sneaky transaction fees and a free Euros account, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Portugal… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Get your Wise card here.
Where to Travel After Lisbon?
If you still have time for more travelling after Lisbon (and lucky you if so!), then you may want to head to other parts of Portugal.
Check out these articles for some inspiration…
- Ultimate 2 Day Porto Itinerary
- How to Travel from Porto to Douro Valley
- 5 Best Douro Valley Wineries + How to Visit Them
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So there you have it folks, my list of top 21 things to do in Lisbon.
I’m so excited you’re heading to this city – you’re going to love it!
And if you’ve already been to Lisbon and are a sold-up fan, then do help a fellow traveller out by dropping your fav things to do here into the comments below!
Thanks so much and happy travels 🙂