Lisbon is quickly becoming one of the hottest destinations in Europe. Visit soon and discover the 10 BEST things to do in Lisbon Portugal!
Once forgotten Portugal has quickly been gaining popularity. So much so that Lisbon is planning to build a second international airport. Lisbon is cheaper than many European cities, boasts blissful weather, has several easy day trips nearby, and is making a name for itself in the culinary scene.
Walking the streets you can see the city undergoing a renewal phase. Buildings that were once crumbling are being restored and streets that were once seedy and sketchy are now hip.
But first, Reality Check - Lisbon prices
Now, before we get into the 10 BEST things to do in Lisbon Portugal I want to address cost. To this day I still read articles, blog posts, etc., that paint a picture that Lisbon is insanely cheap. I personally did not find this to be the case.
Past visitors I had talked to stressed that Lisbon was dirt cheap. That may have been the case 5 years ago but it became obvious pretty fast prices have risen. Seville, Spain for example is/was much cheaper than Lisbon.
The first time I visited was in February, the heart of slow season. I had the hardest time finding a decent hotel for under $200 a night, something I can easily do in almost any other European city. Food prices were more expensive than Seville, Rome, and Florence.
I believe it's important to set expectations correctly. Lisbon is cheap, especially when compared to cities like London and Paris. I just wouldn't advertise that it's one of the cheapest cities in Europe to visit.
Now that we've got that straight...let's continue to the 10 BEST things to do in Lisbon Portugal!
1. Alfama neighborhood and Sao Jorge Castle
The Alfama is the most historic/original neighborhood and should be near the top of your list of 10 best things to do in Lisbon, Portugal.
It’s one of the few areas that survived the 1755 earthquake and maintained its original winding cobblestoned streets.
The Alfama dates back to the Visigoth occupation from the 6th to 8th centuries A.D. and later became home to the fishermen of Lisbon. It’s filled with homes from the Middle Ages, history, and character.
Sao Jorge Castle is the highest point of the Alfama and the perfect place to start exploring this characteristic area.
I personally don’t think the castle is actually worth touring as it's quite bare and forgettable. The area surrounding the castle is perfect for strolling and finding quiet streets.
After the castle visit the viewpoints (below), and then explore around Largo de Sao Miguel, Alfama’s central square.
2. Lisbon's Best Viewpoints
The steep hills of Lisbon offer some stunning views of the city below, which is why visiting the top viewpoints easily makes the list of the best things to do in Lisbon, Portugal.
San Pedro de Alcántara is another spectacular viewpoint located in Barrio Alto neighborhood reachable via the Elevador da Gloria cable car.
3. Time Out Market Lisboa
Time Out is known for their website and magazine publishing city guides, insider tips, travel trends, and more. You're probably already familiar with this name if you're a frequent traveler that plans your own trips.
Time Out has now entered the food market scene opening their first food market in…you guessed it…Lisbon! Time Out Market Lisboa opened in 2014 and quickly became a hit with locals and tourists alike.
If you are a foodie or someone that wants to be the first to discover a new trend, this is a must.
Time Out plans to open 7 more markets in the next few years…which means Time Out Market Lisboa was a success. This hip food market is the best way to try a mix of Portuguese food, drinks, and sweets.
For those that think food markets have subpar food, think again.
The stalls at the North end offer wallet friendly bites from Michelin star chefs from all over Portugal. The communal tables make for a fun time if you want to make friends with like-minded tourists and friendly locals.
If you're a foodie this should be at the top of your list of best things to do in Lisbon Portugal.
4. Electric Bike Tour
Similar to San Francisco, Lisbon is known for its hilly streets. These steep treks make for a perfect e-bike tour. You’ll be able to zip around Lisbon’s most popular attractions and get a lay of the land in no time with barely breaking a sweat.
Jake and I did this Central Lisbon Tour. It was the perfect start to our time in Lisbon as it gave an overview of Lisbon’s history and got us comfortable with the lay out of the city so we could easily navigate by foot later.
This Go 7 Hills Electric Bike Tour is another good option.
Not comfortable on a bike? These are some great walking tours:
- Best of Lisbon Guided Walking Tour - small group
Food and photography tours:
5. Baixa Neighbohrood
Lisbon’s historic downtown area is located between two hills in the flat valley. This area was completely rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake and therefor has uniformity, wide pedestrian streets, old and new shops, and is the perfect place to people watch and stroll.
Checkout the beautiful exterior of the Rossio train station. Shop down the Champs-Elysees inspired Avenida da Liberdade. Walk along the pedestrianized Augusta Street...you'll have your pick of shops, restaurants, and fantastic people watching.
Leave Baixa and enter Barrio Alto and Chiado via the Elevador da Gloria.
6. Ride a Cable Car – Elevador da Gloria
Lisbon is known for its steep hills similar to San Francisco. There are three popular cable cars, which are labeled lifts or elevators in Lisbon, to get people to the top of some of the steepest hills.
Elevador da Gloria is one of the most popular as the end of your ride gets you to a beautiful view point, San Pedro de Alcántara. You can buy your ticket from the driver for 3.60 euros. This is also an easy way to get from the lower Baixa neighborhood to the higher Chiado and Bairro Alto.
7. Eat and Drink in Bairro Alto and Chiado
Bairro Alto and Chiado are above Baixa and the perfect place for restaurant and bar hopping. Chiado is trendy and chic while Bairro Alto has an old world vibe.
This is also a good area if you want to catch a Fado show. Fado originated in Lisbon and is known for its blues styled music filled with melancholy and mournful lyrics accompanied by the Portuguese 12 string guitar.
If you've been to Southern Spain you'll be familiar with Flamenco. Flamenco is to Seville as Fado is to Lisbon...which unfortunately means most Fado shows will be geared towards tourists, but it still makes for a fun night.
Some of my favorite restaurants in Bairro Alto and Chiado are:
- By The Wine: wine bar with wonderful small plates, charcuterie, and a stunning ceiling lined in wine bottles.
- BA Wine Bar: another staple wine bar with light bites and a cozy atmosphere.
- Bairro do Avillez: four concepts in one space by celebrity chef José Avillez. A grocery, taberna, seafood restaurant, and dinner with a cabaret show.
- Landeau: best chocolate cake EVER in a cozy coffee shop.
- Mini Bar Theater José Avillez: beautifully and almost theatrically prepared food in a retro chic setting. The food menu is presented in "acts" and comes in small portions. Go for the Epic Tasting to try 12 items for under 50 euros! If you liked Tickets in Barcelona you will love Mini Bar.
- Taberna da Rua das Flores: a tiny taberna offering unique shared plates in an intimate yet casual setting.
- Monteigaria: the best pastel de nata in Lisbon!
8. Praca do Comercio
Praco do Comercio, aka Commerce Square, is the bustling riverfront square in the Baixa neighborhood. The royal palace was located in the square before the earthquake.
Now you will find Lisbon’s Arch of Triumph, government buildings, and plenty of locals and tourists passing through. Walk down Rua do Comercio after enjoying the square.
9. Belem – monestary, pastel de Nata, torre de belem
Belem (just outside the city center) escaped the devastation of the 1755 earthquake and is home to important sights from Portugal’s Golden Age. Make sure to visit the impressive and massive Monastery of Jeronimos.
Torre de Belem, aka Belem Tower, has become a popular Instagram location and a visit to Pastel de Belem for the original Portuguese pastry is a must. Some say Pastel de Belem has the best Pastel de Nata pastries in Portugal.
10. Day trip to Sintra
Sintra is home to one of my favorite and most colorful castles in Europe, Pena Palace! The retreat and summer home of the royals and Portugal's wealthiest residents.
Pena Palace, with its brightly painted exterior of yellows, blues, and purples, is the main attraction. Instagrammers, travel blogs, and magazines like Travel and Leisure, have featured Pena Palace as it’s quite unique and well preserved.
It’s an easy day trip from Lisbon being a quick 40 minute train ride from Rossio station. Try to visit Tuesday – Friday when the crowds have lessened after the weekend rush. Arrive as early as possible and book your ticket/time slot in advance.
A visit to Pena Palace is a MUST and without a doubt one of the best things to do in Lisbon Portugal...even if it isn't technically in Lisbon.
If you plan to just tour Pena Place and walk around the main town you can make this a half day trip. A full day is required if you decide to visit the other sights (though not nearly as memorable) like the Morrish Castle ruins and National Palace.
I hope this post of the 10 best things to do in Lisbon, Portugal gives you some ideas on what to do for your upcoming trip. From food markets to stunning viewpoints, top restaurants to historic trolleys...these are the TOP Lisbon attractions.