Our picks for the best things to do in Lisbon for first time visitors. All of these should be included on your bucket list!
Lisbon has excellent weather and a great light, has ancient monuments and important museums, typical historical city districts, beautiful gardens and pleasant beaches, as well as numerous cultural Lisbon attractions. Therefore there are a lot f things to do in Lisbon.
Live the Historical City Districts
ALFAMA, MOURARIA AND CASTLE
Strolling through the narrow, picturesque, maze-like streets of the Alfama, Mouraria and Castelo districts you will feel the Arabic and Jewish influence from the past. You will have also the same feeling visiting the Saint George Castle (Castelo de São Jorge) and the Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa).
Baixa and Chiado
Baixa and Chiado have buildings built after the 1755 major earthquake and several shopping places, such as boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Here you can enjoy the beautiful squares of Rossio and Praça do Comércio. The latter is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world.
Cais do Sodré and Bairro Alto
Other districts full of history are Cais do Sodré and Bairro Alto where you will find bars, restaurants, terraces and ateliers, which attract various types of tourists, especially young people.
Visit the iconic Monastery of Jerónimos and Tower of Belém
Monastery of Jerónimos and Tower of Belém
The Monastery of Jerónimos (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) and the Tower of Belém (Torre de Belém) are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Furthermore, to visit these monuments in Belém, in the western zone of Lisbon, is to visit the place from where the Portuguese navigators of the 15th and 16th centuries departed. Therefore should be one of the things to do in Lisbon!
Monument to the Discoveries
To have a great view over the River Tagus and Belém go to the top of the Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) in front of the Monastery of Jerónimos.
Ride on the famous Tram 28
A pleasant way to get a true feel of the typical districts and hills of Lisbon is to ride the Tram 28 (Elétrico 28). It’s a slice of life in Lisbon and one of the best things to do in Lisbon!
This yellow tram starts at Martin Moniz (where you can see the Saint George Castle). Then goes to the district of Mouraria, then Graça (near Graça and Senhora do Monte viewpoints), Alfama (next to the Portas do Sol and Santa Luzia viewpoints) and Sé (at the side of this Cathedral).
Then Tram 28 goes down to Baixa (Augusta Street and Praça do Comércio in the background), goes up Chiado and Bairro Alto (with the Santa Catarina Belveder nearby). Afterwards, descends Calçada do Combro to São Bento (where the Parliament is situated). Next, the tram goes up to Estrela (next to the Garden and the Basilica), finishing the course in Campo de Ourique (family-oriented district with market and traditional shops).
Play with the sharks at the Lisbon Oceanarium
Lisbon Oceanarium (OCEANÁRIO DE LISBOA)
Going to the Lisbon Oceanarium (Oceanário de Lisboa) is always a highlight of the visit to Lisbon! In Parque das Nações district, next to the Tagus River, is the largest oceanarium in Europe and the 2nd largest in the world. There you can see a huge variety of fish of all sizes and even sharks. See here more about how to visit.
Pavilion of Knowledge
Nearby you have the Pavilion of Knowledge (Pavilhão do Conhecimento), appreciated by everybody, especially by children.
PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES
In the meantime, take the opportunity to stroll through the beautiful gardens, buildings and urban art of Parque das Nações district, which resulted from the world exhibition of 1998 (EXPO-98).
Vasco da Gama Bridge and Tagus River
From here you have a view of the extensive Vasco da Gama Bridge (Ponte Vasco da Gama) and Tagus River (Rio Tejo).
Dinner with live music – Fado
Fado is a portuguese musical style that is classified as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In many places featuring Fado, located mainly in the historical districts, you can listen to it live. At the same time you can enjoy a nice dinner of the portuguese traditional cuisine or drink a good Portuguese wine.
Explore the amazing Museums of Lisbon
Feeling the culture implies visiting the main museums in Lisbon.
National Museum of Ancient Art
The National Museum of Ancient Art (in Santos) is one of the most visited in Portugal. In this museum stand out the excellent painting and sculpture works.
Berardo Collection Museum
An important collection of modern art can be visited at the Berardo Collection Museum, at the Belém Cultural Centre (in Belém).
Nacional Tile Museum
The Nacional Tile Museum (in São Vicente) has an impressive collection of tiles.
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
At the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (in Avenidas Novas) you stroll through the beautiful gardens and see valuable collections of modern art and from the founder of the foundation. Highlights include works of Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Islamic, Eastern and European art from the 11th to the 20th centuries. Here you can see works by Rubens, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Lalique (jewelry) and many others.
Find all of Lisbon’s Best Shopping Spots
Ready to shop for bargains? Or shop souvenirs? Lisbon has excellent places to shop.
Feira da Ladra (Flee Market)
Among old working-class houses, at Feira da Ladra (in São Vicente) you will find antiques, old-fashioned items and used articles.
Ribeira Market (OR TIME OUT MARKET)
In Ribeira Market or Time Out Market (in Santos) you have a good offer of traditional Portuguese products and restaurants for lunch and dinner.
Avenida da Liberdade
At Avenida da Liberdade you can buy international and national brand products, part of them luxury brands.
Know more about the Top 5 Cool Shopping Ideas in Lisbon.
Take pictures on the best Lisbon viewpoints or belvederes
The hills of Lisbon have belvederes that are excellent places to photograph the city.
São Pedro de Alcântara Viewpoint
From São Pedro de Alcântara Viewpoint (in Bairro Alto) you can photograph the Baixa, Mouraria and Castelo districts – with the Saint George Castle at the top.
Graça and Senhora do Monte viewpoints
The castle can also be seen from the Graça and Senhora do Monte viewpoints (Graça), from where there is a breathtaking view of Lisbon and the river.
Santa Luzia and Portas do Sol viewpoints
Then, enjoy the shade of the bougainvillea of the Santa Luzia viewpoint or near the Portas do Sol viewpoint (in Alfama). From there you can see the houses of this beautiful district and the movement of boats on the Tagus River.
Santa Catarina Viewpoint
In addition, in the Santa Catarina Viewpoint (in Santa Catarina, near Bairro Alto) you can enjoy the views over the Tagus River, Cais do Sodré and the South Bank.
Try the Pastéis de Belém – a well kept secret!
The Pastéis de Belém, with its secret recipe, are a must for anyone visiting Lisbon. Whoever proves them, repeats them! At the Fabrica dos Pastéis de Belém you can taste the famous tarts, with cinnamon and powdered sugar on the top. Do not let the queues discourage you, you will soon have the opportunity to enjoy one of Lisbon’s favorite custard tarts.
Have lunch on an Esplanade overlooking the Tagus River
Live a typical Portuguese lunch experience: without haste, enjoying the atmosphere, good food and friends. It is always very pleasant to be in an terrace overlooking the Tagus River (or to a garden), savoring delicious food and good Portuguese wine, enjoying the sun and the then the rest of a walk or bike ride along the river.
For more information about Lisbon, consult here the Lisbon Travel Guide.
If you can enjoy more days stay, visit also the 6 Best Day Trips from Lisbon.
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