Lisbon is fast becoming one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations. Travelers all over the world are enticed by the city’s rich culture as well as its magnificent architecture, history, and authentic cuisine. But with the increase of those of us who can’t wait to visit Lisbon comes an increase in tourist traps, steep prices, and long queues. So for a more authentic experience, follow our guide to the top 10 local things to do in Lisbon. Leave the guidebook behind and see Lisbon like a local!
Feira da Ladra
Literally translated as ‘market of thieves’, Feira da Ladra is Lisbon’s celebrated flea market located in the Alfama district. The market is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays from early morning until evening and is the perfect spot for those who enjoy all things weird and wonderful. Here you can find anything from second-hand clothing, to quirky antiques, to hand-made crafts and so much more. Both locals and tourists rush down in the early hours hoping to bag a bargain and find out what new treasures the market will offer them this time. There are some great deals to be had and happy memories to be made at this legendary market so take some spare cash, chat to the local vendors and haggle away!
Cycle from Cascais to Guincho Beach
Fancy a day out beside the seaside? Instead of heading straight for the nearest beach and settling for a small patch of sand to lie on between large crowds of sunbathing tourists, why not rent some free bikes and cycle the route from Cascais to Guincho Beach? The ride from Cascais to the beautiful Praia de Gunicho follows a purpose built path along the magnificent Atlantic coastline, passing beaches, cliff edges, rock formations, lighthouses and even a small 17th century fort - Forte de São Jorge de Oitavos. The bikes can be rented for free from the Bicas stand outside the Cascais train station. The rental period is from 8:00 until 19:00 in the summer and 9:00 until 16:00 in the winter, but bikes can’t be reserved so make sure you arrive early enough to guarantee yours.
If you’re keen to discover Lisbon’s artistic flair but not so keen on the more traditional museums or exhibitions, hunting the city for street art is a fun and different way to explore this important part of Portuguese culture. Lisbon’s street art has been developing in recent years, with displays appearing all over the city. These works of art provide a valuable insight into local life by depicting important moments in history, expressing political concerns, displaying elements of Portuguese culture and showcasing the wonderful talent to be found amongst the Lisboetas. Whether you want to book a guided tour of the city’s street art or you prefer to go at it alone, do something a little different during your stay and discover Lisbon through the eyes of the local artists.
The LX Factory is another exciting place to visit for art lovers looking for something unique and unusual. Located beneath the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge, the former industrial complex is a vast place which now houses an array of stylish concept stores, vintage boutiques, tattoo shops, independent art and music spaces, book shops, and trendy eateries. The creative energy here will inspire you. Go and enjoy this space while it’s still insider knowledge!
Covering approximately 10 acres of land, Lisbon’s enchanting Jardim Botânico has one of the largest collections of subtropical vegetation in the whole of Europe. It has everything from palms, to unusual flowers, to endangered plant species from various parts of the world, including South America, Australia and New Zealand. This spot is popular with locals who come here to momentarily escape the stress of city life. Join them and experience the serenity of this tropical oasis in the heart of the city.
Time Out Market
Looking for a foodie hotspot that will make a change from eating at traditional restaurants? Head to Cais do Sodré and join locals at The Time Out Market, a modern food court located in the Mercado da Ribeira, offering a wide range of food and drink to tempt your taste buds. Formally a historical trading hub, the market’s western hall has now been transformed into a large open space filled with numerous food stalls and bars surrounding rows of long wooden tables and benches where hungry customers perch to eat their choice of tasty delights. With so much to choose from, it’s the perfect opportunity for travellers to sample several tapas-style local dishes at once in the company of friendly locals out to grab a bite amongst friends.
Eat Pastéis de nata
Most of you will already be familiar with Lisbon’s famous sweet treat, pastéis de nata. Some of you might have even heard of Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, the bakery renowned for making the original and the best custard tarts – so good they even have their own name, pastéis de Belém. While we do recommend trying the originals, we also think that you should enjoy one or two of these custard tarts in a less touristy setting for a more authentic experience. A Chique de Belém is a small café located opposite the Jerónimos Monastery which makes equally delicious custard tarts to their own secret recipe. Here you can avoid the busy crowds and long queues and simply take a moment to enjoy your pastry on the sunny terrace while taking in the magnificent sight of the monastery.
For a taste of Lisbon’s vibrant nightlife, do as the locals do and head to one of the many bars in Barrio Alto around midnight. It doesn’t matter which one as most people end up spilling out onto the street to mingle with one another as they sip their fruity cocktail or a cool glass of wine. You will almost certainly be swept up into the whirlwind of party-goers hopping from bars to clubs and before you know it the sun will be peeking its head over the horizon to tell you that it’s time to go home!
Lisbon is well-known for its many viewpoints, or miradouros, which offer breath-taking views over the city’s blanket of mismatched rooftops and beyond. While many of these are often overcrowded with groups of tourists trying to take the perfect selfie, there are also many lesser-known lookout points such as Miradouro de Graça. Located nearby to the Castelo de São Jorge, this viewpoint offers equally beautiful panoramic views over the capital and even has a small drinks stand allowing you to enjoy an ice-cold beer whilst you admire the picture-perfect sight below.
Photo: Travel Top 6
If you happen to be visiting Lisbon in June, check whether your trip dates coincide with the Feast of Saint Anthony, otherwise known as the Sardine Festival. Every year in June, the streets of Lisbon’s historic quarter are lavishly decorated with garlands, lights, and banners to create a carnival-style atmosphere in preparation for the city’s most important 3-day annual festival. Pop-up food stalls appear on every corner and the streets become engulfed with the distinctive smell of grilled sardines. When night falls, people gather on Avenida da Liberdade to watch the parade of traditional dancers and performers who have been preparing their choreographies all year. The locals then head to the old neighborhoods where they eat sardines, drink sangria, beer, wine and dance all through the night until dawn. You’re guaranteed a wild night and a truly authentic Lisbon experience!
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