Edited by Holly Jenson
A city of sun, sea and sardines, Lisbon is quickly becoming one of Europe’s most popular destinations, and it won’t take you long to see why. Coming from just outside of Venice, I was drawn to Lisbon by the amazing weather, the proud history and the rich culture found everywhere in the city; I grew up hearing stories about it from my Mum, who spent her childhood here. Each Lisbon district has something unique to offer, and the best way to soak everything up is to go on foot or on one of our famous trams. I have a job doing Walking Lisbon tours for tourists, so it’s safe to say that I’ve seen every inch of this beautiful city! I have condensed all of the best places I’ve found over my 4 years here into your top 10 things to do in Lisbon, so you can see the real city, not what it shows in your Lisbon travel guide.
Right next to LX Factory you will find Village Underground, one of the coolest Lisbon attractions. Some of the city’s old trams have been upcycled to create small bars and shops within, all with really modern and sleek décor. One of the best things to do while you’re here is sample some of Lisbon’s must-eats and take them to the top of the trams where you can sit with a cocktail. It’s hard to believe you’re in a tram as you sit in the comfy colourful seats; it’s the most surreal experience and should be one of your top 10 things to do in Lisbon. Located to the south-west of the city, the best way to get here is by using the zapping card for public transport; top it up with at least 3 euros and you’re good to go! This is a great option if you’re staying in the city for a few days as you won’t need lots of individual tickets and you can explore the city’s suburbs stress-free.
Time Out Market
If you’re looking for a foodie’s paradise, The Time Out Market is the place for you. One of the top Lisbon attractions, this is the first market in the world where everything has been tasted and tested before it’s revealed to the public. Everything here has been rated four or five stars by Time Out journalists, so you only have access to the best of the best! As well as Portuguese must-eats like codfish and custard tarts, they have a huge array or burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, soups and so much more to try here, you could spend a whole afternoon tasting all of these tapas-style dishes. There are over 40 spaces to choose from in here and the rows of wooden benches allow you to perch with other members of the foodie community and connect over these memorable meals. The Time Out Market is unique to our city and one of the best places to experience Portuguese food; this definitely needs to be part of your top 10 things to do in Lisbon.
Alfama Lisbon is one of the oldest districts and the perfect place to get lost in the city’s history. Traditionally a fisherman’s quarter, the streets are made up of cobbles, old staircases and colourful street art, it’s no wonder that this area has become one of the most fashionable parts of Lisbon! Sitting just south of the city walls, Alfama is filled with quirky coffee shops, independent boutiques and unique restaurants, you should set aside a day to really get a feel for this Lisbon district. While you’re here, see the famous Lisbon castle to learn about the city’s military history, and take a trip to Miradouro de Santa Luzia for unbeatable panoramas of the Lisbon beaches and the sea of tiled roofs. You can reach this oasis easily by taking the 28 tram to Graca and walking down, it’s a real local experience to rattle through the streets in one of these! For a taste of Lisbon’s culture, head to the Fado Museum to learn all about (and hear) our famous folk music. Alfama Lisbon is the perfect place to get in touch with what the city is all about and connect with the locals.
Miradouro da Penha da França
My all-time favourite Lisbon attractions are our Miradourus. Found all around the city, head to these view points for the most spectacular views of Lisbon and its clustered hills. My favourite one is Miradouro da Penha da França, it’s a real hidden gem that you won’t find in your Lisbon travel guide. Sitting in suburbia just 10 minutes from Anjos metro station, visitors rarely find this terrace (which makes the experience even more special!). Bring a friend and some drinks up here and see the amazing sunset and the illuminating glow of Lisbon at night. You can see the whole city from here without a tourist in sight, it’s one of the best local experiences of Lisbon you can have. This miradouru is really close to my apartment and I am here most evenings watching the sun go down, maybe we’ll even bump into each other one day!
The Adamastor statue and Miradouro santa Caterina
On my walking Lisbon tours, I love to talk about Portuguese literature; I studied it for many years and it’s one of the things that made me stay in Lisbon. Someone you’ll hear about a lot as you travel the Lisbon neighborhoods is Luís de Camões, a famous poet who wrote the history of the Portuguese people. The Adamastor statue near Santa Caterina represents his most famous character and the forces of nature the Portuguese had to overcome to make their historic discoveries; it’s a really important experience of the city’s culture. Nearby you will find the Miradourou Santa Caterina; one of the most famous Lisbon attractions with a breathtaking panorama of the entire city.
The Carmo Church
When you’re looking at what to do in Lisbon, this historical landmark needs to be on your list. The Carmo church is found in the traditional neighbourhood of Chiado and is a true spectacle. The church’s roof collapsed in an earthquake in 1775 and today the intricate Roman Gothic arches are still standing. This is one of my favourite historical places in Lisbon as you can admire the architecture while the sun streams into the ruins, there really is no place quite like it. There is also a small archaeological museum here where you can learn even more about Portugal’s rich history. With mosaics, ceramics, shrunken heads and South American mummies, there is plenty here to keep you busy!
Mouraria and Graça
Mouraria and Graça are two Lisbon neighbourhoods which sum up the city as a whole for me. Lisbon is a big city with the soul of a small village and that feeling really comes across here. As you tour the cobbled streets, you will be surrounded by gothic architecture and traditional buildings wherever you turn. Mouraria is where the Portuguese Moors were allowed to live before being expelled with the Jews in 1497. Today you can still walk along parts of the ancient wall that remain; it’s a great way to get in touch with Lisbon’s history. Strolling between these two districts will also leave you gazing at the colourful street art celebrating Portuguese culture. Staircases, walls and alleyways have bright mosaics which you won’t be able to pull yourself away from. Unfortunately, nowadays these neighbourhoods are slowly becoming more tourist-orientated and losing their charm, you had better get here quick to see them in all of their glory!
One of the best day trips from Lisbon is a visit to the neighbourhood of Belém. This Lisbon district is home to the famous Monastery of Jeronimos which has been standing for over 500 years. The majestic building overlooks the Tagus river and is made up of impressive gothic architecture; this really is a must see. Nearby, the Belem tower (also a UNESCO world heritage site) is a stunning fortified building known as the ‘ceremonial gate to Lisbon’ and leads into the river, you can go to the very top and admire a magnificent sea view. You could easily spend a day wandering around Belem’s beautiful grounds, the grand buildings and perfectly sculpted gardens allow you to have a bit of peace and relaxation away from Lisbon’s lively town centre.
One of the many reasons people visit Lisbon is for its modern and alternative culture. One of the more ‘hipster’ parts of the city that I love is the LX Factory. The factory was originally run by one of the biggest fabric companies in Portugal and has now been converted into a micro-neighbourhood full of start-ups, shops and cafes. The majority of businesses in here are new and independent so spending a couple of hours wandering around massively supports the local community. Whether it’s fine art, vintage clothes or music that you’re into; they have something for you here. All of the original factory décor has been upcycled into trendy eating spaces and chill-zones; it’s a great place for a relaxed afternoon with friends. The LX Factory is well-worth the trip to the suburbs and should be on your list of the top 10 things to do in Lisbon.
Bairro Alto is one of my favourite Lisbon districts. Famed for the funky yellow funicular that brings residents to the top of its steep hills, there are some really lovely views from here. Bairro Alto is at the heart of our bar scene and one of the best things to do in Lisbon at night. Locals like to go to the bars and pubs and bring their drinks onto the street and play music. Street drinking is legal here and the nice weather means that everyone loves spending time outdoors, nights out always feel like one giant party! Be prepared to see a lot of jolly locals if you’re out in the evening. When you’re heading home from Bairro Alto, be sure to travel in a group or get a taxi/Uber. While Lisbon is a very safe city there are pickpockets about at night, so keep a close eye on your phone and wallet.
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