In a lot of ways, Lisbon reminds us of San Francisco, which is where we met and spent our first eight years together. It has plenty of hills (which means both incredible views and also getting sweaty trying to get to those views), it has a big red bridge, and it’s earthquake prone. Same-same, but different, right?
One of the first things you’ll learn about Lisbon is that the city was essentially leveled in the middle of the 18th Century, when a huge earthquake (and the subsequent fires) destroyed huge swaths of the city.
That devastating disaster came when Portugal was at the peak of its powers in terms of global influence (many of the world’s preeminent explorers in the Age of Discovery came from Portugal, like Vasco de Gama). But that fateful day in 1755 changed everything.
What emerged from the ashes of the earthquake is a more modern city (and country, really), which is most evident when you walk through the grid layout of the Baixa neighborhood, which was largely created in the post-earthquake period by Marquis de Pombal.
We could talk for
hours fifteen minutes or so about how the earthquake changed Lisbon forever, but the point we’re trying to make here is that Lisbon has been in a constant state of evolution since that devastating moment, and particularly over the past few decades. In the past five years or so, I swear that Lisbon has popped up on nearly every “up-and-coming travel destinations list.”
As you might imagine, that rapid growth in tourism has led to some new challenges, like a rising cost of living that is pricing out many locals (among other things).
However, rather than resenting tourists who are at least partially responsible for some of those issues, every single Lisbon resident we interacted with, whether it was on a walking tour or at a bar, was warm, friendly, and excited to share their city with us.
Lisbon is now officially on the tourist map, and there is a nearly unlimited number of things to do and see in Portugal’s capital.
From exploring beautiful historic churches and learning about Portuguese history and their contributions to the Age of Maritime Discoveries, to enjoying some of the best seafood and wine in the world, to discovering the sweet-but-sad melody of traditional Fado music, there’s a wide array of attractions and experiences that await you.
In this guide, we’ll take you through the top things to do and see in Lisbon based on our own trips to the Portuguese capital (two trips in the past two years, and a return trip in the works!). We’ve also included some logistical information to help you plan your trip, including when to visit, where to stay, and how to get around.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
The Best Things to Do in Lisbon
Not sure what to do in Lisbon? The country’s exciting capital has so many fantastic things to see and do that it can be difficult to decide how exactly to spend your trip. Particularly if you have limited time in the city.
If you haven’t already, make sure to read our guide to planning a perfect 3 day Lisbon itinerary, where we talk through exactly how we’d put this all together to create an unforgettable trip to Lisbon.
Based on our own experience over several visits to Lisbon, below are the top things we think you should do in the city.
Go Deeper with a Lisbon Walking Tour
One of the top things to do in Lisbon for those who want to learn more about the city and its fascinating history is a guided walking tour. A tour is also a great idea if you want to see as much as possible with limited time in the capital.
We enjoyed learning about Lisbon so much that we actually decided to do two separate walking tours on our two visits to the city.
Not only will a walking tour take you to a couple of the best things to see in Lisbon in just a short amount of time, from the most famous landmarks to the city’s hidden gems, but you’ll also have access to a knowledgeable local guide who can answer any question you have and give you some insider tips for visiting the city.
Like, for instance, where to find the best pastel de nata in Lisbon (more on that in a second).
We almost always start our trip to a new city with a walking tour, and think you should too.
Here are a few of the top Lisbon tours we’d recommend:
- Highlights & Hidden Gems of Lisbon. We did this tour on our first day in Lisbon and loved it. It’s a private tour – we had a group of four, so the money worked out – that takes you from one end of the city to the other on foot, with plenty of history and anecdotes along the way. It’s a nice mix of the main sights and some more off-the-beaten-path places.
- We Hate Tourism’s Walk in the Real City. We also did this tour on our latest foray into Lisbon. It’s a cool tour that takes you to parts of the city you’d ordinarily never see on your own as a tourist. We love this tour company as they focus on running responsible and sustainable tours and minimizing the impact that mass tourism has on Portugal (especially in Lisbon).
- LisboaLove Walk. Another great tour for discovering Lisbon’s hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path locations is this alternative Lisbon walking tour with passionate local guide Humberto.
Decide on Your Favorite Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon
Trying a delicious pastel de nata – the traditional Portuguese egg custard tart – is a must when in Portugal. And Lisbon is home to some of the best pastelarias (pastry shops) and tastiest pastéis (plural of pastel de nata) in the entire country.
We got three recommendations from locals when we asked about their favorite place to get pastéis de nata in Lisbon. These were:
- Manteigaria. Popular bakery specializing in pastéis de nata, with two outlets in Chiado and Ribeira.
- Pastéis de Belém. The historic bakery in Belém is close to the Jerónimos Monastery where the sweet pastry was invented. This bakery serves the “original recipe” of pastéis de nata (allegedly).
- Pastelaria Aloma. Award-winning pastéis de nata bakery that dates back to 1943, now with multiple locations around Lisbon.
We tried all three to see which version we liked best and Manteigaria was the CLEAR winner.
Manteigaria has nailed the crispy shell and the warm, gooey inside with that perfect texture contrast. Their pastéis are best when served warm and dusted with cinnamon.
But don’t just take our word for it. Why not try all three and decide for yourself which is best!
Visit São Vicente de Fora Monastery and Church
São Vicente de Fora monastery and its connecting church are two of Lisbon’s most important and most impressive historical buildings.
The huge monastery was constructed in the 17th century on the site of a much older church.
The original church was built in the 12th century, under the reign of King Afonso Henriques, after the Christian reconquest of the city. It was dedicated to St. Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon.
Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora translates to “Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls”, referring to the fact the historic church was originally built outside of Lisbon’s city walls.
Today, it is located in the heart of the Alfama district, overlooking the rest of the city from its hilltop location.
The church is free to enter, but you need to pay €5 to visit the richly-decorated monastery buildings. The monastery is now home to a large museum, with an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, clothing, and more spanning several hundred years of Lisbon’s history.
It’s definitely worth paying the entrance fee to explore the exquisite building. Don’t miss the world’s most extensive collection of baroque azulejo tiles in the monastery’s cloisters or the amazing views over Lisbon from its towers.
See the Impact of the Earthquake at Convento do Carmo
Built in the 14th century, Gothic Convento do Carmo was once one of Lisbon’s most striking churches. However, the 1755 earthquake caused serious damage and almost completely destroyed the historic building.
Reconstruction of the church was started but never completed, and it was decided to leave the roofless chapel as it was. The hauntingly beautiful church ruins now sit as a symbol of the devastation caused to the city by the horrifying natural disaster.
Today you can visit the ruins in the Chiado district to see the impact of the infamous earthquake. The building now also houses an interesting archaeological museum, with an eclectic collection of artifacts, tombs, and mummies.
Entry to the church and museum costs €5 per adult and includes a free audio guide. Find out more on their website here.
Learn at One of Lisbon’s Museums
Speaking of museums, Lisbon has plenty of other fascinating museums to explore too. The city’s museums and galleries are great for learning about Portugal’s cultural heritage and seeing some of Lisbon’s most beautiful buildings.
Here are a few museums that are worth your time.
- National Museum of Azulejo. Housed in the former 16th century Convent of Madre de Deus, this unique art museum is dedicated to traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles. At the museum, you can learn about the history and development of the tile, while exploring its spectacular collection spanning over 500 years. Tickets cost €5 per adult.
- Museu Coleção Berardo. A contemporary art museum in Belém, with an impressive collection of modern artwork from artists including Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon, and Andy Warhol. The museum is the most visited of its kind in Portugal. Tickets cost €5 but admission is free every Saturday.
- Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Another of the most famous museums in Lisbon, the Gulbenkian houses one of the world’s most important private art collections. The impressive collection spans 5,000 years of history and was amassed by oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian during the early 20th century. Tickets cost €10, while admission is free on Sundays after 2:00 pm. Don’t miss the tranquil gardens surrounding the historic building.
Head Out to Belém for an Afternoon
Sitting to the west of the city center, taking a trip out to Belém is one of the most popular things to do in Lisbon. There’s plenty to do in Belém to fill a full day – or an afternoon if you’re short on time.
Once a separate city from Lisbon, Belém dates back to the 1500s – during Portugal’s Age of Discoveries – and is home to many noteworthy historical sites and landmarks. The Age of Discoveries was a significant historical period of maritime exploration and colonization for Portugal and the rest of Europe.
As the capital expanded, Belém was gradually absorbed and became a district of broader Lisbon. Despite becoming a part of the capital, the neighborhood has still retained its own unique historical charm (much of central Lisbon is fairly modern, having been rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake).
The entirety of Belém is now even classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are four key things we think you should do here, and you can easily walk between them. We’d recommend starting at the furthest end with the Tower of Belém, then working your way back towards Lisbon.
Torre de Belém
Torre de Belém, officially the Tower of Saint Vincent, is a medieval fortification sitting on a small island just off the northern bank of the Tagus River in Belém. It is one of the most emblematic monuments not only in Belém but in all of Lisbon.
The tower was built in the 16th century for two main reasons; to serve as an entry and exit point for Portuguese explorers coming in and out of Lisbon by ship, and to serve as a coastal defense for the capital. Today, the tower is a tourist attraction and one of the most popular things to see in Lisbon.
The impressive tower is one of the best examples of Manueline architecture (Portuguese Late Gothic) in the city, with many intricate carvings adorning the structure’s exterior. Don’t miss the unusual rhinoceros gargoyle, which was the first depiction of a rhino in Europe.
Should you Go Inside the Tower?
We’d say not to bother going inside Torre de Belém. The entrance ticket costs €6 and lines can get super long. The view from the top isn’t really worth the money or the time it’ll take you to get there. You can see everything you need to from the outside.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries)
Also sitting along the waterfront is the equally impressive but slightly more modern Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries.
The monument was built during the mid-20th century under Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, who was known for romanticizing Portuguese colonial history.
The 171 feet tall monument depicts many historically important Portuguese figures from the 15th and 16th centuries. These sculptures include explorer Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea, and Pedro Álvares Cabral, who ‘discovered’ Brazil.
You can also head inside Padrão dos Descobrimentos for views from the top. But we don’t think it’s worth it. The monument is best admired from the outside.
The square in front of the monument is also beautiful, with art made from limestone tiles donated by South Africa.
Jerónimos Monastery is the former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome and is one of the most impressive buildings in Belém. The construction of the monastery was funded by the wealth of the newly founded spice trade during the 15th century. It took over 100 years to complete.
Much like the Torre de Belém, the monastery is a great example of Lisbon’s typical Manueline architecture. The grand facade incorporates many maritime symbols, such as ships, shells, and seas, into the Late Gothic style.
It’s free to enter Jerónimos Monastery, so it’s definitely worth taking a look inside. Although, you do have to pay a €10 entry fee to go into the cloister, which is pretty impressive and worth seeing in our opinion.
Pasteis de Belem
Not far from the monastery, you’ll find another of the most important sites in Belém – the birthplace of the pastel de nata, the traditional Portuguese egg custard tart.
The legend goes that monks from Jerónimos Monastery invented the pastel de nata back in the mid-1800s. Egg whites were used in the monastery for starching nuns’ robes, which meant there was a ton of egg yolks left over.
The monks began using these yolks to make tasty custard tarts which they’ll sell to their neighbors to make some extra money.
A while later, the monks sold their popular nata recipe to a nearby pastry shop – now called Pastéis de Belém. And this same recipe is still used there today.
The shop is so serious about its brand that only the pastéis de nata that come out of their kitchen can legally be called “Pastéis de Belém” – the original nata.
The pastéis de nata at Pastéis de Belém are claimed by many to be the best in the country. We personally thought the ones at Manteigaria were better, but these came in a close second and are still a must-try when in Lisbon.
How to Get to Belem
The easiest way to get from Lisbon city center to Belém is to take Tram 15E from Praça do Comércio, which is basically a straight shot and takes around 20-30 minutes.
Get off at Largo Da Princesa, start with the Torre, and work your way back towards the city.
Hop back on the 15E when you’re done!
Hang Out at LX Factory
LX Factory is a cool place to visit in Lisbon’s hipster neighborhood of Alcântara.
What was once an important industrial complex is now a large outdoor courtyard filled with an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, shops, and offices. The creative hub brings together many local artists, independent artisans, and small businesses, making it a great place to pick up some unique souvenirs and gifts.
LX Factory is open throughout the day and evening. The daytime is much quieter for some uninterrupted retail therapy. But the evening is when the complex really comes alive with the buzz of Lisbon’s young, cool crowd filling the uber-trendy restaurants and bars. There’s also a flea market at LX each Sunday.
Alcântara is located to the west of the city close to Belem, so you can easily combine these two stops into one day.
Experience the Best View in the City at Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
There are so many spectacular viewpoints in Lisbon that it can be difficult to choose which of them to visit.
In our opinion, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is the one viewing platform that absolutely shouldn’t be missed.
Located in a churchyard, the viewpoint sits in the residential neighborhood of Graça on the tallest hill in Lisbon (did you know that Lisbon is a city of seven hills, much like Rome?).
It’s quite the climb up – you need to keep going uphill from Alfama – but it’s worth the journey for the spectacular views over the city and river from the top.
Dive Into Lisbon’s Food Culture on a Food Tour
There are many things about Lisbon’s food culture that make it special, and it’s well worth your time to spend a few hours learning about it with a local on a Lisbon food tour.
Here are three Lisbon food tours that we’d recommend (we love Airbnb Experiences, as you might have already noticed):
- Portuguese Cuisine Tasting Tour. Learn about the tastes, flavors, cultural influences, and cooking techniques of Lisbon’s culinary scene on this fantastic food tour, which includes 17 food tastings, paired with drinks, in several restaurants and shops run by local families.
- Lisbon’s Best Flavors Tour. This food tour takes you on a journey to discover real Portuguese gastronomy in several family-owned restaurants in Lisbon’s Alfama district. It’s also the first food tour in Lisbon to go completely plastic free.
- The 10 Tastings of Lisbon Private Tour. For a more personal and intimate experience, this half-day tour takes you to sample many Portuguese specialties and traditional drinks with a private local guide. One of the biggest benefits of a private food tour is that it can be tailored to suit your dietary requirements and preferences.
Devour Some Canned Fish at Miss Can
Another of the best things to do in Lisbon for foodies is a visit to Miss Can in the Alfama district.
Miss Can is a family-owned business that has been producing delicious homemade canned fish using wild-caught fresh fish and seafood from Portugal’s seas since 1911.
At the cozy little petiscaria in Alfama, you can sample their tinned fish alongside crunchy bread and a nice list of local wines. And if you like it, you can pick up a few cans to take home with you from the on-site shop.
We LOVED this place and brought back a bunch of fish to share with friends and family. They also LOVED it, and some went as far as to order some for themselves.
Dive Deep into Portuguese Wine
We absolutely loved Portuguese wine. Not only because it’s cheap, but because it also tastes amazing!
Whenever we travel to lesser-known wine-producing countries (Hungary is another good example), we’re always blown away by just how good the wine is. We’re also amazed at how little we hear about it at home in the United States, compared to the bigger producers like France and Italy.
There are some fantastic places to learn about and, of course, sample Portuguese wine in Lisbon. Some of our favorites include:
- Holy Wine. Quite literally a hole in the wall, with a passionate owner who has a bunch of different wines – mostly from Portugal, some from the rest of Europe – that he is eager to share with you.
- Black Sheep. We tried to go here three times and were somewhat thwarted each time for various different crazy circumstances. Finally, on the last try, they were technically closed but were gracious enough to help us pick out a bottle to buy to celebrate our last night in Lisbon (and the conclusion of three months in Europe). The shop has an amazing selection of wines and ciders!
- Senhor Uva. A cozy little wine bar near the beautiful Jardim Guerra Junqueiro. The bar has a great selection of wine and a nice food menu of light bites to go with it.
Try some Local Craft Beer at Oitava Colina (8a Colina)
If wine isn’t your thing, you may be happy to hear that Lisbon produces some fantastic local craft beer too.
There are two main beers you’ll find everywhere in Portugal; Sagres and Super Bock, which are both light-bodied pale lagers. The reason for the limited range of beers in Portugal is at least partially because the market was heavily controlled during Salazar’s regime.
If you’re interested in a deeper look at Portuguese beer, this is a great read.
However, things are beginning to change and the Portuguese beer market has started to open up to competition over the past few decades.
Today, you’ll find a greater range of national and international craft beers appearing in craft beer pubs and bars, particularly in Lisbon and Porto.
Oitava Colina (aka 8a Colina) is one of the best places in Lisbon to try local beer. The modern brewpub has an excellent selection of craft beers, including porters, stouts, IPA, pilsners, lagers, and more, all brewed right at their on-site brewery.
We stumbled upon this place on a walk up the hill to one of Lisbon’s many amazing viewpoints, and though I can’t drink beer (I have Celiac Disease and gluten makes my intestines hurt), my little brother enjoyed sampling a few of their beers as we sat on the patio with a nice view.
The up-and-coming brand now has two locations in the city; their original taproom 8a Graça, which sits on the top of the hill in Graça overlooking the city, and the newer 8a Fábrica in Cabo Ruivo, close to the river in northeast Lisbon.
Explore Alfama, the Oldest Part of the City
Located uphill from the city center, Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest and most charming districts.
The neighborhood is filled with narrow cobblestone streets and amazing vistas over the city. It is also home to several of Lisbon’s most important historic sites, such as the cathedral and castle.
Taking a leisurely stroll through enchanting Alfama and discovering the area’s many historic landmarks and epic viewpoints is a must-do in Lisbon. Below is a rough route for exploring the best of Alfama.
Note: The below route essentially follows the path of Tram 28 – the one that’s popular with tourists – on foot. We think walking is better than taking the tram (if possible). Tram 28 is a legitimate form of public transportation for locals that has recently been co-opted by tourists for sightseeing.
- Start at Lisbon Cathedral at the base of the hill.
- Walk up to Miradouro de Santa Luzia – don’t miss the mural depicting the storming of the castle.
- Take a slight detour up the hill to Miss Can for canned fish and a glass (or three) of wine.
- Grab a drink on the terrace at Miradouro das Portas do Sol.
- Head down a few flights of stairs to check out the History of Lisbon mural.
- Finish with a visit to Castelo de São Jorge.
You should know that, while the distance between each destination above isn’t particularly long, it is a steep uphill walk through Alfama to reach the castle. So make sure to take your time, wear sensible walking shoes, and carry some water.
Take the Elevador Da Glória up to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
Another fantastic viewpoint in Lisbon can be found at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. The landscaped terrace has a large fountain and offers stunning panoramic views over the city.
And the great news is that you won’t need to climb yet another steep hill to reach this viewpoint. Instead, you can ride the colorful Elevator Da Glória.
Elevador Da Glória is essentially a short funicular tram that runs up and down the hill between Baixia and hilltop Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.
Taking a ride on the unusual ‘elevator’ is one of the most fun things to do in Lisbon, as well as being a convenient and unique way to move around the city.
It’s one of Lisbon’s three elevators, which you can read more about here.
How do you take the elevator in Lisbon? To travel on Lisbon’s elevators, you’ll need a Viva Viagem Travel Card, which you can buy at all Metro stations. Read more in the “Getting Around” section below.
Get Caffeinated: Dive into Lisbon’s Thriving Specialty Coffee Scene
Lisbon is a surprisingly great coffee city. We’re not sure what we were expecting to find, but the city’s thriving specialty coffee scene really blew us away.
It was also great to have an endless supply of caffeine to help fuel us while tackling Lisbon’s many hills.
If you’re a coffee lover too, make sure to check out some of these great spots in Lisbon. You can also check out our full guide to the best specialty coffee in Lisbon here.
- Bloom Coffee Room (temporarily operating out of the Folks). A specialty coffee curator with an extensive range of coffees from European roasters all prepared meticulously. This was one of our absolute favorite spots for coffee in Lisbon.
- Fábrica Coffee Roasters. A fantastic option for consistently great coffee, with multiple locations across the city. Get the AeroPress, which is brewed using the AeroPress World Championships winning recipe.
- Buna Specialty Coffee Shop. Another great coffee curator in Lisbon. They rotate through various roasters from around Europe, and had coffee from both Ireland and Sweden when we were there. They also have a great location on a sunny corner in one of Lisbon’s coolest neighborhoods.
Experience an Evening of Fado
For a truly authentic Lisbon experience, spend an evening sipping on Portuguese wine and listening to the melodic tunes of local Fado music.
Fado is a musical genre that originated in Lisbon in the early 1800s. The unique style features melancholic singing and traditional string instruments. It’s characterized by its soulful tunes and sad lyrics.
You can also attend a Fado concert, but we think enjoying the relaxing music over dinner and drinks is the best (and most authentic) way to experience it.
At some of the more popular Fado houses and restaurants, you’ll need to make a table reservation in advance. Or you can simply take a stroll through the streets of Alfama or Bairro Alto during the early evening. You’re sure to stumble across somewhere with a live Fado performance taking place that night.
Walk the Walls at the Castelo de São Jorge
Sitting on a hilltop in the Alfama district, Castelo de São Jorge is Lisbon’s impressive 11th century Moorish castle.
The castle started its life as a defensive fortress to help protect the city from invaders. It’s also been used as a royal palace, military barracks, hospital, and prison over the years. In the 20th century, the castle underwent a huge renovation project to bring it back to its former glory.
While there’s not much to see inside the castle itself these days, the fortress walls boast fantastic panoramic views over the entire city, which are more than worth the €10 entry price alone.
You can also visit the camera obscura and explore the many hidden pathways winding through the castle grounds.
Take a Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon and a must-visit if you have the extra time.
Located around 30 km northeast of Lisbon, Sintra is a picturesque hilltop town that was once the preferred summer destination of Portuguese royalty. The town is home to numerous incredible historic sites built in unique architectural styles that you won’t find elsewhere in Portugal.
There are so many fantastic attractions in Sintra that you won’t be able to fit them all into a single day.
If you are visiting Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon, we’d suggest ticking off Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. You can also spend some time exploring the town of Sintra itself.
Palacio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Sintra, if not the whole of Portugal.
The unusual, brightly colored palace was built as the summer house of King Ferdinand II during the 19th century. It’s one of the country’s greatest examples of Romanticism, combining Moorish and Manueline architectural styles.
The palace was turned into a museum by the Portuguese government in the early 20th century and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
There are two parts of the Pena Palace complex to see; the gardens and the palace interior, both of which require different tickets. We’d recommend just getting a ticket for the grounds and admiring the palace from the outside. There’s more than enough to explore in the expansive gardens.
Castelo dos Mouros
Sintra’s rugged hilltop castle was built in the 8th and 9th centuries by the Moors (Muslims that occupied the Iberian Peninsula at the time, though we probably shouldn’t use the word “Moors” anymore). It was then restored by King Ferdinand in the 19th century.
The main draw of visiting the historic castle is the amazing views you’ll get over the surrounding region. You can take a long walk along the reconstructed fortress walls and see out as far as the Atlantic coastline. Don’t forget your camera for this day trip.
How to Get to Sintra
Sintra is easy to reach from central Lisbon by taking a 40 minute train ride from Rossio Station in Baixa.
Make sure to get off at the stop called “Sintra” – NOT “Portela de Sintra” – to arrive close to all the main sites.
Once in Sintra, you’ll want to grab a taxi, bus, or tuk-tuk to get up the hill to Pena Palace to start your day.
Take the Ferry Over to Cacilhas
Located on the opposite bank of the River Tagus from Lisbon, Cacilhas is a charming little town that’s famous for its fresh fish. It’s a great place to escape the busy city center for a relaxing waterfront stroll and a tasty seafood lunch.
Below are some of the best things to do in Cacilhas:
Taking a slow walk along the scenic Cacilhas waterfront is one of the best things to do in the district. From the riverside footpath, you’ll be treated to amazing views back over the Lisbon skyline and the iconic 25th of April Bridge.
Many of the buildings along the waterfront are abandoned and dilapidated, so we wouldn’t advise getting too close or trying to go inside them. However, the colorful graffiti covering the facades is pretty cool to check out.
Fresh Fish Lunch at Ponto Final
At the end of the riverfront promenade, you’ll find a handful of cafes and restaurants. The most famous of these is Ponto Final, where we’d recommend stopping for a waterfront lunch.
We discovered Ponto Final in an episode of Somebody Feed Phil – our favorite food show in the world – and have had it on our list ever since (though we only learned about it AFTER our time in Lisbon, unfortunately).
The rustic restaurant has a large terrace overlooking the water and is famous for its delicious local fish and seafood dishes. It is pretty popular though, so you may want to book a table in advance to avoid disappointment.
Prices at Ponto Final are also a little more expensive than elsewhere in the district. For a cheaper place to sample Cacilhas’s famous fresh fish, head to one of the restaurants or local pubs on Rua Cândido dos Reis close to the ferry port.
Santuário de Cristo Rei
Santuário de Cristo Rei – or Sanctuary to Christ the King – is a large Catholic statue in Cacilhas, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. If the statue looks familiar to you, that’s probably because it was inspired by Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer.
The statue is not only a place of worship and a popular pilgrimage site, but it also has a viewing platform at the top for tourists, with spectacular views over Lisbon.
You’ll need to pay €6 to visit, but there is a lift that will take you almost to the top. The statue is around a 45 minute walk from the ferry terminal.
How to Get to Cacilhas
Cacilhas is located in the city of Almada, sitting just across the river from Lisbon.
It can be reached from Lisbon by taking a direct 10 minute ferry which departs regularly from Cais do Sodré and costs just €1.30 per journey. You’ll need to use your Viva Viagem Card to travel on the ferry.
Hit the Beach in Cascais
Sitting around 30 km west of the capital, Cascais is a lovely coastal resort town with multiple beautiful beaches, a marina, a small harbor, and several scenic walking routes. It makes the perfect day trip from Lisbon on a hot summer’s day.
There are tons of beautiful beaches in Cascais to choose from:
- Praia da Conceição & Praia da Duquesa. These two large connecting beaches make up the longest stretch of sandy coastline in Cascais. The beautiful beaches have plenty of facilities, including sunbed and parasol hire, beachside bars and restaurants, and plenty of water sports. The calm waters are great for children. Conceição is also the closest beach to Cascais train station, making it a good choice for a Lisbon day trip.
- Praia da Ribeira & Praia da Rainha. Located in Cascais town center, these two small, idyllic beaches are nestled underneath rocky outcrops and overlook the historic fishing harbor. While convenient for combining with a visit to the town itself, the beaches are overlooked by the beachfront promenade, so don’t expect much privacy.
How to Get to Cascais
There’s a direct train that connects Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré Station with Cascais on a line called the ‘Linha de Cascais’. The train journey takes around 40 minutes and costs €2.25 on your Viva Viagem Travel Card.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
As with most cities, the best place to stay in Lisbon depends on your personal preferences, your budget, and what you’re looking to get out of your trip.
We have an entire guide to choosing where to stay in Lisbon. For more detail, head over there and read that, which has an in-depth guide to each neighborhood with pros and cons, neighborhood highlights, and more.
But if you’re short on time, below are the highlights.
- Baixa or Chiado is the best area for first-time visitors to Lisbon. Baixa and Chiado are two of the most popular and central neighborhoods in Lisbon, with easy access to the majority of the city’s top attractions. We stayed there on our first trip, and it’s a fantastic, central home base for exploring. We stayed at Porto do Mar Apartments in Baixa, which we recommend. Or for a more budget-friendly option, check out Lost Lisbon’s Chiado House.
- Alfama for something more romantic and charming. Alfama is full of narrow cobblestone streets to get lost in and has some amazing views over the rest of the city. But there’s a tradeoff – it’s up a hill, and there are only a few ways to get up and down that aren’t walking. The area has many gorgeous boutique hotels and guesthouses, including Hotel Convento Do Salvador and the Archi-Pelago Alfama Design Suites.
- Bairro Alto for nightlife. To be in the middle of all the action after dark, stay in Bairro Alto, which is adjacent to Chiado on top of the hill. The neighborhood has everything from elegant wine bars and cool speakeasies to crowded nightclubs open until the early hours. It also has plenty of accommodation to suit all budgets, from stylish hotels like Casa das Janelas com Vista to boutique hostels like Independente Hostel and Suites.
Getting to Lisbon
Being Portugal’s capital and largest city, Lisbon is easily accessible from much of Europe, and there are plenty of relatively connections from North America. Flying is your best option for reaching Lisbon from most major cities, while the train is likely a better choice if you’re traveling within Portugal.
Arriving in Lisbon By Plane
Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS) is the city’s main international hub and the largest airport in Portugal. It’s served by the majority of European carriers.
There are direct flights to Lisbon from most major European cities, as well as a handful of cities in the US and Canada. From other destinations, you may need to connect in another city first.
Getting from Lisbon Airport to the City Center
The airport is located just 7 km north of central Lisbon, so getting to the city center is super quick and easy.
The metro is the cheapest method for traveling between the airport and the city center. But the connections aren’t great if you’re not staying in the central neighborhood of Baixa. The Aerobus is less regular but may actually be a better option for some people, with more plentiful stops in other areas of the city.
Below is some more information on the four main methods for traveling between the airport and the city center:
- By metro – Lisbon’s metro network connects the airport with the city center directly. The ‘Aeroporto – Saldanha’ line (red line) takes you to the city center in around 20 minutes. But you may have to switch to another line to reach your final destination. A one-way ticket costs €1.45, making it the cheapest method of transport from the airport. You’ll also need to purchase a reloadable €0.50 Viva Viagem card to use the metro.
- By bus – The Aerobus is a dedicated bus service that runs two routes between the airport and central Lisbon, stopping at various stops across the city. The bus departs from the airport every 20 minutes and the journey can take anywhere between 35-45 minutes, depending on your final destination and traffic. A one-way ticket costs 4€ per person.
- By taxi – Taxi is the most convenient option for getting from the airport if you’re traveling with lots of luggage or staying up the hill in Alfama. The ride takes approximately 20 minutes, depending on traffic, and should only cost you around €15-20 (make sure the taxi is metered). You can easily grab a taxi directly outside the airport arrivals terminal.
- By Uber – Uber is also available in Lisbon and is usually a little cheaper than the regular taxis, costing between €10-15 from the airport to the city center. But the downside is that the rideshare service can’t come directly to the terminal, so you’ll have to walk a little further to meet your driver.
Arriving By Train
The train is another easy way to travel between Lisbon and many other cities in Portugal, including Porto to the north and the beautiful Algarve to the south. But you shouldn’t rely on the train for traveling internationally, as routes are extremely limited.
Lisbon has several major train stations serving different areas of the city. Santa Apolónia is the station you’ll want to aim for if you’re staying centrally in Baixa, Chiado, or Alfama.
If your train arrives at Lisboa Oriente Station in the northeast of the city instead, you can jump on a quick connection to reach Santa Apolónia in just seven minutes.
These are a couple of the most common train routes to Lisbon:
- From Porto to Lisbon by train. The express train Alfa Pendular (AP) is the quickest way to travel between Porto and Lisbon, taking around two hours and forty-five minutes. But being the quickest and more luxurious option means that tickets can be fairly expensive. A cheaper option is the Intercity trains, called Intercidades (IC), which take around three hours thirty minutes. For what it’s worth, we took multiple IC trains, and it was plenty comfortable and super affordable, especially when you buy tickets in advance.
- From the Algarve to Lisbon by train. When traveling to Lisbon from the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast, you’ll need to catch the train from one of the larger cities such as Lagos or Faro. You can catch a direct train from Faro to Lisbon which takes around three hours. From Lagos, you’ll need to take a regional train to Tunes then transfer onto a direct train to Lisbon. The entire journey takes around three hours and thirty minutes.
Getting Around Lisbon
Despite its many hills, Lisbon is a great city to walk around. Most of the popular neighborhoods and iconic sites are within walking distance of each other. The city also has a comprehensive public transport network that can get you anywhere you need to go.
Like many other European cities, the best way to explore Lisbon is simply to walk. By navigating your way around on foot, you’ll get to see more of the city and discover new places along the way.
The one major downside of walking in Lisbon is the many hills. Outside of the downtown area of Baixa, Lisbon is a notoriously hilly city.
To reach many of the best neighborhoods and attractions, you’ll inevitably need to walk up and down the hills at some point during your visit. So make sure to wear sensible walking shoes and carry a bottle of water during the hotter months.
If you struggle with hills, you can also use public transport to get to the top of the hills then take a slow stroll back down.
Use Public Transportation
Lisbon also has a solid public transportation network for when you don’t feel like walking up another hill.
There’s a clean and efficient metro system, almost 100 public bus routes, charming wooden trams, and a modern streetcar. Plus, there are a handful of unusual elevators (funiculars) and outdoor lifts that make climbing the hills easy.
We’d recommend skipping the Santa Justa Lift, which has essentially become a tourist trap in recent years. You can walk through the mall or up the hill from Baixa without paying €5 or waiting in a long line. It is, however, worth walking out to the top of the lift for the view over Lisbon towards the Castelo.
Some useful public transport routes to know are:
- Tram 28 from Baixa to Alfama. This vintage tram is not only practical for traveling uphill from Baixa through Alfama, but it’s also one of the most scenic tram routes.
- Tram 15E from Baixa to Belem. The modern Tram 15 is the quickest way to travel from the city center to Belem, an outer neighborhood of Lisbon and a popular tourist destination.
How to Use Public Transport in Lisbon
To use public transport in Lisbon, you’ll need a Viva Viagem card. This can be bought at a metro station for €0.50, and reloaded with money as you need it. The Viva Viagem Card works for the metro, buses, trams, and elevators.
Alternatively, you can get an unlimited 24-hour travel pass. This might be a good idea on the day you head out to Belem, depending on how much you’ll be using public transit that day.
These are the current ticket rates as of 2022 (check up-to-date rates here):
- Single ride: €1.50 Euros (€1.35 if you’re using a Viva Card).
- Day Pass: €6.45 Euros.
Both taxis and rideshares are also readily available in Lisbon.
Public taxis are usually black and green and fares are relatively affordable compared to other European cities. Just make sure the taxi is metered and not a flat rate – trust us, we got scammed this way when we first arrived in Lisbon!
We also successfully used both Uber and Free Now, which is the taxi app we’ve used most often in Europe. Bolt is another popular option, though we haven’t used it ourselves.
However, it can be difficult to get a taxi in some parts of the city (like Alfama) with its narrow alleyways and one-way systems. Plus, there’s a chance you’ll end up stuck in slow-moving traffic around the city center. Public transport is often cheaper and faster than taxis when moving around central Lisbon.
When to Visit Lisbon
Thanks to its Mediterranean climate, Lisbon is a great year-round destination. The city is one of the warmest capitals in Europe, with extremely hot summers and comfortable, mild winters.
Our favorite time to visit Lisbon is during the early fall. At this time of year, the weather is still warm and sunny, but there’s less sweltering heat and smaller crowds than during the peak summer months.
We also recently visited Lisbon in December, and while certainly colder, it was still more than pleasant enough to enjoy the city.
Below is a more detailed run-through of the pros and cons of each season in Lisbon.
- Summer – Summers in Lisbon are hot and dry, with an average daily high of 84°F (29°C). Although, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach 85-100°F (30-38°C) on some days. July and August are the peak summer season in Lisbon, so you can expect large crowds and long lines at the city’s most famous attractions.
- Fall – This is our favorite season to visit Lisbon. During the fall, the weather is still warm and sunny (bordering on hot), and crowds are around, but nowhere near what you’d see at the height of summer.
- Winter – Winters in Lisbon are extremely mild, with the average daytime temperature sitting around 60°F (16°C) and evenings dropping to 45-50°F (8-10°C). We were in Lisbon just before Christmas for a few days, and it was generally lovely. The weather is more than pleasant enough to explore the city, making it a great destination to escape other much colder parts of Europe. The city can still experience some rain and strong winds though, so it’s a good idea to bring a few layers and a raincoat.
- Spring – The shoulder season of spring is another great time to visit Lisbon. The weather is starting to warm up again but the large summer crowds haven’t arrived in the city quite yet. Mid-June is a fun (but busy) time to visit as this is when the city celebrates Santo Antonio Festival, with vibrant processions and exciting parties filling the streets for days.
Planning a trip to Portugal?
Here are our other Portugal travel guides to help you plan an incredible trip (even if you have to eat gluten free!).
If there’s no link below, it means we’re still working on it – long, in-depth guides take time! We’re working on it, though, we promise.
- 10 Days in Portugal: Planning the Perfect Portugal Itinerary
- 25 Incredible Things to Do in Lisbon: A Complete Guide
- 3 Days in Lisbon: Planning the Perfect Lisbon Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Lisbon: Our Guide to 4 Amazing Places to Stay
- Gluten Free Lisbon: A Complete Guide to Lisbon’s Best Gluten Free Restaurants
- The Best Coffee in Lisbon: 9 Amazing Lisbon Coffee Shops to Add to Your List
- One Day in Porto: How to See the Best of Porto in a Day
- 3 Days in Porto: Planning the Perfect Porto Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Porto, Portugal: The 3 Best Places to Stay
- A Complete Guide to Planning an Algarve Road Trip (3-7 Days)
- Where to Stay on the Algarve: 5 Charming Towns to Use as a Home Base
- How to Hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail: Complete Trail Guide