There are many things to do in Lisbon, but the city can get crowded with tourists and it can be overwhelming dodging the crowds and enjoying the city. This post will explain how to make the most of the city without any hassle.
Lisbon is fast-becoming one of Europe’s most popular cities, finally getting the recognition it deserves with travelers and with very good reason: there’s a wide range of activities. I haven’t been there yet, though my sister has, on a two weeks trip to Spain and Portugal, and she keeps nagging me that I should visit Lisbon.
To view a list of places I have vowed to visit, check my post “10 places I would like to visit.”
I am keen to go, but I have such limited time at the moment (I hardly think I can spend more than 48 hours in Lisbon) that I don’t think I can spend more than a couple of days there, which means I have to plan everything in advance if I don’t want to waste any time scouting for activities. The good news is that a lot of the things to do in Lisbon can actually be booked online, so I can just show up with my vouchers and enjoy the city.
After doing a bit of research, and putting it together with my sister’s tips, I have come up with a list things to do in town that are totally hassle free and can be planned in advanced and enjoyed even by those that have limited time in the city.
21 Fun Things To Do In Lisbon
Go on a walking tour
I always say that walking is the best way of discovering a city, and I would imagine the Portuguese capital is no different. That’s why I recommend going on a guided walking tour of Lisbon as what to do in Lisbon to fully enjoy the city’s attractions, such as the Terreiro do Paço and the Imperial Arch; the Cathedral and other beautiful churches; as well as Casa dos Bicos.
Here’s a list of the best walking tours of Lisbon:
- Lisbon essential tour
- Best of Lisbon walk
- Best of Lisbon walking tour: Rossio, Chiado and Alfama
- Lisbon private customized walking tour with a local guide
- Get a local guide you through Lisbon
- Private 3-hour city walking tour
- Historical Lisbon neighborhood walking tour
- Gourmet walking tour and tastings
I also recommend getting some some skip the lines ticket as one of the top tips – they usually offer outstanding value and save the hassle of staying in line for a long time (which is a real nuisance, especially when time is limited!). Here is a list of the best skip the line tickets in Lisbon:
- Super Lisbon Combi – contains tickets to a bunch of attractions and a skip the line ticket to Castel Sao Jorge, for which tickets are not easy to get.
- Lisbon card
- Torre de Belem skip the line tickets
- Jeronimos Monastery skip the line tickets.
Ride Tram 28
One of the most popular, and perhaps touristy things to do is riding Tram 28. I guess one in 2 photos of Lisbon you’ll see is that of the yellow tram going up and down the hills. Tram 28 links Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique. If you think this is a strictly tourist activity, think again: locals also ride the tram at the end of their working day. The tram gets packed after 12:00 pm so if you plan on going on a ride, make sure to go earlier – unless you like the idea of mixing up with the locals!
Visit Alfama neighborhood (and listen to Fado music)
Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in town and visiting is among the list of ultimate things to do in Lisbon. It’s characterized by irregular winding medieval streets and alleyways that have been the neighborhood of fishermen for as long as anybody can remember.
Enjoying an authentic Fado music (the traditional music of Lisbon) show is what to do in Lisbon when in Alfama. Apparently it can get very emotional: my sister told me that she was glad she had tissues in her purse. Fado shows tickets can be purchased online in advance. Since it is a popular show, I highly recommend doing that.
Here’s some of the best tours of Alfama:
- Lisbon essential tour
- Lisbon Fado and Alfama tour
- Fado in Chiado show
- Fado show in Chiado
- Fado music of Lisbon 3 hour cultural walking tour
- Best of Lisbon walking tour: Rossio, Chiado and Alfama
- Segway tour of Alfama
- 2.5 hours private segway tour of Alfama
- Alfama district 2.5 hours walking tour
Take a street art tour
I love street art, and rumor has it that one of the coolest things to do in Lisbon is scouting for it. The thing with street art, though, is that one is either lucky enough to bump into it, like it happened to me in Tel Aviv, or it is better to really know where it is. Taking a street art tour may be what to do in Lisbon, then – and it can be also a cool way to learn more about the city.
These are some of the best street art tours of Lisbon:
Enjoy the amazing nightlife
It’s a fact: one of the coolest things to do in Lisbon is enjoying its fabulous nightlife. People who visit Lisbon will agree that Bairro Alto is the liveliest district in central Lisbon – well known for its vibrant bars and quirky pubs. People tend to spill out of the different bars and drink together on the thin, winding, cobbled streets. It is popular with students too so the prices of drinks are highly competitive.
Bairro Alto shuts down around midnight – but that doesn’t mean the fun stops! Going to Pink Street, down the hill, is what to do in Lisbon for anyone who wants to carry on partying.
Those who visit Lisbon won’t have a problem finding a street that’s pink in name, and pink in nature. It’s not often that one hat to look down to find out where they are! The nightclubs in Pink Street are bouncing until the sun comes up. Such good fun.
Make sure to also go on a pub crawl tour. They can even be booked online.
Here’s the best nightlife tours of Lisbon:
Ginjinha is a strong berry liquor that you can find in most cafés and that, despite being extremely sweet, locals seem to enjoy. You can have a shot or even try it with a wafer biscuit. Do as the locals do!
Eat all the sea food and go on a food tour
My sister and I grew up in Sardinia – we know a thing or two about good sea food. Eating seafood is a must in Lisbon. It’s quite possibly the freshest seafood you’ll ever have.
Lisbon is on the Atlantic Coast as well as other cities I have visited last summer during my Camino del Norte to Santiago de Compostela, such as Bilbao and San Sebastian. My sister and I compared the prices of food in Spain with those of Lisbon and it turned out that the food is cheaper and apparently, just as good. Eating seafood is definitely what to do in Lisbon.
To read more about my experience in Bilbao and San Sebastian, check my post “Seven Great Reasons To Visit The Basque Country.”
Speaking to the locals is what to do in Lisbon to get a better understanding of what the main local specialties are. Apparently, one type of fish comes up time and time again: sardines. Always listen to what the fishermen – who know this land, and this ocean better than anyone – recommend.
Make sure to eat at Cervejaria Ramiro, potentially the most popular and well-known seafood restaurant in town. Rumor has it that it’s busy no matter the time of day: in the middle of the afternoon or in the middle of the night. It’s better to book ahead. It’s also equally as popular with locals as it is with travelers – which I believe a sound indication of quality. No, it’s not as cheap as some other restaurants. But yes, it’s worth it.
These are some of the best food tours of Lisbon:
- Lisbon gourmet walking tour and tastings
- Private 3 hour food and wine tour
- Lisbon half day food tour
- Lisbon private food tour
Gorge on the famous pastries (and at the same time explore Belem)
One of the unmissable things to do in Lisbon is trying the most famous pastry, the Pastel de nata or Portuguese custard tart in English.
These delicious treats were created by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, one of the nicest areas to visit in Lisbon. The Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém is still serving them up. Going to Belem, a tranquil old town just a two-mile walk up the coast, is what to do in Lisbon when in search of a treat.
If the short journey to Belem seems too much, then Manteigaria does a killer pastry (the best in town according to trip advisor) and is located right where the areas of Bairro Alto and Chaido meet – if eating a Pastel de Nata is a must, this is a great alternative place to do so.
Head to a food market
Food markets are usually my go to places to get a bit of local action, wherever I go. I find that browsing through the stalls, looking at what people buy and eat, I get a better understanding of the local culture. For sure, going to a food market is a lot of fun when in Lisbon.
Make sure to head to Mercado de Alvalade Norte, which is open Monday to Saturday from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm. This isa farmer market where you can buy directly from the farmers. Head to the fish and seafood section to get fresh fish, and try out the breads in the bakery section.
Walk up the hills
Lisbon is built on seven hills (something which actually reminds me of Rome!), which are definitely among the top Lisbon attractions. The good news is that they provide a great way to burn off all the delicious food and drink that anybody traveling to Lisbon is bound to have. Walking up the hills is one the things to do when visiting Lisbon, for sure.
In any case, enjoying a tuc tuc guided tour or even an electric bike tour is what to do in Lisbon to get a different perspective of the city, see a great deal of it and have a bit of cheeky fun. I may give it a try, I do enjoy going around on a tuc tuc.
The Seven Hills of Lisbon, as they are known, are what the Portuguese capital is built upon. The hilly terrain gives the city a depth and distinctiveness unlike any other capital city one may travel to. The mood and aesthetics often differ wildly from one neighborhood to the next – or even the top of the hill, compared to the bottom. That’s why walking the Seven Hills is among the things to do in Lisbon.
Here’s some of the coolest tuk tuk tours of Lisbon:
- Lisbon 2 hour tuk tuk tour
- 7 Fado hills by tuk tuk
- Lisbon 1 hour tour by tuk tuk
- Lisbon 3 hour sightseeing tour by tuk tuk
- Lisbon 2 hour historic tram 28 tour by eco tuk tuk
- Lisbon guided city of hills tour by tuk tuk
If you prefer other modes of transportation, you can opt for bikes and even segways. Here are the best options:
Go to Feira da Ladra
If you have a passion for anything vintage, going to Feira da Ladra is one of the ultimate things to do in Lisbon. At this flea market, you can find literally anything – what’s a person’s garbage may well be your next treasure! It’s open Thursdays and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Shopaholics beware! Lisbon is packed with incredible shopping opportunities. Whether you like shopping for yourself or you are in search for the ultimate souvenir, shopping is what to do in Lisbon. Among the quirkiest souvenirs you can get in Lisbon there is high quality canned food (yes, that’s right!). Conserveira de Lisboa is the place to go. It became popular in the 1930s when canned food was a cheap alternative to fresh food, but now the quality of canned stuff has significantly increased! The best sellers are all the fish goodies – tuna, mackerel and the like.
Appreciate the outstanding value
One of the great things about Lisbon is that it is well connected to the rest of Europe via budget flights, and apparently once there the cost of living is actually minimal. It is a small investment for a great deal of fun.
Eating and drinking out does not have to be expensive at all. As always, my recommendation as a seasoned traveller is to stay away from the main pedestrian areas and city-centre squares. One of the things do to in Lisbon is to wander down towards the water for the cheapest sea food.
Eating out is what to do in Lisbon, and doing it regularly is very much part of the Portuguese culture, therefore locals dine out as readily as tourists, this keeps standards high and prices low.
Portuguese wine is also under-rated and much, much cheaper than imported wine from Spain, Italy or France. If interacting with the locals is one of the nicest things to do in Lisbon, asking the waiters for recommendations is a must – they’re a friendly bunch and as proud to sell local wine as they are to up-sell the imported variety!
One of the tips to save even more money is buying the Lisbon Card online. This can be valid for a period of 24, 48 or 72 hours (perfect for flash-packers); it allows free access to 23 museums in Lisbon and even work as a public transportation ticket.
Travelers coming from outside the Euro-zone may find that exchanging currency is what to do in Lisbon. In my case, as I come from the Euro-zone, I won’t need to exchange any currency. For those who do, I suggest using WeSwap, known as the people’s currency exchange. WeSwap allows travelers to swap currency among themselves so that they can avoid paying transaction or exchange fees and save money that they can better spend on their holidays.
Enjoy the colors and the sunsets
A bit like it’s more lauded Spanish cousin, Barcelona, Lisbon is a place synonymous with color. Taking in all the colors is one of the nicest things to do.
Given all the hills, it’s easy to miss sunset and important that to try and time the day and position to enjoy it at least one or two. The sun kisses off the multi-colored buildings delivering an incredible spectacle. Watching the sunset is definitely among the most romantic things you’ll do!
My sister gave me an incredible insider’s tip (she’s good at looking for those!). She mentioned that one great vantage point can be found from “Park” bar in Bairro Alto. Park is situated on the top level of a multi-story car park but don’t worry, it’s not as grey as it sounds. Once past the ground level and up the lift the view opens up and it is simply spectacular and there’s a cool young crowd and affordable drinks (standard for Lisbon). Going there for sunset is definitely a must.
Another great find for a high-rise cocktail is “Entrentanto” at the summit of Hotel Chiado. This has fantastic views over the houses and up to Castelo de S. Jorge, another one of Lisbon attractions.
Take a boat tour along the Tagus
Speaking of sunset and romance, make sure to go on a sail boat tour along the Tagus, and actually enjoy the sunset views from there, sipping a glass of champagne or an icy cold beer. I wonder if I would get sea sick there, as I did when I attempted to sail in Panama.
These are some of the best boat tours in Lisbon:
- Lisbon sunset sailing tour
- Lisbon private 2 hour sunset sailing tour
- Lisbon 2 hour Tagus river sailing cruise
- Lisbon 2 hour small group afternoon sailing tour
- Sailing in Lisbon 2 hour tour
Go to a soccer game
Despite hardly being a soccer fan, I truly enjoy going to the stadium for a game. I admit I hardly follow the game, but I love people’s watching, I enjoy the atmosphere and whenever I am in a different country I find it to be a fantastic way to get a bit of the local spirit. Portuguese people are massive soccer fans, so one of most fun things to do is going to a soccer game.
Luz Stadium is home of SL Benfica Football Club, one of the most famous Portuguese teams. If you don’t fancy going to a game, or there is no game at the time of your visit, you may still opt to go: the stadium has an interesting museum where you can learn more about the history of soccer in Portugal.
Take a day trip out of the city
My sister showed me marvelous photos of Sintra. I thought I would not have time to go, but then I realized they are so close to Lisbon and easy to reach that I may, actually. So, make sure to go on a day trip out of the city.
These are some of the best day trip tours from Lisbon:
- Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais full day tour from Lisbon
- Sintra and Cascais full day group tour from Lisbon
- Best of Sintra and Cascais full day tour from Lisbon
- Sintra Pena Palace full day tour from Lisbon
- Sintra full day tour from Lisbon with wine tasting
- Half day Sintra tour from Lisbon with transfers
- National Palace of Sintra fast track ticket
- National Palace of Sintra skip the line ticket
- Montserrate Palace skip the line ticket
Spend a day in Cascais
Cascais is one of the closest beach towns to Lisbon. It’s a lovely seaside town with a pretty center and the nice Praia da Ribeira beach. It’s a good place to hang out, get out of the city and enjoy some sun, so needless to say spending a day in Cascais is one of the nicest things to do. You can get there with the train that departs every 20 minutes from Cais do Sodré station. Or else, you can go there on one of the tours that also go to Sintra and Cabo da Roca that I have mentioned above.
Where to stay in Lisbon
As one of Western Europe’s absolute top cities, Lisbon is packed with good accommodation options for all budgets: there’s simply lots of great places to stay in Lisbon. Given the good value for money, I recommend staying at a fabulous hotel. My sister stayed at Solar Dos Mouros and told me wonders about it.
Here’s a selection of amazing places to stay in Lisbon:
- Hotel Solar Dos Mouros has lovely rooms and offers a scrumptious breakfast. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Lisbon Cheese and Wine Suites caters to people in search of unique experiences. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hotel Convento do Salvador is located in Alfama. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Belem 147 Apartment is perfect as a self-catering option. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Yes Lisbon Hostel is a great boutique hostel catering to budget travelers. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Have you ever been to Lisbon? What did you like the most there?
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