Portugal’s capital city is a must-visit for anyone coming to Portugal, and there is no shortage of amazing things to do in Lisbon. Grand monuments to the glory of past kings and explorers, stunning buildings, charming narrow streets, epic viewpoints and a vibrant local culture; you’ll find them all in Lisbon.
But where do you start? What’s worth a visit and what’s not? Should you head for the best landmarks in Portugal? Are you going to spend only one day in the city or will you have more time to explore it fully? French travel blogger Kevin Mercier suggests several things to do in Lisbon. Read on:
- 16 Things to Do in Lisbon
- 1- See the Torre de Belém
- 2- Visit the MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
- 3 – Taste ALL of the Foods in a Covered Market
- 4- Chill on the Beach
- 5- Climb the Cristo Rei Statue
- 6- See the Praça do Comércio from Above
- 7- Go on a Street Art Hunt
- 8- Watch the Sunrise at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol
- 9- Climb the Elevador de Santa Justa
- 10- Watch the Sunset at the Elevador Panoramico da Boca do Vento
- 11- Taste the Pastéis de Nata
- 12- See the 2nd Longest Bridge in Europe
- 13- Chase the Iconic Yellow Tram
- 14- Enjoy a Live Fado Show
- 15- Go on a River Cruise on the Tagus River
- 16- Go for a Day Trip to Sintra
- 16 Things to Do in Lisbon
16 Things to Do in Lisbon
Ready to explore the city? Find below the best things to see and do in Lisbon, and add them to your must-visit list!
1- See the Torre de Belém
The first item on our list of the best things to see in Lisbon is the Torre de Belém or Belém Tower.
It’s a massive medieval tower, towering at 30 meters (98 feet) above the ocean.
The tower was part of the defence system on the Tagus river, at the entrance of Lisbon, and it’s truly an impressive monument.
It’s my favourite go-to place to watch the sunrise in Lisbon and going there early morning, before the crowds rush in, and watching the changing colours in the sky over this ancient tower is a beautiful experience.
If you ever get tired of looking at it (I highly doubt you will), you can even go inside!
You can explore the inside of the tower, and climb the narrow stairs up the tower, where you’ll have an epic view of the Tagus River and the Ponte 25 de Abril in the background.
2- Visit the MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Right next to the Belém Tower is the MAAT, the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.
The building itself is an excellent piece of architecture, and you can walk to the top for a great view of the neighbourhood.
If it’s raining and you’re looking for something to do indoors, then visiting the museum is high on the list.
The museum is in two parts: the museum of modern art, and the museum of electricity in the old coal power plant.
When walking to the museum from the Belém Tower, you’ll cross the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a massive statue built in 1940 to the glory of the Portuguese explorers.
If you have time to spare, climb to the top of the statue!
Buy a Lisbon Pass for 24, 48 and 72-hour entry to several attractions.
3 – Taste ALL of the Foods in a Covered Market
Are you a sucker for great food? Then you’ll love all the covered markets in Lisbon!
I love going to a covered market: first to enjoy the energy of the place, and second to taste all of the foods there, of course!
Try the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, one of the most famous covered markets.
In all of the stalls, you’ll find delicious food from the best chefs in town, and some fresh local food (plus specialties from around the world, too).
Here are a few other markets to visit (and by « visit » I mean « eat everything there »):
- Mercado de Campo de Ourique
- Bairro Alto market
- Mercado 31 de Janeiro
4- Chill on the Beach
If you’re visiting Portugal with the kids, one of the fun activities is to spend time at the beach.
Many people don’t realize that Lisbon has beaches and while most of the beaches are a bit further from the centre, there are a couple of beaches right in the city.
Lisbon is known for having great weather, so one of the great things to do while in the city is to go to the beach and chill on the warm sand.
The two beaches in the centre are:
- Praia do Dafundo
- Ribeira das Naus beach
Granted, these are not the best beaches in this part of Portugal, but there are smack in the centre and easily reachable by foot or bus!
If you have more time, I recommend taking the bus or the train to go a bit further from the city centre, to chill on some great beaches.
Here are a few of the best beaches around Lisbon:
- Praia do Meco
- Praia da Comporta
- Praia da Adraga
- Praia Grande
- Praia das Maçãs
5- Climb the Cristo Rei Statue
Alright, this one is my favourite spot in Lisbon and one of the best places to see the sunrise!
The Cristo Rei statue, or Sanctuary of Christ the King, is a colossal monument towering 110 meters above the ground, with a statue of Jesus on top.
It can be seen from far away, and it’s one of the symbols of Lisbon.
It’s technically not in Lisbon, as you’ll need to cross the 25 de Abril bridge to get to it.
When you reach the statue, you can either go right below it, in front of the river, where you’ll have one of the best views of the Ponte 25 de Abril over the Tagus estuary.
Climb up the top of the monument (right at the base of the statue), to get a new perspective over this famous bridge.
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- Barcelona Bike Tour
- Andalucia Road Trip
- Santillana del Mar
6- See the Praça do Comércio from Above
Speaking of a new perspective, did you know you could see the Praça do Comércio from above?
The Praça do Comércio, or Commercial Square, is one of the most famous plazas in Lisbon.
Most people visit the square from the ground, but you can see it from high up.
On the plaza, there is a big triumphal arch, the Arco da Rua Augusta.
Well, you can go inside the arch, and use the spiral staircase to go up the top, where you’ll have a truly unique view of the Praça do Comércio.
Tickets to climb the arch are 3€, and there are several tours that explore Commercial Square.
7- Go on a Street Art Hunt
In Lisbon, in addition to all of the beautiful monuments and viewpoints, there is a growing street art scene, and you can find tons of street arts around the city.
If you want something unique to do in Lisbon, go on a street art hunt.
Stroll around the city looking for unique graffiti on walls, under bridges and on the streets.
Here are a few places to find street art in Lisbon to get you started:
- Rua da Vinha, Bairro Alto
- Travessa dos Fiéis de Deus, Barro Alto
- Rua Natália Correia, Graça
- Rua Nova do Carvalho
8- Watch the Sunrise at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol
In Lisbon, you’ll find plenty of miradouros, which are viewpoints in Portuguese.
One of my favourite viewpoint for sunrise is the Miradouro das Portas do Sol.
Located in the centre, next to the Lisbon Cathedral, this viewpoint offers an unobstructed view over the Tagus river to your right, and over two gorgeous monuments in front of you: the church of São Vincente de Fora and the National Pantheon.
Grab a coffee and a sweet pastry as a takeaway, then head to the miradouro to enjoy a breakfast with a view!
9- Climb the Elevador de Santa Justa
The Elevador de Santa Justa is a lift located in Baixa, in Lisbon city centre.
What’s so special about a lift, you ask?
Well, this lift is a masterpiece of architecture, and it’s often called the Eiffel Tower of Portugal.
It was indeed built by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard.
It’s a tall iron tower, with fine wrought-iron detail.
Initially built to connect two neighbourhoods of Lisbon, it was a central part of the public transport network.
Now it’s a must-see in Lisbon attraction.
You can come to see the lift itself, you can take a ride on the elevator to the top, or you can go around to get to the top of the viewing platform, for a great view over the city centre.
10- Watch the Sunset at the Elevador Panoramico da Boca do Vento
We saw above a few great spots for sunrise in the city, but what about sunset?
Well, one of my favourite spots for sunset is the Elevador Panoramico da Boca do Vento.
It’s next to the Cristo Rei, and it’s a great alternative spot to see the sunset over the Tagus River and the red Lisbon bridge.
Oh, and did I mention you can bungee jump from the top?
The bottom of the elevator is equally as nice as the top viewing platform and there is a small beach, which is an excellent spot for a sunset stroll.
11- Taste the Pastéis de Nata
Pastéis de Nata is probably one of the most famous Portuguese dishes in the world.
This sweet custard egg tart is delicious, and you need to try one when you visit Lisbon.
That is if you can resist eating more than one.
I know I can’t, and always end up eating a bunch of them.
You will find pastéis de nata almost everywhere, most bakeries and restaurants have them, so pick a place and order some!
Among the best places to try this sweet pastry is the Pastéis de Belém bakery and Aloma in Campo Ourique.
12- See the 2nd Longest Bridge in Europe
The Ponte 25 de Abril isn’t the second longest bridge in Europe.
I’m talking about another bridge in Lisbon: the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
This cable-stayed bridge with six lanes crosses the Tagus River and spans over 12.3 kilometres (7.6 miles).
It’s officially the second-longest bridge in Europe, right after the Crimean bridge in Crimea.
While it’s not as stunning as the Ponte 25 de Abril, the Ponte Vasco da Gama is impressive due to its sheer size.
The best ways to see the bridge is either from the top of the Torre Vasco da Gama or the Jardim do Passeio dos Heróis do Mar, a garden right under the bridge.
13- Chase the Iconic Yellow Tram
Can you say you’ve been to Lisbon if you don’t have a photo with the iconic yellow tram?
Ok, yes, you can, do whatever the hell you want.
But hey! Chasing the yellow tram is a cool thing to do while you’re in Lisbon.
These trams have become the symbol of the city, and whether you choose the hop on one of the trams to ride through the city, or walk by one to take a photo, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
There are different trams in the city: cable cars going uphill and pulled by a huge cable, and electric trams.
These are my pick of the best spots to see the tram:
- Ascensor de Bica
- Lisbon Cathedral
- Basílica da Estrela
If you’re planning to ride the 28 E line, make sure to be there first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. Buy your hop-on hop-off tram and funicular ticket here.
14- Enjoy a Live Fado Show
Fado is a form of music that comes from the 1820s in Lisbon; it’s played with a guitar and sung with melancholy.
It’s so associated with Lisbon that it was elevated to the World Heritage status by the UNESCO, as a symbol of the city and Portugal.
If you want to discover the traditional side of Lisbon, one of the best ways is to attend a live Fado show, in a bar or café.
To learn about the fascinating history of Fado, visit the Fado Museum in Alfama.
Museu do Fado is at Alfama, Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 1, 1100-139 Lisboa, Portugal.
15- Go on a River Cruise on the Tagus River
Lisbon is built next to the Tejo river, which flows through the city.
To visit the city, an alternative to the traditional walking tour is to discover the city from the river.
Hop on a boat and see the city from a different perspective.
There are different types of boat trips you can take, but they all make for a great activity:
- take the Ferry from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas (Cristo Rei statue)
- cruise from Cais do Sodré to Belém on a Lisboat
- go on a sailing boat at sunset for a lovely evening
16- Go for a Day Trip to Sintra
And finally, the last of our 16 things to see in Lisbon: going for a day trip to Sintra.
While this is not technically in Lisbon, it’s a fantastic activity if you have extra days to spare in Portugal.
Sintra is an area west of Lisbon, famous for its stunning palaces: Pena Palace, Sintra Palace, Castelos dos Mouros and Quinta da Regaleira.
It’s easy to reach by train in 40 minutes, and a round trip ticket only costs 4.30€!
So there you have them, the 16 best things to do in Lisbon!
I hope you found great ideas for your upcoming trip to Portugal capital city, and that you’ll have a great time there.
Kevin is a French travel blogger and photographer who lives in Paris. He documents his travels through photos and written travel guides and shares his adventures with the world on Kevmrc.com.