Portugal’s treasured capital is one of the most popular destinations in Europe. It’s one of the most loved and most colourful cities of the Old Continent. Lisbon harbours a plethora of history.
From fierce Reconquista knights to exotic Berber pirates—the city has seen them all. It’s the place to be if you are looking for an offbeat adventure in a Bohemian atmosphere.
Carmo Convent Ruins.
In 1775 on All Saints’ Day, Lisbon was struck by one of the deadliest earthquakes in history. The Carmo Convent Ruins stands in the middle of the city as a reminder of that awful day. The citizens of Lisbon left the convent roofless intentionally.
It’s been the heart of Lisbon since 1389. Within the property, you can find the Carmo Archeological museum. This piece of Gothic architecture is a unique place as it is a relic of an event that inspired a frenzy of religious and philosophical soul searching among prominent artists of the time.
See the Preserved Head of Diogo Alves.
It seems that the Portuguese had been fascinated by serial killers long before true crime shows came into existence. Perhaps a bit too fascinated considering that the University of Lisbon has kept the head of the first Portuguese serial killer. And, they’ve preserved it alarmingly well.
Avoid Tram 28.
Avoiding something is usually not considered to be a touristy activity, but trust me on this one. Trams are a symbol of Lisbon. It’d be a shame not to take a ride on one of the iconic, rickety trams of the city.
But, it would also be a shame to head for tram 28 as you won’t be able to see any of the sights from it. Instead, you’ll get to see a bunch of pickpockets trying to grab the wallets of dozens of tourists glued to the windows and taking selfies in an overcrowded tram.
Instead, choose one of the other routes that use the old trams. Tram 15, for instance, would be a much better choice as it goes to Belém and isn’t nearly as crowded.
Join the Pasteis de Nata Debate.
Pastéis de Nata is the most famous pastry in the country. The famous pastelaria, Pastéis de Belém, has been making it for more than 180 years. Now, that doesn’t mean they are best at baking the famous pastry—or does it?
Some think they have improved the original recipe while others think it’s perfect as it is. The only way to find out what’s true is to join the biggest debate amongst Lisboetas. When you visit Portugal’s capital city, make sure you visit pastelarias like Cristal, Aloma, Manteigaria, as well as Pastéis de Belém.
Have a Steak Sandwich for Dessert.
For some unknown reason, Lisboetas like to have a steak sandwich (prego) covered in squeezy mustard after a seafood dinner at a traditional seafood spot (marisqueira). No one knows how this thing started, but it’s interesting and quirky enough to try.
Watch the Sunset From the Top of a Car Park.
One of the best spots to watch the sun go down in Lisbon may be where you least expect it to be. The Park Bar offers one of the most fantastic views of the city. And, to get to the bar, you need to enter a certain car park and climb the stairs drenched in graffiti all the way to the top. When you see the stairs, you probably won’t believe there’s actually a bar at the end until you see it for yourself.
Start a New Adventure.
Visiting Lisbon can be a big adventure in itself, no doubt. But, it could also be the beginning of another great adventure. Lisbon is one of the possible starting points of one of the most famous pilgrimages in the world—Camino de Santiago. In English, it’s known as the Way of Saint James.
Routes that start in Portugal are known as Camino Portugues or the Portuguese way of St James. Spoiler alert: you don’t have to be religious to have a life-changing experience when walking the Camino de Santiago. Many walk the Camino de Santiago simply to unplug from technology and connect with nature, others, and themselves.
Try a Few Caipirinhas in Bairro Alto.
To see what the nightlife in Portugal has to offer, head down to Bairro Alto. The neighbourhood is a collection of narrow alleys filled with old houses that have been turned into bars.
Things tend to pick up around 22:00, although many bars open earlier. Cocktails are served in plastic cups, so you are free to take your drink outside and roam the small, lively streets of Bairro Alto.
Go Shopping at LX Factory.
Lisbon wouldn’t be a cool town if it didn’t have its own hipster hotspot. The LX Factory used to be a collection of factories. Now it hosts a handful of unique bars, restaurants, and boutique clothing stores. Just like Bairro Alto, it’s a great place to try out the local cuisine.
Stop by the Doll Hospital.
Have an old childhood doll that could use a makeover? Head down to the Doll Hospital! This weird shop has been mending toys and dolls for almost two centuries now. If you don’t have a doll that needs to be repaired, you can still enjoy their curious museum.
Experience Portuguese Melancholy.
Fado is Portuguese folk music that tells stories of lost loves. You don’t need to understand Portuguese to experience fado. The music is incredibly moving, and the performance is captivating melancholy. It leaves no one unaffected, even the ones who don’t speak the language.
Most fado performances take place in the Bairro Alto or Alfama, but you can find them all over the city. Pro tip: if you want to enjoy both good fado and good food, eat elsewhere and go to a show after they have finished serving food.
The city’s eclectic electricity museum used to be a power plant. In the early 2000s, the museum underwent a complete makeover. Visitors can enjoy interactive exhibits including a rotary art exhibit and Jacob’s ladder. The showrunners regularly change the contemporary art on display.
Buy Something at the Thieves’ Market.
Lisboetas really love their local vintage flea market—Feira da Ladra. They believe there has been a market at that location since the 12th century. Don’t let the name deceive you, all traders here are legal and legit.
You are sure to find a bargain somewhere among the countless small stalls filled with hand-made artisan goods, furniture, antiques, etc. You’d be surprised how many unique trinkets you can get for $20.
Walk Through Ajuda.
Ajuda is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. It’s one of the most underrated parts of Lisbon, even though it has plenty to offer! Ajuda is the home of one of the oldest and most beautiful botanical gardens in Portugal.
There’s also the Jeronimos Monastery (world heritage monument) and the extravagant Ajuda Palace.
Buy a Book at Palavra de Viajante.
As your adventure comes to an end, start planning your next trip! The best place to find inspiration for your next journey is the Palavra de Viajante. Palavra de Vijante is a nice, quaint bookstore that is completely dedicated to travel.
Wander around and hop from country to country to find your next destination.
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