From epic hillside views to haunting Fado music and impossibly pretty streetscapes, Lisbon, the city of hills, was born to knock your socks off with charm. UNESCO World Heritage Sites sit alongside rowdy bars and cobbled laneways that tempt you to lose your way, over and over again.
Exploring Lisbon means delving into cool neighborhoods and finding views that seem ever more incredible than the last.
It’s hard to put the camera down, with a gasp-worthy shot around every corner.
However, when you do, you’ll sink into an atmosphere that’s entirely unique to the ‘City of Seven Hills’.
Lisbon has a lot to offer, something for everyone, here are 15 offbeat things to do in the Portuguese capital.
Portugal has more to offer than just Lisbon, click here for 20 of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal.
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Top things to do in Lisbon, Portugal
As one of the oldest cities in western Europe, Lisbon is a feast of historic wonders.
On this story-filled backdrop, however, there’s always the undertone of trendy clubs, quirky shops, and gourmet bites that speak of the city’s modern, creative flare.
Get set for endless surprises in between mouthfuls of bacalhau – Portugal’s prized salted codfish – when you visit Lisbon.
Jump on the tram
Not only do they get you around with ease, but Lisbon’s historic trams let you experience a transportation system that’s been going strong since the 19th century.
Rattling their way around town, you’ll come to love the sound of the vintage yellow carriages, called Remodelado, and the convenience of the modern Articulado.
The number 28 tram is the most popular for visitors, connecting Martim Moniz with Campo Ourique while crossing the districts you’ll want to check out.
Not quite so romantic is the modern number 15, but it’s a great way to get from the city center to Belém, with scenic river views along the way.
If you instead decide to walk around Lisbon, good shoes essential. Not sure which shoes you should wear? Here´s a guide for the 10 best shoes for walking in Europe.
Take your time exploring Alfama
If you dream of exploring a maze of cobbled streets filled with ancient houses and secrets of the past, Alfama will be among your top reasons to visit Lisbon.
The atmospheric streets wind up and downhills. While this might provide a bit of a workout, you won’t even notice among the rich heritage and artisan vibe of the city’s oldest neighborhood.
Historically known for the poverty, grit, and grime of sailors and dock workers, Alfama is now almost too cool for school under the gaze of its colorful and ancient buildings.
Climb up to Sao Jorge castle for 360-degree views, admire the majestic Lisbon Cathedral and head to a hole-in-the-wall bar to hear Fado music.
Most of all, though, it’s an absolute must to just let yourself get lost here in lanes filled with street art, cafes, and a buzzing social vibe.
If you want to buy something unique, shop at the famous Feira da Ladra, commonly known as the ‘thieves’ market’.
Bask in the magnificence of Baixa
One of the world’s biggest ever recorded earthquakes, along with a tsunami, destroyed the Baixa district in 1755.
Rebuilt in the neoclassical style, it’s now the city’s main tourist district, complete with grand architecture, lively plazas, and high-end shopping opportunities.
There’s more to it than meets the tourist-weary eye though, beyond the impressive Commerce Square.
Downtown Lisbon is the home of the world’s oldest operating bookstore, Livraria Bertrand Chiado. Pop into the Museum of Design and Fashion, ride the Elevador de Santa Justa from the low town to the high town, and fill up on cured meat, cheese, and sangria at the Mercado da Baixa food court.
Live it up in Bairro Alto and Chiado
Within easy walking distance of the Baixa district and each other, Chiado and Bairro Alto are the neighborhoods to visit for artsy cafes, theatres, and nightlife with a bohemian vibe.
Chiado’s claim to bohemian fame is the cafe A Brasileira, a past haunt of a poet, Fernando Pessoa, and a long line of romantic intellectuals and creatives.
This is an ideal neighborhood for simply strolling, shopping, and sipping coffee on sunny outdoor terraces, before heading to the theatre by night.
On the other hand, Bairro Alto’s quiet, picturesque streets come alive after sunset, with rooftop terraces for cocktails, Fado shows, indie bars, and plenty of festive action happening out on the streets of the City of Seven Hills.
The best approach is to bar-hop through the cobbled lanes and find the vibe that suits you, as there’s something fun for everyone.
Chill out in Belém
There’s plenty to see in Belém, with its leafy green spaces, river views, peaceful pathways, and succulent seafood restaurants. This is the spot to chill out and relax after traipsing up and down the hills of Lisbon.
You’ll see the iconic landmark of Belém Tower, with its rhinoceros gargoyle and Arabic watchtowers. For an even better view, take a boat trip on the Tagus River.
Jeronimos Monastery is another sight to behold, a World Heritage monument built on the site where Vasco Da Gama spent his last night before leaving for India.
Then, there’s Belém Palace, resting elegantly upon a hill with its pink-tinged exterior offsetting gorgeous landscaped gardens.
No visit to Belém is complete without a taste of cinnamon-topped egg custard tarts from Pastéis de Belém.
View-hop around town
Obviously, this city of seven hills has a whole lot of views to discover. Spread across the city, terraces – known as Miradouros – offer cafes and panoramas you’ll never get sick of admiring while sipping sangria.
You’ve definitely seen the Insta-worthy views of Lisbon’s orange rooftops and pastel buildings from Miradouro Da Portas Do Sol.
A garden setting accompanies the endless horizons at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. Have a snack at the cafe at Miradouro da Graça, especially at sunset.
The highest viewpoint is Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. With the castle sitting on the opposite hill, it’s also one of the most romantic spots in the city. You’ll have a particularly wonderful view of Lisbon’s seven hills.
Take a day trip to Sintra
If you’re visiting Sintra for a day, you’ll find yourself truly spoiled for choice when it comes to site-seeing. The historic town is located just a short hop from Lisbon and is dotted with landmarks and tourist sites.
The striking Palácio da Pena, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, could easily fit the bill as yet another Disney palace. But plan wisely, Sintra is often completely covered in mist, making it actually difficult to see the amazing sites.
When to visit Lisbon Hills
It’s always a good time to visit Lisbon, with loads of sunshine for much of the year.
However, if you’re looking to save some money or avoid the prime tourist rush of summer, go between March and May or September and October.
You’ll find temperatures that are perfect for exploration as well as cheaper rates for most things.
How to get to Lisbon
There are direct flights from across major cities in Europe to Lisbon, along with easy connecting flights from major global cities.
The Aeroporto de Portela is the biggest airport in Portugal, and you can take the Metro, buses, or taxis to reach the city in about 30 minutes. If you’re traveling from Spain, there’s an overnight train from Madrid too.
A popular destination to visit after Lisbon is the island of Maderia, which is less than 2 hours flight away.
How to get around Lisbon
Lisbon is a walker’s paradise, and this is the best way to run into unusual sights and surprises off the tourist track. Getting around Lisbon is simple, with great lanes to walk along, as well as the world-famous trams.
Other than the tram system, you can hop on the Metro or buses for short trips. For day trips, catch the train to Sintra or Cascais, or further afield in Portugal.
Best places to stay in Lisbon
First of all, choose the district that suits you best, whether that’s to be near the nightlight in Barrio Alto or Cais do Sodre, the colorful character of Alfama or a less touristy area, like Graca.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to hostels and budget-friendly hotels.
Money and costs
As far as European capital cities go, Lisbon is one of the least expensive and offers great value for money.
On a budget, €50 a day will certainly get you by for a hostel room, food and a bit left over for fun. It’s best to get a Lisboa card for frequent rides on buses, trams, and the metro, which is €6.40 for an unlimited, 24-hour pass.
In terms of food, expect to pay about €6 for a meal in a central cafe or food court and €1.50 for a beer in a local venue. Avoid tourist restaurants, and you’ll eat like a king on a budget.
Lisbon travel tips
Lisbon is a safe, welcoming city that’s both swarming with tourists and full of local pockets of authenticity. Because of the ‘tourist’ side of things, of course, there are pickpockets and scams around that are easy to avoid when you remain aware.
You can also expect cheeky, but harmless drug dealers selling what they’ve got in some areas, sometimes after they’ve tried to sell you sunglasses.
Endlessly quirky, always fascinating, and breathtakingly picturesque, be very prepared to have those socks knocked off by Lisbon’s spellbinding allure.
Final thoughts on Portugal’s capital city
This wonderful city is truly one of a kind. If you’re looking for culture, art, food, and just a great vibe, there is no better city to head to. You needn’t even sign yourself up for a thousand tours and activities, because just strolling through the lanes is entertainment enough.
The seven hills of Lisbon are a large part of why this spot is so popular with Portuguese locals and tourists alike. The view gained from the top of any of the hills is breathtaking, with the red brick roofs against the blue sky and the Atlantic ocean in the distance.
What more do you need to know? Portugal is a clear winner when it comes to a fantastic vacation destination. So pack your bags, remember the sunscreen, and get ready to set off on a grand adventure!
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