Overlooking the mighty Tagus River, Lisbon is a spectacular coastal city known for its ornate architecture, charming historic neighborhoods, and breathtaking water views. And as Portugal’s capital, there are plenty of things to do in Lisbon for history buffs, nature lovers, and culture seekers.
Although you could easily spend weeks or even months exploring and eating your way through the city, you should at least stay for two or three days to see most of the major sites. And if you plan on making day trips to Sintra or the Arrabida National Park, you might consider staying a few extra days.
So, let’s talk more about all the fun things to do in Lisbon!
Things to Do and See in Lisbon
If you’re in Lisbon for 2 or 3 days, make sure to check out these 17 things to do in the city and add them to your Lisbon itinerary!
Take a Ride on Tram 28
Hitching a ride on the iconic yellow Tram 28 is a must-do for any traveler visiting Lisbon. It starts in the hills of the Graça neighborhood and winds through the narrow alleys and cobblestone streets through Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela while taking you to some of the top sights and attractions in the city.
Although this tram was once used by locals as public transport, it’s now mostly reserved for tourists. You can also hop aboard one of the other tram lines in the city if you’re looking to ride with locals!
Go on a Day Trip to Sintra
Although it’s not technically in Lisbon, Sintra is a historical town full of colorful castles, ornate Baroque churches, and extravagant palaces, which still means it’s worth adding to your Lisbon itinerary. Plus, it’s just 40-minutes away by train, so there’s no excuse not to visit!
You can also choose to combine a trip to Sintra with a trip to the coastal town of Cascais, or you can explore the landscape by doing a mountain bike tour of Sintra National Park.
Ride the Santa Justa Elevator
As one of the more unique things to do in Lisbon, this vertical elevator will whisk you 45-meters (27 feet) from the Baixa neighborhood to the Largo do Carmo. It was originally built to help transport people up the hill, although it is now primarily a tourist attraction thanks to its scenic viewing platform overlooking the city.
Visit the Sun-Soaked Beaches
Escape the city and spend the day swimming or working on your tan at one of the many beaches surrounding Lisbon. After all, Portugal has an average of 300 sunny days a year, so there are plenty of opportunities to hit the beach!
Cascais is an upscale resort town with several amazing beaches, including Praia da Conceição and Praia da Duquesa. You can also cross the bridge over to Costa da Caparica or head further south to the Tróia Peninsula for a day of sand and surf.
Eat like a Local
Lisbon is a gastronomic city, with a seemingly endless number of restaurants, bars, and cafes where you can eat like a King. It’s hard to decide which places to visit, which is why this locally-led food tour is a great option. You’ll visit the local markets, try traditional dishes and drinks, and explore the culinary side of Lisbon that you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Visit the Torre de Belem
Perched on the banks of the Tagus River, this fortification tower has been a landmark in the city for over 500 years. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was originally built as a watchtower, although it was also used as a lighthouse and customs office for incoming explorers.
It’s located in the Belem neighborhood, which is just a short tram or cab ride west of downtown. A wonderful thing to do when in Lisbon is touring the inside of the tower. Although it’s also nice to just admire the stunning architecture from the outside.
Soak up Some History
With a history that dates back almost 3,000 years, you can bet that Lisbon has plenty of historic sights worth checking out. Talk a walk through the fortified São Jorge Castle, admire 18th century Aqueduto das Águas Livres, or step inside the stunning Estrela Basilica.
You also can’t miss the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument that’s perched on the bank of the Tagus or the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Jerónimos Monastery. You can explore these sights on your own, or with a full-day guided tour with your very own historian. If, after all of that, you’re still craving a bit of history, then stop by the Lisboa Story Centre to see more artifacts, exhibits, and videos about Lisbon’s fascinating past.
Visit a Museum
On a cold, rainy day, you can still find some fun things to do in Lisbon. For art lovers, we recommend checking out the National Museum of Ancient Art or the Museum of the Orient. You can also visit the National Tile Museum to learn about the beautiful traditional azulejo tiles that Lisbon is known for.
Go Surfing in the Ocean
The Portuguese coast is considered one of the best destinations in the world for surfing, with some of the best spots located just a short drive from downtown Lisbon. Carcavelos, Costa da Caparica, and Praia da Poca have ideal surfing conditions year-round and many surf shops where you can rent gear and equipment. If you’ve never surfed before – don’t worry! Consider taking beginner surf lessons and you’ll be hanging ten in no time.
Visit Some Markets
Lisbon is a shopper’s paradise, with tons of local markets where you can peruse stall after stall of whatever your heart desires. For antiques and vintage items, hit up the ever popular Feira da Ladra market (Tuesday & Saturday 9 am – 6 pm), which has been in business since the late 1800s. Or visit the LX Factory Sunday Market for local gifts and handmade clothing and jewelry (Sunday 11 am – 7 pm).
Foodies are also spoiled for choice when it comes to markets. The Time Out Market is known for its hip eateries and trendy bars, but it also has a fish and produce section that’s open until 2 pm each day. Or you can visit the Mercado De Campo De Ourique, which also has gourmet stalls and a lively fresh market area.
You can’t visit Lisbon without trying ginjinha. This boozy beverage is sour cherry-infused alcohol that’s mixed with sugar and spices and served in a shot glass (or chocolate cup). Sometimes it’s even served with a whole cherry at the bottom of the glass!
You can try this traditional spirit in almost every bar in town, although visit A Ginjinha Espinheira, Ginjinha Sem Rival, or Ginja de Alfama is recommended for a truly authentic Portuguese experience.
Visit Cabo da Roca
This awe-inspiring landscape of Cabo da Roca may just be 40-minutes from downtown Lisbon, but it feels like an entirely different world. The dramatic 100-meter cliffs and crashing ocean waves are nothing short of breathtaking. You can visit the lighthouse that sits at the top or explore one of the many several great beaches nearby.
Listen to Traditional Fado Music
Fado is a traditional style of music that originated in Lisbon in the late 1800s. The music has soulful melodies and haunting lyrics that tell stories of longing for your loved ones. Seeing Fado performed live in one of the many Fado houses in the city, like this Fado dinner experience in the Alfama, is a very moving experience and one of the top things to do in Lisbon at night.
Cruise Down the Tagus River
On a warm day, taking a boat down the Tagus River is easily one of the most romantic things to do in Lisbon. There’s nothing like feeling the heat of the sun and fresh breeze coming from the Atlantic as you sail past the bridges and city skyline.
This 2-hour sunset tour takes you to many of the sites along the river, including the 25th of April Bridge and the iconic Torre de Belem. More adventurous travelers can choose to explore the river by kayak instead with this guided Kayak tour of Lisbon.
See Lisbon Through a Local’s Eyes
If you’re eager to step off-the-beaten path and experience Lisbon like a local, then this guided walking tour is for you. You’ll wander the streets of Bairro Alto and Alfama with a local while visiting some of the most famous monuments in the city. You’ll also get to sample snacks and drinks from small businesses that you’d never find in the guidebooks!
Admire the Street Art
Although Lisbon is known for its traditional tiled buildings, parts of the city are also covered in street art. Adorning the walls and buildings of the Alfama, Barrio Alto, Graça, and Belem neighborhoods are larger-than-life murals and colorful graffiti by local and internationally acclaimed artists.
Wandering around the city looking for street art is a nice way to explore Lisbon. However, you can also book this Alternative Walking Tour with a guide who can show you the best artists and masterpieces in town.
Take a Day Trip to Arrabida National Park
Another wonderful thing to do in Lisbon is taking a 40-minute drive south to this beautiful natural park on the Setúbal Peninsula. It’s known for its lush covered mountains, soft white sand beaches, and soaring limestone cliffs that paint the backdrop for numerous outdoor activities.
Besides lying on the beach, you can spend your day hiking through the mountains or kayaking along the turquoise blue waters. Keep an eye out for sea creatures – this park is home to a wild pod of bottlenose dolphins.
Tip to save money: Get the Lisbon city card and enjoy unlimited travel on city transport, and free admission to 37 museums and historic buildings.
Where to stay in Lisbon?
There are many hostels, hotels, and rentals in Lisbon in every price range. There are many nice suburbs to spend your nights in Lisbon, like Baixa & Rossio, Alfalma or Belem. To make it a bit easier, we’ve listed some of our top picks below:
- Budget: Living Lounge Hostel (single, double and dorm rooms available)
- Budget: Hub Lisbon Patio Hostel (twin, double, family and dorm rooms available)
- Midrange: Be Lisbon Residence Marquês (twin and triple rooms available)
Tip to save money: Book your stays with hotels.com and get a free night for every 10 nights you stay.
How to get around in Lisbon?
Although it’s possible to walk from neighborhood to neighborhood, keep in mind that Lisbon is extremely hilly (after all, it is called the City of Seven Hills). Save your energy and tour the city via a hop-on hop-off bus instead. Not only will it take you to most places in the city, but you’ll also learn more about Lisbon culture and history with the included audio tour.
These were our top 17 things to do and see while visiting Lisbon. If you’re ready to explore more of Portugal, also check out our other Portugal guides.