Last Updated on 17 December, 2020 by Veronica
Today, I will write to you about the best things to do in Lisbon and some side trips you must do. Lisbon is a beautiful city that you should visit from time to time because it is just awesome.
Check out this awesome road trip itinerary: Portugal in 15 days.
Lisbon. Europe’s most western capital
Lisbon is a special city in many ways; it is the most important city in Portugal, and it’s its capital. It is located at the Tagus River’s mouth and estuary, which is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula.
The city was built on 7 hills making it a city with large slopes and ups and downs in which there are many viewpoints from which to observe the city and in which funiculars and elevators were built so that moving from the lowest to the highest areas of the city was not so difficult.
So, you have a few days to visit Lisbon? Then that means that there is homework because it’s going to be a non-stop vacation if you want to get an idea of this beautiful city. We are going to show you a lot of beautiful places and besides, we will recommend some side trips, like Sintra or CasCais, and the must-visit places when you go to Lisbon.
What to visit near Lisbon?
Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Guincho
Sintra is located at the foot of the mountain, just 34km from Lisbon. It’s a charming and very touristy village, with alleys in which to get lost. It also has the National Palace and the Toy Museum. However, they are not the center of attention of Sintra. The quintessential tourist attraction of this city is the Palacio da Pena, which is located at the top of the mountain.
You can climb the palace walking from the village, but it is a considerable walk, I recommend you get on by bus or car.
*Tip: if you go there on a weekend from June to September, you will find it overflowing with people, I recommend you go early in the morning. We went at about 09:00 am and parked our car without problems, three hours later it took an hour just to buy the ticket! and parking was mission impossible.
The Castle of Sintra has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful building with a mix of different architectural styles that served as a summer residence to the kings of Portugal.
You can visit the castle and the gardens. Although you have several ways to get to the castle, the one I recommend is the long tour that starts from the lower entrance and goes up the gardens for an established tour until you reach the castle.
The admission ticket includes a visit to Palacio da Pena and the gardens. Very close to the Palacio da Pena you have the Castelo dos Mouros, which is less preserved, although it has very good views, and it is not included in the ticket entrance.
Located in Sintra is the Quinta da Regaleira. It’s a small palace but is known for its beautiful gardens.
Cape Rock (Cabo da Roca) and Guincho
From Sintra, our next stop is Cabo de Roca and its cliffs, which are the most western point of Continental Europe.
It’s one of the most beautiful natural landscapes that we can find in the surrounding of Lisbon.
If you want an expensive souvenir, in the visitors’ center of Cabo de Roca, you can buy a diploma that proves that you’ve been in the most western point of continental Europe. To me it seems like a scam, you get charged 10 euros for giving you a paper that says you’ve been there.
For me, as it could not be otherwise, it is best to get to Cabo de Roca in your own car, but you can go by public transport, there is a bus that makes the route between Sintra and Cascais with a stop in Cabo da Roca. I have to tell you: there’s nothing here but this.
I love beaches, so, from Cabo da Roca we went to the beach of Guincho. The road to get there was a bit complicated and had many curves. This area has stunning dunes and when you reach the beach, you even have an interpretation center of the dunes and access to walkways that run through them. The sunset is beautiful from these beaches.
Cascais, very close to Lisbon
From Guincho to Cascais, there are only a few kilometers between them. Cascais is a city that went from being a fishing village to a Portuguese upper-class summer resort. You can stroll through its town, visit Praia dos Pescadores, enjoy some of its good fish restaurants and contemplate the Boca do Inferno, which is a grotto in the stone timed by the sea, but it doesn’t have much more worth reviewing either.
- Check Out: 1 day Side Trips from Lisbon
Best things to do in Lisbon city
First Recommendations: How to Get Around? Lisbon Card?
Lisbon is a beautiful city with a lot of history and full of charming corners. It’s not easy to visit by car, it’s difficult to park and it’s best to go by public transport, walking, and/or tourist bus. They still retain their famous trams that give a retro air to the city and the tuc tucs that are very practical but expensive.
To visit Lisbon I recommend you buy the Lisbon Card. It allows you to enter many monuments for free and others at a discount and you can also use public transport unlimitedly. You can buy it at any tourist office, there is one in the Commerce Square.
Lisbon’s Alfama Quarter
The Alfama district is a neighborhood with its own personality in Lisbon. It’s a neighborhood of Arab origin and is the oldest and most typical of Lisbon.
If you want to go to a restaurant for a dinner show, this is the neighborhood you have to go to. And this is the neighborhood in which we are going to start our visit to the city of Lisbon. If you go on Tuesday or on Saturday, you will find in this neighborhood the Feira da Ladra, which is a flea market with a lot of charm.
In this neighborhood, you will find a lot of monuments, buildings, and places of interest.
The National Pantheon of Lisbon
|Address: Campo de Santa Clara, 1100-471||Hours: 10:00 -17:00 hs|
|How to get there: Metro: Santa Apolónia (Linha Azul) or Tram: 28 (San Vicente)||Entrance: € 4 Included in Lisbon Card|
The National Pantheon was known as the Church of Santa Engracia. It’s a huge construction. It began in the late 17th century and was completed in 1966. It took them 3 centuries to finish it! That’s why people from Lisbon say whenever something is going to take a long time that “it’s going to be longer than the works of Santa Engracia…”
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, this building is officially a pantheon, and in it have been buried some Portuguese figures such as Amália Rodrigues or the presidents of Portugal. In addition, it has the cenotaphs of other Portuguese figures such as Vasco da Gama or even a footballer like Eusebio. The cenotaphs are empty tombs in honor of these people, they are actually buried elsewhere.
When you see the Pantheon you are struck by the dome that is huge and when you enter the marble-coated in two colors, white and red, the highest point lets the daylight pass through the cimborrium.
You can climb to the top of the dome and access a terrace that allows you to have spectacular views of the Alfama district and the estuary of the river, I recommend it. Judge for yourself.
The Lisbon Cathedral: La Sé
|Largo Santo António da Sé||Hours: 09:00-19:00. Treasure until 17:00 and closed on Sundays and public holidays|
|How to get there: Tram: 28 (Sé)||Prices. Cathedral: free. Cloister: € 2.50 and Treasury: € 2.50. Included in Lisbon Card|
Lisbon Cathedral is Romanesque style and is one of the must-sees in the Alfama district. In addition, it’s one of the few monuments that has survived the famous earthquake and other disasters. Its construction began in the mid-12th century on an ancient mosque after the reconquest of the city to the Muslims.
The Lisbon Cathedral was known as the Church of Santa Maria and became a cathedral at the end of the fourteenth century. Inside are the remains of Saint Vincent, patron saint of the city. It was completely restored in the early twentieth century.
St George’s Castle, Lisbon
|Address: Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo, s/n, 1100-129||Hours: 09:00 to 21:00 Hs|
|How to get there: Metro: Santa Apolónia (Linha Azul) or Tram: 28 (San Vicente)||Admission: € 8,50 30 % Discount with Lisbon Card|
St. George’s Castle has more than eight centuries of history and is a monument that stands out for its location on the highest hill in Lisbon. The climb is quite steep if you walk up. A quick, convenient, and free way to reach the castle is through the elevator located in the Baixa.
It was formerly known as Castelo dos Mouros, because it was a Muslim fortification recaptured by the first king of Portugal with the help of the Crusaders after a siege of several months.
During the following century and until the mid-16th century, the Castle of St. George lived its period of maximum splendor. After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the castle was left in ruins and did not begin to be restored until the 20th century.
The castle’s accesses: via the Arch of St. George. It has eleven towers through which you can walk. In addition, you can visit the courtyard of arms, the dungeons, and the Gate of Moniz that owes its name to the knight Martim Moniz who gave his life to prevent the door from closing and thus allow the passage to his companions who could take the castle.
Enjoy the views of Lisbon from the Castle because they are stunning. Inside the castle, you have to visit the Tower of Ulysses, which is a dark chamber where you can observe a panoramic view of the city in 360 degrees.
Santa Luzia Viewpoint
This viewpoint is on the descent towards the cathedral and the castle. As you will realize, Lisbon is full of viewpoints and all have beautiful and unique views of the city. You will discover that from each viewpoint you’ll see a different Lisbon. This viewpoint is beautiful and very frequented by artists and painters.
Casa Dos Bicos
|Address: Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 1100-135||Hours: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 18:00 (last entry at 17:30)|
|How to get there: Tram: 28 (Sé)||Admission: Adults: 3 euros, Students: 2 euros, Over 65 years old and under 12 years old: free admission|
Casa dos Bicos is named after its facade that is covered with peaks or bicos. It is not the only facade of its kind that we see in the Iberian Peninsula, we have also seen it in other cities in Spain.
It is a house well known in Lisbon for its peculiar facade and for the uneven design of its doors and windows.
House of Bicos is a former palace of the XVI century and is currently the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation.
Also in the Alfama neighborhood you can visit the Museo do Fado or some churches such as the church of Santa Luzia next to the viewpoint of the same name or the church of San Vicente do Fora.
Barrio de La Baixa, Chiado and Barrio Alto
Commerce Square (Praça do Comercio)
Located in the Baixa Pombalina, Praça do Comércio is one of the symbols of the city of Lisbon. In this square was the Royal Palace, but unfortunately, it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, like so many monuments of Portugal. After the earthquake, it was rebuilt with the shape it currently has and the equestrian statue of Jose I that was the ruling king when the earthquake occurred.
Here, you will find the largest and most important tourist office in Lisbon. Although, you also have another one in the Foz Palace that is on Avda. da Liberdade and you have another one in the Rossio.
The square is accessed by passing under the Arch of Via Augusta, which is the most commercial street in Lisbon. It is a very elaborate arch with sculptures of famous characters and has the Latin inscription “VIRTUTIBUS MAIORUM UT SIT OMNIBUS DOCUMENT” which means “May the virtue of the great be a teaching for all”.
To be able to take a good photo of Via Augusta and the square itself, I recommend you go up to the viewpoint at the top of the arch. It goes up by elevator and the view is very good as you can see. Entrance fee is 3 euros. The entrance is on one side on Via Augusta before entering the square on the left.
On the banks of the Tagus River is the square and from it come sea transports that take you to the other side of the estuary.
Rossio Square is the second most important square in Lisbon. Its official name is Praça Dom Pedro IV in honor of the first emperor of Brazil and Portuguese king. In fact, the column with the bronze statue in the center of the square is in his honor.
This plaza has been one of the most important parts of Lisbon for centuries since this is where the important announcements of the city were announced, the important ceremonies were held, and even executions. This is also the site where the inquisition took place…
The meaning of Rossio in Portuguese is “Terreno largo fruído em comum pelo povo”, that is, “long land enjoyed in common by the people”, hence this square is named this way.
In this square, there are two famous cafes, Café da Nicola and Pastelaria Suiça. They are very touristic and therefore expensive. The café da Nicola was first a bookstore and later for the last 200 years a café. The Pastelaria Suiza (Swiss pastry shop) is from the 1920s and was the first café in Lisbon to have a terrace.
Right next to Rossio Square in Largo Sao Domingos is the burnt church of Santo Domingo. This church was the largest in Lisbon. It was erected in the 13th century and was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. It was rebuilt but burned in 1959. Although the roofs were rehabilitated, some walls are still seen with the resulting scar of the fire.
In this church, it was where the inquisition held its public events.
In this same square, Largo Sao Domingos you will find a place called A Ginjinha. It’s a Lisbon classic where you can have a shot of this typical Lisbon drink. Ginjinha is a liqueur made with brandy, cherries, cinnamon, and sugar. If you go to Obidos, they will serve it to you in a shot glass made of chocolate.
Santa Justa Elevetor
This elevator is one of the best known in Lisbon. You can find it on the corner of Rua do Ouro and Rua de Santa Justa. You get in an elevator to a platform from which you can see something, but if you want to climb up the stairs you have to pay 5 euros if you don’t have the Lisbon Card.
The elevator was built to connect the Baixa (The lower part of Lisbon) with the Chiado neighborhood. It is 45 meters high and despite the line that you will find to climb, it is something that you should do in this city. If you go in the high season, you will have an hour or an hour and a half of a queue.
It was completed in 1902 and is the only elevator in Lisbon that is completely vertical. It still retains its style and decoration from the early nineteenth century.
I recommend you go late in the afternoon to watch the sunset; it is a nice image from the upper terrace.
San Pedro de Alcántara Viewpoint
This viewpoint offers fantastic views of a good part of Lisbon: The Castle of St. George, the Cathedral, the historic center, the church of Sao Vicente da Fora…
In this viewpoint, you have a tile panel that as a map telling you the most important monuments that you are seeing.
Mirador de Santa Catalina
The viewpoint of Santa Catalina is another of the most charming viewpoints in Lisbon. You’ll most likely find painters and street artists enlivening the moment.
Lisbon’s Belem neighborhood
To get to the Belem district, take tram number 15 or bus 728.
The Old Confectionery of Belem
Be sure to visit this confectionery where you will be able to take the pastéis of Belem that are cream strudel. They’re delicious! There are imitations in other pastries in Lisbon but this is where the originals are sold.
|Address: Rua Jerónimos 3, 1400||Hours: 10:00 to 18:30 (May-September; last entry at 18:00)|
Closed every Monday, January 1, May 1 and December 25.
|How to get there:|
Tram: 15 or Bus: 728
Stop: Mosteiro Jerónimos
|Admission: Adults: € 10|
Combined entrance Monastery of the Jeronimos + Tower of Belém: 12
Lisboa Card: free admission.
The Monastery of the Jeronimos of Lisbon was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.
It is one of the most characteristic examples of Manueline architecture in Portugal. This architecture is named like that because Manuel I ruled during the rise of this style. It was Manuel I who ordered the construction of this monastery to celebrate the return of Vasco da Gama from the Indias.
It is considered that the monastery was completed to be built in the sixteenth century, although some parts such as the bell tower or the western wing were completed in the nineteenth century. This fact is also seen because there are some style differences between these elements and the rest of the set.
It is called the Jeronimos Monastery because from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century it was the residence of the monks of the Order of St. Jerome. In the nineteenth century, it became part of the state’s heritage.
The fundamental points of the monastery are its impressive facade, its cloister, and the church. It is best to visit it quietly, without haste and with information, to know what you are seeing and the “why” of everything. Undoubtedly a recommended visit.
The Tower of Belem
|Address: Avenida Brasília, 1400-038||Hours: 10:00 to 18:30 (May-September; last entry at 18:00)|
Closed every Monday, January 1, May 1 and December 25.
|How to get there:|
Tram: 15 or Bus: 728
Stop: Mosteiro Jerónimos
|Admission: Adults: € 6|
Combined entrance Monastery of the Jeronimos + Tower of Belém: € 12
Lisboa Card: free admission.
The Belem Tower is another of the symbols par excellence of Lisbon. Like the monastery, it is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was built in the sixteenth century as a fortress to protect the entrance to the port, and therefore with defensive intentions. However, over time, this usefulness as a defensive element ceased to be necessary and became used as a place to collect taxes and as a prison during the dictatorship.
Monument to discoveries
This monument was built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th birthday of the death of Henry the Navigator. It is a caravel-shaped monument in which there are 33 faces of illustrious and representative characters of the Age of Discoveries. It is 52 meters high and you can access a viewpoint at the top and there’s an exhibition hall.
The Best Tours to Hire in Lisbon
In Lisbon, you can hire many tours to know the different attractions of the city. Our recommendations are:
Where to sleep in Lisbon
In Lisbon, you have a lot of options to choose accommodation, you have everything from camping and hostels to beautiful boutique hotels. So it’s up to your budget to choose what best suits your preferences.
We recommend the Portugal Boutique hotel, for its location, customer service, and for its comfort and charm. It is a 4-star hotel in the heart of Lisbon, just 200 metres from Rossio Square and also has free parking, ideal for road trip lovers. In Lisbon, it’s like hell to find a place to park on the street.
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Prepare your trip to Portugal!
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