The top things to do in Lisbon

Where to explore, eat and shop in this vibrant city

If you’re heading to Portugal for the first time and are wondering what to do in Lisbon, fear not – you’re in for a treat. This bustling capital has everything a bucket-list destination needs, from stunning architecture and rich history to delicious food, intriguing shops and pretty balmy weather too.

From dreamy day trips to romantic districts and exciting evening activities, we’ve picked out some of the best things to do in Lisbon. You’ll hit up all the must-see sights, as well as some lesser-known corners to keep things fresh if you’ve already been.

Stroll in the botanical gardens

Spend a tranquil afternoon at the botanical gardens in the chic Príncipe Real district. Especially in the summer, this is one of the best things to do in Lisbon to escape the midday sun. On shaded, winding paths through this lush oasis you’ll witness thousands of plants from around the world, from giant trees with sculptural trunks to bright water lilies and impressive cacti. Or you can simply enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and the avian chorus, as many locals do. Just outside the gardens is Praça do Príncipe Real, a bustling avenue of luxurious shops and eateries.

Price: ~€3.

Who’ll love it? Families, couples and peace-seekers.

Wander around Alfama

Alfama is the original old town of Lisbon. You’ll be enchanted by the winding cobbled streets climbing the hillside and narrow alleyways lined with colourful buildings, as well as the proliferation of beautiful street art adorning the neighbourhood. The cathedral, the castle and the Fado museum are all here, alongside spectacular viewpoints like the Miradouro de Santa Luzia or Portas do Sol. It’s also an atmospheric place to grab dinner – look out for al fresco tables and bacalhau (salted cod) on the menu for the most traditional experience.

Price: Fado museum €5, cathedral €5.

Who’ll love it? First-time visitors and couples.

Visit the Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is undoubtedly one of the most architecturally impressive places to visit in Lisbon. Its cavernous ceilings, tiled frescoes and intricately carved columns are enough to make anyone’s jaw drop. There are three main parts to this UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Church of Santa Maria, the cloisters and the ornamental gardens. You could spend hours marvelling at the building itself or simply sitting in the sunny gardens, soaking up the tranquillity.

Price: Church free, cloister €10 (+ Belém Tower €12).

Who’ll love it?  History buffs and architecture fans.

Get the views from St George’s Castle

Castelo de São Jorge is an intriguing place to visit for its history, and you can explore the interior, walk the ramparts and relax in the shaded castle gardens. What’s more, it also occupies the prime position in Alfama for city views, right at the top of the hill. Inside, the museum displays artefacts from the various eras of the castle’s long and turbulent history, and there are several towers you can climb for even more spectacular vistas.

Price:  Adult €20.

Who’ll love it? Families and history buffs.

Take a tram or funicular

Lisbon has several unusual means of transport, from its quaint yellow trams trundling on Line 28 to the graffitied funiculars tackling the city’s toughest hills. There are also several elevators to help visitors and residents make short work of the ups and downs, the most famous of which is the Elevador de Santa Justa – a peculiar metal structure rising in the narrow street that allows you to almost peer into the windows of neighbouring buildings.

Price: Tram ~€2 per trip, Elevador ~€5 return trip.

Who’ll love it? Kids, keen photographers and first-time visitors.

Catch a sunset

As the sun starts to sink, you’ll notice everyone flocking towards the city’s miradouros, or viewpoints, to watch the sky turn orange and pink. You’ll find viewpoints dotted all around the city in almost every district, but some of the most popular ones are the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Miradouro dos Barros and Miradouro de Santa Catarina. In the Cais do Sodré area, people gather along the waterfront on Avenida Ribeira das Naus to watch the sundown or slip into one of the trendy bars or restaurants in the Alcântara marina.

Price: All the miradouros are free.

Who’ll love it? Couples and friends groups.

Pose in front of the Belém Tower

A visit to the Belém Tower is a must while in the Belém district. This imposing structure was built in the 1500s, and it’s hard to believe that something so beautifully decorated could have been conceived as a watchtower. You can pay to climb the tower, getting a great view across the Tagus from the balcony, or simply enjoy its whimsical silhouette from a distance, reflected almost perfectly in the water. It’s another great spot to be when one of Lisbon’s epic sunsets kicks in.

Price: €6.

Who’ll love it? Architecture fans and keen photographers.

Tantalise your tastebuds

One of the best things to do in Lisbon is take yourself on a food tour. You’ll want to sample some local cod dishes, which can be found at almost any restaurant, but the most authentic and reasonably priced are in Alfama or Bairro Alto. The pastel de nata is a national delicacy best sampled at the iconic Pastéis de Belém bakery – as much a talking point for its fabulously tiled interior and open kitchen as for the warm custard tarts it serves. You should also get your hands on a shot of ginja, a sweet cherry liqueur often served in a chocolate shot glass.

Price: You can find ginja for as little as €1.50 and pastéis de nata for €1 each.

Who’ll love it?  Foodies especially.

Spend an evening at a Fado club

Fado, a musical genre consisting of melancholic vocals usually backed by guitar, traditionally sung in bars and restaurants, is a huge part of Lisbon’s culture. There are dozens of famous Fado bars, which tend to be dark, traditional venues with vaulted ceilings and atmospheric lighting. Many of the top spots are in Alfama, such as Clube de Fado and Mesa de Frades. Other popular joints include Café Luso and Povo in Bairro Alto. You’ll probably either love it or hate it, but it’s a great experience for music aficionados on a first trip to Lisbon.

Price: Fado clubs don’t normally charge an entry fee, but you might fancy dinner.

Who’ll love it? Friends and couples.

Climb the dome of the Panteão Nacional

The National Pantheon is a striking Baroque building, created to house the tombs of the city’s rich and famous. If you’ve been a few times before and are wondering what to do in Lisbon that’s new and different, try ascending the dome here. Looking down from the inner balcony of the dome gives a unique perspective on the lavish marble interior, while the terrace offers yet another vista over the terracotta rooftops of Lisbon.

Price: ~€3, closed on Mondays.

Who’ll love it? People who’ve been before and keen photographers.

Pick up presents at a conserveira

The Portuguese have made an art out of canning fish and so, as odd as it may sound, one of the best tourist things to do in Lisbon is visit a conserveira. The Conserveira de Lisboa is the city’s most famous cannery shop. The interior resembles an old-fashioned pharmacy, and shelf upon shelf is stacked with the prettiest tinned fish you’ll ever encounter – the perfect place to drop in for a gift or souvenir and a picture. Depending on the area you’re in, you can also check out Comur cannery in Chiado or on Rua da Prata for equally Instagrammable interiors.

Price: ~€2.50–€4.50 per can.

Who’ll love it? Instagrammers and collectors.

Shop at the Feira da Ladra

Visiting markets is a way of life here, so one of the best things to do in Lisbon to feel like a local is to get yourself to a flea market and absorb the atmosphere. The Feira da Ladra is an antique/craft/flea market held on Tuesday and Saturdays in the Mercado de Santa Clara. You’ll find a colourful collection of all kinds of junk, treasures, curios and collectables, and one side of the square is lined with eateries if you prefer to just people-watch.

Price: No entry fee, treasures may vary in cost.

Who’ll love it? Bargain hunters and those who’ve been to Lisbon before.

Take a day trip to Sintra

If you have any time to spare, dedicate one day to an excursion to Sintra. This magical town, accessible via train from Lisbon, is like a real-life Disney for grown-ups, with five fabulous palaces and castles to explore. If you’re just on a day trip, make your first stop the Castelo dos Mouros, an impressive Moorish castle with epic battlement views. Other sites include the National Palace, the fairy tale-esque Quinta da Regaleira, the stunning terracotta and yellow Park and National Palace of Pena, and the mystical Chalet of the Countess of Edla. Even if you don’t go into any of the palaces, the winding streets and brightly coloured buildings are a spectacle in themselves.

Price: Park and National Palace of Pena €14, Castelo dos Mouros €8.

Who’ll love it? Families especially.

Explore the aquarium

Wondering what to do in Lisbon on a rainy day? Head to the aquarium to encounter the stunning number of different species and habitats and marvel at the enormous hall-sized tank that you can walk all the way around on several levels. It’s easy to spend hours exploring the underwater worlds, and you can even book an excursion to see the Tagus River dolphins, which have recently begun occupying the waters in Lisbon. The aquarium is in the Parque das Nações district, a chic redeveloped marina with riverside parks, a cable car attraction and several luxurious restaurants.

Price: Adults €22, kids €15.

Who'll love it?:  Families (and anyone on a rainy day).

Be inspired by the tile museum

While it doesn’t initially sound like the most riveting activity, a trip to the National Tile Museum is one of the best things to do in Lisbon to understand an important part of its culture. Lisbon, and Portugal as a whole, is renowned for its beautiful use of tiles in architecture from as early as the 15th century right through to the modern day. Art lovers will swoon as they wander through halls and corridors adorned with vibrant tiled artworks – intricate, colourful and rich in history, with plenty of Moorish influence. The shop is a little treasure trove.

Price: €5 for all.

Who'll love it?:  Art enthusiasts.

Head for a leisurely lunch by the beach

The pretty coastal town of Cascais is around 30 minutes by train or car from Lisbon. This is seafood central. Try the local sole, sea bass or sea bream, and then sleep it off on the sand.

Price: Full day tours can be found from €80 p.p.

Who'll love it?: Couples and Families.

Go kitesurfing on Guincho Beach

Guincho Beach is close by to Cascais for surfing and swimming, as well as some good coastal walks. If you don't want to get wet - it's good entertainment just watching the surfers and windsurfers from the shore.

Price: Group lessons could be up 10 €225 with instructor.

Who'll love it?: Sport enthusiasts.

You could also be interested in

Find your perfect destination


Sign up to our newsletter

We'll send you exclusive offers and sneak peeks of our best deals,
plus travel tips and the latest advice on where you can go.