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Best Things To Do in Lisbon

Lisbon is probably best known for its colonialist history, ornate architecture and tradition of Fado music. But some of its best features are in the everyday – spectacular hilltop vistas in Alfama or at St. George's Castle, pleasant year-round weather and friendly locals. To enjoy these, bring some comfortable footwear and a pocket map of the public transit system, or just hop on Tram 28 to see it all. Plan on spending a half-day to a full day exploring the waterfront neighborhood of Belém, or maybe plan a daytrip to the palace-heavy Sintra, located 20 miles northwest of Lisbon.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Lisbon

San Francisco has its cable cars, London has its red double-decker buses and Lisbon has its trams. Tram 28, which extends from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique, in particular takes riders on a tourist-friendly route. Not only does it pass through some of the city's most notable neighborhoods including Graça, Baixa and Bairro Alto, but it also travels by popular attractions, such as St. George's Castle and Alfama. Along with a scenic route, the cars themselves are also considered to be part of the experience. Many of Lisbon's trams, including some used on the Tram 28 route, are the same that were used in World War II, so don't expect air conditioning, or a smooth trip up and around the area's hills. But don't worry, recent travelers said it's all part of the tram's charm.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Tram 28
San Francisco has its cable cars, London has its red double-decker buses and Lisbon has its trams. Tram 28, which extends from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique, in particular takes riders on a tourist-friendly route. Not only does it pass through some of the city's most notable neighborhoods including Graça, Baixa and Bairro Alto, but it also travels by popular attractions, such as St. George's Castle and Alfama. Along with a scenic route, the cars themselves are also considered to be part of the experience. Many of Lisbon's trams, including some used on the Tram 28 route, are the same that were used in World War II, so don't expect air conditioning, or a smooth trip up and around the area's hills. But don't worry, recent travelers said it's all part of the tram's charm.
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#2
Alfama Free

#2 in Lisbon

Free
Some tourists choose to take Tram 28 through the Alfama neighborhood because it's so hilly, but whether you choose to burn some calories or contend with the tram crowds, a visit to the picturesque Alfama is a must. With a history that dates back to the Moors, Alfama is characterized by narrow, cobblestone streets that wind past dozens of quaint shops, cozy little restaurants and traditional Fado clubs, all of which are housed within historic yet well-preserved architecture. Popular city attractions like St. George's Castle, Sé Cathedral and Feira de Ladra are also located in Alfama.
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Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Alfama
Some tourists choose to take Tram 28 through the Alfama neighborhood because it's so hilly, but whether you choose to burn some calories or contend with the tram crowds, a visit to the picturesque Alfama is a must. With a history that dates back to the Moors, Alfama is characterized by narrow, cobblestone streets that wind past dozens of quaint shops, cozy little restaurants and traditional Fado clubs, all of which are housed within historic yet well-preserved architecture. Popular city attractions like St. George's Castle, Sé Cathedral and Feira de Ladra are also located in Alfama.
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#3
Belem Free

#3 in Lisbon

Free
The waterfront Belém is a historic neighborhood that houses some of Lisbon's most important monuments, museums and one very popular Portuguese tart place, the Pasteis de Belém. Here you'll find the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, the Discoveries Monument, the Belém Palace (the official residence of Portugal's president), the Coleção Berardo Museum as well as a number of scenic gardens. As the Discoveries Monument beautifully illustrates, Belém is important in that it was a popular departure point during the Age of Discoveries. Some notable adventurers that have embarked from Belém include Vasco da Gama, who was the first person to sail directly from Europe to India, and Ferdinand Magellan, who was aboard the first ship that successfully circumnavigated the world. In addition, Christopher Columbus also made a stop here on his way back to Spain from the Americas.
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Neighborhood/Area Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Belem
The waterfront Belém is a historic neighborhood that houses some of Lisbon's most important monuments, museums and one very popular Portuguese tart place, the Pasteis de Belém. Here you'll find the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, the Discoveries Monument, the Belém Palace (the official residence of Portugal's president), the Coleção Berardo Museum as well as a number of scenic gardens. As the Discoveries Monument beautifully illustrates, Belém is important in that it was a popular departure point during the Age of Discoveries. Some notable adventurers that have embarked from Belém include Vasco da Gama, who was the first person to sail directly from Europe to India, and Ferdinand Magellan, who was aboard the first ship that successfully circumnavigated the world. In addition, Christopher Columbus also made a stop here on his way back to Spain from the Americas.
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#4

#4 in Lisbon

For some sweeping views of Lisbon – particularly St. George's Castle, Rossio Square and the Baixa neighborhood – you might want to take a ride on the Elevador de Santa Justa. Designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard (a former student of Gustave Eiffel – creator of the Eiffel tower), this neo-Gothic elevator is more than a century old and used to be powered by steam. The structure is more than just a means to meet a vista's end, but rather a convenient shortcut for commuters looking to get to Bairro Alto without having to work up the sweat climbing the hill. While the exterior is almost entirely wrought iron, inside visitors will find two old-fashioned cabins that take riders up to the nearly 150-foot-tall vantage point.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Santa Justa Elevator (Elevador de Santa Justa)
For some sweeping views of Lisbon – particularly St. George's Castle, Rossio Square and the Baixa neighborhood – you might want to take a ride on the Elevador de Santa Justa. Designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard (a former student of Gustave Eiffel – creator of the Eiffel tower), this neo-Gothic elevator is more than a century old and used to be powered by steam. The structure is more than just a means to meet a vista's end, but rather a convenient shortcut for commuters looking to get to Bairro Alto without having to work up the sweat climbing the hill. While the exterior is almost entirely wrought iron, inside visitors will find two old-fashioned cabins that take riders up to the nearly 150-foot-tall vantage point.
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#5
Sintra Free

#5 in Lisbon

Free
Located about 20 miles northwest of central Lisbon, Sintra's praises have been sung in literature by the likes of British poet Lord Byron and Portuguese poet Luis Vaz de Camões; Byron described it as a "glorious Eden." A veritable heaven on earth, the small city's rolling hills are clad with vibrant vegetation and fairy tale-like villas separated by cobblestone streets. The star of the show is the colorful Palácio Nacional de Pena, which was built to be a romantic getaway for Queen Maria II and her husband. There's also the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, whose azulejo-adorned interiors make up for its bland exteriors, the Monserrate Palace, the Castle of the Moors, and the Quinta da Regaleira. What's more, the entire city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Sintra
Located about 20 miles northwest of central Lisbon, Sintra's praises have been sung in literature by the likes of British poet Lord Byron and Portuguese poet Luis Vaz de Camões; Byron described it as a "glorious Eden." A veritable heaven on earth, the small city's rolling hills are clad with vibrant vegetation and fairy tale-like villas separated by cobblestone streets. The star of the show is the colorful Palácio Nacional de Pena, which was built to be a romantic getaway for Queen Maria II and her husband. There's also the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, whose azulejo-adorned interiors make up for its bland exteriors, the Monserrate Palace, the Castle of the Moors, and the Quinta da Regaleira. What's more, the entire city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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#6

#6 in Lisbon

One of the most notable aspects of Lisbon's alluring architecture is its vibrant ceramic tiles. You might find these Portuguese tiles, or azulejos, adorned on buildings during a walk about town (especially in Alfama), in gift shops (or at the Feira da Ladra), or within the walls of other top city attractions, including some of the palaces or villas that dot Sintra.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)
One of the most notable aspects of Lisbon's alluring architecture is its vibrant ceramic tiles. You might find these Portuguese tiles, or azulejos, adorned on buildings during a walk about town (especially in Alfama), in gift shops (or at the Feira da Ladra), or within the walls of other top city attractions, including some of the palaces or villas that dot Sintra.
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#7

#7 in Lisbon

Castelo de São Jorge, or St. George's Castle, is perched atop Lisbon's highest hill in Alfama, offering both excellent history and views of the city. The castle served as a fortification for the Romans, Visigoths and the Moors, who turned it into a royal palace before it was eventually taken by Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques. The attraction has kept much of the building's relics intact, including canons, which are spread throughout, underground chambers and 18 towers, one of which houses a camera obscura. There is also a restaurant on-site, gardens where wildlife frequently make appearances and an archaeological museum.
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Castles/Palaces Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
St. George's Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge)
Castelo de São Jorge, or St. George's Castle, is perched atop Lisbon's highest hill in Alfama, offering both excellent history and views of the city. The castle served as a fortification for the Romans, Visigoths and the Moors, who turned it into a royal palace before it was eventually taken by Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques. The attraction has kept much of the building's relics intact, including canons, which are spread throughout, underground chambers and 18 towers, one of which houses a camera obscura. There is also a restaurant on-site, gardens where wildlife frequently make appearances and an archaeological museum.
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#8

#8 in Lisbon

Free
What looks to be an idyllic mini castle seamlessly floating on the Tagus riverfront was originally a fort that served to protect Lisbon's port in the 16th century. It served as a departure point for explorers looking to travel the world during the Age of Discoveries. Today, the Manueline structure serves as a monument to that heyday and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site along with the nearby Monastery of Jeronimos. Visitors can go inside and explore the interiors, whose rooms once served as royals quarters, a prison and a chapel, to name a few. 
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Torre de Belem and Monument to the Discoveries
What looks to be an idyllic mini castle seamlessly floating on the Tagus riverfront was originally a fort that served to protect Lisbon's port in the 16th century. It served as a departure point for explorers looking to travel the world during the Age of Discoveries. Today, the Manueline structure serves as a monument to that heyday and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site along with the nearby Monastery of Jeronimos. Visitors can go inside and explore the interiors, whose rooms once served as royals quarters, a prison and a chapel, to name a few. 
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#9
Cascais Free

#9 in Lisbon

Free
The seaside town of Cascais (kush-kaish) is a 45-minute train ride west of Lisbon's Cais do Sodré station (the green line). Once a fishing village, Cascais became a popular respite for the rich and royal in the 1900s. Today, Europeans of all kinds flock to this beachy city for some low-cost fun in the sun. And since it's peppered with luxurious resorts and hotels, a weekend here may be an ideal end to your Lisbon vacation.
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Beaches Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
Cascais
The seaside town of Cascais (kush-kaish) is a 45-minute train ride west of Lisbon's Cais do Sodré station (the green line). Once a fishing village, Cascais became a popular respite for the rich and royal in the 1900s. Today, Europeans of all kinds flock to this beachy city for some low-cost fun in the sun. And since it's peppered with luxurious resorts and hotels, a weekend here may be an ideal end to your Lisbon vacation.
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#10

#10 in Lisbon

Less than 50 years old, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum hangs a world-renowned collection of art. The late Calouste Gulbenkian, a former oil tycoon and distinguished art collector, amassed 6,000 works of art in his lifetime, donating it all to Portugal upon his death. The diverse selection on display includes art of all kinds from all over the world, including Egyptian statues, European paintings from masters Rubens and Rembrandt, and Chinese porcelain, to name a few.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Gulbenkian Museum (Museu Calouste Gulbenkian)
Less than 50 years old, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum hangs a world-renowned collection of art. The late Calouste Gulbenkian, a former oil tycoon and distinguished art collector, amassed 6,000 works of art in his lifetime, donating it all to Portugal upon his death. The diverse selection on display includes art of all kinds from all over the world, including Egyptian statues, European paintings from masters Rubens and Rembrandt, and Chinese porcelain, to name a few.
... more

#11

#11 in Lisbon

The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, also known as the Monastery of St. Jerome or the Jerónimos Monastery, is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Lisbon's Belém district. Exemplifying Portugal's Manueline style – a highly ornate style of architecture named after the king of the time (Manuel I) – the monastery was built during the Age of Discoveries to honor explorer Vasco da Gama, as he and his crew spent their last night in Portugal at the site before embarking on their famous journey to India in 1498. During the 17th century, the structure served as a monastery for monks, whose job was to comfort sailors and pray for the king. It eventually became a school and orphanage until 1940.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Monastery of St Jerome
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, also known as the Monastery of St. Jerome or the Jerónimos Monastery, is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Lisbon's Belém district. Exemplifying Portugal's Manueline style – a highly ornate style of architecture named after the king of the time (Manuel I) – the monastery was built during the Age of Discoveries to honor explorer Vasco da Gama, as he and his crew spent their last night in Portugal at the site before embarking on their famous journey to India in 1498. During the 17th century, the structure served as a monastery for monks, whose job was to comfort sailors and pray for the king. It eventually became a school and orphanage until 1940.
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#12

#12 in Lisbon

The Oceanário de Lisboa is not just an aquarium, but considering its size, a world in and of itself. The Oceanarium, as it's also often referred to, is Portugal's largest indoor aquarium, holding more than one million gallons of seawater supporting the lives of 8,000 sea creatures. Four permanent exhibits represent different habitats that hold the likes of various types of birds, fish, amphibians and mammals. Here, visitors will find the likes of sea stars and coral to penguins, puffins and sea otters and everything in between. Along with a peek into life under the sea, the Oceanarium also offers a variety of activities, from guided tours to a sleepover with sharks and even a Fado show.
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Zoos and Aquariums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Oceanarium (Oceanario de Lisboa)
The Oceanário de Lisboa is not just an aquarium, but considering its size, a world in and of itself. The Oceanarium, as it's also often referred to, is Portugal's largest indoor aquarium, holding more than one million gallons of seawater supporting the lives of 8,000 sea creatures. Four permanent exhibits represent different habitats that hold the likes of various types of birds, fish, amphibians and mammals. Here, visitors will find the likes of sea stars and coral to penguins, puffins and sea otters and everything in between. Along with a peek into life under the sea, the Oceanarium also offers a variety of activities, from guided tours to a sleepover with sharks and even a Fado show.
... more

#13

#13 in Lisbon

Free
If you're searching for a unique souvenir to take back home, you might want to try your luck at the Feira da Ladra flea market. Located in the Alfama district and spread out across Campo de Santa Clara, the contents of Feira da Ladra can be trash or treasure, depending on what kind of traveler you ask, or what kind of week it is. Either way, you're likely to find some souvenirs, antiques, azulejos (Portuguese tiles), art and a number of second-hand/vintage goods.
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Shopping Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Feira da Ladra
If you're searching for a unique souvenir to take back home, you might want to try your luck at the Feira da Ladra flea market. Located in the Alfama district and spread out across Campo de Santa Clara, the contents of Feira da Ladra can be trash or treasure, depending on what kind of traveler you ask, or what kind of week it is. Either way, you're likely to find some souvenirs, antiques, azulejos (Portuguese tiles), art and a number of second-hand/vintage goods.
... more
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

Castles/Palaces Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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