Free Things To Do in Lisbon
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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.
Recent travelers enjoyed all that Belem has to offer, especially the stunning Belem Tower and the Discoveries Monument. Most visitors, however, expressed disappointment with the amount of tourists that are seemingly always at the sites. Because of this, some travelers instead recommended simply grabbing a pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart pastry) at Pasteis de Belem, taking a nice long stroll along the Tagus riverfront and admiring the waterfront attractions outside instead of waiting in long lines to go inside. Keep in mind: If you've come to Belem to see its top attractions, including Belem Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, these monuments are not open on Mondays.
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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.
Travelers come in droves to bear witness to the neighborhood's famed charm (and some street art), and say this is the best place to get to know Lisbon. Visitors also say this isn't an attraction to breeze through, but rather take your time with and get lost in. Ditch the map and let yourself wander the colorful streets, grab a drink alfresco in an alleyway, or seek out one of the neighborhood's many vantage points, including the popular Miradouro de Santa Luzia, or the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.
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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.
Travelers thoroughly enjoyed hopping back and forth between what many visitors described as beautiful palaces, villas and castles that Sintra had to offer, but recommended stamina and sturdy pair of shoes, as the area is very hilly.
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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.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or the Monument to the Discoveries, is just a short walk away, and equally stunning. The waterfront structure was built in the 1960s in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator's death. Although he wasn't an explorer himself, he significantly supported a handful of important explorations during his time. The sail-shaped statue is lined with notable Portuguese figures throughout history, including other navigators, artists and King Manuel. Inside, visitors can watch a multimedia presentation of Portugal's history as well as climb to the top of the monument for greater views of the river.
- #9View all PhotosfreeCascais#9 in LisbonBeaches, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
But don't be put off by its diminutive size – there is plenty to do here. Take a stroll around the colorful, cobblestone-lined old town, visit one of the area's many forts that helped prevent pirate attacks, or lay back on one of the area's many beaches.
- #13View all PhotosfreeFeira da Ladra#13 in LisbonShopping, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDShopping, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
But the Feira da Ladra isn't your run-of-the-mill flea market. The market is rumored to have been around since the 12th century, with some of the vendors known for selling stolen goods, hence the name ladera, which translates to thief. Fact or fiction, you've probably never been to a flea market with ocean views. The market is open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and can be reached by hopping on Tram 28. The market is free to visit. After you've perused the wares, you'll find the National Pantheon and the Museu de Artes Decorativas (Museum of Decorative Arts) within walking distance.
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