During Easter, I went to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Going to Lisbon was a rather random choice; we wanted to visit a European city with nice weather in April, and I had never been to Lisbon. I did not have the highest expectations, but Lisbon really impressed me and fell totally in love with the city especially when I found Where To Stay In Lisbon as well as the other great stuff there! Here are my 12 top things to do when visiting Lisbon.
1. Discover Lisbon’s secret neighborhood, Mouraria
Mouraria is probably the most underrated neighborhood in Lisbon, and is rarely the first place to visit as a tourist. I found this “secret” neighborhood extremely authentic and charming, and I think that Mouraria actually is my favorite part of Lisbon. Even though the city was crowded by tourists when we went during Easter, I did not spot a single tourist while I was wandering around in the streets of Mouraria. This is where the locals live and hang out, and it gives a completely different impression of the city than the other the neighborhoods. I did not find any particular attractions in the area, but a good place to start exploring the neighborhood is at Igreja de Sao Cristóvao and then you walk around until you reach Martim Moniz.
2. Look for amazing street art
Lisbon must have more street art than any other city in the world. Wherever you go, you can just look around and suddenly realize that the boring buildings around you are decorated with amazing graffiti. We found a lot of graffiti in Bairro Alto, but it can also be spotted everywhere else, as in Belém, Mouraria and Alfama.
3. Enjoy the coastal town Cascais
Cascais is the perfect day trip from Lisbon on a hot summer day. The beach town is just 45 minutes away with train, and in addition to being the perfect place to relax on the beach, there are also a few nice attractions here, as Boca do Inferno. Read about Cascais here.
4. Stroll around the valleys of Alfama
Alfama is the old town of Lisbon. The neighborhood is a chaotic area filled with stairs and narrow streets and it is nearly impossible to plan where you are walking, but that is also what makes it so charming. Because Alfama is located on a hill, you will find dozens of stunning viewpoints here. 5. Eat like a local
Tasting traditional food is a must wherever I go. Lisbon is especially known for the Prego, which is a mix of a traditional hamburger and a beef sandwich – and it is delicious! You can buy it in most local restaurants for 5-15€, served with freshly made chips (not french fries). A similar local dish is the bifana, which is a simple but tasty pork sandwich. You can buy this in kiosks and restaurants for 2€ and up. Portugal is also known for their Pasteis de Nata, a delicious egg tart pastry. Because of Portugal’s long coastline, you can of course find amazing seafood everywhere as well.
6. Check out the attractions in Belém
Belém is located a bit outside the city center and can be reached by tram, bus or train (it takes about 15-20 minutes). I did not find Belém as charming as the rest of Lisbon’s neighborhoods, but there are a few big attractions here. On the west bank of the Tagus River you will find the Belém Towers (Torre de Belém) and the Discoveries Monument (Padrao dos Descobrimentos), a celebration of the Portuguese age of discoveries. Other attractions in Belém are Palácio Nacional de Belém and Jeronimos Kloster.
7. Explore the fairy tale town Sintra
Sintra, which is located 40 minutes from Lisbon by train, is known for its many castles. The most famous one is colorful Pena Palace, which is quite a sight. The town itself is also a charming place to spend the day! Read about Sintra here.
8. Enjoy the city view from one of the hills
It is said that Lisbon is built on seven hills. I found it really amazing how they have managed to build the streets and houses in the hills, and how the cars and trams are able to move around in these narrow and steep streets. In Lisbon, be prepared to climb hundreds of stairs wherever you go – but many hills also mean tons of stunning viewpoints! Enjoy the view of the city at for example Miradouro da Graca and Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
9. Ride the tram
The majority of postcards from Lisbon contain at least one tram – the yellow tram climbing narrow cobblestone streets is almost a symbol of the city. Many tourists take the number 28 tram, which goes through the old town Alfama. It is funny ride as it really should not be possible to drive a tram through these streets! It also passes a few of the biggest attractions in the city.
10. Explore São Jorge Castle and the surroundings
São Jorge Castle is located on the top of Lisbon offering a stunning view of the city. The castle is located in Alfama. Honestly I do not find castles themselves very interesting, but the area located within the castle walls is very charming. The tiny cobblestone streets and the cute, colorful houses are worth checking out.
11. Check out the attractions in Bairro Alto, Chiado and Baixa
Bairro Alto is a rather hip area in Lisbon. I did not go partying there, but I have heard that its nightlife is awesome. The area is kind of a hidden gem with loads of street art and an interesting atmosphere. You can take Elevador da Bica, a small tram going up a very steep street, to a great view point, and keep walking from there. At the bottom, you find the neighborhoods Chiado and Baixa. Here lays the most stunning church ruins I have ever seen; Covento do Carmo. This area is also a good place to go shopping, and the Santa Justa lift is located just around the corner. By the riverbanks, Praca do Comércio is located.
12. Eat at TimeOut Market
TimeOut market is an indoor food market filled with interesting stalls offering all kinds of food. Either you want to try local specialties like Prego, fresh seafood or international food like Asian noodles and Italian pizza – you can find it all here. Sit down at the long tables centered in the middle of the hall and enjoy your food with a big glass of local wine. Walk around and try samples of the different food. Going to TimeOut market does not only gives you a meal; it gives you a full experience.
Some general information about Lisbon:
Price Level: Lisbon is cheap compared to other West-European capitals. You can easily get a meal including drinks at a restaurant for 10€ (and up). Transportation is also quite cheap. I found accommodation a bit expensive, but that might be because we went during Easer.
Getting in and around: You can buy a 24-hour metro/tram/bus card for 6€. If you are staying in a central hotel, you can basically walk anywhere except to Belém, where you need to take the tram. We used taxi/Uber quite a few times and we paid about 5-6€ everywhere. Taxi to the airport is about 10-15€ and takes 15-20 minutes.
Where to stay in Lisbon: Lisbon is a big city, and I recommend staying in Chiado, Baixa, Alfama or Mouraria.
Where should you eat in Lisbon?
? Taberna Do Conde Wine & Tapas: We found this wine bar near our hotel and had the most amazing tapas here. Big portions for low prices compared to the rest of the city, and the wine was really good as well. The place is decorated with vintage interior and the atmosphere is awesome.
? Memmo Hotel Bar: Located in Alfama, the terrace of this hotel offers a stunning view of the city. We had a traditional Prego here, and even though it was a bit more expensive than in other restaurants (15€), it was worth it. If you want to save money, you could probably go just for a drink.
? O Alfonso das Bifanas: A small kiosk near Mouraria where you can get the Portuguese pork sandwich bifana for 2€. So cheap and so tasty!
? TimeOut Market: As mentioned above, you can basically find everything here at a wide range of prices.
Btw: If you book through “The Fork”, you can get a discount at selected restaurants.
Do you still want more tips on what to do in Lisbon? Check out The Crazy Tourist’s 25 best things to do in Lisbon here!
Remember to follow me on Instagram @mariameland!