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27 Best Things To Do in Lisbon for First-Time Visitors

Exploring Lisbon: 27 Best Things To Do for First-Time Visitors
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Lisbon, Portugal’s sun-kissed capital, is a city steeped in history, alive with culture, and brimming with experiences just waiting to be discovered. From the winding cobbled streets of Alfama, to the monuments in Belém or the cultural spots in LX Factory, the city has a very varied and rich offer.

To make your first time in the city memorable, here’s my guide to the 27 best things to do in Lisbon.

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27 best things to do in Lisbon

1. Ride Tram 28

Tram 28 Ride
Photo by João Reguengos on Unsplash

Tram 28 offers more than just transportation; it’s a historical journey through Lisbon’s colorful districts. Starting from Praça do Martim Moniz and ending in Campo Ourique, it passes through Graça, Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela. The wooden seats and vintage interiors add charm, allowing you to see prominent landmarks like Sé Catedral and Castelo de São Jorge. Tickets can be bought onboard, or you can use the Viva Viagem card. You can also add to the trip a walking tour.

Since this is a very touristic route, be careful with your belongings.

2. Get to know Belém

Getting to know Belém, in Lisbon
Photo by Look Up Look Down Photography on Unsplash

Belém, located west of the city center, is known for its historical monuments and the famous pastel de nata. You can visit the Torre de Belém, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Coach Museum. There are many gardens to stroll around, and the waterfront is a pleasant place to relax.

3. Visit Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Visit Jerónimos Monastery
Photo by José Francisco García Cuenca on Unsplash

An epitome of Manueline architecture, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery) was built in the 16th century to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. The detailed stone carvings depicting maritime motifs are mesmerizing. Inside, you can visit the tomb of Vasco da Gama and enjoy the tranquil ambiance of the gardens. Admission fees apply, so check in advance, and consider getting there early to avoid long lines.

4. Taste Pastéis de Belém

Taste Pastéis de Belém
Photo by Felix Kolthoff on Unsplash

Established in 1837, Pastéis de Belém offers its famous custard tarts following an ancient recipe from the nearby monastery. They are a culinary sensation, served warmly and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. While the recipe remains closely guarded, the flavor is a known delight combining crispiness and creaminess.

There are some places in the city where you can learn how to do the famous pastel de nata.

5. Explore Alfama District

Explore Alfama District
Photo by Liam McKay on Unsplash

With its narrow streets and charming squares, Alfama is a maze waiting to be explored, and it’s among the best things to do in Lisbon. You’ll find traditional Fado bars, artisan shops, and delightful eateries. The district is also home to various historical sites, including the Panteão Nacional (National Pantheon) and Igreja de São Vicente de Fora. A leisurely stroll in Alfama offers a real taste of local Lisbon life.

6. Eat at Time Out Market

Eat at Time Out Market
Photo by Suzi Kim on Unsplash

Located in the historic Mercado da Ribeira, Time Out Market houses some of the city’s best food vendors. From renowned chefs to local culinary talents, you can taste a variety of Portuguese dishes under one roof. Seafood, meats, sweets, and wines; the diversity is exceptional. It’s a lively spot, and the open-seating arrangement encourages a communal eating experience.

7. Visit the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Visit the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Photo by Rui Alves on Unsplash

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is a hidden treasure with a diverse collection spanning 4,000 years of art. From ancient Egyptian art to modern European masterpieces, it’s a treat for art lovers. The surrounding garden is a tranquil and well-maintained oasis, making it an insightful visit.

8. Climb to Castelo de São Jorge

Climb to São Jorge Castle, in Lisbon
Photo by Mylo Kaye on Unsplash

Built in the mid-11th century, Castelo de São Jorge stands majestically overlooking the city. Apart from the panoramic views, the castle features archaeological sites, gardens, and a camera obscura that provides a unique perspective of Lisbon. There’s also a café to enjoy a refreshing drink with a view. Allow a few hours to explore this historical marvel.

9. Visit LX Factory

Visit LX Factory
Photo by Arnaud STECKLE on Unsplash

Once an industrial complex, LX Factory has blossomed into a creative hub. You’ll find a vibrant blend of art studios, fashion boutiques, bookshops, and co-working spaces. Many walls and buildings are adorned with striking street art. Don’t miss Ler Devagar, an atmospheric bookstore, or indulge in some delightful Portuguese dining at one of the area’s hip eateries.

10. Sunset at Praça do Comércio

Sunset at Praça do Comércio, Lisbon
Photo by Eduardo Goody on Unsplash

Praça do Comércio is an architectural marvel with its vibrant yellow facades and grand Arco da Rua Augusta. It’s one of Europe’s largest squares and offers a beautiful view of the Tejo River. The golden hues reflect in the river as the sun dips, creating a magical scene. It’s a popular spot, so consider grabbing a seat at one of the riverside cafes to savor the moment fully.

11. Discover Sintra

Discover Sintra must-visit landmarks
Photo by Katia De Juan on Unsplash

A short train ride from Lisbon will take you to Sintra, a town straight out of a fairy tale. The colorful Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace), the mysterious Quinta da Regaleira, and the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle) are must-visit landmarks. The town, with cobbled streets and traditional pastry shops, is a delight. Consider joining a guided tour to learn about the rich history and folklore of Sintra.

12. Visit the Torre de Belém

Visit the Belém Tower in Lisbon
Photo by Lukas Bato on Unsplash

Built in the early 16th century as a defense system, Torre de Belém (Belém Tower) blends Moorish and Manueline architecture. As you explore the tower, the history of Portugal’s Age of Discovery unfolds. Climb to the terrace for a beautiful view of the river. Being a popular site, buying tickets online and visiting early in the morning is wise to avoid crowds.

13. Ride the Elevador de Santa Justa

Ride Lisbon's Santa Justa Lift

This ornate iron lift, built in 1902, connects the Baixa and Chiado districts. Apart from serving as a unique means of transportation, the Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift) is an architectural marvel designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel. The viewing platform at the top offers some of the best vistas in Lisbon. It’s a tourist attraction, as well as a functional part of the city’s public transportation system.

14. Stroll down Rua Augusta

Stroll down Rua Augusta in Lisbon's downtown
Photo by Jay Joshi on Unsplash

Rua Augusta, a pedestrian street lined with stores, cafés and street performers, is a mandatory crossing point for shopping and savoring the urban atmosphere. You can find international brands, local stores and several restaurants.

15. Listen to Fado Music

Fado Music in Bairro Alto
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Fado, Portugal’s traditional music genre, is filled with melancholic melodies and heartfelt lyrics. There’s no better way to experience Fado than at a traditional Alfama or Bairro Alto restaurant. Book a Fado dinner show, and enjoy authentic Portuguese dishes as soulful voices and guitars serenade you.

16. Shop in Avenida da Liberdade

Luxury shopping in Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

This grand avenue, lined with gardens, fountains and statues, offers a unique shopping experience. Here you’ll find the top luxury brands. Even if you don’t have the budget to go into the stores, you can always take a nice stroll along the traditional stone sidewalks with intricate patterns.

17. Visit the MAAT

Visit MAAT - Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology
Photo by Michiel Annaert on Unsplash

The MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology) is more than just a museum; it’s a cultural space that, as the name implies, combines art, architecture, and technology. Designed by Amanda Levete Architects, the building is a work of art. Inside, you’ll find thought-provoking exhibits that challenge conventional thinking. The rooftop offers a unique view over the river and the Ponte 25 de Abril (25 de Abril Bridge).

18. Stroll through Jardim Botânico de Lisboa

Stroll through Lisbon's Botanical Garden
Photo by Jacqueline vanN on Unsplash

Jardim Botânico de Lisboa (Lisbon’s Botanical Garden) is a serene oasis in the city’s heart and is one of the best things to do in Lisbon. Established in the 19th century, it houses a rich collection of plants from around the world. The layout is beautifully designed, with thematic sections, ponds, and greenhouses. Take a peaceful stroll and enjoy the diverse flora, or bring a book and relax amidst nature.

19. Explore Lisbon’s Hills

Explore Lisbon’s Hills
Photo by Lisha Riabinina on Unsplash

Lisbon is known for its steep hills that provide magnificent views of the city and the river. Miradouros, or viewpoints, are scattered throughout the city. A favorite is the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte (Senhora do Monte Viewpoint), which offers unparalleled panoramic views. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water, the hikes can be demanding, but the views are well worth the effort. Book a guided walking tour to get to know the city’s history.

20. Go on a Bike Tour

Go on a Bike Tour in Lisbon
Photo by Helio Dilolwa on Unsplash

Whether an avid cyclist or a casual rider, biking is an enjoyable way to explore Lisbon. Many companies offer guided bike tours, or you can rent a bike and chart your course. The riverside, stretching from Belém to Parque das Nações, is a popular route. If you’re adventurous, explore the Parque Florestal de Monsanto (Monsanto Forest Park), often called Lisbon’s “lung.”

21. Boat trip on the Tejo River

Boat trip on the Tejo River
Photo by Denis Ismailaj on Unsplash

The Tejo is the beating heart of Lisbon, and a boat trip is a unique way to see the city. Several companies offer tours that vary in length and price. Some include dinner or drinks. The view of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Torre de Belém, and the Ponte 25 de Abril from the river is stunning.

22. Visit Aquário Vasco da Gama

Visit Vasco da Gama Aquarium
Photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash

One of Lisbon’s lesser-known attractions, the Aquário Vasco da Gama (Vasco da Gama Aquarium), offers a pleasant experience for families and marine enthusiasts. The building itself is historical, and inside, you’ll find a variety of marine and freshwater species. The aquarium is dedicated to aquatic education and conservation, making it an insightful visit.

23. Visit the Oceanário de Lisboa

Visit the Lisbon Oceanarium
Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

The Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Oceanarium), one of Europe’s largest indoor saltwater aquariums, is a must-see destination for families or marine life lovers. It houses a vast collection of species, including sharks, rays and otters. The open design allows for almost barrier-free observation, giving a feeling of actually being underwater.

24. Explore Mercado de Campo de Ourique

Explore Campo de Ourique Market in Lisbon
Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

Unlike the bustling Time Out Market, Mercado de Campo de Ourique (Campo de Ourique Market) offers a more local, neighborhood vibe. You can shop for fresh produce, meats, and cheeses or enjoy a meal at one of the many food stalls. The market is a lively place where locals and visitors mingle, offering an authentic Lisbon experience.

25. Discover the National Tile Museum

Discover Portugal's National Tile Museum
Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash

The National Tile Museum, dedicated to the iconic Portuguese ceramic, displays various tiles from the 15th century to modern times. Careful presentation and information help you understand the evolution of this cultural object. The museum is also housed in an old convent, giving it a unique atmosphere.

26. Join a Tile Workshop

Join a Tile Workshop in Lisbon

Azulejos, or traditional Portuguese tiles, are a significant part of Lisbon’s aesthetic charm. Many workshops across the city offer the opportunity to paint your tile under the guidance of skilled artisans. It’s a fun and creative experience, and you also get a personalized souvenir to take home.

27. Take a Surf Lesson

Take a Surf Lesson in Lisbon
Photo by Rita Malçok on Unsplash

Lisbon’s coastal location means that surfing is just a short drive away. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a complete beginner, several surf schools offer lessons, equipment rental, and transportation. The nearby beaches of Carcavelos and Costa da Caparica (on the other side of the river) are popular spots. Riding the Atlantic waves is a thrilling way to embrace Lisbon’s maritime soul.

Don’t forget your travel insurance

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With its harmonious blend of history, art, gastronomy, and natural beauty, Lisbon offers a rich tapestry of experiences. The city’s laid-back charm invites you to wander, taste, listen, and engage at your pace. Every alley, viewpoint, bite, and melody is a story waiting to be discovered.

So, enjoy Lisbon, and let the city’s soul leave an everlasting impression on you!

Best things to do in Lisbon

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Marlene Marques

Marlene is the creator of Marlene On The Move. A journalist by profession, she created the blog to share her adventures around the world. It is not unusual for her to set off to discover new countries and cultures with a surfboard as luggage.

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