Lisbon is one of the most cosmopolitan and beautiful European cities. It is the capital of Portugal as well as a vibrant and colorful destination that every tourist should visit at least once in a lifetime.
Lying in the Iberian Peninsula, the city is nestled near the River Tagus over a series of rolling hills. Linked with the Atlantic Ocean, it offers fun water activities to its visitors during the summer. There are a lot of surf Lisbon spots that you should include in your itinerary if you love surfing.
This multicultural city is also home to many world-class museums and historic monuments. There’s a plethora of culture and history in this area, especially in Old Town Lisbon. Other things that make it an excellent place for a weekend getaway include the riverbank promenade, pristine beachfront, verdant parks, Lisbon sunset, and vibrant nightlife.
Read on to reveal the highlights of the city and get a better idea of the best things to do in Lisbon.
1. Start Your Trip to Lisbon by Wandering Around the Alfama District
If you want to get lost in Portugal’s capital, then you should go to the Alfama district. Aside from being one of the most beautiful Lisbon neighborhoods, Alfama is also the most compact and oldest quarter dating back to the Moors. Once you enter the maze of alleys, archways, tightly-packed lanes, and winding narrow streets, you will have a tough time finding a way out.
You’ll come across many cathedrals and chapels while strolling through the district. Be sure to include the Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral), Fado Museum, and St. George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) in your Lisbon sightseeing plan. There are also many other things to see and do in Alfama. Join the Lisbon Exploration Tour to explore this magnificent quarter in a fun way.
2. Marvel At the Belém Tower in the Historic Neighborhood (Our Top Choice)
The Torre de Belem (the Belém Tower) is one of the major Lisbon attractions. This emblematic monument was build in the 16th century by the Tagus River as a fortress. Some regard it as a Moorish castle.
However, the Torre de Belem displays different architectural styles, including Moorish, Mudejar, Romanesque, and Gothic styles. It’s located in a historic neighborhood that is also home to the Jerónimos Monastery, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Portugal. Make sure to visit them both when wandering around this famous neighborhood.
This place is easily accessible and most visitors take the tram from the Cais do Sodre station. If you seek a more exciting way to explore this area, then you should go on the Lisbon Segway Tour or Self Drive Riverside Tour in an electric vehicle. In addition to the Belém Tower, you will also see other attractions like:
- Pastéis de Belém
- Jerónimos Monastery
- Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos
- April 25 Lisbon Bridge
- Museu de Arte
3. Admire Decorative Tilework at Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum)
Situated in the eastern part of the city within the cloisters and church, the Museu Nacional do Azulejo holds a collection of decorative tiles (azulejos). The National Tile Museum is dedicated to decorative tilework. Whether you are a ceramic aficionado or you simply like this art form, this is a great chance to learn more about the tile-making evolution.
There are different activities, and events, as well as permanent and temporary exhibitions all year long. In addition to learning about tile-making technologies and development, you will see tilework coming in a variety of designs, types, and sizes. The blue-hued azulejos with enchanting motifs are the highlight of just about every exhibition that takes place in this museum.
4. Go Underwater in the Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Oceanarium)
This huge family-orientated oceanarium is one of the finest and largest aquariums in Europe. Take your child(ren) or your loved one(s) to the Oceanário de Lisboa and have some fun while going underwater in Tagus Estuary.
It is one of the most fabulous things to do in Lisbon. This awesome place welcomes more than one million visitors every year. The transparent plexiglass enables visitors to enjoy close-up views of the undersea world while wandering around the Lisbon Oceanarium.
It’s home to a wide variety of marine animals, birds, fish, and other creatures that live in the blue waters, including sharks, pufferfish, bulbous sunfish, clownfish, penguins, moray eels, and sea dragon.
If you want to meet the playful dolphins while they’re gliding through the sea, go on the Dolphin Watching Tour from Lisbon. You will also explore the natural park and discover a beautiful bay in the Sado Estuary on this full-day guided tour.
5. Tour the Estadio da Luz
The Estádio da Luz (Stádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica) is the next attraction you need to visit while in Lisbon, especially if you’re a fan of Benfica. This multi-purpose modern stadium is mostly used for football matches. However, it hosts other games and events too. The Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica was opened in 2003 as the successor of the Estádio da Luz stadium. Since then, this place has been welcoming millions of spectators.
It now has more than 64,000 seats. While the seating capacity is considerably lower compared to the original stadium, it still hosts a large number of people in its stands. Moreover, the Estádio da Luz is one of the largest European football stadiums in terms of capacity. It’s important to note that it hosted the 2020 and 2014 Champions League finals.
6. Visit the Local Food Markets
Many tourists love food markets. If you’re one of those people, then you should discover Lisbon’s food markets and try traditional foods on a gastronomy tour through the city. Get the feel of the city while enjoying the best local dishes and mingling with the residents. Add the Mercado de Alvalade Norte and Mercado 31 de Janeiro to the list of must-visit food markets in Lisbon. They are worth visiting!
7. Enjoy the Nightlife in Lisbon
Lisbon has a lively nightlife scene. There is a full suite of spots to enjoy the nightlife. The Bairro Alto is the most popular one. This touristic district is full of international restaurants, shops, bars, and alfresco cafes. Most people come here to indulge in local food and a Morangoska cocktail.
Thursday evening is the best time to party in Lisbon when the streets are filled with tourists and locals as well. The city gains a completely new flair at night. Join the Lisbon Nightriders Sitway Tour to tour Parque das Nações, Belem, Alfama, and other neighborhoods.
Bonus: Extend Your Lisbon Vacation to Get the Most Out of It
As you can see, Lisbon offers a wide variety of options to visitors looking for an unforgettable weekend holiday. Here’s a rundown of the best things to do in Lisbon:
- Wandering around the Alfama district
- Marveling at the Belém Tower
- Admiring decorative tilework at the National Tile Museum
- Going underwater in the Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Oceanarium)
- Touring the Estadio da Luz Stadium
- Visit the food markets
- Enjoy the nightlife
If you can afford extra several days during your trip, explore the nearby tourist destinations and attractions too. Make a full-day trip to Arrábida from Lisbon to discover the historic sights and natural beauty of Arrábida Natural Park. Visit Cabo da Roca to enjoy watching the sunset by the sea as well as the wild and rocky landscape. Go on Sintra Jeep Safari and Évora tours to explore these wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The more places you visit, the better. That will make your trip more interesting and complete.