10 Lisbon Top Attractions that You Need to Add to your Lisbon, Portugal Bucket List ASAP (as soon as possible because I am the worst with acronyms).
I feel like Lisbon lust has been catching. I mean, everyone I talk to has either just been to or is about to go to Lisbon. And you know it’s true because locals informed me that prices have doubles over the past few years (Not that Lisbon is expensive because compared to most European cities it’s relatively cheap). Sucks for us but good for Lisbon’s economy.
However with all this Lisbon mania floating around social media, you start to wonder, “Is it REALLY all it’s cracked up to be, or am I gonna get there and wanna hide out in my hotel blanket fort until my vacation is over?” Well, I’m here to assure that there are a ton of Lisbon top attractions that you really do need to add to your Lisbon, Portugal bucket list because this city really is all that and a dab of guacamole (I had to do it because I really love guacamole). But like any city, not EVERY site is super awesome and worth your limited amount of time. In fairness, there are some total duds in Lisbon that you can probably avoid like the Black Death. Okay, they’re not that bad but just not the best use of your time (When you’re short on time, tough decisions need to be made and some attractions are voted off the island. Yup, there’s my lame Survivor reference).
Well, since people get rather huffy any time you say anything mildly negative, I am gonna stick to the positive here. So yes folks, that means that this post be another run of the mill, top 10 must see list for Lisbon, Portugal. I know, I know, that sounds totally whacktastic but I swear, we’re gonna have fun. I may even use a few cat memes to win your love and undying devotion. And if that doesn’t work, just picture me fist pumping while wearing a giant banana costume. I promise, that mental image will make everything better and hopefully make this list of Lisbon main attractions a tad bit more exciting. You could also pretend that I’m Oprah and that you’ll get a free car from this post. And I wish I could do that but I’m not financial secure enough to commit to that kind of giveaway. Maybe if you buy enough stuff from my Amazon banners (hint hint) then I can become a big shot and throw you a car or two. Okay, a girl can dream but back to Lisbon-mania.
1. Food (foodies of the world rejoice)
Okay, so you may not know this but culinarily speaking, Lisbon, Portugal is kind of a big deal (If you’ve seen Top Chef then think like Richard Blais status. And if you’ve never seen Top Chef then just think culinary badass). Now, I tend to gush over the pastries because I don’t eat fish or meat, both of which are a huge part of the Portuguese culinary scene, but if sweets are not your thing, there are still plenty of foods that will tickle your gastronomic fancy. From Cozido a Portuguesa (Portuguese stew) to Caldo Verde (a traditional kale, potato, and onion soup with garlic and olive oil) to my personal favorite Pastel de Nata. Yeah, my sweet tooth is about as big as that of a Humpback whale.
Now, this is in no way a complete listing of all the traditional foods found in Portuguese cuisine because if I listed them all, this would turn into a Julia Child cookbook, only less French and more Portuguese (I bet you’re like you forgot the Salted cod Kelly!). So let’s just call it a day, because you’ve got things to do, and say that Lisbon has a bunch of kick ass foods to try. So what is the best way to experience Lisbon’s culinary flavor? Well, I am gonna hop on the tourist bandwagon and proclaim that Time Out market (Mercado da Ribeira) is a great place to try a bunch of different local foods, all in once place. Plus it’s on the way to Belem and is surrounded by some great street art so you have more than one reason to go here.
When you enter the market, there will be vendors selling fresh meats, fish, and produce, but there will also be a ton of vendors that sell delicious prepared foods that allow you to travel through a mini food tour of sorts. Just be forewarned that while this market is huge and has a ton of cafeteria style seating, it does get insanely crowded (and I was there in low season), so I would highly suggest visiting this market either super early, super late, or during the week to avoid the crowds because Time Out market can and does run out of seating.
***Also check out Rua de Duque which a 5 minute walk from the Rossio Train Stations. This street is where all the locals go for cheap and delicious food.
***Looking for the BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE in the world? Then head on over to the tiny, unassuming shop, appropriately named, “O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo”. Further wordage is not necessary because the cake here speaks for itself (the shop is found in Lisbon’s Campo d’Ourique neighborhood).
Address: Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisboa, Portugal
Hours of Operation: Open Sunday through Wednesday from 10:00 am to 12:00 am and Thursday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 2:00 am.
How to Get Here: Take the Green line from Rossio to Cais do Sodre. From here, walk three minutes and the market will be on your right.
2. Stroll through Alfama (it’s a neighborhood in Lisbon so I don’t have to list all the boring info like the address. Hip hip hooray)
Okay, so when I asked for a list of “things to do in Lisbon” (sorry, I’m really not that original) the one thing that EVERYONE kept putting at the top of this cliched list was Alfama. Now at first I was none too excited because it wasn’t a site per say because I wanted a big name site with bells and whistles and fireworks and a ticker tape parade (weird American thing). Instead of being any of those thing, Alfama is simply a historic district that is found in Lisbon. I promise though, it’s not lame. Along these charming streets like a multitude of enchanting buildings that are bathed in vivacious colors that are illuminated in a series of exquisite local tiles that come in any and every geometric pattern imaginable.
Yeah, I wasn’t super excited because who really wants to be told that one of the top things to do in Lisbon is walk through the city? Talk about a downer. That activity seemed kind of lame to me and I started to doubt if I would actually find Lisbon interesting. But Alfame totally blew me away. Between the architecture, tile work, and historic trams whizzing up and down this hilly metropolis, you are transported back to a simpler time; a time in which Twilight was just a time of day (not a book) and the only cell phones available to you were Carrier Pigeons. So take a moment to stroll along the tiled sidewalks and cobbled streets of this neighborhood (hopefully without breaking an ankle or two) and marvel at the fact that not all of Lisbon has been completely and totally gentrified (yet).
That’s why Alfama makes this list. Even though it isn’t an enormous site that is dripping with rainbow elephants that breath fire, this section of Lisbon is a total feast of colors for the eyes; kind of like Disney World only more grown up and more historic, and definitely way cheaper. Just watch out for pickpockets who may take advantage of the fact that you’re taking 12,000 door and window pics, and not really paying attention to your valuables (For me valuables are like a disposable camera. Thieves get super disappointed when they try to steal from me).
3. Street Art (LX Factory)
Like in most of the concrete jungle’s of the world, Lisbon graffiti has been aptly reinvented into the worldwide craze that is known as “street art”. Not that I am dissing this publicly accessible form of art that strips away the elitism of traditional art galleries. Quite the contrary since anyone who knows me and my blog knows that I love some street art (check out my Instagram account if you don’t believe me).
So when I planned my trip to Lisbon, I knew that I had to strap on some serious, orthopedic velcro sneakers (kidding. My lumbago isn’t that bad yet) and trek the city while in search of some epic street art for my mildly interesting photo collection.
But where do you find it? I mean, Lisbon has great street art but it’s not as in some cities like Belfast, Northern Ireland. Well, you may not be insane like me and like to walk 10 miles everyday of your vacation, so i’ll cut to the chase and tell you where to find some holla’ worthy street art can be found.
A little disclaimer though, I am not an expert on Lisbon after like 3 days so this list is in no way exhaustive, just some of the Lisbon nooks and crannies that I found dripping with an eye popping, urban art extravaganza. First up is the Gloria Funicular (kind of like a tram only the ride tends to be short and takes you up and down some pretty steep ass hills. Think San Francisco on steroids). Fun little factoid for you, because I want you to sound all edumacated after reading this blog, the Gloria funicular was opened back in 1885 and became a national monument in 2002. To access this mode of public transportation, just head to the west side of the Avenida da Liberdade, in Restauradores square, literally right around the corner from the tourist office in Palácio Foz and so easy to find since it connects Lisbon’s downtown with the Bairro Alto (once at the top head across the road to Rua de S. Pedro de Alcântara, and check out the Solar de Lisboa Port Wine Institute, where a vast range of port-wines may be tasted and purchased). Along the way, you will see a ton of street art on your right (going up hill) since this area is a designated street art gallery with a ton of mesmerizing and poignant pieces of art. And since we’re on the subject of public transportation, I would hop on Tram 28, near Lisbon Cathedral, and head up hill since on your right, after a few stops, you’ll see some of the most famous pieces of street art that the city has to offer (included this piece that is a beautiful commentary on the women’s rights and feminist movements across the globe). Still not enough for you? Alright, well then head over to Time Out market, grab some grub, check out the street art there, and then head on over to LX Factory to discover some of the city’s most dynamic street art pieces.
Not only does this renovated industrial complex house some of Lisbon’s most eclectic shops and restaurants, but the LX Factory is also home to some awe inspiring and truly thought provoking pieces of art. also home to an eclectic collection of first-rate street art. So stroll this complex, check out some of the wickedly awesome shops, and check out some works of art from artists like Bordalo II, Miguel RAM, Mario Belem, MaisMenos, and many more. Some pieces are even fashioned out of discarded objects to redefine the human definition of waste and to promote more sustainable consumer practices. There are even several “streetments” in the area that display public quotes like, “Until debt tear us apart”; quotes that force you to contemplate and reevaluate traditional societal values and norms (Aww, I sound so fancy and educated. Not all I have to do is say something juvenile like fart to let you know that yup, it’s still me).
Address: R. Rodrigues de Faria 103, 1300 – 501 Lisboa, Portugal
Hours of Operation: Open seven days a week from 6:00 am to 2:00 am.
Getting There: You can take bus 720, bus 161, bus 756, bus 732, etc (get off near Alcantara).
When I inquired about this neighborhood at the Tourism office, I was a bit confused because to get here, you take the metro and the train, which are two separate and completely different things. Yeah, they sounded the same to me too but basically to get to Belem, take the green line (verde) to the Cais do Sodre exit. From there, you head above ground and catch a train to Belem. Not too complicated and once you arrive, you can spend the day in Belem because there is a ton to do there. I would skip the Belem Tower because it is crowded and the narrow staircase that goes up and down the tower gets super congested.
Instead, I would walk past the President’s snazzy pink palace and head right over to Pasteis de Belém and devour Portugal’s most famous pastry of all, pastels de nada (sweet egg custard tart). And yes, it is mandatory that you eat at this pastry shop (on the right as you walk along the main road away from the water) since this place since this place has been creating sugar addicts for the past 187 years, so no doubt it’ll be good.
Once you’ve saved yourself from starvation and have gathered enough strength to carry on (just keep telling yourself, “I think i can”), continue down the road to the enormous monastery known as Jerónimos Monastery (Skip the museum. I thought it was kind of lame). Typically, religious buildings and facilities are not really my thing but this structure is impressive in both size and for it’s historic art and architecture. So yes, make sure you grab a ticket and head inside because some transformative Instagram photos await you inside, I mean watershed cultural realizations. Yeah, something snazzy like that.
From here, I would head back outside and explore the Jardim Botânico Tropical (it is literally right behind the monastery). Not only is the entrance fee only, but this historic sanctuary of botanical bliss has been dazzling visitors since way back in 1912. And you can understand why since this is not only one of the largest gardens around Lisbon, but this haven of nature is actually located on the property of the 18th-century Palácio dos Condes da Calheta and contains an insane number of flower species flower species that you can observe (600 to be a little bit more precise).
Sure, there is a ton more to see and do in Belem, but if you exploring this area for the day, then this list will provide you with more than enough excitement.
***Also check out the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technolog (the (MAAT) which pays homage to all these diverse but beautiful art forms from 12pm to 8pm, with a €5 admission fee. Go at night since many other sites are not open that late.
***For dinner, I would stroll along the river and find a restaurant where you can snack on shrimp, crab, fish dips or clams while gazing at the April 25 Bridge (the one that looks like the Golden Gate Bridge) and Cristo Rei monument. Your stomach and your camera lens will both thank you.
5. Ride the Tram and Funicular (they look the same but I swear they’re different)
Okay, so Lisbon is kind of like San Francisco in that it’s super hilly, has a tram that looks like a trolley, and has a bridge that is very similar to the Golden Gate bridge. Wow, now that I mention it, these cities do have a ton in common. So when you’re in San Francisco, the one thing that the city is known for and that you have to do is ride trolley. I mean, even if it’s only for two minutes, you need to step back in time and embrace the culture and history behind this charming city.
Well, it’s the same in Lisbon, except the trollies are known as trams and number 28 is the most famous of all since this line has the most scenic route that will take you all along the city of Lisbon. But, I’m not the first person to say this (not that cool) so Tram number 28 will be packed with people and have a line to board the tram that is about two hours long (with locals who want to tase you for stealing their spot on the tram). To avoid the crowds and feeling like the famous Portuguese Sardine, I suggest boarding the tram late at night, early in the morning, or boarding the tram at a stop that is in the middle of the line, like Lisbon Cathedral.
And that’s it….Kidding! Who knew writing about public transportation could be so much fun! So believe it or not, Lisbon also has funiculars. Don’t ask me for a technical definition because I have to idea. All I know is that it operates on a track and basically goes straight up and down some major hills in Lisbon. The three funicular railways are known as the Gloria, Bica and Lavra (aka a harem of train) are conveniently located and take you upside pretty amazing miradouros and orbelvederes.
Now, since you read the section on street art, then you know all about the Gloria Funicular (this the street art one that is covered in graffiti and takes you through an outdoor, street art gallery), so we’ll move right along to the Bica Funicular (so many words and so little time) , which chugs along Rua da Bica from the Rua S. Paulo, near Santos, to the Calhariz district. This one is a little tricky to find though since the lower station is virtually hidden behind a facade of Rua de S. Paulo but since this is the most traditional of them all, it’s kind of the impromptu scavenger hunt to find the damn thing (come on guys, put your thinking caps on! Kidding)
You also have the big, bad Lavra Funicular, which climbs along some of the steepest hills in Lisbon, by linking the Largo da Anunciada and the Travessa do Forno do Torel. Yeah, this one is incredibly steep and has something insane like a 25% gradient, with a capacity of 42 people and a journey that takes a solid 2 minutes (short, sweet, and two the point).
***The metro, bus, tram, and funicular all use the same ticket system so if you buy a Lisbon Card or a rechargeable metro card, you can use that to board any of these forms of transportation. And always get your tickets beforehand because buy tickets onboard is extremely expensive (like over €3 for a two minute trip).
Buenos Aires has tango, Southern Spain has Flamenco, the Lord of the Dance has Irish step dancing, and Lisbon has, oh wait, no, that’s wrong because Fado is more of a singing art form than a dancing thing. My bad. See how much I don’t know about the world around me? Guess it means I have to dealt more. Oh darn.
But back to Fado and what it actually is. This soulful, melancholy, Portuguese type of song is very emotional and rather broody by nature, kind of like any hormonal teenagers that you may no. But rather than whining indeterminately, the heightened feelings brought forth in these songs are only intensified by the sounds of mandolins and guitars crying in the background. Yeah, I went there. LoL. Do you need a hanky? Kidding, this style of song can also be upbeat so if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands! Okay, brushing my inner nanny off and back to travel tips.
Now if you’re looking for an authentic Fado experience, check out some of the local clubs like A Nini, Adega Machado, Bela, Casa de Linhares, Club de Fado, and many more. Generally speaking though, these venues are pretty intimate (real estate code for small) and exceedingly popular so book ahead if you want to snag a coveted seat. But whatever you do, don’t book a Fado tour. I actually shouldn’t;t say that. My tour was fun but WAY too expensive. Plus, I am sure there a ton of great Fado tours out there, I just happened to pick an expensive one. But my personal experiences aside, there are signs for Fado clubs everywhere so even if it’s not theBEST Fado club in the world, you can still get a taste for the musical style without booking a tour.
Notice how I listed “Cathedrals” and not just one specific Cathedral in the header right? Yeah, that’s because Portugal loves Cathedrals about as much as Koreans love Buddhist temples, so a lot. Literally, everywhere I turned in Korea there was another Buddhist Temple and it felt the same way in Korea. And I wanted to hate this Lisbon attribute since I am neither super religious nor a huge fan of Cathedrals, but I couldn’t. I seriously couldn’t hate on all the Cathedrals here because they were so damn grandiose, with exquisite architectural details that are unique to the Portuguese culture. Basically, there were really pretty churches that also had tile work; an attribute that I don’t generally see in most of the churches that I visit. I mean sure, you’ll see the standard scene of Jesus nailed to the Cross (sometimes in overly graphic detail), but some of the tile mosaics are truly astounding and convey some fairly common Catholic ideology in a uniquely beautiful way.
So even though I generally do not run out and conduct all my sight seeing in churches, because I generally feel that if you’ve seen one Jesus statue and altar than you’ve seen them all, I would still add some of Lisbon’s historic Cathedrals to your Lisbon travel guide so that you can get a better understanding of the artwork and religious history of this historic world power. Some of my not surprising faves include Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral), Igreja de São Roque (one of the first Jesuit churches in the world), Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (an enormous complex that is found in Belem and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site), Convento da Ordem do Cormo (shows the destructive power of the 1755 earthquake that devastated much of Europe) and Igreja de Santa Engrácia (a National Pantheon that is home to the tombs of famous individuals like Vasco de Game). So sure, while they’re all churches, each of these structures has a very different story and perspective to share with visitors.
8. Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)
To say this museum blew me away (like the Wicked Witch of the East flying through a Tornado status) is probably the grossest understatement that I have made in 2017. So when I proclaim that I adored this museum, multiply that sentiment by about 10,000 and you’ll understand exactly how I felt about the stunning assortment of modern and historic tile work that is kept here.
So I say with absolute conviction, if you only visit one museum in all of Lisbon, let this museum be it. Not only is this institution a great introduction to the cultural significance and creative process that goes into Azuelejo (tile) manufacturing, but the building itself is a beautiful space (tons of sky lights, quaint doorways, and cascades of fuschia flowers that ensnare you and force you to take a picture) where you can relax and receive a well deserved respite from the chaotic frenzy of Lisbon that awaits you outside.
And while the museum can easily be explored in about two and a half hours or so, the tiles mosaics I observed here are unlike any other artwork I have ever seen. Plus, they have a full scale church inside that is dripping with exquisite tile work that expresses more religious overtones. But throw in some modern tile exhibits as well as a panoramic, tile map of the entire city of Lisbon and I can almost guarantee that no matter who you are what you like, something within this magically beautiful museum will astound your senses (the only thing that was kind flame was the gift shop. But the cafe has a resplendent, natural feel since the space is laid out beneath a skylight that is accented with lovely pieces of wooden furniture that are expertly decorated with a special flourish of potted flowers that smell lovely and look divine (I am not much into interior decorating but this place is insanely charming. Like charm on steroids).
Address: R. Me. Deus 4, 1900-312 Lisboa, Portugal
Hours of Operation: Open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm every day except Monday.
Admission: Tickets are €5 and include a free audioguide.
Getting There: Buses 718, 742, 794, and 759 will all drop you off right in front of the museum, while bus 728 and 759 will drop you of at Avenida Infante D.Henrique, which is a five minute walk to the museum.
***If you decide to visit this museum, I highly suggest taking the bus there and then walking through Alfama on the way back since not only will you get to explore this beautiful district, but you’ll run into some stunning Cathedrals too!
9. Praça do Comércio (Commercial Square in English)
This stunning square is the largest of all of Lisbon’s plazas and is located virtually adjacent to the Tagus estuary (trust me, I didn’t even
get lost so it is impossible to miss). Originally built in 1755, after the
great European earthquake that destroyed virtually the entire city, this prominent commercial center was where traders would sell their foreign wares and where financiers would fund perilous expeditions into the great unknown (think Vasco de Game and the age of discovery).
Between the traditional buildings that line the square and a magnificent statue of King José I that prominently stands in the center, this plaza is a must see for anyone visiting Lisbon. This area is perhaps one of the most beautiful sections of the city and stands as an enduring testament to the historic power and influence that Portugal had.
***This square is also an important transport hub where trams headed West, towards Belem, depart form the Northern side of the square. There is also a ferry terminal on the Southern side of the square that houses boats that cross the River Tagus.
***Also, if you walk right by the water, you ‘ll see a mini version of the Seven Magic Mountains display in Nevada.
Feel like you haven’t quite gotten your fix of European and Asian paintings yet? I get it. Tile is a great form of art but sometimes you just miss that feeling you get when someone puts pain on a canva. Totally understand because their is emotional form of self-expression that is found in paintings and that can be vacant from other forms of art.
So if you’re an art obsessed weirdo like me, I mean enthusiast, then make sure you stop by this vibrantly yellow, 17th-century palace, that has been expertly converted into the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (this is basically Lapa’s biggest draw). Oh , and I almost forgot. In addition to paintings, this museum also houses a collection of decorative arts that are sure to, dare I say, tickle your fancy? Okay, I’lll stop being more creepy than normal.
***Biannual temporary exhibit (with a separate price of €7) can be reached from the second entrance on Rua das Janelas Verdes. While you’re here, check out the incredibly peaceful gardens with lovely, panoramic river views.
***Looking for a great day trip from Lisbon? Take a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra and explore the stunning castles there.
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