If you love city-scapes and cultural history coupled with exotic architecture, Lisbon is certainly the place for you. There is a plethora of history here, with tales of everything, from Roman imperialists to exotic Berber pirates, Moorish builders to fierce Reconquista knights, all wrapped up in the grand palaces and heritage districts. Add this with a bohemian atmosphere and there is an eclectic mix of old and new.
Here I am listing some of the Best things to do in Lisbon, this can be used as a 2 or 3-day itinerary for Lisbon. While you are in Lisbon you may want to check out the Top Instagrammable spots in Lisbon.
For ease of transport through the city, free access to museums, discounts, and unlimited access consider using Lisbon card
Best Lisbon experiences for your fabulous trip.
1. Wonder at Torre de Belém
If there is one Landmark that becomes a cities symbol like Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower for London, Eiffel Tower for Paris, Torre de Belem represents Lisbon or Lisboa. Hence, this is a must-visit for every Tourist visiting Lisbon.
Soaring high above the seafront of the Lisbon quays, this great tower displays a veritable fusion of architectural styles from the Mudejar to the Moorish, the Gothic to the Romanesque. It has stood watch over the mouth of the Tagus River since its construction under the patronage of Saint John back in the 16th century. You can go up the tower by buying tickets queuing up or online ahead of your travel here.
This is also a very good starting point while touring Lisbon on foot because 5 minutes from here you have Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Jerónimos Monastery, which are not to be missed and among the top must-see in Lisbon.
And you will love me for what I am to reveal at the end of these congregate of spots 😉
2. Find you inner sailor in Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Just walking a straight line along the shore of the river Tejo/Tagus, you will see this landmark just 5 mins from Belem Tower.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos marks the shore of the Tagus Estuary with its grand architecture and beige stone. This monument marks the successes of Portuguese exploration during the Age of Discovery. Once you spot it, be sure to pick out the legendary figures of Vasco da Gama (an explorer of India and Arabia) and Prince Henry the Navigator (an adventurer of the Great Sand Sea).
Historically, the shipyards of Lisbon were situated in Belem, it is here Vasco da Gama spent his last night before his epic voyage to India. And later, the vast riches earned from the 17th-century spice trade aided the construction of the impressive Mosteiro dos Jerónimos/ Jerónimos Monastery, which is our next spot.
3. Get awe struck with Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, also known as the Monastery of St. Jerome or the Jerónimos Monastery, is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Lisbon’s Belém district.
Exemplifying Portugal’s Manueline style – a highly ornate style of architecture named after the king of the time (Manuel I) – the monastery was built during the Age of Discoveries to honor explorer Vasco da Gama, before embarking on their famous journey to India in 1498. During the 17th century, the structure served as a monastery for monks, whose job was to comfort sailors and pray for the king. It eventually became a school and orphanage until 1940.
You should visit inside to see the stunning Gothic architecture, you will have to buy the tickets at the reception inside or you can book them online here. Don’t forget to take some form of an ID card as they will verify it at the entrance.
4. Ride Tram 28
London has its red double-decker bus and Lisbon has its yellow trams. Tram 28, which extends from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique, in particular, takes riders on a tourist-friendly route. Not only does it pass through some of the city’s most notable neighborhoods, including Graça, Baixa, and Bairro Alto, but it also travels by popular attractions, such as St. George’s Castle and Alfama.
Trust me it is easier than walking the steep cobbled roads of Lisbon, Lisbon is called the land of seven hills for no reason.
You can instead take a tuk-tuk ride to see the scenic route if you don’t prefer climbing the tram.
You can also try and replicate this shoot:
5. Get lost in the tiled district of Alfama
Take an afternoon or evening stroll and get lost in the history of the city. This is the oldest part of Lisbon like the Forum in Rome, although this one dates back to the Moors of Africa instead of the kings of Latium.
As you get lost in this district do look for the trace and origin of Fado. My recommendation would be to definitely stroll here in the evening and end the night having dinner while listening to Fado.
Recommended tour: Alfama and Fado tour with dinner
6. Watch the sunset in Miradouro de Santa Luzia
You must have heard of European open street cafes where people sit and chill taking in the views as well as people watching, well there are plenty in Paris, and this is Lisbon’s version and better.
This romantic terrace by the church of Santa Luzia introduces visitors to Alfama with a sweeping view over its houses, churches, and the Tagus River.
The view of iconic red-roofed Lisbon houses strung across Tejo river framed by Bougainvillea flowers while you sit watching the sunset with a cuppa or have a small evening snack just sounds perfect, don’t believe me watch the reel/video below.
7. Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio/ Parca do plaza is a large, harbor-facing plaza in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, and is one of the largest in Portugal. It is the oxford street of Lisbon, a major hub of shopping, eating out, you name it, and everything in this place.
8. Rua Agusta
Rua Agusta is a stone, triumphal arch-like, historical building and visitor attraction on the Praça do Comércio. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. It has six columns (some 11 m high) and is adorned with statues of various historical figures. Significant height from the arch crown to the cornice imparts an appearance of heaviness to the structure.
You can buy tickets to go up, the top of Rua Augusta offers a panoramic view of the city. However, be warned you cannot take a tripod here and set it down on the floor.
9. Santa Justa Elevator (Elevador de Santa Justa)
In the same area as the Plaza and Rua Augusta is an iconic Lisbon elevator, which takes you nowhere but just up to where you can see the view of the city again. I feel Rua Agusta is better for the Panoramic view.
But next to this is the most instagrammable spot Elevador da Bica, where you will see a beautiful tram go up and down the street and photographers and Instagrammers lining to take pics.
10. Get mesmerized by azulejos in National Tile Museum
While walking anywhere in Lisbon you will come across Portuguese love for tiles, beautiful and ornately designed always depicting a story. Ask any ceramic aficionado and they will tell you that Portugal is the place to go for tiles.
Cue Lisbon’s great National Tile Museum, which is dedicated to everything fired in a kiln. The institution traces the important history of tile making and its associated technologies from the days when the Moors first brought it to Iberia. Of course, the best part of all the exhibitions is the blue-hued azulejos.
These famous ceramic works of art gave the country its reputation for craftsmanship in ceramics.
And what better than this is included in your Lisbon card.
11. Carmo Convent
This small convent is close to my heart, and a spot known and suggested by the locals. I didn’t read about this spot in any of the blogs. The beautiful part of this convent is that it was half destroyed during the 1755 Earthquake and part of the standing part is restored.
It is the only part that tells the history of Lisbon before the earthquake and fire of 1755, while the rest of the architecture and streets you see were constructed after 1755.
12. Take a day trip to Sintra
Any person you tell you have been to Lisbon will ask you this, “Have you been to Sintra”?
This small town is bustling with Palaces. The historic center of the Vila de Sintra is famous for its 19th-century Romanticist architecture, historic estates and villas, gardens, and royal palaces and castles, which resulted in the classification of the town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town is within 40mins drive from Lisbon making it a must-visit place (if you have the strength to walk steep slopes).
If you cant visit everything in Sintra, my recommendations are these 3:
- Pena Palace
- Quinta da Regaleira
- Monserrate Palace
Recommended tour: Guided day tour from Lisbon to Sintra
After so much touring if you still have time and want to visit some beaches I recommend checking out Tróia Peninsula which is a 2-hour journey worth taking.
However, you can take a short drive across the Ponte de Abril on the Tagus River to reach the acclaimed and popular summer resort of Costa da Caparica. This sits on the northern fringes of the Sétubal district and offers unrivaled access to some of the best sandy spots close to the capital.
Best time to visit Lisbon: March to May or September to October, because the weather is still warm, hotel rates are cheaper and there are fewer crowds than in summer. In those seasons, you might also be able to squeeze in a few beach days. The summer sees hot temperatures and crowded shores.
Hotel recommendation: If you would want to wake up to the view of Sunrise over Tagus river and get a stunning luxurious room, you should check out Altis Belem Hotel & Spa.
Here you go this will be perfect for your itinerary for 3 days in Lisbon, have fun, and don’t forget to check the Top Instagrammable locations in Lisbon too.