Lisbon, Portugal has definitely been a highlight during our travels. There are many things to do when you visit this gorgeous European city on the coast. 14 of my top things to do are highlighted in this post about Lisbon.
Lisbon, Portugal stole my heart. From the moment I stepped out of the taxi cab from the airport and into the narrow, hilly, cobblestone streets I fell in love. Everywhere I looked there was charm; vibrant tile facades gracing the front of the colorful buildings, cable cars, local vendors standing on the street corners, massive cathedrals, quaint restaurants, bars, pastry shops, and the ocean.
If you would rather hear about why we love Lisbon so much check out our Podcast 18: Lisbon, Portugal (Our Second Trip to the Romantic & Festive City).
We stayed in Lisbon for 2.5 weeks and I would have stayed forever (we used this Airbnb Search Tip to find the perfect apartment). The people of Lisbon are very welcoming, laid-back, and know how to throw a good party (check out The Lisbon Hustle). Although Portuguese is the main language spoken, most people in Lisbon speak English. Days are spent sunbathing at the beach while nights are spent partying in the streets. Lisbon has excellent, cheap wine and cold beer for those hot summer days and is a foodie paradise with many food options to choose from.
Whether you are going for a weekend getaway or a long holiday, the city is full of things to do. Here is a list of things to do in Lisbon while you enjoy the great food, great weather, and charming people.
Visit Bairro Alto Neighborhood – During the day, this neighborhood is buzzing with people shopping at the many boutique stores and dining at the many tapas restaurants, cafes, and pastry shops. As night falls, the street lights turn on and music can be heard in the streets. There are many bars in Bairro Alto and every night you can count on finding some sort of street party after 10 pm.
Enjoy a cocktail or two at Park Bar – This hidden, rooftop, bar is located on the top level of a seven-story parking garage. The bar has both indoor and outdoor, patio seating, a live DJ, and breathtaking views of Lisbon, the 25th de Abril bridge, and the Tagus River. It also has excellent cocktails (I highly recommend the mojitos and bloody mary’s) and a plethora of “bites” aka burgers (vegetarian options included) to choose from.
Buy some fresh fruits and vegetables at Mercado da Ribeira – Just a short walk from the Cais do Sodré train station, this fish and fresh produce market have been in operation since the 19th century. In 2014, Time Out Lisboa magazine bought the warehouse space and created more than 30 spaces, each with a different concept. The market has top chefs cooking Portuguese and international cuisines, mixologists making cocktails and pouring glasses of wine, and local vendors selling Portuguese products.
The market also offers cooking and dance classes and often has live music on the second floor. The original, traditional market selling fresh fish and produce is open daily from 0600 to 1400. The food, beverage, and goods court are open daily from 1000 to midnight on Sunday to Wednesday and 1000 to 0200 from Thursday to Saturday.
Take a day trip to Cascais – Less than an hour from Lisbon (by Metro), this cute little fishing port city has many beautiful beaches perfect for catching some rays, surfing, and swimming.
Visit the famous Alfama Neighborhood – Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood. This neighborhood is full of charm; steep, winding, cobblestone streets, brightly colored buildings, tiling that decorates almost every corner you turn, tuk-tuks, castles, and cathedrals. Here there are street blocks that have family names along with a picture of a family on the building. Doors are a little smaller.
Streets appear to be a little less traveled and are barely wide enough for a car to fit. When a car on the street drives by, people press themselves against the building to make sure that they are not in the way. There are alleys lined with steep staircases leading to another narrow street different from the one you just came from. This neighborhood is truly magical.
Visit the birthplace of Saint Anthony – Located in the Alfama neighborhood, in the city where St. Anthony grew up, the church stands on the site of his birth (located in a small underground chapel below the church). The church is adorned with statues and images of St. Anthony and his life. There is a plaque honoring the visit of Pope John Paul II in May of 1982 on his way to Fatima, Portugal.
In Portugal, Spain, and Brazil, St. Anthony is known as the patron saint of marriage because there are stories of him reconciling couples. Mass marriages are held at this church on June 13th every year, his feast day, the day of his death. It is custom that 13 couples get married on St. Anthony’s Day with all expenses of the wedding ceremony paid for by the Lisbon city council. After the weddings, the couples then have celebrations throughout the streets of Alfama.
Visit Santo Antonio Museum
Get educated at Museu da Farmacia – Whether you are a pharmacist, healthcare professional, or are just interested in medicine, this museum is very interesting and full of history. The museum itself showcases bottles of medicine from the 60’s and 70’s, laboratory equipment used in the 50’s, and various ancient relics from around the world.
There are exhibits that depict how different cultures all over the world use medicine in relation to different herbs, chemicals, machines, oils, and other equipment such as flasks, clay pots, bottles, and earthenware. When you are finished with your pharmacy lesson for the day, head out to the front lawn of the museum and enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail at The Old Pharmacy Restaurant and Bar.
Enjoy music at a Fado bar
Get some sunshine at Cais das Colunas beach – The city of Lisbon does not have an actual beach. However, there is a small “beachy” area located in front of the Praca do Comécio (Commerce Square) on the Tagus River. There are small sandy and rocky areas where one can sunbathe and many people can be found swimming in the Tagus. The “beachy” area also has several waterfront restaurants and food and beverage kiosks located nearby.
Travel Tip: On crazy adventures or just walking the streets of the city you are visiting, your shoes will likely get very dirty. You don’t want to have to put dirty or dusty shoes into your backpack or suitcase for your next destination. Some places it is almost impossible to get the dust off so we always pack our extra shoes or sandals in these Shoe Bags before putting them into our backpacks. Find this and other tips on our Travel Tools page.
Walk along the doca de Santo Amaro waterfront – This waterfront walkway has many restaurants to sit and eat along the Tagus River or you can grab a bench or staircase and just sit along the water and relax and enjoy the view.
Check out Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra (flea market) – Located in the Alfama neighborhood, this flea market is held from early morning until dusk, every Tuesday and Saturday. Vendors sell both used and new items ranging from books, clothing, shoes, coins, tools, perfumes, music, movies, antiques, furniture, and jewelry to hand-made artisan goods. Items for sale are placed on tables, hung from trees, and placed on blankets on the ground. If you are in need of something, you can most certainly find it here!
Watch the sunset at Mirador Santa Catarina – This is just one of the many miradors or “viewpoints” located in Lisbon. Tourists and locals gather here just before sunset to socialize and/or enjoy a beer after work along with musicians. At this particular mirador, there is a cafe that sells coffee, beer, wine, and cocktails but BYOB is completely acceptable!
Take a day trip to Sintra – One word. Castles. If you like castles visit Sintra. Located 40 minutes from Lisbon (by Metro) this is a must see for those who love castles, walking through the hilly streets of Europe, visiting gardens, and checking out local artisan shops.
Traveled: June 2017