Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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A winning combination of colorful architecture, world-class cuisine and Mediterranean climate, Lisbon is an alluring destination that lures in sunseekers, food enthusiasts and culture vultures alike. Spend your days sipping coffee in an open square, exploring domed cathedrals or getting lost in its cobbled alleyways. From historic castles to modern art museums, read on to discover the best things to do in Lisbon, Portugal.
One of the most scenic ways to explore Lisbon, hop on the famous Tram 28. The historic tram rumbles through Lisbon’s historic streets and travels through the foot of Bairro Alto, the shopping districts of Baixa and Chiado before placing you near the churches and castles on the hills of the Alfama and Graca neighborhoods. Many of these trams were the same that were used in World War II, where many travelers prefer to take it up the steep Alfama hill before walking down to explore the neighborhood.
Perched atop Lisbon’s highest hill in Alfama, Sao Jorge Castle is a great place to soak up nearly 1,000 years of Lisbon history and see a national monument. Serving as a fortification site for the Romans, Visigoths and the Moors, visit here to explore the relics that remain intact, including cannons, underground chambers and 18 towers, one of which houses a camera obscura. Take a break with a glass of wine at the restaurant on-site or wander through the gardens to spot local wildlife.
A historic waterfront neighborhood, Belem is home to some of Lisbon’s most significant monuments, museums and the city’s iconic Portuguese tart shop, Pasteis de Belem. Explore the Jeronimos Monastery, admire the architecture of the Belem Tower and see the Belem Palace, the official residence of Portugal’s president. Unwind with a stop at Pasteis de Belem to indulge in one or a few of the Portuguese egg tart pastries.
Learn more about one of Lisbon’s most notable feature at the National Tile Museum. The iconic Portuguese tiles, called “azulejos”, can be found on buildings around town and on the walls of the city’s attractions, while the museum showcases a beautiful display of these tiles and details how they are made. Displaying tiles of different colors and sizes, some are decorated with flowers or sailboats while others date back to the 15th century. Make sure to see the tiles pieces together that create grand murals that portray historical events.
A hotspot for food enthusiasts, the Time Out Market is a collaboration of food and culture. It places the best food in the city under one roof, where you’ll discover a large food court lined with stalls selling budget-friendly samples from a few of the country’s Michelin star chefs. Enjoy the variety of food, sweets and drinks, or visit early to see the original farmer and fish market, Mercado da Ribeira, that also sells flowers and souvenirs.
Make the short 40-minute journey from Lisbon to Sintra to experience this fairytale city that boasts a rich history. Its picturesque landscape is nestled on the foothills of the Sintra mountains, where steep cliffs drop down to the Atlantic Ocean and castles and palaces loom in the backdrop. The grand Pena National Palace is the crown jewel with its colorful architecture and unique blend of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Islamic styles.
Transforming into a buzzing nightlife scene when the sun goes down, Bairro Alto is also full of luxury shops, historic churches and museums. Its narrow cobbled streets offer an array of attractions, where you can watch the sunset from The Miradouro de Santa Catarina, admire the Gothic architectural style of Carmo Convent and see the opulent Baroque interior of The Museum of Sacred Art. Afterwards, enjoy a drink at one of the many bars that populate the area or take a stroll and listen to the traditional fado music spilling out onto the streets.
Visit the Monastery of St. Jerome, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Lisbon’s Belem district. Admire its ornate style of architecture that was built during the Age of Discoveries to honor explorer Vasco Da Gama. In the 17th-century the structure served as a monastery for monks, who spent their time comforting sailors and praying for the king. Take a self-guided tour of the site to see its vaulted ceilings, intricately carved pillars and cloisters.
Housing a world-renowned collection of art, Gulbenkian Museum features a diverse selection of unique objects, including Egyptian statues, European paintings and Chinese porcelain. Considered one of the city’s most important cultural venues, art, science and education are combined to showcase the largest collection of 20th-century Portuguese art. The venue also features a bookshop, garden and open-air auditorium, with rotating temporary exhibitions.
Lisbon’s location means you’re never far from a beautiful coastline of sandy beaches, from family-friendly shorelines to rugged surfing beaches and sheltered little coves. You can head to Cascais and visit the popular Carcavelos beach, visit Estoril and its picturesque Tamariz beach or make the short trek to Sintra to see the beautiful Adraga beach located in the Sintra-Cascais National Park. For magnificent blue waters, head to Serra de Arrabida National Park to admire its white, sandy shores.
Considered one of the best aquariums in the world, Oceanario de Lisboa features 8,000 marine creatures in the country’s largest indoor aquarium. With more than one million gallons of seawater, you can explore the underwater treasures here through four permanent exhibits and see various birds, fish, amphibians and mammals. Say hello to friendly sea otters, penguins and puffins on a guided tour and spend the day exploring the tropical forests and aquatic systems.