When my flight landed at the Lisbon International Airport at 8 in the evening, it dawned on me that apart from the basics I had learnt at school about the fortitude of the Portuguese navy and the formidable royal family, I knew very little about the culture, people or landscape of Portugal.
I couldn’t help a giddy flutter of excitement as I anticipated the adventure of discovery that this trip would be.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and there is so much to do in this city! The food is insanely mouthwatering, the people are so kind and the landscape and architecture are absolutely breathtaking! Here is a rundown of all of the fun things to do and eat in Lisbon!
Everything you can do in Lisbon in two days:
Best Spots to eat in Lisbon
Where to stay in Lisbon
My friend Martina and I stayed at a quaint little Airbnb in the Graça district. The view from our balcony extended all the way to the ocean and I instantly fell in love with the abstract houses and the pops of pattern and colour on the buildings. The colourfully tiled walls and the pastels are a recurring theme on all the buildings and give Lisbon such a charming atmosphere.
Lisbon Airbnb rates are very reasonable in general but if you’re splitting with friends it makes it even more affordable. If you are looking for an even cheaper stay, Lisbon also has some very cool hostels.
Most of Lisbon is quite hilly, so it takes longer to get around by car. It’s much more pleasant to walk around, and there’s plenty of street art and unique streets to stroll through as you go along. That being said, Taxis are very cheap and uber is also available but be careful because you aren’t covered by insurance in an uber as you would be in a taxi.
One thing I was quite surprised by was how laid back everything is. Even during the week, nothing opens before 9am and even the roads aren’t as busy as you would expect. Most of the bustling about seemed to come from the tourists during the day but the locals seemed very easy-going.
NEIGHBOURHOODS IN LISBON
Sao Jorge Castle
The 400 year old Moorish castle sits right on top of the hill overlooking the city of Lisbon and the Tagus River. The Moors were a group of Muslims who inhabited this part of Europe in Middle Ages.
The castle is in ruins these days, what remains are restorations that were made to the walls at the beginning of the 20th century. These stand proudly and you can definitely feel that the grounds were once a place of splendour and a seat of power. You can walk around the grounds, up onto the wall corridors and they have a small museum that explains the rich history of the castle.
They have the most beautiful peacocks on the property which is quite random but it certainly did seem like a metaphor or a fitting memory of the powerful people that used to watch over Lisbon within these walls.
You can take the tram up to the Castle from the city center, or you can walk which can be quite pleasant if it’s not too hot. We took our time when walking around but made sure not to miss this spot on our first day. It’s the most popular tourist attraction in Lisbon and does get very busy in the summer but it’s worth it to say that you’ve been and taken in the beautiful view at the top!
Ticket prices are €8.50 for adults and children below 10 go in for free!
The National Pantheon
The monument was originally the church of Saint Engracia, that saw construction start in the 16th century but was only finished in the 20th century. Today the Pantheon is a wonderful museum and houses the remains of some of the most prominent personalities in the country’s history.
Situated in the Alfama district, it’s a pride among the locals. If you’re in a taxi and the driver asks what you’ve seen in Lisbon so far, the Pantheon is at the top of his recommendations.
It’s open Tuesday to Sunday (many of Lisbon’s monuments are closed on Mondays) and the entrance fee is €3.
Church of Sao Roque
Lisbon is full of beautiful churches and cathedrals, the most predominant religion being Christianity. The church of Sao Roque houses what is considered to be some of the most exquisite Jesuit sacred art along with the beautiful Saint John Baptiste Chapel.
There is no fee to enter the church but there is an adjoining museum which is open every day except Mondays and this has a fee of €2.50 except on Sundays when it’s free.
The Pink Street
This is one of the most photographed streets in Lisbon because it is quite literally, a pink street. During the day it can be quite underwhelming when all of the quirky bars are closed but you won’t miss the keen Instagrammer waiting to get her perfect shot in the middle of the street.
At night, the area is much more lively, with young people milling about in the quirky bars and it’s a prime spot to go out dancing and to mingle with the young Portuguese people.
Elevador da Santa Justa (Carmo Lift)
This beautifully constructed wrought iron elevator was built connected to the Carmo Church to allow people to avoid walking up the steep hills.
The elevator still works today but is mostly a tourist attraction. There isn’t an extra admissions fee since it’s technically public transport so you can use a public transport ticket.
The ruins of the church are beautiful but the lines can be a bit long so if you’re short for time then you could skip this attraction.
Feira da Ladra / Flea Market
You might think you can visit a flea market anywhere in the world, but what if I said this market is thought to have been around for almost 900 years.
The market is open every Tuesday and Saturday and is found in a square by the National Pantheon. Traders sell everything from artisanal goods, and books to furniture and CDs. Even if you don’t buy anything it’s quite an experience!
It’s quite similar to the atmosphere in the markets you’d see if you visit Istanbul.
Rossio Square & The Esplanade
I found that one of the best ways to explore the city was to start walking and to get lost in the streets. If you head downwards you’ll eventually reach the waterfront but you should definitely make your way to Rossio square and take a walk down the esplanade.
The architecture is stunning and on a clear day, the blue sky creates such a beautiful contrast with the pastel colours and whites of the buildings. You can sit and have a coffee at the end of the Esplanade and while we walked around there were artists making sand statues and art with the rocks by the water.
Tuktuks and the trams
The main mode of public transport around the city if you aren’t walking is the tram. You can pay as you hop on and off but if you plan to be using them all day, you’re better off buying a €5 ticket at the metro station and you can hop on and off for 24 hours.
I’d recommend going on the tram just once if you want to get the experience but if you’ve got things to see and you’re pressed for time it’s easier to walk around, taking the short cuts along the little streets.
Otherwise, if you’re feeling up to it, the locals have these adorable and super fun tuktuks that they can take you around Lisbon in for tours (or to get you from A to B)! It’s a tiny bit on the pricier side but they’re all so lovely and friendly and have lots of fun and historical facts to share as they drive you around the city that they are so very proud to live in.
Miradoura da Graca viewpoint
The neighbourhood of Graca has two of the best viewpoints in Lisbon. The first is the Miradoura da Graca viewpoint, although if I’m being honest we found it by accident and didn’t even know it had a name! If you are actively looking for it though it is quite easy to find.
There’s a little cafe to the side of the viewpoint which opens at around 10am.
Miradoura de Nossa Senhora do Monte viewpoint
The second best viewpoint in Graca is the Miradoura de Nossa Senhora do Monte which is a bit of a mouthful I’ll admit but it’s worth it as well!
Tower of Belem
Belem is another area is that is highly recommended by the locals. It’s best known for the tower of Belem which was built as a fort to guide Lisbon from enemies coming from the sea. Fun fact! The tower of Belem was adorned with detailed carvings, one of which was the first carving of a Rhinoceros to ever be done in Europe.
You can visit the interior of the Tower for €6 for adults and children up to 14 get in for free.
The municipality of Belem itself is wonderful to just walk around and they’ve got their own version of the popular Pasteis de Nata known as the Pasteis de Belem. Apparently, in the summer the best bakery selling them gets impossibly full and sells over 8000 pastries a day!
SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT PORTUGAL
- The area of Cascais in Portugal has the only bridge in the world that connects the North and South Atlantic Ocean. (It’s the smallest bridge ever but still cool lolz!)
- The first communications cable between America and Europe came through Portugal.
- Portugal has the most western point in Europe, ie the shortest distance between mainland Europe and the USA, known as Cabo da Roca.
- Portugal and Britain have the longest alliance between two countries in the world to date, over 400 years.
- According to our taxi driver, the most popular fish is cod and they have about 101 ways to cook it. Although I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean it literally!
- When walking around in Lisbon, be careful not to step in dog poop (maybe not a fun fact more of a little warning!)
Best Spots to Eat in Lisbon
If you come to Lisbon for the ambience, you stay for the food. When I travel I love to experience the new tastes that a country has to offer especially when it comes to desserts and seafood. I’m quite strict when it comes to eating meat because personally I prefer not to but give me alllll the shrimp!!
Time out Market
Granted this is a very touristy area but if you miss out on the Time out Market you are missing out on some of the most creative seafood dishes you will ever lay your eyes on. And at some of the best prices too!
An Octopus hotdog and perfectly sautéd scallops from the Sea Me stall, a Portuguese take on Asian fusion at Asian Lab and the most mouthwatering banoffee and salted caramel eclairs from L’Eclaire.
Oh and not to forget the best Pastei de Nata in all of Lisbon from Manteigaria!
If the Time out Market is the most creative, Ramiro’s is the most delicious. The creme of the creme of seafood in Lisbon.
Piles of crabs, clanking pots of clams and barnacles, grilled lemon tiger prawns and sizzling pans of garlic shrimp all served with freshly warmed breaded loaves. Making myself hungry just thinking about it!
If you’re a fan of Ceviche, you need to visit A Cevicheria. The fish is so fresh, the vibrant mixtures of flavours are a wonder to the tastebuds and the ambience is perfect for a date night or special occasion.
We ordered the Portuguese Ceviche (mixed seafood with truffle covered potatoe puree) and the tuna Ceviche with beetroot, and it was divine!
Pasteis de Nata
These are essentially one of Portugal’s national foods. These little pastries are filled with custard and baked to flaky perfection.
I think I tried one at every single bakery I walked past, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You absolutely need to try these when you visit Lisbon!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve visited Portugal and what you thought of it! And if you haven’t, have you considered putting it on your bucket list now?
Sit back, grab some oreos and let’s see what life has to offer us next!