7 Best Things to Do in Lisbon: A Guide for Travelers
Lisbon, Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital, interprets the phrase ‘Diverse Beauty’ in the most enchanting way. A city with a vibrant cultural scene nestled in remarkable history, distinct neighborhoods, panoramic landscapes, and captivating views, Lisbon epitomizes the allure of European urban life. This post aims to guide you through our carefully selected top 7 must-visit destinations that encapsulate the essence of this amazing city.
Explore the Historic District of Alfama
Venturing into the oldest district of Lisbon, Alfama, feels like stepping into a time machine and traveling back to Lisbon’s distant past. The narrow streets, artistic cobblestones, colorful houses adorned with traditional tiles, and the melody of Fado music echoing in the air create a captivating ambiance that represents the spirit of Lisbon.
Here, you cannot miss visiting Lisbon Cathedral, also known as Sé de Lisboa, a timeless masterpiece mixing Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architectural styles, standing tall since 1147. Another crown jewel is the Castelo de São Jorge, a historical castle that offers scenic views of the city and the Tagus river. For more panoramic vistas, head to the viewpoints Portas do Sol and Graça, where the city of Lisbon unfolds as an incredibly beautiful tableau.
Visit the Iconic Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery
Travelers seeking historical importance combined with architectural beauty must visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery. Belém Tower, adorned with intricately carved stone, stands as a testament to Portugal’s Maritime might in the Age of Discoveries. Similarly, Jerónimos Monastery showcases Manueline architecture at its best, paying homage to the nation’s exploration grandeur.
In the vicinity, don’t forget to indulge in the original ‘pastéis de Belém.’ This traditional Portuguese custard tart, with its flaky pastry and sweet egg custard filling, has a recipe shrouded in secret yet delivering a flavor that will linger in your memory.
Enjoy the Scenic Views from São Jorge Castle
Castelo de São Jorge stands majestically atop the hill, looking over the historic center of Lisbon and the Tagus River. This citadel, with its ten towers, offers an elaborate connection with Lisbon’s history in addition to 360-degree views of the city. While exploring the castle’s grounds, you can also visit an archaeological site revealing traces from the 11th-century Islamic neighborhood. The Camera Obscura, located in the Tower of Ulysse, presents a real-time 360º projected view of Lisbon.
Stroll Through the Bustling Neighborhood of Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto, a lively district, is an endless party that highlights the enchanting chaos of Lisbon’s nightlife. Cruising through the myriad of narrow streets, you’ll encounter fascinating graffiti, traditional Fado houses, cool bars, innovative restaurants, and vibrant clubs. However, don’t be fooled by Bairro’s seemingly quiet daytime demeanor! It’s home to a cluster of unique shops, vintage boutiques, and also fantastic spots to admire the rainbow-colored facades of the buildings.
Embark on a Mouth-watering Pastéis de Nata Tour
Lisbon is renowned for its delicious, traditional custard tart, the Pastéis de Nata. These heavenly delicacies are a true symbol of the city’s culinary heritage. Embark on a self-guided or organized tour to explore the top pastelarias baking these sweet, scrumptious treats. Begin your journey at the famous Pastéis de Belém, where the tarts’ secret recipe is said to have originated from, and continue to seek out the best Pastéis de Nata at local gems such as Manteigaria or Aloma. Compare your favorites and savor the unique flavors and textures that make this custard tart an unmissable Lisbon treasure.
Discover Cultural Richness at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
Ensconced within Lisbon’s verdant park is the invaluable Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, often stated as one of the best museums in Portugal. The globally-renowned foundation presents an exquisite collection of 6000 pieces, spanning 4000 years of art. From Egyptian antiquities, Greco-Roman art, Persian art, Modern, and European art, each exhibition narrates a unique tale. The combination of thoughtful curation, serene surroundings, and an aesthetically pleasing structure delivers a cultural experience that is genuinely unique to Lisbon.
Experience the Charm of Tram 28E
No visit to Lisbon can be considered complete without experiencing the journey through the city’s heart on the historic Tram 28E. This iconic ride, fondly termed as the ‘tourist tram,’ weaves through numerous touristic hotspots, climbing steep hills and navigating narrow, curving streets. As you traverse through areas including Graça, Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela, the journey showcases the real Lisbon, from bustling downtown to quieter, historic neighborhoods. The tram ride itself is a moving spectacle, a testament to the city’s charm and history.
From the labyrinthine alleys of Alfama to the futuristic vibes of Parque das Nações, Lisbon presents a compelling ensemble of history, culture, modernity, and undiluted natural beauty. Each of these seven destinations offers a unique facet of Lisbon, inviting you to explore the city’s quintessence.
As you traverse Lisbon, let each moment, each vista, and each encounter be a joyous celebration of discovery and exploration. Create memories in this city of contrasts and contradictions, and let the vibrant charm of Lisbon inspire stories that you would narrate and re-narrate with a sparkle in your eyes.