The capital of sunny Portugal, Lisbon is situated at the point where the Tagus River estuary meets the Atlantic Ocean. As a travel destination, the riverfront city is as rich and varied as the country’s long history.
From the ruins of a Moorish castle perched atop one of the city’s seven hills to a sidewalk café snuggled against an ancient Visigoth wall, remnants of Lisbon’s colorful past are everywhere.
Lisbon is rightfully proud of the role it played during Portugal’s Age of Discovery, and monuments celebrating the voyages of explorers like Vasco da Gama are among the most important attractions in Lisbon.
While Western Europe’s oldest city has taken steps to overhaul its transportation system, modernize its downtown area and revamp its waterfront, it’s the charm of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods that most attract visitors.
Exploring its hilly streets of winding alleys and historic landmarks on foot is one of the most rewarding things to do in Lisbon and somewhere you could spend hours perusing.
Map of Things to do in Lisbon
The city is also famed for its vibrant arts and music scene, love of soccer (Cristiano Ronaldo started his professional career at Sporting Lisbon) and tradition of Fado music.
Overall, it is a destination rich in landmarks, attractions and character that should appeal to every traveler.
See also: Where to Stay in Lisbon
27. Igreja de São Roque
The Igreja de São Roque is one of the oldest Jesuit churches in the world.
Built in the 16th century, it is a remarkable structure renowned for its rich history and exquisite architectural beauty.
While its Renaissance façade is rather unassuming, you’ll be captivated by its intricate Baroque and Mannerist design, ornate chapels, and gilded altarpieces when you step inside.
The highlight of the church is the Capela de São João Baptista, often referred to as the ‘world’s most expensive chapel’.
Decorated with lapis lazuli, precious marbles and amethyst, and finished with ivory, silver and gold, the chapel’s main focal point is an intricate mosaic. Created by Mattia Moretti it is called ‘The Baptism of Christ’ and will captivate your attention for quite some time.
26. Feira da Ladra
If you are into shopping, check out the ‘Feira da Ladra’ flea market.
Held every Tuesday and Saturday, from dawn until early afternoon, at Campo de Santa Clara – a square by the National Pantheon – the market has a long history. Its name first appeared in documentation during the 17th Century. However, there is evidence it existed as far back as the 12th Century.
Many people believe its name translates to ‘Thieves’ Market’ because the word ‘ladra’ means a woman thief in Portuguese. However, it actually comes from ‘ladro’, meaning a flea or bug found in antiques.
Today, several stalls or traders display their goods on a blanket. Shoppers can find everything from hand-made artisan items, books and clothes to coins, military objects, antiques and furniture.
25. Carmo Convent Ruins
The Carmo Convent Ruins are a hauntingly beautiful testament to a dark day in Lisbon’s history. The convent, constructed in the 14th century, was severely damaged during the devastating earthquake of 1755. At this time, many worshipers tragically lost their lives due to falling debris and masonry.
As a poignant reminder of the city’s past, the towering arches and crumbling walls create a captivating and eerie atmosphere. Visitors can explore the site, wandering among the weathered stone columns and imagining the grandeur that once existed. The adjacent Carmo Archaeological Museum houses artefacts that provide further insight into the site’s history.
The church’s front also faces the beautiful Largo do Carmo in Chiado, which features the stunning Chafariz do Carmo fountain as its centerpiece.
24. National Museum of Ancient Art
The National Museum of Ancient Art is one of our favorite attractions in Lisbon. Housed in a beautiful 17th-century palace, the museum boasts diverse works, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, and decorative arts.
Showcasing an extensive collection of art from Portugal and beyond, we saw incredible masterpieces by renowned artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, and Nuno Gonçalves.
The museum’s main highlights include the ‘Temptations of Saint Anthony’ triptych and an impressive Portuguese Renaissance and Baroque collection.
What we liked most about this museum is that its rich and varied collection offers a fascinating journey through the artistic heritage of Portugal. A place you could easily spend all day at, it provides a captivating insight into the country’s cultural history.
23. Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara
Lisbon’s most famous observation point is the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. It is located near the Elevador da Glória and showcases a tremendous city view.
An excellent place to get your bearings when you first arrive in the city, you will be able to observe Restauradores Square and Baixa from this vantage point. You should also be able to make out Avenida da Liberdade boulevard and the impressive walls and verdant pine trees of the Castelo de São Jorge. The Igreja da Graça, a 13th-century baroque-style grand church, can also be seen in detail.
The observation point is situated within an attractive, manicured garden, making it a lovely spot for a picnic or just relaxing after a busy sightseeing day.
22. LX Factory
One of the most fun things to do in Lisbon is a shopping trip to the LX Factory.
Previously an industrial textile complex, LX Factory has transformed into one of Lisbon’s trendiest hubs of trendy restaurants, bars, and shops.
Situated under the Ponte de 25 Abril Bridge, the renovated area has a village-like feel with its cobbled streets and street art on rustic warehouse walls.
Whilst there, you can buy clothes at Etnik Spring or Coqueta, jewellery at Ana Couto & Valérie Lachuer or Hilary & June, and home furnishing products at Pura Cal.
In addition, you can also enjoy a meal in a former industrial canteen, browse through a multi-story bookstore and witness artists at work in their ateliers and studios. Live music performances or exhibitions are also hosted from time to time.
21. Lisbon Zoo
Lisbon Zoo is no ordinary zoo. It is, in fact, a popular destination that combines entertainment, education, and conservation.
The zoo is home to a diverse range of animal species from around the world, allowing visitors to observe and learn about wildlife up close.
It houses everything from majestic lions and playful dolphins to colorful birds and adorable primates, thus offering a fascinating experience for all ages. It even has crocodiles, lynxes, ostriches and giraffes, which most people don’t get to see every day.
Alongside the animal exhibits, they offer educational programs, interactive displays, and informative presentations promoting awareness and conservation efforts. The zoo also features beautifully landscaped gardens and picnic areas, providing a pleasant and relaxing environment for you to enjoy.
20. Day Trip to Sintra
Lisbon is a great city, and you’ll no doubt want to spend as much time as you can there. However, if you do have time for a side trip, we recommend you visit the wonderful town of Sintra.
Sitting snug within the foothills of the craggy Serra de Sintra, it will take you about 40 minutes to get there by train from the city center. But once you are there, you will find yourself in a place with regal royal palaces, enchanting mansions, and an incredible Moorish castle, dating back to the 8th century.
The historic old town of Sintra-Vila is a delightful mix of colorful, ornate townhouses, decorative cafés, and traditional restaurants wedged along a maze of cobblestone streets and narrow alleys. It’s a place you will want to spend plenty of time soaking it all in.
19. Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
The Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is a famous landmark in Lisbon that offers another peaceful place to admire panoramic views of the city.
It’s located near Miradouro da Graça and provides a marvelous vantage point to observe the capital. Visitors can see the church of Graça and the castle, with houses cascading down its hillside, guarding the city.
The river and the Tagus estuary also illuminate the rooftops of Baixa, Carmo’s ruins, and the pastel tones of Avenidas Novas. Interestingly, this is where Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, gathered his troops to conquer Lisbon nine centuries ago. Today, the Lady of the Mount (Senhora do Monte) and her chapel – founded in 1147 – reign supreme here.
18. Ajuda National Palace
The Ajuda National Palace is one of the most impressive buildings in Lisbon.
A grand architectural marvel built in the 19th century, it served as the royal family’s official residence, showcasing an opulent blend of Neoclassical and Baroque styles.
As you wander its halls, you’ll discover much about how the monarchy lived. Tourists can explore lavishly decorated rooms with exquisite tapestries, intricate furnishings, and magnificent chandeliers. The palace also houses a remarkable collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.
State Rooms occupy most of the upper floor, while there is a spectacular Music Room on the ground floor.
Outside, the surrounding gardens provide a serene oasis with beautifully landscaped grounds and scenic viewpoints to take in the palace’s facade.
17. Museu Coleção Berardo
The Museu Coleção Berardo is a world-class contemporary art museum with a remarkable collection of modern and contemporary artworks. José Berardo, a prominent Portuguese businessman and art collector, founded it in 2006.
Located in the Praça do Império in Belém, the museum showcases various art movements and styles, including works by renowned artists. They include the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, and Francis Bacon.
The museum’s collection spans multiple mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, and installation art.
Its sleek and spacious galleries provide a perfect setting to appreciate the innovative and often thought-provoking artworks within its two permanent exhibitions and several temporary shows.
If you do plan to come here, be aware it is closed on Mondays.
16. Sé Cathedral
Sé de Lisboa, also known as Lisbon Cathedral, holds great significance as the city’s oldest and most important church. Its construction, dating back to the 12th century, is defined by a predominantly Romanesque style. However, several alterations have incorporated other design styles, giving it a unique character over the years.
The cathedral is protected by its thick walls and two bell towers, which give it a medieval fortress-like appearance. Upon entering, visitors will find a decorative interior, including a fountain where Saint Anthony of Padua was baptized, 14th-century sarcophagi, and a striking 14th-century Gothic chapel.
One of its dominant features is its magnificent rose-stained glass window. At the same time, its intricate chapels and the imposing main altar are also noteworthy.
15. Vasco da Gama Bridge
Completed in 1998, the Vasco da Gama bridge is a modern feat of engineering and a popular attraction. Named after Portugal’s most famous explorer, it was built to alleviate Lisbon’s traffic congestion. Stretching for nearly 17 km (11 miles) across the Tagus River, the cable-stayed bridge is so long that its builders had to take the Earth’s curve into consideration when constructing it.
Built at an expense of 1.1 billion dollars, the six-lane bridge is expected to stand for more than a century, ensuring that visitors can experience its breathtaking architecture for generations to come.
14. National Azulejo Museum
Plastered on structures from churches and shops to metro stations, the colorful ceramic tiles known as azulejos are found everywhere in Lisbon. The National Azulejo Museum chronicles their architectural and cultural significance in the city’s long history.
A tradition that began in the 8th century with the arrival of the Moors, the art of tile-making in Portugal reached its height in the 16th century with the introduction of oxide coatings. The museum’s exhibits feature individual tiles as well as elaborate wall panels. The convent church located within the complex holds some of the most intricate examples of azulejo art.
Showcasing an extensive collection that spans several centuries, visitors can marvel at the intricate designs, vibrant colors, and storytelling elements depicted on these decorative tiles.
The museum explores the history and evolution of azulejos and highlights their significance in Portuguese culture and architecture. Its incredibly detailed displays incorporate everything from religious and historical scenes to geometric patterns and floral motifs.
13. Time Out Market Lisboa
In 2014, the oldest food market in Lisbon reopened as the Time Out Market Lisboa after an extensive renovation. It has since become the city’s most popular tourist attraction.
More than 3 million visitors flock to the food hall each year to explore Portugal’s regional cuisine. Boasting 35 kiosks and multiple restaurants, the marketplace offers everything from sheep’s cheese from Azeirao to Alentejo ham and Arcadia chocolates.
Foodies can enjoy prepared meals, sample treats and purchase beautifully packaged food to take home. The market opens every day at 10 a.m., making it the perfect place to savor a late brunch or early dinner.
12. Cristo Rei Statue
Inspired by Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, the Cristo Rei statue rises up from a hill overlooking the Targus River. The massive monument was built to express gratitude to God for allowing Portugal to escape the worst horrors of World War II.
It was opened to the public in 1959. Standing with arms outstretched, the Christ figure is set atop a tall arch with a rectangular observation deck at the base. An interior elevator takes visitors to a platform beneath the figure’s feet for panoramic views of Lisbon, the Targus estuary and the Golden-Gate-style 25 de Abril Bridge.
11. Praca do Comercio
One of the star attractions of Lisbon’s downtown waterfront, the Praca do Comercio is an expansive plaza flanked by elegant 18th-century buildings. Portugal’s Dom Jose I made his home here until the earthquake of 1755 reduced it to rubble.
Locals still refer to the square as the Terreiro do Paco, or yard of the royal palace. A monument featuring the king on horseback dominates the center of the plaza. A large triumphal arch completed in 1873 anchors the northern side. Hotels, shops and restaurants located nearby make the sunny square a popular destination for visitors exploring Lisbon’s scenic waterfront.
10. Monument to the Discoveries
The mammoth white-stone Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) stands like a ship with sails unfurled at shoreline of the Tagus River where many of Portugal’s most important voyages of exploration began.
It was built as a memorial to Infante Dom Henrique, who later became known as Prince Henry the Navigator. The prince who ushered in Portugal’s Age of Discovery is featured at the prow of the stone sculpture with other national heroes and explorers lined up behind him.
Inside the monument is a museum with interesting exhibits that provide further insights into Portugal’s maritime achievements. Additionally, visitors can ascend to its top level via an escalator to take in stunning panoramic views of the river and surrounding cityscape.
9. Museu Gulbenkian
Lisbon serves as the headquarters for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by the fortune of the late Armenian oil magnate. Built to display the private art collection that Gulbenkian amassed during his lifetime, the Museu Gulbenkian offers visitors a truly extraordinary experience.
While the collection is small, the quality of each piece is extraordinary. From masterpieces by Monet, Renoir and Rembrandt to Lalique jewelry, Chinese jade and Persian porcelain, it’s a collection that encapsulates the best of every aspect and time period of art history. The museum often plays host to world-class traveling exhibitions as well.
8. Rossio Square (Pedro IV Square)
There’s no better place in Lisbon to soak up the local atmosphere than at Pedro IV Square, Lisbon’s most famous plaza. Located in the elegant Pombaline Lower Town district in central Lisbon, the “Rossio,” has been the city’s main gathering place since the Middle Ages.
During the Inquisition of the 16th century, the square served as a setting for public executions. Today, it’s the place where friends meet up to enjoy a beverage at a café or bar before attending the National Theater located on the north side of the square.
7. Santa Justa Elevator
Located in the downtown district, the Santa Justa Elevator offers visitors delightful views of lovely Lisbon. Built in 1902, the “elevador” was designed by Raul Mésnier, who was inspired by the famous tower in Paris, which his colleague Gustav Eiffel created.
The wrought-iron tower lifts passengers to a platform where a walkway leads to the ruins of Carmo Convent, a Gothic church that was partially destroyed during the great earthquake of 1755. Alternately, visitors can climb a staircase to the top of the elevator structure to enjoy vistas of the entire Baixa neighborhood.
6. Alfama District
The oldest quarter in historic Lisbon, the Alfama district is dotted with architectural landmarks, including some that date back to the city’s Moorish past, but it’s the charm of the neighborhood’s meandering streets, tasty eateries and Fado clubs that make the Alfama a can’t-miss destination.
Lined with Fado bars and clubs, Largo do Charariz de Dentro is the best place to go to enjoy the traditional Portuguese folk music. The plaza is just one of the many observation decks scattered around this hilly neighborhood. For an expansive view of the Alfama and the Tagus River, visitors head to Lisbon’s original Moorish gateway, Largo das Portas do Sol.
5. Lisbon Oceanarium
One of the best modern tourist attractions in Lisbon, the Oceanarium was built as part of the improvements the city made when it hosted the 1998 World Exposition. Located in the Parque das Nações in northeast Lisbon, the Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe.
It’s organized into four unique habitats, with each representing a different ocean. In addition to all manner of sea life ranging from sharks and sting rays to penguins and otters, flora and fauna from each ecosystem are represented as well. Strolling pasts tank of colorful fish with tropical birds flitting overhead offers an immersive experience not to be missed.
4. Jeronimos Monastery
The Jerónimos Monastery is a magnificent architectural masterpiece, deservedly awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
This iconic monument dates back to the 16th century. It is a prime example of the Manueline style, characterized by intricate stonework and maritime motifs.
The monastery’s grandeur is awe-inspiring, with its towering spires, ornate cloisters, and beautifully carved details. Your first impression of it will take your breath away.
Once inside, you can also explore the vast nave and chapels adorned with stunning religious art and exquisite stained glass windows. Notably, the monastery houses the tombs of famous Portuguese figures, including explorer Vasco da Gama.
Once you have toured the monastery, pop into the fascinating Maritime Museum adjacent to it, which offers insights into Portugal’s rich maritime history.
3. Tram 28
Most of the decades-old trolley cars that were once a primary mode of transportation in Lisbon are long gone, but visitors can still enjoy a ride on an antique streetcar on tram line 28.
The historic “eléctrico” takes passengers through the city’s oldest sectors past some of Lisbon’s most popular sights and attractions. Tourists often take tram 28 to the hilltop São Jorge Castle to take in the panoramic views, but the line is used by locals for their daily commutes too. The old tram line offers a great way to get oriented in the city and meet new people.
2. São Jorge Castle
One of Lisbon’s oldest treasures, São Jorge Castle (or St. George’s Castle) is situated at the top of a hill in the Alfama District. The city’s most popular attraction evokes the period when Lisbon was under Moorish rule, but the site was fortified centuries earlier when the Romans and Visigoths were in power as well.
After driving out the Moors in 1147, the Portuguese used the castle as a royal residence until the early 16th century. Today, the royal quarters are home to a museum featuring archeological exhibits.
Climbing the castle ramparts is a must-do activity in Lisbon, and it’s easy to understand why. The views from the parapets and battlements are simply breathtaking.
1. Belem Tower
Arguably, Lisbon’s most iconic landmark is The Belém Tower.
An endearing symbol of the city, the fortress-like tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing on the edge of the Tagus River, its Manueline architecture, characterized by intricate details and maritime motifs, is truly captivating.
Occupying a strategic location, it served as a defense structure during the Age of Discovery. You can find out more about its past by touring inside the tower.
You will find several levels to explore there, including the Governor’s Hall, its dungeons and its main terrace.
Access to the latter is via a very steep and spiraling staircase, which might be challenging for some people. But if you can successfully negotiate it, you will be rewarded with superb panoramic views of the river and esplanade.