Lisbon is often overlooked by travelers and very underrated, in my opinion. Lisbon is a beautiful city known for its ornate architecture, very rich history and having some of the best and freshest seafood.
The city itself is absolutely stunning and has a very quaint and historic feel, even though it is the capital of Portugal. They have a very high rate of English speakers in Portugal, making it a great and easy travel destination for Americans.
There really are many reasons to travel to Lisbon. It is on the water, so you can see spectacular views of the ocean and coastline, it is the second oldest capital city in Europe, meaning there is so much history to discover and it is very affordable to travel to and stay there.
I could go on and on about why you should visit Lisbon. If you are even somewhat convinced that it’s a great place to travel to, keep reading for my top 9 things you must do when in Lisbon.
1. Climb the Belém Tower
One of the most famous landmarks in Lisbon, the Belém Tower, actually sits in the water on the western shoreline of Lisbon. It was built in the 16th century to serve as a gateway to and from Lisbon.
Now, you can tour the tower and even climb up to the top to see some great views of the water and the city. If you purchase the Lisboa card, you will actually have free priority entrance into the tower, along with the many other perks, such as unlimited use of public transportation.
2. Ride Tram 28
Lisbon’s tram system is known by tourists as a fun and unique way to see some of the sights. The most famous line is number 28 because it runs up and down the hills of the oldest and best-known Alfama district.
We did not actually get to ride while we were in Lisbon because there was always a crazy long line. If this is something you definitely want to do, I suggest being extremely early or being prepared to wait a while. It’s probably worth the wait, but we had so many things on our to-do list and very little time, so we cut this one.
3. Eat Some Pastéis de Nata
These delicious custard tart deserts are an absolute must for visitors to try. The best place to have them is a small bakery near the Belém Tower, called Pastéis de Belém, that has been making them since 1837. It is the authentic Lisbon experience and I can vouch for just how good these little things are.
Head over to this bakery after touring the tower and order a bunch (trust me, one is not enough) and sit in the blue tile room while you indulge. You will not be disappointed.
4. Wander Through the Alfama District
Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. It’s known for its very narrow uphill streets and old buildings. These streets are lined with shops and restaurants which make it easy to spend a good amount of time there.
If you don’t have the time to wait in line to ride the tram through Alfama, a great alternative is to walk around and take in the fun atmosphere that way.
5. Take a Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is a nearby town easily accessible from Lisbon by a short train ride. Some of the best things to see here are several colorful hilltop palaces and the spectacular Castle of the Moors.
The Castle of the Moors is the main attraction in Sintra. Sitting at an elevation of 16,540 feet, this 8th century castle was originally designed as a watch tower.
There is a city bus that takes tourists up most of the way to tour the castle, but there is also a path you can climb up the side of the mountain. If exercise is really not your thing, take the bus. Otherwise, the climb is worth it for the reward and satisfaction of actually realizing just how high up you truly are. Don’t get me wrong, I would never do that again, but I’m glad I did it once for the experience and the memories.
6. National Tile Museum
Portugal is known for their fancy and colorful tiles on buildings and even the sidewalks. At the National Tile Museum, you can see traditional tile work that Portugal is famous for. It is also dedicated to the former Portuguese Empire and other Iberian cultures.
For anyone who loves art and history, this is a perfect attraction to learn more about the process and history of tile work and why it is still such an important part of Portuguese culture.
7. Check Out Praça do Comércio
This huge town square is situated on the edge of the city facing the water. It was constructed as a symbolic entrance to Lisbon for the many voyagers and explorers.
Now, there are several cafes and shops as it is a popular tourist area. Also located in the square is the Lisboa Story Center (free with the Lisboa Card) where you can learn more about this important square and the reconstruction of the surrounding areas after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed much of the city in 1755.
8. Spend Some Time at the Lisbon Oceanarium
The largest indoor aquarium in Europe is worth checking out, I’d say! Here you can find every kind of sea animal imaginable and even some you didn’t know existed. They have large exhibits and so much to see, making this a perfect activity for the whole family. We spent a few hours here and I can definitely say it’s worth a visit.
Some more good news, you can get a discount on the admission fee with your Lisboa Card!
9. Try Some Cod
Codfish is very popular in Lisbon as well as many other types of seafood. Cod is used in many ways to create various traditional Portuguese dishes. If you want to have an authentic food experience in Lisbon, cod should definitely be on your list of things to order.
For more on our time in Lisbon, click here.
Have you even been to Lisbon or thought about going? Let me know what you think of my list and what you would add! Comment and share this post below!