Lisbon, Portugal's capital city and a coastal paradise, is charming, intriguing, and welcoming. Lisbon, home to half a million people, is the leading economic region and a favored tourist destination. It plays a significant role in global finance and politics and provides residents and visitors with a high standard of living, including education, culture, tourism, and more.
Lisbon is a dream vacation destination. This global city is one of the oldest cities in the world. Lisbon lives by the motto "Very Noble and Always Loyal”, so you can imagine how friendly the locals are and how amazing your vacation in Lisbon will be when you discover it and some surrounding areas, such as Cascais... We'll examine it shortly later.
Plan a long vacation in Lisbon: a lifetime can not be enough to see every corner of this stunning global city. To see some nice recommendations, check out our list of must-see Lisbon attractions. The best activity to begin from in Portugal is probably seeing the best historic landmarks.
Castelo de São Jorge
Castelo de Sao Jorge is an ancient castle in the Santa Maria Maior neighborhood. Human presence has been documented since the 8th century BC. This building not only provides a breathtaking view of the River Tagus, but it is also an interesting city monument.
Did you know that Castelo de Sao Jorge served multiple functions at different times? In the 12th century, for example, it was a palace belonging to the kings of Portugal. In the 1580s, Castelo de So Jorge became a military castle. And these are just a few examples from the castle's history.
The Castelo de So Jorge went through a restoration in 1938 after being severely damaged by battles and earthquakes, as well as half of Lisbon's architecture. At the moment, it is fully operational and open for visitors. The castle has a large territory, including 11 towers and courtyards. If you want to get fresh air at the end of the excursion, you can walk in the adjoining garden.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Rua Augusta Arch
Every capital city, including Lisbon, has its arc. Lisbon's calling card is the Arco da Rua Augusta, also known as the Rua Augusta Arch. The Rua Augusta Arch was originally a bell tower, but the architecture was redesigned later and now has its current appearance.
If you are traveling to Lisbon for the first time, the Rua Augusta Arch is easy to find. The monument is located on Rua Augusta Street, in the large Praça do Comércio plaza.
In the process of building, the incomplete Rua Augusta Arch faced an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.4. Later, the Rua Augusta Arch was built for the second time as a tribute to the Lisbon nation.
You can notice the sculpture of Glory, which rewards Valor and Genius, built at the top of the statue. Valor is a warrior in a helmet, and Genius, next to her, is a thoughtful man who looks like Jupiter.
Another popular observation point in Lisbon is the Rua Augusta Arch, which you can climb to the top for a 360-degree panoramic view.
Rua Augusta Arch
Lisbon is an amazing place to investigate Portuguese royalty. Each royal palace we will discuss can be explored in a couple of hours.
The Queluz National Palace reflects the most architectural styles (for example, Baroque and Rococo). This palace accommodated two monarchical generations in the past.
The Park and National Palace of Pena is a castle of the Romantic period, built in a picturesque setting. The Portuguese royal family spent most of their summers here.
The Palacio Nacional de Mafra is a Baroque palace built under King John's supervision in 1717–1755. Two bells and six organs adorn this beautiful building. The Library, Literary Acts Hall, and Dining Hall are just a few of the rooms that make the Palacio Nacional de Mafra a place where one can find everything they need in life.
Estrada da Pena is a lovely palace, built in the 19th century, with a complex relief and a number of terraces, alleys, and roads to explore. Endless gardens are the jewel of this location. Estrada da Pena is situated near the top of the mountain, from which you can see Sintra.
The national palace of Pena
These are only a few of the palaces to see in Lisbon. We recommend dedicating an entire day to learning about the architectural heritage of royal Lisbon.
All the previous locations are great landmarks in Lisbon. However, learning about this wonderful city cannot be limited to its history. Seeing the natural beauty of Lisbon as well as real city life is an incredible experience.
There are several districts in Central Lisbon. Some fascinating areas to discover are probably Baixa, Chiado, and Alfama. In these Lisbon neighborhoods, the past meets the present.
Begin with Baixa, Lisbon's modern center is a tourist paradise where one can go shopping or dine. Flags and iconic structures can be found everywhere here.
Then, make your way to Chiado. It is a commercial district in Lisbon that was extensively restored after a fire in 1988. You can admire the Gothic architecture of Convento do Carmo and dine at one of the Terracos do Carmo... The artwork in the Igreja do Loreto church and Igreja da Encarnacao church will leave you speechless. You have never seen a church like any of these before for sure.
End your day in Alfama. Take a historic tram through Alfama's narrow streets. Don't leave immediately, especially if you come in the evening: live music in Alfama transforms the place into something else.
Alfama is also Lisbon's elderly district with some decent tourist attractions. The Se, an ancient cathedral built in the 12th century, is one of them. Another popular attraction in Alfama is the Museu do Fado. It is a collection of fado musical instruments with a history that precedes our time. The Alfama Fado collection is part of the list of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Visiting these districts in one day may be a great idea, especially if you are accompanied by wine!
Panoramico de Monsanto
Some say that all roads lead to Rome. In Lisbon, all roads lead to the Panoramico de Monsanto. This secret place offers the finest view of Lisbon.
The Panoramico de Monsanto, situated in the Monsanto Forest Park, is an abandoned building that was a popular Lisbon restaurant in the past. Financial difficulties resulted in the establishment's closure. The Panoramico de Monsanto then became desolate.
It probably attracts even more tourists now than when it was a restaurant. People gather in the Panoramico de Monsanto not only to see Lisbon from a new perspective but also to take some captivating photographs. It doesn't just give you a panorama; moreover, it provides you with a 360-degree view of Lisbon!
The space was made safe for visitors in 2019. All dangerous structures were demolished or replaced with secure constructions. Here, you will feel like it is the 1970s again. Graffiti adorns the walls, which makes Panoramico de Monsanto the most non-ordinary place.
Some of them are works by professional street artists in Lisbon, which can be called pieces of art.
Lisbon's boulevards and palaces - when they meet, they give us a new, unique perspective on Lisbon that will amaze both culture vultures and nature lovers. You should see a part of Lisbon where nature and artificial art cross paths!
This area was named after Expo because it became an industrial showground for Expo in 1998. Now it's the business center of the city. Parque das Naçes is a great place to spend a day with your family, friends, or alone. It combines modern buildings which were built relatively recently with fantastic gardens, art and leisure opportunities, family-friendly restaurants, and the city's only casino.
The list of entertainment opportunities at the Expo is endless: the largest indoor oceanarium in Europe, MEO Arena, Lisbon casino, and other attractions... However, if you are looking for some bright emotions, we recommend that you consider the parks of Parque das Nações, the true gem of Expo and Lisbon. Architecture, gardens, and history—everything unites in this modern district.
Make sure you visit Garcia de Orta, a garden with urban architecture and daily musical performances. This location is attractive to visitors and residents of Lisbon who express their interest in biology. However, the beautiful view of the refreshing fountains will please every Lisbon visitor.
After the Expo, go to Sintra. In this place, you will not be bored, thanks to the activities and attractions. Lisbon is the best place in Portugal to have fun and participate in sports, and Sintra provides both opportunities.
In fact, Sintra does not belong to Lisbon; it is a civil parish built in 2013 and located only 25 kilometers away from Lisbon. However, if you visit Lisbon, you should stop at Sintra, which has a lot to see and do.
We already mentioned Palacio Nacional da Pena, Lisbon's most famous castle. This brightly colored 12th-century building has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Pena's national palace has been a part of the European Route of Historic Gardens since 2020; this is probably one of the reasons to visit.
Sintra has many lovely beaches for people preferring a promenade to an excursion. The best family beach is probably Praia das Macas. Most people take the historic tram from the city center to Praia das Macas. This beach is as family-friendly as possible, with a playground, pools, and cafeterias.
If you want to engage in some sports in Lisbon, Praia Grande is the best beach for surfing, and the local cliffs have dinosaur footprints! Praia Grande is just one beach in the city of Lisbon; at one point, you will come across the beach you'll enjoy the most.
Like every other capital city in the world, Lisbon is the most religious area in the country. In Lisbon, Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism, is the dominant religion. The local cathedrals are worth a visit—not only for faith followers but also for anyone interested in learning more about the local religion and the lifestyle of Lisbon residents.
Igreja do Carmo and Igreja-Museu São Roque
City church Igreja do Carmo deserves special mention. This church was built in 1756-1768 and is an example of the Rococo and Baroque styles. You can identify Igreja do Carmo by the sculptures of prophets Elisha and Elijah on the building's outer facade.
Igreja do Carmo is a beautiful place both inside and outside. You can notice an abundance of blue and white. Another significant feature of this delightful Lisbon church is its golden and wood Baroque elements.
The 16th-century Igreja-Museu São Roque is the oldest Jesuit church in Lisbon. Igreja-Museu Sao Roque has nine chapels with hand-painted elements that were colored using a unique art technique, and the main altar is made of amethyst and alabaster. It has had a functioning museum for visitors from all over the world since 1905.
Each church is a source of pride for the Portuguese people. Igreja do Carmo and Igreja-Museu Sao Roque are among the top religious places to visit in Lisbon. Both of them saved well over the years.
If you are not very interested in history or religion, we have some top ideas about the corners of Lisbon that can entertain you the most.
7 hills of Lisbon
The Portuguese equivalent of Rome's hills, the 7 Hills of Lisbon, are not easy to reach, but they are well worth the effort. Tourists use different transport options to explore the seven hills. Each hill has a unique monastery.
For example, the Hill of Sao Roque is the peak in Lisbon that gives you the perfect panorama of the city, the Mirador de So Pedro de Alcântara. Sao Vincente Hill is a traditional area where you can catch a glimpse of the magnificent Tejo River or visit the famous Flea Market Fair.
It can be hard to reach 7 hills and then explore them, but we have a decision for this dilemma! An electrical bicycle will ease your way and turn it into an adventure!
Night Tagus river
Tagus, Iberia's longest river (1,007 km), is a major source of drinking water for the people of Portugal. Tagus passes through many regions, including Aranjuez, Santarem, Toledo, and other Portuguese cities.
Tagus river with Toledo at the background
Arriving here earlier in the day is the better decision, especially if you are a culture vulture. A couple of top museums in the area will satisfy your interest. The well-known Electricity Museum is one of them. This museum, located in an old power station, looks at energy from different perspectives. In this museum, you can learn more about electricity and study the world.
The atmosphere on the Tagus River completely changes at night. The monuments and buildings are lit up, enabling you to see everything from a new angle. Jeronimos Monastery, the famous Cristo Rei monument, Belem Tower... You've probably heard of the museum of Belem. Drinks and music will turn your boat trip into a relaxing boat cruise.
Plan your route ahead of time to make the best leisure opportunities in Lisbon. Most of the locations listed below will help you choose what to do and where to go in this city.
Tasting local cuisine is a vital part of learning about Portugal. In Lisbon, experience the world's famous cuisine. The use of olive oil, onions, and garlic is prevalent in Portuguese cuisine. By the way, most spices are ignored during the cooking process.
The Belem district is the best district to taste Lisbon's cuisine. This area of Portugal is famous for its seafood, but that does not mean the menu is limited to fish. Because Belem and its dining area are in high demand among tourists of Lisbon, they can be ridiculously overpriced sometimes, but the experience is well worth it.
Some Belem restaurants are famous in every corner of Portugal for their service and delicious food. They include Esteoeste, where east meets west on the menu, and the Pateo Alfacinha complex, where Portuguese cuisine is served both in winter and summer, but in two different zones: Horta in the summer and Mercearia in the winter. Another famous restaurant in Belem is the modern A Magrem. This bar with a breathtaking view of the Tagus River is expensive, but there are so many dishes on the menu that you will probably spend ages trying to decide what to have for your meal. It includes courses made of petiscos, the best Portuguese delicacy made of cheese and honey. These food products have the highest quality in Belem and the country.
Pastel de Nata (custard tart)
An overnight gastronomic tour is what you're looking for if you want to taste more traditional Portuguese food at once while learning about its history. You will not be limited to just one menu. Instead of ordering a couple of full-sized dishes, why not order samples and eat the same amount of food while trying more courses? Porco Preto and Bife de Atum are just a few of the dishes that are accessible. We will serve you nearly ten samples of traditional Portuguese courses. You will have the most diverse dinner in the world!
If you want to try Portuguese food, restaurants should not be the final stop on your adventure. You've probably heard that the best cheese and pastries are sold in private shops on the streets of Lisbon. Add refreshing drinks and a ferry ride, and your adventurous gastronomic tour in the capital of Portugal will be an unforgettable experience!
Art and cultural centers
Now we will go beyond the traditional art experience in Lisbon and give you some fresh ideas for places to visit for a non-traditional cultural experience.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is one of the best art galleries in Lisbon. An enormous collection of treasures from around the world includes a lot of paintings, sculptures, and works of art from various countries (e.g., Egypt). One popular piece of art in these walls is a sculpture of Princess Diana. Of course, world-famous classical painters such as Rembrandt, Monet, and Renoir are also represented in the museum.
If that isn't enough, pay a visit to the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, a well-known institution in Lisbon, Portugal. MAAT displays contemporary art by local and international artists. It has programs and exhibitions for people of all ages, so bring the whole family. We've talked about Belem before, and now it's time to add that it has the best art galleries. Cordoaria Nacional is the best and the most visited gallery in Lisbon, Portugal.
Getting from Lisbon airport to the city center
Once you arrive at Lisbon International Airport, you must understand how to get to your hotel. In Portugal, you can travel by bus, subway, taxi, or shuttle. However, a transfer is probably the most convenient option. Lisbon is a large city, and it's easy to get lost here, especially if you're visiting Lisbon for the first time and are exhausted from the flight. You can save money by renting a car in Portugal or ordering our top transfer, and focus on Lisbon's attractions instead!
If the attractions we discussed aren't enough, you can spend a couple of days outside Lisbon in Cascais. This town is known for its historic monuments and a plethora of eateries and attractions. Cascais is a popular holiday destination and the best place to relax on the beach. Cascais will not disappoint those looking for attractions. The top attractions in Cascais are the Santa Marta Lighthouse, which has been guiding ships since 1868, and Casino Estoril, an important historic monument. Many say Cascais is the best holiday destination on the way to or from Lisbon.
Enjoy your days in Lisbon, Portugal!