Lisbon is one of my favourite cities in the world! Sun drenched squares, colourful architecture covered in elaborate tiles, charming locals, amazing coffee, bakeries everywhere, amazing views, and easy-to-navigate public transit — what’s not to love!?
Here’s everything you need to see, eat, and experience in Lisbon on your next trip.
Must-see sights in Lisbon
Praca do Comercio
The former gateway to the city, this main square is bordered by imposing looking lemon coloured buildings on three sides and the riverfront on the fourth. There are cafes and restaurants looking out onto the square and a statue of Dom Jose I in the centre.
The most stunning and eye-catching part of the square is the Arco da Rua Augusta, a massive arch that is the entrance to the pedestrian-only Augusta Street.
Augusta Street (and surrounding streets)
Leading eight blocks from the main square, this street and the surrounding streets, are filled with restaurants, cafes, and shops. They are packed with people, strolling, window shopping, and dining, at all hours and are lovely to wander through at any time of day.
If you are in shopping mode, keep your eye out for Zara. Even though this retailer can be found all over the world, the clothes are actually made in Spain and Portugal so (even with the exchange rate) they are often cheaper than they are in other countries and there are some unique items that you won’t find in any other location.
Elevador de Santa Justa
I know, I know, an “elevator” doesn’t seem like something worth seeing, but this outdoor wrought-iron elevator is definitely a sight to behold.
It was built by the apprentice of Gustave Eiffel (yup, that’s the man who built the Eiffel Tower), and gives amazing views over the central part of the city. A ride will coast you about 5 Euros — make sure to get there early to beat the crowds.
Convento do Carmo & Museu Arqueológico
This convent was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, and now the remains of it’s pillars and arches are exposed to the elements. It is an incredible sight from both far away and from the inside.
There is also an archeological museum attached to the site that is definitely worth wandering through. It costs around 4 Euros to enter.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Towering above Lisbon, it costs around 10 Euros to visit the castle, but the breathtaking view is well worth the entry fee.
There is a cafe and restaurant, or a you can purchase a glass of prosecco from a kiosk and enjoy the view from the pine-shaded courtyard after exploring the castle ruins.
Museu Nacional Do Azulejo
In Lisbon, tiles are everywhere, and they are ornate, detailed, and absolutely stunning. The national tile museum is where you learn the history behind tile making and why it continues to be an important tradition in the country.
The museum has a free app that accompanies all of the exhibits to give you extra detail about what you are looking at, and there is a charming courtyard where you can dine after you are finished exploring. Entry is 5 Euros.
Basilica da Estrela
I would suggest wandering into any church you come across (it’s free!), as the architecture and treasures inside these churches are absolutely amazing.
The Basilica da Estrela is a bit outside of the main tourist zone, but is definitely worth the trip. It is covered in pink and black marble and has incredible carved wood, paintings, and tiles throughout. There is a beautiful garden across the street, that reminds me of parks you see in New York, that has two spots to grab a coffee or snack.
Dos Prazeres Cemetery
I love visiting historic cemeteries in Europe! They are always so peaceful and there are eras of amazing architecture to see. This cemetery is located a short walk from the Basilica da Estrela and was originally built to handle the thousands of victims of the cholera epidemic in 1833. Then in 1839, wealthier families began to build elaborate tombs and many important Portuguese figures have been buried there since.
The Prazeres Cemetery became the model for most cemeteries in Portugal, and is considered to be “the most cosmopolitan cemetery” still existing in the country.
A suburb of Lisbon, Belem is a short tram ride away from the city centre and is home to two MUST-SEE sights. It also has a lovely waterfront promenade with some pretty impressive monuments and parks along it, and some fantastic art galleries and museums to explore. Here are the two can’t-miss spots:
1. Belem Tower
The Torre de Belem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a symbol of Lisbon and Portugal (you will see on postcards everywhere). You can pay to enter the tower, or just enjoy the stunning building from the outside, or from a one of the nearby cafes.
2. Mosterio dos Jeronimos
This monastery is absolutely stunning and completely took my breath away. I’ve been to monasteries all over Europe and this one was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The detailed architecture, view of the central garden, and attached church are definitely worth exploring. It costs around 10 Euros to enter.
Where and what to eat in Lisbon
Time Out Market Lisbon
Do you want to try a variety of different types of Portuguese food in one place? Look no further than the Time Out Market Lisbon! Created by the Time Out team in 2014, this gourmet food market has 24 restaurants, 8 bars, and a dozen shops. You can try food from different stalls and get an amazing sampling of some of the best fare the city has to offer.
Food Trucks & Kiosks
The waterfront is lined with food trucks and kiosks selling everything from cocktails to ice cream to entire meals. There are usually a few cafe tables available outside of each one and is a lovely way to enjoy some local food and watch the world go by.
You must try Portuguese Tarts in Portugal!! And you will have no trouble finding them, as they are literally sold everywhere. In my experience, the best ones come straight from bakeries (rather than restaurants or cafes). Pasteis de Belem is considered to be the BEST place to try these treats, so plan on stopping in there during your trip to Belem.
Can’t miss Lisbon experiences
Born in a working-class Lisbon neighbourhood, the melancholic, haunting music of Fado has been around for centuries. A lone voice is paired with a 12-string Portuguese guitar and the raw emotion of the songs, recalling broken hearts and lost youth, will bring you to tears. You can buy tickets to a formal performance, or catch one in a more intimate setting at a restaurant or cafe.
Checking out the tile covered buildings
The narrow, winding cobblestone streets in the centre of the city are lined with historic buildings covered in stunning tiles. They are definitely worth exploring, but make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes — some of the streets are incredibly steep!
This yellow tram is usually packed with tourists at all hours, as it travels between all of the major sites for less than 3 Euros. If you are short on time, this is a great way to get around and take in some amazing views. Be sure to keep an eye on your belongings when riding this Tram, however, as it has a become a popular spot for pickpockets.
Wander along the riverfront promenade
Known as Ribeira das Naus in Portuguese, this promenade runs between the Praca do Comercio and Cais do Sodre and gives you amazing views of the river. There are spots to sit and read all along it, kiosks selling coffee, cocktails, and other treats, and excellent people watching!
A few Portugal travel tips
Of all the countries that use the Euro as their currency, Portugal is by far the most affordable.
Almost all locals speak English, so don’t be shy about asking questions!
Portugal charges for wifi like we charge for cable in North America — there are different levels and packages. While most businesses have wifi, it is usually the basic package so while you will be able to check your email and access some social media, you won’t be able to access things like Google Docs, Dropbox, etc. Keep that in mind if you are planning on working abroad and needing access to certain websites.
The streets in the areas where all the main sights are located are mostly uneven cobblestones. These can be a bit of a challenge to walk, so keep that in mind. when choosing your footwear!
If you are taking the train anywhere ask for a first class ticket. The first class seats are only a few Euros more than regular class and they are air conditioned, have bigger seats, have free wifi (though this can be spotty depending on where you are traveling to), and are much quieter.