Our handy travel guide will help you find the best things to do in Lisbon.
Sprawling over seven hills and close to the mouth of the River Tagus, Western Europe’s oldest city forms a pulsing combination of ancient gothic architecture and edgy street art. Its dusty trams clamour up steep cobblestone streets, haunting fado music drifts out of doorways and one of the best food and nightlife scenes Europe has to offer hides in unassuming buildings.
Whether you choose to dip your toe into the burgeoning local art scene, admire the Portuguese azulejos tiles, meander around historical bookshops and libraries, or hop into a tuk-tuk for a city sights tour, there are endless things to do.
Portuguese tarts at Pastéis de Belém: The first stop to make when in Lisbon is in the Belém district, home to the undisputed champion of Portuguese egg tarts, Pastéis de Belém. This family-run bakery has been churning out Lisbon’s favourite sweet since 1837, and the secret recipe keeps people coming back for more. The line, formed by locals and tourists alike, snakes out the door – but don’t be deterred. This place runs like a well-oiled machine and before you know it, a warm, cinnamon-dusted egg custard with just the right amount of caramelisation, encased in perfectly flaky pastry, will put you in a pleasant delirium. Well worth the wait.
Lunch at Time Out Market: Time Out, the publisher of guidebooks and cultural events spanning cities across the globe, has expanded its ventures with its first food hall in Lisbon. This covered market is home to cooking demonstrations and classes, various stands selling beautiful artsy tins of oily sardines and probably the best francesinha (a delectable Portuguese sandwich) in the city. Originating in Porto, the francesinha is a meat-lover’s dream, made with seared steak, fresh sausage and melted cheese, smothered in tangy gravy, topped with a fried egg and served alongside fries. Or try the bifana – marinated pork strips grilled with onions and smothered in yellow mustard – on a fresh, crusty roll. Paired with an ice-cold beer it makes a divine midday snack.
Dinner at Jesus é Goês: The colourful murals along the walls of Jesus é Goês are a prequel to the exciting marriage of spice trade flavours from former Portuguese colony Goa and the use of local products that awaits. Touted as a no-frills, cash-only establishment, the restaurant serves up Goan-Portuguese fusion such as succulent shrimp samosas. Be sure to make a reservation, as there are only 16 seats available.
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Cocktails at Limão Rooftop Bar: This sleek bar can be found at H10 Duque de Loulé, a luxury boutique hotel housed in a historic building, which expertly combines both modern and traditional Portuguese elements. Impressive cocktails and impeccable service are standout features; not to mention the intimate ambience and views of the city with glimpses of the river.
Vino at By the Wine: Thousands of varieties of Portuguese wine are at your disposal in this stylish restaurant and wine bar, founded by the oldest table wine company in Portugal, José Maria da Fonseca. You can sit and try a few by the glass beneath the bar’s domed ceiling or purchase a bottle or two to take away from the onsite shop.
A smoked Negroni at Foxtrot Bar: Step back in time at this moody, Art Deco-inspired bar, which has inspired locals and tourists for decades. Settle in beside the roaring fire and take your pick from the bountiful cocktail selection, whether that’s a spiced margarita or whisky sour.
Corinthia Lisbon: This hotel epitomises style and luxury: public spaces are flooded with natural light, surfaces are laid with fresh flowers and chandeliers glitter. The onsite restaurant, Erva, serves up some of the city’s best local food. Meanwhile, Soul Garden is the go-to evening spot, where you can chill out on a wooden cabana with a handcrafted cocktail, listening to live music or DJ sets. When you need to soothe the mind, body and soul, THE SPA, with its heated jacuzzi, sauna and steam room awaits to pamper you. You’ll be well placed to discover Lisbon’s iconic sites: Castelo de Sao Jorge, Alfama and Jerónimos Monastery are all within a 15-minute drive, while Lisbon Zoo and Águas Livres Aqueduct are also close by.
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Hotel Britania, a Lisbon Heritage Collection: This historic Art Deco property is perfectly positioned to explore this little pocket of Portuguese bliss. It proudly retains the glamour of the 1940s, courtesy of a spectacular design by Cassiano Branco, a famous Portuguese modernist architect. The interior exudes a sense of welcoming warmth thanks to the jewel tones and muted shades. Striking architectural lines reflect the original spirit of the hotel and transport you back in time, while modern amenities bring you back to the present. The hotel is situated on a quiet, tree-lined street just off Avenida da Liberdade – Lisbon’s main thoroughfare. You'll be within walking distance of popular bars, restaurants and shops, and within a 20-minute drive of historic sites such as Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
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Heritage Avenida Liberdade Hotel, a Lisbon Heritage Collection: Housed in a heritage-listed building dating back to the 18th century – beautifully redesigned by local architect Miguel Câncio Martins – this charming hotel effortlessly blends Lisbon’s rich history with modern luxury. A fusion of Portuguese architecture and contemporary design, framed by traditional handpainted Portuguese tiles, comes together in one of the city’s best addresses. The hotel is ideally located on Avenida da Liberdade, a tree-lined avenue nestled in the heart of the city, surrounded by elegant shops, upscale boutiques and restaurants. This central location makes it easy to explore Lisbon's top-rated attractions, including the medieval Belém Tower, World Heritage-listed Jerónimos Monastery and buzzing Praça do Comércio square.
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Visit the Belém Tower: This UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was a fortress built in the Manueline style of architecture to protect Lisbon against potential raiders along the River Tagus in the 16th century. A short stroll away lies the impressive Padrão dos Descobrimentos, otherwise known as the Monument of Discoveries, a sweeping, sail-like limestone structure studded with statues of Portugal’s finest, including Henry the Navigator and Ferdinand Magellan.
Explore via tram: Lisbon trams are a present-day emblem of the city and a top way to explore. There are both vintage and modern trams crisscrossing the city. As you rattle along, be transported through charming neighborhoods like Bairro Alto – known for its nightlife and boho ambience – Chiado, with its high-end shops, or Alfama, the oldest part of town, whose tiny, jumbled streets offer up the decadent Castelo de São Jorge. This imposing medieval fortress, set high atop a hill and offering sweeping views of the city, was previously the grand home of royalty.
Head to the coast: Follow the coastline for a day trip, listening to ‘Queen of Fado’ Amália Rodrigues and stopping off at the seaside resort town of Cascais, known for its beautiful beaches. Visit the scenic cliffs and open cave at Boca do Inferno, stroll through Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and relax on beautiful Tamariz Beach. Don’t leave without trying the local seafood, with specialties including sea bass, octopus and cod, served fresh from the ocean.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out The World's Most Incredible Michelin-Star Hotel Restaurants.