Last updated on October 13th, 2018 at 08:11 pm
Lisbon, a city that’s older than Paris, Madrid Rome and London by centuries, is no forgotten relic of past civilizations. Sure, there are plenty of wonderful museums and landmarks here, but those antiquities are just fragments compared to Lisbon’s big picture. The thriving nightlife, inviting music scene and unique cuisine of Portugal makes it a top destination for all kinds of travelers.
There are just so many things to do in Lisbon that people don’t know about. We’re here to tell you all the things to do in Lisbon and all the places to visit in Lisbon. It is one of the few cities in Europe with an oceanfront and is therefore worth the trip. We will tell you the best time to visit Lisbon, best food to try in Lisbon and how much daily budget you need in Lisbon.
How to get to Lisbon
You can enter the city of Lisbon through the largest international airport in Portugal, Aeroporto da Portela. This airport is the home base of TAP Air Portugal, the country’s premium airline company, and SATA Air Açores. These airlines cover trips all across Europe, some countries in Africa, United States, Canada, Venezuela and Brazil. Apart from Portugal’s own airlines, other big names that fly into Lisbon are United Airlines, American Airlines, easyJet, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Swissair and many more.
From the airport, you have four options for reaching the city: the metro (€1.90), the aerobus (€3.50), a bus (€1.75) or a taxi (€10.00).
If the train is the most convenient way for you to travel, there are several stations you can head out to from Spain and France. Santa Apolónia is the station found at the city center while Gare do Oriente is located farther from the center but is operated with high speed trains. Smaller stations can be like Entrecampos and Sete Rios can be accessed from the south while Estoril’s coastal areas are can be reached through Cais do Sodré station.
Sud Express is the sleeper train service located on the border of Spain and France and has daily trips to Lisbon at 6:20 PM. It reaches Oriente station at past 7 AM the following morning and will reach Santa Apolónia just after 10 minutes. If you’re coming from Madrid, another sleeper train travels to Lisbon daily. Lusitania heads out to Portugal at 10:25 PM and arrives in Oriente and Santa Apolónia at around 7:30 AM. A tourist class ticket on this train costs around €90 and above.
We went to Lisbon by car from Madrid and it took us around 5-6 hours driving. As we drove at night time, we didn´t have traffic. Th costs of petrol can be around €60 and the toll road €17 from Portugal to Lisbon.
Transportation around Lisbon
Lisbon has a highly efficient transportation system. The metro, electrico (or trams), trains, and almost all buses (except the ones not run by Carris) and ferries are unified into one mode of payment: a rechargeable card called 7 Colinas. The green-coloured card costs €0.50 and is valid for an entire year. The 7 Colinas can be loaded 3 different ways: single ticket (€1.40-1.80), day pass (€6.15), and a stored value mode through zapping. You can reload your card on the stations or on the buses and trains themselves. Those traveling in Lisbon for more than a week also have the option of getting an unlimited pass for €12 and pay the additional fee of €29 for each month.
For those who want to explore Lisbon in their own time, it is also possible to rent a bicycle and a motorcycle or scooter. The streets and the traffic situation in Lisbon has been improved to accommodate the needs of 2-wheeled vehicles. However, those who wish to rent bikes, scooters and motorbikes should be accustomed to urban riding. That being said, there’s a Poetry Bike Lane from Baixa to Belma that are perfect for a lazy afternoon ride in the city.
There are towns along the Tejo river in Southern Lisbon that are accessible with a ferry. There are boat rides by Transtejo that travel to Barreiro for €2.25, Montijo for €2.6, Seixal for €2.30 and Trafaria for €1.15.
Best time to visit Lisbon
Lisbon is fortunate to have one of the mildest climates in Europe. If you’d like to go to Europe during the winter months but are afraid of extremely low temperatures, the best time to visit Lisbon is from December to January to experience the warmest winter in the continent. It hardly snows during these months but it does rain from time to time.
Those who’d like to go in the months of June to September should be warned of the warmth and dryness of Portuguese summers. For those who want dry but relatively cool weather, the best time to visit Lisbon is around March to May and late September to October.
ATMs and Currency in Lisbon
In Portugal, they do ATMs quite differently than in the US or other European countries. Portugal has what they call a Multibanco, a banking system that lets users withdraw cash and also do other important tasks like paying bills, taxes, social security contributions and even concert tickets. Therefore, it’s only normal to see people using the Multibanco for 10 to 20 minutes.
Transactions through this system are pretty unavoidable, so you just have to wait it out. In Lisbon, you can withdraw as much as €200 each day, which may be enough for several days but won’t really last a week in the city. ATMs either have fixed fees per transaction or charge a small percentage from the amount withdrawn; other ATMs have both. This usually depends heavily on the policies of your bank back home.
Here’s a couple of tips to avoid ATM fees: book as much as you can online, from hotels to train tickets, and have your bank or online currency shop get Euros sent to your account before leaving for Portugal. You can even have a separate travel bank account to set your budget and avoid confusion in your transactions.
Daily Budget to visit Lisbon
While many travelers can’t be blamed for thinking that traveling to Portugal and dealing in Euros can be expensive, there are many ways to visit Lisbon without spending more than you should. For example, to get quality food without the hefty price tag, you can avoid restaurants and go to pastelarias instead. These are cafes that also serve main dishes for under €10. It’s even possible to get three courses and a drink for that same price if you find a truly local joint.
Beer typically costs €1 and is the cheapest alcoholic drink to consume. If you’re looking for an entertaining event featuring the traditional style of Portuguese music, there are plenty of fado shows in Lisbon. They usually cost around €25-50 per person as it typically comes with dinner. Great news: Many attractions in Lisbon like Torre de Belém and Museu Nacional do Azulejo are free during the first Sunday of the month!
If you’re looking for a cheap place to crash, there are dorm rooms in Lisbon that only go for €16 or less. Another inexpensive lodging option is AirBnB, where you can get rooms for €15 to €22. Click here to get a $30 USD discount on your first booking when you sign up on AirBnB! Those who want to treat themselves can always book luxury hotel rooms starting at around €200 per night.
Places to visit in Lisbon and Things to do in Lisbon
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Sitting on the highest hill of Lisbon is Castelo de Sao Jorge, a Moorish castle from Portugal’s medieval period. It is one of the best places to visit in Lisbon to learn about the city’s history and appreciate the country’s heritage. It is open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM on November to February, and until 9 PM from March to October. This archeological complex is a must-see for tourists and offers one of the best views of the city and the Tagus river. There are free guided tours to this site but comes with an entrance fee of €8.50 for adults and €5 for students. A perfect place to spend a few hours relaxing with a book since there are a few quiet areas.
Torre de Belem
This iconic symbol sitting right by the river is an architectural gem in Lisbon. Torre de Belem was first built to defend Lisbon but was then used as a lighthouse and also as a customs center. The tower was completed in 1520 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983. On the western façade of the tower, you will see the famous rhinoceros-shaped gargoyle. Make sure to take lots of pictures here as a visit costs €6. The site is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5:30 PM, or 6:30 PM in the months of May until September.
Famous for being the site of the tomb of Vasco da Gama is Jeronimos Monastery, another World Heritage Site in Lisbon. The site was built to commemorate da Gama’s return to Lisbon from India and was completed in the 17th century. This is also where you’ll find the The Church of Santa Maria, a one-of-a-kind church that houses Vasco da Gama’s tomb along with the remains of Luís de Camões, a Portuguese writer and poet. The monastery has the same opening hours as Torre de Belem. Entering the church here is free. However, a visit to the cloister costs €10.
Here’s a tip: You can visit Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery combined for €12.
If you want to visit the capital’s historical attractions while also enjoying fado shows at the end of the day, the Alfama District is one of the best places to visit in Lisbon. It is the oldest district in the city and is a wonderful site to walk around in and appreciate Portugal’s Visigothic roots and Arabic influences. It can also be visited on Lisbon’s famus yellow trams. Alfama district is a definite must-see for any visitor in Lisbon, with its charming streets and beautiful houses that take you back in time.
Mercado da Ribeira
If you’re looking for a place to eat lunch that offers a diverse menu and all the best Lisbon has to offer, head on out to Mercado da Ribeira. It is a delight for foodies and is one of the best places to visit in Lisbon, for sure. Also called Time Out Market, the venue is open from 10 AM to 12 AM from Sunday to Wednesday and until 2 AM from Thursday to Saturday. It has 24 restaurants, 8 bars and several shops, and it’s also a music venue. From burgers to pizza and nigiri to cod, Mercado da Ribeira has it all!
Chiado and Bairro Alto
If you’re looking for a hipster place in Lisbon, you should visit Chiado and Bairro Alto. Chiado has a rich bohemian vibe and is comparable to Paris’ Montmartre with all its famous cafes, museums and theaters. It has been rebuilt since the fire that engulfed the area back in 1998. Bairro Alto lies next to Chiado and is an excellent place to find fado restaurants in Lisbon. There’s lots of graffiti on the streets and is also a unique area that you will enjoy exploring.
Praca do Comercio
It´s the perfect place to start your touristic day. There are bars and restaurants, buses and trams are well conected toPraca do Comercio in Lisbon. The square was destroyed for an earthquake on 1755 and it has the main simblo in the centre of the square with a equestrian statue of King Jose I.
It´s a Romanic Ctholic church also called Sé Cathedral. The facade is really beautiful and is on the way of the route in the tram 28th around Lisbon. There is no entrance fee.
Costa de Caparica beaches
A trip to a coastal city like Lisbon will not be complete without a visit to its beaches, particularly the ones at Costa de Caparica. This area is a 15 km long shoreline that’s only 25 minutes away from the capital and is among the top places to visit in Lisbon, especially in the summer. It is the perfect day to unwind after countless tours around Lisbon. In these beaches, clothes are actually optional, so don’t get too surprised when you visit. One of the best spots to chill at in Costa de Caparica is Praia da Mata. And Fonte Da Telha is a beautiful beach just a few kilometers outside Lisbon. We spent an amazing afternoon in this local beach.
Feira da Ladra
If you’re looking for hidden gems in Lisbon, you can always visit Feira da Ladra, the city’s bi-weekly flea market. It opens Tuesday and Saturday in Campo de Santa Clara. Transactions here are 100% legal and start from dawn till the early afternoon. Feira da Ladra is a great place to score vintage items as well as unique handicrafts and souvenirs on a bargain.
Basilica da Estrela
This church is an ancient Carmelite convent in Lisbon that has beautiful architecture and is one of the most famous places to visit in Lisbon. It is open to visitors daily from 8:45 AM to 8 PM and has 360 degree views of the city that can be viewed for €4 and an elaborately beautiful 500-piece nativity scene for €2.
Santa Justa Lift
You might be wondering what makes an elevator such a touristic site to see. Well, Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon is unlike any other as it is only a mode of transportation from Baixa to Bairro Alto. It stands 45 m tall and was created by the French architect Gustave Eiffel. It has an observation deck that offers gorgeous views of the Baixa neighborhood. Another fun fact about the Santa Justa Lift: It can carry 20 people on the way up but only up to 15 people on the way down. Weird, right?
Things to do in Lisbon
Take a ride or two on the tram
There are actually 2 kinds of trams in Lisbon that serve different functions and go on different routes. The Remolado trams are the historic yellow vehicles that go through the narrow streets of the city, with the most scenic (and therefore more famous) route on E28 as it crosses the Alfama district. On the other hand, the Articulado trams navigate the flat sections of Lisbon but have a higher seating capacity. It only takes the E15 route which goes from Lisbon to Belem.
A single tricket on the tram costs €2.90. For the full tourist treatment, there are also tourist trams that are more expensive than the regular ones. There’s also a 24-hour ticket on all of Lisbon’s trams for €6.15 if this is your preferred method of sightseeing.
Take a boat tour of the Tagus River
Tagus is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean and borders Spain and Portugal. Therefore, it is the best place to visit in Lisbon if you want to go on the most famous boat tour in the city. You can go on a sunset cruise of the river or you can take a shared express boat ride or maybe a day sailing tour. There are many ways to see Tagus River so just choose one that best fits your schedule, budget and interests.
Enjoy the nightlife in Bairro Alto
If you’re looking for a place with the best assortment of bars in the city, you should head to Bairro Alto. It has the perfect mix of traditional and contemporary Portugues bars and is a bohemian hotspot. Here, you’ll see crowds of different cultures drinking cheap beers and cocktails. Those who like drinking in a place with a rustic vibe, Portas Lagas is the bar for you. Bali Bar is a beach bar (despite being in the city center) that hosts music performances and has a great selection of drinks. Lux is a superclub in Lisbon that is partly owned by Hollywood celebrity John Malkovich (Con Air, Dangerous Liaisons) and is perfect for those who love to dance the night away.
Go to a fado show
Fado is an integral part of Portugal’s culture. This traditional folk music is most popular in the capital and going to a fado show is one of the best things to do in Lisbon. The music is melancholy and emotive in nature, with a Fadista singing about death, sadness and the sorrows of love. In 2011, fado has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Clube do Fado in Alfama is one of the best places to catch a show.
Visit the Oceanarium
The Lisbon Oceanarium is located near Parque das Nações and has a unique design that stands out among Lisbon’s historic buildings. It lies above a man-made lagoon and resembles an aircraft carrier. Strange, right? Inside, you will see all sorts of marine life, from fishes to seagulls, sharks, octopuses and penguins. It is open from 10 AM to 8 PM. Tickets cost around €18 for visitors 13 years and up, and €12 for children.
More things to do in Lisbon
Best Food to try in Lisbon
Despite the many seafood choices in Lisbon, the people still stick to the simplest meals for their favorite. Bacalhau, the Portuguese term for cod, is cooked in many different ways in the city. Bacalhau is basically dried and salted cod but has variations and versions based on the region it originated and the place’s traditions. There are hundreds of ways to prepare it but Bacalhau is often served with potatoes.
There are many ways that you can see Bacalhau cooked even just in the city of Lisbon. Our favorite one was Bacalhau a la bras (also known as Bacalhau Dourado) where the cod is shredded and served with onions, garlic, scrambled eggs, olives, parsley and thin matchstick fried potatoes.
Try Sardines in Lisbon
A perfect dish to try in Lisbon (especially in the summer) are sardines. Another simple ingredient is transformed by the Portuguese as they grill these fishes to perfection. Grilled sardines are usually paired with boiled potatoes, roasted bell peppers and lots of wine! If you visit in June, don’t miss out on Festo de San Antonio, when the whole city celebrates and prepares this delicious delicacy.
Try other delicious seafood
One of the things that separate Portugal from other European countries is its oceanfront. The city of Lisbon has been blessed with an abundance of marine life that they use to cook the most delicious seafood in the continent. There are all sorts of seafood delicacies in this coastal destination from whole crabs and fresh sardines to bacalhau (dried and salted cod) and arroz de marisco (similar to Spanish paella). Cervejaria Ramiro is one of the best restaurants to try seafood in Lisbon.
Check out Portuguese pastries
If we’re to talk about what connects Lisbon to other European nations, we should probably start with their love of pastries. Lisbon has the most amazing sweets like Pasteis de Nata, the most famous food in the city, which is a golden, puffy tart filled with egg custard. Another famous delicacy is Bolo de Mel da Madeira, a dark and spicy honey cake with cloves, star anise, cinnamon and molasses. What a unique flavor! Perhaps one of the most unique pastries in Lisbon is Pudim Abade de Priscos which is made from egg yolks, port wine, cinnamon, a citrus fruit, and barely traceable pork fat and create a firm, velvety pudding. Yum and it costs less than €1, perfect to partner with a coffee!
Speaking of drinks, ginjinha is a liqueur that originated in Lisbon and is famous all over the country. It has a sweet cherry flavor and is actually pretty strong, so don’t be fooled by its delicious taste! This drink is actually made of fortified wine mixed with Ginja cherries and lots and lots of sugar. It’s definitely a favorite among locals and is best drank at its traditional home, the A Ginjinha bar.
Drink Portuguese Wine
Each region in Portugal has its own special drink, and you can never go wrong with Portuguese wine. Being the country’s capital, Lisbon has a wide variety of spirits to choose from. These wines are great for everyday drinking and cost around €9 a bottle. Those looking for a low alcohol white wine should try Torres Vedras. If you’re looking for a full bodied red wine, check out Arruda. Alenquer is high tannin and concentrated red wine while Bucelas is a light bodied, citrus white wine. A rare find that you should definitely look out for is Colares, a golden and full bodied white wine.
Drink Beers in Lisbon
Super Bock and Sagres are the most common beers that we tried in Lisbon, with Sagres being our favorite one. Prices are pretty affordable since you can find a bottle for €1-2. It’s just what you need when you take a break after a day of sightseeing in Lisbon.
If you believe in fairytales, you should definitely take a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon. The town is filled with lush forests, gorgeous palaces, majestic manors and exotic gardens. Perfect for a romantic getaway, Sintra is only 30 minutes away from Lisbon and is the perfect side trip if you feel like getting away from the capital. You can get Sintra by train from Lisbon and by bus from Cascais and it takes 30 minutes.
People on a religious pilgrimage would love to visit Fatima, a famous destination for the Marian apparitions that occured on present-day Our Lady of Fátima chapel. Aside from its religious aspect, Fatima is also an excellent place to see beautiful architecture and other historical sites from royal and medieval times. Fatima can be reached from Lisbon from the train with tickets costing €5.70. From the station in Caxarias, you will take a bus to Fatima for €2.
Located in the Portuguese Riviera is the beautiful resort town of Cascais, a summer paradise and is one of the most livable places in Portugal. It is the perfect place to take a dip in the cool Atlantic Ocean when temperatures rise in Lisbon, which is only 40 minutes away. Aside from its beaches, there are also plenty of palaces and museums to visit in Cascais. You can get Cascais by train from Lisbon and it takes 40 minutes. Fun fact: The name is actually pronounced as “kush-kaish.”
Festivals in Lisbon
Traditionally, carnaval in Lisbon goes beyond the parades’ striking colors and festive dances. The feast is meant to be a time to eat up all the meat before Lent when meat is already forbidden. It typically begins on the Friday before Lent and ends on Shrove Tuesday. Nowadays, carnaval in Lisbon is celebrated in February and is as colorful and exciting as the ones in Rio. It is one of the spectacular things to do in Lisbon, for sure!
Sintra Music Festival
Classical music and dance are celebrated in the Sintra Music Festival, an event celebrated in June and July. Performances abound in the gardens, palaces and parks of Cascais, Estoril and Sintra. One major event is usually held every week and several performances are scattered towards the end of the season.