Consult any Lisbon travel guide and you’ll be presented with photographs of mosaic tiled streets, a hallmark of the city that makes it so endlessly picturesque. Stretching down the slopes of the city towards the waterfront you’ll find alleyways of intricate pastel ceramics, from the floor to the facades of homes and building interiors. Geometric mosaics, religious paintings and Portuguese words can all be uncovered before taking the tram back to the top of the hill. It’s a walk most could do a hundred times and still not get bored.
Shop at antique stores
Ornate vases, fur coats, and long-forgotten photographs are just some of the collectables found in the treasure troves of Lisbon’s antique stores. Take home your very own Portuguese tile from Solar Antiques, admire the artworks and ceramics of São Roque, and pick up books and bric-a-brac from House Pélys. You’ll struggle to find a street in Lisbon that doesn’t boast an antique shop, only adding to the joy of sauntering around the city.
Ride up and down the cobbled streets on the tram 28
Squeeze into tram 28 as it rattles up the streets of Lisbon overflowing with visitors snapping photos of the quintessential occasion; it may be a typically tourist activity but it’s certainly not one to miss. For less than 3 euros riders are given a tour of the city’s finest corners, rolling through areas like Graca, Alfama, and Baixa. The yellow Remodelado trams have been weaving through Lisbon since the 1930’s, standing as a testament to the Portuguese mentality that they are still in use and not caged up in a museum.
Have a traditional seafood dinner by the bay
As pizza is to Italy, seafood is to Portugal, the adored food that simply must be consumed when visiting. For the ultimate seafood experience head to Lisbon’s harbourside after sunset, finding a serve of barbecued octopus or mariscada stew with lobster. Dinner can be followed by cocktails and a hearty dance-floor session at the extravagant beach club and infinity pool of K Urban. Or any of the after-hours venues of the area that perfectly compliment an indulgent seafood dinner and bottle of vinho branco.
Visit the ancient waterfront Belem neighbourhood
A medley of historic monuments and pristine parks by the waterfront, the neighbourhood of Belem is a great way to waste a day in Lisbon. Found to the west of the city’s centre, it is home to the whitewashed Jerónimos Monastery, a tropical botanical garden and the famous Belem Tower. But all this pales when compared to the area’s true drawing card of the pastry shop of Pasteis de Belém, this shop is known to own the original pasteis de nata recipe.
Go up the Santa Justa Elevator
If anyone was to doubt how hilly the city of Lisbon is, proof can be found in the fact that some of the streets have been connected by elevator. The Santa Justa Elevator serves as both a practical feature of the city and a tourist attraction, thanks to its views of the city and some hundred-year history. Found sandwiched between the building of Baixa Pombalina in the district of Sacramento, it’s a Lisbon sightseeing activity that will take your trip to new heights.
Things to do in Lisbon
Every August, the 5-day musical extravaganza of MEO Sudoeste takes place a little over 2-hours south of Lisbon. Fusing alternative and reggae music, past acts have included Daft Punk, The Prodigy and Zero 7. Best of all the festival ticket comes with access to free camping.
Lisbon Fish & Flavours
A gastronomic sensation highlighting Portugal’s sincere love affair with seafood, the Lisbon Fish & Flavours festival is a favourite of travellers wanting to experience the country’s finest cuisine. The 11-days of great food comes teamed with music, live cooking demonstrations and plenty of wine in an authentic and laid-back atmosphere.
Rock in Rio
Bela Vista Park comes to life over 4-5 sunny days during the biannual festival of Rock in Rio. Held in homage to rock, pop, world and electronic music, it draws revellers both national and international into the country’s capital. Katy Perry, The Chemical Brothers and Bruno Mars are just some of the names you may catch here.
The 25th of April is Portugal’s day of liberty and freedom, originally celebrating the relatively peaceful revolution that marked freedom from the authoritarian rule of Estado Novo. Although there aren’t official celebrations in Lisbon for this national public holiday, it’s a great time to visit the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge standing in its honour.
Super Bock Super Rock
Super Bock Super Rock is the ultimate nod to new music, held in Parque das Nações with acts like Justice, The XX and Julian Casablancas. The 3-day festival is held in the city’s vibrant month of July, with an all-access pass costing just a little over 100 euros.
Top 5 Festivals in Lisbon
Though Portugal boasts a mild, sunny climate through most months of the year, it still comes alive during the summer when it comes to festivals. Lisbon is home to a diverse curation of events, with music and gastronomy at the calendar’s core.
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
Found in a sunny yellow building by the River Tagus, the National Museum of Ancient Art is one of the more opulent things to do in Lisbon. The museum is graced by textiles, metalwork, sculpture, and paintings from as early as the 15th century, and was once used as a palace by the Portuguese Count of Alvor.
National Tile Museum
Few travellers can visit Lisbon without marvelling at the beauty of the city’s elaborate pastel tiles. Nowhere can this be appreciated more than the National Tile Museum, built in the 16th century by the Queen for use as a convent. Savvy travellers will time their visit with a tile painting workshop for full immersion in the museum.
MUDE - Museu do Design e da Moda
Lisbon’s museum of design and fashion is alive and kicking, bubbling with the energy of conferences, workshops, artist residency rehearsals and exhibitions. Set in a dishevelled former bank building on Rua Augusta, it makes a statement of past, present and future Portuguese aesthetics.
Museu Nacional dos Coches
Royalists will find themselves in admiration and delight at Museu Nacional dos Coches – Lisbon’s National Coach Museum. Praised as one of the best collections of royal horse drawn carriages found anywhere in the world, the museum is part of Belém Palace, the official home of the Portuguese President.
Sao Jorge Castle
The medieval castle of Sao Jorge is frequently listed as one of the best Lisbon sightseeing activities, thanks to its hilltop setting and unique stone structure. With archaeologists proving human activity at the site of the castle since the 6th century BC, the importance of this historic Portuguese monument is immeasurable.
Top 5 Museums in Lisbon
Lisbon museums embody the rich and colourful history of the country, with a space dedicated to tiles and another displaying decadent royal carriages. Those with a desire to uncover Lisbon’s modern side will not be left unsatisfied either, with the Museum of Design found in a former bank building summarising how the country is evolving.
Pastel de nata
Prepare to tumble into a vortex of pleasure, the pastel de nata is a sweet treat so lovely it's acquired a cult-following. A rich egg-based custard nests in a little pastry cup, baked in the oven and dusted off with cinnamon. A traditional Portuguese favourite easy to find across the country, its true home is Lisbon’s waterfront region of Belém.
Best eaten at Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, R. Belém 84-92
As exotic as bacalhau sounds it is actually just cod fish, a much-adored staple in Portugal. It’s served up in numerous fashions such as ‘à Lagareiro’ with potatoes and oil, and can also be picked up from local markets, dried and doused in salt.
Best eaten at Tascardoso, Rua de O Século 242
Roughly cut pork steak seasoned and sandwiched in bread, the bifana is really that simple. Nevertheless, variations exist of this nationally loved snack, occasionally with added spice or mustard and unique meat preparations. It’s best tasted at the truly local O Trevo, a cheap and authentic experience despite the Bairro Alto address.
Best eaten at O Trevo, Praça Luís de Camões 48
Cozido a portuguesa
Cozido is a family favourite stew consisting of various meats and vegetables that create a rich and varied flavour. Though the greatest cozido is said to be found on the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores naturally slow-cooked in volcanic geysers, a close second is served at Restaurante Os Courenses on Rua Jose Duro.
Best eaten at Restaurante Os Courenses, Rua Jose Duro 27
Arroz de marisco
If you’ve dubbed Spanish paella a little tasteless and dry, the soupy seafood dish of arroz de marisco might be calling your name. This Portuguese specialty usually boasts clams, mussels, prawns and fish, simmered with vegetables in a broth of wine, paprika, garlic and onion. The seaside restaurant of Farol has this dish mastered to an art form.
Best eaten at Restaurante Farol, Largo Alfredo Dinis 1, Almada 2800-252
Food in Lisbon
Featuring an abundance of fresh seafood and plenty of sweet treats worth savouring, the Lisbon food scene will win you over in a heartbeat. Without spending an abundance of money, you can experience the city’s finest - from a working-class sandwich bar to a humble bakery-cum-pastry shop.