Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, is one of my favorite cities in the world. If I was stuck here forever, I would be happy. It’s incredible. Situated along the south of the country’s west coast, it has an incredible mix of museums, historic buildings, eclectic music and nightlife, squares, and cafés to watch the world go by. I fell in love with this city when I visited. It had this old, gritty feeling that gave it tons of character. The winding streets with the locals standing on the corners, the wine – I just knew I belonged here. Lisbon is a city that is hard not to love. Don’t breeze through here. Spend a few extra days to really settle in and enjoy a city where no one rushes, meals last a few hours, and everyone has a smile on their face!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Lisbon
1. Walk around the Old Town
2. See the Belem Tower
3. Walk through the Jardim Botanico
4. Hit the beaches
5. Explore the Castle of St. George
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Berardo Collection Museum
The Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art has a wide selection of works by Warhol, Picasso, Dali, Duchamp, Bacon, Pollock, and more, representing dozens of modern movements. I’m not a huge fan of modern or contemporary art, but this is an excellent museum if you are. There are over 1000 pieces here – plenty keep you busy for a few hours. It’s free and open daily from 10am-7pm.
2. Ride the “elevator”
For some sweeping views of Lisbon’s rooftops, you might want to take the Elevador de Santa Justa. It’s a century-old and used to be powered by steam. (Now, electricity!) Connecting downtown to the Bairro Alto neighborhood, it offers a good view of the city at the top and a small restaurant where you can eat. A ride costs 2.80 EUR but is free if you have a 24-hour transportation pass. The elevator is open daily from 7am-11pm.
3. Visit the Praça do Comércio
Lisbon’s biggest and most monumental square sits along the riverfront and is a photogenic and interesting place to visit. Most recently renovated in 2010, it’s famous for two marble columns that used to be part of the royal palace. The area is now home to a lot of good shops and is great for people watching or sitting down with a refreshing gelato.
4. Check out Se de Lisboa Cathedral
Built on the grounds of a mosque, the cathedral was raised to celebrate the defeat of the Moors in the mid-1100s. I just happened to stumble upon this place while walking around, and while I’m not a huge fan of 12th century Romanesque construction, the cathedral was very peaceful and beautiful. Plus, it’s free!
5. Ride the trams
Lisbon has those old fashioned trams that make you feel like you are living during the turn of the 20th century. Sitting in them and riding through the historic and well-worn streets of the city was a simple yet unbelievable pleasure. It costs 2.85 for an individual ride.
6. See a Fado show
Fado, the local music, is best seen in Alfama. There are a lot of spots down near Santa Apolonia metro stop but wherever you go in Lisbon, there will be a Fado bar. Drink some port and enjoy a night of music.
7. Visit the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
The construction of the monastery began in 1502 and the site is the most-ambitious achievement of Manueline architecture. Its UNESCO World Heritage site status reflects its beauty and impressiveness. It is a must-see when visiting Portugal’s capital. It costs 10 EUR to enter (except the first Sunday of the month) and it’s open daily 10am-5:30pm except Mondays. In the summer, it stays open until 6:30pm. (Save a little money when you combine this visit with one to the Belem Tower, paying 12 EUR for both instead of 16!).
8. Check out the Discoveries Monument
The Monument to the Discoveries was inaugurated in 1960 during celebrations of the 500-year anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. It depicts Henry (at the front) holding a small caravel, along with other heroes of Portuguese history. It is shaped like a ship’s bow and projects out above the water across the Tagus. The rooms within the monument host small temporary exhibitions and you can go to the seventh floor where you can look out to the Atlantic.
9. Walk through Comercio Square
This impressive riverfront square was renovated in 2010. Lisbon’s biggest and most monumental square is a photogenic and interesting place to visit with its two large columns, which mark the entrance to the city from the Tagus and the view of the river.
10. Relax in Principe Real’s Gardens
From June to October, Lisbon is an outdoor city. Near the Botanical Gardens is the recently renovated Principe Real neighborhood and its main square is another lovely place to relax and get accustomed to the laid-back mood of Lisbon. Down the hill is Praça das Flores, a non-touristy smaller square with some of the city’s most inviting outdoor cafés.
11. Visit Batalha
Built in 1388, Batalha is one of Europe’s greatest Gothic masterpieces and a popular day trip from Lisbon. Walking through the gigantic and impressive gothic doorway and seeing the interior of the church featuring 16th-century stained-glass windows is breathtaking. It takes about 3 hours and costs 10-23 EUR to get there by bus. Admission is 6 EUR (it’s free the first Sunday of each month before noon).