The 20 Best Things to Do in Lisbon for First Timers
For many people who visit Portugal, Lisbon is their destination of choice. As the capital of the country, Lisbon is home to some of Portugal’s most important landmarks and best attractions. This makes it a fascinating city to visit, and you will find things to see and do to suit all tastes and ages. Researching the activities and attractions prior to your trip will help you to plan how you would like to spend your time in Lisbon by helping you to identify the things to do that interest you the most. To help you plan your trip, the following are the 20 best things to do in Lisbon for first-timers.
20. Enjoy the Nightlife
Many of the main tourist attractions in Lisbon are activities that you can enjoy in the day. However, you should not overlook exploring the city at night, as Lisbon has a vibrant nightlife, says My Adventures Across the World. Bairro Alto is the liveliest district in central Lisbon, and you will find plenty of bustling bars, quirky pubs, and live music venues in this area. There are plenty of options, so you can visit a different venue each night of your vacation. An unusual place to visit is Park, which is one of the hippest rooftop bars in Lisbon. What makes this venue so unusual is that it is on the fifth floor of a multi-story parking lot.
19. Listen to Fado Music
Fado is the traditional music of Portugal, so you should try to listen to some Fado music during your visit to Lisbon to enhance your cultural experience. There are multiple venues where you can watch a performance of Fado music, so there are plenty of chances to watch a show. There are also walking tours that focus on Fado music and will take you around many of the venues that feature this traditional music.
18. Take a Boat Tour Along the Tagus
The River Tagus is an important natural feature of Lisbon as it runs through the center of the city. An activity that you should consider adding to your itinerary is a boat trip along this river as it will allow you to view the city from a different perspective. There are many different boat packages available, including day trips, evening boat tours, and boat trips with dinner and drinks included in the package.
17. Go to the Museu do Oriente
The Museu do Oriente has been open since 2008, and this museum is all about how the Portuguese were the first Europeans to have a presence in Asia. In the main exhibition, there are priceless Japanese and Chinese painted screens from the 17th and 18th-centuries, unique charts and maps, a collection of artifacts from Timor, and examples of Namban art. There is a separate display called the Shadows of Asia. In this part of the museum, you will find a range of shadow puppets from locations including Turkey and south-east Asia. You can grab a bite to eat during your visit, as there is a restaurant on the top floor that has excellent city views. Courses are run throughout the year that covers subjects including world music and dance, languages, and cuisine.
16. Learn About Art at Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Time Out says that the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is one of the leading fine arts museums in Europe. A highlight of a visit to this museum is a room filled with metal and glass art nouveau jewelry by Rene-Lalique. There are also temporary exhibitions that consist of fine art pieces that museums from around the world have lent to this Lisbon museum. Another aspect of this museum that is interesting is the art library. There is also a café and a gift shop.
15. Visit Lisbon Cathedral
No visit to Lisbon is complete without calling by the cathedral to admire the Romanesque architecture. The building of this historic structure was completed in 1150, and one of its most impressive features is the rose window. When you visit the cathedral, you should also visit the Gothic cloister. Lisbon Cathedral is located along Largo de Se, which is why the cathedral is often referred to simply as ‘Se’.
14. Climb the Belem Tower
Belem Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built between 1514 and 1520. It sits on the northern bank of the Tagus River and was originally used as a defense for Lisbon. Throughout its history, it has also been a customs office and a lighthouse. There are five floors to explore plus a rooftop terrace. Although navigating the narrow staircase to climb to the top of the tower is challenging, it is worth the effort for the killer views you can enjoy from the top.
13. Admire the Views at Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
Located in Graca, the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is on the highest point of Lisbon. Therefore, it is the best place to enjoy stunning views across the city. You can take Tram 28 to this viewing point and enjoy an impressive view of the castle opposite. If you visit this location, you should definitely take along your camera to capture the views.
12. Go to Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira
The main part of this castle was built in the 17th-century, although there is an 18th-century addition to the original structure. It was built for Dom Joao Mascarenhas, who was the first Marquis of Fronteira. One of the best reasons to visit this palace is the garden, which is filled with statues, fountains, and tiled benches. Another feature of this attraction is the Gallery of Kings, which features a collection of busts that celebrate past and present Portuguese kings. The interiors of this palace are well preserved, and you can visit the dining room, the library, and the chapel.
11. Visit Sao Jorge Castle
Sao Jorge is a hilltop castle that is one of Lisbon’s most iconic structures. This fortress was built in the 11th-century, and it became the domain of royalty in the mid-12th-century. Visitors can stroll around the ruins of the former royal palace, explore the archeological site that covers three periods of history and admire panoramic views across Lisbon. A highlight for many visitors is the Tower of Ulysses. IN the tower, there is a camera obscura that offers a 360-degree view of Lisbon. Another great feature is the galleries, which display a range of artifacts dating from the 11th-century. For energetic visitors, the climb up the hill is refreshing and allows you to spend longer appreciating the views. However, the castle is also accessible to less energetic visitors via the escalators that traverse up the hill from Praca Martim Moniz. The escalators were added in 2018 to make this attraction more accessible t everyone, regardless of ability.
10. Spend a Few Hours at National Azulejo Museum
Portugal is famous for its colorful, handcrafted tiles, which are something that you will see around the city. You can see a huge collection of historic Portuguese tiles at the National Azulejo Museum. The name of this museum translates as the National Tile Museum. This museum is set in a historic 16th-century convent that is home to some stunning works of art that feature the tiles. For example, there is a two-wall panorama of Lisbon, and works that show the relationship between Lisbon and the Tagus River. Another interesting fresco is one that depicts the story of Antonio Joaquim Carneiro, a famous Portuguese hat maker. This fresco consists of seven panels in the style of a cartoon strip.
9. Stroll Around Time Out Market Lisboa
If you enjoy strolling around markets and sampling local produce, then one of the best places to visit is the Time Out Market Lisboa. Conde Nast Traveler, says that Time Out Magazine curated this food hall, which is set in the Mercado da Ribeira. There are more than 50 different eating concepts featured in this food hall, and it highlights some of the best produce and cuisine in Portugal. This is somewhere that you can visit repeatedly during your vacation and try something different on each visit.
8. Absorb Yourself in Tradition at Alfama
Alfama is the historic district of Lisbon, and it has retained much of its traditional charm. This part of the city has been inhabited since the 5th-century. A visit to this district will allow you to absorb yourself in Portuguese culture and tradition. As you walk along the cobbled streets, you will see small cafes serving traditional Portuguese food and drink along with old-fashioned grocery stores. You can see the market sellers and other locals going about their business in scenes that seem completely separate from the cosmopolitan areas of Portugal’s capital.
7. Dine at the Michelin-Starred Alma
There are some amazing restaurants in Lisbon as it has an outstanding culinary scene. These include several Michelin-starred restaurants. If you want to treat yourself while you are in this city, then book yourself a table in Alma. According to Lonely Planet, this two Michelin-starred restaurant is the flagship restaurant of Henrique Sa Pessoa. Although the restaurant has a casual vibe, it also exudes style. The menu consists of nouveau Portuguese cuisine that is made with only the finest ingredients and the dishes are presented in an Instagram-worthy style.
6. Go to Jeronimos Monastery
Those who are interested in history, culture, religion, and architecture should plan a visit to Jeronimos Monastery, which is a UNESCO-listed site. This landmark was built on the site of an old church for the Hieronymite Monastery. The building of the limestone-clad Manueline masterpiece commenced in 1501, and it is one of the most impressive structures in Lisbon.
5. Take a Ride on Tram 28
Many of the locals get around the city by tram. The trams are such an important part of the city that they are a cultural institution and a huge attraction for tourists. They are a fantastic way to get around the various landmarks of the city, and an easy way to go sightseeing. One of the best trams to take is Tram 28, as this route has many stops directly outside some of the city’s top tourist attractions. Visitors to the city also enjoy the retro feel of riding the vintage yellow trams.
4. Spend Time at Praca do Comercio
There are some stunning plazas in Lisbon, but the most famous of these is Praca do Comercio, says Conde Nast Traveler. Prior to an earthquake in 1755, this plaza was home to a palace. Now, it has statues, an arcade, and sunflower yellow buildings. Many visitors to the city use this as a meeting place or as the starting point for a day of sightseeing.
3. See the Murals in Graca
There are some amazing art murals around Lisbon, and many of these are in the Graca neighborhood. One of the most famous street murals in this area is by Obey Giant, and this is a painting of a woman carrying a rifle and wearing a revolutionary beret. This is on the side of the Rua Natalia Correia. The same artist who created this street mural was responsible for Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign ‘Hope’ poster.
2. Go to the National Museum of Contemporary Art
Founded in 1911, this museum was closed following the Ghiado fire but reopened in 1994. When it reopened, it underwent a redesign by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, a modernist French architect. In the permanent collection, there are 100 pieces of Portuguese art. The artworks cover 150 years, so there are many art movements featured in the exhibition. There are also temporary collections throughout the year.
1. Visit the Art, Architecture, and Technology Museum
According to Time Out, one of the best things to do in Lisbon for first-timers is to visit the Art, Architecture, and Technology Museum. Also known as the MAAT, this contemporary art museum is one of the most recent additions to the art scene in Lisbon. It is a noticeable landmark in the city as its modern architecture is impressive. There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions to see at this museum, and it is also used as a venue to host many events throughout the year.