20 Dec

10 best things to do in Lisbon

Portugal’s first city remains high on every discerning traveller’s hit-list. But what are the essential things to do while you’re here?

Whether you’re just here for a short visit (and if so, be sure to check out our best hotels list for a place to stay), or thinking of sticking around a little longer, this checklist will help you find the very best things to do in Lisbon. You’ll find the most important landmarks, get a taste of some traditional Portuguese food and uncover hidden gems in the coolest neighbourhoods around the city. Enjoy!

 

1. Search for bargains at Feira da Ladra

What is it? This is the Lisbon equivalent to Madrid’s El Rastro or London’s Portobello Market. Feira da Ladra started in the 13th century and moved around town, before setting up camp at its current Campo de Santa Clara location in 1903.

Why go? If you enjoy pottering around flea markets when you’re on holiday, go to Feira da Ladra. There’s a bit of everything there, from socks to second-hand books to vintage silk handkerchiefs every Tuesday and Saturday.

Don’t miss: Rise early for the best experience.

2. Become a Portuguese art expert by visiting the National Museum of Contemporary Art

What is it? Founded in 1911, this state-run museum reopened in 1994 after a hiatus following the Chiado fire.

Why go? Notwithstanding the cool, modernist redesign by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the name – National Museum of Contemporary Art – is a little ambitious given the place’s size and budget. Still, the rehang of a couple of years ago, involving 100 works from the permanent collection, offers an instructive overview of 150 years of Portuguese art – from romanticism through naturalism to neo-realism, surrealism and abstractionism – up to 1975.

 

3. Spot an Obey Giant mural

What is it? American artist Shepard Fairey, best-known for his project Obey Giant, brought his iconic style to the neighbourhood of Graça.

Why go? On the side of a building on Rua Natália Correia, Obey Giant painted a woman wearing a revolutionary beret and holding a rifle with a carnation in its muzzle. Giant is best known for the “Hope” poster he used in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Dont’ miss: In the same area, he collaborated with Vhils (Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto) to create a mural representing a woman’s face, on Rua da Senhora da Glória, Graça.

4. Lose yourself at Embaixada

What is it? Embaixada Lisboa is a concept
store in the Palacete Ribeiro
 da Cunha, with awe-inspiring 
nineteenth-century neo-
Arab design, at Príncipe Real.

Why go? Design, fashion, and temporary exhibitions all feature. There’s no more diplomatic ‘Embassy’ than this. Housed in an 18th-century mansion, it hides some of the city’s most intriguing secrets: very original Portuguese and foreign stores all under the same roof (which is sometimes decked out with flowers) and with a restaurant with a French name but which serves Portuguese snacks. Make sure to pop your head into Linkstore, which sells original accessories for men, Organii, with organic products for babies, and Amélie au Theatre

5. See the sunset at Park

What is it? This sprawling rooftop bar on a multi-storey car park at the south-western corner of the Bairro Alto gets packed on warm evenings.

Why go? Okay, it sounds weird. But at Park, drinks are available on the sixth floor, so you’ll be far from the actual cars. Phones at the ready – the view it has over Lisbon is one of the most instagrammables, as are the cocktails. Plus, there are usually DJs to liven things up. A relative newcomer, this sprawling rooftop bar on a multi-storey car park at the south-western corner of the Bairro Alto gets packed on warm evenings. Beautiful young things chat amid giant pot plants, swaying to a DJ-driven soundtrack of jazz, soul and funk.

Don’t miss: The view out over the river and Ponte 25 de Abril is stunning. Snacks and light meals are available until 3pm, and then again from 8pm to 11pm.

6. See the view at Portas do Sol

What is it? Generous in space and in the view it offers. Besides the Tejo river, you can see the Alfama area from the comfort of your chair.

Why go? The Portas do Sol cocktail bar invites everyone to have a boogie on weekends, and it also serves food, to balance out all that sangria. The bar of this lookout is integrated in a building of the award winning pair of architects Aires Mateus and is animated at weekends by a DJ who puts Lisbon and tourists dancing around the statue of São Vicente de Fora, patron saint of Lisbon.

Don’t miss: Settle in the puffs and unwind to see the Tagus river and the monuments of the Alfama district.

Recommended: Try our Time Out Discovery Game and unlock the Hidden Gems of Graça and Alfama.

7. Eat Lisbon’s greatest delicacy at Pastéis de Belém

What is it? The world-famous pastéis de Belém – warm, creamy tarts with puff pastry made according to a secret recipe – fairly fly out of the door here.

Why go? The Pastéis de Belém bakery is a mandatory pitstop for tourists, but its large tea rooms, covered with blue and white azulejos, tend to attract Lisbon residents too. The pastéis (€1.10 each) are worth the fuss, and their history is long and ancient. Their fabrication started in 1834, when the Jerónimos Monastery started selling sweets. They were so successful that three years later, the Pastéis de Belém empire started, with a secret recipe that is still used to this day. Customers with time to spare scoff them two at a time in a warren of rooms lined with tiles depicting Belém in the early 17th century.

Don’t miss: Pay a visit to Berardo Museum.

 

8. Stroll around LX Factory

What is it? Markets, exhibitions, shops, cafes, concerts, parties. There is a whole world to discover in this cosmopolitan “factory” that completely altered the landscape of Alcantara in 2008.

Why go? Essential things to do on your retail therapy excursion include a trip to renovated industrial complex LX factory, a shopping city within the city. This uber-trendy venue hosts an eclectic selection of places to eat, drink, dance and spend some serious Euros.  Here you can cut your hair, look for surfboards or even sleep.

Don’t miss: The weekly market on Sundays.

9. Learn about History of Art at Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

What is it? One of Europe’s leading fine arts museums, with exhibits dating from 2000 BC to the early 20th century.

Why go? Save time for the final room and its breathtaking glass and metal art nouveau jewellery by René Lalique. Audio-guides are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese to help you get the most from the experience. There are also excellent temporary exhibitions, with pieces lent by institutions around the world. Downstairs is an art library (which often hosts midday classical recitals on Sundays), an excellent café and a small gift shop.

Don’t miss: Don’t miss the Centro de Arte Moderna at the southern end of the park.

10. Discover Alfama blindfolded

What is it? Discovering Alfama blindfolded is an idea suggested by Lisbon Walker, in collaboration with ACAPO – The Portuguese association for the blind and visually impaired.

Why go? The tour is called Lisboa Sensorial (sensory Lisbon), and he objective is to sense the smells, noises and flavours of Lisbon’s most typical neighbourhood, with your eyes covered – and a guide. It lasts an hour and a half.

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