Also known as The City of the Seven Hills, prepare to do a lot of walking when exploring the creative and relaxed capital of Portugal. Lisbon is jam-packed full of activities, historic monuments and food, not to mention being a short train ride away to the beach and to the fairy-tale city of Sintra. Allow at least a week to explore and plan your days carefully so you have time for it all!
Praça do Comércio
Wander down the marbled city streets, through the large archway and into Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), where you will find a huge statue of King Jose on a horse. This area was turned into an open square after the great earthquake of 1755, which destroyed most of Lisbon.
Explore Bairro Alto
Walk through Bairro Alto to see the iconic view of the small tram climbing up and down the hill. Continue getting lost up the many narrow stair cases to stumble upon street art, cafes, bars and glimpses of the lovely river views.
Catch a tram
The trams around Lisbon are iconic and you will no doubt think to yourself what a lovely idea it would be to jump on a tram and whizz around the city. However, be careful not to pick Tram 28, unless you want to be packed in like sardines on a hot, sweaty day.
Try a Portugese Tart
There are two types of tarts famous in Lisbon. The Pastéis de Belém is the original version but requires a 15 minute tram journey and a long line of people before you will be able to take a bite into the soft custard tart with crispy pastry. It is definitely worth while, but if you want a more convenient option, try the Pastel de Nata, which can be bought in the city centre for just 1 euro from Manteigaria, by far the best shop in town!
Check out the Monument to the Discoveries
If you do make it to Belém for the much awaited Pastéis de Belém, take a look at the Monument to the Discoveries, a striking statue by the river famous for being the place that Christopher Columbus anchored on his way back to Spain following the discovery of the Americas.
Seek out a viewpoint
You can pay to enter the Castelo de São Jorge (the castle on the hill), or for a small donation, you can climb the Bell Tower in the small church next door. I am also told that the Miradoura da Senhora do Monte is a fabulous place to watch the sunset for free.
Take a Ferry
After wandering along the river, where you might spot a few sand or rock sculptures, you will find your way to the markets, where there are many food options available! You may, however, prefer to try an alternative option. Catch a ferry to the other side of the river. When you exit the ferry, follow the graffiti walled path to the right and go right to the end. Here, you will find two lovely restaurants with green and yellow chairs and tables. Have an afternoon coffee or splurge on a seafood feast at Ponto Final with magical river views! While you’re over there, continue around the other side of the restaurants and you will find a lift that takes you to the top of the cliff for free. From here, you have an unobstructed view of the city of Lisbon and the famous Suspension Bridge.
Explore the Theatre and Costume Museums
A little out of town, these museums are very interesting for anyone interested in theatre or fashion. The Costume Museum is particularly impressive. Set in an old palace, it showcases the development of fashion from the 1700s to the modern day.
Buy something made from cork
Lisbon is famous for its cork products, which you can find at many of the markets. Treat yourself to a handbag, wallet or pencil case! The material is surprisingly tough, water proof and can be purchased in various colours and patterns.
Try some of the local delicacies
There are a number of unique consumables in Lisbon! Ginja is a cherry liqueur usually served in a chocolate shot glass with a sour cherry at the bottom. Swig the alcohol before consuming the fruit and cup. If you prefer something a bit more savoury, enter one of the many shops dedicated to canned fish and purchase a few tins of sardines. Who knew they came in so many flavours?! Finally, don’t leave Lisbon until you’ve tried a recipe involving Codfish. It is served in many forms in many restaurants, and tastes delicious!
Have a night out
Lisbon is famous for its nightlife and I certainly found my way into some lovely bars for tapas and wine. If you do want to carry on partying, walk down to Pink Street, where you may be lucky enough to hear some local live music. From there, follow the crowds to the late-night clubs. I didn’t make it to the clubs this time round, but it’s always good to have an excuse to go back next time!
Have you been to Lisbon? What were your favourite things to do?