Lisbon is the captivating capital city of Portugal. Located on the coast, this hilly city is full of pastel-colored homes, towering castles, historic sites, and bustling marketplaces. Lisbon is home to a countless UNESCO World Heritage sites, and visitors from all over the world come to marvel at the architecture and the breathtaking views. Take a tour of the monasteries and castles, explore old neighborhoods with fascinating pasts and enjoy the traditional Fado music. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie or an arts and culture lover, Lisbon is a city with something for everyone.
The Monastery of Jerónimos, also known as Hieronymites Monastery, is a UNESCO listed site and is a notable example of Manueline architecture. The ornate carvings and spires showcase the incredible wealth that Lisbon and Portugal had amassed through colonization during the country’s Age of Exploration. In fact, the monastery was built using mainly the money Portugal had made trading spices from the East. The construction of this masterpiece began in the early 1500s and took over a century to complete. Buy tickets in advance and spend a warm, sunny day taking a tour of the church and expansive cloisters.
São Jorge Castle, or St. George’s Castle, sits on the highest point of Lisbon, watching over the city. The castle is visible from nearly every part of Lisbon. Staring up at the historical landmark, you can’t help but imagine what the city must have been like when the Moors first built the castle over 1,000 years ago. Of course, since the original construction, the site has been developed and rebuilt by countless rulers. The museum housed Portuguese royalty from 1139 when Dom Afonso Henriques came into power. Today, the castle is a museum that’s more than worth a visit. Tourists can visit the castle and the grounds, explore the archaeological sites and enjoy a 360-degree view of Lisbon using the on-site camera obscura.
The beautiful district of Alfama is the perfect place to get lost. Spend the day exploring the area’s charming streets and winding alleyways, visiting shops and relaxing in quaint cafés. Alfama is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon, and explorers are rewarded with tile-clad chapels and historic buildings around every corner. The cobblestone streets are narrow and picturesque, and the neighborhood offers visitors a real look into a more traditional Lisbon. Bélem is another historic neighborhood that every visitor should explore. Take in the history, sample the street food and enjoy the neighborhood’s unique cultural identity. You should also make a special stop to see the iconic Bélem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was built in the early 1500s.
This traditional domed market has been in business since the 1800s, but it’s recently been remodeled to house the Time Out Market, a food hall founded by the popular travel publication. Visit the market to buy some fresh produce, fish, and flowers and then head to the food hall to sample a range of tasty dishes prepared by some of Portugal’s most famous chefs. This market is the best place in Lisbon to experience high-quality, simple ingredients that make up Portugal’s world famous cuisine.
Lisbon is home to some incredible museums showcasing the country’s rich heritage of history, art, and culture. One must-visit museum is the National Museum of Ancient Art. You can easily spend an entire day exploring it, and you should do just that if your schedule allows it. The museum has permanent and rotating exhibitions of the great painters, sculptors, and craftspeople from both Portugal and Europe. Some of the museum’s highlights include pieces by Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer and Gregório Lopes. Another museum to visit is the National Azulejo Museum, which showcases Portugal’s famous ceramic tiles. Learn about the history of the ceramic tiles from when the Moors first introduced them to the present day. Visitors also get to enjoy an impressive exhibition of the stunning blue azulejo tiles while learning about the hand-painted motifs and the craft of ceramic tile-making.
Although Lisbon is full of stunning plazas to visit, Praça da Comércio is one of the best. Not only is this the grandest and largest plaza, it is also one of the most historically important. The Praça da Comércio was where the royal palace was located until the 1755 earthquake. Visit the plaza to experience a fun, upbeat environment while enjoying a drink and taking in the waterfront view. It’s also the perfect place to relax and spend some time people watching.
Stop at any of the high-quality restaurants and bars to sample the delicacies of Lisbon. This city is a paradise for lovers of fish and seafood, and you’ll have your pick of delectable dishes to try. Be sure to try the grilled sardines, stuffed squid and bacalhau à bras. If you’re not ready for an entire meal, stop at a bar to sample some petiscos. Similar to the Spanish tapas, petiscos are small snacks that can include octopus salad, fried cod, and snails in garlic-herb butter. For dessert, try the rich egg custard tarts known as pastel de nata. You can grab one of these tasty treats at any bakery to enjoy with some strong coffee or a cup of tea.
One of the most popular things to do in Lisbon is to ride Tram 28 through the city’s most historic neighborhoods. It’s not just the route that’s appealing; it’s also the tramcars themselves. The bright yellow vintage tramcars are made out of wood, and they instantly transport you to a bygone era. Enjoy a smooth ride through Lisbon’s vibrant streets in retro style.
Apart from being packed with delightful cafés and tourist attractions, Bairro Alto is also home to some of the best bars and clubs in Lisbon. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife, grab a drink at one of the many bohemian bars and let loose. You also have your pick of late-night bakeries and a variety of enticing street foods.
Fado is a Portuguese tradition that you simply can't miss. The melodic and melancholy notes of Fado captivate locals and tourists alike. There are countless wonderful places in Lisbon to watch a performance while enjoying a meal and a few glasses of wine. Clube de Fado in Alfama is particularly popular for its warm and inviting atmosphere, its delicious food and its exceptional performances. Head to the club any night of the week to enjoy local talent in a retro environment.