28 Top Things To Do In Lisbon (Tips + Guide By A Local) • Indie Traveller

I’ve traveled the world far and wide, but no place has stolen my heart quite like Lisbon. The pastel-colored houses, hilltop views, vintage trams, and windy cobblestone streets all conspire to make it an utterly charming place.

There are a ton of things to do in Lisbon. While 3 days is the minimum length of stay that is usually recommended, you can easily spend a week or more in Lisbon without getting in any way bored.

In fact, I’ve been living here for a few years now and still keep discovering new things! In this Lisbon travel guide I’ll share the essential highlights, but you can also check out my alternative things to do in Lisbon if you have more time to explore.

How to best enjoy Lisbon

If I can give you just one tip it’s this: the best way to see Lisbon is to walk!

If you’re the kind of traveler who enjoys puttering along cobblestone streets, sitting down at a cafe patio for some people-watching, or just getting lost on purpose, then you’ll feel right at home in Lisbon.

Don’t let lists of top things to do — such as the one I’ll share here — deceive you into thinking you need to tick every box. My favorite thing about the city is that you can discover small interesting things everywhere.

Turn a corner and you won’t know what you’ll find next: maybe some colorful traditionally tiled buildings, a quirky crafts shop, a spectacular view of the river Tejo, or maybe some incredible street art.

It’s good to know that Lisbon has lot of hills. After my first visit to Lisbon, my legs were killing me! Be sure to bring some comfortable walking shoes.

Luckily, taxis or hailed rides are very cheap in Lisbon, as is public transport, so that can help you cover more ground. A ride from one side of the center to the other will cost about €5 – 7.

Best tours in Lisbon

While Lisbon invites random exploration, it is still worth going on at least one organized tour. This will give you historical and local insights you won’t get on your own, and lets you see Lisbon from a different perspective. These are several tours I recommend:

 

Lisbon travel tips

Lisbon is a very safe and relaxed city, so don’t worry, you’re going to have a great time.

Still, there are a few things to know before you go.

First, remember you are absolutely not in Spain. Portuguese is also a very different language from Spanish. Avoid using Spanish as this won’t earn you any brownie points. English is widely spoken and is by far the preferred language to use.

If a restaurant places bread, olives, or other side items on your table, know that these aren’t free tapas. If you touch them you have to pay for them. They’re usually pricey! This isn’t a scam or anything, it’s just how this works in Portugal.

Some tourists are shocked to find drug dealers on Praça do Comércio or Rossio Square. Most of these guys are actually scammers targeting tourists. They’re annoying but harmless; simply say no thanks or ignore them, and they’ll go away. Speak to them only if you’re in dire need of baking powder or oregano.

Finally, there are some sights that I would call tourist traps at this point. Most importantly, you really don’t have to ride Tram 28. Queuing takes ages — it’s probably not worth your time, and the locals actually need that tram to get around. Belém Tower is also quite ho-hum. Despite the long queues, there is not much to see inside.

However, the following sights and activities I do very much recommend.

Things to do in Lisbon

1. Visit St. George’s Castle

Sitting on top of one of Lisbon’s 7 hills, the Castelo de São Jorge is a great place to hit up first, as it offers spectacular views of the city — and the windy streets leading up to it, once part of the citadel, are such fun to explore.

The location has been inhabited since at least the 8th century BC. It’s from this hill that Lisbon grew in every direction.

The castle site is pretty extensive and includes a museum, a bar, a restaurant, and a lot of resident peacocks (keep your eyes on the tree canopies where they like to hang out in bunches). Regular entry costs €10, free for Lisbon residents.

2. See the Santa Justa lift… from above

This historic cast-iron elevator built in 1902 connects the lower streets of Baixa area with the Largo do Carmo. Originally it was steam-powered, until an electric motor was installed in 1907.

The Santa Justa lift is a fantastic attraction and a great viewpoint, though you don’t have to queue up at the bottom if you don’t feel like waiting. Simply walk to Largo do Carmo and you can access the top deck of the elevator without any queues.

3. See the Praça do Comércio