Embarking on a journey to Lisbon is like stepping into a living postcard. It’s like San Francisco and Paris had a baby. Lisbon has a lot to offer, and I’m excited to share the must-do experiences in Portugal’s lively capital. From the charming streets of Alfama to the unbeatable views at São Jorge Castle, let’s explore the city’s top highlights. These are the experiences you should have on your first time in Lisbon. So, pack your bags, lace up your walking shoes, and get ready to explore the magic of Lisbon!
First to answer a few burning questions…
Is Lisbon Worth Visiting?
I would say 100% yes. We had a fabulous time. I was with a friend and we just wandered the streets with no real plan. We loved stumbling upon all that Lisbon has to offer. That said, I am not sure I would bring my kids here. The cobblestone streets and endless hills aren’t exactly stroller friendly. I was actually surprised by what a party town it was. It seemed like everyone was there on a bachelor party.
I would love to return to Portugal with my kids, but would probably spend our time in Sintra. If you want to avoid the party atmosphere, just don’t stay in Bairro Alto like we did. We barely slept because when the bars let out, everyone spilled onto the street below our window. We got up one early morning to join a tour and – I sincerely apologize for putting this imagine in your head- but the streets were covered in plastic cups and vomit… with pigeons eating it. It’s burned into my memory. I was so glad my children were not with me.
What’s the best time to visit Lisbon?
The best time to visit Lisbon is the shoulder seasons (March-May as well as September-October), because the weather is still warm, hotel rates are cheaper and there are fewer crowds than in the summer. I am from New England, so am used to some rough weather. I found the weather in November to be very mild, but the locals thought it was terrible. I have heard that the heat can be excruciating in the summer. Some of the roof top terraces are seasonal, so keep that in mind.
Must-do Experiences during your first time in Lisbon
1. Ride Tram 28
Experience a nostalgic journey through Lisbon’s historic neighborhoods by hopping on Tram 28. This iconic yellow tram winds its way through the city, passing major landmarks like Graça, Baixa, and Alfama. It is a great way to sit back and take in the views. This is a very popular activity and the line can be really long. Head there early in the morning to save time.
2. Visit São Jorge Castle
Perched atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills, São Jorge Castle offers panoramic views of the city and the Tagus River. Explore the castle’s medieval walls, gardens, and enjoy a breathtaking sunset from this iconic vantage point.
3. Explore Alfama’s Narrow Streets
Start your journey by wandering through the cobbled streets of Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon. Lose yourself in the maze-like alleys, discover vibrant street art, and immerse yourself in the authentic charm of this historic neighborhood.
In hind sight, I wish this is where we stayed. It has an authentic feel and is a more quiet side of town.
4. Indulge in Pastel de Nata
No visit to Lisbon is complete without savoring the iconic Portuguese custard tart, Pastel de Nata. My favorite place to try these famous tarts was Manteigaria. They have a few locations in town, but if you visit the one on Rua do Loreto 2, you can watch the entire process of how they make them from start to finish. Everything is done by hand and it will give you an all new appreciation for what goes into making them.
5. Day Trip to Sintra
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a day trip to Sintra, a fairytale-like town nestled in the Sintra Mountains. Explore the colorful Pena Palace, stroll through the lush gardens of Quinta da Regaleira, and soak in the enchanting atmosphere. This was the highlight of the trip for me.
6. Glutton yourself at Time Out Market
Time Out Market is a food lover’s hotspot. This vibrant marketplace features an eclectic mix of food stalls, showcasing the best of Portuguese and international cuisine. With a buzzing atmosphere, diverse flavors, and a communal dining space, Time Out Market is a lively place where you can grab delicious bites and experience the best of Lisbon’s food scene all in one spot!
7. Watch the sunset from a Miradouro
The word miradouro simply means “view point” in Portuguese. You will find these view points around the city and they are excellent places to watch a sunrise, sunset, or simply hang out. Miradouro de Santa Luzia was my favorite. There is a beautiful tree and vines that offer some shade. Miradouro da Graça is another popular spot but it’s further up the hill.
8. Have a drink on a RoofTop Terrace
One of my favorite memories from Lisbon is sitting on a rooftop terrace enjoying a meal or sipping a drink. Lumi Rooftop was our favorite. We enjoyed amazing tapas food while taking in the breathtaking panoramic views of the cityscape.
A few other rooftop terraces that were recommended by a local were The Insolito, Sky Bar at Hotel Tivoli as well as Mama Shelter. The terrace at Mama Shelter was closed for the season during our trip, but the restaurant was incredible. Most of these places required an advanced reservation.
9. Stroll down Pink Street
Pink Street in Lisbon, officially named Rua Nova do Carvalho, is known for its distinctive pink-hued pavement. Lined with trendy bars, restaurants, and clubs, this iconic street transforms into a buzzing nightlife hub, offering a lively atmosphere. It can be a bit touristy but we enjoyed it.
10. Experience the soulful sound of Fado
Wrap up your Lisbon adventure by experiencing the powerful melodies of Fado, Portugal’s traditional music genre. Fado was started in Lisbon as a way for women to mourn their husbands or sons lost at sea. The Fado singers usually wear black lace and when they sing, you can feel it in your soul.
We went to Cafe Luso which was restaurant style entertainment. You can sit down for dinner or just a drink and enjoy the singing. They ask that you spend at least $20 while you are there. Check out my highlight reel for a taste of how amazing these singers were.
You could also head to the historic district of Mouraria, where intimate Fado houses offer an authentic and emotional musical experience.
Lisbon is a city that effortlessly blends its rich history with a vibrant contemporary culture. Whether you’re captivated by architecture, indulging in delectable pastries, or simply soaking in the views of the city, Lisbon promises an unforgettable journey filled with diverse experiences.I hope you enjoy this list of the best things to do during your first time to Lisbon.
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