The original, independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is a vibrant and charismatic city, and is one of the finest capitals of Europe. The city boasts a glorious climate, lively nightlife, historic monuments and a range of activities that will entertain visitors of all ages.
There is a lot to see and do in Lisbon, and we suggest at least three days to fully explore the city, while a 1-week holiday could visit the fascinating towns and beautiful beaches that surround Lisbon. This article will detail the top 10 sights, activities and attractions in Lisbon.
Related articles: 3 days in Lisbon – 1 week in Lisbon – Lisbon’s beaches
The interactive map below displays the location of these sights and activities; the blue tags are the top 10 sights and the yellow tags are the top 10 activities.
This article does not consider day trips from Lisbon, such as to Sintra, Cascais, Obidos, Setubal and Mafra, for a full guide to Lisbon’s day trips please see this article.
The following section details why each of the monuments or activities has been included in our list, and provides links to further in-depth guides.
(Entrance €10 – typical visit 1hour)
Lisbon castle stands majestically above central Lisbon and was entwined in the early history of Portugal. It was here that the Christian crusaders defeated the Moors (1147), the Portuguese survived a siege by Castile (1373) and was the seat of power for Portugal for over 400 years. This rich and extensive history is captured within the castle walls, from the formidable fortifications, the defensive viewpoints or the tranquil gardens of the royal quarters.
Insight: The castle is in the heart of the Alfama district, one of the most characterful and authentic areas of Lisbon, and is where we recommend you begin your tour of Lisbon.
Related articles: Lisbon castle guide – Alfama district guide
(Fare €3 – entire route 50minutes)
The number 28 tram is the quaint yellow tram that rattles and screeches through the narrow streets of Lisbon. In any other city, the 1930s trams would be an exhibit in a museum, but in Lisbon, they are an integral part of the public transport network.
Not only are the trams extremely charming, but the 28 route passes though many of Lisbon’s historic districts, including Graca, Alfama, Baixa, Chiado and Sao Bento, and is as good as any organised tour
Our advice: Ride the tram early in the day to avoid standing for the whole route.
Related articles: The number 28 tram
The number 28 tram as it passes through Praça do Comercio
(Entrance €6 – typical visit 30minutes)
Torre de Belém is the finest example of the Manueline style of architecture and is the tourist icon of Lisbon. There are Arabic inspired watch towers, ornately carved battlements and even the earliest stone statue of a Rhino. The little fort protected the shipyards in Belem and Restelo, and when constructed in the 16th century, it was in the middle of the Tejo Estuary.
Insight: The Belem district should not be missed during your trip to Lisbon, and is the location for many of Lisbon’s greatest tourist attractions.
Related articles: Torre de Belém guide – Belem district
The Torre de Belem
The Portuguese are renowned for their love of sweet pastries and cakes, and no dessert is more famous (or delicious!) than the Pastel de Nata custard tart.
The original Pastel de Nata (called a Pastel de Belém) was created by the Fábrica Pastéis de Belém bakery over 150 years ago, and today this bakery can produce up to 40,000 tarts per day. The exact Pastel de Belém recipe is a closely guarded secret, and all other imitations (which are as equally tasty) are referred to as Pastel de Nata.
Insight: Attached to the Fábrica Pastéis de Belém bakery is a large and chaotic café, and is the best setting to try a Pastel de Belém
Lisbon has a buzzing nightlife scene that is social, diverse and welcoming. The main nightlife area is the district of Bairro Alto, a warren of trendy bars, artisan cafes and traditional live music establishments, where the sound of Fado music can be heard wafting out.
At the weekends the late-night revelries spill out onto the surrounding streets, so that the entire district feels like one large party. As the night progresses (around 2am) everyone heads downhill to the Cais do Sodré district, with its late-night clubs and buzzing atmosphere.
Lisbon nights have a great atmosphere and cheap drinks!
The Cristo Rei statue towers above the southern banks of the Tejo Estuary and has his hands extended as if blessing the city. This statue has many similarities to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, and this is true as the Brazilian monument inspired Cardinal Patriarch during his visit in 1934.
Apart from being a distractive landmark, the Cristo Rei statue is the one of the best viewpoints of Lisbon. There is a viewing terrace at 82m, and when combined with the 133m high cliffs, the view is unrivalled.
Insider tip: The Cristo Rei statue can be reached via the ferry from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas (then by bus from Cacilhas to the statue), and this short ferry ride is an enjoyable activity.
Related articles: Cristo Rei statue - Lisbon ferry guide
(Entrance €16 – typical visit 1h30)
The Oceanário de Lisboa is one of the greatest aquariums in Europe, and specialises in oceanic life. There are four tanks depicting the world’s four oceans, while the colossal central tank holds a variety of species from sharks to rays and shoaling fish.
The unique aspect to the four oceanic tanks is that they can be viewed from above and below the water level, and cleverly integrates penguins, sea otters with deeper dwelling fish. Oceanário de Lisboa will fascinate adults and children alike, and is the best family activity in Lisbon.
Insight: The Oceanário de Lisboa is based in the Parque das Nações, the modern side to historic Lisbon, and is a great area to spend half a day.
Related articles: Parque das Nações
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is the magnificent monastery, which was funded by the wealth of the spice trade that flowed through Lisbon during the 16th century. The original plans were for a modest monastery, but 50 years later and with almost unlimited money, the final result is the most extravagant religious building in Portugal. There is intricate stone carving adorning every surface, from the beautiful western portal to the whimsical style of the cloisters.
Insider tip: There can be very long queues to enter the actual monastery, but the adjoining church is as stunning and is without the queues or entrance fee.
Related articles: The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
The grand Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
It comes as a surprise to many visitors who are new to Lisbon, that there are such beautiful beaches close to the city. A city break to Lisbon during the summer could also include some time relaxing on the beaches.
The Praia de Carcavelos is the largest beach of the region and boasts golden sands and clean sea waters, while further to the west is the delightful resort town of Cascais. To the south of Lisbon is the Costa da Caparica, a 15km coastline of glorious beaches and powerful waves.
Related articles: Lisbon baches
Carcavelos beach in the peak summer months
(Entrance €6 – typical visit 30min)
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument celebrates the courageous 15 and 16th-century Portuguese explorers. This bold and powerful monument is positioned where these voyages departed from, while along the side of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos are lifelike depictions of each of the explorers.
The Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge spans the Tejo estuary at its narrowest point, and connects Lisbon on the north bank with the commuter districts of Almada to the south.
The bridge closely resembles that of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a likeness that comes from the fact that this bridge was constructed by the same company. The name of the bridge commemorates the revolution of Portugal from the Salazar regime on April 25th, 1974.
The stunning Ponte 25 de Abril in Lisbon
The solid and imposing Sé de Lisboa is the mighty cathedral of Lisbon. The gothic cathedral was constructed on the site of an important mosque and stamped the dominance of the Christian Crusades over the North African Moors in the 12th century.
The gothic façade is dominated by the two huge towers but the original spire was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. The interior of the cathedral is cooling and sombre, while the rear cloisters have been excavated to unearth the original mosque and Moorish buildings.
The mighty Se Cathedral