The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is a compelling city, which conceals a diversity of hidden or lesser-known tourist attractions for you to discover. Some of these sights are far from usual tourist routes and off the beaten track, while others are simply overlooked and missed by most visitors.
This article compiles a selection of our favourite hidden gems and secret sights of Lisbon, and includes a range of historic monuments, authentic Portuguese experiences and unique attractions.
Related articles: 10 top of Lisbon – 48 hours in Lisbon – Introduction to Lisbon
The map below shows the location of each of these sights and attractions
The following section provides details of each attraction, and why it has been included in our list of the best secret sights of Lisbon.
The Palacio da Ajuda is a magnificent and beautifully restored national palace, which was the Portuguese royal residence during the 19th century. Within the neoclassical palace are 35 lavishly furnished staterooms, including the stunning banquet hall and throne room.
It amazes us that, so few people visit the Palacio da Ajuda, except for an infrequent coach tour or school trip. The palace is a fascinating building boasting a rich history, and should be high on your list of places to visit while in Lisbon.
Our opinion: Tourists crowd to the Palacio de Pena in Sintra, but the Palacio da Ajuda offers more sumptuous and lavish staterooms and has much more to see inside.
Tourist details: €5 Entry - Travel: bus 630 or E18 (this was originally a tram service) - Typical visit: 45minutes
Official website: http://www.palacioajuda.gov.pt/
The Tapada das Necessidades park is the quietest park in Lisbon, and is an oasis of calm within the hectic city. The park may be a slightly unkempt and ramshackle, but this is because few in Lisbon even realise it exists, possibly even Lisbon council.
At the southern side of the park is the pink Palácio das Necessidades, a former national palace, but is sadly not open to the public, as it houses the foreign ministry. In front of the palace is the Miradouro do Largo das Necessidades, with its views across the Alcantara district and Tejo Estuary.
Our opinion: If you want to forget that you are in a bustling city, then the Necessidades is the destination for you, and its only a 15-minute walk from the LX Factory artisan centre.
Tourist details: Free Entry - Travel: E15 Tram (Alcântara stop) - Typical Visit: 30minutes
Portugal has a vibrant market scene, and one of the most authentic experiences of Lisbon is to visit Feira do Relógio (Market of Clocks). This is by far the largest market in Lisbon with over 2km of varying stalls, selling every imaginable item. There is a lot of dross; cheap clothes and bric-à-brac, but hidden within this are unique craft stalls, a vast fresh produce section and tasty street food.
The market is held every Sunday morning (9am-2pm) on the Avenida Santo Condestável, which is served by the Bela Vista metro station, on the redline.
Advice: This market is held in one of the more deprived areas of Lisbon, when visiting the Feira do Relógio always use common sense, and do not flash valuables or cash.
Insider tip: While in the market do try a Bifana, a thinly sliced fried pork in a papo Seco (bread roll), from one of the food stalls.
The Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is the finest viewpoint in Lisbon, with unrivalled views across the Baixa district, the Tejo Estuary and of the castle. To reach the viewpoint it is a demanding uphill walk from either the castle or the Graca district, but the views are worth the effort.
Insight: This viewpoint was traditionally where young lovers would meet, without the prying eyes of family members. Nowadays it is popular with tuk-tuk tours……
Related articles: The best viewpoints of Lisbon
The Central Tejo was the first power station constructed in Lisbon, and this imposing neogothic brick building, has been lovely restored. Stepping inside are colossal furnaces and gigantic machinery, while the museum provides an insight into the horrendous conditions endured by the workers. The Central Tejo may not appeal to everyone, but is a truly unique museum, and we highly recommend it.
Insider tip: Most visitors completely miss the Central Tejo, as they first visit the ultra-modern MAAT museum (which gets mixed reviews), and then almost forget about the power station. We suggest beginning with the Central Tejo.
Tourist details: Entrance fee: €5 (Central Tejo & MAAT €9) - Transport: E15 tram (Altinho stop) - Typical visit: 30 minutes
Official website (MAAT): https://www.maat.pt/en/exhibitions/power-station-tour
Related articles: Belem district
One of the best ways to discover Lisbon and to meet fellow travellers is to join a guided tour. We have worked with Getyourguide.com for the last six years, and some of the best tours of Lisbon include:
The Pavilhão Chinês is the quirkiest bar of Lisbon, and packs vintage toys and collectables from floor to ceiling in every single room. The extensive assortment of exhibits is better than any museum, and all can be enjoyed with a game of snooker and drink!
The Pavilhão Chinês is situated within the Príncipe Real district, one of the most fashionable areas of Lisbon. Across the street from the bar is the “Embaixada Concept Store”, a high-end artisan shopping centre housed in a grand mansion.
Embaixada website: https://www.embaixadalx.pt/
Related articles: Príncipe Real district
The Graça district is one of the hidden gems of Lisbon, because it is just so typically and normally Portuguese. There’s been no flood of tourism, no drive to become arty or pretentious, or transformation from an influx of wealth; it’s just a pleasant district with Lisboetas going about their daily lives. .
Along the bustling main street, the Rua da Graça, are family run business, cafes filled with locals, and every so often the number 28 tram trundles through. Graça is rarely discussed in any travel guide as there’s actually not much to see, apart from the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and the Igreja e Convento da Graça, but for atmosphere and authenticness, Graça cannot be beaten.
Related articles: E28 tram
Cristo Rei is one of the most prominent monuments of Lisbon, and at the base of the statue is a wonderful viewpoint. The statue is very popular with tourists, but the route to it via Cacilhas is lesser-known and offers many interesting sights along the way.
The first stage is the ferry from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas, and this service passes close to the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. Cacilhas is famed for its seafood restaurants and moored in the docks is the Dom Fernando II e Glória, the last sailing ship constructed for the Portuguese navy.
From Cacilhas there is a bus (service 101) from the ferry terminal to the Cristo Rei statue. An alternative route is to walk along the banks of the Tejo estuary and use the Elevator of Boca do Vento to ascend the steep cliffs. Sadly part of this route is past abandoned docks and is very grim.
Tourist details: Cacilhas ferry €1.30 single, 101 bus €1.45, Elevator of Boca do Vento free, Cristo Rei viewing platform €6.00
Related articles: Lisbon ferry - Cristo Rei guide
The Ciência Viva is an outstanding science museum which will captivate children of all ages. There are interactive and hands-on exhibits and the museum is widely regarded as the best family-friendly activity in Lisbon. The Ciência Viva is housed in the Pavilhão do Conhecimento which is in the Parque das Nações area of Lisbon.
Pavilhão do Conhecimento official website: https://www.pavconhecimento.pt/
Insider knowledge: The Pavilhão do Conhecimento is close to the Oceanário de Lisboa, one of the finest aquariums in Europe. We could not include the Oceanário as a “secret attraction” as it is always busy, but is another great family-friendly activity.
Setubal is a busy port city with a rich fishing heritage, a magnificent fort and charming centre, but is completely overlooked by most tourists. There are sufficient sights in Setubal to fill a day’s sightseeing, but you could also include the castle in Palmela, the paradise beaches of Tróia or a dolphin watching tour. Setubal is connected to Lisbon by a direct and inexpensive train service.
Related articles: Our guide to Setubal – Day trips from Lisbon
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