Lisbon is a capital with undeniable charm. It contrasts its peculiar retro style with that modern and vibrant daily life. We spent 7 days here and turned out to be little. I’ll share with you my experience and suggestions of what to see and do in Lisbon.
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Arriving at Lisbon
We arrived at the Sete Ríos bus station at 6 in the morning!. We traveled from Granada, Spain by night bus operated by the Alsa company.
In Portugal, it’s one hour less than in Spain, so although in Spain it was 7, in Lisbon, it was still 6 am. Ouch! Well, no way, we had no choice but to wait.
We had a coffee in the station’s coffee shop. When the metro service began we took a ride to the Baixa-Chiado station. The apartment we rented was near but the earliest they let us do check in was at 9 am.
About the apartment.
The apartment we rented is very close to Bairro Alto and it’s in a residential area. It felt a safe area and is one block away from an avenue with several stores.
The apartment is called Escadinhas da Santa and is located on the first floor. It was a small but beautiful place. The person who received us gave us many suggestions on where to go and what to see in Lisbon.
The only thing that I didn’t like is that we could not use many electrical devices at the same time because the main breaker turned off each time. Although I think it’s something common in Lisbon (and in other parts of Europe). If you don’t use the washing machine, there is no problem :D, anyway, it was easy to solve just by switch it up again.
However, this area is recommendable. It’s very close to Luís de Camões square, there are many shops around and the metro stop is a few steps away. Besides, it’s possible to reach the center quick and easy.
What to see and do in Lisbon
There is an ample variety of areas to see and things to do in Lisbon. Walking its streets, you will marvel at its fascinating old trams and mosaic art. It’s a city in which you will feel that you have traveled to the past century.
But if that’s not enough and you are lucky to spend some days in this city, here is a list of what to see and do in Lisbon.
Things to see.
Baixa and Chiado quarters.
Chiado is the neighborhood right next to Bairro Alto. It is a quite animated area with cafes and shops. The neighborhood used to be frequented by writers and poets. A famous cafe is Café A Brasileira, on whose terrace there is a sculpture of the poet Fernando Pessoa.
There is also a shopping center and the Chiado Museum. Here you will find the Santa Justa Lift and the funiculars that take you to Baixa or lower quarter.
Baixa is the heart of Lisbon, the center of the city and the busiest zone. It’s also a commercial area and has several restaurants to taste Portuguese cuisine.
In this district, you can find Rua Augusta that leads to Praça Do Comercio and to the river. Towards the opposite side, this same street will take you to Rossio Square. Two emblematic squares that you have to see in Lisbon.
Santa Justa Lift
This elevator located on Santa Justa street connects Baixa with the Chiado neighborhood. It was created in 1902 in neo-Gothic style and used to function with steam. It currently has electric motors and is no longer used as a means of transport but as a tourist attraction.
You can buy a ticket for €5.15 for a round trip and access the viewpoint. If you have a transport card such as Viva Viagem, you can use it as you use it in the metro. Using the Viva Viagem you will have to pay access to the viewpoint for € 1.5.
With the Lisbon Card you can get on the lift for free.
Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio (also known as Terreiro do Paço) is probably the most photographed square that you have to see in Lisbon. It’s at the end of Rua Augusta, crossing the monumental Arco da Rua Augusta.
Here was the Royal Palace for more than 2 centuries until the Lisbon earthquake destroyed it in 1755. It was also the entrance to the city where kings and ambassadors were welcomed.
At the center, there is an equestrian sculpture of D. José I, king of Portugal between 1750 and 1777. Currently, this square is used for cultural events.
Praça de D. Pedro IV or Rossio Square.
You can not miss the Praça D. Pedro IV, better known as Rossio square. At the center, there is a statue of Pedro IV, king of Portugal and first emperor of Brazil after its independence.
It’s surrounded by souvenir shops and restaurants. Here all kinds of events such as shows and festivals are held. On the occasion that I visited, they had set a Christmas market with Portuguese crafts and delicacies.
A few steps away is the train station of the same name that connects to nearby towns such as Sintra. It presents a Manueline style very characteristic of Portuguese architecture.
Cathedral and Alfama quarter.
The Alfama neighborhood is the oldest and most picturesque district in Lisbon. It’s located at the foot of Sao Jorge Castle and is the area that best resisted the impact of the 1755 earthquake.
It’s known by its maze-like streets, its bohemian atmosphere and for being the cradle of fado, a melancholic, popular music style. Jews and Muslims inhabited here in the past, as well as fishermen more recently.
Here you will find, among other monuments, the Sao Jorge Castle, the Fado Museum and the Cathedral of Lisbon.
This neighborhood is also a good option to stay if you want an authentic experience in an historic quarter. It was, actually, my first option to stay but we didn’t find an apartment available for our dates. Check out these accommodation options in Alfama.
I couldn’t see the cathedral though and I didn’t walk too much in this neighborhood. Let me tell you why. I was wearing a pair of shoes that, although first was comfortable, after walking all day the steep streets of Lisbon, began to hurt me.
So I could only bear to visit the Castle and I was not able to walk to the Cathedral although it’s somehow close. So, always wear comfortable shoes, you don’t know how much I regretted it 🙁
Although Lisbon’s cathedral is not as impressive as other important European churches, it’s worth to see it if you come to Lisbon and are in the area.
It was built in the 13th century and reformed many times later. It’s a mixture of styles mainly Romanesque and proto-Gothic. Admission is free except if you want to see the cloister and the treasures that cost € 2.5 euros each.
What to do in Lisbon.
And to stimulate not only your sight, but all your senses, and to fully enjoy this city, these are activities to do in Lisbon:
Castelo Sao Jorge
The Castle of Sao Jorge is the most visited monument in Lisbon. It’s located on the highest hill and is visible from several points of the city.
It rises over the neighborhood of Alfama and it helped for the citadel defense in times of Muslim rule. It was built by these in the 11th century and later, when it was taken over by the Christians, it became the royal residence.
The castle suffered damage in the Lisbon earthquake and became abandoned after the royal family moved out. In the 20th century, they began to restore it to open it to visitors. If you want to see it inside the ticket costs €10 euros.
Click on this link if you want to know about my experience visiting the castle and if it’s worth it to pay the ticket.
Another suggestion of what to see and do in Lisbon is to visit one of the several museums available. In this city, there are museums for all tastes.
For example, you can visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo where they display ceramic tiles art through the time. Besides, they explain the manufacturing process and exhibit samples from other countries. The price of the ticket for adults is €5 euros.
Another distinctly Portuguese museum is the Fado Museum, located in Alfama. In this museum, you can find the biographies and music of the main exponents of this musical genre. If you like Fado you should visit it. Admission is €5 but on Sundays mornings it’s free.
The museum that I visited, and appointed as one of the best museums in Lisbon by Tripadvisor, is the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. It’s a museum with a collection of paintings and decorative arts. It also has a room dedicated to contemporary art. The general admission is €10.
The Archaeology National Museum is inside Jerónimos Monastery, a building that for its beauty is well worth the visit. It exhibits ancient Egyptian, Roman and Islamic art, and Portuguese jewelry objects.
Try pasteis de nata and visit Belem.
And certainly, you can not leave Lisbon without having tasted the pasteis de nata. The best place to try them, they say, is in the area known as Belem in a famous bakery. The truth is that these cakes are everywhere. Those of Belem, I did not try them, so I can not tell you if they are so special or if there is any difference.
If you have a sweet tooth like me, you will love it. They cost about €1 euro, they are not expensive so there is no excuse. I bought some very tasty ones on the Rua do Loreto near Luís de Camões square, in a pasteis de nata factory called Manteigaria.
Belem is a district of Lisbon a bit away from the center but very touristy. Here you can see the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belem Tower. The latter is a tower that has served as a defense, lighthouse, and even prison.
Did somebody say shopping?
Another activity you can do in Lisbon is go shopping! You may want even a few little gifts or souvenirs. Well in Lisbon you’ll find many options and beautiful shops.
The advantage is that there are several areas where you can shop for both fashion and souvenir items. Most commercial areas are Chiado and Baixa.
Also, I found several souvenir shops around Castelo Sao Jorge. Some of the most typical souvenirs to buy in Lisbon are ceramics and sardines.
You’ll find also big malls such as the Colombo center, the Vasco da Gama and the Amoreiras shopping center, among others.
Take day trips to neighboring towns
Around Lisbon, there are many charming towns that you can include in your itinerary. Visiting nearby towns is what you can see and do in Lisbon if you want to explore Portugal more thoroughly. I suggest that you plan even a couple of days to go on day trips.
The nearby towns that I visited and recommend are Sintra and Óbidos. Sintra is only half an hour by train that you can take at Rossio station. Check out on this link all the details to do the trip.
Óbidos is an hour away by bus and is a very picturesque medieval town. I definitely recommend you to visit it because you can see it all in less than a day. Click on this link if you want to know what to see on a day trip to Óbidos.
Other towns that you can include are Évora, Cascais, Setubal, Fátima, Mafra and Ericeira.
If you don’t have time or mood to plan your day trips yourself, check out these tours:
Conclusion of what to see and do in Lisbon
As you can see there are many options of what to see and do in Lisbon. Everything will depend on your tastes. These are some suggestions as a result of my experience and the most touristy activities.
We said goodbye to Lisbon to go to Oporto, another city that must be in an itinerary through Portugal. Soon I will share my story there. We departed from the same station, Sete Rios to which you can reach easily by subway.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post and that it will be useful for you when you visit Lisbon. If you have already visited it, what did you like the most? What do you suggest to see and do in Lisbon? or what would you like to experience in Lisbon? I await your comments 😉
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