14 things to do in Lisbon
Lisbon. The beautiful capital of Portugal. It’s a southern European city with typical Portuguese buildings but also a lot of modern facilities. I went there at the end of August, which is the hottest time of the year for that area. The next fourteen things are an absolute must do when you visit:
1. Visit the Oceanário de Lisboa.
It’s an incredible aquarium with lots of different sea creatures. The whole aquarium takes about two hours if you don’t spend a lot of time looking at each different exhibit. A ticket at the Oceanário costs 17 euros, but if you order online beforehand, you get a 10% discount.
2. Have a drink on Rossio Square.
It’s a big beautiful square located in the centrum of the city. There are lots of restaurants and bars and a great fountain in the middle. The prices at the places directly located on the square are a little high though and sometimes not put on the menu. Ask the waiters first for a menu, before deciding to sit down.
3. Walk up to Castello de St. Jorge.
An up-hill hike, I might add. But once you’re up there you can look out over most of Lisbon, which is not so bad. We did the hike in the evening, because of the heat during the day and the castle itself was already closed by the time we made it up. Make sure you check that before you make the journey up (the view still made it worth it!).
4. Eat at Chapitô à mesa.
This cute restaurant is a real gem that hides behind a store about halfway up the hill to the castle. Though the pricing might be a little high and it can get crowded, it is absolutely worth it. The food is outstanding, the staff pretty quick and the view amazing. The restaurant itself has a nice vibe too, with string lights across the terrace and lots of plants and flowers. What more do you need?!
5. Take the train to Cascais.
When I was in Lisbon, it was HOT. And when the temperature is that high, it really isn’t the best thing to be walking around in the city. So one day, we took the train to Cascais, a beach town. Not only was there already more wind there, so it didn’t feel as hot as it was, it also had pretty beaches with very cold ocean water. It is one of the best ways to cool off, in my opinion. We spent a few hours at the beach and later we walked around town and had some dinner. The shops, the restaurants and the ocean view all together made the one day trip something I would definitely recommend.
6. Plan a day or two to visit Sintra.
This cute town in the mountains is known for its castles. Besides that, it has parks, museums and a historic town center. We went for one day and decided to climb up the highest hill to Castelo dos Mouros. Note: it is not easy. It’s a scenic route to the top, but it’s a difficult one. The view though, it’s worth every difficult breath I took towards the top. Although we had a great day in Sintra and saw a lot, it is probably better to plan a separate trip to Sintra all together, because there is so much to see and it’s all worth seeing.
7. Walk through the main street, all the way to the river.
The entire time while walking on the main street you’ll see a beautiful white arch. More importantly: there are lots of shops on the main street! There’s Zara, H&M and more well-known shops as well as shops that I didn’t recognize, but were worth searching through. In the middle of the street are tables and seats from (pretty invisible) restaurants and at the end, like I said, is the beautiful white arch. When you pass through, you get on Praça do Comércia; a big square on the riverside.
8. Visit the Science Museum.
The Science museum can be found close to the Océanario and it is possible to do both on one day (at least we did!) The museum is so much fun, with a lot of interaction that children as well as adults will like. A lot of experiments with physics and also an explanation how everything works. That makes it not only fun but also educational. The highlight for me was a bike ride on a rope 4 meters in the air.
9. Drink Sangria.
Okay, I know, Sangria is officially Spanish. But you’ll find it on pretty much every menu in Lisbon and you should definitely try it. Sangria is made of wine. Usually you can pick between white or red wine, but the best-known sangria is red wine. It has fresh fruits in it to make it takes sweet. Sometimes there’s some orange juice mixed in it. Sangria is a nice summer drink, which is perfect for a South-European country.
10. Take Tram 28 for a ride across town.
No matter which website or who you asks, you’ll always wind up hearing you should take Tram 28 for a nice trip through town. It’s an old yellow tram, the only one left. The tram rode right under our window at our Airbnb which was pretty awesome. There is a downside though. It is busy! We once tried to go early, but at 9.30am the line was already too long for us (mind you that the line is also in the blasting sun). If you don’t mind waiting or if you’re off-season it’s a great 40-minutes ride through Lisbon, a single ride costing only €2,85.
11. Take a boat tour on the river.
Honestly, I haven’t done this. But my in-laws did and they were enthusiastic! A boat tour is a nice way to spent a couple of hours to cool off, because on the water with the wind in your hair is great.
12. Stay at an Airbnb.
Hotels are great, and they have some luxuries that Airbnb’s don’t have, but I recommend choosing an Airbnb. It indulges you more in the culture and the way of life in Lisbon. You experience it more like a local. Your host usually has some useful tips, not only what you should see, but also where the nearest or cheapest supermarket is. You don’t get your bed changed and you don’t get new towels every day, but you do get more freedom in my opinion.
13. Get lost.
One of the greatest ways to discover a city, is to get lost. When you’re walking back to your hotel or apartment, try a different route. Or whenever you see a cute street or interesting building further down, just go! Just see where the street take you and you’ll end up in parts of the city you otherwise would never see. We did this as we were coming down from Castelo de St. Jorge and ended up in a cool street with young people and lots of graffiti. If you don’t like the feeling of being lost, just make sure you have a city map with you and pay attention to the street names. That way you’ll never be lost long.
14. Buy a zip ticket.
This is more of a convenience tip. To take the metro, bus, tram and train, you need a ticket (of course). We couldn’t really find something about the prices on the internet, but if you plan on taking the public transport system more than twice during your stay in Lisbon, a zip ticket is the way to go. It’s a card you buy for 50 cents (!) and you put money on it. Every time you check in and out, it charges and when you’re out of credit you can easily put more money on the same ticket. So instead of buying a ticket every time you take public transport, you can use this card your whole visit. It saves a lot of time waiting in line!
What is another must-do in Lisbon that didn’t make this list?