My Seven Top Things to Do in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal enchants me with its seamless melding of old world charm and cosmopolitan modernity. With a colorful network of alleyways filled with vendors selling vibrant crafts, Lisbon entices like a siren calling her prey. As I wandered the surrounding hills, euphoria struck me as I admired views of red tile roofs leading down to the Tagus River.  I felt like I had entered a Mediterranean oasis. Although the list of activities is endless, below please find my seven top things to do in Lisbon.

My Seven Top Things to Do in Lisbon, Portugal

Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Jerónimos Monastery represents one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Jerónimos Monastery represents one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon.

1 – Ride the Hop On Hop Off Bus

When arriving in any new major metropolitan city, I seek out the hop on and hop off bus to attain a good layout of the land. In some cities the bus is a waste of time. However, in Lisbon the bus merits your Euros.

So we headed over to the Marque de Pombal Square where several companies start their tours. Frankly no company exceeds the other in terms of service. Therefore we simply walked up to one bus, asked the price and hopped on.

And for only twenty-two USD per person we navigated Lisbon for two days on three separate routes using the City Sightseeing company. On the first day we rode the first two routes without stopping at the sights. Then on day two we traveled the third route, and then went back to see the points that looked most interesting. By far the hop on hop off bus provides the best comprehensive view of Lisbon for the best price.

Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Estrela Basilica is one of the stops on the hop on hop off bus and serves as the first church in the world dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Estrela Basilica is one of the stops on the hop on hop off bus and serves as the first church in the world dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

2 – Visit the Miradouro de Santa Luzia

The Mirdaouro de Santa Luzia sits almost at the top Lisbon’s hills overlooking the Tagus River. In a tiny park draped in bright bougainvillea, you can savor some of the best scenery around. Between the flowers, river views, pastel colored buildings and adjacent Santa Luzia church, I felt like I had entered a Garden of Eden of sorts.

Plus we wandered the contiguous cobblestone streets, passing some interesting shops and eateries.  Then we sipped cappuccinos watching the lights of Lisbon twinkling below.  The Miradouro de Santa Luzia may be my favorite section in the entire city.

Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Miradouro de Santa Luzia is named for the small church of Santa Luzia - also known as the church of São Brás - that overlooks the belvedere.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Miradouro de Santa Luzia is named for the small church of Santa Luzia – also known as the church of São Brás – that overlooks the belvedere.

3 – Visit the Cristo Rei Statue at Dusk

For roughly twenty-five USD round trip we hired an Uber from downtown Lisbon to take us across the river to the Cristo Rei Statue in neighboring Almada.  Built in 1950, this towering beauty was inspired by the Christ Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro.  And it’s no wonder as both look almost identical.

We went at dusk, just before the entry closes at 7pm.  Once inside we strolled around, shooting copious quantities of photos.  And as an added bonus the grounds offer sweeping views of Lisbon and the red 25th of April bridge (which also mirrors the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.)  It seems the Portuguese like to mimic great works of art!

Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Cristo Rei statue was built in reverence for Portugal avoiding the horrors of WW2. Since its consecration in 1959 Cristo Rei has been an important Portuguese pilgrim destination and today is a major religious centre for the diocese of Setubal.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Cristo Rei statue was built in reverence for Portugal avoiding the horrors of WW2. Since its consecration in 1959 Cristo Rei has been an important Portuguese pilgrim destination and today is a major religious centre for the diocese of Setubal.

4 – Eat a Pasteis de Nata

Pasteis de Nata are delicious flan filled tarts that dazzle my tastebuds.  As a daily routine I’d stop by the cafe, Nata de Lisb0a, on Rua Augusta near Praca de Figueira square for my fix.  Each gooey bite would send shockwaves to my system. Remarkably these are some of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten.  Not overly sweet, they explode in your mouth.

Seven things to do in Lisbon. Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon. It is also made in Brazil and other countries with significant Portuguese immigrant population.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon. It is also made in Brazil and other countries with significant Portuguese immigrant population.

5 – Spend Several Days in Sintra

Just thirty minutes from downtown Lisbon resides one of the most magical places on earth: Sintra. Tucked in the mountains, Sintra spews spectacular castles, cliffs overlooking the ocean and a quaint downtown right out of a story book. This place is so popular it receives five million visitors annually and has been featured in Hollywood movies.

By far Sintra struck me so passionately, I’ve ranked it as one of my favorite places on earth. However, I don’t think I’ll be buying property anytime soon as real estate prices easily top one million USD. For now I’ll just have to visit frequently!

Among other things, we visited Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, the National Palace and Monserrate Palace all in one day.  However, there are more castles to see, cliffs to explore and mountains to climb.  I recommend spending at least two full days.

Seven things to do in Lisbon. Sintra is consistently ranks as one of the wealthiest and most expensive municipalities in both Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula as a whole.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. Sintra is consistently ranks as one of the wealthiest and most expensive municipalities in both Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula as a whole.

6 – Visit the Castle of San Jorge

Overlooking all of Lisbon, this moorish castle commands Lisbon’s hilltop. I chose to summit on foot breaking all my steps goals on my Apple watch. Once atop and inside the citadel, I leisurely enjoyed the voluminous views of Lisbon and the Tagus River.  Then with what energy remained I meandered the winding streets outside, stopping in the pretty shops.  The area is totally quaint and charming and worth your time, especially for the vistas!

Seven things to do in Lisbon. The National Pantheon rests just below the Castle of San Jorge. Originally built as the Church of Santa Engrácia in the 17th century, it was converted to the pantheon in the 20th century.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. The National Pantheon rests just below the Castle of San Jorge. Originally built as the Church of Santa Engrácia in the 17th century, it was converted to the pantheon in the 20th century.

7 – Wander the Streets Around the Praca de Figueira

The streets and alleyways surrounding the Praca de Figueira square comprise the main tourist area of Lisbon.  Also they provide some of the more interesting and visually appealing sites around. Between the dark Africans selling knock offs on the streets, to winding hilltop streets with small restaurants and shops, relax and explore the sights. I spent at least a day just meandering around, absorbing the charming neighborhoods, and I still feel like I missed so many things.

Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Praça da Figueira is a large square in the center of Lisbon in the Baixa area. In the 16th century it did not exist. But after the 1775 earthquake an open market was opened in the same spot.
Seven things to do in Lisbon. The Praça da Figueira is a large square in the center of Lisbon in the Baixa area. In the 16th century it did not exist. But after the 1775 earthquake an open market was opened in the same spot.

Do you have any questions or remarks about Lisbon?

Please let me know in the comments!

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

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Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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