Lisbon is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe (in terms of visitor numbers) – with good reason too!
With an incredible history, vibrant neighbourhoods and enough lip-licking grub to discover, it’s a city that really draws you in when visiting Portugal and leaves you wanting more long after you’re back at home.
If it’s your first time to the city, you’ll probably have started prep’ing as soon as the tickets fall into your mailbox… that being said, if you’re anything like me – you’ll also be scurrying around at the last minute after forgetting all the key places you wanted to see! (I blame wine…). If you’ve never visited Lisbon, or Portugal for that matter, you’re in for a treat. 🍭
🇵🇹 Take a look at some of the very best things to do and see on your first visit to Lisbon 🇵🇹
1.) Torre de Belem and Monument to the Discoveries
Almost fairytale-like to explore, Torre de Belem has a much more hard-edged history that most of us realise. Perched on its own within the Tejo riverfront, it was built to protect the port and was the point where lots of explorers started their journey to the new world.
Nowadays, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is well worth an explore of its own – thankfully minus those 16th Century battles for the harbour! Make sure to plan your trip early (and if you’re not keen on crowds, maybe avoid weekends), it’s a very popular site with fewer people visiting first thing in the morning.
2.) Santa Justa Elevator
This is one of my favourite places to see in Lisbon (shhh, don’t tell the others). Although not as iconic as, say, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it really is integral to the identity of Lisbon and a truly beautiful lift. There are not many times when I imagined I’d call a lift beautiful – but this is one!
Perched in the Baixa neighbourhood of Lisbon, Santa Justa gets busy very quickly and often lines start to appear later in the morning/afternoon. visit early – watch the city come to life and enjoy!
3.) Explore the neighbourhoods, Alfama
Lisbon is a city that’s made up of many exciting districts, which is perfect for us travellers to go and explore but not so ideal when you’re visiting for a short period of time when there are so many to choose from. One place you have to visit is the Alfama Neighbourhood, it’s technically one of the oldest parts of the city even though it was originally outside the city walls some 700 years ago.
Pack a comfy pair of shoes and get exploring the neighbourhood’s winding and hilly streets. You’ll have earned your lunch (or dinner) after walking this neighbourhood! 😝
4.) Ride Tram 28
Tram 28 is to Lisbon what red telephone boxes are to London, it’s a tram that you’ll almost certainly see but should also ride. The route of Tram 28 takes you through some of the oldest parts of the city. Embrace its rickety tracks (bumps and all) and enjoy these historic trams first thing in the morning or late afternoon. No one likes getting on a hot, crowded, un-airconditioned tram!
5.) Explore Sintra
You’ve probably seen how much I love Sintra 😀… but just in case you haven’t, let me tell you again! This place is gorgeous. Around 30 minutes from the city itself, it’s an incredible area to see the historic palaces and castles that sit elegantly on the hills.
It’s easily reached by hiring a car, catching the train or even with organised tours from Lisbon itself.
6.) Start your evening with a Ginjinha
This traditional drink is a firm favourite in Lisbon and one you should definitely try (for completeness sake, of course🍸). Made from sour cherry, you’ll see it served all across the city.
6.) Explore the Monastery of St Jerome
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is nestled within the historic district of Belém, where you literally can’t miss it! Head inside to explore some of the awe-inspiring architecture and stunning history of this gorgeous place. Again, as I’ve said before – arrive early and try to avoid weekends for fewer crowds.
7.) Head across to Cascais
Cascais was once the holidaying spot of the rich and famous – Imagine it like Portugal’s version of Monte Carlo.
Cascais is about 30 minutes by train (or you can drive over) from the city itself and is a great place to chill out and relax in the town or on the sandy beaches.
Don’t forget to visit the Boca do Inferno point to a great vantage point to see the cliffs and formations that make this region so rugged and beautiful.
8.) See the sunset at Miradouro da Graça
One great thing about Lisbon is that its hilly nature gives way for lots of little Miradouro’s (terraces) that have sprung up all across the city. Head across to Miradouro da Graça for some lovely views across Lisbon and even Lisbon Castle itself. It’s a gorgeous place to sit back, relax and enjoy a well-earned rest!
9.) Eat A Pastel de Nata
Don’t leave Lisbon without trying these! It’s almost criminal to have visited and not gorged on at least one of the delicious sweet tarts. Head over to Pastéis de Belém for some of the best (and iconic) in town! With such a high footfall you’re almost guaranteed a completely fresh (and still slightly warm) Pastel de Nata from Pastéis de Belém.
10.) Visit Castelo de São Jorge
Perched on top of the highest hill in Alfama, Castelo de São Jorge has had a diverse past, being home to the Romans, the Visigoths and even the very first king! It’s a great place to wander and see one of the oldest parts of the city, again, just make sure to pack some comfy shoes!
11.) Explore the plazas and squares of the city
There are lots of little square and plazas for you to explore in Lisbon and they’re usually filled with independent bars and cafes that line its edges. Do as locals do and head across in the early evening for a little tipple before heading out for food. Lisbon is a very sociable city and it’s well worth just taking some time to enjoy the city’s rhythm.