Ahhh Lisbon, or Lisboa as it reads in Portuguese. What a jewel of a city. Lisbon is often overlooked by those traveling to Europe and this was my first time to Portugal’s capitol. I don’t know what took me so long to get there, but like most others I hadn’t given it the priority that it really deserves. Lisbon surprised me. A very charming city with a character reminiscent of San Francisco and old world cities. Tiles, trolleys, and tarts await!
Like most of us traveling to any city for the first time making the most of our time is important and Lisbon has much to see and experience. Done right you can get a great taste for what this city offers in a few days. Do your research before you get there and plan accordingly, especially if you only have a short time to visit. I always read and ask for advice before I arrive to a new destination and I appreciate others that share their experiences. That’s why I put together my own list of 5 things you must do.
Here is my list of the 5 Things You Must Do In Lisbon. By no means is this everything and the order is random. It’s a start, and the rest you can catch on your next trip. Maybe you’ve got an item you feel should be on my list. Please share in the comments.
#1 Ride the Hop On, Hop Off Bus
The Hop On, Hop Off bus tours are always on my lists of things you must do and in Lisbon you will be glad you did. The city is walkable but if you want to see some of the outskirts such as Belem and the more modern coastal areas you really need transportation.
The hop on, hop off buses let you ride all day and decide where and when you want to get off. Riding the bus through Lisbon I was amazed at the diversity of this city in terms of the neighborhoods and how Lisbon has evolved over the centuries. Definitely make time to ride the bus and I suggest you do it early on during your time in Lisbon to really let yourself become acquainted and oriented with all Lisbon offers.
#2 Visit Belem
Belem is a port area located about 6 miles west of Lisbon and is known for it’s waterfront statues, scenery, and restaurants. Some say the best of the famous Portuguese custard tarts, the pasteis de nata, are served here at Casa Pasteis de Belem. Belem is a great place to stroll along the waters edge, have a glass of wine, and gaze out over the coastline. It really feels like an entirely different city.
#3 The Time Out Market
In Lisbon finding good food is easy and one of the more trendy spots to gather and eat and drink is the Time Out Market. If you have been to Madrid I would compare this market to the San Miguel Market. Modern, clean, and serving a wide variety of foods and drinks. From seafood to burgers, and of course the pasteis de nata desserts, the market caters to just about every craving. For me this was a great place for a coffee and pasteis de nata and I believe here was definitely my favorite place to eat them.
Just a short walk around the corner from the Time Out Market is the famous Pink Street of Lisbon, so don’t miss the opportunity to see and explore it while you are here.
#4 Ride the Lisbon Trolley Cars
The Lisbon trolley cars are iconic and such an important characteristic of Lisbon. The city is very hilly, similar to San Francisco, and the trolleys give you a great opportunity to travel throughout the old neighborhoods of the city such as the Alfalma neighborhood without walking everywhere.
One of the most famous routes is the Trolley #28. It travels down the very narrow streets of Lisbon and disects the neighborhoods of Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. This is the most popular of the trolley routes but by no means should you miss the others that traverse the old neighborhoods.
#5 São Jorge Castle
Sitting on a hilltop looking over all of Lisbon is the São Jorge Castle. An easy walk up the hill from the Alfama neighborhood and you arrive at this well preserved Portughese landmark. Views from the castle are 360 degrees and its easy to see why this site has been used as a fortified location since nearly 8BC.
Take time to stroll around the beautiful grounds and gaze out over the rooftops of this beautiful city and as you do you will certainly begin imagining your next visit to Lisbon.