Things to do in Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon was one of the more memorable cities we’ve visited in Europe. If you ever find yourself in this charming city, here are some activities you can do during your time there.
TAKE A FREE WALKING TOUR
One of the first things we look up when arriving to a city is if there is a free walking tour available. These tours are an excellent introduction to the city which provides a well-rounded overview of all the popular sites the city has to offer. From there, you can further explore on your own these sites individually.
We decided to use Sandeman’s New Europe Lisbon Free Tour as we had a pretty good experience with Sandeman’s in Spain.
The tour starts in the central district of Baixa Chiado
Our guide gave us a broad overview of the city and also explained the Great Earthquake of 1755. Occurring during All Saint’s day, with a magnitude of 8.5-9.0, it nearly destroyed the entire city of Lisbon which followed a tsunami that engulfed the city. The reconstruction of the city was updated to a more modern design with big squares, rectilinear, large avenues and widened streets – the new motto of Lisbon.
We walked to the base of the San Justa Elevator which provides an excellent bird’s eye view of Chiado without actually needing to ride up the elevator.
We then moved on to Rossio Square, the largest main square of the city. Major political and social gatherings have occurred here from bullfights to revolts to also executions.
We also sampled the popular cherry liqueur, Ginjinha, which this shop sells exclusively. You can order the shot by itself, or with a cherry. It was pretty tasty and sweet. Apparently you can also order this in a chocolate shot glass (at other places that sell it).
We ended our tour in Cais das Colunas where our guide wrapped up the tour. We were fortunate enough to see a group of university students in their “Harry Potter” style capes. A fun fact we learned from the tour: J.K. Rowling, the author of The Harry Potter series spent a few years living in Portugal and worked on the series during her time there. The inspiration for the Hogwart’s uniforms was actually from the academic costumes worn by students that attend Portuguese universities. It is an old and academic tradition and in Portugal they call it “traje”.
TAKE A HALF DAY TRIP TO BELEM
Nowadays, Belém is most notable for their famous pastries at Pastéis de Belém. Aside from tasty egg tarts, Belém has a handful of excellent sites to see while in town. You can read more about our favorite eats in Lisbon.
Take the tram number 15E that runs from Baixa to Belém. Get off at Mosteiro dos JerónimosTwo Peas Travel Tip
Once you get off the tram, you can begin your day at Pastéis de Belém to taste their famous egg tarts. From there, walk next door to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a UNESCO World Heritage site that displays architecture of Portuguese late gothic.
Across the street from Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, take a stroll through the vast gardens of Praça do Império.
Continue down river to view the Padrão dos Descobrimentos statue which commemorates 500 years after Henry the Navigator’s death.
The last stop of the Belem tour ends at Belém Tower, built as a defense lookout tower during the 16th century.
GO SHOPPING AT BAIXA / CHIADO
Baixa is the downtown commercial hub of Lisbon. It has plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars to fill your day. Next to it is the neighborhood of Chiado, a more classy chic area with fashion boutiques and upscale cafes and hotels. There was a lot to see, do, buy, and eat in these two neighborhoods so we highly recommend you stay at a hotel in any of these areas for convenience sake.
TAKE A TRAM RIDE ON TRAM #28 TO ALFAMA
The number 28 tram is the oldest and most notable tram in Lisbon. Be forewarned that it is very touristy so you’ll most likely be squished in with tourist while you ride around the city so make sure to get there really early or late to avoid the crowds.
We started our ride on the beginning of the route in Rossio Square. The tram passes through Lisbon’s finest districts of Baixa, Graça, Alfama and Estrela. In all honesty, the ride was more of a novelty thing, than actually providing any significant views throughout the city (since the tram is packed full of people). If you’re short on time, I would skip this one.
Lisbon may not be as popular compared to the major European cities such as Paris, London, or Madrid, but that is what makes it such an ideal destination to visit. The accommodations are very affordable and the great location situated by the ocean provides some amazing seafood to taste. We didn’t encounter hordes of tourist (except for our ride on the #28 tram) and the city is rich in history with plenty of sights and attractions to keep you occupied.