Tip: The ‘Lisbon Card’
If you’re planning to do some sightseeing in Lisbon, then it might be a good idea to purchase the ‘Lisbon Card or Lisboa Card‘. For €19 (valid for 24h) you can make unlimited use of all public transport in Lisbon and get free admission to many special sights (including the Jeronimos Monastery, the Belem Tower, the Lisbon Pantheon, São Jorge Castle, Ajuda National Palace, Museu Nacional dos Coches and more). If you would add up all entrances separately + the free transport, you would soon pay a lot more than what you would pay with this card.
Moreover, you also get a booklet with all kinds of discounts for other sights, restaurants and excursions. I think a 48-hour card is ideal, but if you only want to see some of the sights, then a 24-hour card is certainly enough.
By far the most visited landmark of Lisbon is the Jeronimos Monastery. Once you are in Belém, one of the busiest parts of Lisbon, this gigantic structure will suck up all of your attention!
The Jeronimos Monastery is a beautiful piece of architecture with many decorations. Already from the square where you need to wait before you can get in, you can see a beautiful entrance with more details than you can imagine.
It’s thought that this monastery was built because of the successful travels of Vasco da Gama (who is also buried here) to India. Because of this new sailing route, the Portuguese king became the richest monarch in the world and that of course had to be celebrated by building this lavish monument!
Inside the monastery you can find two floors that offer a view over the monastery garden. The vault arches, gargoyles and beautiful statues make you dream away, but the church (which you can enter for free -with the exception of the second floor- via the side entrance of the monastery) was the most beautiful part of the monastery for me. Gigantic stained-glass windows in all colors of the rainbow shed a colorful light on the majestic pillars that keep this entire construction afloat. It almost looks as if you’re walking in a movie!
I advise you to come and visit the monastery very early, or to buy priority tickets (€18 instead of the normal price: €14), because waiting lines can be extremely long!
With the ‘Lisbon Card‘ (€19) you can enter for free here. Individual admission to the Jerónimos Monastery costs €14 if you buy your tickets there or online, but do count on one or two hours of queuing. A priority ticket costs €18 and can be ordered online.
In less than ten minutes walking from the Jerónimos Monastery, you’ll find that other famous landmark from Lisbon: the Belém tower. This beige tower is just as lavishly decorated as the Jeronimos monastery and was formerly used as the defence tower and prison of the city.
In the nineteenth century, this beautiful building fell into disrepair, but luckily Ferdinand II of Portugal decided to restore this national monument to its original glory.
You can climb this tower, but I don’t know if it really is worth the time and money. The view that you get from the top isn’t hugely impressive and for me it is mainly the exterior that makes this structure so amazing looking.
With the ‘Lisbon Card‘ (€19) you can enter for free. A ticket on the spot costs €6, but also count on very long queues. For the same price (€6) you can also order a priority ticket online (but book early, because the tickets per day are limited!) And for €21,50 you get priority access combined with a guided tour.
The Pantheon of Lisbon
Not only Paris and Rome have a pantheon, Lisbon also has one. And it definitely is worth visiting!
This beautiful monument is often forgotten by tourists, and that is very regrettable. I personally thought it was one of the most amazing things to see in Lisbon and besides the stunning interior, you also get a phenomenal view from the roof terrace!
As is the case in pantheons, national heroes and scholars are also buried here. The gigantic dome and beautiful inlaid floor brag about the great citizens that Lisbon had/has but besides that they especially show off their wealth!
Don’t forget to climb the (many) stairs to the roof terrace. From the top floor you get a fantastic view over the complete interior of the pantheon and once you step outside you are welcomed by a 360° view over the city. Phenomenal!
Try Pastéis de Belém
You’ve probably already heard of the Pastéi de Belém: the typical Portuguese pastry that looks a bit like crême brulée. The crispy crust with the delicious warm filling is undoubtedly one of the tastiest sweets I have ever eaten.
For about €1 you can enjoy this national dish and I really recommend to do that. The most famous place to feast on such a tartlet is at ‘Pasteis de Belém’, but do expect very long queues… Unless you go very early. When I arrived at ten o’clock in the morning, nobody was waiting. But twenty minutes later the queue was already an hour long!
Another recommendation (and much less/no queues) is ‘Manteigaria’. The crust is slightly different in taste, but for me both ‘Manteigaria’ and ‘Pastéis de Belém’ were heavenly tasting!
Bairro Alto and Alfama
If you are still looking for a nice neighborhood to stay in, then I recommend choosing Bairro Alto or Alfama.
These two districts are located in the old part of the city and are very cozy and authentic. Get lost deliberately between the (steep!) streets, enjoy the beautiful views, marvel at the beautiful (and colorful!) buildings or just go and eat in one of the cozy restaurants or cafes. I don’t think you can choose a better place to stay than here!
The castle of São Jorge
Almost from everywhere in Lisbon, you can see this huge castle tower over the city. The castle of Sāo Jorge is a gigantic fortress that dates back from the second century BC. Greeks, Punics, Romans, Visigoths and Moors all conquered this high hilltop for tactical reasons and perhaps also a little bit because of the beautiful views.
It’s a long walk before you reach the castle (but fortunately there is also a free tram that brings you up!), but the panoramas are definitely worth it.
Climb the wall or simply enjoy the stunning lookout over the harbor and Lisbon.
Jump on an authentic tram
Once you have arrived in the old city of Lisbon, the rattling trams immediately make you gasp for air. These colorful means of public transportation race non-stop through the sloping streets of this metropolis. If you have the chance to sit in such an old carriage, then I definitely recommend to do so. Not only the exterior is beautiful, the interior has remained very authentic as well.
You even have the possibility to do some kind of hop-on hop-off tram ride (tram 28 – with the Lisbon card you can ride it for free), but know that this vehicle is almost always crowded and therefore you may not really get to enjoy the views. There are more than enough other authentic tram carriages that do nice(r) rides and in these you won’t be stuffed like sardines in a box.
The many miradouros (viewpoints)
It seems as if Lisbon was built into the sky! As you cross the city, you’ll have to climb up and down a lot of steep roads, but the advantage of this is that you’ll pass along some stunning viewpoints. Actually there are about infinite worth seeing, but if I can give my favorites I think these are definitely worth staring from: Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte, Miradouro das Portas do Sol, the view from the São Jorge castle and the view from the Elevador de Santa Justa.
National Palace Ajuda
I think this was my favorite discovery in Lisbon! If you take the bus from Belém, you arrive at the entrance of the Ajuda National Palace in less than ten minutes. There is a good chance that you are walking around alone here and that gives a very special feeling, believe me! It’s almost as if you’re a royal yourself!
The red carpet that has been rolled out leads you past the richly decorated rooms of the Portuguese royal family. A few weeks before my visit to Portugal, I visited the castle of Versailles and if I’m honest; the interior of this palace was at least as impressive!
Velvet curtains, detailed statues, crockery inlaid with gold, HUGE four-poster beds, … All this abundance and luxury are truly amazing to see! The further you walk, the more beautiful the palace becomes. The royal throne room is fantastic, but the dining room really made me go crazy.
You really shouldn’t miss out on this pearl during your visit to Lisbon!
During a holiday in Portugal, the colored tiles (usually white and blue) will surely catch your eye. These ‘Azulejos’ are in fact the national pride of Portugal! These porcelain stones are used almost everywhere to make the buildings more beautiful and give them a typical Portuguese touch.
In the Azulejos museum you learn everything about these small (or huge) tiles, and you also see how beautiful this porcelain can be. During your visit to the Azulejos museum you must also visit the Madre Deus church. Golden ceilings combined with walls full of these little masterpieces: a dazzling combination!
With the ‘Lisbon Card‘ (€19) you can enter for free. An individual ticket costs €5 per person.
The Arco do Triunfo
This triumphal arch may not be as well known as the ‘Arc de Triomphe‘ in Paris, but nonetheless it’s one of the most beautiful things to see in Lisbon.
The sculpted entrance gate connects the large Praça do Comércio square with the shopping streets of the Portuguese capital, but the best thing is that you can also climb this impressive building. For only €2.50 you can take the elevator up to the viewing platform. You may not get the most beautiful views of Lisbon from here, but it’s certainly no bad location to get a breath of fresh air either…
With the ‘Lisbon Card‘ (€19) you can enter for free. Otherwise you pay € 2.50 per person to go upstairs.
Santa Justa elevator
Near the Arco do Triunfo you’ll also find this beautiful building designed by Mr. Eiffel himself!
The hilly Lisbon has always caused some problems for those who didn’t like a hefty workout, and to solve that, several elevators were created that could take you from a lower part of the city to a higher part. There used to be several of these constructions in Lisbon, but the others have already been demolished. Now the ‘Elevador de Santa Justa’ functions mainly as a tourist attraction from where you get a nice view over the city.
With the ‘Lisbon Card‘ (€19) you can enter for free. Otherwise, you pay €5.15.
Museu Nacional dos Coches
This must be one of the strangest museums in Lisbon, but that is also why you should visit it. On the first floor of this modern building, you’ll find a collection of richly decorated coaches and carriages that were once pulled by royal horses.
There are so many details in the divine wood carvings that you won’t know what to look at first. Some of these luxurious horse carts were used a few centuries ago to impress the people of the Vatican City and meet the Pope there. And yes… Even he was impressed! So you can already imagine how special these carriages must be.
The splendor of these carriages made my mouth fall open quite a few times, but the other room (where you learn more historical facts and get to see the different kinds of these carriages) is very interesting.
With the ‘Lisbon Card‘ (€19) you can enter for free. A ticket otherwise costs €5.
Parque Eduardo VII
Are you done with all the buildings and museums? Then it’s time to relax in the most beautiful park in Lisbon!
The Parque Eduardo VII is an elongated strip of green grass, with a perfectly manicured hedge in the middle. Enjoy the beautiful views, or have a picnic and relax. You don’t always have to rush around. Act like a local and relax!
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Near the Torre de Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery you can find another impressive building, but this one was actually only built quite recently. This 52 meter high tower is a tribute to the Portuguese explorers from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The tower represents a ship with wind in the sails, and of course some of the most prominent explorers are depicted on the front as well.
If you climb the tower (there is an elevator!) you get a great view over the Tagus River and the Jerónimos Monastery. Don’t forget to also look at the huge mosaic that’s located just in front of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. On this fine masterpiece, you see a world map showing all the world travels of the Portuguese.
Mercado da Ribeira
Are you hungry and do you want to lunch or dine in a great location? Then make sure to visit the Mercado da Ribeira. This gigantic covered marketplace consists of two parts. The first place is a huge market with all kinds of fresh products (vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, …) and on the other side you’ll find a gigantic hall with only (great smelling!) restaurants. Walk around and look for what you want to eat at that moment. From Portuguese to Thai food, from hamburgers to desserts… You’ll find something for everyone!
At this location you can also find ‘Manteigaria’, one of the places where (according to me) you can eat the best Pastéi de Belém or Pastéi de Nata.
Day trips from Lisbon
I recommend planning enough days in Lisbon because there isn’t only much to do and see in the city itself! Just outside the Portuguese capital there are also a lot of places that you shouldn’t miss.
One place that you certainly may not skip is of course Sintra.
This magical city, known for its many castles and palaces, is just an hour away from Lisbon. The most famous castle is perhaps the palace of Pena, but the Castelo dos Mouros, the national palace of Sintra or the Quinta Regaleira are also a feast for the eyes.
Every palace or castle is completely different and in fact they all are worth visiting. However, that would be very time consuming and you would definitely need more than one day. And believe me… After one day you will be tired! The castles are located in a mountainous environment and although you can easily commute by bus from one palace to another, you still have to climb and descend a lot.
Enjoy these decadent buildings (inside and outside!), but also let yourself be impressed by the beautiful nature of this region.
If you only organise one day trip out of Lisbon, then make sure you pick Sintra!
Don’t forget to bring an extra sweater or jacket, because it’s often quite a bit cooler here than in Lisbon!
Do you want more information or do you want to see some more pictures from Sintra? Then make sure to read this blog post too!
Are you in need of some beach, but are you not traveling to the Algarve? No worries! Near Lisbon you can also find some very nice seaside cities. One of them is Cascais.
With the comfortable train it takes about half an hour to commute to this place. On the way you’ll be treated to some very beautiful views over the beaches around Lisbon.
Cascais itself is a very cozy town, where you can easily spend a day. Stroll around the picturesque town, rent a bike and drive to the ‘Boca do Inferno’ or plunge yourself onto one of the many sandy beaches within walking distance from the city center.
Tickets or tours in Lisbon?
There is of course much more to do in this big city, but I do think I’ve listed the most impressive things to see in Lisbon in the list above.
Would you like to order tickets for one (or more) of these activities? Or do you think that a ‘Lisbon Card’ would be useful for you? Then take a look at the possibilities below. For more tours and tickets you can also look at websites such as Ticketbar or Viator.
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.