5 Fun things you must do when in Lisbon

If you are visiting Lisbon just for a few days, then you should make the most of it. Here are my suggestions of things to do and see to guarantee a fun visit to Lisbon!

View over the Alfama district from the view point of Miradouro da Santa Luzia

Visit the historical district of Alfama

This part of the city is also called the Moors’ Quarter, as the Moors inhabited it back in medieval times. Despite the centuries, the architecture in Alfama has not changed much: with its narrow cobbled stone streets, its cathedral, Fado, and towering castle, many Portuguese believe that it is the heart of the Portuguese culture. I recommend taking your time when walking up the steep hills leading to the castle, as it can be a challenge during the hot summer days. Also, the viewpoint from the Santa Luzia church is worth a stop.

On Tuesday and Saturday, they have a flea market called Feira da Ladra where they sell all kinds of oddities as well as Portuguese handcraft: a good place to buy a souvenir!

Eat authentic food and experience Fado

As the saying goes, “When in Rome” you should try authentic Portuguese food. It can be difficult however to find the right places. I have made a post about my top Portuguese restaurants in the city at an affordable price, reachable on this link

Furthermore, Fado is a quintessential part of the Portuguese culture and its heart is in Lisbon. I have a list of places where you can see Fado by clicking on this link and where you can have a hearty Portuguese dinner while enjoying the show.

Image from the fado venue Mesa da Frades
Picture of MAAT museum. It is supposedly imitating the shape of a wave

Visit Belém and its museums

Belém is a district of Lisbon located 10 min away from the city center and is famous for its museums. You can reach it by either taking the train to Cascais from Cais do Sodré station and hopping off at the Belém station, or by tram. While taking the tram is very fun as it is an experience in itself, I suggest the buses being cheaper. The museums you can find here are the modern art museum MAAT, the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, and the Monument for the Discoveries.

Belém is also known for being the best place to have the Portuguese national pastry: Pastel de Nata, a small custard cake. The most prestigious bakery is the Pastéis de Belém, however, expect to queue if you want to take away: I recommend instead going to the café in the back as you will likely have a shorter wait, and you can have a coffee to go with it.

Pasteis de Nata from the café "Pastéis de Belém"
Palacio da Pena in Sintra

Visit Palacio da Pena and Sintra

Located 40 min by train from Lisbon is the small town of Sintra. Once populated by the Moors, this town has its share of castles and palaces. One of the most famous ones is the Pena Palace or “Palacio da Pena”. It is a 30-min hike uphill from the center of the town, but there is a possibility to take a bus. The view from here is breathtaking as you can see the Atlantic and the entire coast.

Other landmarks to see is the Moors’ castle and the Quinta Regaleira. The Moors’ castle or “castelo dos Moros” is built on steep cliffs, making it look like it is straight from the Lord of Rings. The Quinta da Regaleira is more of a palace with a large park with fountains and beautiful gardens.

Praia do Guincho is 5 km outside of Cascais and can be reached by bus

Explore Cascais

While it is a different town, Cascais is only 40 minutes away by train and many choose to also visit it when staying in Lisbon. You can catch the train from Cais do Sodré or to Belém, depending on where on the riverside you are. Cascais is known for being a seaside town with classy hotels, boutiques, and a harbor with yachts. You can find museums as well as a small sand beach next to the center. Some even walk along the sea to the Boca do Inferno, a huge cliff formation with a local legend.

If you have a car or don’t mind walking a bit, there is a beach called Praia do Guincho 5km from Cascais, and it is stunning. You can also take bus M15 from the station in Cascais

Praia da Rainha in Cascais, 2 min from the train station
View over the Almada district with the bridge and Christ King

See the Cristo Rei and Almada

Should you have more time on your hands, I would also definitely recommend taking the ferry from Cais do Sodré to the port of Cacilhas. Opposite Lisbon, you have the district of Almada where you have a small town as well as Christ the King or “Cristo Rei” towering over the Tejo River. To go here, you need to do a 40-min walk from Cacilhas. If you are weary of walking, there is also a possibility to take the 3001 bus from Cacilhas. Otherwise, if you just want to see the Christ and not Almada you can grab bus NR 4725 from the station Sete Rios in Lisbon.

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