Lisbon is a city of panoramic views. Take your time to discover its countless stunning vistas at a leisurely pace, stumbling upon tiny cafés and bars that tempt you in for a cool drink or a tasty snack (Photo: Getty Images)

The picturesque city of Lisbon stretches along the wide Tagus river, its Moorish cobbled streets and alleyways tumbling down towards the grand eighteenth-century Praça do Comércio square and the elegant buildings that line the waterfront. The old town is spread over two hills, Alfama and Bairro Alto, whose miradouros (tiled viewing terraces) peer at each other across the grand, neo-classical Baixa district, with its grid-plan shopping streets. It’s a city that’s built for leisurely discovery, stumbling upon tiny cafés and bars that tempt you in for a cool drink or a tasty snack.

The best places to visit in Lisbon


The steep streets of Alfama can be tackled on foot or, in parts, by charming tram (Photo: Getty Images)

The old Moorish Alfama district is a joy to wander around, its steep, narrow cobbled streets opening onto tiny squares crammed with café and restaurant tables, and overlooked by wrought-iron balconies draped with geraniums. Winding down towards the river, Alfama is topped by the Moorish Castelo São Jorge, with its pretty gardens, peacocks and steep walls that provide some of the city’s best views.

Bairro Alto

The 'high district' of Bairro Alto is Lisbon's eating and drinking hub – an unmissable part of any visit to the city (Photo: Getty Images)

The Bairro Alto (literally the High District) sits opposite Alfama, looking out over the city. Lisbon’s café, restaurant and bar hub, its narrow streets are crammed with interesting places to eat, drink and party the night away. Close to the heart of action, but tucked away in a quiet backstreet, the Memmo Principe Real, Lisbon, a Member of Design Hotels is the place to stay, with wonderful views and an outdoor pool.


Steeped in maritime heritage, it was from Bélem that Vasco da Gama set sail for India (Photo: Getty Images)

Out along the waterfront, the appealing district of Belém is known for its museums and maritime history. Vasco da Gama set sail from Belém for India, and it was to give thanks for his safe return that the imposing Mosteiro dos Jerónimos was built here in the sixteenth century.

Take the lift up to top of the towering Discoveries Monument for views over the monastery and the river, and walk across the grass roof of the contemporary Maat museum of modern art and architecture.

Parque Eduardo VII and the Gulbenkian Art Museum

The carefully tended Parque Eduardo VII runs steeply uphill from Lisbon’s main boulevard (Photo: Getty Images)

This manicured park, which features ponds, glasshouses and a great café, runs steeply uphill from Lisbon’s main boulevard, the Avenida da Liberdade. A short walk from the top of the park, the Gulbenkian Art Museum is the private collection of Armenian oil magnet Calouste Gulbenkian. It houses a fascinating variety of glass, gold and silverware, porcelain, jewellery and textiles from ancient Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Rome and China. You'll also be treated to European art by the likes of Monet, Degas and Renoir, plus jewellery by Lalique.

Stay nearby at the Sheraton Lisboa Hotel & Spa, whose Panorama venue boasts some of Lisbon’s most far-reaching views, or the comfortable, contemporary Moxy Lisbon City, with its stylish rooftop pool. A little to the north of the park and museum, the bright and airy Lisbon Marriott Hotel offers floor-to-ceiling windows, private balconies and a relaxing outdoor pool set in a verdant garden.

What to eat and drink in Lisbon

Portuguese nata

Lisbon has ever more inventive gastronomic delights on offer, but one of city's best treats is the simple custard tart (Photo: Getty Images)

Lisbon’s food scene has exploded in recent years, with new chefs adapting the city’s traditional cuisine, melding it with influences from around the world and producing some of Europe’s most exciting food.

For a meal-of-a-lifetime, book in at the two-Michelin-star Belcanto, or the vegetarian version Encanto (one Michelin star), both run by Portuguese superstar chef José Avillez. Stay a minute’s walk from Belcanto, at the sumptuous The Ivens, Autograph Collection hotel, a beautifully converted nineteenth-century former warehouse in the upmarket Chiado district.

Head to the market

For more casual dining, head to the Time Out Market, where you can sample all sorts of food and drink from traditional Portuguese to pasta, sushi and soup. Stalls run by Michelin-star chefs such as Henrique Sá Pessoa sit side-by-side with doughnut stands and artisan ice cream kiosks – simply order your food, then take a seat at the communal tables in the middle of this former fruit and vegetable market to eat it.

Eat sardines in Alfama

As you wander around Alfama in summer, you can’t miss the inviting aromas of barbecued sardines. Tables and grills are set up in narrow alleyways and on cobbled squares – for a superb lunch, simply follow your nose or head to Pateo 13, where you can tuck into a plate of sardines on a cobbled patio beneath the vines. 

Try a pastel de nata in Belém

This delicious flaky pastry custard tart is best eaten at its birthplace in Belém, served warm from the oven and sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar. Head to the original Pasteis de Belem, with its pretty tiled walls and warren of rooms, where they have been making these tasty treats in the same building since 1837.

Sample seafood in a cervejaria

Lisbon is known for its excellent fish and seafood, which is best sampled at one of the city's traditional cervejarias. A good option is Cervejaria Ramiro which has been dishing up simply prepared fresh crab, lobster, prawns, clams and all sorts of seafood for more than 60 years.

Top things to do in Lisbon

Perched on a hilltop, the flamboyant Pena Palace is well worth a day-trip from Lisbon (Photo: Getty Images)

One of Lisbon’s original wooden trams, tram number #28, still trundles its way along the city’s narrow streets and squares. Its scenic route takes about an hour to wind through Alfama, the Baixa shopping district, Praça do Comércio, the Bairro Alto and past the beautiful domed Basílica da Estrella.

European giants Sporting Lisboa and Benfica both play top-quality football in Lisbon’s northern suburbs, and watching a match amongst passionate Portuguese fans is an atmospheric experience. Tickets are generally easy to get from the club websites, Benfica and Sporting. If you're catching a match, the Lisbon Marriott Hotel is a great option – it's close to both stadiums, and offers relaxing gardens and a pool.

Lisbon also boasts one of Europe’s largest aquariums, the Oceanário de Lisboa, built for Lisbon’s 1998 Expo, where you can watch sea otters, penguins, sharks and octopus. The aquarium is part of the Parque das Nações, a 5km-long waterfront park alongside the Tagus river, also featuring a science museum, cable car, theatre, concert hall and plenty of fountains and gardens. Stay right by the park at the smart, modern Moxy Lisboa Oriente.

Take a day-trip out to the town of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site and former summer residence of the Portuguese royal family. Tucked into wooded hills, it's home to the ruins of a Moorish castle, the beautiful sub-tropical gardens of Monserrate and two royal places, including the flamboyant Pena Palace, perched on a hilltop with views towards the coast.

Hidden gems in Lisbon

The forerunner of Lisbon’s street art scene was Vhils and the city is dotted with fantastic examples of both his and others' work. Check out the Amoreiras Wall of Fame, Iberia’s largest graffiti wall, and the Caracol da Graça, a steep alleyway lined with street art.

If you're looking for alternative things to do in Lisbon, check out the trendy LX Factory. Located in a former industrial area beneath the 25 April bridge, this warren of old warehouses and shipping containers repurposed as shops, studios, restaurants and bars is a lot of fun.

Go deeper

No matter where you go in Lisbon, you'll encounter gorgeous examples of painted tiles (Photo: Getty Images)

Lisbon is known for its painted tiles, and you can see some great examples in the city’s metro stations, with designs by painters Maria Keil, Eduardo Nery and Ângelo de Sousa. From the large marble sculptures at Campo Pequeno station to the brightly coloured Art Deco designs of Avenida and the bold contemporary patterns at Chelas, the artworks alone make a trip on the metro worthwhile.

Published: March 27, 2023

Article Tags:  Lisbon , Portugal

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