Top Attractions in Lisbon
A beautiful, historic city, Lisbon is ripe for exploration. Go back in time at landmarks like the Jerónimos Monastery, or simply stroll the steep, narrow streets of old neighborhoods, following the sounds of fado down cobblestoned alleyways.
Rua Senhora Saúde 6B, 1100-390 Lisboa, Portugal
The city’s iconic wood-paneled Tram 28 rambles along a 4.3-mile route from Campo de Ourique to Praça Martim Moniz, navigating tight turns and steep inclines as it passes some of Lisbon’s most endearing attractions. Originally commissioned in the 1930s, these classic Remodelado trams were in fact enlisted for their ability to handle Lisbon’s hilly terrain. They can get painfully crowded—wait times can be outrageous in the high season—so catch an early ride (5:40 a.m. most weekdays, or 6:45 a.m. on Sundays) for unobstructed views of hilltop neighborhoods like Graça and the Alfama.
Largo do Carmo, 1200-092 Lisboa, Portugal
In 1755, Lisbon was all but devoured by an earthquake so strong that it still ranks as one of the most destructive in recorded history. One of the few structures to survive somewhat intact was the Carmo Convent—an impressive feat, considering it was built in the 14th century. Today, you can still tour its beautiful skeleton, complete with soaring archways that cut a majestic path across the sky. Also worth visiting is the open courtyard, which houses spillover ruins from the attached archaeological museum.
45A Avenida de Berna
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian’s heroic collection of Eastern and Western art is nearly incomparable in Europe. Hidden away in a complex inside leafy Gulbenkian Park, the museum is a chronological treasure trove of epic art that spans ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Qing dynasty, and the Roman Empire, among others. In August, the institution throws Lisbon’s premier jazz concert series, Jazz em Agosto—meaning that once you’ve had your fill of Egyptian mummy masks, fascinating Roman gold medallions, and René Lalique’s unearthly dragonfly brooch, you can chill on the expansive lawn for a little live music.
R. Me. Deus 4, 1900-312 Lisboa, Portugal
Azulejos (glazed tiles) are a ubiquitous decoration throughout Portugal. They cover the facades and interiors of many houses in Lisbon, and are even used as historical markers. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo, located in a 16th-century convent, has a permanent exhibition that illustrates the heritage of these Portuguese tiles from the 16th century to the present, touching on everything from Ottoman geometry to Goan altars. Also on view here is a remarkable azulejo mural, A Grande Vista de Lisboa, which offers an idea of what the city looked like before the earthquake of 1755.
R. de São Pedro de Alcântara, 1200-470 Lisboa, Portugal
The São Pedro de Alcântara lookout may not be Lisbon’s highest viewpoint—that honor goes to the Nossa Senhora do Monte lookout—but it’s certainly its most romantic, offering panoramas of the city’s signature fortress, Castelo de São Jorge, perched ominously on the opposite hillside. In addition to the vista itself, the area offers pleasant gardens, which are perfect for lazing about, and a kiosk that regularly hosts jazz and other live entertainment. Come here at sunset and enjoy a sundowner as the city lights up below, then head to nearby neighborhoods Bairro Alto or Príncipe Real for a night on the town.
15B Rua Serpa Pinto
One of Lisbon’s most unique and interesting shops, this high-design destination features colorful items (backpacks, handbags, blankets, shoes, homewares) made from burel, a Portuguese wool that, until recently, was used for little more than the heavy cloaks worn by shepherds in the Serra da Estrela mountains. For Loja da Burel, the storeowners resurrected the fabric as well as its artisanal weaving process, breathing new life into a Portuguese mountain tradition. While not everything here is entirely practical, it’s all very well-made and quite beautiful, making the store worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a wool baseball cap.
R. da Misericórdia 135, 1200-272 Lisboa, Portugal
One of Portugal’s oldest cosmetics companies, Claus Porto cemented a major comeback after Lisbon’s coolest store, A Vida Portuguesa, began carrying its products. In 2016, the company opened its own boutique in the trendy Chiado district, offering even more access to its eye-catching inventory. Packaged in art deco– and Belle Époque–style cases, the signature products look supremely cool as bed-and-bath decor. Of course, you could also buy the soaps, lotions, and shave creams for actual use. As an extra incentive, on Saturdays, men who spend more than €50 (around $60) receive an old-school hot shave in the barbershop at the store.
Lisbon’s most atmospheric neighborhood by a landslide, the Moorish district of Alfama is a medieval maze of alleyways, nooks, and crannies. One of the oldest sections of the city (it survived the 1755 earthquake), it’s a living museum of Lisbon life, filled with fascinating, postcard-perfect scenes. Before exploring, it’s best to get the lay of the land from the Largo das Portas do Sol viewpoint, where you can see the Alfama’s crowded, rust-orange rooftops spilling toward the Tagus River, punctuated by iconic buildings like the St. Vincent de Fora monastery, the National Pantheon, and the Santo Estêvão Church. Afterward, head deep into the neighborhood and get lost among balconies strung with drying laundry, street vendors selling grilled sardines, and the sounds of fado, Portugal’s melancholy national music.
Lisbon foodie Filipa Valente is the hotshot behind Taste of Lisboa’s culinary tours, which take visitors a bit off the beaten path to some of the city’s most fashionable—but often overlooked by guidebooks—neighborhoods. With nary a tourist in sight, she leads guests around the wonderful Campo de Ourique area and its classic market for tasty alheira sausage croquettes, Portuguese-style mussels, and some seriously decadent chocolate cake. Of course, Valente also offers tours to more-traditional districts, but you can’t beat Campo de Ourique for a sampling of local treats.
Largo São Domingos, 1150-320 Lisboa, Portugal
Another Lisbon survivor, the baroque Church of São Domingos not only stood its ground during the 1755 earthquake, but also endured a bloody anti-Semitic massacre in 1506 and a devastating fire in 1959. The gorgeous cathedral, which dates back to 1241, is not without its scars, however—its interior is rife with gouged pillars, decrepit walls, and battered sculptures, all of which look even more ethereal when lit by a sea of candles. It feels like a house of worship in constant mourning, and will leave you in a very different mood than most other churches. If you can stomach it, stop outside at the Star of David memorial, which honors the hundreds of Jews that were killed in the 1506 Easter Slaughter.
Praça do Comércio, 1100-148 Lisboa, Portugal
Located right on the river, Lisbon’s massive main square is home to a plethora of gorgeous 18th-century architecture, all built after the devastating 1755 earthquake. Its canary-yellow facades and mosaic-like cobblestones come together to form one of Europe’s most picturesque plazas; it’s hard to believe that, as recently as the 1980s, the square was used as a parking lot (photos from those days, which you can see at the nearby Lisboa Story Centre, are astonishing). For the best views, pay the €2.50 (around $3) to access the terrace of the triumphant Arco da Rua Augusta and gaze out over the square, the riverfront, and the São Jorge Castle beyond.
It’s difficult to overstate what a spectacular job Diogo Batalha and his wife Ana Partidário have done transforming Aldeia da Mata Pequena, a tourism masterpiece in the Mafra countryside about 30 miles northeast of Lisbon. Batalha purchased and restored 13 structures in the centuries-old village, turning them into historically accurate one-, two-, and three-bedroom stone guesthouses. With a keen eye for detail, he made sure that the former wineries, barns, and bakeries retained their original elements. He even turned a stable into a living room, and used massive grape presses and meat-salting boxes as design pieces. The village is now an extraordinary place to escape the city, with prices starting at a reasonable €75 per night in high season (around $93).
Calçada da Quintinha 6, 1070-225 Lisboa, Portugal
A national monument, Lisbon’s massive aqueduct was a remarkable feat of hydraulic engineering when it was built between 1731 and 1799 to supply the city with water. Spanning some 36 miles, it boasts 109 stone arches, the most dramatic of which are the 35 that cross the Alcântara Valley—they survived the 1755 earthquake remarkably intact. Tour the aqueduct, then head to the Príncipe Real neighborhood, where the Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras reservoir now functions as a museum. You can also stop for some wine at Chafariz do Vinho, a wine bar built inside the aqueduct system.
Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 1, 1100-139 Lisboa, Portugal
Located in the Alfama district, the world-class Museu do Fado details Portugal’s soulful national music with exhibits, audiovisuals, and more. Marvel at the photographic panel of Portuguese musicians dominating the entrance, then listen to music as you tour the museum, stopping at the second-floor auditorium to watch a documentary on the history of fado. There’s also a great gift store, where you can purchase souvenirs like a four-stringed cavaquinho.