People are drawn to Lisbon for many reasons, as the Portuguese capital offers a multitude of experiences. While some want to admire the architecture, others desire to put their feet in the sea or maybe try a different style of cuisine. Here’s our list of 20 must-see attractions when visiting this vibrant city.
Many people may be unaware, but Lisbon is home to Europe’s largest indoor aquarium. Located in Parque das Nações, it is yet another beautiful building in this unique part of the city, and is home to a large number of marine species from all over the globe. With its circular design around a huge central tank, visitors get a fascinating view into the aquarium in the middle while transitioning from one habitat to another.
Admission fees: €18 – between ages of 13 – 64; €12 – 12 years old and younger, and 65+
Visiting the Lisbon zoo is a great way to get in the middle of nature, and it’s also another fantastic activity to enjoy with the family. Here, visitors can learn about a range exotic species, as well as those that are native to Portugal. Their motto is ‘travel around the world without leaving Lisbon’ and exploring everything that the zoo has to offer can take up a full day.
Admission fees: €20.50 – Ages 13 – 64; €14.50 – Children under 13; €16 – People 65+
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Why not visit one of Europe’s most amazing art collections with pieces dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Donated to the city by Calouste Gulbenkian, this collection took over 40 years to build and contains relics from numerous countries, cultures and eras. A unique attraction blending historical and contemporary art, the musuem is currently hosting a temporary exhibit from Portuguese artist José de Almada Negreiros.
Admission fee: €14
Another collection worth visiting is at the Berardo Museum, which showcases a wide range of modern and contemporary art. Located in the Belém Cultural Centre, this impressive collection features work from several different movements, such as surrealism, pop art, hyper-realism, minimalism and conceptual art.
Admission Fee: €5 beginning in May, free on Saturdays
The National Museum of Ancient Art
While modern and contemporary art attract many visitors, some enthusiasts prefer pieces from a bygone era. The National Museum of Ancient Art holds the most valuable national collection in Portugal, with the 40,000 pieces of artwork from across Europe and around the world.
Admission Fee: €6
The Fado Museum
Listening to fado undoubtedly offers a glimpse into the soul of the country, so why not visit the Fado Museum to learn more about its history. Located in Alfama, it’s a short walk from the Santa Apolónia Station and across from many of the areas most popular cafés and restaurants.
Admission Fee: €5
Lisbon Story Centre
Walking around Lisbon will provide an insight into its history, but a visit to the Lisbon Story Centre allows the city to tell its own story. Llocated in Praça do Comércio, it’s an innovative multimedia experience that dramatically recreates Lisbon’s most significant historical events.
Admission Fee: €7
‘Visit Alfama’ is what most first-time travelers to Lisbon are advised. The oldest part of the city, it may feel like you’ve stepped through a time warp to the 17th or 18th century. The narrow roads are winding and eclectic, filled with souvenir shops and tiny bars or cafés, and Alfama is one of the best tourist-friendly locations to enjoy authentic Portuguese meals while listening to the country’s favorite genre of soul music, fado.
Baixa & Bairro Alto
Most of Baixa, the ‘lower neighborhood’ was ruined during Lisbon’s catastrophic Earthquake of 1755, and rebuilt during the decades that followed to become as one of the trendiest parts of the city. Today, it attracts visitors with its Pombaline architecture (a Portuguese style derived in the 18th century), romantic cafés and restaurants, and a plethora of shopping opportunities. Bairro Alto, on the other hand, is Lisbon’s artistic and bohemian-friendly ‘upper neighborhood’ filled with some of the best bars, clubs and restaurants. It’s also one of the best places to enjoy Lisbon’s urban street art scene.
Mouraria and its nearby square Martim Moniz has always attracted diversity and serves as Lisbon’s multicultural mecca. While Alfama may be one of the best places to hear fado music, Mouraria is where this musical style really developed and where the first famous fadistas Severa once lived, as well as current fado superstar Mariza. Mouraria used to have an undesirable reputation due to poor condistions, but the last decade has seen vast improvements and it’s now one of the most charming and unique neighborhoods in Lisbon.
Parque das Nações
Everything about Parque das Nações is contemporary and sophisticated, from the elegantly structures Gare do Oriente Station to the boardwalk, hotels, and entertainment centres. It was built for the World Exposition of 1998 and serves as one of Lisbon’s most modern spots today. Parque das Nações is an attraction in itself simply because it’s so different from much of historical Lisbon.
São Jorge Castle
The São Jorge Castle is much more than a Moorish hilltop fortification with stone walls and exceptional views. It is one of the oldest and most recognisable structures in the city. It also houses an archaeological museum and an underground excavation site with remnants that may date back millennia and from different eras. From the Iron Age to Medieval Period to the Renaissance and more recently, this castle was witnessed many changes, which visitors can get an idea of when walking through the corridors, viewing antiques, and catching glimpses of unearthed treasures.
Built over the course of 100 years, mostly during the 16th century, the Jerónimos Monastery is one of the top reasons tourists beeline to Belém (in addition to the famous Pasteis de Belém sold practically next door but with roots from the Monastery). Also known as the Hieronymites Monastery, it’s not just a major attraction near Lisbon but one of the most popular landmarks in all of Portugal, and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Belém Tower. Built to honor Portugal’s role during the Age of Discoveries, it is now the tomb of many prominent historical persons including Portuguese explorer and navigator Vasco da Gama.
Admission Fee: 10€
Belém Tower is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its role in protecting Portugal’s coast during the Age of Discoveries and later. Portraying a combination of Gothic and Manueline architecture like the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower attracts visitors for its appearance as well as its role in history.
Admission Fee: €6
While in Baixa, don’t miss walking through what’s left of the Carmo Convent, which was one of the buildings partially destroyed during the Earthquake of 1755. Inside, visitors will also see many ceramics on display, a collection of tombs, mosaics, and statues.
The National Azulejo Museum
There is no other building in all of Portugal that’s completely dedicated to the tile art that can be seen all over the country. Housed in a 16th-century convent, the museum shows how azulejos tiles have evolved over time and it is full of surprises, including an unexpected chapel filled with intricate and beautiful artwork.
Admission Fee: 5 €
Located in Alfama, the Sé Cathedral (also known as the Lisbon Cathedral) is the oldest cathedral in the city and one of the most iconic landmarks to boot. The towers and rose window are incredibly eye-catching and the altar, chapels and excavated cloisters inside keep visitors entranced.
São Roque Church
From the oldest cathedral in Lisbon, head to Bairro Alto and see the most beautiful cathedral in Lisbon. Constructed in intervals, the church was designed in Rome and transported to Lisbon where it was assembled. Although quite plain from the outside, the inside of the church is one of the most exquisite sights in the city.
Cristo Rei Monument
Technically not in Lisbon, the Cristo Rei Monument is a short ride across the Tagus River in Almada. It was built during the time of Salazar to resemble Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue and holds religious significance in the country.
It makes sense that a city set on seven hills would have its fair share of lookout points, which are known as miradouros in Portuguese. From these high points, it’s possible to catch amazing views of the city, the river and towards major landmarks like the Castle of São Jorge and the city’s iconic bridges.