The 11 Best Experiences in Lisbon

One defining feature of Alfama is its maze of winding streets
One defining feature of Alfama is its maze of winding streets | © philipus / Alamy Stock Photo
Matthew Hancock

Make your visit to Lisbon a memorable one by signing up for one (or two, or three) of these culturally immersive experiences.

With its open squares, red-tiled rooftops and dramatic viewpoints, Lisbon is one of Europe’s most picturesque capitals. It’s a great city to wander around and get lost in its winding alleyways and maze of backstreets. However, to really get to know the city, a tour with a local in the know or classes teaching you its cultural practices are your best bet. There are plenty of adventures and experiences on offer in and around the capital, including cooking classes, surf lessons and traditional tile-making. Culture Trip has picked some tours and activities that will give your trip to Lisbon that extra insight and flavour.

Cookery classes in Lisbon

Cooking and dining out is a vital part of Portuguese life, and on virtually every street and square, you’ll find a café or restaurant serving up everything from tasty pastries to hearty dishes of grilled meat, fish and rice. Find out more about Portugal’s culinary traditions and techniques on one of these excellent cookery classes and tours.

Portuguese cooking class and market tour

Restaurant, Portuguese

Lisbon is home to great food markets where you can buy fresh fruit, veg and fish straight from the stallholders. This tour takes you to explore a local market, where the chef will choose the freshest ingredients for your meal. Then it’s back to the kitchen to start cooking – followed, of course, by a three-course lunch prepared by you. The tour meets at the Cooking Lisbon office, on Rua Cidade de Liverpool, near metro Anjos.

Lisbon pastry workshop

Bakery, Portuguese

Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon
© Andrew Michael / Alamy Stock Photo

Lisbon is famous for its iconic pastel de nata – a deliciously light and flaky pastry tart filled with custard and served warm with cinnamon and icing sugar sprinkled on top. Learn how to make this tasty treat and other Portuguese sweets, such as traditional almond cake, at a pastry workshop. You’ll get to enjoy the results of your hard work afterwards with a welcome cup of tea, coffee or wine. The class meets near the Convento do Carmo near metro Baixa-Chiado.

Gourmet cooking class with olive oil tasting

Restaurant, Portuguese

Portugal is known for its top-quality olive oil, but it can be hard to know your cheap and cheerful versions from the top brands. This gourmet cooking class includes olive oil tastings, explains its importance to Portuguese cuisine and ends with a delicious meal. The class meets at the Cooking Lisbon office near metro Anjos.

Water sports and adventures in Lisbon

Lisbon lies a bit inland on the banks of the River Tagus, but it’s just a short train or bus ride away from the Atlantic coast, where you can take part in all sorts of water sports and activities, from surfing to coasteering.

Lisbon surf experience

Natural Feature

Learn to surf the waves of Costa da Caparica
© Peter Domotor / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a day or half-day trip riding the waves of the Costa de Caparica on this surfing experience. Less than an hour’s drive from Lisbon, it is located on one of Europe’s longest continuous sandy beaches, stretching for some 24 kilometres (15 miles), pounded by Atlantic breakers. It’s suitable for surfers of all skill levels, and boards, wetsuits and qualified guides are provided. Meet by Lisbon Zoo, Praça Marechal Humberto Delgado, metro Jardim Zoológico.

Coasteering adventure

Market, Natural Feature

Thrillseekers will love coasteering in Sesimbra
© GM Photo Images / Alamy Stock Photo

With its rocky shoreline, pretty bays and sheltered coves, the coastline around Sesimbra is perfect for coasteering – and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Lisbon. If you’re up for an adventure, this thrilling tour will take you clambering up rocky cliffs and leaping into the sea – all with an experienced guide, of course. This tour meets at Avenida da Liberdade 6, metro Restauradores.

Dolphin watching in the Sado

Natural Feature

Watch bottlenose dolphins play in the estuary of the River Sado
© David Preston / Alamy Stock Photo

Less than an hour south of Lisbon, the estuary of the River Sado is home to a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. This tour takes you down to the city of Setúbal, where you’ll board a boat and head off in search of the creatures. You rarely have to venture far out to sea since the animals usually play in the calm waters of the estuary and along the coast – if you’re lucky, they may well swim and jump alongside the boat. This tour leaves from in front of the HF Fénix Hotel in Lisbon, near metro Marquês de Pombal.

Games and escape rooms in Lisbon

Interactive games and escape rooms are popular the world over, and Lisbon is no exception. These games are a fun way to learn more about the city and discover some of its out-of-the-way places.

Lisbon discovery game – the hidden Alfama

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Explore Lisbon’s Alfama district via an interactive game
© Alpineguide / Alamy Stock Photo

With its maze of narrow streets, steep steps and winding alleyways, Lisbon’s hilly Alfama district is easy to get lost in. Discover its hidden corners with this interactive discovery game. Use the app on your phone to answer clues and solve riddles, which will lead you around some of the most interesting parts of this historical district. The game begins at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia.

Lisbon escape room

Amusement Park

Solve the clues and learn fascinating things about the city in this Lisbon-themed escape room. All the mysteries are set in Lisbon, so channel your inner (Portuguese) Sherlock Holmes and work out the solutions to escape from the locked room within 60 minutes. This game meets at Rua dos Douradores 13, near metro Baixa-Chiado.

Here’s what else you can do in Lisbon

Lisbon tiles and tales

Art Gallery

Learn about the azulejo and paint your own on this cultural experience
Courtesy of Viator

Wander along almost any road in Lisbon, and you’ll see shopfronts, churches and facades covered in beautiful Portuguese painted tiles known as azulejos. These traditional tiles are a real feature of the city, so those curious to find out more should head for this tile-making workshop in the village of Azeitão, just south of Lisbon. An expert tile artist will explain their history and stylistic variations before you get the chance to paint your own (which will later be fired and sent on to your hotel). You’ll also visit Lisbon’s National Tile Museum – a treasure trove of some of the country’s most beautiful azulejos. This tour picks up from your hotel or other accommodation.

Lisbon pub and club crawl

Bar, Beer

Lisbon is a party city, with its bars and clubs spilling out onto the streets until the small hours. Bairro Alto is the most popular nightlife area, with up to 50,000 partying people taking to its streets and alleyways over a weekend, and spreading out to the districts along the riverfront. If you’re travelling solo, you might want to meet up with some fellow clubbers on this pub and club crawl, which takes you to three bars and includes VIP entrance to a club plus free shots and an hour of bottomless beer and sangria. The tour leaves from outside the Igreja de São Roque on Largo Trindade Coelho 21, Bairro Alto.

Wine-tasting and vineyard tour

Wine Bar, Wine

Discover the Arrábida region and its wines
Courtesy of Viator

Portuguese wine is much under-rated outside the country, but those in the know will tell you it produces some of Europe’s tastiest labels at a very reasonable price. This tour visits two vineyards, wine cellars and sites in and around the beautiful Arrábida region, explaining everything you need to know about making wine – from growing grapes to the harvest and the bottling. And, of course, the best part is the wine and cheese tasting. This tour picks up from your hotel or accommodation.

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