Portugal’s capital Lisbon is bouncing! The city is crammed with winding streets, street art, delicious food and a vibrant music scene. The city boasts of beautiful viewpoints and a bar by the beach. It is easy to lose a day, spend a long weekend or even an extended break in Lisboa, if you throw a few day trips in too! Here’s our best things to do in Lisbon guide, for those looking to avoid spending lots of euros in the city built on seven hills.
» You may also like: our guide to Lisbon’s best day trips
Things to do in Lisbon for Under €18
Table of Contents
- Things to do in Lisbon for Under €18
- 1. Get Lost in Alfama in Lisbon
- 2. Beers at Bairro Alto
- 3. Get High in Lisbon
- 4. Miradouro de Santa Catarina – Sunset Viewing Point
- 5. Jardim São Pedro de Alcântara Restaurant Viewpoint
- 6. Lisbon’s Unique Transport System
- 7. Cheap Lisbon Tour on Tram 28
- 8. Lisbon Card – Transport + Skip Lines
- 9. Even More Lisbon Tours
- 10. Square Deal
- 11. Down The Hatch – Ginjinha
- 12. Chow Down on Cod
- 13. Party on Pink Street
- 14. Lunch at LXFactory
- 15. DOCAS in Lisbon
- 16. Bounce to Belém
- 17. Sweet for Custard Tarts
- 18. What to do in Lisbon on Day Three – See Sintra
- Practical Lisbon Travel Advice
- Lisbon Packing List
1. Get Lost in Alfama in Lisbon
The oldest district of Lisbon, Alfama, is one to get lost in!
Wander around the impressively tall buildings and narrow streets, stopping off for a coffee or port to recharge the batteries.
These roads will take you from the São Jorge Castle down to the Tagus River, ogle at the pretty tiled buildings along the way.
I can only compare Alfama to the maze that is Edinburgh’s Old Town but on a much larger (or narrower?) scale.
Expect to come across anything from hanging washing to hanging bunting, street art to spectacular views.
This area is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lisbon and features on many guided tour routes but it is very hilly.
If this sounds like a challenge to your style of travel, check out our tips on the cheap tram ride below.
Most crowds can be found about the castle area.
2. Beers at Bairro Alto
The neighbourhoods you want to visit in Lisbon are all very close to each other.
It is likely that you will take a new street and be in the next area without realising it.
Bairro Alto is the zone where the nightlife in Lisbon kicks off.
By day it simply looks like streets with eateries, by night these streets come alive.
More than often, it feels like you are having drinks in your Grandma’s living room!
Personally, I would avoid accommodation in Bairro Alto, unless you are the party.
Again, this a hilly area so be cautious of your footing or any attempts to carry luggage around the district!
3. Get High in Lisbon
Reaching the stars for the best views of the city has been a running theme in our European city guides of late.
Lisbon has no shortage of rooftop viewing platforms and luckily for us, most come with a cool drink in your hand!
Check out the laid-back Park Restaurant and Bar for lovely 180 degrees views which include the 25 de Abril Bridge.
One of the many hipster things to do in Lisbon but they make you work for that craft beer.
To get to Park Bar you have to go up an elevator in a car park. Cryptic!
- Address: Park Bar – Calçada do Combro, 58 1200-115 Lisbon, Portugal
4. Miradouro de Santa Catarina – Sunset Viewing Point
Don’t miss Miradouro de Santa Catarina viewing point at sunset where you can take a carryout beer and hang with the locals.
Swing by Manteigaria Portuguese pastelería to pick up some famous Portuguese custard tarts as part of your picnic.
Views aren’t the best in the city but so if you are limited on time and love a sunset, go for Park Bar instead.
5. Jardim São Pedro de Alcântara Restaurant Viewpoint
The vantage point, Jardim São Pedro de Alcântara, directly across from The Decadente Restaurant has the best views of Säo Jorge Castle.
Park Bar, Lisbon
6. Lisbon’s Unique Transport System
Struggle with hills?
Check out Lisbon’s four elevators – three are yellow and run on tracks, Lisbon’s trams!
The fourth is the Santa Justa Lift (Carmo Lift) found in Baixa which is more like an elevator you would find in a shopping centre/mall.
Their purpose is simply to help locals and visitors navigate the steep hills of the city but have become a symbol of Lisbon along the way. Especially one special yellow tram…
7. Cheap Lisbon Tour on Tram 28
When wondering what to do in Lisbon on a tight budget consider the affordable local tram #28.
While the tram makes getting around famous attractions such as Castle Sao Jorge and districts like Bario Alto easier, you do need some patience.
This tram is jam-packed with site hungry tourists looking to get a glimpse of the most popular Lisbon sightseeing, all for under €3!
There is no audio guide but the cool breeze from the window seat is included.
In all honesty, I did not find this ride as exhilarating as others have but I did leave it until day eight of our Lisbon itinerary so had seen much of what was on offer, plus the rail to the castle was closed.
Ps. read the comments below – this tram journey is for locals and tourists using it as a tour bus appears to annoy them.
Looking for something less touristy to do?
Check out the historical Livraria Bertrand bookshop (R. Garrett 73 75). It’s the oldest operating bookstore in the world!
8. Lisbon Card – Transport + Skip Lines
A budget-saving tip is to consider the 24, 48 or 72-hour Lisbon Card which provides access to unlimited travel on city transport as well as free admission to the top Lisbon activities.
This is especially helpful for those who find walking uphill difficult as the access includes use of the busses, trams and cable railways.
Another bonus is that some train lines are also included such as the trains between Cais do Sodré and Cascais (such a gorgeous part of Portugal).
You can also get to the popular Sintra via train using this card.
Read the comments below and you will see how busy Lisbon is, especially during the summer months.
The Lisbon Card provides skip the line access to Jerónimos Monastery.
It also includes entry to Belem Tower, Marfa National Palace and Santa Justa Lift.
Buy your Lisbon Card online here at GetYourGuide and then exchange it for the magnetic card when you arrive at the airport or the city.
9. Even More Lisbon Tours
I have never seen a city with so many tours!
Segway, tuk-tuk, street art tour, a bus that turns into a boat…
We opted for the traditional and reliable Lisbon walking tour, which guided us around the historic old town.
Our guide, Carla, energetically marched us through the tiny streets of Alfama while sharing tales of war, natural disasters, religion, and economic downturns.
All of these events contribute to Lisbon’s new badge of honour as a city of tolerance.
If you are not so keen on group tours, check out this audio walking tour of Lisbon by fellow blogger, Julie Dawn Fox, a British ex-pat in Portugal!
- Price: Paid through tips
- Duration: 2–3 hours
- Meeting point: Rossio / D. Pedro IV Square (the one with two fountains)
10. Square Deal
Lisbon has lots of squares!
Rossio Square/D. Pedro IV is the one with two fountains.
Praca do Comercio (aka Terreiro do Paço Square) in Baixa has a big yellow building with an popular photo spot arch called Arco da Rua Augusta.
This is where we watched the semi-final of the European Cup, a massive TV was set up for all to see.
Camões Square is my favourite square. Many a Bifana (pork sandwich) was consumed while watching the world go by here.
One of the cutest things about the local community squares (and each neighbourhood has one) is the tiny bar where you can buy a coffee!
Rossio Square/D. Pedro IV
11. Down The Hatch – Ginjinha
Served in a shot, but must be sipped – Ginjinha is a sour cherry liquor best enjoyed after midday.
Recommended rocket fuel to get you up those hills.
One of the most unique things to do in Lisbon because you aren’t doing it anywhere else!
- Price: €1 – €1.40
Salted, canned, fried – apparently, there are 365 ways to cook cod so that’s one dish for every day of the year.
You’ll discover where cod is being sold by smell before sight!
Not a fan of fish? The Portuguese sure know how to do a sausage! And snails…
» Foodies! Click here to find out where to eat in Lisboa.
13. Party on Pink Street
Guess what colour the ground on this street is?
Yes! You guessed it, pink.
The infamous party street is lined with the ‘best clubs in Lisbon’ so not for faint-hearted travellers (actually seemed pretty tame!)
A trip to Pink Street is one of the popular things to do in Lisbon at night and it is also a very popular photo spot on Instagram.
- Address: Rua Nova do Carvalho
14. Lunch at LXFactory
LX Factory is pretty fancy and I am sure most of the visitors to this arty lunch spot are tourists but the area is still a pleasant place to brunch in.
Don’t forget to check out the street art behind the main drag and pick up some vintage gifts at the market.
Word of warning – when you are offered olives, bread, etc this is called a couvert and it is not free.
Each item will be added to your bill which is a total contrast to ‘free’ tapas in Granada, Spain!
So if you’d prefer not to get stung with the side dishes politely send them back.
Learn from our mistakes! We were hit with a €28 breakfast of eggs and bread because of this couvert offering.
Check out this E-book on Portuguese food if heading to Lisbon.
You’ll notice that we don’t discuss the Time Out Market in our guide.
While many tourists rave about it, we found it hard work.
The canteen-style dining was noisy, we had to wait for an age for food which came at different times. Staff seemed unhappy.
I normally love this communal kind of dining but it felt more high school than high class.
- Address: R. Rodrigues de Faria 103, 1300 Lisboa, Portugal
Street art at LXFactory in Lisbon
15. DOCAS in Lisbon
Close to the 25 de Abril Bridge, you will find Santo Amaro Docks – a small stretch of bars and restaurants mostly occupied by locals.
I always feel pretty smug when I discover less touristy spots and this area certainly was that.
Check out the boats in the marina while having a beer under Lisbon’s San Francisco Bridge, enjoy Lisbon like a local!
- Doca Santo Amaro Armazém CP, 1350-353, Alcântara, Lisboa, Portugal
So many fun things to do in Lisbon but leaving the centre is also recommended.
Belém is a very cute area of Lisbon just a short tram ride away.
Hire bikes and pedal the 40-minute bike route which takes you along the River Tejo, under the bridge, past the boats to Belém Tower.
More on Belém to come in our guide to Lisbon’s best day trips. Definitely one of my favourite Lisbon attractions.
- Bike hire: €10 – €15 (4-hour hire)
- Tram to Belém: 15 or tram 127 from downtown (get off at Jeronimos Monastery / approx. 30 minutes))
If you only do one thing in Portugal it should be this – eat a custard tart.
The crème de la crème (see what I did there?) can be found in Belém at Pasteis de Belem for under €2 per tart.
Just look for a stupidly large line and you are there!
We were advised to wait in line for a seat (as opposed to take-away) for speedy service but the wait was still around 10 minutes.
- R. Belém, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Sintra, the city for tourists with deep pockets.
Many holidaymakers adore this day trip from Lisbon.
This is where you can visit more than ten national monuments, once they have won the lottery.
Monuments include the National Palace, the Moors Castle and the Pena Palace.
I can’t deny that it is an interesting looking city but I preferred our scooter ride home via Cascais, that’s where we filmed our very last video from the 17-month career break to travel the Americas and Europe.
- Transport: Train 434 route / Station: Rossio / 40 minutes
Practical Lisbon Travel Advice
Accommodation in Lisbon
We were slightly taken aback at the prices of accommodation in Lisbon with central hotels reaching a whopping €500 per night.
As we were on a tighter budget we stayed in the Santos area of the city.
It is close to Bairro Alto (15-minute walk) but far enough away to not hear any noise but still close enough to the top things to see in Lisbon.
Chiado is another nice area which is a little livelier than Santos but not party central.
- Lisbon Check-In: Old tenements, soundproofed clean rooms with aircon. Very affordable.
- Palacio-Ramalhete: 18th-century palace with a swimming pool and buffet breakfast. Estrela district.
Lisbon hostels are cheaper, starting at €14 for a dorm bed (low season).
- Lisbon Central: Great reviews, family-run, social events and free soup every day.
- Selina Secret Garden: Excellent location, hip, swimming pool.
Airbnb in Lisbon
Airbnb is available in Lisbon but it gets a bad rep.
While we use, and love, Airbnb we are always cautious of where we book private accommodation and why type of place it is.
We make every attempt to avoid fleecing the Airbnb mafia’s pockets who are the teams of property owners who buy up accommodation in popular cities, outpricing locals from the property market.
Check the profile of the Airbnb host carefully and read the reviews to avoid adding to the overtourism problem in Lisbon.
Not using Airbnb yet? Enjoy private space and sign up with our code for money off. We’ll get credit too! Thank you.
Weather in Lisbon
Blue skies are enjoyed in July and August but with this being the warmest time of the year (extreme high of 36 degrees) you can expect it to be the busiest.
November to March can get rainy with February being the wettest month.
Transport in Lisbon
Lisbon is pretty well connected with a tram system, buses, and trains to get out of the city.
Taxis also operate as well as the cheaper taxi service, Uber. Don’t rule out a bike ride either!
Getting to Lisbon
The popular Aerobus is an affordable airport to city transfer which takes around an hour and stops at multiple locations in the city.
Check out this neat interactive map of Portugal’s capital city. Remember, most of those streets are hills!
Currency in Lisbon
Lisbon is part of the European Union and uses the Euro. For the most up to date rates see here.
Lisbon Packing List
- A waterproof coat like my Marmot Precip US / UK
- Comfortable walking shoes – I wear Salomon Ellipse trek shoes US / UK
- Camera and battery
- Battery pack like Anker’s range US / UK
- Eco water bottle like the practical Tree Tribe US / UK
- Filter and purifying water bottle such as Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]
- Bamboo cutlery set US / UK for zero waste travel
- Skross universal travel adaptor with USB slots US / UK
- Pacsafe safety net US / UK
- Hydration tablets US / UK if participating in some Portuguese wine tasting!
Portugal’s capital is a city that has something to offer every type of traveller on any kind of budget. It would make the perfect long weekend, with heaps of things to do for under €18 over two or three days or an ideal extended trip for the slow holidaymaker who is fond of day trips! I left my heart in Vancouver, my head in Sarajevo, and my liver in Lisbon!
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