10 Cool Things to Do in Lisbon

Looking for unique experiences in Lisbon?

Aug 29, 2023
outdoor market in lisbonoutdoor market in lisbon

Lisbon, the vibrant capital city of Portugal, is a fascinating destination that has something to offer to everyone, so if you’re wondering what to do in Lisbon young adults to older folks, keep reading below. Whether you’re interested in exploring its rich history, indulging in its delicious cuisine, trying out unique experiences in Lisbon, or just taking in the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is the place to be. In this article, we’ll guide you through the 10 fun things to do in Lisbon to make your trip unforgettable.

1. Tour Belém

Maybe not one of the most unusual things to do in Lisbon, but tourism 101, go to Belém. Half an hour from the city center (which can be a lovely cycle along the river if you like), Belém is an area that encompasses several of Lisbon’s most famous landmarks. It’s somewhere you should spend an afternoon even if you’re only here for a weekend. The first, and most famous, is Belém Tower. This limestone tower is probably Lisbon’s most iconic landmark, partly thanks to its beautiful setting. Built in the early 16th century as a fort, it was also the final sight of home for departing sailors and explorers. For €6 you can see the inside, and climb to the top.

tower of belem along the ocean

Another unmissable item of Lisbon activities to see is the Monastery of Jerónimos. This staggering building took over 100 years to complete and is adorned with beautiful carvings, of a blend of styles. You can visit for €10, or buy a combined ticket with Belém Tower for €12. Aside from the monastery is the church where Vasco de Gama is buried, which is free to enter. Right next door is Pastéis de Belém, the premier spot for Lisbon’s most famous delicacy- Pastéis de nata (custard tarts). Nearby is the Berardo Collection, Lisbon’s number one venue for modern art. Has over 900 pieces on display from painters including Picasso, Liechtenstein, and Warhol.

Head straight for the river from the monastery, and you find the impressive monument, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. The beautiful tower, decorated with legendary characters from Portuguese history, marks the start of the Tagus estuary, and makes you feel very small. As you return to the city you’ll pass the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT). You might confuse this stylish building for an extravagant stretch of promenade, but there’s plenty going on inside. Take a look at their website to find out more about the exhibitions that are on while you’re here.

2. Wander around the LX Factory

For those looking for more unique things to do in Lisbon, not far from Belém is the converted LX factory, which has inevitably made its neighborhood, Alcântara, into Lisbon’s hipster central. There are shops and markets, bars and restaurants, exhibitions and concerts. A city within a city, where you can come for your shopping and other services, stay for dinner, and then dance the night away as you please.

aerial view of the lx factory in lisbon

3. Continue on the Museum Trail

Keep going towards the city and you’ll come across a couple of the city’s best museums. The Oriental Museum details the fascinating history of the Portuguese in Asia. The Portuguese were Europe’s trailblazers when it came to Asia, with their empire stretching as far as Sri Lanka. As well as the exhibitions and artifacts on show, there are various courses on offer, a restaurant, and the odd concert of Asian music and dance, creating unique experiences in Lisbon. A little further along is the National Museum of Ancient Art, with paintings, sculptures, gold and silver, and plenty of other exhibits detailing Portugal’s history from the middle ages up to the 19th century.

It’s on the other side of the city, but the final cool things to do in Lisbon museum we have to mention is the National Tile Museum. Colorful tiles, or azulejos, are ubiquitous throughout Lisbon. Learn about their history and admire some of the most beautiful examples at this museum. Tiles may not get your blood pumping, but I can assure you it’s better than it sounds. The displays they’ve put together feature more than just tiles, and many are amazing.

4. Take in the Views

Back to the center, one way to get a real feel for Lisbon’s layout is via the viewpoints, or Miradouros. Lisbon is called the city of seven hills, which is terrible news for the legs, but great news for the eyes. There are some wonderful spots for views out over the city, and Lisboetas have made a bit of a culture out of it. An idea for fun things to do in Lisbon, head to the Miradouros to meet up, and have a drink or a snack, especially at sunset.

view of lisbon from a lookout point in graça

Miradouro das Portas do Sol is the most popular. The views are spectacular and it has the best bar. Set in an award-winning building, the cocktail bar has a DJ on the weekends that can turn your quiet beer into much more. Miradouro de Senhora do Monte is the highest point in Lisbon, which makes the best way to get your bearings and spot all the monuments. It’s also a little less busy, if you’d like some peace and quiet. The coolest in the city is probably Panorâmico de Monsanto, an abandoned entertainment and office complex in the middle of a park. The 360º views might be the best in the city, and it also has that edgy, graffiti vibe going on.

The final one to mention is São Jorge Castle, which is of course a castle rather than a viewpoint. I’ve included it here though as it is one of the highest points of the city. There is also not that much going on inside, it’s far more interesting to look at from the outside, walk along the ramparts, and enjoy the views over Lisbon.

5. Explore Alfama

The area around the castle is called Alfama, and it’s one of the most picturesque and authentic neighborhoods you’ll ever see. Alfama is the oldest area in Lisbon, founded 1200 BC, and for a time, constituted the entire city. It survived the great earthquake of 1755, making it very distinct in appearance from the rest of Lisbon.

Characterized by steep hills, street art, and quaint, mazy streets and alleyways. You’ll also find cute, hidden plazas as you wind your way through. Alfama has long been considered the neighborhood of the poor, much of its character comes from having avoided gentrification. Tourist accommodation is deliberately difficult to find here, but it should certainly be on your list of places to wander around for unusual things to do in Lisbon.

traditional lisbon house with blue door

If your legs struggle with the hills, do not worry. Tram 28, the most iconic route of Lisbon’s famous trams, takes you up the cobbled streets to Alfama, making the journey fun things to do in Lisbon in itself. While you’re there don’t forget to stop by Lisbon’s cathedral- Sé de Lisboa. The bars in Alfama are also some of the best to see live Fado, the classic, melancholic music native to Lisbon. Mesa de Frades is highly recommended for a show.

6. Check out the Markets

The best cities always seem to have great markets, and there’s a couple that you'll want to add to your cool things to do in Lisbon list. The Mercado da Ribeira is one of Lisbon’s most popular destinations. Part of it is a conventional market, open in the mornings, where you can buy all your fresh produce. Its real fame comes from the other part though, which we know as the TimeOut Market.

This massive food hall has been expertly curated. To get a stall, your restaurant must be rated 4 stars or higher. The result is some of the best traditional Portuguese food in the city, combined with some of the top foods from all over the world, all under one, action-packed roof. Other stalls are dedicated to craft beers and wines, so you can mix and match. If you’re here for a while, it’s more economical to find individual restaurants instead of indulging at the market each day. You have to visit at least once though, and it’s a fun thing to do in Lisbon to keep everyone at your table happy, whatever their tastes.

The other market I have to mention is Feira da Ladra. Lisbon’s answer to Camden market is filled with unique experiences in Lisbon and has been a source of bargains for hundreds of years. These days it opens every Tuesday and Saturday. It’s lovely to wander around even if you’re not buying, but you’ll struggle to not find something that takes your fancy, from the vintage clothes, antiques, and trinkets on offer.

7. Sample the nightlife

two women eating food with wine

What to do in Lisbon young adults? The nightlife here is fantastic. There’s plenty of fun things to do in Lisbon, but the city doesn’t lose its personality and individuality in the way that some other party capitals do. You can find great bars all over the city, but if you plan to be out late in the evening or early in the morning, there are a couple of areas you must visit to check out all the Lisbon activities.

Barrio Alto is Lisbon’s most famous, popular, and authentic place to go out for the evening. Little streets are peppered with interesting bars of all kinds, and people cram around tables in corners, on steps, wherever they’ll fit really, to enjoy a bite to eat or a drink. It’s very touristy, yes, but you also find a lot of locals in Barrio Alto, so you’ll never forget where you are.

Cais do Sodré is the slightly more generic party area. Its main strip- Pink Street, wouldn’t look out of place in half of the Mediterranean’s party destinations. It’s no less fun though, as the area is packed with great bars, eateries, and nightclubs.

8. Get Lost in Monsanto Forest Park

One of the great things about Lisbon is that anything they don’t have in the city is generally found very close by. Just to the west of the city, and easily reachable by bike or public transport, is Parque Florestal Monsanto. This vast forest covers over fifty hectares and has trails for walking and cycling, children’s play areas, amusement parks, a palace, and a lake. A fantastic place to escape to for a day or more, and forget that you’re anywhere near a city. Especially useful if you’re here for a while and find the need to experience unusual things to do in Lisbon, or around Lisbon for that matter.

9. Catch some Surf

three people with boards going out to surf

Lisbon may not be a beach city, but as mentioned, much of what the city lacks is not far away. Lisbon has a whole host of beautiful, sandy beaches nearby. The north Atlantic waters can be pretty chilly, so prepare for a bracing experience if you go for a dip in the spring. One thing the Atlantic does provide is waves, so if you’re a surfing fan you’re in luck. If you’re not, well there’s no time like the present to pick up some fun Lisbon activities and learn.

Caixas, to the west, is a nice beach rather than a spectacular one. It is the closest though, you can make it from the center in under an hour on a bike, and half that if you start from Belém. Its proximity makes it the favorite surf spot for locals, and various companies offer lessons. A little further along you have Caravelos, one of the nicest beaches in the area. It’s larger, prettier, and also has some great surf. The same coastline will eventually take you to the beach village of Cascais. If a 90 minute cycle is too much, the views from the train are delightful, and you’ll be there in under an hour. If you’re looking to get away for some unique experiences in LIsbon, this picturesque beach town makes a lovely day trip, with a quaint little center and its own beach.

For the more adventurous wanting some slightly more unusual things to do in Lisbon, there are other beaches to the south. If you’re sticking with the bike it’s best to take the ferry from Belém to Trafaria, a fishing village on the south bank. From there you can head south to the stunning Caparica coast. If you make it as far as Tróia, your reward is calmer, more sheltered waters. You can even take a boat tour to go in search of dolphins.

10. Visit Sintra

castle at sintra

Other destinations are available, but the final one we have space for here is Sintra, which is an hour away by train. This UNESCO heritage site is straight out of a fairytale. There are so many stunning castles, palaces, and gardens that you’ll struggle to get them all in one day. In case you only have a day, make sure to see these 3:

  • Pena Palace - The fairytale town’s most fairytale palace. Pena is stunning, and due to the extraordinary colors, quite difficult to believe is a real place. The gardens are also lovely.

  • Quinta da Regaleira - The palace alone is worth seeing, but you have to go for the gardens. They’re beautiful, have some delightful secret passages to explore, and the well is incredible.

  • The Moorish Castle - There isn’t too much left of the castle itself, but the views from the walls are jaw-dropping.

This may be the end of our list of cool things to do in Lisbon, but if you’re staying for longer, don’t worry, you’ll never have a problem finding great things to do in and around Lisbon. For those not staying long enough to tick off these 10, well sorry, but you’ll just have to come back. If you need help with accommodation, you can count on us. However long you stay for, we’re sure you’ll have a wonderful time in Portugal’s magnificent capital.