1. Wake up early to explore.
Whether you are looking to get the best pictures, or hoping to catch a glimpse of the landmarks, the best time of the day to do so is early in the morning. Take advantage of the unobscured views by rising early and visiting the Praça do Comércio, Rossio, or wander through the Baixa and Chiado neighbourhoods to enjoy these sights without the hustle and bustle. Plan your morning walk to enjoy these main sights without having to fend off crowds of other tourists.
2. See one of the best views at the Castelo de São Jorge.
Located at the top of the hill in Alfama, the Castelo de São Jorge offers one of the best views of Lisbon and the Tagus river. This Moorish castle is a historic medieval landmark that overlooks the city. Go back in time by exploring the archeological site or climb to the top of the fort walls for an amazing aerial view of the city.
3. Stroll along the water to Belém.
Belém is located 7km west of the Praça do Comércio. One of the most scenic ways of getting there is by strolling along the pathway beside the water however it is also accessible by transit (Bus 28 Restelo direction, Tram 15 Algés direction, etc.) to help get you there faster. Belém is filled with historic sites to visit, most notably the Torre de Belém and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Jerónimos Monastery just behind the Jardim Praça do Império. Be sure to stop by Pastéis de Belém for a taste of the one of the oldest bakeries who are famous for making the popular portuguese dessert Pastéis de nata created by the neighbouring monastery in the 18th century.
4. Shop the local artisans.
Lisbon is home to a unique array of local artisans and makers using both traditional and modern methods to create unique giftware, home decor and fashion pieces. Head over to the trendy area of the Principe Real neighbourhood (5 minutes from Bairro Alto) to check out the creative hubs of Embaixada and Entretanto that house a number of designers under one collective roof offering them mini stores within these historic buildings, almost like an indoor marketplace.
5. Enjoy the street art.
Lisbon is home to some of the most unique street art and graffiti in the world. Give yourself some time in between sightseeing to wander up and down the streets and staircases in the city and take in the urban artwork. There are also a number of contemporary art installations found throughout the city that are worth exploring as well.
6. Check out the city’s specialty transport.
The streets of Lisbon are lined with the iconic trams that travel throughout the old town. Instead of paying for one of the tourist trams, hop on Tram 28 (one of three historic tram lines that still operates within the city) that winds its way through the old town of Lisbon on one of the original trams first built from 1936 and 1947. There are also three funiculars taking you up the hills of Lisbon or the Santa Justa Elevator built at the turn of the 19th century.
7. Stay somewhere historic.
The Pousada de Lisboa – Praça do Comércio was the perfect choice when looking for somewhere to stay because is is centrally located in the main square of the Praça do Comércio, Located in what was once the Ministry of Internal Affairs building, this heritage building has been beautifully renovated to feature 90 beautiful guest rooms and full service amenities.
Read my full review here.
8. Drop by the flea market.
Shop with the locals every Tuesday and Saturday a the Feira da Ladra (6am-5pm) in the Campo de Santa Clara. Only a 10 minute walk from the Castelo de São Jorge, this lively outdoor market is home to a wide selection of vendors selling both new and old goods. Dating back to as early as the 12th century, and names in the 17th century, this market is the perfect spot for bargain hunters to find Portuguese tile work or ceramics to bring home.
9. Drop by the Fashion and Design Museum.
The Museu do Design e da Moda (MUDE) hosts permanent and rotating exhibits featuring worldwide fashion and design history. Located in the historic grand old bank building (Rua Augusta, 24), the MUDE is open from Tuesday-Sunday and daily admission is free.
10. Eat like a local.
Enjoy the traditional Portuguese dining experience by dropping by one of the family run spots that are often inexpensive but boast menus filled with local dishes made with fresh ingredients. The Chiado neighbourhood is known for their traditional Portuguese cuisine or throughout the narrow streets of Bairro Alto. If you can, try and avoid the tourist traps in Baixa and around landmarks that will often charge you more for their laminated translated menus and “meal deals.”