I cannot tell you how much a long weekend in Lisbon just makes sense. A short flight from the UK, fast and affordable taxi ride, and suddenly you’re sipping sangria at a miradouro while soaking up the views of pastel-coloured buildings.
While planning my solo trip to Lisbon I was initially intimidated by the city’s infamous 7 hills but I was soon to learn that Lisbon is far more accessible than it looks. Between trams, funiculars, actual outdoor escalators, not to mention the numerous taxis and tuk tuks, this is a city that makes it so easy for tourists to explore, whatever their preferred method of transport.
For me, one of the best things to do in Lisbon is just explore it. Wandering the winding, cobbled streets, discovering azulejo-covered buildings, hidden palaces, crumbling convents and freshly-baked pastéis de nata is my kind of itinerary.
If that sounds like fun to you too, check out this stylish Lisbon travel guide to discover all my favourite places to wander to in Lisbon.
Note: My trip was self-funded but this post contains some affiliate links.
Best things to do in Lisbon
Check out the views from the miradouros
Lisbon makes the most of its unique landscape by having miradouros (viewpoints) dotted all over the best vantage points of the city. Far from simple viewing platforms, these miradouros are gathering places where you’ll often find kiosk cafes serving snacks and buskers providing live music.
Hopping on Tram 28 (more below) will take you past a number of my favourite miradouro. You will also find tuk tuks around tourist spots like Lisbon Cathedral touting to take you on a tour of the best for about 30 Euro (depending on your bartering skills!) They looked a lot of fun and would be perfect for families.
In my opinion, there are 3 miradouros in Lisbon you must not miss:
Miradouro de Santa Luzia – This is my absolute favourite miradouro in Lisbon because it has a beautiful tiled terrace draped in bougainvillea. It’s a hugely popular photo spot but if you can find a free seat, it’s a wonderful place to perch and people watch.
Miradouro das Portas do Sol – Just around the corner from Santa Luzia, this miradouro has fantastic views of the red roofs of Alfama. There’s a little kiosk here where you can buy Sangria and pastel de nata.
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte – The highest viewpoint in Lisbon has far-reaching views of Castelo de Sao Jorge and The Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge).
Miradouro da Graca – A popular spot to watch sunset.
If you’d rather head to a bar with a view check out:
Elevador de Santa Justa
Another viewpoint you can’t miss in Lisbon is the viewing platform at the top of the gothic, wrought iron Elevador de Santa Justa.
The Elevador de Santa Justa was designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, yes he of the tower in Paris, and you can see the similarities between their styles. It opened in 1902 and has been ferrying passengers between the Baixa neighbourhood to Carmo Convent ever since.
You can still ride the elevador today and the cheapest way to do so is to purchase a 24.hr Carris card from a Metro station, which covers all public transport including trams and funiculars.
The queues to ride the elevador can be excessively long though as it only fits a small number of people at a time. So what I did was ride the Gloria funicular uphill, stroll along past the Carmo Convent and then accessed the viewing platform at the top of Elevador de Santa Justa, which was free of charge during my visit outside of peak season.
Ride Tram 28
The iconic Tram 28 features on many must-do in Lisbon lists. The historic yellow tramcar rattles and screeches through some of Lisbon’s most picturesque streets and the best thing is the whole 45-minute journey only costs €3.
These are my top tips for riding Tram 28:
- To guarantee a seat, board at the end of the line in either Praca Martim Moniz or Campo de Ourique. (You’ll know where the tram stop is based on the lines!)
- You can pay for your ticket in cash on board (€3 per ride) or buy a 24-hour Carris pass from a Metro station, which covers all public transport, including trams and funiculars for €6.60.
- Or don’t board it at all! I walked most of Tram 28 route on my first day in Lisbon in order to get my bearings. You can also hop on Tram 12E from Praca da Figueira to Alfama or hop on the more expensive but less crowded Hills Tramcar Tour.
Ride Elevador da Bica
Arguably the most picturesque funicular in Lisbon, the 100-year-old Elevador da Bica was declared a National Monument in 2002.
This funicular connects Largo do Calhariz to Rua de São Paulo by ascending one of the steepest streets in Lisbon. The view from the top, which extends over pastel-coloured houses all the way to the Tagus River, is truly stunning.
I didn’t end up riding this funicular due to the queues, I just walked up the stairs alongside it instead. The entrance to the funicular is quite unique though – you’ll find it tucked into an arch of a building on Rua de São Paulo.
Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest and most characterful neighbourhood and spending a few hours getting lost here is an absolute must. The steep, cobbled streets of Alfama are lined with tiled buildings in rainbow colours that have retained their original charm while housing modern cafes, restaurants and guesthouses today.
Alfama is also home to some of Lisbon’s most iconic historic buildings, including the Se Cathedral, Castelo de S. Jorge and the National Pantheon.
If you ride Tram 28 or head to my favourite Miradouro – Miradouro de Santa Luzia – then you’re in Alfama.
Delve into Lisbon’s history
Many of Lisbon’s top tourist attractions delve into the city’s centuries old history.
A few of my favourite sights include:
Carmo Convent – The dramatic open-sky ruins of Convento do Carmo are what remains after the 14th century building was ravaged by the 1755 earthquake. I enjoyed wandering through the ruins and discovering the surprising treasures (aka a trio of mummies!) in the small archaeology museum. (I bought tickets on the door for € 4.)
Jerónimos Monastery – One of the most impressive and beautiful buildings in Lisbon is the fairytale-like Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases the Portuguese Gothic Manueline style of architecture. The monastery was built in the 16th century and is a stunning example of the wealth and power of Portugal during its golden age of exploration. The church is also the final resting place of some of Portugal’s most famous figures, such as Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões, King Manuel I and King John III.
Come first thing for shorter queues and make sure you check out Belem Tower & Padrão dos Descobrimentos while in the area. (Save time by buying entrance tickets in advance here. Alternatively get free entrance with a Lisboa Card. See box below.)
Castelo de Sao Jorge – I didn’t have time to go inside the extensively restored Castelo de Sao Jorge on my visit to Lisbon, choosing instead to wander the streets of Alfama just below it. The castle, which was originally established by the Romans, sits grandly atop one of Lisbon’s highest hills so you’ll likely catch sight of it at different points of your trip.
If you do want to visit, there is a museum that pieces together the castle’s history from its Moorish beginnings in the 11th century. And I’ve heard the views of Lisbon from the castle walls are amazing.
National Tile Museum – Housed in a former convent, the National Tile Museum is a stunning tribute to the art of azulejo and includes some of Portugal’s earliest azulejo masterpieces.
Where to eat in Lisbon
A few places I enjoyed dining at in Lisbon are:
Of course, the one thing you have to try in Lisbon (especially if you have a sweet tooth like me) are pastéis de nata. Everybody has their faves but my top 2 picks are:
Castro – An atelier of pastéis de nata where you can watch them being made while sipping coffee and sinking your teeth into freshly baked pastry.
Pasteis de Belem – This bakery has been making the original Pastéis de Belém, following an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, since 1837 and sells over 20,000 pastries daily. Despite being hugely popular the queues go down quite fast due to various take out and dine in options. I have to say these were definitely my favourite pastéis.
Where to stay in Lisbon
The One Palacio
I absolutely loved staying at The One Palacio. Lisbon’s newest 5-star hotel is housed in a 18th century palace that has been meticulously restored – including some of the prettiest stucco ceilings I’ve ever seen. The bedrooms are luxuriously cosy and well appointed, with plenty of plug sockets including usb ports built into the bedside tables. I loved the a la carte breakfasts you can enjoy in the grand dining rooms or relaxing courtyard, and enjoyed some delicious bar snacks and room service after all the sightseeing. The hotel’s location (just off Av. Da Liberdade) made pretty much everywhere I wanted to see walkable.
I also spent 1 night at Palacio Ramalhete – an 18th century palace turned boutique hotel with 16 distinctive rooms & a small outdoor pool. I chose to stay in Executive Dove – originally the palacio’s chapel – which is wrapped in exquisite original Portuguese tiles, even in the bathroom. (Fun fact, Madonna rented the Palácio for a year in 2018-2019 and Executive Dove was one of the rooms she used as her bedroom!)
Breakfast at the Palacio includes freshly baked pastries from the in-house chef served in an elegant dining room with striking stucco ceilings & more azulejo tiles. Service throughout my stay was excellent & personable (think: complimentary beer and wine enjoyed in the lounge after a long day of sightseeing) and the hotel’s location near the Tagus River was convenient for exploring Belem, the LX Factory & Time Out Market.
Staying at Palacio Ramalhete felt like an authentic Portuguese homestay… with noble friends from the 18th century! Definitely a unique find in Lisbon.
More of my top picks for hotels in Lisbon are:
Top excursions in Lisbon
Sunset boat cruise
Day trip to Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais
I booked a full day tour to Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais with Get Your Guide and loved it. Transfers from central Lisbon were included, as was my entry ticket to the fantastical Pena Palace. The guide was excellent and we covered a lot of ground in a short space of time. Check out this reel to find out more about this day trip.
Well, I think that’s everything I loved about Lisbon. I travelled solo and spent 3 nights/4 days in the city and highly recommend it. Please visit my Instagram profile @jayneytravels for more insights.
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