Lisbon is a city steeped in history and traditions that are still at play today. Begin by exploring centuries-old attractions such as the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos or the Torre de Belém, before hopping on a wooden tram through the city's prettiest and most historic streets. You can also join a walking tour to seek out the stories behind the families that have been salting cod and preparing piri-piri chicken for generations, tasting as you go. But the city has a modern side too, with creative and colourful street art sprayed onto the sides of different buildings. Discover the best things to do during a visit here to get to the heart of what makes Lisbon so wonderful.
Below our experts share their top tips for making the most of your time in the city, while here you'll find our guides focusing on Lisbon's best hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping, plus how to spend a weekend in Lisbon.
Explore a centuries-old monastery
This imperious 15th-century Manueline monastery was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama's 'discovery' of India. The main attraction of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is the delicate Gothic chapel that opens up on to a grand monastery, in which some of Portugal's greatest historical figures are entombed.
Insider’s tip: If you are visiting over a weekend, choose a time when mass is being held, allowing you to access the church without a queue and see it in its full glory as a church rather than a museum.
Price: ££; free on the first Sunday of each month
Peer at the Atlantic from inside an impressive tower
The early 16th-century Torre de Belém stands out over the mouth of the Tejo, guarding the entrance to the city's harbour. It is a symbol of maritime Lisbon, and is reached via a walkway raised out over the water on timbers. Inside it is filled with intricate stonework and has wide Atlantic views.
Insider’s tip: Look for the rhinoceros sculpted on the base of a turret, which is considered to be the first sculpture of such an animal in Western European art. It probably depicts the rhinoceros that King Manuel 1 sent Pope Leo X in 1515.
Survey the city from the castle walls
The winding medieval streets of Lisbon's most ancient neighbourhood, Alfama, twist up to the city's Moorish pinnacle, Castelo de São Jorge. The dusk-orange walls of the ancient castle date back to the ninth century and lord over the city – they are visible from almost every street. The view from the top isn't bad either.
Insider’s tip: Don’t just visit the castle, but also dip into Lisbon’s imposing 12th-century cathedral nearby and then head for a coffee at Audrey's Café in hotel Santiago de Alfama, from which you look onto the church where Christopher Columbus got married.
Nearest metro: Santa Apolónia
Get the inside scoop on Alfama
There are lots of free walking tours in Lisbon, many hosted by students who benefit from tips, but nothing comes close to Discover Walks, a company rolled out globally which has garnered high praise. There is a wide choice of options, but start with the free 90-minute tour of Alfama, Lisbon’s most fascinating district where history is writ large on every narrow street.
Insider’s tip: This tour has something for everyone: history, yes, but it also explores Lisbon’s music, fado, its flag, its patron saint and the famous azulejos (tiles) that characterise the city. Take a camera and flat shoes for the hills and cobblestones.
Hop aboard a tram to scoot up Lisbon's steep hills
The most charming way to tick off a few sights is by riding the wooden tram 28 as it rumbles through Lisbon's prettiest and most historic streets. Starting at the foot of Bairro Alto, the vintage carriage trundles through the shopping districts of Baixa and Chiado before lurching and labouring past the churches and castles on the cobbled hills of the Alfama and Graça neighbourhoods.
Insider’s tip: Avoid carrying any valuables aboard the tram if possible and safeguard your mobile, handbag and wallet as this ride is infamous among locals for being one which pickpockets target as it is mainly used by tourists.
Departs: From Praca Luis de Camões to Graça every 15 minutes
Discover a remarkable private collection of art
One of the 20th century's great philanthropists, Armenian Calouste Gulbenkian, left much of his art and historic artefacts to his favoured city, Lisbon. The museum set up in his honour, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, now houses one of Europe's most epic collections. Look out for priceless Hellenic vases, ancient Chinese porcelain and paintings by Rembrandt, Monet and Van Dyck. There's also an affiliated modern art museum opposite.
Insider’s tip: Don’t miss the special room dedicated to French artist René Lalique, which holds a superb collection of his jewellery and glass. It's just one example of an impressive body of work on the decorative arts.
Nearest metro: Entrecampos
Cais do Sodré
Scope out the best street art
Underdogs is a cultural platform based in the capital and founded by Lisbon’s best known street artist, Vhils. By prior arrangement, you can book a three-hour guided tour to visit a variety or urban art all over the city, such as Obey Giant by Vhils and Shephard Fairey. You can also visit the platform's gallery to view the current works on exhibition.
Insider’s tip: The tour ends at the Underdogs Art Store in Cais do Sodré, where you can buy limited editions of the work visited, as well a wide range of signed editions by Vhils and other artists and book by and about them.
Nearest metro: Cais do Sodré
Tickle your tastebuds with classic Lisbon dishes
Culinary Backstreets offers three very different tours (each celebrating a different neighbourhood), which take you into a hidden Lisbon where generations of families have been salting cod and preparing piri-piri chicken over charcoal pits. On the Song of the Sea tour, you'll wander into food markets and past docks in search of cod fritters and goose barnacles in the narrow streets of the working class district of Alcântara.
Insider’s tip: As much about the people and the place as the kitchen, these tours are for keen foodies with an appetite for everything, but make sure you try the little known Portuguese sheep cheeses, rich in both variety and flavour.
This aristocratic hill town to the west of the city is studded with fairytale palaces, botanical gardens and wild woodlands. It is famous for its misty, cool microclimate, which is one of the main reasons royalty would retreat here from Lisbon during the hot summers. The train to Sintra departs from Rossio station every 20 minutes and takes about 40 minutes.
Insider’s tip: Allow a whole day to visit Sintra, which poet Lord Byron described as an 'Eden'. In between the gardens and historic palaces, treat yourself to a lunch at the elegant 18th-century Palacio de Seteais, now a luxury hotel.
Cascais, Estoril and beyond
These neighbouring beach towns are the best of the city's seaside suburbs. Destinations in themselves, they are connected by an Atlantic-front promenade. The region's best beaches (Adraga, Guincho and Grande) are found on the coastal road north, beyond Cascais. From Cais do Sodré station, the coastal train to Cascais and Estoril leaves every 20 minutes and takes about 40 minutes.
Insider’s tip: Stop for a drink at the charming old Hotel Palácio in Estoril. Built in the 1930s, the hotel maintains its air of grandeur and was the setting for Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.