In 2016, I had my first opportunity to visit Lisbon briefly as part of a complimentary press trip. I loved it so much and vowed to return again with my family to explore more of the city. Due to current circumstances, it did take me a little longer than I wanted, but I finally returned again to Portugal with my family this past summer.
In August, we went on an Adventures by Disney trip to Portugal, including multiple days in Porto, Lisbon, and the Algarve. At the end of our trip, we returned for one more day to experience more of Lisbon before our flight home. Our four nights in Lisbon still didn’t feel like enough – I could easily have spent a week there, not even including all of the day trips from Lisbon that could be done.
The Portuguese capital of Lisbon is a beautiful place and has become one of the most popular places to visit in Europe. It’s also a highly Instagrammable place, from the beautiful street art, panoramic views of the city, pink street, river views, trams, and steep hills. Be prepared to take lots of photos.
Disclosure: My first trip to Portugal was complimentary but I paid full price for this most recent trip. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links and a purchase/click-through may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
Fun Things To Do in Lisbon
During most of my second, most recent trip, we were on a guided tour of Lisbon. Some of the vendors and tours we took aren’t necessarily bookable, so in this post, I may list an alternative that appears similar.
Note that these activities can be done at a very surface level, or can really be explored more intensely. In many cases, the sites can be seen without having to directly go into them or spend all afternoon. I’d recommend deciding what you want to do on your trip. If your goal is to see many things, a sightseeing tour will be especially useful and will help you cross items off your must-see list.
The Lisbon card is a popular option to purchase because it includes free admission to some attractions. If there’s a concierge at your hotel, talk to them to see what options they have for you to purchase.
Tram tour of Lisbon
The highlight of my first trip to Lisbon was the Hop On Hop Off Tram Tour. This tram tour, which runs through the old city, offers guided narration in a variety of languages through headsets. I found the narration to be educational, and the tram runs slow enough that there are lots of opportunities to take photos.
With the ability to hop on and hop off, it’s a good way to get around the city to see the various sites. The trams are pretty iconic in Lisbon, and the tour is a great way to see the highlights of the city.
Since the tram is limited to traveling only where the tracks are, the same company offers an open-air, double-decker bus tour to see more of the city. It’s also hop-on, hop-off, so you’ll be able to do the rest of your sightseeing that way. That may be a good option if you want to see all of the city, and want to get it done in the easiest way possible.
Tuk Tuk tour
In addition to the trams, the Tuk Tuks are also an iconic site in Lisbon. These small electric vehicles are a great way to get around the winding, narrow streets of the city, and the drivers are very knowledgeable and friendly.
Often, you can book a Tuk Tuk that will pick you up right at the front door of your hotel, so they can be very convenient. Typically the rides are private and they can generally accommodate 4-6 people.
Even if you do a tram tour, you may still want to do a separate Tuk Tuk tour. Some have themes, like the street art tour we took on our trip. While I don’t know if the trip we took is bookable, there are lots of Tuk Tuk tour options on TripAdvisor.
Yacht Trip on the Tagus River
The beautiful Tagus River runs along Lisbon, and a boat tour is a great way to see the coastline, monuments, and buildings from a completely different vantage point. We loved the yacht trip that was included with our Adventures by Disney trip – it was a nice break from touring on land and the views were absolutely beautiful.
I’m not sure of the exact boat we were on, but there are plenty of options online to book, or your hotel concierge could assist. As a large group, we were on a private boat, but there are probably more options for a public tour.
During our ride on the Tagus River, I saw something that looked like so much fun – the HIPPOTrip amphibious vehicles. These are similar to the Duck Tours in the US but almost look like more of a bus. Like the Duck Tours, these vehicles travel on both land and the river.
HIPPOTrip tickets can be booked online. They do sell out, so you’ll want to purchase them when you can. The boats leave from Doca de Santo Amaro in Alcantara and run about 90 minutes including the land and river portions.
You can purchase your HIPPOTrip tickets here.
Our Tuk Tuk tour ended in a former industrial complex now known as LX Factor. This multi-use facility has been transformed into restaurants, shops, bars, and small boutiques. It’s a fun area to walk around, and also includes some really beautiful street art that can be seen throughout the complex.
I’d recommend visiting there for lunch, making sure you take time to explore. The shops are also worth visiting. Be sure to go upstairs to the upper levels where you’ll find smaller boutiques.
The National Tile Museum
After two visits, I still regret not being able to visit the National Azulejo Museum (National Tile Museum). Portugal is so well known for its gorgeous handpainted blue and white tiles, many of which you can see throughout the country.
The National Tile Museum is located at the former Madre de Deus Convent, and the tiles displayed in the museum date back to the 15th century. This may be a better stop for those with older kids, or on adult-only trips.
After our boat tour on our first day in Lisbon, we headed to the Jerónimos Monastery, one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lisbon. There was a line headed into the monastery, but it moved quickly. We arrived towards the end of the day, so our guide gave us a short tour and provided us with some time to take photos before the monastery closed for the day.
The interior of the monastery is absolutely beautiful. There is a fee to visit, and combo tickets with Belem Tower are also offered. We had our guide with us, but there’s also an audio tour that can be purchased separately. The adjacent church has a separate entrance but has no fee to visit.
Castelo de S. Jorge (Saint George’s Castle)
On our second day, we took a walk up (and up, and up, and up) the hills of Lisbon to the Castelo de S. Jorge (Saint George’s Castle in English). Once we reached the highest point in Lisbon, we were at the castle, with its citadel walls and striking facade.
Outside the castle, which is located adjacent to the Alfama and Castelo neighborhoods of Lisbon, there are numerous street vendors selling Lisbon souvenirs. There is an admission fee to enter the castle, and once you are in, there is a lot to explore.
We had a relatively quick visit during our trip. We had some free time and enjoyed all of the gorgeous views from the grounds. This location offers a beautiful vantage point over the city – one of the best views you’ll find. In addition, the grounds are beautiful, with wild peacocks roaming freely.
Monument to the Discoveries
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) is a beautiful monument commemorating the Age of Discovery. It was being restored during my first visit, so I was excited to be able to return to see it without any scaffolding.
During your visit to this area, take the time to walk through the area – the small, quaint cocktail stands are so fun to see, and you can sit by the river to enjoy the view. My kids enjoyed getting a freshly squeezed lemonade from one of the river-side vendors.
Belem Tower or Torre de Belém in Portuguese is the second of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lisbon. It’s located along the banks of the Tagus River, not too far from the Monument to the Discoveries. It’s easy to walk between the two of these popular tourist attractions.
The Tower was built in the 1500s, and in my opinion, is smaller than I’d expect in person. It’s still really beautiful, and absolutely worth seeing. You have the option to purchase tickets to go inside, or you can just look at the exterior (which is what we did). The waterfront location also offers some chairs to sit on, as well as cocktail, popsicle, and lemonade stands.
Feira Da Ladra
Looking for a souvenir of your trip to Lisbon? The Feira Da Ladra is a flea market held in Lisbon on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It’s located at the Campo de Santa Clara in the Alfama district of Lisbon.
Elevator Ride on the Santa Justa Lift
This gorgeous structure is an actual vertical, outdoor elevator located in the Santa Justa area of Lisbon. It was built to create a way to get from the downtown area (Baixa) to the Carmo neighborhood. Now, guests can pay to travel up the elevator to get beautiful views of the city.
If you choose not to go up in the lift, you can still admire the architecture of the structure. While we didn’t have the time to go up in the lift, it’s definitely something I’d recommend doing. I’m sure the views are amazing.
Day Trip to Cascais
Cascais, located about 30-40 minutes outside of Lisbon, is a popular beach community. While there are many hotels and resorts in Cascais, you can also visit for a day trip. It’s a fun little town, with shops, restaurants, and beaches. If you haven’t rented a car for your Lisbon vacation, there is a train that can take you to Cascais.
Time Out Lisbon
On our last night in Lisbon, we met up with some local friends. It does get very crowded, so arrive early in order to be able to get space on one of the shared tables. With so many food options, it’s nice for a group since everyone can choose to get whatever they’d like.
On our trip, I got sushi, my husband got Asian food, and my kids got hamburgers. Some popular chefs have kiosks at the Time Out Market, so this isn’t a traditional food court. Don’t forget dessert – you’ll find gelato, pastel de nata, and other Portuguese specialties. Every food stall at the Time Out Market accepts credit cards only – no cash – so be prepared.
Sintra Day Trip
Just northwest of Lisbon is Sintra, a small town that is most known as the home of Pena Palace. If you’ve done any tourism research on Portugal, you’ve likely seen photos of this colorful palace, with reds and yellows up among the clouds. While the palace is the big draw, don’t miss the town, which includes cute shops and charming little restaurants. It is a beautiful place, but also gets very busy, especially in the summer months.
Sintra can be accessed via train from Lisbon. Once you reach the town, however, you’ll still need to get up to the palace. Public transportation (via public buses) is available. You can also choose to book a tour from Lisbon that includes a trip to Sintra. Here are some reviews of various tours.
Rua Augusta Arch
Rua Augusta Arch, which was featured in the movie Gulliver’s Travels was built to celebrate the city’s rebuilding after the devastating earthquake in 1755. Elevators and stairs take guests to the top of the arch for more views of the city. It’s also beautiful to view from the plaza below.
Other popular things to do in Lisbon include the Carmo Convent, food tours, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (art museum), the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology), and the Lisbon Oceanarium (indoor aquarium).
Where to Stay in Lisbon
I’ve stayed at two different hotels in Lisbon and loved both of them. I also toured a third (on my media trip), which is a great option for families.
Olissippo Lapa Palace is a luxury, 5-star resort located not too far from the waterfront. It is a historic hotel, with beautiful rooms and luxurious amenities. My favorite part of the hotel, however, is the beautiful lagoon-type pool that sits on an oasis in the city.
Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa is another luxury hotels that is great for families. It’s located on a street with luxury shops. The hotel offers a pool, several restaurants, and a very popular rooftop bar.
Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites is a suite-style hotel that is specially built for families. It’s located in the trendy Chiado district of Lisbon. It’s one of the best places to stay if your family needs/wants some extra space.