Don’t miss the touristy things in an effort to “live like a local.” You can get a slice of local life AND discover the reasons why destinations became popular in the first place. Lisbon has showstopping attractions that you just can’t miss. Here are 11 of my favorites. Video and detailed map included in post to help you plan your trip!

Let’s not be too cool for the touristy stuff, especially in Lisbon

Consider this my plea to do the popular things when you’re on vacation. To convince you, I thought that I’d share one of the best examples of incredible attractions that I’ve experienced. Missing the touristy things to do in Lisbon would be a tragedy.

Be a tourist!

“Don’t be a tourist” is a rallying cry among a certain type of traveler. The one too cool to go check out the Eifel Tower or wander the old city. One must instead immerse oneself in the daily life of the people who live in one’s chosen destination, eschewing anything “inauthentic.” Doing the touristy things is just the worst and a waste of time, according to this particular type of traveler.

While I certainly love experiencing a slice of local life—one of my greatest pleasures in traveling is finding a quiet square, the market where only the locals go, or simply getting lost—I also embrace the touristy stuff with gusto. You are, after all, a tourist. So be a tourist!

Popular for a reason

Some things are wildly popular for a reason. They’re why people flock to a destination in the first place. Whether it’s natural beauty, historical significance, or just plain fun, these attractions have a wow factor that day-to-day life, no matter how cool, can’t touch.

Don’t miss them. There’s time to immerse yourself in local culture and play the hits.

Elevador da Bica Touristy things to do in Lisbon
The Elevador da Bica is a can't miss in Lisbon

Do not miss the touristy things to do in Lisbon!

It’s hard to beat Lisbon’s wow-factor sites. This gorgeous city has everything from ancient castles and eerie ruins to sweeping lookouts (complete with tourist wine). Most are a bargain at twice the price, so you won’t blow your whole holiday budget on sightseeing. Lisbon’s excellent public transit system means that you won’t spend all your time getting there and getting away. I did a touristy thing or two each day I was there and then spent the rest of my day doing my best not being a tourist. Balance!

11 can’t-miss touristy things to do in Lisbon

This is by no means exhaustive (Lisbon has a lot of hits), but these are my favorite blatant touristy things I did while in Lisbon. For most of these, I also have a little thing you can do to get a tiny bit off the beaten path.

I’m presenting them more or less in the order in which I did them. The map below has the details. Subscribe today for the exclusive free Lisbon guide coming soon (and loads of other goodies available today)!

The sites

Click on a link to skip to the attraction. Find all the information you need, including an annotated map below

  1. Tram 28

  2. Put the fun in funicular: Ascensor Glória and Elevador da Bica

  3. Capture the Castelo de São Jorge
  4. Convento do Carmo
  5. Elevador de Santa Justa
  6. Belém
  7. Pastéis de Belém
  8. Monesterio dos Jerónimos
  9. Torre de Belém
  10. Rua Nova do Carvalho (Pink Street)

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1. Tram 28

Why you’ll love it

The cheapest way to tour Lisbon is also one of the best. Historic Tram 28 takes you on a whistle stop tour through Lisbon, and it’s the perfect way to orient yourself to Lisbon. I did this on my first day, and it not only was fun, but also very helpful for finding my way around. You’ll pass the Arco da Rua Agusta, Sé (the Lisbon cathedral; see below) and more. Plus the tram itself is super cute, and it’s fun to wind your way along the narrow streets and getting glimpses in buildings.

I recommend doing this at an off-peak time (weekday if you can, especially if you’re there during a busy season), to ensure that you get a window seat. If you can’t get a window seat, or the tram is very crowded, consider waiting.

Depending on where you’re staying, I would pick it up at Parça Luis de Camões (if you have a little time and are feeling peckish, get yourself pastel de nata at Mantegaria!) in the direction of Martim Moniz, in sight of Castelo de São Jorge. You can buy your ticket on board (have cash!).

Hang out at the park at the end of the line for a bit. Perhaps have a glass of tourist wine if it’s available and enjoy the castle views.

Then take it all the way back to the end. There’s a cool cemetery. No one famous, but I had fun wandering around. Then take it back to Chiado, where you can then wander about Bairro Alto and also take the famous Elevador da Bica (see below).

Wander a bit off the beaten path

You’ll likely take Tram 28 a lot, and it can be fun to hop on and hop off. Hop off at a stop that looks interesting to you, and then wander around a bit. Lisbon overflows with interesting little side streets. Get lost a little!

Tip

Be extra careful with your belongings. Tram 28 is a haven for pickpockets

2. Put the fun in funicular: Ascensor Glória and Elevador da Bica

Touristy things to do in Lisbon
The incredible lookout point at the top of the Elevador da Gloria

Why you’ll love it

You have almost certainly seen this photo—a bright yellow or graffiti-covered tram, on a narrow track atop a steep hill. I’m pretty much down for any funicular. I first rode one in Italy with my sister, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. These old-fashioned rides usually offer a lovely view and a steep ride, like a roller coaster without the stomach plumet.

Here’s the kicker in Lisbon—if you see one, take it the first time you head up a hill. This place has loads of hills, and if they thought that a ride would be useful, you might regret second-guessing them.

My first morning in Lisbon, jetlagged and needing to kill an hour before meeting my host to let me into my apartment, I had my first fantastic cup of coffee at a little café just off Praça dos Restauradores. Caffeinated, I confirmed on Google Maps that a quick climb up a hill would get me within two minutes of my flat for the week. There was a funicular, Ascensor Glória, but I decided that some fresh air and exercise would do me good.

Dear Reader, I am an idiot. That hill was SO steep. I had to stop a couple of times, already at the point of no return. I pretended to admire the very good street art on the way up, but it was just an excuse to pant.

At the top of the hill, I contemplated my foolish choice, overlooking sweeping vistas of the city, my face, I’m sure a florid red mess. I learned my lesson. Unless I’d seen the entire lay of the land, I took the elevadors (a point of pride—by the end of my stay, I was much more acclimated to the climbs and could walk up the hills easily).

The funiculars are part of Lisbon’s public transportation system, and so if you had a 24-hour ticket, you’ll be able to ride them.

Wander a bit off the beaten path

Take a stroll at the top of Ascensor Glória into Bairro Alto or Príncipe Real, or wander off the main road at the top or bottom of Elevador da Bica. If you’re wanting a bite or a glass of something, try Lost In, just off the view point of Ascensor Glória (head away from the funicular on the same side of the street). Breathtaking views . . . with wine!

Tip

Elevador da Bica is undergoing a renovation at this writing, and it’s scheduled to be completed in June 2022

3. Sé (Lisbon Cathedral)

Why you’ll love it

If you’ve seen photos of Lisbon, you’ve probably seen one of Tram 28 passing an ancient cathedral. , constructed in the 12th century, was heavily damaged in the earthquake (the roof fell on parishioners), but much of it was restored in the early 20th century. Outside, you’ll find tons of people trying to get their iconic Instagram shot of a classic yellow Tram 28 passing just in front of Sé.

Get a ticket that includes a wander through the cloisters (it’s only €4.00). That was my favorite part, so peaceful. Even when it’s crowded, people tend to remain quiet and respectful. You can also see some excavation areas, trying to uncover what was lost in the earthquake.

Wander a bit off the beaten path

The path here is really very beaten, but before you walk away or hop on Tram 28 again, check out the neighborhood just behind Sé.

Tip

Do make sure that you’re dressed modestly (if your shoulders are bare, pack a pashmina; remove your hat)

4. Capture the Castelo de São Jorge

Click on an image to view the gallery.

Why you’ll love it

Super touristy and fun to scamper around, Castelo de São Jorge belongs on your list. I had a view of the Moorish castle, dating back to the 11th century, from my Airbnb flat (my castle views in Portugal ruined me for any other view). It’s crowded and loud, but I had a blast wandering around. The views from the top of the Castelo are among Lisbon’s best, and that’s saying a lot.

While the castle dates back to the 11th century and the Moors (it was then captured in the 12th century by the first king of Portugal), the site has evidence of settlements going back to the 7th century BCE (you can see some of the archeological digs). The palace dates to the 15th century through to the earthquake of 1755, when most of it was destroyed. You can wander the ruins.

If you’re hungry, there’s a restaurant (I didn’t  try it, but I generally avoid such restaurants). There’s also tourist wine with a view, of which I did partake.

Wander a bit off the beaten path

Again, a path most beaten, but the neighbors get into it. When I was there, I spied some funny kitschy window displays.You can then wander through Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon.

Tip

This place gets absolutely packed. While you'll always have crowds, try going midweek and off hours

5. Convento do Carmo

Why you’ll love it

I stayed just a few minutes’ walk from the Convento do Carmo, so this was a no-brainer for me. This convent serves as a memorial to the great earthquake of 1755. All that remains are the beautiful arches of the convent, and it’s a bit eerie wandering about. I went on a relatively quiet morning, and I recommend, as with all of these sites trying go during off times. Outside is an open-air museum, with classic and modern art pieces.

The sacristy is now a museum, which, while small, is definitely worth checking out. I did find the exhibit of the two pre-Columbian mummies disturbing, and a reminder of Portugal’s role at the start of colonization.

Wander a bit off the beaten path

Be sure to take a spin around the square afterwards. It’s peaceful and classic Lisbon.

Tip

You can avoid the huge lines for the Elevador Justa by sneaking around back. You can ride up the last bit and get all the sights without wasting your time waiting in line

6. Elevador de Santa Justa

Why you’ll love it

The sweeping Lisbon views and ornate metalwork reminiscent of the Eifel Tower make the Elevador de Santa Justa worth doing. However, heed my words, and, unless you really, really want to ride up the whole thing, just cut around the back after visiting Carmo. Depending on when you go, you won’t wait in line at all (I think I waited for one elevator), and you will still get the awesome views.

The Elevador ascends one of Lisbon’s highest hills, and it’s technically part of the public transit system. It takes you from Baixa to Chiado and Bairro Alto (where I stayed). “Splurge” on the €1.50 it will run you to do the viewpoint.

Wander a bit off the beaten path

A very beaten path, this, but you can wander around the neighborhood surrounding Convento do Carmo, or explore edges of Bairro Alto (head to the right instead of left).

Tip

If you really want to ride the whole elevator, the lines are less for going down than going up

8. Belém

Click on an image to view the gallery.

Why you’ll love it

Dear Reader, I went to Belém the day after I got back from Sintra. I was tired, the weather had turned very hot, and I was out of gas. As I sipped my morning coffee, I contemplated bagging the adventure. It’s just a tourist trap. Who cares if I miss it? I’ve seen so much.

Oh, stop being a baby, I told myself. Just get on the tram, and if you hate it, you can always turn around and go back. I got on the crowded tram, standing room only, and a guy’s rather ripe armpit was in my face. I almost bagged it.

I persevered, though, and I’m so glad I listened to myself, Dear Reader, because, even after everything I’d seen on my trip, Belém actually had me saying WOW out loud. UNESCO thought so, too, because two of the three sites I’m going to tell you about are World Heritage sites.

Wander a bit off the beaten path

Make sure to take time to wander the parks and the riverfront.

Tip

I wish I'd spent more time out here, because there's so much to see and do. You might want to plan on getting out this way a couple of times

8. Pastéis de Belém

Why you’ll love it

Iconic pastel de nata, those delicious Portuguese egg tarts that I still dream about originated at Pastéis de Belém shop in the mid-19th century. While I liked the ones at the aforementioned Mantegaria much better than the ones here, you really do need to sit in this old café and have yourself a lovely snack. It’s packed, super touristy, and fun. Your wait in line is worth it.

Tip

The line moves pretty fast, and it's worth it to wait for a table

9. Monesterio dos Jerónimos

Why you’ll love it

As an undergraduate, I wrote a term paper on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale, which involved reading a lot of early Church Fathers, including Jerome. Good lord, I hate that guy. What a sexist jerk. Read him, if you don’t believe me.

Having said that, the man’s monastery in Belém is gorgeous. Construction began on this UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monesterio dos Jerónimos (also known as Monastery of the Hieronymites) in the early 16th century on the site where Vasco da Gama’s crew stayed before leaving for India and to commemorate Henry the Navigator. Vasco da Gama is entombed there.

So, Jerome’s a jerk, and colonialism’s evil, but the building’s lovely at leasst?

Really, it’s jaw-droppingly impressive and worth the visit. The stone carving is exquisite, and the cloisters are stunning. You have to see it this paragon of Manueline architecture to believe it.

Wander a bit off the beaten path

If the day’s fine, hang out at Praça do Império Garden before walking over to Torre de Belém. There was a beer truck when I was there, and I had a delightful local IPA, of all things.

Tip

You can get a combined ticket for the monastery and Torre de Belém

10. Torre de Belém

Why you’ll love it

I mentioned that it was hot that day, and I was still worn out. Torre de Belém was just enough of a walk for me not to want to do it, but WOW. I’ve never seen anything like it. Dating from the same era as the monastery, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this tower on the banks of the Tagus river was both a commemoration of Vasco da Gama’s colonial voyages and also a fortress.

I happily waited in line to climb up the narrow, twisty stairs with a gagillion other tourists. The views from the tower of the river and the Ponte 25 de Abril (April 25 bridge) are glorious. Again, I say WOW!

There’s plenty of places to sit and take it in (and a little wine truck, too), and I did, for well over an hour, so happy that I’d overcome my resistance.

DO NOT miss Torre de Belém!

Get a bit off the beaten path

It’s a beaten path, but do walk the river on your way back to the tram. You get a view of the bridge, and Lisbon’s Cristo Rei across the river. I watched to men fishing off the river. Before catching the train, grab a bite at Pão Pão Queijo Queijo (Bread Bread Cheese Cheese) and perhaps a beer at one of the cafés. You will have had a wonderful afternoon.

Tip

Going inside means climbing a lot of steep stairs in close quarters, with lots of people. It may not be suitable for persons with disabilities

11. Rua Nova do Carvalho (Pink Street)

Why you’ll love it

Rua Nova do Carvahlo (Pink Street) was Lisbon’s red-light (pink light?) district, but now it’s lively in a different way. Get your Instagram shots here, and then grab a stool for some excellent tinned fish at Sol e Pesca!

Get a bit off the beaten path

Wander around the Cais do Sodre neighborhood, and you’ll find some quiet, authentic streets.

Tip

At night, you'll find a happening spot with tons of bars and clubs. Plan your timing according to what you want to experience

Plan your own Lisbon’s greatest hits adventure!

Have fun! Do the touristy things and take advantage of what Lisbon has to offer! The map below has all the spots described here, including links. If you like it, you’re going to love my complete guide, coming soon! Subscribe today and be the first to know when it’s live! You’ll get loads of other goodies, too, and it’s all FREE.

General considerations

In addition to being worth the hype, Lisbon’s greatest hits won’t break your bank. Public transportation is excellent and will get you to most of these.

I recommend pacing yourself with the touristy things. I did one or two of these a day and then spent the rest of the day exploring more authentic Lisbon.

Solo female travel

Lisbon ranks among the safest cities in Europe, and it’s refreshing. Other than the usual concerns about pickpockets (especially on Tram 28) and the caveat that things happen, you should be fine with basic street smarts. Enjoy!

Accessibility

For information on accessible travel, this post from Disabled AccessibleTravel could be of help.

Public transport

Lisbon’s pubic transport system is excellent, and you really don’t need anything else to get around. It’s cheap, safe, and comprehensive. Prices include not just the subway and trams, but also the funiculars and the Elevador de Santa Justa. For the latest prices and info, consult the official Carris website.

On days when I planned on moving around a lot, I bought a 24-hour pass.

Lisboa Card

Depending on how many sites you’re planning to visit in a given day, you may wish to purchase the Lisboa Card. I didn’t, but it’s something to consider. The Lisboa Card gives you public transit access, as well as admission to several attractions over the course of a set period of time.

The map

All the locations from this post are here, you can filter and sort to help you with your trip planning. 

Filter by
Neighborhood
  • Bairro Alto
  • Baixa
  • Belém
  • Cais do Sodre
  • Castelo, Alfama & Mouraria
  • Chiado
  • Rossio and Baixa
TitleCategoryAddressDescriptionLinkCityNeighborhoodCost

Your Can’t-Miss Lisbon

What’s YOUR favorite touristy thing to do in Lisbon? Let us know in the comments!

Neighborhood Guide to Lisbon this one is Alfama and has a photo of the winding streets distinctive of the area)

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