Things to do with a week in Lisbon — exploring Portugal's coastal capital

Aerial view of Lisbon's colorful rooftops and historic landmarks.

Lisbon, the vibrant capital of Portugal, offers a perfect blend of historical charm, cultural richness, and modern attractions. Whether you're wandering through its ancient districts, relaxing on its beautiful beaches, or exploring its nearby towns, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Here's a comprehensive guide to making the most of your week in Lisbon.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore the historic Alfama district, including São Jorge Castle and traditional Fado music.
  • Discover Belém's iconic monuments like the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
  • Spend a day in the bustling Baixa and Chiado districts, with highlights such as Rossio Square and the Santa Justa Lift.
  • Unwind at Lisbon's beautiful beaches, including Praia de Carcavelos and Costa da Caparica.
  • Take day trips to nearby gems like Sintra, Cascais, and Óbidos for a more diverse experience.
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Exploring the Historic Alfama District

Post-breakfast, your journey will lead you to the historic Alfama district. As one of Lisbon’s oldest districts, Alfama’s narrow, winding streets, rustic houses, and inviting cafés offer a captivating labyrinth to explore. Renowned for its Fado music, the sad tunes add a charming allure to the area, creating a unique ambiance.

Discovering Belém's Monuments

Belém, located to the west of Lisbon, is a district rich in history and monumental architecture, celebrating Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Here are some must-visit sites in Belém:

Tour the Belém Tower

The iconic Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands gracefully on the edge of the Tagus River. This tower is a profound testament to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, with its intricate architectural details that seamlessly intertwine Moorish and Venetian elements. Taking the time to ascend to the terrace is a must, providing a splendid firsthand view of the river and the enchanting surrounding area.

Admire the Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is another UNESCO World Heritage site in Belém. This magnificent monastery is a stunning example of Manueline architecture, with its elaborate and ornate designs. The monastery is not only a place of worship but also a symbol of Portugal's wealth and power during the Age of Discovery. Don't miss the chance to explore its beautiful cloisters and the church where Vasco da Gama's tomb lies.

Explore the Monument to the Discoveries

A short walk from the Belém Tower lies the Monument to the Discoveries. This impressive structure celebrates the Portuguese who took part in the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. The monument is adorned with sculpted figures of various explorers, monarchs, poets, and priests. The view from the top offers a panoramic vista of the Belém district and the Tagus River.

Belém is a delightful mix of parks and historic buildings that celebrate Portugal's seafaring history. A visit to this district is a journey through time, offering a glimpse into the era when Portugal was a leading maritime nation.

A Day in the Baixa and Chiado Districts

Spend a day exploring the vibrant Baixa and Chiado districts, the bustling heart of Lisbon. These areas are filled with shops, restaurants, and some of the city's main tourist attractions, making them perfect for a day of sightseeing and shopping.

Stroll Through Rossio Square

Rossio Square is one of Lisbon's most famous squares, known for its distinctive tiled pavements and lively atmosphere. It's a great place to start your day, with plenty of cafes and shops to explore.

Shop at Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta is a bustling pedestrian street lined with shops, cafes, and street performers. It's the perfect place to indulge in some retail therapy and soak up the lively atmosphere of Lisbon's downtown area.

Visit the Santa Justa Lift

The Santa Justa Lift is an iconic elevator that offers stunning views of the city. After a short ride to the top, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of Lisbon's historic center, making it a must-visit attraction in the Baixa district.

Spend your day in Baixa and Chiado to truly experience the vibrant energy and rich history of Lisbon's downtown area.

Unwinding at Lisbon's Beautiful Beaches

Lisbon offers a variety of picturesque and tranquil beaches perfect for relaxation and unwinding. Whether you want a calm and sandy scene or a wide-open space with nobody else around, these beaches have something for everyone.

Day Trip to Sintra

A day trip to Sintra is a must when visiting Lisbon. This picturesque town, nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, is just a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon. With its lush forests, charming villas, and majestic palaces, Sintra offers a magical escape from the city.

Explore Pena Palace

Begin your adventure at the stunning Pena Palace, a colorful and eclectic palace that stands atop a hill, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The palace's vibrant colors and unique architecture make it a highlight of any visit to Sintra.

Visit the Moorish Castle

Next, head to the Moorish Castle, an ancient fortress that dates back to the 8th century. The castle's walls provide panoramic views of Sintra and the surrounding landscape. It's a great spot to take in the history and natural beauty of the area.

Wander Through Quinta da Regaleira

Finally, make your way to Quinta da Regaleira, a grand estate known for its mystical gardens and underground tunnels. The estate's intricate architecture and lush gardens create a sense of wonder and exploration, making it a perfect end to your day in Sintra.

Comfortable shoes are a must, as the town’s hilly terrain requires a bit of walking. Consider taking a tuk-tuk or bus to navigate between the main sights.

Experiencing Lisbon's Nightlife

Lisbon's nightlife is a vibrant and unforgettable experience, offering something for everyone. Whether you're into live music, dancing, or simply enjoying a cocktail with a view, the city has it all. The energy in Lisbon's nightlife districts is palpable, making it a must-experience for any visitor.

Party in Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto is one of the main nightlife areas in Lisbon. This district is a maze of narrow streets filled with a variety of bars and Fado music restaurants. On weekends, the socializing spills out onto the streets, turning the entire area into one giant party. It's a fantastic way to immerse yourself in Lisbon's vibrant atmosphere.

Enjoy Live Music at Cais do Sodré

Cais do Sodré, particularly the famous Pink Street, is another hotspot for nightlife. Here, you can find a range of bars and clubs offering live music. The area is beautifully lit in the evenings, and the air buzzes with energy. It's a great place to see locals and tourists alike enjoying the night.

Sip Cocktails at a Rooftop Bar

For a more relaxed evening, head to one of Lisbon's many rooftop bars. These spots offer stunning views of the city and are perfect for sipping cocktails while watching the sunset. It's a more laid-back way to enjoy Lisbon's nightlife but equally memorable.

Lisbon's nightlife is not just about the places you visit but the experiences you have. From the bustling streets of Bairro Alto to the lively bars of Cais do Sodré, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

Cultural Day in the Parque das Nações

Parque das Nações represents the modern face of Lisbon, originally developed for the Expo '98 world trade fair. This area is characterized by its ultra-modern buildings, bold architecture, and water-themed gardens.

Art and Creativity at LX Factory

Browse Unique Shops

LX Factory, once an industrial area, has transformed into a vibrant creative hub. Here, you'll find a mix of eclectic boutiques and artist studios. It's the perfect place to pick up locally made souvenirs and immerse yourself in Lisbon's contemporary culture.

Enjoy Street Art

The streets of LX Factory are adorned with vibrant street art, making every corner a visual delight. This area is a testament to Lisbon's spirit of innovation and artistry, with murals and installations that captivate visitors.

Dine at Trendy Restaurants

From funky restaurants to stylish cafes, LX Factory offers a variety of dining options. Whether you're in the mood for a quick bite or a leisurely meal, you'll find something to satisfy your taste buds in this trendy spot.

Day Trip to Cascais

Cascais is a stunning day trip from Lisbon, offering a mix of beautiful beaches, delicious food, and breathtaking viewpoints. This charming coastal town is less than an hour away and is filled with fun and interesting things to do.

Exploring the Estrela District

The Estrela District is a hidden gem in Lisbon, offering a blend of historical and natural attractions. Start your journey at the magnificent Estrela Basilica, a stunning example of Baroque architecture. This district is also the starting point for the iconic number 28 tram route, which provides a scenic journey through Lisbon's historic areas.

Gastronomic Delights in Lisbon

Taste Pastéis de Nata in Belém

You simply cannot visit Lisbon without trying one of the local pastéis de nata. These egg custard tarts come encased in beautiful flaky pastry – simple but utterly delicious. The first taste will leave you wanting many, many more.

Dine at a Traditional Tasca

For an authentic experience, dine at a traditional tasca. These small, family-run restaurants offer hearty Portuguese dishes like bacalhau (salted cod) and bifana (a hearty sandwich with pork and garlic). Trust the locals’ recommendations on food—they’re in the know, and you’ll thank yourself for heeding their advice.

Explore the Time Out Market

If you’re looking to sample outrageously good food all under one roof, then you need to head down to the Time Out Market. Five of Lisbon’s top chefs have kiosks among the other 35, all selling regional specials, with each stall and dish curated by an expert. It’s a culinary adventure that beckons food lovers from around the world.

Day Trip to Óbidos

Óbidos is a quintessential Portuguese walled town, renowned for its picturesque streets and historic charm. This small town, once owned by the Queen of Portugal, offers a delightful mix of cobbled streets and traditional houses encircled by ancient walls. A visit to Óbidos is like stepping back in time.


Spending a week in Lisbon offers an unparalleled blend of history, culture, and leisure. From exploring the charming districts of Alfama and Bairro Alto to taking day trips to the picturesque towns of Sintra and Cascais, there is something for everyone.

Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, or someone looking to relax on beautiful beaches, Lisbon has it all. Make sure to plan your days well to fully immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere and rich heritage of this captivating city.

With its diverse attractions and experiences, a week in Lisbon will leave you with unforgettable memories and a longing to return.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Lisbon?

The best time to visit Lisbon is from March to May or September to October when the weather is warm and there are fewer tourists.

How do I get from the airport to my hotel in Lisbon?

You can take a taxi, an Uber, the Aerobus, or the metro from Lisbon Airport to your hotel. The metro is the cheapest option.

Is Lisbon a walkable city?

Yes, Lisbon is a walkable city, especially in the central areas. However, be prepared for some steep hills and cobblestone streets.

What are some must-try foods in Lisbon?

Some must-try foods in Lisbon include Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts), Bacalhau à Brás (salted cod), and Caldo Verde (kale soup).

Do I need to speak Portuguese to get by in Lisbon?

No, you don't need to speak Portuguese to get by in Lisbon. English is widely spoken in tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants.

What are the best day trips from Lisbon?

The best day trips from Lisbon include Sintra, Cascais, and Óbidos. Each offers unique attractions and experiences.

Is Lisbon safe for tourists?

Yes, Lisbon is generally safe for tourists. However, like any major city, it's important to stay aware of your surroundings and take standard safety precautions.

What is the public transportation like in Lisbon?

Lisbon has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, and a metro. It's efficient and affordable, making it easy to get around the city.

Choosing where to go on the Iberian peninsula?

Check out our guide to choosing between Lisbon and Madrid.

Curtis Duggan

Curtis Duggan

Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.


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