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Best things to do in Lisbon

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Portugal  /  Central Portugal  /  Lisbon District  /  Lisbon
Things to do in Lisbon range from discovering the city's immense cultural heritage at local museums, to walking its charming back allies and distinctive neighborhoods. Take a walk on the city's waterfront to admire Belem Tower, an architectural jewel built in the Late Gothic Manueline style. Nature and animal lovers flock to Lisbon Oceanarium, the biggest indoor aquarium in Europe and home to more than 450 species of seawater wildlife. History buffs can get in touch with some of the most important events in the history of Portugal at Jeronimos Monastery, home to Maritime Museum and National Archeology Museum.

Lisbon is best known for its Landmarks, Aquariums, and Sacred & Religious Sites.

Top 15 things to do in Lisbon

1. Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

Inspired by Vasco da Gama, Mosteiro dos Jeronimos serves as a great example of Late Gothic Manueline architecture. You can tour the church, where several important events have occurred since the Middle Ages. Limestone sculptures inside the church pay homage to historical naval expeditions. Its impressive, ornate architectural style is partly why this World Heritage Site has become famous. The monastery was founded in 1495, though its structure was not completed for more than a century, in 1601. Vasco da Gama is buried here, along with other notable explorers. You can also visit the site's Maritime Museum and National Archeology Museum, as well as the nearby Tower of Belém.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Lisbon Oceanarium

See more than 450 species of marine life at the biggest indoor aquarium in Europe, Lisbon Oceanarium. Peter Chermayeff designed this massive oceanarium, which opened to the public in 1998, so visitors could learn about native and foreign flora, fauna, and wildlife. View more than 16,000 creatures, including sunfish, penguins, birds, sea otters, sharks, jellyfish, and rays. You'll also find activities for children of all ages. Take a guided tour, participate in a workshop, or sleep overnight with the sharks.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Castelo de S. Jorge

Castelo de S. Jorge, a second-century citadel, overlooks the historical center of the city. This castle dates back to medieval times, approximately 48 BCE, when the city was under Roman rule. Celtic people originally inhabited this hilltop location, but ownership of the area changed over the years from Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians to Romans and a few other key players. In the 10th century, Moorish people fortified the fortress with cerca Moura, or Moorish encirclement. Though the 1755 Lisbon earthquake destroyed much of the castle, the remaining ruins are still open to the public. Explore one of the city's most popular tourist sites by foot, take in views from its high vantage point, and discover the castle's archeological and historic relevance.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. Belém Tower

A World Heritage Site, Belém Tower played an important role in Portuguese exploration during the Age of Discoveries. View the native beige-white limestone used in this Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style. King John II commissioned a defense system to be built at the end of the 15th century. The tower was not built until later, under King Manuel I, and was finally completed in 1519. Though the tower has seen many changes and additions to its original structure, it is still most famous for its beautiful 15th century architecture. As you explore, you'll discover the historical value of this site, which served as a defense at the mouth of the Tagus river and as a prison to many over several centuries.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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5. Alfama

Wander through the oldest district in town, Alfama, known for its high concentration of Fado bars and restaurants. Set between Sao Jorge Castle and Tejo river, it's a good choice of walking areas for tourists. During Moorish rule, this was the entire city. The picturesque side streets and squares survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and today are beautiful tourist attractions. Stroll down Rua do Barao, stop into quaint shops, and listen to Fado--a musical style native to the region--at a local bar. As you explore, you'll notice historic sites and several churches along the way, until you reach the walls of the 12th century Lisbon Cathedral.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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6. Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra

World Heritage Site Quinta da Regaleira boasts romantic architecture and a lush park. Walk through the park and past lakes, wells, fountains, and statues. The palace, which was completed in 1910 and nicknamed the Palace of Monteiro the millionaire for its former owner, is the work of Italian architect Luigi Manini using Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline influences. Notice the palace's gargoyles and octagonal tower, among other distinctive attributes, as well as its intricate, multi-level chapel. Take in views of the Castle of Moors and Pena Palace.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Praca do Comercio (Terreiro do Paco)

Now an elaborate and decorative waterfront square, Praca do Comercio (Terreiro do Paco) was once home to the royal palace. Before the Great Earthquake of 1755, the royal family lived here. Today, the square acts as a port of entry to Lisbon. Meet with friends or begin your tour of the city at this central square, which houses the main tourism office on its west side. The square features a statue of King Jose I, a triumphal arch, and the Lisboa Story Center--an interactive museum. Explore the square and consider stopping in nearby restaurants and cafes, such as the famous 18th century Café Martinho da Arcada.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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8. Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra

A symbol of Islamic presence in the area, the medieval Castelo dos Mouros has served as protection for several groups throughout history. Visiting this World Heritage Site atop a mountainous cliff, you'll have great views of Sintra. This castle was built in the eighth or ninth century to defend the agricultural region and its people. In 1147, the castle surrendered to Christian forces after the conquest of Lisbon. The castle was used as a watchtower and military fortification, and was restored by Ferdinand II based on the Romantic style popular at the time. You can tour this irregular structure, which features a double belt of walls, internal cistern, and royal tower.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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9. Food Tours

Treat your taste buds to a guided food tour of Lisbon, a great way to wander around multicultural neighborhoods and quaint backstreets resonating with fado music. Soak up the vibrant atmosphere and succulent flavors of the city as you learn about its history and culture from a local guide--you'll sample some authentic Portuguese dishes, such as Alheira sausage, grilled sardines, and famous "travesseiro," a puffy cream-filled pastry. Depending on the duration and type of tour, you can spend from a couple of hours up to a week exploring Portuguese culinary heritage and local lifestyle, with optional visits to a traditional fishing village and cooking classes.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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10. Walking tours

Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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11. Museu Nacional do Azulejo

Housed in the monastery of Madre Deus, Museu Nacional do Azulejo showcases tiles dating back to the 15th century. If you are interested in ceramic tile work or in learning more about a specialty of the region, take the time to visit this museum. Step inside and discover azulejo--the painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tiles. The Moors brought this craft to Portugal, where it has become an essential part of the country's culture. It's typically seen in churches, palaces, homes, and even railway stations. Explore the colorful, decorative exhibits that chronicle historical and cultural events in Portugal throughout the last several centuries.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Park and National Palace of Pena, Sintra

The exotic Park and National Palace of Pena, a World Heritage Site known for its Romanticist architecture, is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. While the foundation of this palace dates back to a chapel in the Middle Ages, the current appearance is mostly the work of German architect Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. He mixed Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic, and Neo-Renaissance styles to create this dramatic structure. Tour the palace to admire the building's restored red and yellow facade, interior design, and antique furniture.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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13. Elevador de Santa Justa

Travel between Baixa and Carmo Square with Elevador de Santa Justa, an elevator located in a Gothic tower. Built in 1902 to provide transportation between two neighborhoods in the difficult, hilly landscape of Lisbon, the elevator moves up 13 m (43 ft) from the lower streets of Baixa to the Ruo do Carmo and the upper zone of Bairro Alto. On your scenic elevator ride, you can see the Tagus River, Castle of Sao Jorga, and National Theatre D. Maria II, among other sites. Don't forget to stop on the elevator's observation deck and note its Neo-Gothic iron construction. You then can explore the adjacent neighborhoods on foot.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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14. Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

Marvel at the extraordinary range of artworks on display at Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Formed from the private collection of Ottoman-born oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian (of which only about one-sixth remains on permanent exhibition), the museum houses treasures spanning East and West and including Egyptian relics, Chinese porcelain, Western masterpieces, and everything in between. After browsing the galleries of paintings, jewelry, furniture, sculptures, and more, take a stroll in the landscaped park in which the museum resides.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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15. Padrao dos Descobrimentos

Celebrate Portugal's rich history of exploration at Padrao dos Descobrimentos, which was built to commemorate Prince Henry the Navigator and the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. Architect José Angelo Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida created the original statue for the 1940 Portuguese World Fair. It was later destroyed but then rebuilt in 1958 by the government. Note the monument's square with its marble compass rose, which was a gift from South Africa.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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