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Panorâmico de Monsanto
©Duarte Drago

The 32 best things to do in Lisbon

From pastel de natas to late-night jam sessions, these are the best things to do in the Portuguese capital this year

Ella Doyle
Edited by
Ella Doyle
Written by
Time Out Lisbon editors
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There’s no better place to wander cobbled streets and snack on local delights than Lisbon. This city keeps things chill. The restaurants won’t ever usher you out to allow for another table, encouraging you to order more if you fancy it later. The museums will make you want to stay there for hours. The pastel de natas will have you to eating three of them in a row. 

The Portuguese capital is one of our faves not only because of its rich culture, delicious restaurants and great bars, but because it’s so damn pretty to walk through. The sights, the architecture! We just love it. In fact we love it so much that we’ve got a whole Time Out Market there, which is pretty much a foodie heaven. Yes, it’s first on our list. No, we’re not biased. Anyway, here’s the 32 best things to do in Lisbon. What are you waiting for?

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Fun things to do in Lisbon

Try the best Portuguese food at Time Out Market Lisboa
  • Restaurants
  • Cais do Sodré

What is it? A massive food hall with every all-star cuisine you can imagine, accompanied by live music. Curated by us.

Why go? For foodies, this is all the great things about Lisbon, under one huge roof. Eat and drink to your heart’s content at one of Time Out Market’s 26 restaurants, eight bars and dozens of shops. And if you’re wondering what the hell a Time Out Market is, it’s basically all our favourite food picks from the magazine, shoved into a massive food hall (think sushi, sizzling burgers and steaks), along with some cracking live music. Everything in there has been given a four or five star rating by us. This is the best of the best. 

Don’t miss: Checking out everything on offer before you make a decision on what to eat. You don’t want to live with regrets. 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • São Vicente 

What is it? This market is an absolute gem in Lisbon. It's been serving up the best bargains around since the 13th century, would you believe, and set up camp at this spot in 1903.

Why go? This is the perfect flea market to spend the day strolling and admiring. From vintage clothes to second-hand books and general bric-à-brac, you’re sure to nab something that will help you remember your trip forever. 

Don’t miss: Mornings are the best for comfortable strolling (and bargains). 

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  • Museums
  • Chiado

What is it? Founded in 1911, this state-run museum reopened in 1994 after a hiatus following the Chiado fire.

Why go? Notwithstanding the cool modernist redesign by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, the name - National Museum of Contemporary Art - is a little ambitious given the place's size and budget. Still, the rehang of a few years ago, involving 100 works from the permanent collection, offers an instructive overview of 150 years of Portuguese art - from romanticism through naturalism to neo-realism, surrealism and abstractionism - up to 1975.

Don’t miss: Júlio Pomar’s “Gadanheiro” (mower) and Helena Almeida’s “Pintura Habitada” (inhabited painting). These are two of the most significant contemporary artists here and their work is a must-see. Also, the shop is excellent.

  • Restaurants
  • Estrela/Lapa/Santos

What is it? Loco is an haute cuisine restaurant headed by one of the most creative minds in the city, chef Alexandre Silva. Go with an open disposition for tasting dishes outside your comfort zone and embrace this magnificence of avant-garde Portuguese cuisine. And book ahead.

Why go? Six Time Out stars for the late Bocca, five stars (only because we don't give out six anymore) for Loco and now a Michelin star. Alexandre Silva earned them all. Silva is one of Lisbon's most creative minds, despite his calm and sober demeanour. A bit like his restaurant – haute cuisine where the staff greets patrons wearing trainers. The mood is relaxed, but the food is very delicate, and great effort went into it. This is a place where you should go a bit wild (and be ready to spend some money) and where you will be treated as a unique guest.

Don’t miss: Drinks go beyond the traditional fine dining list: there are liqueurs and fermented juices.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Santa Maria Maior

What is it? This establishment began life in 1782 as a shop selling drinks and ice.

Why go? At Martinho da Arcada (Lisbon's oldest restaurant), they believe in ghosts. Or in symbolic gestures. It is in all the tourist guides as one of Fernando Pessoa’s favourite places, and local mythology says that Martinho da Arcada has a place constantly booked, waiting for the poet.

Don’t miss: Let’s get right to it; in the coffee house, quick meals are served at attractive prices. Pick up a copy of The Book of Disquiet and get yourself here. 

  • Shopping
  • Santa Maria Maior

What is it? This small, wood-panelled space opened in 1930 and is lined with a dazzling array of colourfully packaged tins - sardines, tuna, anchovies, fish paste and the like.

Why go? If you like fish, you’ll be spoiled for choice at the charming Conserveira de Lisboa, which has resided here for over 90 years. The wooden shelves lined with colourful cans invite you to purchase from the exclusive house brands, Tricana, Prata do Mar and Minor.

Don’t miss: The store now stocks a range of gourmet jams and liqueurs for tourists.

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  • Nightlife
  • Intendente

What is it? Casa Independente opened in 2012, just as the city centre square, Largo do Intendente, was becoming a destination of choice for a night out on the town.

Why go? In a decaying mansion that has housed all manner of clubs and associations over the past century, this is the liveliest incarnation. The large front Tiger Room hosts gigs and DJ sets, there are various small rooms that are good for a chat or a spot of work on your tablet, and the café and back patio are great places to relax.

Don’t miss: The bar serves a good range of teas, fresh juices and cocktails, while finger food is served until midnight.

  • Restaurants
  • Ice-cream parlours
  • Chiado

What is it? Artisanal ice creams made the Italian way. With more than 60 years behind them in the Greater Lisbon area, Santini shows us that no matter how many other ice creams try to compete, these guys always nab the top spot.

Why go? The original ice cream parlour in Cascais, opened in 1949 by Italian ex-pat Attilio Santini, was patronised by local high society, including the Spanish royal family in exile. At this Lisbon outlet, the wonderful all-natural ice creams and sorbets are just as popular. They deliver too.

Don’t miss: The fruit and nut flavour – and dare to try the seasonal specials.

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  • Things to do
  • Benfica/Monsanto

What is it? How about a public park like Central Park, do you have one? We do.

Why go? We do. Actually, we have a park three times the size of that New-York icon – yes, three times. Walking, running, riding a bike or skating, enjoying a picnic, taking photographs, drawing or dating are some of the suggestions we have to pass the time in this green field that’s so big that you lose sight of where it begins and where it ends.

Don’t miss: Start at Alameda Keil do Amaral, visit Mata de Benfica and get to know Moinho do Penedo.

  • Shopping
  • Princípe Real

What is it? Embaixada Lisboa is a concept store in the Palacete Ribeiro da Cunha, with awe-inspiring nineteenth-century neo- Arab design, at Príncipe Real.

Why go? Design, fashion, and temporary exhibitions all feature. There is no more diplomatic 'Embassy' than this. Housed in an 18th-century mansion, it hides some of Lisbon's most intriguing secrets: very original Portuguese and foreign stores all under the same roof (sometimes decked out with flowers) and a restaurant with a French name but which serves Portuguese snacks. 

Don’t miss: Check out the Gin Lovers Bar and Restaurant as well. Why? Well, because of the whole 'Gin Lovers' thing.

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  • Shopping
  • Home decor
  • Lisbon

What is it? For over 30 years, Joaquim José Cortiço dedicated his life to collecting and studying industrial Portuguese tiles, which belonged to factories that went out of business. Today, his grandchildren continue to give life to his project with Cortiço & Netos, where you can find several ceramic tiles that tell its history from the '60s onwards.

Why go? Unlike other azulejo shops listed in this guide, this place stocks mostly mass-produced tiles. But with hundreds of discontinued lines, it is a veritable museum of style through the decades and a great place to pick up one-off decorative bargains. For years, the owner snapped up stock from factories as they closed; his grandchildren (the Netos of the name) are busy selling it.

Don’t miss: Buy one now while you can!

  • Restaurants
  • Martim Moniz

What is it? A restaurant famous for its roasted cod.

Why go? There is actually no Zé at Zé da Mouraria. There is a Virgílio, not from Mouraria but from the Minho region. He opened the neighbourhood's most popular restaurant 20 years ago, where once a Galician fellow had a grill named Zé dos Grelhados. Now that you know about the name, let us tell you about their internationally renowned roast cod, whose secret is to use thick slices with no bones while adding good quality chickpeas, olive oil and roast potatoes. 

Don’t miss: The roasted cod, obviously.

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  • Museums
  • Estrela/Lapa/Santos

What is it? The Portuguese were the first Europeans to have an enduring presence in Asia, and the Museum of the Orient tells the story.

Why go? The core exhibition includes unique maps and charts, priceless 17th- and 18th-century Chinese and Japanese painted screens and other Namban (Western-influenced) art, and an important collection of artefacts from Timor. The Shadows of Asia display has shadow puppets from a swathe of countries from Turkey to Southeast Asia, drawn from the vast Kwok On collection. The museum runs courses on everything from languages to cuisine and ikebana, as well as hosting concerts of Asian, fusion and world music and dance.

Don’t miss: The top-floor restaurant has fine views.

Discover Alfama blindfolded
©DR

14. Discover Alfama blindfolded

What is it? Discovering Alfama blindfolded is an idea suggested by Lisbon Walker in collaboration with ACAPO – The Portuguese association for the blind and visually impaired.

Why go? The tour is called Lisboa Sensorial (Sensory Lisbon), and the objective is to sense the smells, noises and flavours of Lisbon’s most typical neighbourhood with your eyes covered – and a guide. It lasts an hour and a half.

Don’t miss: Book in advance (they need 10 people minimum) on Lisbon Walker.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Baixa Pombalina

What is it? Nicolau became a phenomenon when it opened a few years back. The dog sausage, with a bow around its neck and the velvet suit, is the mascot of this Baixa restaurant.

Why go? There isn’t a weekend during which Nicolau Lisboa gets ignored on Instagram. Some post what arrives on the table; others, the decor resembles a London cafeteria with some Lx Factory touches. And the menu has a bit of everything trendy, such as pancakes (the stars of the house), tapiocas, smoothies or yoghurt with granola.

Don’t miss: Nicolau’s pancakes (with mascarpone and strawberries): tall, sweet, and flavoured. Nailed it!

  • Museums
  • Belém

What is it? The most recent contemporary art museum in Lisbon is called MAAT, looks like a ray that deflected off the river, and has been all over Lisboners’ Instagrams since it opened in 2016.

Why go? It opened, then it closed, and then it opened again, but what’s certain is that this project by the EDP Foundation is much more than its acronym. MAAT’s architectural lines struck the city at its 2016 launch and now justify regular pilgrimages to the area of Belém. If nothing else, the structure designed by British architect Amanda Levete, combined with a sunset backdrop, makes a killer pic to share on social media. But of course, you shouldn’t stop there: we recommend consulting the agenda for information on permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Don’t miss: Be sure to take a tour of the Tejo Power Station, one of the permanent exhibitions of this tremendous museum.

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  • Restaurants
  • Portuguese
  • Santa Maria Maior
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? Established more than 80 years ago by a German/ Galician duo, Gambrinus was initially a brewery serving German fare. Thirty years later, new management remodelled the venue into the look it still has today.

Why go? Conduct the manual for eating at Gambrinus bar: 1) always eat a croquette with the house mustard; 2) ask for the Gambrinus tulip, a very good mixed beer; 3) Do not skip on the toasted almonds; 4) wait patiently for the toast of rye bread; 5) Try a prego (beef sandwich) or a roast beef sandwich with tartar; 6) watch the preparation of the balloon coffee - and drink it, of course. This is the perfect place for having lunch alone, although with so many employees, you're never really alone.

Don’t miss: The croquettes? The prego? Or will it be the crêpes suzette?

  • Restaurants
  • Portuguese
  • Chiado/Cais do Sodré

What is it? By day, Taberna da Rua das Flores is a simple tavern serving traditional dishes, with a great meia-desfeita de bacalhau. But by night, it is a chef’s laboratory, mixing influences from around the world.

Why go? To lead a restaurant where the menu changes daily, you need creativity. André Magalhães and his team have it and know a lot about forgotten or hard-to-get Portuguese products. Thus a part of the menu usually confuses the patrons – fear not, the staff is on hand to help.

Don’t miss: It is always crowded, and no reservations are accepted, so go early.

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  • Attractions
  • Towers and viewpoints
  • Castelo de São Jorge

What is it? Generous in space and in the view it offers. Besides the Tejo river, you can see the Alfama area from the comfort of your chair.

Why go? The Portas do Sol cocktail bar invites everyone to have a boogie on weekends, and it serves food to balance out all that sangria. The bar of this lookout is integrated into a building of the award-winning pair of architects Aires Mateus and is animated at weekends by a DJ who puts Lisbon and tourists dancing around the statue of São Vicente de Fora, patron saint of Lisbon.

Don’t miss: Settle in the puffs and unwind to see the Tagus river and the monuments of the Alfama district.

  • Attractions
  • Towers and viewpoints
  • Benfica/Monsanto

What is it? Lisbon’s best viewpoint is almost 50 years old. In the past, it was a luxury restaurant, a bingo hall, a nightclub, an office building and a warehouse.

Why go? This architectural UFO designed by Chaves da Costa has been given a new lease of life - and a much more peaceful one: it is a viewpoint, which was always its second calling anyway. We won’t lie: it’s the best view of the whole city. Abandoned in 2001, the Panoramic received only sporadic visits from urban explorers, tourists, curious onlookers and people armed with spray paint, who went there to do what people generally do with spray paint. In 2017, it became safe and legal to visit. 

Don’t miss: The 360º view of the city and great location (in Alto da Serafina Recreational Park) make this derelict building the best place to check out the sights in Monsanto.

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Try the best burgers in Lisbon at Ground Burger
  • Restaurants
  • Burgers
  • São Sebastião

What is it? There are no doubts among us: Ground Burger has the best burgers in Lisbon. Doubting is Descartes' job - all we care about is the 150g of Black Angus meat carefully disposed in between slices of homemade bread and served with fries.

Why go? These. Are. The. Best. Burgers. In. Lisbon. Pronounce every word properly because what takes place at the Ground Burger lab is pure magic. 150 grams of 100% Black Angus beef within a brioche bun, with quality ingredients, crunchy onion rings or french fries with rosemary to dip in French's American mustard. 

Don’t miss: The Ground Burger is great, as is the Chili cheese and the Philly Burger. They are all great.

  • Restaurants
  • Belém

What is it? The world-famous pastéis de Belém - warm, creamy tarts with puff pastry made according to a secret recipe - fly out of the door here.

Why go? The Pastéis de Belém bakery is a mandatory pitstop for tourists, but its large tea rooms, covered with blue and white azulejos, tend to attract Lisbon residents too. The pastéis are worth the fuss, and their history is long and ancient. Their fabrication started in 1834 when the Jerónimos Monastery started selling sweets. They were so successful that three years later, the Pastéis de Belém empire started, with a secret recipe still used to this day. Customers with time to spare scoff them two at a time in a warren of rooms lined with tiles depicting Belém in the early 17th century.

Don’t miss: Pay a visit to Berardo Museum.

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  • Restaurants
  • São Vicente 

What is it? Mesa de Frades, the azulejo-lined former chapel of the Quinta da Dona Rosa, a palace built by Dom João V for one of his lovers, is a fado’s house owned by guitarra player Pedro de Castro.

Why go? It has a reputation for being the fadistas’ canteen, and you never know who might roll up in the wee hours and do an impromptu performance. 

Don’t miss: Booking is a must for dinner. If you drop in later (and can squeeze in), there’s no minimum spend.

  • Museums
  • São Sebastião

What is it? One of Europe's leading fine arts museums, with exhibits dating from 2000 BC to the early 20th century.

Why go? Save time for the final room and its breathtaking glass and metal art nouveau jewellery by René Lalique. Audio guides are available in multiple languages to help you get the most from the experience. There are also excellent temporary exhibitions, with pieces lent by institutions around the world. Downstairs is an art library (which often hosts midday classical recitals on Sundays), an excellent café and a small gift shop.

Don’t miss: Don't miss the Centro de Arte Moderna at the southern end of the park.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Avenidas Novas

What is it? With decorated ceilings, art nouveau mirrors and crystal lamps, Versailles is one of the most beautiful bakeries in Lisbon.

Why go? How many places can serve afternoon tea or late-night hot chocolate surrounded by chandeliers, carved wooden display cases and stained glass? This 1922 gem has a huge selection of cakes, meringues and pastries. From éclairs, custard tarts, and thick hot chocolates to the famous croquettes, everything that comes out of its kitchen is delicious.

Don’t miss: You can have lunch or dinner here too: the desserts are fantastic.

  • Nightlife
  • Alfama

What is it? Tejo Bar is an alternative, informal place with a handful of tables with low seats and shelves loaded with books and board games.

Why go? Anyone may strum the house guitar (but don’t clap: patrons instead rub their hands together to show their appreciation, thus minimising noise). The bar has many regulars – who help themselves to drinks, noting down what they’ve taken – but it’s also a magnet for students and musicians.

Don’t miss: Tejo is incapable of throwing people out, so the place sometimes closes after 5am.

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  • Nightlife
  • Late-night bars
  • Avenida da Liberdade

What is it? This place, inspired by Prohibition-era bars in the US, has clandestine air, not least because it is in the basement. You must ring the bell to be let in.

Why go? Head up Rua do Salitre, and stop when you see a red frog at the door. Ring the bell, descend the staircase, and you’ll find a space that recreates the atmosphere of bars in the US Prohibition era. The drinks list was drawn up by an expert and has lots of creative, well-mixed cocktails.

Don’t miss: It is impossible to recommend one because the list is constantly changing. The best thing is to leave it to the barman’s imagination.

  • Attractions
  • Alcântara

What is it? Markets, exhibitions, shops, cafes, concerts, and parties. There is a whole world to discover in this cosmopolitan "factory" that has completely altered the landscape of Alcantara since its opening.

Why go? Essential things to do on your retail therapy excursion include a trip to renovated industrial complex LX factory, a shopping city within the city. This uber-trendy venue hosts an eclectic selection of places to eat, drink, dance and spend some serious Euros. Here you can cut your hair, look for surfboards or even sleep.

Don’t miss: The weekly market on Sundays.

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Spot an Obey Giant mural
Fotografia: Francisco Santos

29. Spot an Obey Giant mural

What is it? American artist Shepard Fairey, best known for his project Obey Giant, brought his iconic style to the neighbourhood of Graça.

Why go? On the side of a building on Rua Natália Correia, Obey Giant painted a woman wearing a revolutionary beret and holding a rifle with a carnation in its muzzle. Giant is best known for the “Hope” poster he used in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Dont’ miss: In the same area, he collaborated with Vhils (Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto) to create a mural representing a woman’s face, on Rua da Senhora da Glória, Graça.

  • Nightlife
  • São Vicente 

What is it? Lisbon's best club, with two dance floors (one loungey, one sweaty) and a roof terrace overlooking the river.

Why go? There are loads of clubs in Lisbon, but none compares to Lux Frágil. The décor is on point, and the music is second to none, courtesy of the resident DJs and top international guests who swing by each week. As the hip furniture indicates, it is a see-and-be-seen place, but the crowd is friendly, and the measures Lisbon-large. House and guest DJs offer everything from electro and hip-hop to bursts of '80s music. Thursdays are popular with locals keen on leftfield names; on Saturdays, the place is mobbed by out-of-towners. Lux's programme - which includes live bands, the odd Sunday afternoon event and big international DJs - and its catch-all social role remain unrivalled. Exude photogenic importance at the door if you arrive after 2am.

Don’t miss: The sunrise on the balcony.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Cais do Sodré

What is it? You can find Rive-Rouge, the heir to Lux Frágil, at Time Out Market.

Why go? The design is unusual with red lighting, metallic structures, high tables and benches. It’s not massive, but don’t despair, there is still plenty of space for booty-shaking when the music starts.

Don’t miss: Its signature cocktails!

  • Nightlife
  • Cais do Sodré

What is it? MusicBox is one of Lisbon's most exciting venues, with a regular programme of rock bands, electronic live acts, singer-songwriters and DJ sets (all night on Fridays).

Why go? The managers of this key club in Cais do Sodré have music industry connections and exploit them creditably. Note that some shows may start as late as 2am; for details, check the website, which is comprehensive. The space has an underground feel and look and is located in what was once one of Lisbon's seediest streets - and is now one of its buzziest at night.

Don’t miss: You’re at the nightlife district, enjoy the rhythm of the night.

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