Lisbon is the most charming, colourful and full of life city that I’ve ever stepped foot in – it’s the capital of Portugal and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a total of four times over the past year, it’s a city that I’ve quickly fallen in love with and I ache to go back every time I come home. Visiting this many times also means that I’ve seen and done quite a lot in the city and know what is a tourist trap and what is actually worth going to see – there are certain things that I’d go and see every time if I could! So without further ado let’s dive right into my list
São Jorge Castle
To get to the Sao Jorge Castle, you have quite an uphill walk, but in the city of seven hills, this is to be expected. The first time I visited Lisbon back in December 2017 this was the only tourist attraction that I actually saw, it took us about forty minutes to get here on foot from the D. Maria II National Theatre and even though it was quite tiring with all of the uphill walking, it was worth it. The streets of Lisbon always have something to see, there’s cute hidden shops, interesting graffiti walls and of course, the character of the buildings and houses along the way, so to be honest, as convenient as it is to hop in a taxi or even get a bus up, walking is the best way to go and you won’t regret it.
The castle itself isn’t like any of the other attractions such as the monasteries and churches, it’s hundreds of years old and you only really walk around the grounds of the castle – there’s nothing to see inside and the castle and it wasn’t always a castle, it was originally a fortress built in the fifth century only being fully transformed into a Royal Palace in 1938. When you walk around the grounds you can go inside little rooms with windows that show you a bird’s eye view of Lisbon, it’s one of the most beautiful view points in the city in my opinion and if you’re looking to take great photos, this is worth visiting. There’s also a lot of wildlife walking around the grounds too, we saw lots of peacocks and cats roaming through the castle.
When you’re done, there’s a cafe on the grounds that you can have lunch in or if you’re not too hungry, a smaller cafe that serves beverages and light snacks, it was the first place I ate a traditional custard tart.
Price: €8.50 for a single ticket or €20 for a family ticket
Distance: 40 minutes walking from the main square or 10 minutes on the 737 Bus Line
Worth seeing?: Absolutely
Last April when I visited Lisbon, we did a lot more sightseeing with the Jerónimos Monastery being top of the list for places that I wanted to see.
The Jerónimos Monastery is located in Belem, so it’s not exactly central Lisbon and you will have to do a bit of travelling to get here. To get here we took a taxi – I don’t actually think everyone should do this, it was a costly option and I definitely think that by using other means of transportation you’re bound to see more interesting things along the way.
You can’t get the subway here so you can either hop on a bus, get in a tram or get on a train. The tram you will need to take is on Line 15 and you can either get the 727, 28, 729, 714 or 751 bus. The train line you will need to take is the Belem Cascais line.
Throughout the year there are different opening times for the monastery, through October-April the monastery is open from 10am to 5:30pm and from May through to September it is open from 10am to 6:30pm.
The monastery is definitely a very interesting place to visit and I highly recommend coming here if you’re looking to learn a little more about Lisbon. Each room has lots of boards set up to read from to learn the history of the monastery and how it came to be, the architecture is absolutely gorgeous and this entire place is insanely photogenic.
Price: Church entry is free. Monastery is €10 for a single ticket or free with a Lisbon card.
Distance: 20 minutes on public transportation
Worth seeing?: Definitely
Palácio Da Pena
Located in Sintra, the Palacio da Pena is a must see for all tourists and locals alike. This is something that you will need to make a day trip of if you haven’t got access to your own vehicle though, because it takes quite a long time to get to Sintra from Lisbon and Sintra itself has so much for you to see. We actually came to Sintra twice in the same week for different attractions and drove here each time.
If you don’t have your own vehicle then getting to this palace from the train station is a very tough 50-minute hike, most places recommend not doing this and catching the 434 tourist bus. We only had to walk uphill for a short while though from where we had parked and I was seriously struggling! The castle is worth every drop of sweat that it takes to get here though. The castle is also insanely busy throughout the peak season so I suggest coming as early or as late as possible.
When we visited, they were actually opening the castle for late viewings. We left the castle at around 10pm and got home at around midnight due to some extra driving and food grabbing.
From the bottom of the ticket station, we waited for a bus to come and collect us which took us to the bottom of the castle. You can walk this route but it takes a while and if you’re not that interested in the gardens by the ticket station, then getting the bus to the castle is the easiest option, it’s also free so it’s not an extra expense.
Throughout the castle is the most beautiful architecture, each room is royally decorated and has a lot of information cards for you to read, this is also a very interesting place for anyone that wants to know more about the history of Lisbon and this palace in particular. When we visited in August it was incredibly windy and quite cold due to the palace being located on such a tall hill, I suggest wrapping up if you come for the late viewings.
Price: €14.00 per adult for the palace and park
Distance: From central Lisbon this can take up to 2hours to get to
Worth seeing?: Yes!
Palácio De Mafra
This palace is stunning, with large rooms and ceilings that are so high I had to lean quite far back to see! There’s beautiful paintings throughout the entire palace on the walls and ceilings, and you can spend a good hour and a half looking through every room.
There are two parts to this palace, the King’s end and the Queen’s end. You can really tell which part of the palace belonged to who, with the King’s end of the palace being very manly (there’s a games room). There’s also a cathedral attached to the palace which is worth having a look at, when you’re inside the Palace there’s a big window nearer to the Queen’s end where you can see straight into the cathedral.
Outside of the palace is a lot of cafe’s and restaurants, so if you want to grab something to eat there is a lot nearby for you to choose from.
Be careful though – this palace is closed on Tuesdays and you may find yourself stuck locked outside the palace if you show up!
Price: €6 per adult
Distance: By bus this can take up to 40 minutes to arrive at which departs from Campo Grande bus station at stop 4 or 5.
Worth seeing?: Completely
This is one of my most favourite places that I’ve been to in Portugal but it is quite a journey from Lisbon. We drove from a suburban area to get here and it did take a few hours. We grabbed a McDonalds on the way to stay fed (and hydrated) on the journey there.
This is one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal though and it’s become quite a tourist attraction. When we visited in August the town was very busy and full of life, the closer you get to the castle the more tourists that appear. When we arrived we found a bar that sold local liquor and set up camp there. We shot photos, drank and had chit-chat for an hour before deciding to walk around and see the rest of the town.
You can walk along the castle walls and get a good view of the outside, but it was incredibly hot and I’d reached my threshold, I was exhausted and sweaty, so we sat down yet again in what looked like a court yard. All throughout the town are little shops and ice cream stalls, there’s loads of terraces set up to grab a beverage and sit down, but coming here in the height of Summer definitely requires you to have quite a bit of stamina built up and a nice big sun hat, because I was HOT.
This feels like a very medieval town though with horses being ridden throughout and the general aesthetic of the castle. There’s hotels here too if you fancy an overnight stay or even to spend your entire time in Portugal spent here. If you come in easter, then you might come just in time to see the chocolate festival.
Price: Free entry into the town – may spend around €40 on drink and food
Distance: From central Lisbon this can take up to 3 hours to get to
Worth seeing?: Yes!
Things to avoid
Now Portugal, specifically, Lisbon, doesn’t come without its fair share of tourists traps. I feel like I’m a bit of a Negative Nancy saying this since a lot of these things, tourists do generally love, but I feel like there are better things to do and see in Lisbon, and definitely better places to spend your money.
This is a paid view point, and even though taking photos from the outside for your Instagram may be worth it, actually paying to go up the tower, in my opinion, is not worth it. You’re looking over the river and for the €6 that you spend to see the river from slightly higher up, you can go to the archeology museum not far from the tower.
These are pretty expensive and totally not worth getting on. They promise you a tour of Lisbon and they’ll show you things that you may be interested in, but everything is normally within walking region and you could do the tour yourself over the course of your stay in the city. I don’t think that these are worth the money and we did get quoted around €50 for one once, we took a miss on it.
This is more of a minor waste of time if you’re not looking to take Instagram photos. Nobody is really claiming that Pink Street is anything special but when you go through Instagram it’s definitely very hyped. I went there and I though it was really cute and worth seeing, but I also think that tourists have made it out to be a lot more special than it actually is. You can definitely miss pink street and not kick yourself for not visiting. I will say though, that Pink Street is a lot better in the night with night life and bars, but during the day, it won’t do any harm missing this street.
Elevador de Santa Justa
This is again, another paid for view point. We came here during my first stay and walked along the middle level, we didn’t pay for this since it’s on a level with a street and you can walk along it, but to get to the very top you do need to pay. It costs €5.30 to get to the top per person and honestly, that’s a lot of money to see the same view you can see from the Castle.
So, that’s all that I had to mention! If you’ve been to Portugal, what was your favourite thing to see?