What To Do In Lisbon: Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, and, for that reason, like many other European capitals, there is no lack of activities to fill your time during your stay. If this is your first time visiting the metropolitan city, Secrets from Portugal has made a selection of the best places and things to do that you really shouldn’t miss.
Lisbon is the perfect destination for a weekend escape: it’s a city with multiculturality, passion, and that will certainly conquer your heart with the most perfect mix between the old-fashioned and modern daily life. Nowadays, Lisbon rivals with other great European capitals, as London, or Paris. There’s plenty of history in every little Lisbon street. There is a plethora of history, with tales of everything from Roman imperialists to exotic Berber pirates, Moorish builders to fierce Reconquista knights, all wrapped up in the grand palaces and heritage districts. But there is also an atmosphere of bohemianism and the surprise of the new here too.
You won’t have to look far for nightlife as you can just dive into the medley of Fado joints and swish coffee shops in the Bairro Alto district. Then, perhaps, you can take in the latest in digital installation art at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, or go nose to nose with a grimacing shark at the Oceanário. Meanwhile, the mysticism of much-vaunted Sintra hides in the nearby hills, while endless stretches of pristine beachfront abound in the peninsulas around the Tejo Estuary and the Atlantic Coast.
What to do in Lisbon: Architecture and Design
The Portuguese architecture has some great references that have led to a worldwide recognition. We speak of great architects like Alvaro Siza, Souto de Moura or Aires Mateus and its minimalist architecture. Of course, all of them having Fernando Tavora as their teacher. It seems curious how the classic and striking tiles gave way to an almost transparent architecture. This functional and white architecture is pure in the eyes of visitors. In addition, it extremely cares about the surroundings and has an exquisite precision with the details.
Belém Cultural Centre
In order to promote culture, the Belém Cultural Centre was conceived in 1988 and was shaped by the hands of the architects Vittorio Gregotti, of Italy, and Manuel Salgado, of Portugal. The CCB is spread over six separate acres through two inner streets and joined by the José Saramago path that creates continuity with the Praça do Império. The architecture of this centre denies the traditional separation between the interior and exterior, transforming itself into a small town.
The Champalimaud Foundation is dedicated to the development of advanced biomedical research programs, but architecture is part of its life. In October of 2008, was laid the first stone for the building of the Foundation. Charles Correa, the architect responsible for giving life to this scientific centre, sought that the contemporary architecture of the building allied the aesthetic to the functionality guaranteeing all conditions for researchers, academics and health professionals, both national and foreign, to develop a work-oriented for excellence and practical results.
Oceanário de Lisboa
Located in Lisbon, on the Parque das Nações, the Oceanário de Lisboa is an inspiring and superb creation. It consists in a “public aquarium” and in a research institute for the marine biology and oceanography. Here we find it all – birds, mammals, fishes, plants. Regarded as the best aquarium in the world by TripAdvisor, its conceptual design was conceived by the north-american Peter Chermayeff. Surrounded by the waters of Tejo’s River, the Aquarium is also a stage for knowledge and a motto for many study visits.
MAAT – Art, Architecture and Technology’s Museum – is the corresponding of a free drawing that always keeps its functionality. The building holds within itself undiscovered secrets, utopias that become reality and the globality of knowledge. The involvement that possesses us when we visit this mythical museum is embracing and, at the same time, singular. Never a walk on the routes of wisdom felt so good. Architecture assumes expansive contours in this creation, proving that this ancient art can be associated to the highest causes.
What to do in Lisbon: Discover the best Museums & Galleries
Museums in Portugal are excellent reasons to plan a vacation with the ones we love the most, especially in Portugal. In our country, art has always been part of our language and History. Discover a unique selection of some of the most prestigious museums in Lisbon which you ought to visit, whether you go with family or friends, you cannot miss this opportunity to get to know the country’s culture through a unique and timeless perspective.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is located in the renowned institution of the same name, in Lisbon, and opened its doors back in 1969. Alberto Pessoa, Pedro Cid e Ruy de Athouguia were the authors of this project. The museum is comprised of a collection with approximately six thousand pieces of ancient and modern art. It presents two independent circuits, one dedicated to Oriental and Classic Art and another exclusive of European art.
National Azulejo Museum
The National Azulejo Museum was established with the mission of preserving, studying and promoting two of the most traditional and complementary art forms in the country, azulejo and ceramics. This exceptional worldwide reference also puts a lot of effort into sustaining both the church and other spaces of the ancient Mosteiro da Madre de Deus. One of its main activities is the ceramic lining.
Bordalo Pinheiro Museum
The Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro Museum is exclusively dedicated to the life and work of one of the greatest artists of the 19th century, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. His impressive collections of painting, caricatures and ceramics are exhibited in the museum. One of the biggest attractions of the illustrative institution is the famed popular cartoon, Zé Povinho.
National Museum of Ancient Arts
Located in a palace that traces back to the end of the 17th century, in Lisboa, one of the best museums in Portugal is the National Museum of Ancient Arts that opened in 1884 and is one of the most important museums specialised in arts from the 12th to 19th centuries in Portugal. Inside, one can find the most relevant public collection of ancient art. From painting to sculpture as well as collections of Asian, African and European arts, the National Museum features over 40.000 works of art.
What to do in Lisbon: See Historical Places
Discover the amazing Portuguese Historical Places, that, most of the times, allies History to Design and transports you to a different era. Let yourself be conquered to this amazing Architecture.
For every history fanatic, this is a monument not to be missed. Erected in 1568, the temple only began to play the role of Pantheon from 1916 onwards. The most illustrious characters of Portuguese History and Culture are buried there: from fadista Amália Rodrigues, to Humberto Delgado, who helped to return freedom to the Portuguese people on the 25th of April, among many other illustrious characters. Although never open to worship, the Pantheon preserves, under the modern dome, the majestic space of the nave, animated by the decoration of colourful marbles, characteristic of Portuguese Baroque architecture.
Santuário de Fátima
Fátima’s Sanctuary is composed by a series of religious buildings dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Fátima, such as Chapel of the Apparitions, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, and Basilica of the Holy Trinity, amongst many others. The sanctuary became a place of Christian pilgrimage and deep Catholic devotion that preserves the memory of events that marked the country’s religious tradition, including the apparition of Nossa Senhora de Fátima to the three little shepherds in 1917.
São Roque Church
It dates back to the end of the 16th century, but the São Roque Church remains one of the most beautiful in Lisbon and the Museum, with the same name, is rich in national and international religious art. Walking through the halls of the Museum and the Church, you can discover more about the 16th century to the 20th century, learn more about the history of the Jesuits in Portugal and the installation of the Santa Casa in this place.
Belém: Jeronimos Monastery, Belém Tower and Monument to the Discoveries
Belém is a historical centre located in Lisbon. Historically linked to the discoveries, it suffered various rehabilitation works by D. Manuel. The star of this play is the Jeronimos Monastery, built in the 16th century. It’s one of the symbols of the nation and maritime discoveries, where the Portuguese people distinguished themselves. The Belém Tower, whose construction began in 1514, located right on the riverside, is one of the main monuments where the Manuelist architecture is present. To end the tour, you must visit the Monument to the Discoveries, near the tower and built in 1940.
Mosteiro da Batalha
Designed in 1386, with the order of King João I of Portugal, to celebrate the grand victory against the Castilians, the works finish in 1563. Considered to be part of the World Heritage by UNESCO, the Batalha Monastery gifts us Gothic art as well as the typically Portuguese Manueline style. Composed by the church, the chapels, imposing cloisters, domes and also gardens and images meticulously hand-crafted by the Portuguese people, this is undoubtedly a place of passage for lovers of history and architecture.
What to do in Lisbon: Enjoy the Best Bars & Rooftops
With Spring slowly approaching and the first sunbeams sneaking around, it’s time to truly enjoy the best rooftops in Portugal. Some are made by the view, others by the attractions, the food or the cocktails, but what really matters is that fresh and pure air never felt so good.
The simple, contemporary ambience of Memmo Alfama‘s Terrace is achieved through white marble and its decoration in shades of white and red. The outdoor pool surprises by the red tones, in perfect integration with the roofs of the neighbourhood. The entire terrace is filled with various nooks to sit, have a drink or simply enjoy the amazing view. The Wine Bar offers a selection of high-quality products, combining the authenticity of Portuguese gastronomy and wines with breathtaking views of the river.
This small rooftop terrace of Hotel Bairro Alto is filled with comfortable sofas and chairs, from where you can enjoy a unique view over the city to the sound of chill-out music. Cocktails and light meals are served here, but be prepared to wait for a vacant table, as this is a space that is almost always full.
Sky bar Hotel Tivoli
The Sky bar Hotel Tivoli is a rooftop right in the centre of the capital. On the top floor of the Hotel Tivoli, the fantastic view over Lisbon and the delicious cocktails make this a unique and unrepeatable experience. This is also the scene of gastronomic discoveries that satisfy all palates and leave no one outside.
With amazing views over the city of Lisbon, the PARK bar is a breathtaking rooftop in Bairro Alto. At sunset it is almost impossible to get a table, with DJ sets – usually two a day: one in the afternoon and one in the evening. The list of cocktails you must try includes lemon, strawberry or banana daiquiris, gin cocktails, caipirinhas, whiskey sours or pina coladas.
What to do in Lisbon: Enjoy the Best Restaurants
Portugal is full of exquisite cuisine that longs to be experienced. Secrets from Portugal presents you the list of the restaurants to try in Lisbon.
Alma, Lisbon (2 Michelin stars)
Alma is located in Chiado, at the heart of Lisbon, and is the only Portuguese restaurant that was upgraded to a 2-Michelin star status. Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa defines his cooking with just one word: flavour. At the base of his philosophy is a combination of several influences, from Portuguese traditional cuisine to his travelling all around the world and his passion for Asia.
Belcanto, Lisbon (2 Michelin stars)
Awarded with two stars of the Michelin guide, Belcanto first opened its doors in 1958 in Chiado. Its privileged location in Lisbon’s historic centre, the discreet service and its refined cuisine, quickly conquered the elites of the Portuguese capital. Belcanto, by the hand of chef José Avillez, re-opened in 2012, with a completely new face. In that same year, the restaurant was awarded a star of the Michelin guide and, in 2014, gained its second one, being the first restaurant in Lisbon with this incredibly high distinction.
Eleven, Lisbon (1 Michelin star)
The restaurant is located in the heart of Lisbon’s business district, overlooking the entire city and surrounded by lavishing gardens. Way more than a simple restaurant, Eleven is a place of culture and art, both at the table and beyond it. The architecture of the purposely-built building is modern, minimalist and organic, using natural materials like wood and decorative stones, and boasting enormous glass windows that open towards Lisbon and the river Tejo.
Feitoria, Lisbon (1 Michelin star)
Located at Altis Belém Hotel & Spa, Feitoria provides an experience that goes a simple dinner. With a vision centred on the origin of the product, the whole Feitoria experience revolves around a huge respect for Product and Matter.
Loco, Lisbon (1 Michelin star)
The LOCO nomenclature means in place, which for chef Alexandre Silva, is in the kitchen. A space even greater than the restaurant room, the Chef is lost in the midst of his creations, his philosophies and, above all, his ideas. With a fine dining concept, the author’s cuisine, LOCO is much more than a restaurant, with a gastronomic proposal that goes far beyond a meal. LOCO is an organic project that values national products and nature.
What to do in Lisbon: Relax in the Best Hotels
The best design hotels in the world have a great emphasis on art and design concepts. So if you’re a design and also a travel lover, those are the best places to enjoy. On the best design hotels of the world, you’ll find charm, glamour and luxury in every little detail, with differentiated architectonical projects or installed in a historic building, you’ll certainly lack no reasons to fall in love with these unique places. It’s here that you can find the difference and the individuality.
Bela Vista Hotel & Spa
Dated of 1918, the Bela Vista Hotel is surrounded by the most wonderful and breathtaking surroundings, a must-see spectacle. This luxury design hotel combines sophistication with hospitality and a historical building with the most modern requirements. The romantic aesthetic of the mansion was fully respected and kept and was the main inspiration for the decor. The beauty of the interior design is currently signed by Graça Viterbo, one of the leading design professionals in Portugal.
Lisboa Historic Hotel
Located in the epicentre of Lisbon’s downtown, the Lisboa Historic Hotel provides you with the perfect location to discover everything Lisbon has to offer. It was once the house of the kings, then turned to a house of parliament, and now one of the best luxury hotels in Portugal. Completely renewed both on inside and out, the historic hotel takes pride on maintaining the building’s original features, never losing its everlasting charm.
Take a Deep Breath in the Most Luxurious Spas
Luxury Spas seek to rejuvenate and restore one’s body and mind. They are often comprised of an extensive range of amenities treatments, from aromatherapy and massages to sauna and steam bath treatments, among countless others wellness procedures. Whether an establishment has a more holistic or classic approach, spas have become one of the most sought-after practices in the entire world.
Offering sweeping views of the Lisbon’s most iconic architectural and historic sites, the Five-star luxury hotel Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon was inaugurated in 1959. One of its most coveting interior spaces is the Ritz Spa, one of the best spas in Portugal. Guests can pamper themselves to some of the most outstanding body treatments where prestigious products from ESPA, Swiss Perfection and Sodashi are used. These will leave your skin as radiant and rejuvenated as ever. Ritz Spa will take on an uplifting sensory journey that honours regional fruits and fragrances of Lisbon.
Real Spa Therapy
The Real Spa Therapy: Grande Real Villa Itália in Cascais has more than 1000m2 and all of its spaces are solely dedicated to restore one’s physical and emotional health. Offering an unparalleled experience, the spa uses the most innovative therapeutic techniques that are then combined with exquisite ingredients from various regions in Portugal. In balance with the surrounding nature, the sea water is the main raw material used for treatments and massages, through the therapeutic method of Thalassotherapy.
Sayanna Wellness Spa
The Sayanna Wellness is located on the 23rd floor of the prestigious Myriad by Sana Hotels and offers panoramic views over the Rio Tejo, making it one of the best spas in Portugal. This spa is idyllic to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life and take care of body and mind. It is well-appointed with a gym with Technogym, a vitality pool with beds and hydromassage chairs, bi-thermal shower, Turkish bath, a panoramic sauna and four treatment rooms. Aromatherapy products are used to provide one with the utmost dreamy experience.
Since you are in Lisbon, enjoy a quick trip through Sintra, a fairytale city
National Palace of Pena
On the top of the Sintra hills stands the eternally majestic National Palace of Pena. The construction of this palace dates back to the 18th century on the site of an old 16th century monastery. A result of the creative genius of King Ferdinand II, this palace crowns the Sintra hills as the greatest example of nineteenth-century romanticism in Portugal, incorporating manueline and Moorish influences in its architecture.
Quinta da Regaleira
Situated in the hills of Sintra, near to the historic centre, the Quinta da Regaleira has four acres composed by a palace, magnificent gardens, caves, amongst many other mythical and enigmatic constructions. Many of the spaces are historically linked with alchemy, Freemasonry or even with the Templars. In this space the romantic, gothic, Renaissance and Manueline wave mix together. It is known that it went from hand to hand, belonging to the Baroness of Regaleira, one of the most illustrious owners.
So, if you don’t know what to do in Lisbon, we hope you enjoy this complete guide about the Portuguese capital.
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