Best Things to Do in Lisbon

Best Attractions in Lisbon: Plenty to See and Do

The best attractions and activities in Lisbon take in some of the city’s most compelling landmarks and monuments, and provide plenty of fun things to do. For a dramatic introduction to the Portuguese capital, take to the skies with Lisbon Helicopters, an incredible flightseeing ride that whisks passengers high over the Lisbon coast and downtown Lisbon. Back on the ground visitors can marvel at the virtuoso horsemanship of the riders performing dressage at the Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestra. The more active however can hook up with adrenaline-fuelled Guincho Adventours. These guys offer all sorts of activity programmes to suit all ages. Are you easily scared? For the fright of your life, take a dare and enter Labirinto Lisboa, the city’s most haunted house where all sorts of “horrors” are unleashed upon the hapless. Fortunately a more sedate experience can be enjoyed at the World Heritage Site-classified Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, one of Portugal’s most celebrated attractions. Equally impressive is the Oceanário de Lisboa, Europe’s largest aquariums and teeming with all sorts of weird and wonderful sealife. The world’s largest collection of horse-drawn coaches is housed at the new Museu Nacional dos Coches. The exhibition includes a number of fabulously rare carriages. Looking for a pic opp? Best then to head to the top of the Arco da Rua Augusta for a fine panorama across the river and the downtown district. If you prefer to see the city on two wheels, join a bicycle tour courtesy of Bike Iberia. And for something a little different, take a look inside Figaro’s Barbershop where they offer vintage style haircuts and a retro Americana interior.     


Cais do Sodré/Santos

A traditional men-only barbershop specialising in classic haircuts based on styles from the 1920s through to the '50s, Figaro's fabulous interior is reason enough to drop by this charming Lisbon anomaly. Designed around vintage furniture and equipped with original Koken barber chairs, including a rare example believed to date from the mid-1920s, the salon is as near to anything you'll find in USA – the décor oozes genuine Americana and Stateside atmosphere. Depending on hair type, customers can request a range of cuts – the "timeless" executive contour is a favourite. Other options include Teddy boy, low faded slickback, psychobilly quiff and their very own Lisbon playboy. Figaro's can also offer hot towel straight razor shaves. No appointments are necessary; you just walk in and wait your turn. While doing so, customers can enjoy a cold beer and admire the period memorabilia. Meanwhile, a rockabilly country western soundtrack keeps toes tapping in anticipation.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Authentic American-style barbershop specialising in classic 1920-1950 haircuts, Figaro's in quite unique in Lisbon for vintage atmosphere and carefully trained scissor-hands.

Paul's expert tip: Women can enter the shop to buy items like hair cream and other hair care products for "him", but are not allowed to wait inside the salon.

Read more about Figaro's Barbershop →

Cais do Sodré/Santos

Founded by keen cyclist Jorge Didier Mimosa, Bike Iberia is acknowledged as one of the best Lisbon activity options. Visitors are encouraged to explore the city on two wheels and the company has devised a fantastic programme of rides - tours and excursions to suit all types of tourist at every level of fitness. The more experienced can opt for road and off-road rides of 1-2 days, or the "Iberian Experience" - trips of 3 days or more. For those happy just to free-wheel the city, there are easy to moderate tours, nearly all off road with optional technical challenges that take in a great collection of national monuments and the prettiest neighbourhoods. There's even a "Paved Tour" option - a car-free flat cycling circuit along the riverfront that takes in Belém.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: A healthy and active way to explore Lisbon, the bike rides take in some of Lisbon's most famous sightseeing attractions.

Paul's expert tip: Riding time is about 3-4 hours, with off road group sizes between 4-12 participants, and 2-12 for on road riding.

Read more about Bike Iberia →

The panorama enjoyed from the top of the Rua Augusta Arch combines fantastic river views with an inspiring city landscape. Sited in Lisbon's Baixa (downtown) district overlooking Praça do Comércio, the triumphal arch was built to celebrate the city's reconstruction after the great earthquake of 1755 and was inaugurated in 1873. The monument, designed by Portuguese architect Santos de Carvalho, is impressive in its dimensions, standing nearly 45m. Surmounting the top cornice is a colossal allegorical statue of Glory, crowning figures representing Bravery and Genius with wreaths. The carved entablature supports additional figures of national heroes including Vasca da Gama, Nuno Álvares and the Marquês de Pombal. Sightseers can reach the clock room by elevator. Here a mechanical clock dating from 1941 is located, powered by a series of weights and pulleys. An exhibition panel displays an illustrated timeline charting the history of the arch. Visitors must climb a spiral staircase to stand at the top of the monument where they can admire the 360° downtown perspective.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: After decades of neglect the arch and its clock room have been fully renovated and opened to the public.

Paul's expert tip: A family ticket also includes entry into the excellent Lisbon Story Centre interactive exhibition, located nearby.

Read more about Arco da Rua Augusta →


The Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum) holds the largest collection of historic coaches and carriages in the world, and is certainly the finest museum of its kind in Europe. The coaches, comprising state and promenade vehicles from Portugal, Italy, France, Austria and Spain, span from the 16th to the 19th centuries and provide an outstanding exhibit of the technical and artistic evolution of horse-drawn transportation used by the Church and the Courts of Europe. Many are simply sumptuous in design, with interiors lined with red velvet and exteriors of intricately carved and decorated gilded wood. Look out for the oldest coach in the collection, dating from 1619 and which once belonged to Filipe II of Spain. In addition to the carriages, there are related items on show such as harnesses, lamps, whips and riding crops and saddle chairs.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is the largest collection of traditional coaches and carriages in world, which is housed in modern, a purpose built facility.

Paul's expert tip: The museum complements an older museum that still houses a number of coaches, and you can purchase a combined ticket to visit both.

Read more about Museu Nacional dos Coches →

Parque das Nações

The Oceanário is the most visited tourist attraction in Lisbon, indeed in Portugal, and is Europe's second largest aquarium. It's home to around 8000 aquatic species, with the facility designed around four different habitat zones and a huge central tank that holds a mesmerizing variety of sealife including an array of sleek shark, graceful ray and a funky-looking sunfish. A series of smaller aquaria display a fascinating collection of marine life: look out for the beautiful and dainty sea dragons! Another popular draw are the two sea otters what win over crowds with their playful antics. The Oceanário works on several levels. While walking through impressive and unforgettable exhibits, visitors also encouraged to learn more about the oceans' richness and diversity, and are also reminded of just how fragile the undersea environment is. Entertaining and educative, this makes for a great family day out.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: An undersea adventure, the Oceanário is the all-round visitor attraction where everybody has an unforgettable experience and takes home the sustainable environment message.

Paul's expert tip: Did you know that you can join a backstage group tour (minimum 8 persons) that takes you behind the scenes? Check the website.

Read more about Ocean–rio de Lisboa →

One of Lisbon's most impressive historic landmarks, this early 16th-century monastery is a masterpiece of Manueline architecture and stands as a monument to Portugal's great age of exploration, its Golden Age of Discovery. Commissioned in 1501 by King Manuel I to celebrate Vasco da Gama's voyage to India in 1498 which initiated the lucrative spice trade, the building dazzles with its exuberant decoration which unites religious themes with nautical motifs and filigree stonework of astonishing detail. The arcaded cloister is especially rich in ornamentation. A highpoint, quite literally, of any visit is the spectacular church nave and its vaulted, spider web-like ceiling supported by columns resembling twisted rope. The tomb of Vasco da Gama is located near the entrance. Opposite, lies another sepulchre, that of the 16th-century poet Luís de Camões, whose epic poem Os Lusìadas chronicles the Discoveries. The building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: One of Portugal's greatest historic monuments, Jerónimos is also among the most celebrated of European monasteries and deserving of its World Heritage status.

Paul's expert tip: Don't miss the "A Place in Time" permanent exhibition staged in the old library that chronicles the monastery's 500-year history.

Read more about Mosteiro dos Jerónimos →

Cais do Sodré/Santos

The "Labyrinth", Portugal's first haunted house attraction, offers visitors an opportunity to have the wits scared out them by entering a world inhabited by the macabre – freaks, phantoms, ghouls, ghosts and other seriously insane individuals. Those foolhardy enough to enter the maze of mysterious tunnels, dank dungeons and creepy corridors embark on a journey through the country's dark past. This is a hidden place where myths, legends and the unwholesome truth are brought to life by actors lurking in frightening character throughout a series of realistic sets and waiting to "greet" unsuspecting mortals. Essentially a history lesson in the supernatural, some of the episodes nevertheless highlight genuine Portuguese horror stories, of serial killers, mad doctors and of course the dreadful Inquisition. Dare you visit?

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Cleverly conceived and performed, the Labyrinth in Lisbon is currently the only haunted house attraction in Portugal, and is frightening and fun in unequal measure.

Paul's expert tip: The Labyrinth is not for the nervous or fainthearted, and children under 12 are not admitted. Visitors should note that some of the sets are illuminated by strobe light.

Read more about Labirinto Lisboa →

Outside the City

Visitors seeking an adrenaline rush during their stay in Lisbon will be impressed with the outdoors activities choice offered by Guincho Adventours. Based in Cascais, about 30km west of Lisbon, the company takes advantage of its proximity to the fantastic Guincho beach to offer water sports options such as surfing and kite surfing, and the nearby Sintra hills where quad and buggy tours take place. They even have an off-road Segway circuit in place! Horse riding, jeep tours and mountain biking can be arranged and they'll take groups further afield to Arrabida and Sesimbra for example, for hill trekking and dolphin watching excursions, among lots of other destinations and activities. Many of the programmes are designed specifically for kids and families, but essentially this is an outfit geared towards anyone with an adventurous spirit who can't sit down for five minutes.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Multi-faceted Guincho Adventures offers visitors an amazingly diverse range of activity options, from kite surfing to dining out in the city centre.

Paul's expert tip: Those who are happy to stay in Lisbon should consider the company's 'Lisbon Night Tour'. Optional is dinner at a traditional fado restaurant or the upbeat Hard Rock Caf�.

Read more about Guincho Adventours →

The Henrique Caldo Riding Ring in Belém is the venue for weekly displays of virtuoso horsemanship as riders from the prestigious Portuguese School of Equestrian Art regale audiences with evening performances of classical equestrian exercise and choreography to music. Riders wear gala costume and use traditional Portuguese saddles and harnesses. Each presentation lasts approximately 45 minutes. The school also hosts monthly 90-minute gala shows where the performance is more elaborate and features acrobatic feats such as "air above the ground" jumps and other choreography characteristic of the Baroque period. The show also includes Court Games, re-enactments of royal tournaments held between the 16th and 19th centuries accompanied to atmospheric lighting and sound effects.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The special bond between horse and rider is exemplified by the performances of equestrian art at this dedicated arena.

Paul's expert tip: Consider purchasing a combo ticket from the nearby Coach Museum that also allows entry to a performance at the Henrique Caldo Riding Ring.

Read more about Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre →

West of Center

Lisbon sightseeing in taken to new heights by this helicopter flightseeing operation. Flights take in some of the Portuguese capital's most emblematic points of interest, and depending which tour you opt for include monuments like the fabulous Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the iconic Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge and the landmark Castelo de São Jorge. Departing from a helipad in Algés, the flightseeing experience varies in duration from 10 minutes to 1 hour. The helicopter's range stretches beyond the city limits to destinations like the coastal resorts of Estoril and Cascais. It's also possible to reach places like Sintra to hover over stunning attractions like the ancient Castelo dos Mouros and the beautiful Palácio da Pena. Tailor-made itineraries can also be arranged to fly to other parts of Portugal like the Alentejo or even as far south as the Algarve.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Lisbon Helicopters is currently the only flight seeing tour operating in the capital and adds an amazing dimension to the sightseeing experience.

Paul's expert tip: The quickest way to the helipad is to take the train from Cais do Sodré and alight at Algés. It's then just a ten-minute walk to the terminal.

Read more about Lisbon Helicopters →


Meet Paul Bernhardt

Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more...  More About Paul