Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Portugal and had a truly wonderful vacation. The weather, food, sights, stays, experiences and people made it a trip to remember. Since I had such a fantastic visit, I wanted to share why you should visit Lisbon in 2023/2024, in case you’re considering visiting or need some itinerary ideas for your upcoming trip.
We ended our vacation in Lisbon, after starting in Porto, making our way up to Braga, down to Aveiro, and over to Coimbra, so we’ll talk about what made the trip so memorable, the best bits along the way and why we love the mainland of Portugal so much, focusing on Lisbon.
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and largest city, with an estimated population of 544,851. Lisbon’s urban area extends beyond the city’s administrative limits, with a population of around 2.7 million people. It receives about 2 million international tourists, making it a go-to destination for visitors worldwide.
So, if you’re planning a visit or want some reasons, check out what we loved below.
Take a tram ride and see the sights
Here’s the thing, we were there in the “down season,” and the No. 28 tram was rammed with people each and every time it passed, so we ended up taking a delightful ride on the No. 24 tram instead. While the No. 24 tram is a shorter ride, it takes you through a good portion of the city, allowing you to see so much more than if you were walking from the comfort of an old historic tram without feeling like you’re trapped inside a sardine can like on the No. 28 tram.
Feel like royalty at the Ajuda National Palace
While I’m not the type to see every palace and library, we happened to find ourselves near the Ajuda National Palace, so we thought we might as well pop in, and I’m happy we did. It is truly stunning, and the way it’s all perfectly curated makes you feel like you’re taking a step back in time to see what it was truly like to be royalty, minus the short life space and bad bathing practices.
From beautiful ballrooms to epic dining rooms with endlessly long tables, gold finishing and hand-carved wood furnishings, it’s truly an incredible experience and collection set in a regal palace.
Head down to the waterfront
The Belém Tower is situated on the northern bank of the Tagus River and is a great place to visit. Once down there, you can check out the waterfront and nearby green space; the Museu do Combatente and Padrao dos Descobrimentos. When you’re done at the waterfront, take a tunnel under the street to Centro Cultural de Belem and the Museu Coleção Berardo.
There’s honestly so much to do and see in that area. You’ll be able to fill the better part of a day while grabbing some great food and Nata at nearby Pastéis de Belém.
Enjoy the best Natas in Lisbon
We did some research and asked around about where to find the best Nata in Lisbon. While we did hear a few other suggestions, we tried a few places ourselves to see, and our personal favourite was Pastéis de Belém, followed by Manteigaria Lisbon, which we also tested out while in Porto. Both were amazing, and neither had us waiting in long lines, though it was during the end of their down season.
Stop and have some lunch
While there are genuinely endless places to eat a great meal in Lisbon, in the same area as Belém Tower and the famous Pastéis de Belém, just down the street in the cutest lunch spot, Miolo. It not only offers a great brunch/lunch, but it’s also an Instagram-worthy spot that will have you fueled up and back into sightseeing in no time at all. Just be aware that the area is super busy, and you might have to wait for a table, though we only waited maybe 3 minutes.
Visit Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge
If you’ve visited San Fransisco’s golden gate bridge, then you might just notice the vast similarities, as it’s very similar in structure and look. The 25 de Abril bridge has a total length of 2,277 m. It is the 21st largest suspension bridge in the world; the upper platform carries six car lanes, and the lower platform carries two train tracks. It’s quite something to see.
Visit the MAAT
While there is a lot to see and do at the MAAT, the building, which looks like something straight out of the future, and the surrounding grounds are spectacular even if you don’t want to pay to go through, so you can do the whole experience, or check it out for free in passing, either way, it’s a fun stop along the way.
Take an afternoon stroll through the Jardim Botânico da Ajuda
Not only are the gardens beautiful and the perfect place to wander around or sit and take a break, but the gardens also offer a charming view of the city and the river.
Stop by, wander through and make sure to snap a few pics of this perfectly pruned property or just sit back and take it all in on a beautiful sunny day.
Go back in time at the Castelo de S. Jorge and the National Coach Museum
While these two aren’t close to each other, I do think they are the perfect places to visit for anyone who’s a big history buff. The Castelo de S. Jorge is an 11th-century hilltop Moorish castle & royal residence with palace ruins and an archaeological museum.
The National Coach Museum offers the most fantastic collection of coaches throughout history, from the more basic to the most ornate royal coaches that kings and queens used. It really makes you want to hop on a coach and ride back in time.
Sing Fado at Fado Museum
If you love music and the history of music (and singing), this is the place to visit. In this interactive and relaxed environment, the fadista Liana will explain the basics of Fado and teach you how to sing a traditional Fado with the musicians’ help.
Stay at the InterContinental for the best service and views in Lisbon
We had the pleasure of staying at the InterContinental Lisbon, and not only was it a stay to remember, but the hotel is beautiful, spotless, has truly one of the best staffs of any hotel I’ve stayed at and boasts the most amazing views of Lisbon. If you have the chance, stay here.
Have a delightful Brunch
While staying at InterContinental Lisbon, we had a lovely brunch at Akla. The restaurant not only offers a massive buffet-style spread, but they also have a delectable a-la-carte menu that includes savoury and sweet items, along with next-level service. It makes for the perfect place to enjoy the ultimate Sunday bunch.
See the true wonder of the Carmo Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Carmo installed in the Ruins of Carmo integrates pieces of historical, archaeological and artistic value in a broad chronology that includes artifacts and works from Prehistory to contemporary times.
Enjoy a truly exceptional dinner
If you are like me and love bone marrow, then you have to make a reservation for L’os à Moelle. They truly have the biggest portions I have ever seen, and on top of that and excellent service, they also have an exceptional selection of amazing cuts of meat. If you want a second option for fantastic steaks and want to go with a Brazilian vibe in a stunning location with high-end service, you should visit O Boteco. They also have some truly delicious desserts.
Suppose you’re looking for a small, quaint one of a kind experience. In that case, we suggest making a reservation at A Nossa Casa, as it was probably our favourite meal in Lisbon and made for a fantastic night thanks to the delicious food, friendly staff and intimate location.
Take a day trip to Sintra
We set out from Lisbon just after 8 am to visit Sintra, Pena palace, and the surrounding area and were so glad we did. You can easily organize a day trip offered by several operators and do a self or guided tour (we did a guided tour) and see some fantastic architecture, old-world charm and the beauty of the area.
There is so much to do and see in Lisbon, you could spend a whole week, be thoroughly entertained and still not have seen all the things you set out to, but that’s what makes it such a fantastic city and enticing destination for travellers all over the world, it’s many museums, old world architecture, delicious food, cute trams, epic gardens, and welcoming locals. Making Lisbon an amazing city you can visit over and over again.