Lisbon region travel guide: the best things to see and do
Take in the history, culture and scenery in and around Portugal’s capital
With a vast and diverse selection of experiences on offer, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the Lisbon region. Visitors can soak up the sun on the golden Atlantic beaches, discover nature in protected natural parks or uncover Lisbon’s rich history with its UNESCO-protected sites. Here are some of the best things to do in the region this summer.
Up close to nature at the Arrábida Natural Park
With its deep blue seas, idyllic beaches and vibrant green hills, the Arrábida Natural Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit on a trip to the Lisbon region. Located 30 minutes south of the city by car, it offers an array of natural gems to discover including hundreds of species of butterfly, birds and mammals. Keen hikers will enjoy its many trails, with the steepest only suitable for the fittest and most adventurous travellers.
Stunning views from a miradouro
Spread across seven hills, Lisbon is dotted with miradouros (viewpoints) that offer unforgettable vistas. Usually located at the highest points of each hill, the miradouros are a great place to sit back and take in the city below. Views from the Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol of Alfama’s picturesque rooftops, towers and domes are some of the most memorable in the city. The Miradouro Da Nossa Senhora Do Monte is another popular spot, famed as one of the city’s more romantic viewpoints and perfect for admiring the sun as it sets behind the striking Castelo de São Jorge.
Sun, surf and getting active
The Lisbon region is famous for its stunning golden beaches just 20 minutes from the city, with some of its most popular found along the Costa da Caparica and Linha de Cascais. However, for those wanting to soak up the sun without the crowds there are quieter options to be found. The secluded coves along Arrábida’s coast, such as Galapinhos, Galapos, Coelhos and Creiro, offer crystal-clear waters and tranquil surroundings or, for real off-the-beaten-track exploration, travellers can head to Sintra to discover Ursa beach.
From adrenaline sports such as paragliding and abseiling to getting active in nature through hiking, mountain biking and golf, the Lisbon region has plenty to offer visitors looking for an active break. For those who enjoy spending time on – or in – the water, coasteering, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, diving and caving are all popular, while Lisbon’s surf scene is world famous. Ericeira is a World Surfing Reserve and just 30-minutes by car from the city.
The famous flavours of Lisbon
No visit to Lisbon is complete without sampling a pastel de nata, the delicious sweet egg custard tarts sold in pastelaria on virtually every street in the city. However, there’s more to Lisbon’s culinary scene than these sweet treats. The region’s seafood is also not to be missed. Bacalhau (salted codfish) is the king of seafood in the region, while grilled sardines are a Lisbon icon and fried cuttlefish is also popular - all delicious when enjoyed alfresco with a glass of local wine.
Lisbon from the river
For a different perspective on the city, the Tagus River offers plentiful options for visitors. A riverboat trip is the perfect way to take in “must-see” views such as the stunning 25 de Abril bridge and the Cristo Rei monument which towers above the south bank, while romantics will enjoy a sunset cruise while exploring the city by river. Along the banks there are also many great areas to discover, such as the Parque das Nações district with its futuristic architecture, urban art and green spaces ideal for soaking up the sun. Riverside bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy Lisbon’s food and drink; the Alcântara district is the place to find the trendy Santo Amaro Docks and the LX Factory, which houses more than 50 shops, restaurants and bars inside a renovated factory building.
Centuries of history
The Lisbon region’s rich history and heritage are displayed in abundance through its architecture, monuments, UNESCO World Heritage sites and museums. Must-visits include The National Palace at Mafra, the breathtaking town of Sintra recognised for its cultural landscape, Castelo de São Jorge perched on one of the city’s highest viewpoints, the Belém Tower - an iconic symbol of Lisbon - and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
Sounds of the city
Deep-rooted in Lisbon’s culture is fado, part of UNESCO’s World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list and often referred to as the soul of Portuguese music. At the “fado houses” in Bairro Alto and Alfama visitors can enjoy this haunting music while enjoying traditional Portuguese cuisine and wine. To learn more about it, visitors can head to the Museum of Fado, while the Fado Vadio is a street art mural created as a tribute to this traditional music in the neighbourhood of Mouraria.
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