With so many things to do in Lisbon (Lisboa), you’ll likely have to make some tough decisions if you’re on a tight schedule. Try to take the time to see all of the highlights of Lisbon’s main districts, though, as each one has something very special to offer.
Be part of history
Lisbon’s oldest district, Alfama, is steeped in history. It features winding streets, ancient architecture, bustling street markets, and limitless opportunities to hear fado, the traditional folk music of Portugal. During the day, pay a visit to the Feira da Ladra, the city’s famous flea market, and then climb the ramparts and enjoy the spectacular views from the grounds of the Castelo de São Jorge, built in 500 A.D.
Listen to the songs of sorrow
For a quick education in the ancient art of fado, visit Casa do Fado, which traces the progression of the art from its beginnings as working-class ‘songs of sorrow’ to modern day interpretations. In the evenings, don’t miss the opportunity to spend time in the many fado houses, including Parreirinha de Alfama and Adega Machado.
Walk among royalty
In the Belém district, it’s hard to miss the enormous Torre de Belém, one of the most photographed sites in Lisbon. With its intricate balconies, watchtowers and battlements, this 16th century tower is a sight to behold. The Fonte Luminosa (Iluminated Fountain) in the tower square shows 70 unique patterns of water in about 1 hour. Don’t miss the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, an absolute treasure of Manualine architecture.
Get a little cultured
The charming Saldanha district is the place for Lisbon’s premiere art. That includes Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, with its extraordinary collection of Egyptian, Greek and Islamic artifacts, and stunning paintings. Another must-see is the Centro de Arte Moderna, featuring Portugal’s most prominent modern artists. Take a slight detour to visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, with beautiful exhibits of the Portuguese tile art.
Indulge your stomach and soul
Adjacent to the Rossio train station, take the climb up the narrow streets of the Bairro Alto district (or take a tram instead), where you can indulge your love of good food, and your need for a good party. A wide variety of restaurants, clubs, bars and cafes will help you share in the Portuguese’s sense of enjoyment and pleasure.