As the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is visited by thousands, if not millions of tourists every year. Lisbon has a wide variety of popular tourist attractions – from buildings with incredible architecture, museums, cathedrals, that are all heavily visited throughout the year.
But there’s something to be said for visiting those areas not nearly as heavily travelled by tourists. Perhaps you’re looking for experiences more akin to the daily lives of the locals or you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the usually heavily populated tourist spots and experience something new.
Whatever your reasoning, we have compiled a list of fun, fascinating alternatives to the usual Lisbon tourist hotspots:
Feira da Ladra – Thieves Market
This traditional market takes place every Tuesday and Saturday from very early in the morning to early afternoon. It certainly makes for an interesting day out. There are always a wide variety of stalls, providing an eclectic mix of items – you may be lucky and bag yourself a vintage bargain! This is a large, outdoor market, you could easily spend a few hours here, wandering around enjoying the sunshine and seeing what bargains you could acquire. The market is located in the beautiful historic neighbourhood of Alfama, near the Castle of St George, so also plenty more for you to explore once finished at the market! A fun, eclectic, colourful option!
This is Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood and certainly has a lot to offer. First, there is the Jardim Botanica da Ajuda, Portugal’s oldest botanic garden! It was designed by Italian botanist Domingos Vandelli in 1768. Now it is also a teaching and research centre, focused on collecting as many different species of plant as possible. From April to October, it is open from 10 am to 5 pm during the week and until 6 pm at weekends. From May to September it is open from 10 am to 6 pm during the week and until 8 pm at weekends. Entry costs 2€ for adults, 1€ for students, children and over 65s and it is free for children under 6. There is also a family entry option for 5€ which allows entry for two adults and 1 – 3 children up to the age of 18. The gardens are located 150 metres walk North from Cc. da Ajuda – Palacio stop of tram 18.
Within the botanic gardens is the Ajuda Palace. A spectacular example of neoclassical architecture. The museum within demonstrates the life of luxury the royal family had during the 19th century. There are several rooms available for the public to view including the throne room, the queen’s room and the dining room. All of which are extravagantly decorated and the dining room is actually still in use today for government events. The palace is closed on Wednesdays but is open from 10 am to 6 pm every other day with the last entry at 5.30 pm. Tram 18 is the best option for getting to the palace, you can board it at Cais do Sodré train station which will take you to the palace in approx 25 minutes. Buss 760 is also an option, again stopping right outside the palace and taking approx 30 minutes to arrive from boarding in Praça da Figueira.
This is a fantastically fun way to explore neighbourhoods, that aren’t always the easiest to explore on foot (Lisbon is full of narrow, steep streets) or simply to allow you to explore more of an area if you are on a time scale. There are several companies from which you can hire tuk-tuks and they also offer the opportunity to pre-book yourself onto a variety of different tours exploring different areas of Lisbon. If the idea of a tour appeals to you, I’d suggest going for a tour of historic neighbourhoods such as Alfama, Graco and Bairro Alto, they are quieter neighbourhoods, generally not as densely populated by tourists and the tour will ensure you make the most out of visiting them! You can also find tuk-tuks for hourly hire parked up around many centrally located streets. So there is also the option to hire one for a couple of hours if you want to take off and explore some of those areas that are harder to reach on foot. This will cost approx €30 for two hours. Some websites where you can look at the option of booking a tour are:
Pastel de Nata making classes
I think many of us can agree that the classic Portuguese custard tart is absolutely delicious but how amazing would it be to learn how to make these incredible little treats for yourself? Well, there is a selection of bakeries all across Lisbon that offer the opportunity for you to do just that! One such bakery is the Pastelaria Batalha, situated in downtown Lisbon. They offer small classes for groups of up to 10 people maximum, where in 2 hours you are taught how to handle pastry, make custard from scratch and put both together to make those delicious tarts! Included in the cost is all the equipment and materials you will need to make 3 delicious custard tarts, plus a drink which can be tea, coffee or Ginjinha – a lovely cherry flavoured liquor. The classes with this bakery can be booked in advance on Eventbrite (just search ‘Pastel de Nata Workshop at REAL Bakery in Lisbon). The great thing about this is you can then see the dates and times of classes beforehand and pre-book something that suits you. The cost of the class is €50.06 for the two hours.
Museu de Lisboa – Palácio Pimenta
This museum is set in a stunning 18th-century palace. It highlights the history of Lisbon from pre-historic dates, right through to the 20th century! There are a huge variety of sculptures and artefacts to be seen here – if you are interested in archaeology then this would be a fantastic stop for you to make. Entry is €3 for adults and free for children and the museum is open from 1 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Sunday with the last entry being at 5.30 pm. There is also free entry if you go on a Sunday before 2 pm!
Also as a free bonus is the nearby Bordallo Pinheiro garden, beautiful gardens made all the more worth a visit due to the huge ceramic animal sculptures that can be found throughout! This would be a fantastic place for a family outing with the children trying to find all the creatures in the hedges and trees!