Lisbon is undoubtably a contender for the most varied capital city in Europe, and yet also one of the least explored. Tourists flock to Paris, descend on Rome and storm the streets of London, but many have never wandered Lisbon’s hilly streets.
For those of us who have, though, we know that Lisbon is a city with many angles and there’s always another reason to return to this Atlantic coast gem. So, if you think you’ve seen everything Lisbon has to offer, think again! Here is our round up of some of the unusual things to do in Lisbon that you’ll want to add to your itinerary next time.
What are the Best Unusual things to do in Lisbon?
Bordallo Pinheiro Garden
If you are looking for unusual things to do in Lisbon, head to the Bordallo Pinheiro garden. This light-hearted garden in the Museum of the City of Lisbon celebrates the work of 19th Century Portuguese artist, Rafel Bordallo Pinheiro.
Pinheiro – who won the gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1889 – is known for his oversized porcelain animal sculptures. Amusing, terrifying and beautiful in equal measure, these giant porcelain creatures are worth the visit. There’s a good shop for souvenirs too.
Where to find: Campo Grande 245, Lisbon, 1700-091
Nearest Station: Camp Grande
Carmo Convent Ruins
The Carmo Convent has stood in Lisbon since 1389 and is now home to the Carmo Archaeological Museum, which tells the story of Portugal’s history.
The city was largely destroyed and the death toll is estimated to have reached around 60,000 people.
The Prime Minister of the day set about rebuilding the fallen city, with his mission statement: “Bury the dead and feed the living”.
Out of the rubble, a new city emerged and the convent was left intentionally roofless as a reminder of the deadliest day in Portugal’s history.
Where to find: Largo do Carmo 92, 1200-092
Nearest Station: Baixa-Chiado
Portuguese Tile Painting
One of the first things you notice about the buildings in Lisbon is how so many of them are adorned with beautifully painted tiles. From residential buildings, to stations and markets – azulejos (blue and white tiles) are everywhere.
And you can paint your own!
There are a number of options in the city, some in shops and others are more off-the-beaten-track in artists’ homes or workshops.
Loja Descobrimentos is a shop in the Alfama neighbourhood of the Old City, which offers private workshops if you book ahead.
If you’re looking for something more personal, local artist Marie Caroline Vidal runs tile painting workshops and can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or Eglantine and Caroline offer a 3.5-hour workshop, in which you’ll paint two tiles.
Pastel de Nata Workshop
Pastel de Nata are the most scrumptious Portuguese egg custard tarts. Indeed, they’re so yummy that they’re making quite an impression internationally, with Portuguese bakeries popping up in all major cities. But you can’t beat Lisbon at its own game!
Book on a pastel de Nata workshop to make your own tasty tarts! This is one of my favourite unusual things to do in Lisbon.
Classes are available from multiple providers in the city, with provision for intimate groups or larger bookings if you’re in Lisbon for a work trip or family reunion.
Pastel de Nata workshop in Malveira, Mafra (Greater Lisbon) at a genuine working bakery.
Two-hour workshop (5pm – 7pm) daily for small groups of up to 10 people in the heart of the city.
Morning workshop in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood for €40 per person.
Street Art Tour
Lisbon Street Art Tours offer a totally different way of seeing the city. Taking you on a 2.5 to 3 hour walk around Lisbon, your expert local guide will introduce you to the different neighbourhoods, with a focus on the murals you’ll see on the way.
For a full list of their current tours, see their Facebook Page.
One of the exciting aspects of booking your street art tour with this provider is that you are also contributing to the development of new street art in the city through the ‘Yes You Can Spray Collective’.
They’ve got a good Instagram account if you want a taste of the tour.
Santuário de Cristo Rei
Of course, one of the most iconic landmarks of Lisbon looks over the city from the other side of the river. The Sanctuary of Christ the King was unveiled to the public in 1959, inspired by the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
The statue stands 110 metres tall in Almada, and most tourists take their picture from the river bank of Lisbon. But take the trip across the water and you’ll see the statue in a whole new way.
The statue is set within beautiful landscaped grounds, which are free to visit. There’s loads of space too, so you’ll get great photos and won’t be jostled on all sides like at some other major tourist sites.
How to get there: Take the ferry from Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas (there are about 3 ferries an hour and the crossing takes 15 minutes). On the other side of the river, pick up the 101 bus, which will take you the rest of the way to the monument.
Benfica Stadium Tour
If you’re a football fan, make sure to stop by the Benfica Stadium for a tour. Benfica is one of Portugal’s top domestic clubs, with over 20 league titles to its name.
The stadium is also home to a museum celebrating Portuguese football (heard of that Ronaldo guy?) and it’s possible to get a combined stadium tour and museum ticket for the very specific price of €13.13.
Both stadium and museum are open from 10am – 6pm.
Where to find: Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Av. Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, 1500-313
How to get there: Take the Az bus from Baixa-Chiado in the centre of town and alight at Alto dos Moinhos. It’s a short walk from there.
Once you’ve finished sight-seeing for the day, unwind in the quirkiest of undercover bars. Pavilhão Chinês is a baffling collection of trinkets and old curiosities, mixed with a secret bar.
Look for the red door at 89 R. Dom Pedro V, at the top of the hill in the centre of downtown Lisbon, and ring the doorbell. If you don’t ring the doorbell, you’re not getting in!
The eclectic collection of antiquities is the personal passion project of the owner, who converted the old grocery store (of the same name) into its current incarnation as a bar… or museum.
If you go once, you’re guaranteed to go again! The bar is open from 6pm – 2am.
Where to find: 89 Rua Dom Pedro V, Principe Real, 1250-093
How to get there: Take the bus or tram to São Pedro De Alcântara (24E, 19B, 202, 758) and walk from there.
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