Lisbon is one of those cities that people instantly fall in love with. There’s something about the colorful houses, the iconic blue and white tiles and the maze of narrow cobblestone alleys that instantly charm visitors. Many tourists stick to the same itinerary, but there’s so much more to see in this gorgeous city. Here are 7 unique things to do in Lisbon if you want to get a little more off the beaten track.
Visit the Oldest Bookshop Still in Operation
For my fellow book nerds, you can’t miss a visit to Livraria Bertrand, the oldest running bookshop in the world. Opened in 1732, this landmark is a true relic of literary history. It even won a Guinness World Record! The bookstore is open everyday, so it’s easy to pop in when you have some free time. If you can, plan to spend an afternoon perusing its many rooms and snuggling up on a leather couch with a new book.
Explore the Local Food Culture
One of the best ways to learn about a new city is through its food! You can go around exploring on your own, but if you want a sure hit we recommend you to look for a quality food tour. You will both taste the top delicacies and find the best places where to eat each of those! There are plenty of food tours in Lisbon, but we suggest checking out Withlocals.
Their Lisbon food tour includes 10 delicious tastings, and you will be in the company of a local foodie! When we tried it, accompanied by a local host called Silvia, we got to try all of the city’s local delicacies including Portuguese sausages and Pastel de Nata, the country’s famous Portuguese tarts!
The tour also includes tasting some local libations, including a traditional Imperial beer and Ginjinha liquor, a delicious sour cherry alcohol we personally fell in love with, and you do not want to miss. Along the way, you’ll stop at some of the city’s iconic streets and most beautiful viewpoints, which is always a nice addition.
If you want to see the Lisbon of the future, visit the very cool LX Factory. This industrial complex has restaurants, bars, shops and impressive street art. This site was once a fabric factory, and it’s really cool to see how the youth of Lisbon have revitalized it and made the space their own. It definitely has a hipster vibe with cool coffee shops and an impressive bookstore. On Sunday, they have a flea market with pop up stalls that are perfect for unique souvenirs.
Time Out Lisbon
After a long day walking the cobblestone streets of Lisbon, you’re bound to be starving. For the ultimate choice in the city’s best food, head to Time Out Lisbon market. Located down by the water in Cais do Sodre, near Bairro Alto, this market has every food and drink you could want.
From traditional Portuguese meals of fresh fish or sausage, to international dishes like sushi and pizza, they’ve got it all. You buy your food from individual stands and then grab a spot at a communal table. If you’ve got a big group, this can be pretty tricky at peak hours. In the middle of the big market hall are drink vendors with an excellent beer and wine selection.
The Floating Head of Diogo Alves
This is for those that really want to see something unique (and don’t have a weak stomach!). In the University of Lisbon, there is a preserved head of a Portuguese serial killer from the 1800’s. Back then scientists believed they could learn something about characteristics of a killer from the shape of their head.
After Alves was hanged for his crimes, scientists at the university decided to preserve his head for research purposes. And it still resides in a jar, well preserved, on a shelf in the university’s Faculty of Medicine. Unfortunately, it’s not generally open to the public, so you’ll have to buddy up to a student or sweet talk your way in.
Drinks in Bairro Alto
If you’re looking for true Lisbon nightlife, Barrio Alto is the place to be. This neighborhood is filled with small bars that are tucked into its maze of cobblestone streets. They’re nothing fancy, and it might take ages to get a drink, but once you do you can take your plastic cup out onto the street and mingle. Meet new friends and roam around until you find the next cool bar.
Stay for Festas de Lisboa
If you’re really devoted to partying in Lisbon, come in the summer for the city’s big festivities. Throughout the beginning of June the streets become more and more decorated with red and green flags and pop up bars start to open on the corners of Barrio Alto. The city starts buzzing with parties until the final culmination on the night of June 12th for the festival of Lisbon’s patron saint, Santo Antonio.
The narrow alleys of Barrio Alto and around the city are packed with partygoers reveling in the street. It’s also known as the Sardine Festival, so the streets are lined with cooks grilling up Sardinha no Pão, whole sardines in a bun. Don’t forget that these sardine still have their bones in them, so you may hear a big crunch if you bite right in! This festival is Lisbon in a nutshell (or a sardine bun!) and if you’re around for this time of year, you’d be crazy to miss it!