Cobbled alleyways, white-domed cathedrals and cuisine that calls from afar; Lisbon is a dream docking port on Douro river cruises. With more than twenty centuries of history, Lisbon is a long-standing city steeped in sunshine and doused with sumptuous scents.

Feast in the streets

Portuguese pastel de nata custard tarts on a rack in a bakery

Some consider Portugal to be the home of food and drink, and Lisbon doesn’t disappoint. A city with a sweet tooth, Lisbon’s iconic palm-sized pastry, pastel de nata, can be enjoyed at any time of day. Head to Antiga Confeitaria de Belém to enjoy these sugar-coated egg tarts, made in the same way as they were years ago.

Wash this local delicacy down with the national drink that bears Portugal’s name: port, or porto. This rich, fortified wine pairs perfectly with a good cheese or, at Christmas, a mince pie. Take part in a tasting tour during a Lisbon river cruise, or visit one of the many wine bars throughout the city centre to sample the sweet signature-taste of Portugal.

Should port not be to your taste, fear not! Take a trip to Ginginha do Carmo, where you can sip cherry chocolate; a sour-cherry Portuguese liquor served in a chocolate cup.

Art, architecture and everything in between

A raccoon painted by the street artist, Bordalo II, in Lisbon

Pedro Ribeiro Simoes /, CC BY 2.0

As you walk the alleyways, hill-side cobbles and steep streets of Lisbon, you may notice an abundance of mesmerising street art. Like an open-air gallery, Lisbon is home to many modern-day masterpieces. Spot some of resident street artist Bordalo II’s work, which is hand-crafted from rubbish and presents themes of environmental impact. His pieces include a racoon, a giant bee and fish.

You can also see more traditional sights, including the Jerónimos Monastery and nearby Tower of Belém, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Comprising a delicate Gothic chapel, Portugal’s greatest historical figures are entombed inside this 16th Century architectural landmark.

Other key sights include the river beach, Ribeira das Naus, where you can enjoy the sea breeze or take an exploratory visit to one of the best aquariums in the world, Oceanaria de Lisboa. Home to 8,000 marine animals including rays, otters and sharks, the experience evokes emotions where art and nature are expertly connected.

Capture the true beauty of Lisbon

Houses with terracotta roofs leading down to the sea in Lisbon

For stunning sights of the city, meander through Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood to Castelo Sao Jorge for a satisfying view of the terracotta roofs as they cascade into the coastline. Here you will notice (if you haven’t already), that Lisbon is built across seven hills, meaning immense views lie around every street corner. Ride Elevador da Bica, the city’s iconic funicular, which connects Largo do Calhariz to Rua de São Paulo. The tram is deemed a national monument and a must-do for everyone.

Alternatively, head out of the city on your own little day-trip to Parques se Sintra, where you can explore a living fairytale. With Moorish castles, monasteries and old fortresses, getting here is less than an hour via train and well worth a visit.

Live like a local

Panoramic view of locals browsing Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon

For a truly authentic Lisbon river cruise, do as the locals do and shop at Mercado da Ribeira, which has been in operation since the 19th Century. Enjoy chorizo or prego steak sandwiches, Santini ice cream, or bolo do caco: a soft bread flavoured with garlic and herbs. The market is packed at midnight, prime time for an authentic experience.

Visit the smallest bookshop in the world at the start of the Conceição stairs, where more than 3,000 books are stored in 4sqm at the Livraria do Simão, a well-hidden library for book-lovers. Or, step away from the streets and see some of the fantastic local wildlife including fallow deer during rutting season, wild boar, birds of prey and greater flamingos – all of which can be spotted in some of the estuaries or parks around the city.

A destination crying out to make the top spot on your travel checklist, Lisbon is the ‘X’ mark on a treasure map of tantalising to-dos. From relaxing on the beach with a new book to scaling the hills and breathing in the spectacular sights, Lisbon is a postcard-perfect destination. Just take a step beyond its city walls and see for yourself!

Do you have any must-see attractions or favourite activities while in Lisbon? Let us know in the comment box below.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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