Lisbon is full of beauty and history. But it’s also full of tourists. If you want to check out some of the more offbeat Lisbon highlights and see where the locals hang out, you’ll want to check out our guide on 10 of the most exciting and unusual things to do in Lisbon.
There’s nothing like checking out the local music scene when visiting a new city. Fado is a traditional Portuguese folk music, often mixing themes of melancholy with stories about the life of the working class. The soulful music can be heard playing in many restaurants and shops. However, any music lover will want to make an effort to sit down for a meal in one of the famous Fado restaurants in the Alfama district.
If you’re a fan of street art, you won’t want to miss the art in Lisbon, one of the best cities for urban art in the world. Home to stunning artists like Vhils and Bordalo II, the artwork you can find scattered across Portugal’s buildings and neighborhoods will certainly draw your eye. Check out Lisbon’s Galeria de Arte Urbana, the Crono Project, the old theater district, or just walk around until something catches your eye! You won’t have to look hard for the spectacular paintings that decorate the city.
The Hospital de Bonecas, or Hospital for Dolls, is certainly one of the more unusual attractions to be found in Lisbon. Workers lovingly restore dolls and stuffed animals here, as well as making new dolls and doll clothes. You can bring in your own well-loved toy or visit their museum, where you’ll see over 4,000 dolls. It’s up to you to decide whether they are creepy or cute.
Bertrand’s Bookstore is the oldest currently operational bookstore in the world. Opening their doors in 1732, Bertrand’s has been selling books ever since. The location itself, however, is just a little younger. The original Bertrand’s was destroyed in the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, and their new location opened shortly after. For bibliophile tourists, Bertrand’s is a must-stop that still values the books over anything else.
If you want to see more of Lisbon’s beautiful, historic shops, you’ll want to check out Caza das Vellas Loreto. Opening its doors in 1789, this local candle shop is one of the oldest in the world. The family-owned business has not changed hands since. As such, it maintains much of its original charm. The wood-paneled walls are lined with candles, and the interior architecture is reminiscent of a beautiful church. This store is popular with locals, who often come here to buy candles for baptisms, weddings, or other celebrations.
You’ve probably been to an art museum at some point in your life. But have you ever been to a museum dedicated exclusively to tilework? At the National Tile Museum, you’ll be able to see some of the stunning azulejos, Portuguese hand-painted tiles. You’ll also learn about the fascinating history of tilework in the region, and be awed by the former convent that houses the museum.
In the Thieves’ Market, you’ll almost certainly find great vintage clothing and antiques. Fortunately, you’re far less likely to find actual thieves. The name, Feira da Ladra, is often translated as “Thieves’ Market,” but originally had a different meaning. While “Ladra” means a female thief, “Ladro” is a type of small bug often found in antiques. This open air flea market will certainly stun you with the vast array of items for sale.
If you’re looking for an outing that’s a little less mainstream, check out the LX Factory. At this old, renovated fabric factory, you can grab a drink and shop for a while with the local hipsters. Inside, you’ll find delicious restaurants, mouth-watering drinks, great shops, and more street art. The young, trendy community that frequents the LX Factory is evidence of the quality of the local retailers. From alternative clothing boutiques to cheesecake restaurants, LX Factory is full of fun, off-beat businesses that you will want to explore all day!
This beautiful palace is located in a nice, quiet area of Portugal. The palace itself is an historical piece of architecture, but the palace garden is truly breathtaking. The garden is decorated with symbolic art. The shrubs cut to depict the seasons are just one example. The most spectacular part of the palace gardens is the collection of statues and tilework paying tribute to the Gods.
The Lisbon Museum is worth a visit on its own, but the Bordallo Pinheiro Garden is what will attract lovers of spectacular (and slightly quirky) art. The garden is filled with massive porcelain sculptures created by Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro. Pinheiro was famous for his drawings, ceramics, and sculptures. The sculptures that decorate the garden at the Lisbon Museum depict massive, brightly colored animals lounging in the sun.
If you’re up for a drive outside the city for a day, you should check out Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra. This sprawling estate houses a mansion, a chapel, several beautiful water features and grottoes, and a masonic initiation well. Built on the owner’s beliefs in freemasonry and rosicrucianism, this well takes on the shape of an inverted tower. As you descend the spiral staircase, you can easily imagine the secret rituals that might have taken place here.