The best attractions and activities in Lisbon take in some of the city’s most compelling landmarks and monuments, and provide plenty of fun things to do. One unique visitor highlight is the unique Pilar 7 Experience, which affords an opportunity to discover more about the city’s Ponte 25 Abril suspension bridge. The Lisbon Story Centre meanwhile serves as the perfect introduction to the Portuguese capital. For a more dramatic eye-opener however, take to the skies with Lisbon Helicopters, an incredible flightseeing ride that whisks passengers high over the Lisbon coast and downtown Lisbon. Back on the ground visitors can marvel at the virtuoso horsemanship of the riders performing dressage at the Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestra. The more active, meanwhile, can join up with adrenaline-fuelled Guincho Adventours. These guys offer all sorts of activity programmes to suit all ages. A more sedate experience can be enjoyed at the World Heritage Site-classified Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, one of Portugal’s most celebrated attractions. Equally impressive is the Oceanario de Lisboa, Europe’s largest aquarium and teeming with all sorts of weird and wonderful sealife. Looking for a great Instagram opp? Head to the top of the Arco da Rua Augusta for a fine panorama across the river and the downtown district. The world’s largest collection of horse-drawn coaches is housed at the impressive Museu Nacional dos Coches. And over at Parque das Nacoes why not explore by telecabine, the cable car that glides over the riverbank and affords fantastic views of the former Expo 98 site.
It’s certainly worth the effort to head out east over to Parque das Nacoes for a flight on the telecabine, the cable car that runs above the river’s edge at the city’s former Expo 98 site. The gondolas glide lazily between two stations set either end of the park and take in some glorious views of the River Tagus and visitor attractions that include the Altice Arena, the Oceanarium and the striking Vasco da Gama tower. A one-way journey takes around 20 minutes to complete (the return ticket option saves you money and offers up a different there-and-back perspective). Each gondola easily accommodates a family and the experience adds a lofty dimension to any sojourn to this part of the city. For kids especially, the trip is a real adventure with the 360° views adding a suitable wow! factor to a day out by the river.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is one of only two cable car operations in Lisbon, the other found at the city’s zoo. Telecabine Lisboa however offers up memorable views.
Paul’s expert tip: Fares are reduced for kids aged from three to 12. Youngsters under 2 years old travel for free.
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The Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum) holds the largest collection of historic coaches and carriages in the world, and is certainly the finest museum of its kind in Europe. The coaches, comprising state and promenade vehicles from Portugal, Italy, France, Austria and Spain, span from the 16th to the 19th centuries and provide an outstanding exhibit of the technical and artistic evolution of horse-drawn transportation used by the Church and the Courts of Europe. Many are simply sumptuous in design, with interiors lined with red velvet and exteriors of intricately carved and decorated gilded wood. Look out for the oldest coach in the collection, dating from 1619 and which once belonged to Filipe II of Spain. In addition to the carriages, there are related items on show such as harnesses, lamps, whips and riding crops and saddle chairs.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is the largest collection of traditional coaches and carriages in world, which is housed in modern, a purpose built facility.
Paul’s expert tip: The museum complements an older museum that still houses a number of coaches, and you can purchase a combined ticket to visit both.
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The panorama enjoyed from the top of the Rua Augusta Arch combines fantastic river views with an inspiring city landscape. Sited in Lisbon’s Baixa (downtown) district overlooking Praca do Comercio, the triumphal arch was built to celebrate the city’s reconstruction after the great earthquake of 1755 and was inaugurated in 1873. The monument, designed by Portuguese architect Santos de Carvalho, is impressive in its dimensions, standing nearly 45m. Surmounting the top cornice is a colossal allegorical statue of Glory, crowning figures representing Bravery and Genius with wreaths. The carved entablature supports additional figures of national heroes including Vasca da Gama, Nuno Alvares Pereira and the Marques de Pombal. Sightseers can reach the clock room by elevator. From here they must climb a spiral staircase to reach the top of the monument where a 360-degree river and downtown perspective can be admired.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: After decades of neglect the arch and its clock room have been fully renovated and opened to the public.
Paul’s expert tip: A family ticket also includes entry into the excellent Lisbon Story Centre interactive exhibition, located nearby.
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The Oceanário is the most visited tourist attraction in Lisbon, indeed Portugal, and is Europe’s second largest aquarium. It’s home to around 8000 aquatic species, with the facility designed around four different habitat zones and a huge central tank that holds a mesmerizing variety of sealife, including an array of sleek shark, graceful ray and a funky-looking sunfish. A series of smaller aquaria display a fascinating collection of marine life: look out for the beautiful and dainty sea dragons! Another popular draw are the two sea otters what win over crowds with their playful antics. The Oceanário works on several levels. While walking through impressive and unforgettable exhibits, visitors are also encouraged to learn more about the oceans’ richness and diversity, and are also reminded of just how fragile the undersea environment is. Entertaining and educative, this makes for a great family day out.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: An undersea adventure, the Oceanário is the all-round visitor attraction where everybody has an unforgettable experience and takes home the sustainable environment message.
Paul’s expert tip: Photography is allowed inside the Oceanario but it’s forbidden to use flashlight as it has a detrimental effect on the sealife.
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One of Lisbon’s most impressive historic landmarks, this early 16th-century monastery is a masterpiece of Manueline architecture and stands as a monument to Portugal’s great age of exploration, its Golden Age of Discovery. Commissioned in 1501 by King Manuel I to celebrate Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India in 1498 which initiated the lucrative spice trade, the building dazzles with its exuberant decoration which unites religious themes with nautical motifs and filigree stonework of astonishing detail. The arcaded cloister is especially rich in ornamentation. A highpoint, quite literally, of any visit is the spectacular church (free entry) with its nave and vaulted, spider web-like ceiling supported by columns resembling twisted rope. The tomb of Vasco da Gama is located near the entrance. Opposite lies another sepulchre, that of the 16th-century poet Luis de Camoes, whose epic poem Os Lusiadas chronicles the Discoveries. The building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: One of Portugal’s greatest historic monuments, Jeronimos is also among the most celebrated of European monasteries and deserving of its World Heritage status.
Paul’s expert tip: Don’t miss the “A Place in Time” permanent exhibition staged in the old library that chronicles the monastery’s 500-year history.
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Visitors seeking an adrenaline rush during their stay in Lisbon will be impressed with the outdoors activities choice offered by Guincho Adventours. Based in Areira, 15 km north of Cascais, the company takes advantage of its proximity to the fantastic Guincho beach to offer water sports options such as surfing and kite surfing, and the nearby Sintra hills where quad and buggy tours take place. They even have an off-road Segway circuit in place! Horse riding, jeep tours and mountain biking can be arranged and they’ll take groups further afield to Arrabida and Sesimbra for example, for hill trekking and dolphin watching excursions, among lots of other destinations and activities. Many of the programmes are designed specifically for kids and families, but essentially this is an outfit geared towards anyone with an adventurous spirit who can’t sit down for five minutes.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Multi-faceted Guincho Adventures offers visitors an amazingly diverse range of activity options, from kite surfing to dining out in the city centre.
Paul’s expert tip: Traveling with kids? If one of your children is celebrating a birthday, consider the Kids Birthday Party excursion. It’s great fun!
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The Henrique Caldo Riding Ring in Belem is the venue for daily (Tue-Sat) displays of virtuoso horsemanship as riders from the prestigious Portuguese School of Equestrian Art regale audiences with performances of classical equestrian exercise and choreography to music. Riders wear gala costume and use traditional Portuguese saddles and harnesses. Each presentation lasts approximately 45 minutes. The school also hosts a 60-minute gala show on the last Friday of every month where the performance is more elaborate and features acrobatic feats such as “air above the ground” jumps and other choreography characteristic of the Baroque period. The show also includes Court Games, re-enactments of royal tournaments held between the 16th and 19th centuries accompanied to atmospheric lighting and sound effects.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The special bond between horse and rider is exemplified by the performances of equestrian art at this dedicated arena.
Paul’s expert tip: Consider purchasing a combo ticket from the nearby Coach Museum that also allows entry to a performance at the Henrique Caldo Riding Ring.
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Lisbon sightseeing in taken to new heights by this helicopter flightseeing operation. Tours take in some of the Portuguese capital’s most emblematic points of interest, and depending which flight you opt for include fly pasts over monuments like the fabulous Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, the iconic Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge and the landmark Castelo de Sao Jorge. Departing from a helipad in Alges, the flightseeing experience varies in duration from 10 minutes to 1 hour. The helicopter’s range stretches beyond the city limits to destinations like the coastal resorts of Estoril and Cascais. It’s also possible to reach places like Sintra to hover over stunning attractions like the ancient Castelo dos Mouros and the beautiful Palacio da Pena. Tailor-made itineraries can also be arranged to fly to other parts of Portugal like the Alentejo or even as far south as the Algarve.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Lisbon Helicopters is currently the only flight tour operating in the capital and adds an amazing dimension to the sightseeing experience.
Paul’s expert tip: The quickest way to the helipad is to take the train from Cais do Sodre and alight at Alges. It’s then just a ten-minute walk to the terminal.
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The Lisboa Story Centre allows visitors to discover the history of the Portuguese capital by joining a virtual audio tour of the city and interacting with a host of historical characters and important events. This novel facility chronicles Lisbon’s timeline from the earliest settlers, including the Romans and the Moors, and continues through the medieval period, with particular emphasis on the golden Age of Discovery, when Lisbon was one of the most powerful cities in the world. The tragedy of the 1755 earthquake is recalled in vivid detail by a fantastic film that recreates the disaster, complete with trembling auditorium! The journey concludes by focusing on the very square in which the centre is located, Terreiro do Paco (also known as Praca do Comercio). A souvenir shop and a handy tourist information centre are also on site.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is the perfect introduction to Lisbon. Even if you think you know the city well, be prepared for some surprises.
Paul’s expert tip: Photography and video is allowed, but not during the Earthquake film presentation.
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Ever wondered how they build a suspension bridge? Then check out the Pilar 7 Experience. This is one of Lisbon’s most popular visitor attractions and allows you to discover the technology employed to construct the city’s iconic Ponte 25 Abril. Located beside one of the bridge’s supporting structures, the Pilar 7 Experience Centre features an exhibition room, which charts the history behind the impressive structure. You’re then taken on a fascinating guided tour of the massive concrete base, the walls of which are stencilled with information panels explaining various stages of the building and engineering process. Afterwards, visitors are invited to take a panoramic elevator up to a vertigo-inducing viewing platform set 80 meters above the ground and parallel to the busy roadway deck. From here the views are simply jaw-dropping.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: One of the most Lisbon’s most original and unique visitors attractions, the Pilar 7 Experience is as inspirational as it is educative.
Paul’s expert tip: Take the optional virtual reality tour for an immersive trip into inaccessible parts of the bridge.
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