Lisbon’s unmissable landmarks and historical sights

Pack your itinerary with these 15 must-see landmarks in Lisbon to discover the best of the Portuguese capital’s history, culture, and nature.

Unsurprisingly for a city so packed with history, Lisbon’s cobblestone streets are lined with fascinating landmarks. From symbols of medieval majesty to the riches of Portugal's Golden Age, at places like São Jorge Castle and Jeronimos Monastery, these historic landmarks paint a vivid picture of Portugal's past. And it isn’t only buildings and museums that make the cut.

Lisbon's historic importance was fueled by its access to the Tagus River and there are plenty landmarks provided by nature too. Take a dip in the Atlantic waters if you visit Lisbon in summer, or head into the lush Sintra Forest for a rounded itinerary of fun activities. Here are 15 of the best landmarks Lisbon has to offer to get you started.

Historic and architectural landmarks in Lisbon

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1. Get the best views in town from the São Jorge Castle

No trip to Lisbon would be complete without a visit to São Jorge Castle. This hilltop castle gives you amazing views across the city and the bay, and contains one of the city's best museums within its grounds.

Highlights:

Do you hear squawking? That'll be the castle's resident flock of peacocks. Check out the beautiful birds strutting their stuff around the courtyard.

Address and opening hours:

Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisbon. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-9:00 PM.

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2. See the sunset over the Belem Tower

The Belem Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in Lisbon. A squat tower built right on the water; this fortified building once defended the city from sea attacks. Today it holds a charming collection of antiques well worth viewing.

Highlights:

Stay in the area after the tower closes to watch the sunset. The dying rays of the sun behind the Belem Tower are one of the most stunning sights in all of Lisbon.

Address and opening hours:

Avenida Brasília, 1400-038 Lisbon. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:30 PM. Closed Mondays.

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3. Admire the astonishing architecture of the Jeronimos Monastery

The Jeronimos Monastery, in the Belem neighborhood, is a testament to the wealth of the Portuguese Empire. Built during the Age of Discovery, this extravagant complex may just be one of the finest religious buildings in Europe.

Highlights:

Take a guided Belem and Jeronimos Monastery private walking tour to learn more about it. The monks here invented the famous pastéis de nata (custard tart) — and yes, you will have the chance to sample one.

Address and opening hours:

Praço do Império, 1400-206 Lisbon. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:30 AM-6:00 PM.

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4. Snap a selfie at the Rua Augusta Arch

Most of Lisbon was destroyed in 1755 when the city was hit by one of the worst earthquakes in history. The Rua Augusta Arch is Lisbon's triumphal arch, built to celebrate the city's rebirth after the disaster.

Highlights:

You can go inside the arch. Climb up to the top for panoramic views of the surrounding area and for a closer look at the statues of national Portuguese heroes, like the explorer Vasco da Gama.

Address and opening hours:

Rua Augusta 2, 1100-053 Lisbon. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-7:00 PM.

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5. See 800 years of history at the Lisbon Cathedral

The Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral) boasts some of the most dramatic, breathtaking religious art in the world. Since its construction in 1147, this mighty church has been rebuilt many times, and its eclectic mix of different architectural styles adds to its unique charm.

Highlights:

Your Lisbon Cathedral entry ticket lets you climb to the High Choir, where you can see the entire central nave from above. Don't try it if you're scared of heights.

Address and opening hours:

Largo da Sé, 1100-585 Lisbon. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM. Closed for services on Sundays.

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6. Let the Pena Palace take you to another world

Is this Europe's most colorful castle? With its bright red and yellow towers, the Pena Palace looks like something from a storybook. Located a short distance from Lisbon, in the hillside town of Sintra, this is a must for keen photographers.

Highlights:

The insides of the palace are utterly luxurious, but the manicured gardens are the true highlight. They're packed full of hidden surprises and secret lookout points.

Address and opening hours:

Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:30 AM-6:30 PM.

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7. Travel in style on the Route E28 Tram

Can public transport really be a landmark? In Lisbon, the answer is yes. The iconic yellow Tram 28 is a tourist attraction in itself, passing through the city center districts of Alfama Baixa, Estrela, and Graça.

Highlights:

The E28 still has its original 1930s features, so you'll feel like you've gone back in time as you settle into its wooden seats decorated with polished brass dials.

Address and opening hours:

Praça Martim Moinz 39, 1150-052 Lisbon. Runs Monday-Sunday, 8:30 AM-11:00 PM.

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8. Wander the ruins of the Carmo Convent

The medieval Carmo Convent was one of many buildings destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. Over the years, there were several attempts to rebuild it, but the work was never finished. Eventually, the city council decided to leave it without a roof, and the ruined church is a silent testimony to the earthquake's devastation.

Highlights:

There's a small museum inside the convent, but the real attraction here is the ruins themselves, with some old medieval artwork that managed to survive the earthquake.

Address and opening hours:

Largo do Carmo, 1200-092 Lisbon. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:00 AM-7:00 PM. Closed Sundays.

Scenic and natural landmarks in Lisbon

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9. See Lisbon's shores from the Tagus River

Portugal is famous as a seafaring nation, so hop on a boat to see Lisbon at its best. The River Tagus is the lifeblood of Lisbon and offers amazing views of the entire city.

Highlights:

You can choose different times of day for your sailing tour on the Tagus River. If you're looking for a romantic option, be sure to book a sunset cruise.

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10. See the ocean's might at the Boca do Inferno

The neighboring town of Cascais is famous for its elegant seaside mansions, but it's also home to one of the most impressive rock formations in Europe. Watch the waves crashing violently at the Boca do Inferno (literally the Mouth of Hell), and you'll be happy to stay on dry land.

Highlights:

Why not book a full-day tour to Sintra and Cascais? You'll see the beautiful palaces and gardens of Sintra, as well as Cascais' dramatic shoreline.

Address:

Avenida Rei Humberto II de Itália 642, 2750-642 Cascais.

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11. See the end of the world at Cabo da Roca

The westernmost point of continental Europe, Cabo da Roca, was seen for hundreds of years as the end of the world. The Age of Discovery put an end to that myth, but this legendary cape still has a sense of mystery and drama.

Highlights:

Choose a Jeep safari, sunset hike, and tapas at the beach tour for a full-day experience you'll never forget. There's something magical about watching the sunset from the cliffs, knowing there's nothing but water between you and the Americas.

Address:

Estrada do Cabo da Roca, 2705-001 Colares.

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12. See nature at its most rugged in the Arrábida Natural Park

Just 40 minutes from Lisbon, the Arrábida Natural Park is ideal for lovers of the great outdoors. The coastline here is marked by massive, rugged rocks which shelter secret caves and hidden inlets.

Highlights:

The best way to see this natural wonder is from the water, so choose a kayaking and snorkeling adventure. Get up close to the mighty rocks and venture inside the caves.

Address:

Arrábida Natural Park, Sesimbra.

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13. Lose yourself in the Sintra Forest

The town of Sintra is best known for its elaborate royal palaces and stately homes, but its forest is also a true natural landmark. The Romans believed that Diana, the goddess of the moon, had a secret hiding place in this ancient forest.

Highlights:

Hike in the forest or, for a more complete experience, take an e-bike trip from the Sintra Mountains to the Cascais Sea. In a single day, you'll go from the quiet serenity of the wooded mountains to the dramatic scenery of the Atlantic shore.

Address:

2710-405 Sintra.

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14. See the edge of the Atlantic at Berlenga Island

Berlenga Grande is the largest island in the Berlengas Archipelago. This cluster of off-shore islands has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Heritage Site, and with their stunning beaches and crystal-clear water, it's easy to see why.

Highlights:

Choose how to spend your day with a day trip from Lisbon. Kayaking and snorkeling are particularly popular activities, thanks to the great water quality.

Address:

Berlanga Grande, Peniche.

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15. Take a dip at the Ribeira do Cavalo Beach

Another natural UNESCO site near Lisbon? You bet. The Ribeira do Cavalo Beach is one of the most beautiful in Europe. It's also extremely hard to get to, so a day here means a day away from the tourist crowds.

Highlights:

A Sesimbra Wild Beach tour will take you right to this hidden beach, and the guide will also have snorkeling equipment for you to borrow. If you're up for an adventure, try jumping from the rocks into the water.

Address:

Sesimbra, 2970.

FAQs

What is the oldest historic landmark in Lisbon?

The 1755 earthquake destroyed most of the buildings in Lisbon, but a few survived. The city's cathedral dates back to 1147, though it has been restored and modified many times over the centuries.

What are some free landmarks to visit in Lisbon?

You will have to pay to go inside most of Lisbon's major landmarks, though in many cases, you may prefer to just wander the grounds and admire the exterior architecture. Some attractions, like the Jeronimos Monastery and the Torre de Belem, offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month.

Are there any guided tours that focus on the architecture of Lisbon’s landmarks?

Yes. There are several guided tours for people with an interest in architecture. Generally, you'll find tours of this type either in the city center or in the Belem neighborhood.

How can I get the best views of scenic landmarks in Lisbon?

There are a few different places to go for views. The Castle of São Jorge has a great vantage point, high on a hill overlooking the city. A boat trip down the Tagus will offer a different perspective, letting you see the buildings from the water. It's also worth heading to the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, the highest point in Lisbon, for spectacular views of the city.

What are some natural landmarks near Lisbon worth visiting?

This part of Portugal's Atlantic coast is packed with beautiful landmarks. Some of the best include Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe, and the Boca do Inferno in Cascais, a natural stone ocean arch where the sea rages day and night.