Found yourself in Lisbon, Portugal and can’t decide what to do?
Tired of all the beautiful artwork and great architecture and want to see something a little different?
Today our focus is on a few unusual things to do in Lisbon and the best way to see them. We’ve already covered some of the best things to do in Lisbon so make sure you check out that post after if you want some more ideas.
Lisbon is approximately 300km south of Porto, the easiest way to get there from the north is to book a train from Porto to Lisbon via Omio or you can rent a car and drive yourself. Just be aware that there are plenty of confusing Portuguese toll roads, so be mindful on which roads you’re driving on if you decide to rent a car.
Here they are, our favorite unusual, weird, unique, or just plain quirky things to do in Lisbon.
If you love marionettes, then the Museu da Marioneta should be high on your list of places to check out.
It features marionettes and puppets from around the world, and plenty from Portugal itself. It has a huge selection spanning centuries and twines the rich history of puppet opera that existed in both Portugal and Europe since the middle ages.
This museum of puppetry is located in a remodelled convent originally built in 1665, and then rebuilt after the great quake in 1786. The Convento das Bernardas, at Madragoa, in the center of Lisbon was again remodeled in 2001 and features the museum, a restaurant, a café and outdoor areas.
Museu da Marioneta – Take Tram 25 on weekdays and bus 774 on weekends, which departs from Praça da Figueira downtown.
Ever wished you could stand atop the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco? Well, the same developers who made the Oakland Bay Bridge made the Lisbon Bridge back in 1965.
Originally known as the Salazar bridge when first completed, it was the 5th largest suspension bridge in the world and the longest in Europe. After Salazar was removed from power, the bridge was renamed to the 25th of April Bridge (named after the day of liberation in 1974). It has a more eloquent name of Ponte 25 de Abril in Portuguese however it’s often just called the Lisbon Bridge and straddles the Tagus River connecting Lisbon to Almada in the south.
You can check out the museum located at Pier 7 (Pilar 7) that gives you a background on the bridges construction and even lets you see the huge cables holding the bridge from up close. There’s also an elevator you can take that will bring you up to the top where you can step into a glass enclosed outdoor viewing platform and see both the huge bridge and the river below. It’s a rare chance to get that close up and lets you appreciate the ingenuity and bravery of the people who built it.
Ponte 25 de Abril – Pilar 7 – Open most days and free with the Lisboa Pass. There’s ample parking down below the bridge or you can take the tram to get there.
Highly regarded as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Portugal, the Cemiterio dos Prazeres (translates to Pleasure Cemetery in English) is worth a visit.
Filled with beautiful crypts, tombs and mausoleums overlooking the bay, some people compare it to walking in a miniature town the embellishments are so intricate.
If you’re looking for a nice walk and enjoy walking on the quieter side of life then for sure check it out.
Cemiterio dos Prazeres – Located near the terminus of historic Tram 28
It’s not every day you get to stroll around and stare at fish and water creatures from below. The Oceanário de Lisboa is often rated as one of the best Aquariums in Europe and while it falls more to the popular category rather than the unusual, if you grew up in the prairies of Canada you would understand how cool and unusual it is to me.
With a center tank spanning over 3 floors, you get to witness everything from the corals and sand walkers down below to the colorful fish that populate the mid zone to the groups of smaller fish populating the top of the tank.
From sea otters to sea dragons and sun fish, there is a lot to take in and there will likely be a few species you’ve never seen before.
Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to see everything and bring some good walking shoes, since I guarantee you some of the tanks will keep you spellbound for hours.
Oceanário de Lisboa – Located at Doca dos Olivais, Parque das Nações. There are several buses and trains going here including Red line – Oriente (East) Station.
Ok, to be 100% honest, neither of these is especially unusual, but they were some of our favorite things to do in Lisbon and I couldn’t resist adding them.
Pastéis de nata are a national dessert in Portugal. Most versions owe their start to ones first made by the Jerónimos Monastery, who passed on their closely guarded original recipe to the Pasteis De Belem pastry shop nearly 200 hundred years ago.
Either sit down and enjoy some of these delicious cooked custard tarts with a tasty cup of coffee, or grab some to go and eat in the shadow of the iconic Torre de Belém only a few blocks away.
Its long 500 years of guarding the city from water invasions, changing sea levels, a catastrophic earthquake that levelled the majority of the city and now hordes of tourists speaks to the quality of the original design.
Pasteis De Belem – Rua de Belém nº 84 a 92
Torre de Belem – Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal
Take 1 part street art exhibit, 2 part abandoned building and 3 parts awesome 360º views, and what do you get? That’s right, the Panoramico de Monsanto in Lisbon.
This impressive abandoned former restaurant in the heart of Monsanto Forest has been the site of festivals, a Madonna music video, a home for hideaways and is a local tagger hotspot since it shut down in the 70’s.
It has since turned into a tourist draw by the graffiti, the grittiness and the amazing 360 degree views of the city.
Open and free most days to the public, it does get closed for festivals or certain events.
Panoramico de Monsanto – Located in the Monsato Forest just on the edge of the city, the easiest way to get here is to hire an Uber or by bus 711 or 724 from Marquis de Pombal, then walk 10 minutes through the forest.
Leaving the city for a day trip isn’t unusual, however what is unusual is the overly colorful opulence that is Pena Palace and its crazy heights overlooking the nearby mountain town of Sintra.
Just like any modern fairytale, this colorful castle was dreamed up by a prince, and then built by a king. Constructed during the 19th-century Romanticism period, the castle is a great example of the era.
It has such a rich history you can get lost in its stories just as easily as the hectares of land around it, which include the Castle of the Moors and several other structures worth investigating.
The Palace is definitely worth the short drive from Lisbon. There’s plenty to see and do around Sintra while you’re out there as well.
Only 30 minutes by car due west of Lisbon proper. It’s not hard to miss high on the mountain however getting to it can be daunting so take a map or make sure you have Google Maps with you. You can also get there via the Sintra Bus 434 To Pena Palace if you’re using public transit. Take the Sintra train from Lisbon and get off in Sintra center then grab Bus 434. You can also buy a train and bus pass before leaving Lisbon or use your Lisboa Pass. Bus 434 should take you right to the mountain top.
If you’re a tile art aficionado, the National Tile Museum in Lisbon or the Museu Nacional do Azulejo as it’s properly called locally, houses hundreds of painted tiles spanning five centuries from various corners of the globe.
Sure, we could tell you to walk around and stare at all the amazing street tiles in Lisbon for free, but we’ve already done that in this Portugese Pavement post, so now that you’re hooked on tile art, read on.
The gallery highlights artistic tiles or azulejos from the final part of the 1500’s to the current day. Other than tiles, it also features ceramics, porcelain and faience as well as highlights the materials and strategies used for assembling tiles over the years.
As well as tiles, the museum itself dates back to 1509, when it was the former Convent of Madre Deus. As such, it also features a beautiful chapel area complete with dozens of beautiful paintings.
Museu Nacional do Azulejo – Rua da Madre de Deus, 4, 1900-312
Lisbon is a great city to explore. With plenty of hills and on the doorstep of the Atlantic Ocean, there are gorgeous views all around town. Whether you’re checking out any of a dozen museums or wandering around old cathedrals there’s plenty of architecture and history to go around.
With the great earthquake in 1755, this once world class city lost a lot of its history but I think it just made what survived all the better.
Whether you’re taking the mini train to the beach, or just checking out the many fantastic restaurants and cafes, there are many fun things to do that any bigger city has as well.
You’ll find plenty of pubs, clubs and dance centers for the younger partyers including some great sail and drink trips in the summer months. To get around you can hop aboard a funicular, an old fashioned tram or take the fast and efficient underground metro.
These days you can rent scooters, order an Uber, or go old school and jump on one of the many buses that zoom around the city, or Lisbon’s famous #28 tram.
If you have any tips or suggestions for unusual or quirky things to do in Lisbon we’d love to hear. Please drop us a comment below.
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