Lisbon is a city with something for everyone. Its rich history and culture make it an ideal destination for those interested in art, architecture, and music. The city’s many museums and galleries offer a wealth of information on Lisbon’s past, while its vibrant nightlife and lively cafes provide ample opportunity to relax and enjoy the present. And, of course, no visit to Lisbon would be complete without taking in some of its stunning views.
But once you’ve seen the main attractions in the Castle District, the Bairro Alto, which is the city’s nightlife epicenter, and done your shopping in the Chiado District, you might be looking for something a little different.
If that’s the case, drop your bags off at a Bounce luggage locker in Lisbon and use this guide to find all the weird, wonderful, and maybe not-so-secret gems that will take you at least a little ways off the beaten path. And don’t forget your comfortable shoes! This hilly city will put you through your paces.
Bordallo Pinheiro Garden in Lisbon
We start our list of Lisbon’s hidden gems with something definitely unusual. The Bordallo Pinheiro Garden is a beautiful green space with fantastical statues located in the heart of Lisbon adjacent to the university and the City Museum. The garden itself is quite small, so you won’t need long to explore this one.
What makes this place stand out are the many china sculptures that are dotted throughout the park. Picture large cats, lizards, snakes, and mushrooms, all created by the 19th-century artist Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro and definitely verges on the obscure.
If you like what you see in this intriguing garden, take a five-minute walk across the Jardim Mário Soares via Campo Grande to explore the museums dedicated to the artist’s life.
If you love books and a poke around a little shop, your next stop should be at Livraria Simao. This small, and we do mean small, bookstore is a treasure-trove of history and has tons of unique things to catch your eye. This adorable shop is so tiny that both you and the shop owner will have trouble both being inside at the same time.
Have a browse and pick up a book or two, and even if you don’t speak Portuguese, you’re in luck. The bookstore has titles in a variety of different languages.
Catch a Fado Show
Fado Music is a traditional Portuguese music genre that is typically characterized by mournful, melancholic tunes and lyrics. The name “fado” comes from the Portuguese word for “fate” or “destiny,” and the music often reflects themes of sadness, loss, and longing.
This music style has been around since the early 19th century, and the performances typically feature a solo singer accompanied by guitarists playing Portuguese guitars. The singer often improvises the melodies, which are usually melancholic and expressive.
Luckily, Fado music doesn’t have to be sad, and you can find upbeat versions throughout the city. It’s a rite of passage to see a Fado show on your trip to Lisbon, but you should absolutely avoid the large companies offering tickets.
Instead, head to a few lesser-known spots around town to get your music fix. Try the Fado Museum on the weekends when a show is included with the museum’s admission. Or, try a local tavern like Tasco do Chico to enjoy a show to go with your drinks.
Tour the LX Factory
You may think it somewhat unusual that we’re recommending you go to an industrial part of town to hang out, but LX Factory is different. It’s full of hipsters, artists, and everything that typically goes along with them, like trendy bars and on-point restaurants.
Stroll the area admiring the street art and local shops, then settle in for a drink and a meal somewhere. Our favorite is 1300 Taberna, with its many windows and boho-chic decor.
If you plan to catch a film while you’re in town, LX Factory is the place to see local and international independent films. And if nothing else, on your tour of LX Factory, it will have been nice to spend the day outside in the Portuguese sunshine.
Eat Like the Locals
Lisbon is a foodie city with everything from caldo verde, a tasty vegetarian soup, to sardines and other seafood. But don’t get fooled by the tourist traps that try to entice you off the streets and have menus in multiple languages out front.
Instead, head somewhere where the locals also dine and get their staples. Perhaps one of the best-known Portuguese treats is the pastel de nata. This delectable custard tart has to be tried while you’re in the city.
While simply eating this dessert isn’t actually a hidden gem, where you choose to buy yours can be. We recommend heading to Manteigaria, a small and very busy bakery in the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Don’t just grab a tart in the first place you see. This one is worth the wait!
National Tile Museum
We switch gears slightly here and think you should consider a trip to the National Tile Museum. In a city with almost every kind of museum you can think of, it makes sense that the Portuguese capital would have one on tiles.
The museum is located in the former Convent of Madre de Deus, a 16th-century monastery that’s been wonderfully renovated and houses a collection of over 4,000 tiles.
The Azulejo tiles are the highlight here, which you will likely recognize in the iconic blue and white color, and are often adorned with geometric-like flowers. The museum even has examples of azulejos from the 15th century up to contemporary pieces.
Not everyone comes to Lisbon to be surrounded by tourists. And while many of the city’s main attractions are definitely worth seeing, it’s also worthwhile to take a little time to get away from the crowds. That way, you can explore Lisbon more like a local and get a feel for what the city is really like.