Culture Lover's Guide to Lisbon
There’s an abundance of culture in Lisbon. Portugal’s cosmopolitan capital is home to world-class museums and galleries in baroque-style buildings and a thriving fado music scene. It’s in day-tripping distance of Sintra, a one-of-a-kind UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are a few ways to experience the best of Lisbon's culture.
Take a Tram Tour of Lisbon History
Colorful trams are one of Lisbon’s city symbols, and they provide a convenient and cost-effective way to get around the city—dedicated tram routes mean that the vehicles aren’t subject to traffic. Opt for a tram tour that covers Chiado, Alfama, and Barrio Alto to see some of Lisbon’s oldest districts and avoid climbing the steep, cobbled streets on foot.
Discover Lisbon’s Eclectic Museum Scene
Lisbon’s museums provide the perfect introduction to Portugal’s cultural heritage. The National Azulejo Museums pays homage to Portugal’s famous blue tiles with exhibits of more than 300 different designs, while the National Museum of Ancient Art details Portugal’s rich history through sculptures, paintings, and ceramics. For more contemporary exhibits, the Berardo Collection and MAAT are must-visit museums.
Catch a Fado Performance in a Tavern
As well as being a Portuguese cultural institution, fado is classed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The performing art is characterized by emotionally charged singing and its accompanying Portuguese guitar. Combine a performance with a traditional Portuguese meal or a visit to the Fado Museum for the ultimate culture fix.
Feast on Portuguese Custard Tarts in Belem
According to legend, the historic district of Belem is where pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) were conceived. Lisbon sightseeing tours nearly always head to this historic district, home to Belem Tower (Torre de Belem) and the colossal Discoveries Monument, and stop at one of the country’s most prestigious pastry shops.
Admire the Fairy-tale Castles of Sintra
The candy-shop castles and palaces of Sintra have to be seen to be believed. Set amid lush green mountains, most of Sintra’s landmarks boast UNESCO World Heritage status and are best explored as part of a tour, which lets you skip the stress of hiring a car in favor of being transporting among the dispersed attractions, which include the historic center of Sintra and Pena National Palace.