what to do in lisbon? take an electric trolley

Best day ever

Best day ever: A local’s guide to traveling in Lisbon

Wondering what to do in Lisbon for a great day?

For Xana, a good day is filled with old bookstores, custard-y bites, and not-so-secret gardens. A best-ever day includes all three in Lisbon.

Since moving to Madrid, this EF Tour Director and Lisbon native never passes up the chance to take a trip back home to Portugal. “I miss the sea, the food, and my parents…in that order!” So, where does a local go when playing tourist in her old city? Tag along as Xana explores, snacks, and reminisces her way through Lisbon.

what to do in lisbon? sightseeing


A few snoozes past sunrise

Bom dia, Belém! For Xana, there’s no better way to start the day than with a custard tart…or two…or three…and a cup of espresso from Pastéis de Belém. When it comes to secret recipes, this family-run bakery’s tart technique is the secret-iest. According to Xana, the recipe was created by monks in the 18th century and is now only known by three family members. (And they use it to serve over 30,000 pastries each day!)


Book it to Bertrand

Fueled by Portuguese pastries, Xana goes old school (really, really old school) at Bertrand Bookstore. This shop’s wide selection and long history make it one of Xana’s favorite spots in the city—not to mention, the oh-so-very-official Guinness Book of World Records stamp in each book that formally declares Bertrand as the world’s oldest operating bookstore. “Whenever I go to Lisbon, I pick up a book from Bertrand.”

what to do in lisbon? outdoor activities galore


Go green(house)

Book in hand, Xana heads to the Estufa Fria Greenhouse for a post-lunch stroll. This living museum was built in 1926 and is home to hundreds of unique plant species. Xana’s favorite is the Jacaranda tree, whose bright purple flowers only bloom once a year. “This place is very connected to my teenage imagination. I would pick up a book and escape to the greenhouse. My parents never knew!”


what to do in lisbon? food


Get the scoop

A full day of exploring calls for an afternoon ice cream break. Though for Xana, any time is ice cream time. That’s why you can find her enjoying a sweet scoop any time of the year at Santini’s Gelati. “I don’t discriminate between seasons when it comes to ice cream,” she says. While her order changes with the weather, some of Xana’s favorites include mango, coconut, chocolate, and cream.

It took me living outside of my country to understand, fado is more than a song—it’s a national feeling.


Feel the fado

The perfect way to end Xana’s best-ever Lisbon day? Food, friends, and fado at Timpanas, a restaurant owned by a friend of her father that hosts traditional fado song and dance. Described by Xana as a “mix of sorrows and nostalgia,” fado is a 19th-century music genre that expresses hardships faced by the working class.

This dramatic style of music hasn’t always been Xana’s cup of espresso, but she’s grown more connected to her home country’s rhythmic roots since moving to Spain. “It took me living outside of my country to understand,” she tells us. “Fado is more than a song—it’s a national feeling.”

what to do in lisbon? dance


what to do in lisbon? two people dancing


what to do in lisbon? music









Fado music has been a cultural staple in Portugal for 200 years and continues to be reinvigorated by artists today. In 2011, fado was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.


In Lisbon, the possibilities are limitless!

For more ideas on what to do in Lisbon, see our Discover Portugal tour or check out more of our popular tours.

Madeline Muller

Madeline is a copywriter at EF tours. She loves sitcoms, tacos, re-reading books, and befriending dogs. Her favorite city is Budapest.

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