A small list of alternative things to visit and experience in Lisbon.
Lisbon is a wonderful city, but not long ago it was a backwater for Europe. Most of its downtown was either abandoned or at least dotted with ramshackle buildings that housed dubious activities from drug dealers to prostitutes. But not anymore. The nation’s capital since 1256, in the last decade it has evolved from a small European city to one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, bursting with nice shops, entrepreneurs, business angels, a multitude of coffee shops and a high concentration of Michelin awarded restaurants. No wonder this city has been under the spotlight of some of the most important travel media outlets in the world.
Tourism is indeed a major source of income for the city and we can easily understand why: Cheap stay, unique attractions, excellent restaurants, and tempting weather. However, like many of its European sisters it has turned prey of its own success, becoming somehow “Disneyfied”, hard to navigate in and prone to stress travelers. While we recommend you to still visit some of Lisbon’s top attractions such as the Tower of Belém or St Jorge Castle, we also want to make sure you contact what’s genuine.
As such, we’ve provided you with a list of alternative things to visit and experience in Lisbon. It’s a bundle of places, experiences, and alternative sites to visit in Lisbon. Less crowded and yet as unique and interesting as the “must see” attractions. Even if your time in the city is limited, be sure to check at least one of these:
Hospital das Bonecas (Doll Hospital)
Location: Praça da Figueira 7
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10h30 – 12h30 and 15h30 -17h00
Located in Praça da Figueira 7, right in the heart of the city, this is one of the most exotic things you can visit in Lisbon. But what’s a doll hospital doing in Lisbon? What’s its story? The founding dates back almost two centuries ago when by the 1830s needlewoman Dona Carlota opened up a rag doll shop. Eventually, the business evolved and more than selling dolls, Dona Carlota also developed a reputation as “healer” for old family dolls, thus establishing herself as an authority for doll repair and restoration. The business still runs today and together with a visit to the museum in the 1st floor, you’ll definitely feel a little out of place with the excessive number of “chucky style” dolls that inhabit the establishment.
S.Domingos square and church
Location: Largo São Domingos
Hours: Opened to public throughout the day
The square itself hosted one of the darkest episodes of Portuguese history when in 1506 a starving mob was instigated by religious frivolity to start one of the bloodiest pogroms in history, killing more than 1900 people, most of them Jews and new Christians. Ironically, nowadays the square houses a number of emigrants from all over the world that happily fraternize and sell their goods in the local flea market, completely unaware of the dark past of their place of business. Dating from the XIII century, the nearby church of S.Domingos is a beautiful piece of religious architecture that blends religious austerity with scars made by earthquakes and fires that consumed part of the building. Due to this unique combination, it’s definitely a must see piece of religious architecture!
Chão Salgado and the Távoras affair
Location: Beco do Chão Salgado
Hours: Opened to the public throughout the day.
In the back of the now famous “Pasteis de Belém” pastry shop, we can find the “Chão Salgado” alley (salted floor). It’s a place widely forgotten by most lisboetas and it’s actually tied to one of the darkest episodes of Portuguese history, one that shocked most of XVIII century civilized Europe. The episode was that of the public torture and execution 12 people, including members of the Távoras noble family, allegedly linked with the failed assassination attempt of kind Joseph I in 1758. It’s now widely accepted that this episode was more political than anything else, given the intent of Prime Minister Sebastião de Melo to control the conservative nobility and the church. In any case, the barbaric execution method of some of the condemned shocked everyone throughout Europe. Nowadays, you can find a shame memorial in the alley that highlights the guilt of the condemned, mentioning that their guilt was so big that the ground was salted to prevent anything to grow, hence the name “Chão Salgado”
Nossa Senhora do Monte and St.Gens’ seat.
Location: Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte
Hours: Mondays – Saturdays (15h-18h); Sundays (9h – 12h); Closed on Thursdays.
Lisbon is bursting with rooftops and lookouts that take advantage of its famous 7 hills. One of the best and a personal favorite for Rootfarers is the “Senhora do Monte” lookout. The scenery here is outstanding and you can get a view on most downtown. More surprising is the nearby small chapel that houses and intriguing object: the worn-out stone chair of St Gens. Legend says that if you’re with child you can seat in this chair and you’ll have a blessed childbirth. Definitely a unique spot and something to check if you happen to be visiting the lookout.
Taking the boat towards the south bank
Location: Cais do Sodré dock; Belém dock.
Hours: In most cases, there are boats every 30 min.
One of the most iconic means of public transportation in Lisbon is actually by boat, using the famous “cacilheiro” boats that connected the north and south banks long before the construction of the Tagus bridge in 1966. Given this, if you want a different kind of experience, be sure to board one of the “Cacilheiros” and visit the south bank of the river. The boat trip is worthwhile and cheaper than the local touristic boats (€2 vs €20): you just have to take the boat towards Cacilhas (if you take the boat in Cais do Sodré) or towards Trafaria (If you take the boat in Belém). Once you get there, there are many restaurants you can choose from for a meal or simply for a refreshment… Take a deep breath and enjoy a different view of the city.
There are many interesting things you can do in Lisbon, besides what you are supposed to do or what Instagramming compels you to do. Keep your eyes open and plan your trip! If interested in a genuine and authentic tour in Lisbon, contact us!
Authentic experiences for authentic travelers