Lisbon Hidden Gems: 21 Unusual Things To Do In Lisbon

Lisbon hidden gems

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During my first trip to Lisbon, I visited the main attractions and put together an in-depth 3 day Lisbon itinerary. During my second trip, I stayed longer and sought out all the Lisbon hidden gems. Portugal’s capital is a melting pot of cultures, cool neighbourhoods, markets, bars and so much more.

There are some cities where the majority of visitors will tour the same attractions. Not here: two travellers could have entirely different experiences whether they stick to the city centre or get off the beaten path in Lisbon. There are winding backstreets sprinkled with local eateries, cafes, colourful murals and tiles… So many tiles!

alfama backstreets lisbon hidden gems
Colourful, hidden places in Lisbon

LISBON ESSENTIALS

Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld

Getting there: flight (Skyscanner), train (Omio), bus (Flixbus)

Activities: GetYourGuide

Getting around: walk / Metro / bus / taxi

Guidebook: Lonely Planet Lisbon

I’m not saying you should skip the big name attractions like Carmo Convent and Jerónimos Monastery in areas like Baixa, Chiado and Belém, but if you’re the kind of traveller who likes to dig deeper, there are plenty of alternative things to do in Lisbon.

Some are local and traditional; others are hip and quirky. Like I said, Lisbon isn’t just for one type of person or trip!

LX Factory

Those searching for alternative Lisbon attractions shouldn’t miss the vibrant LX Factory located halfway between the city centre and historic Belém in the west.

With more than 50 stores, coffee shops, restaurants and bars, it’s a unique place to while away a few hours or even half a day.

Shops sell everything from sustainable body products to handmade and bespoke jewellery, clothes, art, homeware, wine and origami. You can even get a tattoo or hair cut before eating at one of the restaurants (options include burgers, pizzas and even Peruvian-Asian fusion food) and heading home.

Address: Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103, 1300-501 Lisboa.

Don’t leave without checking out…

Ler Devagar bookstore

Ler Devagar bookstore

Beautiful Ler Devagar bookshop may soon lose its reputation as a Lisbon hidden gem because more and more people are finding out about it. Still, it’s a cool place in Lisbon that’s not overrun with tour groups like some of the more mainstream attractions.

With over 50,000 new and second-hand books, a flying bicycle mascot, permanent and temporary exhibitions, a coffee shop and various pop-up events, it’s cool and quirky to a T.

Opening times: 10am-10pm, Sun-Weds and until midnight from Thurs-Sat.

Livraria Bertrand

Despite being the oldest operating bookstore in the world, Livraria Bertrand is unassuming from the outside, located inside a blue-tiled building in Chiado that looks like any other. Inside, it’s a literary lovers’ dream featuring dark wooden shelves stacked with classics.

Opened in 1732, it has welcomed countless Portuguese intellectuals and authors such as Alexandre Herculano and Aquilino Ribeiro during its three centuries of life. Bertrand is now a Portuguese chain with stores in other cities, but these look modern and plain in comparison. The original is far more characterful so you should certainly swing by during your hunt for Lisbon hidden gems!

Address: Rua Garrett 73 75, 1200-203 Lisboa.

Opening times: 9am-10pm, Mon-Sat; 11am-8pm Sun.

Bordallo II murals

I love finding street art around the world so of course Lisbon was a natural place for me to visit. Although there are tons of pieces around the city, I especially enjoyed finding the Bordallo II animal murals made from colourful trash, symbolising how wasteful humans can be.

The Bordallo II murals can be found at the following locations:

Related read: where to see street art in Porto, Portugal

More street art

Don’t stop at the Bordallo II murals: there’s tons of street art dotted around the many alternative places in Lisbon.

These are no means the only ones; just a few I found while wandering around:

  • Mouraria area – find the graffiti mural dedicated to fado
  • Barrio Alto – this pink woman on the side of a house is one of the murals I found
  • Saudade mural by Mário Belém – I found this when walking between Miradouro da Graça and Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
  • The street art tram AKA Glória Funicular – not quite a Lisbon hidden gem but funky nonetheless!

Related activity: guided street art tour with a group

Coleção Berardo Museum

Museu Coleção Berardo

From fine art to contemporary, there are galleries in Lisbon for every interest area. The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Chiado is the best-known contemporary gallery but Coleção Berardo is a fantastic, lesser-known gem also displaying art from the second half of the 20th century onwards.

It’s located in Belém where the main attractions like Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower and Pastéis de Belém often have queues around the corner. In contrast, Coleção Berardo is the perfect place to escape the crowds and feel pensive. Entry is €5.

Address: Praça do Império, 1449-003 Lisboa.

Opening times: 10am-7pm daily.

Secret Garden LX at Miradouro da Senhora do Monte

Senhora do Monte is one of Lisbon’s most famous panoramic viewpoints but most people miss this quirky Lisbon location just below it. After noticing it on Google Maps, I wondered how on earth to enter because it’s not remotely obvious.

Although you may feel like you’re breaking and entering, you should persevere by pushing your way through an unassuming gate at the viewpoint and following the steps down. You’ll arrive at Secret Garden LX, a hidden bar with colourful murals, cityscape views and a solid range of beers, wines and cocktails.

Embaixada (Principle Real area)

Embaixada alternative lisbon attractions

For a hidden secret in Lisbon’s upmarket Principle Real neighbourhood, have Embaixada on your radar because you probably wouldn’t stumble upon it. Nestled inside an old mansion, this collection of boutique shops boasts several floors decorated with Moorish details like grand pillars, tiled floors and impressive artwork.

Although the prices were a bit high for me, I loved browsing the numerous boutiques selling clothes, jewellery, homeware and accessories. There’s even a gin bar!

Address: Praça do Príncipe Real 26, 1250-184 Lisboa.

Opening times: 12pm-7pm, Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm, Sun.

Afterwards, take a walk in the botanic gardens, head to nearby sunset viewpoint Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, or indulge in coffee and artisan chocolate at Bettina & Niccolo Corallo cafe.

Mouraria neighbourhood

During a fabulous food tour with Taste of Lisboa, I discovered the charming neighbourhood of Mouraria. Despite being close to Baixa, it has an entirely different vibe. Rather than wide, adjacent streets, this Lisbon hidden gem is a maze of winding alleyways with colourful houses where locals hang their laundry from the upper floors.

Mouraria
Secret spots in Lisbon

Translating as ‘Moorish Quarter’, this historic ‘hood is home to Asian, African and Arabic communities. Another noteworthy resident in the 1800s was Maria Severa, the first famous fado singer who died at just 26 of heartbreak or tuberculosis, depending who you talk to.

Fado is a type of music from Lisbon loosely translated as ‘fate’. Catch a show or learn about its history at the Fado Museum in Alfama.

While in Mouraria, spot the fado singer murals on Rua dos Cavaleiros, admire street portraits of the locals (many of whom had to move away due to gentrification) by artist, Camilla Watson, and visit Maria Severa’s old house, now a restaurant and music venue.

Os Amigos Da Severa

Os Amigos Da Severa Lisbon off the beaten path

A specific hidden gem in Lisbon’s Mouraria neighbourhood is this teeny-tiny bar with room for just a few customers (standing) at a time. I’d have wandered past its unassuming facade if it weren’t for our Taste of Lisboa guide who ushered us inside.

For those who don’t know ginja, this liqueur made from brandy or fortified wine is a hidden Lisbon treasure. Many tourists try it at popular bars in Baixa like A Ginjinha but I preferred sipping it off the beaten path in Lisbon at this historic bar.

Don’t let the sweet, cherry taste fool you: ginja has a potency of up to 24% alcohol!

Continue down the alleyway outside to admire portraits of the neighbourhood’s favourite fado singers.

Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Museum of Tiles)

Museu Nacional do Azulejo

Portugal’s capital has all your classic museums dedicated to history and art but there are a few quirky places in Lisbon for an alternative museum experience. One is Museu Nacional do Azulejo or the Museum of Tiles.

Located in a former convent founded by Queen D. Leonor in 1509, this is THE place to admire tile artwork. The enormous works of art were far more detailed and impressive than I could have predicted. I could have marvelled all day at the intricate designs.

Even the passages and hallways are an ode to Portuguese azujelos. If that weren’t enough, you’ll stumble across the church and cloisters of Madre de Deus located within the heart of the museum.

Practical info:

  • Address: Rua Me. Deus 4, 1900-312 Lisboa.
  • Opening times: 10am-1pm & 2-6pm, Tues-Sun; closed Mon.
  • Entry price: €5.

Tip – when you buy your Tile Museum tickets, there’s a combo option to include the National Pantheon. If you plan to visit (which I recommend for the rooftop view), purchase the combo ticket to save money.

Although the Tile Museum is located slightly away from the city centre near the Xabregas area, the perks of visiting include the fact that it’s near several other Lisbon hidden gems including not one but two Bordallo II street art murals (including the monkey mural pictured above) as well as…

Cemitério do Alto de São João

Cemitério do Alto de São João unusual things to do in lisbon

Twenty minutes on foot from the Tile Museum lies another non touristy place in Lisbon. Cemitério do Alto de São João is full of elaborate graves resembling mini temples. With impressive architecture from different periods and typical tiled floors, it’s grand yet quirky rather than remotely morbid.

Built in 1833 during an outbreak of cholera, it also houses famous toureiros (bullfighters), World War I soldiers and members of the Asian community, briefly earning it the name, Oriental Cemetery. This is perhaps partly why it developed an eclectic theme distinct from traditional Catholic cemeteries.

I’ve since visited similar places in Milan and Zagreb (I promise I’m not obsessed with cemeteries!) so, if you’re interested, check out my guides.

Address: Parada Alto de São João 3, 1900-053 Lisboa.

Getting there: Catch the metro Green Line destined for Telheiras and get off at Arrojos. From here, catch a bus or walk for 15 minutes. It’s open from 9am-5pm daily and until 6pm in the summer.

The cemetery isn’t far from my next hidden gem in Lisbon…

Cultural centres in Anjos

Anjos cultural centres

Set far enough away from the city centre to escape the typical tourist crowds, there are plenty of cool and quirky things to do in Lisbon’s Anjos neighbourhood including several cultural centres.

One is Anjos70, an alternative venue known for pop-up markets and alternative performances. I visited to browse the weekend flea market, overflowing with boutique clothes, quirky art, jewellery and coffee carts. Grab a matcha latte and peruse to your heart’s content with no pressure to buy.

Other quirky venues nearby include BUS – Paragem Cultural Centre hosting parties and live music events, and Crew Hassan, a two-level venue (open from 3pm) with veggie food and nightly jam sessions for €2.

While in Anjos, soak up city views at Monte Agudo Viewpoint and indulge in the food scene. There’s tasty brunch at Fauna & Flora, authentic Japanese food at Kapitan Ramen and – although it’s no Lisbon hidden gem after appearing on Bourdain’s Parts Unknown – unrivalled seafood at Cervejaria Ramiro.

Cafe rooftop above the Pollux shop (Chiado)

Cafe rooftop above the Pollux shop quirky lisbon places

If you’re looking for non touristy things to do in Lisbon, I’d tell you to avoid Chiado as a general rule. However there’s one exception that can be found on the 8th floor of the POLLUX building.

This stylish cafe terrace can only be reached by walking through the homeware store below and catching the lift. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d never find it. Most tourists don’t!

Reward yourself with coffee or lunch, peering down at the busy streets below. Prices are a little high, as can be expected from Chiado. I didn’t eat here but I can vouch for the coffee.

Address: POLLUX, R. dos Fanqueiros 276, 1149-031 Lisboa.

Mercado de Campo de Ourique

Mercado de Campo de Ourique

For an alternative to the busy (and expensive) Time Out Market, consider a trip to Mercado de Campo de Ourique. Expect everything from a local fish market to homemade honey and jam, Portuguese wines and global favourites like falafel, pizza and sushi, plus some authentic Lisbon dishes.

This market never feels too crowded so you can relax while wandering the stands and deciding what to order; glass of wine in hand.

sushi hidden gems lisbon

Despite the fact it’s a cool market, I did prefer the food options at Time Out as they were more inventive and ‘Portuguese’. There is local food at Campo de Ourique but it has more of an international feel. But then who doesn’t love sushi and wine?

Address: 12-10.30pm.

Address: 106, Rua Coelho da Rocha 104, Lisbon.

FREE fado

The internet might lead you to believe that fado shows can only be accessed with a pricey dinner package. Budget travellers will be pleased to learn this is far from the truth: many Barrio Alto bars offer intimate evening fado concerts for the small price of buying a drink.

As I mentioned already, fado is typical Portuguese music originating from Lisbon. If your lingo skills aren’t strong, a little research will tell you fado speaks of heartbreak, fate, the life of the poor, and the sea (perhaps because many men worked as fishermen).

It’s not upbeat but it’s worth experiencing when in Lisbon. A few bars known for free fado shows include Tasca do Chico (usually requiring a reservation), Tasca do Jaime and Solidó.

Feira da Ladra ‘Thieves Market’

Feira da Ladra

Shopping at Mercado de Santa Clara (also known as Feira da Ladra or ‘Thieves Market’) is a wonderfully weird thing to do in Lisbon. It’s a real mix of souvenirs, crafts items and plain old junk like single shoes and broken watches.

On Tuesday and Sunday mornings, the eclectic mix of stalls overflow into the streets, stretching from the colourful tiled mural across from the National Pantheon to São Vicente de Fora church. Browse to your heart’s content and pick up some goodies at this hidden gem in Lisbon… Or simply marvel at the stranger items and wonder how on earth they got there!

Feira da Ladra lesser visited places lisbon portugal

Monastery Sao Vicente de Fora

Marking the start of the market is a church that doesn’t initially stand out from the other Catholic places of worship in Portugal. But around the back lies a charming courtyard with tiles and flowers leading to a hidden monastery that you can visit for just €5.

Monastery Sao Vicente de Fora was commissioned by King Phillip II of Spain who ruled Portugal in the 17th century. The interior boasts tiled floors, blue azulejos adorning the walls, painted ceilings, statues of catholic saints and other grand and ornate details.

Opening times: 10am-6pm, Tues-Sun; closed Mon.

Address: Largo de São Vicente, 1100-472 Lisboa.

Entry price: €5 including the crypt, cloister, cistern and rooftop.

Alternative viewpoints

There are so many viewpoints in Lisbon but some are routinely packed; you’ll be squeezing around people to sneak a peek at the sunset.

less touristic viewpoints
Miradouro da Penha de França

Swapping the popular panoramas for these spots is a unique thing to do in Lisbon:

Miradouro da Penha de França – beside a small church and a watch tower splattered with urban murals, this is a hidden Lisbon gem come sunset. Afterwards, head for an authentic Ukrainian dinner at modest restaurant, Akcentt, a short walk away.

Monte Agudo Viewpoint – due to its location away from the city centre (the nearest Metro station is Arroios), this miradouro with a small bar receives far fewer visitors than those in the centre. Better yet, it’s a short walk from the Anjos cultural centres I mentioned earlier.

Miradouro da Graça – this is a small viewpoint at the top of Caracol da Graça stairs lined with street art. Snap photos of this unusual place in Lisbon before drinking in panoramic views from the top. Your camera will be happy even if your legs aren’t!

Fado Museum & Alfama backstreets

fado museum

Alfama as a neighbourhood couldn’t be described as off the beaten track Lisbon: it’s one of the best-known parts of Portugal’s capital. However, there are so many hidden gems nestled in this warren of small streets from cosy tavernas with meals for €5 to museums in former prisons (Museu do Aljube).

Another quirky place is the Fado Museum, detailing the rise of Portuguese folk music. From the craft of humble fishermen to a UNESCO-protected trade, the museum is a captivating spot to escape the crowds. Entry is €5.

Address: Alfama, Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 1, 1100-139 Lisboa.

Opening times: 10am-6pm, closed Monday.

I hope you like these hidden gems in Lisbon!

More Portugal guides:

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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING PORTUGAL

Getting there by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.

Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).

Confused about visas? I use iVisa to check visa requirements and apply for visas online.

For trains, I use Omio. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website. This is also a handy tool to compare trains and buses in one search.

For buses, I use FlixBus. Find journeys between European countries from €1! 

For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.

Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide.

Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance.

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!

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less touistic places lisbon

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