Lisbon is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and a favourite port of call for everyone who stops here as part of a their cruise. Not only is Lisbon beautiful, but it’s also very affordable, has great weather for the majority of the year, and is incredibly friendly as well. Essentially, you’re very lucky if your cruise calls at Lisbon.
You’ll soon see why. As your cruise ship sails up the Tagus River towards its port in Lisbon City Centre, you’ll pass iconic landmarks in Belém like the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), and Jerónimos Monastery. Finally, you’ll come into view of the beautiful 25 de Abril Bridge (which looks a lot like San Francisco’s Golden Gate) and the Cristo Rei statue (which looks a lot like Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue).
Now it’s time to explore Lisbon. Your cruise company will no doubt be keen to provide you with tours and transport but, if you’d rather find something more authentic and maybe a little more affordable as well, this guide for cruise visitors will help you make the most out of your limited time in Lisbon.
Cruise Terminals in Lisbon
There are 5 cruise ports in Lisbon, which are spread out across two parts of the city: Santa Apolonia and Alcântara. Your cruise itinerary should tell you which port you’re calling at, but you can ask your cruise company if you’re not sure.
Santa Apolonia is the closest cruise port to Lisbon City Centre, and just a short walk from notable parts of the city like Alfama, Praça do Comércio, and Baixa.
The cruise ports located in and around Santa Apolonia are:
- Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolónia (TPSA)
- Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolónia Montante (TPSAM)
- Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolónia Jusante (TPSAJ)
- Cais do Jardim do Tabaco (JTab)
Alcântara is located a little outside of the city centre (roughly 2.5 km away), but is closer to Belém which is where you’ll find attractions like Jerónimos Monastery, the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries). It’s also near the 25 de Abril Bridge.
The cruise ports located in and around Alcântara are:
- Terminal de Cruzeiros Alcântara (TPA)
- Cais da Rocha Conde de Obidos (TPR)
Popular Lisbon Tours
Most people visiting Lisbon as part of their cruise jump on the hop on-hop off bus, and this can be one of the best ways to see a lot of attractions quickly, but it definitely isn’t the only tour available. Lisbon offers every kind of tour, from walking tours to food tours and everything in between.
Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus
The Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus is one of the most popular way to get around Lisbon and to see all of the main attractions. City Sightseeing (the red bus) has two routes, the red line and the blue line, which cover the majority of Lisbon’s main sights between them.
There are stops near each of the ferry terminals so, whether you’re docked at Santa Apolonia or Alcântara, you’ll be able to get to and from your cruise easily.
It’s worth noting that the tour buses don’t run very late, so you may need to take a taxi or Uber back to the cruise if you’re planning on staying out late.
Free walking tours
A number of companies offer free walking tours in Lisbon’s City Centre (tips are expected). These tours normally last for 2-3 hours and are a great way to quickly get to grips with Portuguese history and culture. Because there are now so many companies offering free tours of Lisbon, it’s usually possible to find one at almost anytime of the day.
Must see attractions in Lisbon
Lisbon’s top attractions are mainly spread out between the city centre and the Belém neighbourhood. Hopefully you’ll have time to see both, and it’s definitely possible to get between the two easily: Praça do Comércio, in Lisbon City Centre, to Belém takes around 20 minutes by taxi or Uber and 30-40 minutes by tram.
The attractions in the city centre are a bit more spread out, so spend the majority of your time there. The attractions in Belém are much closer together and, if you’re stuck for time, you can see them in a few hours. Ideally you’ll want at least a full day to see both the city centre and Belém attractions, but it’s possible to very briefly see both in less time.
City Centre Attractions
- Praça do Comércio
- Alfama neighbourhood
- Castelo de São Jorge
- Belém Tower
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos
- Jerónimos Monastery
Attractions outside of Lisbon
As well as Lisbon’s city centre attractions, there are also several attractions outside of Lisbon that are worth visiting. Whether or not you’ll have time to visit them will depend a lot on your cruise itinerary, so be sure to check how much time you have free.
Sintra is probably the most popular day trip outside of Lisbon, and it’s easy to see why. The picturesque palaces and their carefully manicured gardens are like something out of the pages of a fairytale. Sintra is located roughly 30 minutes from Lisbon by car or just over an hour by train.
Cascais and Estoril
Cascais and Estoril are two seaside towns that are located roughly 25-40 minutes from Lisbon City Centre by car and 55-70 minutes by train. Both have beaches, and are popular during the summer weekends with Lisboetas looking to cool off from the summer heat.
Fátima is a popular religious attraction and a popular Catholic pilgrimage site famous for a series of apparitions and prophecies from the Virgin Mary in 1917. It’s located roughly 130 km from Lisbon and takes around an hour and a half by car and roughly the same time by bus.
What to eat in Lisbon
The following are just a few of the things that you should eat while you’re in Lisbon.
- A pastel de nata: Read about where does the best pastel de nata in Lisbon)
- Caldo Verde: Portugal’s favourite soup, and one that’s often served as a starter in restaurants.
- Bacalhau: There are more than 365 ways to cook bacalhau, but some favourites including bacalhau com natas, bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, bacalhau à brás, and bacalhau com broa.
- Ginjinha: This sour cherry liqueur is definitely worth a sample (or two).
Getting around Lisbon
Many cruises will have their own shuttle service that will take you from the cruise dock to the city centre.
Despite the hills, Lisbon is a very walkable city. It’s quite compact, so you can easily get from one part of the other by foot. It’s even possible to walk out as far as Belém on foot, and the walk is very enjoyable, but most people prefer to talk some form of transportation.
There are several forms of public transport in Lisbon: trams, buses, metro, ferries, and funiculars.
The trams are the most popular way of getting around, particularly for tourists, but both the metro and the bus service are great too. Unfortunately the metro doesn’t go as far as Belém, so you’ll either need to take a tram or a bus to visit the attractions there.
The ferry connects the two sides of the river but, as a visitor, the only real reason you’ll have to take the ferry is to visit the Cristo Rei statue (the big Jesus statue).
Taxis are available throughout Lisbon and, in general, are very affordable.
Uber and other taxi apps
Uber and other taxi apps (like Cabify, Taxify, and MyTaxi) are widely used in Lisbon, and are incredibly cheap. They’re not always the fastest way to get around, though, particularly in rush hour: traffic can be bad in Lisbon, and sometimes it’s faster to take public transport.
Tuk-tuks are a fairly new phenomenon in Lisbon, and are definitely not typical to Portugal. They can be quite expensive, at least in comparison to taxis or public transport, but a lot of tourists like them. The benefit of tuk-tuks is that you can negotiate an hourly, half-day, or daily rate with the driver, and get transported from attraction to attraction.
Essential Information about Lisbon
- Language: Portuguese, but English is widely spoken.
- Currency: Euro.
- Safety: Lisbon is safe, but pickpockets do operate in Lisbon (particularly on Tram 28). People will also offer you drugs, but this happens to everyone.