Known for its 9-month long summers and bright winter mornings, it is easy to come a little unstuck on a rainy day in Lisbon. The whole city seems to run for cover, almost shutting down entirely at the first sight of a dark cloud. Gone are the outdoor qiosque café-goers, the tanned beach babes and the general ramblers, replaced by the usual stream of commuters, ducking under umbrellas as they hurry towards the gaping mouth of the metro. Throw in some extremely slippery tiles, and it could be a recipe for a disastrous trip, if you happen to visit during a rainstorm.
But all is not lost; Lisbon still has plenty on offer indoors and under cover. It can actually be quite beautiful to see the usually-crowded streets so doused in silence, poetic in their elegant stillness.
From museums to restaurants, activities to indoor markets, here are my top-ten picks for the best things to do in Lisbon when it rains.
1 | Visit the Oceanário
Esplanada Dom Carlos I s/nº, 1990-005 Lisboa
Lisbon’s Oceanário – Europe’s second-biggest aquarium – is as spectacular from the outside as it is from the inside: jutting out into the sea in the city’s Parque de Nações area, you almost feel as if you’re in a Bond film as you approach the building itself. The entire structure is built around a central tank, 5,000,000 litres large, which is home to a seemingly-endless number of different species – including a few breeds of shark, barracuda and ray. It is also one of few aquariums in the world to house the elusive sunfish, which has extremely specific care requirements. Casting its surroundings in an eerie blue glow, the 7m-deep tank is designed to make visitors feel as if they’re at the bottom of the ocean; and it works.
Making your way around the rest of the aquarium – always looping back through the central tank – you’ll discover a number of different creatures, such as puffins, otters, seahorses, jellyfish, and pretty much anything else you can conjure up. If you catch the otters at feeding time, it might well be the cutest thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. Entrance to the main exhibition is €16, while a ticket to access both the main and temporary exhibitions is just €19.
2 | Browse through Livraria Bertrand
Rua Garrett 73-75, 1200-203 Lisboa
Those who know Lisbon and its intricate literary history will not be surprised to learn that it is home to the world’s oldest bookstore: Livraria Bertrand. Also the biggest bookstore in Portugal, this is a must-see part of the city’s culture. Bookworms like me can easily spend hours browsing the shelves here – especially when you discover the little café hidden through the back of the store!
Follow its maze-like archways and read about the store’s history, proudly displayed on the walls. There’s also a foreign language section, a magazine section, and a stationery section for any budding writers. Feel inspired by the city’s great poets and start scribbling as you sip at your galão (latte) in the café. A perfect rainy day!
3 | Go ceramics shopping
Rua de São Cristóvão 7, 1100-514 Lisboa // Rua Capelo 16, 1200-224 Lisboa
If you’re anything like me, then most of your hard-earned money will be spent on mugs, bowls and anything pottery. Luckily, Lisbon is not lacking in delicate ceramic shops to tickle your fancy. It is the city of tiles, after all.
For intricate, smaller pieces, A Loja da Ceramica in Mouraria boasts a collection of little pots, plates and bowls in a variety of hand-painted patterns and shapes. The perfect home for a bunch of flowers, most of these pieces come in a variety of colours and sizes, too.
Cerâmicas na Linha in Chiado is heaven on Earth for all pottery-lovers. With shelves and shelves of beautiful pieces, in every colour you could ever imagine, you’re certain to find something that catches your eye. Particularly lovely is the ‘Everybody Deserves a 2nd Chance’ section, for chipped or damaged pieces; these are then sold at heavily discounted prices – sometimes for as little as even €0,50! So show that mug a little love, and take him back to a good home.
4 | Have lunch in the Time Out Market
Avenida 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisboa
Always bustling with noise and life, the Time Out Market is the heart of the Cais do Sodré area. For adventurous tastes looking to sample traditional cuisine, this is the perfect lunch spot; from small petisco dishes to larger fish platters, you definitely won’t go hungry in this grand, high-ceilinged food hall. If you’re looking for home comforts, then never fear; there are also a number of pizza, burger and sushi stands, too.
Pop next door and browse the produce market, too, with its freshly-caught fish and juicy fruits. If all you’re looking for is a quick snack, then don’t miss the croquetes stand, with their variety of delicious fillings.
5 | Wander around the Museu Coleção Berardo
Praça do Império, 1449-003 Lisboa
Part of one of the city’s most imposing buildings, this contemporary art museum is located in the Centro Cultural de Belém, in the west of Lisbon. Established in just 2007, the museum itself is as modern as the pieces within it, and covers a number of some of the most famous contemporary genres. Following the path through the exhibitions will guide you from Surrealism to Pop-Art, Hyper-Realism to Minimalism and more, all in chronological order. The temporary collections rotate regularly, meaning there is always something new to take in.
Within the light wood, white-washed walls of this urban building, you can find pieces from world-renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí, alongside many more talented artists from a variety of different movements. On a rainy day, this enormous museum can keep you entertained for hours.
Entry to the museum is only €5, and is completely free on Saturdays.
6 | Shop ‘til you drop in Colombo Shopping Centre
Avenida Lusíada, 1500-392 Lisboa
Lisbon’s largest mall, the Colombo Shopping Centre is a good place to hide away from bad weather. Located directly next to the Benfica football stadium, the architecture of this building is impressive in itself, with grand fountains and looming palm trees punctuating the indoor walkways. With over 340 stores and a cinema, you can easily spend an entire afternoon wandering around this centre and browsing the stores, both high-street and designer.
But be warned: if you visit on a Saturday, you’re likely to be greeted by a flurry of football fans as they fuel themselves up before the next match.
7 | Take a cooking class at the Lisbon Cooking Academy
Rua Ilha Terceira 51 A, 1000-172 Lisboa
Budding chefs and self-proclaimed foodies should make sure to pay a visit to the Lisbon Cooking Academy. Run by Ana and Rita, this small business will introduce you to the city in the best way possible: through its cuisine. Learn how to cook a three-course, traditional Portuguese meal, or simply take a class in creating the infamous Pastel de Nata.
For good reason, the class is one of TripAdvisor’s most highly-rated cooking academies in Lisbon, and offer you also the chance to go along to the market before your class to pick out your ingredients yourself. The company is also highly adaptable to any dietary needs, such as vegan or vegetarianism.
A Pastel de Nata class costs just €35 per person, whilst a Portuguese Cooking Class (including wine, dinner, and nibbles) is €65 per person. Take a look at their full list of classes here.
8 | Have dinner at O Palácio
Rua Prior do Crato 142, 1350-263 Lisboa
Fish-lovers, listen up: you can’t complete a trip to Lisbon without a meal at O Palácio. Located in the edgy Alcântara district, this traditional Portuguese fish restaurant is known city-wide to be one of the best places to eat. Its interior is modest, somewhat chaotic, and wonderfully Portuguese, with tanks of crabs and lobsters lining the walls. Make sure to take a group of people: if you’re dining solo, you have no chance of finishing one of those enormous platters (although that sounds like a challenge, to me).
The menu is extensive, with almost every type of seafood you can imagine. I would highly recommend the spider crab and the prawns – but be prepared to be very hands-on. Don’t come here on a first date, unless you want them to see you attacking a crab claw, with garlic sauce dribbling down your chin.
9 | Check out what’s on at Anjos70
Regueirão Anjos 70, 1150-020 Lisboa
In typical Lisbon fashion, Anjos70 was once a glass factory, and has since been repurposed into the non-profit multicultural centre which stands today. A favourite hangout among locals, both in the evenings and during the day, Anjos70 is a space for small businesses and startups to flaunt their wares. With a hugely varied calendar of events, including yoga sessions, flea markets, vintage sales, and live jazz nights, Anjos70 has something for everyone. It also houses art studios, a coworking space, and a kitchen for self-employed chefs. Is there anything this space can’t do?! Check out their regular activities calendar here, or keep an eye on their homepage for their special events.
The first time you visit, entry to the space costs just €2 – after that, you have a membership card for the entire year, guaranteeing free entry at any time.
10 | Play board games in A Sala
Rua Correia Garção 11, 1200-661 Lisboa
Another fantastic community space, A Sala is part bar, part board game café, part workshop space. Looking out over the Assembleia da República, this is a cosy basement bar with coffee and cocktails, and makes a great place to meet with a group of friends for a game of cards – or, if you have the stamina, Monopoly. Check out their calendar or Facebook page for any events which may be going on, such as language classes, quizzes, or even tarot-reading sessions.
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