Rain can ruin a holiday in any city, but especially in Lisbon, since many of its attractions are outdoors. On a rainy day you won’t be able to enjoy the city’s viewpoints, walk down the waterfront promenades, explore the picturesque streets of the old quarters, go to the beach, have drinks at the rooftop bars, or even wander around the castle or head up to the palaces in Sintra. However, a wet day may also be an opportunity to discover places that you’d probably overlook.
Winter months are, naturally, the rainiest, but autumn and spring (especially the months of November and April) also have their downpours. If you’re unlucky to be in the European capital with the most hours of sunshine on a rainy day, here’s where you should go:
With its large number of monuments within a short walking distance of each other, Belém is the neighborhood to go on a rainy day (except on a Monday, when most of the attractions are closed). Take the train from Cais do Sodré Station, which can be reached on the green line of the metro (it’s the final stop), and you’re in Belém in 7 minutes. Right outside the station is the huge Coaches Museum (pictured above), where you can see a collection of fairytale vehicles used by European monarchs. Run across the landscaped square in front, and go inside the Jerónimos Monastery. Next door is the National Archaeology Museum, and next to it is the Maritime Museum. For a completely different collection, cross the road to the Berardo Museum, which displays modern and contemporary art by European and American artists like Picasso and Andy Warhol.
From there, you may take the underpass to cross the railroad tracks to the Discoveries Monument and walk to Belém Tower, but as these landmarks are best seen from outside, you may have to wait until the rain dies down.
Make sure you buy the Lisboa Card, which offers free transportation and free admission to most attractions, and allows you to avoid standing in line for tickets.
See the Belém Neighborhood Guide.
It holds plenty of water, but you won’t get wet at the Oceanarium. It’s one of the world’s biggest aquariums, and you can spend hours looking at thousands of sea creatures, like a giant sunfish, sharks, seahorses, sea turtles, otters, and penguins. Built for the World Fair that took place in Lisbon in 1998, this is one of the city’s crowd-pleasing attractions, enjoyed by people of all ages.
It can be reached by metro, on the art-filled red line. The station is Oriente, which is connected to the Vasco da Gama mall, with a good food court. The Oceanarium is just a short walk from there.
See the Oceanarium Visitor's Guide.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
You won’t be able to enjoy its delightful park, but this museum is a perfect destination on a rainy day. The São Sebastião metro station (on the blue and red lines) is a few feet away, and it houses a world-class collection of Western and Eastern art. It was amassed by one of the 20th century’s wealthiest men, who was only interested in masterpieces. The result is Lisbon’s greatest museum of fine arts, and you can spend hours admiring pieces by Manet, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Dyke, among many others.
It’s located outside the center, and requires a bus ride, but it’s a beautiful shelter on a rainy day. It’s a magnificent convent from the 1500s, that’s been turned into the world’s only museum dedicated to tile art, which originated in ancient Egypt but was used more innovatively in Portugal than anywhere else.
The convent’s church is stunning, lined with Dutch tile panels, while elsewhere are pieces from the 1400s to today. The bus to get there is number 759, which departs from Restauradores Square in the center of the city, and stops right outside the museum in about 15 to 20 minutes.
See the Tile Museum Visitor's Guide.
Rainy days are the best days for a movie night. Lisbon’s film museum displays old film equipment and has a beautiful neo-Moorish atrium, but the main reason for a visit is its screenings of classic blockbusters and art-house films. They’re presented in their original language, with Portuguese or English subtitles, so English-speaking tourists will understand most of what is shown.
There are usually four films per day, starting in the afternoon.
Rua Barata Salgueiro, 39
It's closed on Sundays
On a rainy day, you won’t want to walk around looking for restaurants, so you should head to the city’s biggest food hall. Managed by Time Out magazine, it’s inside the main food market in town, and has several stalls offering a variety of foods. Everything is reasonably priced, if you consider that you’re trying dishes from some of Lisbon’s top chefs, some distinguished with Michelin stars.
See the Ribeira Market Visitor's Guide.