Between vintage and modern
Lisbon has never been more fashionable than now. That image of an ancient city is long gone. For some years now, the Portuguese capital has shown a new face, authentic and modern. In the wake of these changes, there were new museums, restaurants, hotels, shops, fairs… all without losing that traditional Portuguese style.
It was a matter of time before Lisbon managed to win back the hearts of tourists. Today, the capital is among the favorite destinations of travelers from all over the world. It is no wonder: with so many attractions and leisure options, it is a full plate for any itinerary. In this Lisbon travel guide, you will find tips on what to do, where to eat, the best regions to stay in Lisbon, and much more.
How to plan a trip to Lisbon
Capital of Portugal.
Distances: Porto (313km), Coimbra (204km), Faro (278km).
Lisbon comes from the expression “Alis Ubbo”, which in Phoenician means “safe harbor”.
Curiosity: It is known as the “city of seven hills” and the residents are called “alfacinhas”.
How to get there
Humberto Delgado International Airport (LIS) receives daily flights from several world capitals. It is only 6 km from the center of Lisbon. To get out of there and go to the central region, you can take a transfer, bus, subway or taxi/transport by application. You can also arrive in other cities in Portugal and travel to Lisbon by train or bus.
In the city
For those with a lot of energy, Lisbon is a city that can easily be explored on foot and by public transport. If that is your case, it is worth buying the Lisboa Card, which gives access to circulate by bus, train, subway, and elevators – and still get entrances to museums and train trips to Sintra and Cascais. Cable cars (electric) and tuk-tuks are also an option. For those going by car, parking is easy (and cheap).
Best time to go
The climate in Lisbon is pleasant all year round. From December to February, it’s a bit cold. The thermometer is not negative, but you may get a little rain. The heat comes between June and September, along with the (many) tourist groups that invade the city. It is the most expensive time there. October, November, March, April and May are milder and have more friendly prices.
Best areas and regions
Baixa: Well Located
It owns the largest concentration of hotels per square meter in Lisbon. For this reason, it has options for all tastes (and all budgets). Even though it is right in the tourist buzz, you find reasonable prices and good value for money. It has easy access to the river, restaurants of all kinds and the subway.
Príncipe Real: Trendy and Cool
It is the “fashion district” in Lisbon. For some time now, it has gained several of the most popular addresses in the city. You can find good hotels and several properties and rooms for rent. Staying in this region, you’ll have trendy shops and interesting restaurants within walking distance. The negative point is that it is in an area of slopes where the ups and downs are inevitable. It’s for those who aren’t lazy to walk and want to explore a less tourist side of the town.
Chiado: A bit of everything
The region is well served with many restaurants, shops and sights. No wonder it is considered one of the best places to stay. From there, you can easily explore the entire central region on foot – not to mention that it is on the side with the best public transport offer in the city. Despite the flow of tourists, you can get a taste of what a typical Lisbon neighborhood is.
Alfama: To go back in time
Although it has lost some of its charms in recent years, Alfama remains one of the best places to discover the more traditional side of Lisbon. There are alleys full of tiles, houses of fado, balconies with clotheslines… The hotels have a very modern vibe, despite being in old buildings. The good thing is that almost everything is just minutes from the central region.
Best hotels and accommodation
Where to stay in Lisbon
Things to see
Lisbon in frames
Lisbon has the feel of a big city, but without leaving aside the charm of the countryside. When walking through the streets, you can find a modern and award-winning restaurant and then, right after, find a small tavern only known by locals. Be sure to notice the cable cars, the stone sidewalks, the neighborhood groceries…
What to eat in Lisbon
The gastronomic scene in Lisbon has recently been revamped. The taverns, local markets and patisseries are still there – of course – but now they share space with a bunch of brand new restaurants with signature dishes and bold proposals.
In these modern places, you see that Lisbon cuisine goes far beyond the triad cod, sardines and pastel de nata. Expect to find recipes from all over the world, very well executed by young (and award-winning) chefs. In markets such as Time Out Market and Campo de Ourique, you can get a broader view of what is going on in the city’s gastronomic scene. But, if you want to understand the essence of Portuguese cuisine, there is no other way: you’ll need to surrender to the delicious and friendly traditional taverns.
5 Must-try Foods & Drinks
Bacalhau à Brás
The Bacalhau à Brás original recipe includes cod, potatoes and egg. Instead of being served in slices, the cod is shredded, mixed with the other ingredients.
Where to eat?
At Casa do Bacalhau, Laurentina or Taberna Sal Grosso.
The name says it all: one of Lisbon’s specialties is the grilled sardines. Expect good sauces to accompany. If you want to find more fleshy fish, go in the summer.
Where to eat?
At Pateo 13, in the Último Porto and in Carvoeiro.
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
They are usually served as starters or snacks. In addition to clams (or cockles), the preparation requires lemon, coriander, olive oil and garlic.
Where to eat?
At Cervejaria Ramiro, Ribadouro and Nunes Real Marisqueira.
Ginja is a red fruit that looks like a cherry. It serves as the basis for a bittersweet liqueur that became a symbol of Lisbon and is sold in small grocery stores and specialized stores.
Where to drink?
At Ginja Lisboa, Ginginha do Carmo or A Ginjinha Espinheira.
Pastel de Belém
The best-known sweet in Portugal is called pastel de nata. Only one pastry shop in the world is authorized to name the delicacy as Pastel de Belém – and it is located in Lisbon, close to the Jerónimos Monastery.
Where to eat?
At Pastéis de Belém, Aloma or Alcôa
Places to visit
Things to do in Lisbon
Lisbon appeals to all types of public: from the most classic and conservative to young people who enjoy the city buzz. Expect to find a good supply of restaurants, museums and historic addresses. You also find many hidden gems that tourists have not yet discovered. And despite being an urban destination, the good news is that the capital is just a few kilometers from getaway areas with nice beaches and mountains. Just put your backpack on, take the train and relax.
Praça do Comércio and Augusta Street
Although a bit cliché, they are not to be missed. It is there that you will find the Lisboa Story Centre, which tells the history of the city, and the Café Martinho da Arcada, where the poet Fernando Pessoa used to frequent a long time ago. Walking a little further, you will find the Arco da Augusta and the Santa Justa Elevator.
There is a museum for each taste in Lisbon. From art galleries, with the Berardo Collection and the Calouste Gulbenkian to those that tell a little piece of the country’s history, such as the Fado Museum, Azulejo (Tiles Museum) and Carris. In the “newly opened” series, there are the modern and technological Money Museum and the must-visit Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.
Bairro dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries)
Belém is the region where you will cross out several “mandatory” items on your list. Start at the Belém Tower, walk along the Tagus river banks and arrive at the imposing Monument to the Discoveries. From there, you can continue on the walk to the Jerónimos Monastery and the Navy Museum. End the day by tasting the most famous custard tarts in the world.
Houses of Fado
Not everyone likes the idea, but there is no way to leave Lisbon without stopping by a house of fado. Most are 100% assembled for tourists, but some are outside the tourist standards and still retain the essence of Portuguese rhythm. Look for Parreirinha de Alfama, Tasca do Chico or Maria da Mouraria.
Shops and Bookstores
Lisbon is no shopper’s paradise, but if you look carefully, you can find selected items at good prices. The Embaixada store occupies an old palace in Príncipe Real, with pieces of clothing and works from contemporary designers. The Vida Portuguesa rescues the traditional side of Portuguese culture. The focus is on retro products, which pay homage to the country’s artisan work. Passing Bertrand, you will have the opportunity to visit one of the oldest bookstores in the world.
Time Out Market
The Ribeira Market has undergone changes and today functions as a large food court. The Time Out Market brings together dozens of kiosks, serving smaller (and cheaper) portions of recipes from renowned chefs. Something similar happened with the old Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense. A few years ago, it underwent a retrofit, and today LxFactory operates a large complex of stores, restaurants, bars and offices. If books are your thing, don’t miss the Alfarrabistas Fair, which occurs every Saturday in Chiado.
Day Trips: Sintra e Cascais
The day trips from Lisbon are already so well known that they became a classic. Once in the capital, go to Cais do Sodré station and take the train. In about 30 minutes, you will reach the coastal Cascais, with its clear water beaches and charming historic center. If your goal is just to take a swim and discover the local cuisine, one day is enough. If you want to get to know the city more calmly, it’s worth the stretch. Another option is to travel to Sintra, which is about 1 hour by train from Lisbon. It is on the side of a mountain and has served as a refuge for great authors such as Eça de Queiroz and Lord Byron. Don’t leave without visiting the Moorish castle, the Pena Palace and sampling local delicacies, such as the travesseiro and the queijada de Sintra.
Tip: If you are in a rush, you can visit both places with a guided tour.