I really fell in love with the Portuguese capital. This smallish and charming city took my heart for many reasons. The cute narrow streets filled with street art and the centuries of history make for a fascinating time in this city. With its bright colors, delicious food and gorgeous boutique hotels, Lisbon is everything I want from a city. Plus, the climate is warm and the people are so nice! The fact that there are many things to do in Lisbon just adds to the city’s charm and I will share my favorite spots in this Lisbon Travel Guide.
As I mentioned when writing about the Algarve Coast, Portugal feels like a mix of Spain and Italy. Only the best of those countries, too! Culturally, it has a very distinct feel, amazing food and wine and with the Spanish warmth of climate and people.
There’s something kind of romantic about Lisbon, in a less obvious way than, say, Paris . Its sweet little streets seem to hold centuries-old secrets: the feel of a place that was once an empire. The beautiful longing of fado, a Portuguese style of music that seems to permeate everywhere in the city.
There’s a Portuguese word you’ll find in every Lisbon travel guide: saudade. Often called one of the most beautiful words in any language, it might be the best insight into Lisbon. Saudade is a deep sense of melancholy, an intense feeling of longing. It’s an overpowering sensation throughout Lisbon sightseeing, even when surrounded by the sweetest and happiest hosts.
Traveling – How to Get to Lisbon?
Lisbon is the hub for Portugal’s flag carrier, TAP, so there are direct flights from a huge number of places. Through TAP, you can arrive directly from most major European cities, plus Africa and the Americas. Many other big airlines serve Lisbon airport, including low-cost airlines like EasyJet, Vueling and RyanAir. Flag carriers serving Lisbon include Czech Airlines, Emirates and Lufthansa, among others. It’s a growing tourist destination, and very well connected for those aching for some Lisbon sightseeing!
The airport is barely 7 km outside downtown, practically inside the city and once here you can see planes constantly flying over the Lisbon skies! . It only takes between 20 and 30 minutes to get into the gist of town and Uber is available here too. If arriving at a reasonable hour, you can also go with the public transportation into the city, either Aerobus or Metro.
Living – Best Lisbon Boutique Hotels!
H10 Duque de Loule – A True Design Gem with a Magic View!
A luxuriously modern boutique hotel with an 18th century façade, it’s a crown jewel of the H10 chain. The entire hotel is a design marvel, with carefully constructed details that make it stand out. Stylish almost to a fault, even its restaurants have a designer touch. They’re lovely and the food, delicious, and the Rooftop Bar is amazing.
The hotel is located 20 minutes walk from down town at Marquis of Pombal Statue on a quite street and definitely deserves a big place in my Lisbon travel guide!
Memmo Alfama Lisbon – The Luxury Oasis in Old Alfama!
Due to its perfect location, downtown but kind of hidden, it’s THE place for Lisbon sightseeing. All major landmarks are close by, but there aren’t many tourists around because the hotel’s hidden in a backyard. The location is just part of what makes staying here a must when visiting Lisbon!
Besides being steps away from most things to do in Lisbon, Memmo is also a boutique dream. It was one of the first of its kind in town, and still feels like someone’s (very trendy!) home. Very modern and with a beautiful earthy color palette, it’s a peaceful hotel to stay in. The food is fantastic, and they have a lovely terrace overlooking the river, perfect for afternoon drinks during the sunset! The staff is among the friendliest I’ve encountered.
Exploring – 6 Unmissable Things to Do in Lisbon
Although relatively small in size, Lisbon is comprised by very distinct areas, each with a lot of character. It’s very easy to walk between the neighborhoods because of the city’s smaller size. Besides walking, Lisbon sightseeing should be done by tram, particularly no. 28. This is the most nostalgic route, and while popular among tourists, it deserves a visit. Eco-friendly tuk-tuks are also a great addition to any Lisbon travel guide!
A downside to visiting Lisbon these days is how popular it’s become, particularly in the warmer months. The crowds aren’t unbearable, but it’s definitely best to begin your Lisbon sightseeing early. If, like me, you want to go around the real city, you’ll find less popular areas practically devoid of tourists. Step into back alleys of crowded streets and you’ll find yourself alone!
1. Get Lost in Pretty Old Alfama & Discover Its Views
Alfama, the old part of Lisbon, takes its name from Al-hamma or Hot Fountains. The area was already important during the millennium-long Arabian role in the Iberian peninsula. Now, it’s an enchanting neighborhood of charming little streets, magical views and amazing restaurants. You won’t regret losing yourself to this place!
Like Rome , Lisbon is built upon 7 hills, which makes for gorgeous sights in different points of the city. Our favorite viewpoint was Castelo de São Jorge, a popular yet unmissable spot. It’s the place to see Lisbon from multiple angles, looking over the city’s Golden Gate Bridge, sister to San Francisco’s.
After walking around, grab lunch at Le Petit Cafe, which is small, cozy and with a killer vibe and delicious food.
If you’re in the area at nighttime, have a quiet dinner at hip and trendy Taberna Moderna. My favorite eatery in town! For a more traditional experience, have a Fado dinner at Duetos Da Se. With its beautifully sad music and what felt like a home-cooked meal, it was like stepping into a local home.
Alfama is also where the Memmo hotel is located. Visiting its rooftop should be on your list of things to do in Lisbon!
2. Admire Bairro Alto Street Art & Party the Night Away
The Bohemian vibe of this beautiful European capital beats in Bairro Alto! Lisbon’s artsy district downtown dates back to the 15th century, and it’s now full of little bars and restaurants. In the daytime, it’s the perfect area to feel the city vibe. Take a stroll down Calçada da Glória and Largo da Oliveirinha, the official street art gallery. Shop in luxurious stores and boutiques in Rua do Norte.
Bairro Alto also offers lovely viewpoints, most notably Santa Catarina. Here, we took a siesta on the grass, with river Tagus in plain sight. We also stopped for coffee a Pharmacia Café and headed to Time Out Market. It’s the biggest and coolest food market I’ve ever visited, full of delicious flavors!
Another must visit here is Rua Nova Do Carvalho, once home to the city’s brothels. It’s now a cute party street full of pinks, perfect for Instagram!
However, the story of Bairro Alto is totally different in the evenings…
Once the sun sets, this is the place of food and drinks, of partying until early morning. You’ll find all sorts of restaurants here, from hip concept eateries to faily places that feel like someone’s home. Lots of bars and pubs, too!
One of my favorite local restaurants is here: Bairro do Avillez, from famous chef José Avillez. It’s a super cool restaurant that’s actually five places in one. We went to Páteo and loved it. There’s also Merceria, for cheeses and cold cuts; Mercearia, all traditional, Taberna; fine dining place Beco and Peruvian Cantina Peruana. A very unique place!
3. Walk Downtown & Window Shopping at Avenida Da Liberdade
Modeled after the wide Parisian boulevards, Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s Champs Elysées. I loved walking through this huge avenue, taking in the sight. The view between Parque Eduardo VII and Rossio Square is gorgeous! Plus, there are many cute little squares on the way down. The side streets are full of stores and cafés. Rua Augusta Arch and its surrounding area is worth a visit. Be sure to go there early as it’s a major Lisbon sightseeing spot. Nearby, you can find H10 Duque da Loulé, another great rooftop.
4. Enjoy the Breezy Tagus & Visit Belém
Walking by the river Tagus is a lovely experience; it’s a must in any city by the water, I’d say! The boardwalk is lovely and offers many cafés and restaurants. Ribeira Das Naus was a personal favorite spot to chill in a sun chair with a drink alongside the locals. Gelateria Fiorio is the ultimate stop for ice cream and Instagram!
Take a taxi or Tram 15 to Belem, a lovely old neighborhood by the river. It has many beautiful buildings from centuries past, like Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery. Very touristic for sure, but definitely worth checking out, preferably early. Even if not entering the 15th century monastery, walk around the area. Be sure to try pastéis the Belém, a delicious pastry created by 18th century monks!
5. The Hip & Creative LX Factory
A hip and cool area, its location is peculiar to say the least: it’s actually below a bridge. A place for the trendy locals, it’s full of designer shops, boutiques and concept restaurants.
Escape the summer crowds here and get inspired by the most creative people in town. Here, we had lunch at Cantina LX and coffee at Café Na Fábrica. However, the area is full of cool spots, so you can just pick whatever suits your mood. Unmissable among things to do in Lisbon!
6. Castle Life & Wine Tasting Outside Lisbon
If you’re staying for a few days, try to go beyond the usual Lisbon travel guide and see a bit of what awaits outside. There are many treasures!
Pena Castle – A Fairytale World
We booked with The Best Portugal Tours and got Armando as our guide, which was a total joy. He was such a gentleman with a lot of knowledge about the areas around Lisbon. A day filled with gorgeous places, truly interesting discussions, great food and wine and all customized to our wishes! I can truly recommend you to book a tour with Armando and his agency!
We headed to Pena Palace early in the morning for a real change of scene. Up the hill, the air was purer, and the place straight out of a fairytale. In Sintra Mountains, the palace was built between the Middle Ages and the 19th century. Its architectural mix is something I’ve never seen before, truly eclectic and romantic. Armando took us to the best view, and we saw a perspective unlike any other on the trip.
Next to the Pena Palace is also the castle of the Moors. So different, yet beautiful.
Boutique Wine Tasting at Casal Santa Maria
We had lunch by the sea on Praia Grande at Restaurant Arribas followed by a boutique wine tasting at Casal Santa Maria. It was a very personal and authentic experience and our wine expert José Melicias made this experience a truly memorable one. I will cherish it forever.
The views and wine yard were very pretty and I could see myself live in this pretty mansion. However, it was the stories about the founder, a true survivor: he’s lived through two wives and cancer and managed to make the property a famous one in the world of delicious wines!
On the way back to Lisbon, we passed through Cascais, a famous luxury beach resort. Maybe we’ll visit next time!
I hope you will enjoy Lisbon and its surroundings as much as we did and that this Lisbon Travel Guide will help make your trip an amazing one!
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