Lisbon in Portugal: A complete travel guide
Updated: Jan 12
Lisbon is the vibrant capital city of Portugal. As one of the oldest cities in western Europe, Lisbon has a rich, turbulent history. By the 15th century, the port of Lisbon became one of the most important in the world. But unfortunately, the city center was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. Today, it has been reconstructed into a bustling modern city blended with traditional heritage. It’s known for its sunny weather, buzzing nightlife, colorful buildings, and a wide range of tourist attractions. In this article we'll break down everything you need to know when going to Lisbon in Portugal as well as the best things to do.
Check out our Lisbon video to get a sense of what it's like there!
Where is Lisbon and how to get there?
Lisbon is located in western Portugal on the estuary of the Tagus River. There is an airport right outside of Lisbon. We recommend booking your flights through Skyscanner to get the cheapest prices. From the airport you can easily take a bus or the metro to the city center. Find more information on getting from the airport to Lisbon center here.
Find a map with all the places we talk about below.
Important things to know before you go to Lisbon
Lisbon is the perfect destination for a city trip that you can do anytime you want. Because of the year-round pleasant and sunny weather, it is not only a summer but also a winter destination. Since it is the capital city, you don't have to worry about not knowing Portuguese. Most people speak basic English in touristic areas. As with a lot of cities, Lisbon is not made to drive around in a car. You can get anywhere you want by tram, metro, or just on foot, so don't waste money on renting a car.
Where to eat and drink in Lisbon?
Below you can find all our favorite places to eat, drink coffee, and have a couple drinks.
Portugália: a restaurant located in the harbour of Lisbon with amazing seafood and very cheap sangria
O Gaiteiro: perfect for lunch. We tried the bacalhau à brás here and loved it!
Park Rooftop: a bar with amazing views
Manteigaria: great pastéis de nata
Eclipse: bar with good vibes in Bairro Alto
A Tasca Do Chico: restaurant with traditional Fado music
Brown’s Bistro: great breakfast and high-speed WiFi
Copenhagen Coffee Lab: healthy breakfast and amazing coffee
Cervejaria Ramiro: local place for beer and tapas
Josephine Bistro & Bar: local cheap place with great food
Bananacafe: bar with live music during the day
Where to stay in Lisbon?
Hotels in Lisbon are more expensive than other places in Portugal but still affordable for a big city. The best areas to stay are Baixa and Chiado but the other areas are also very good. You can find a list below of our favorite place to stay:
Best things to do in Lisbon
There are lots of things to do in Lisbon but we'll break down our top 10 for you. If you want to see more places to visit in Portugal, check out our full Portugal Travel Guide.
10. Try the traditional food
With a rich gastronomy and intricate flavors, Lisbon is a true culinary destination. Most of the dishes are made of simple, but fresh ingredients. It’s especially known for its delicious seafood such as Portuguese sardines and codfish (bacalhau à brás, pastéis de bacalhau), but meat is also widely used (bifana sandwich, bifinhos com natas e cogumelos). Accompany the food with local wine or cherry liquor (ginjinha); or follow up with Lisbon’s famous, sweet custard tarts, also called “pastéis de nata”. Book a local food and wine tour to get the best experience.
9. Ride Tram 28
Lisbon’s trams are a true city icon, and line 28 is undoubtedly the most popular one. A 7 kilometers or 4.5 miles route connects Martim Moniz Square with Campo Ourique, while passing through Lisbon’s most historic districts. Retaining many of its original 1930s features, riding the tram is a fun and unique experience. We recommend starting your journey at Campo Ourique and riding it until the end. In this way, you’ll get the full experience and are guaranteed a seat. It’s also best to go as early or late as possible, since the trams get packed during the day. Watch out for pickpockets as this is one of their favorite places to steal because the tram is full of tourists.
8. Experience Fado and the nightlife at Bairro Alto
Another fun thing to do in Lisbon is to experience the local music and nightlife at Bairro Alto. Filled with small cafes and restaurants, this district is the city’s top nightlife choice. But if you’re looking for a local experience, then watch a Fado performance. Fado is a traditional Portuguese music genre, known for its expressive and melancholic sound. We went to Tasca do Chico and loved it.
7. Visit St. George’s Castle
At number 7, we have a place where you can enjoy Lisbon’s heritage and history. St. George’s Castle (Castelo de São Jorge) stands on top of the tallest hill in the city and served different purposes throughout history. Today, you can stroll around its garden and the towers or participate in a guided tour. Make sure to visit the permanent exhibition as it showcases objects that were found at the site as well as provides an introduction to the various cultures of Lisbon’s past. We recommend booking a guide so you get more information and can skip the line.
6. Take in one of the many viewpoints
Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills and you will definitely understand why when roaming the streets. That said, it’s one of the most scenic capitals thanks to its abundance of viewpoints where you can admire the city and river from. You’ll find several views when walking around the famous Alfama District (Santa Luzia & Portas do Sol) and Bairro Alto (São Pedro de Alcântara), but our favorite one was the lesser-known Monte Agudo at sunset.
5. Explore the highlights of Belém
Home to various iconic landmarks, Belém is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Lisbon. There are a few things you can’t miss, such as the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos), and Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), which is Portugal most famous landmark. But it’s also fun to enjoy the calmer atmosphere of this part of the city. Walk along the riverside or go to the Tropical Botanical Gardens for a break from the hustle and bustle! Make sure to stop by the Pasteis de Belém bakery, where the original pastéis de nata are from.
4. Walk around the Alfama District
Another great thing to do in Lisbon is to stroll around the Alfama District. This neighborhood was the only one to survive the 1775 earthquake, making it the oldest area of Lisbon. Its narrow cobbled streets, multiple viewpoints, and traditional houses give the city a unique character. Around every corner there is another cozy plaza, trendy café, or little shop. Simply get lost and enjoy the surroundings.
3. Go on a sunset cruise on the Tagus River
At number 3, we have a sunset cruise on the Tagus River. This is the best way to see Lisbon from a different perspective. During a two-hour sailing adventure, you’ll pass under the iconic San Francisco-lookalike bridge and take in the views of the most impressive monuments in Belém and the historic center. This all while watching the sun go down behind the horizon. We booked our sailing cruise with “Enjoy Tagus” and loved the intimacy of our experience. Being with such a small group, we learned a lot about Lisbon from our knowledgeable guides while enjoying a glass of local wine and snacks.
Meeting point for cruise: Doca do Espanhol ou Doca de Alcântara ( "Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa, 1350-352 Lisboa" gate number 1, right behind Oriente Museum in Alcântara)
2. Day trip to Sintra
At number 2 we have a day trip to the charming town of Sintra. With its abundance of castles and palaces surrounded by lush, green hills, you’ll feel like you’re walking in a fairy tale. Highlights include the gardens and mansion of Quinta da Regaleira, the Castle of the Moors with its incredible views, and the colorful Pena Palace. Watch our video or read our blog about Sintra and learn how to do it as a day trip from Lisbon.
1. Downtown Lisbon on a free walking tour
As the city’s most central and commercial neighborhood, downtown Lisbon ranks at number 1. This area boasts the largest amount of entertainment options, bustling with cultural, gastronomical, and leisure alternatives. Make sure to visit the iconic Commerce Square (Praça do Comércio), the beautiful Rossio Square, and the bustling Rua Augusta. The best way to explore this area in our opinion is to go on a free walking tour since Lisbon’s history and culture are so fascinating.
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More Helpful Info About Lisbon
If you still need more information about Lisbon, make sure to check out these other great articles below:
25 Best Things to Do in Lisbon (Portugal) by The Crazy Tourist
28 Absolute Best Things to do in Lisbon by Full Suitcase
30 Best Things To Do In Lisbon When Visiting Portugal by Nomads Unveiled
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