Top Six Recommendations
Visiting Portugal? Here’s our top 6 MUST-NOT-MISS recommendations for your trip! Iconically known for its epic red roof skylines, classic old-world European charm, and affordable prices, Lisbon is one of the hottest destinations for travelers today! This historical city is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, best known for its colonialist history, ornate architecture and tradition of Fado music. But some of its best features are in the everyday – the spectacular hilltop views, the moderate weather with over 290 days of sunshine a year, the friendly locals and authentic culture & so much more. Lisbon is a city where you feel safe wandering around day or night, where the cuisine is dedicated to creating over a thousand ways to cook their beloved bacalhau cod fish, and where you’ll find hotels and restaurants to suit every taste, budget and requirement.
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To make things even better, this beautiful (but hilly) city is extremely easy to navigate, is budget-friendly, it offers an incredible culinary scene, and to top it off, it’s famous for its hospitality and the family-like way it welcomes visitors. If you’ve heard the buzz about this ageless city and want to see what all the fuss is about, then this detailed travel guide will tell you all you need to know to plan your first trip to Lisbon
1. Get Lost in the City
Before embarking on day trips and activities, our first recommendation is to simply get out and explore! Between its historical site and monuments, spacious squares and parks, spectacular hilltop vistas, stunning architecture, and beloved trams that wind through the cobbled streets, Lisbon is the perfect place to wander aimlessly and soak it all in. So grab your camera, cash (in small bills / coins), and comfortable walking shoes and get after it! We mapped out our walking route with the must-not-miss places below, but remember, there is no right or wrong way to wander the city! Stop and eat, drink, photograph, socialize, etc. throughout the city and you will be sure to have an incredible time.
Where to go…
Starting at Parque Eduardo VII → head south on Avenida da Liberdade → Praça dos Restauradores → Rossio Square → Praça da Figueira → Santa Justa Lift → Garden of Carmo → Next head east to the neighborhood of Alfama → tour Castelo de S. Jorge → Miradouro das Portas do Sol and Miradouro de Santa Luiza → Lisbon Cathedral → next head towards the waterfront to explore Praça do Comércio Square → Arco da Rua Augusta → explore the main streets of Baixa-Chiado → Pink Street → Stop for lunch at the Time Out Market → Take a ride on the Elevador da Bica → then head north and explore Bairro Alto → hop on the train to Belem
2. Day Trip to Sintra
This charming Portuguese town is located about 20 miles west of Lisbon and is a must-not-miss day trip! Between the stunning scenery, fascinating historical buildings, old castle ruins, cafes & more, there is so much to explore in Sintra. You can expect to see many castles, including the Palácio Nacional de Sintra (a main abode of Portuguese royalty until the early 20th century), the hilltop and storybook Palácio da Pena, Quinta da Regaleira (incorporating several architectural styles and with gorgeous surrounding gardens), the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), and the Palácio de Monserrate. Sintra is accessible via train, taxi, or Uber, taking around 30 minutes to get there from Lisbon. We recommend visiting as early as possible, as the lines tend to get long throughout the day! While in Sintra, be sure to stop for lunch at A Raposa. And on your way back to Lisbon, we recommend stopping by Cascais to enjoy a sunny afternoon at the beach.
3. Enjoy the Local Fado Music
As soon as the sun goes down, the restaurants and venues throughout Alfama, Mouraria, and Bairro Alto light up with the passionate, invigorating, authentic music of Portugal, known as Fado. Fado isn’t just a traditional music style, rather it’s an emotional experience, consisting of a mournful sounding solo singer accompanied by a classical Portuguese 12-string guitar. It’s electric, it’s raw, it’s emotional, and it is an absolute must-not-miss while visiting Lisbon. Fado can be experienced in local watering holes with impromptu performances, in small informal eateries like tascas, or in full-on restaurants (called adegas). For the most authentic and immersive experience, we recommend booking a full night of Fado, complete with Portuguese food and local wine and/or port, served alongside a three-hour-or-longer fado performance. Some of the most famous Fado spots include Sr. Fado (full review linked here), Tasca do Jaime, Cafe Luso, Clube de Fado, and Mesa de Frades. Our favorite spot was Sr Fado in Alfama.This hole-in-the-wall Alfama restaurant has a total of 9 tables, with one seating a night at 7:30pm sharp. Book this as far in advance as possible and get ready for a magic night of local Portuguese delicacies and Fado. It’s a prix-fixe menu served by the owners Ana Marina and Duarte Santos. As soon as dinner hits the table, they’ll transform from servers into performers, giving you a true Portuguese experience.
4. Party all Night Long
Aside from the colorful streets, appetizing foodie scene, charming day trips, and host of heritage hot spots, Lisbon boasts an even crazier nightlife scene. In fact, Lisbon is known for its rowdy rooftop bars, DJ-based dinners, art-infused day parties, and wealth of wild nightclubs. It is commonly considered one of Europe’s best partying destinations, with more than hundreds of nightlife options for you to discover. Whether you’re looking to party all night long or simply soak up the alluring atmosphere, there’s something especially suited to satisfy everyone’s tastes. Our recommendation is to start the night in Bairro Alto, hopping from bar to bar over a few hours. Trust us when we say that you do not need to have a specific bar in mind, just wander around as you go. Every night of the week you will find the streets of Bairro Alto flooded with people drinking, dancing, hoping from one bar to the next. To make it even better, there does not seem to be any open container laws, meaning most people are drinking on the streets just as they would inside of a bar. It is an absolute blast and a great way to make new friends! If dancing and clubs are your thing, then head to Pink Street around 1:00am and experience lively clubs, such as Music Box, Lux, Incognito, Ministerium club & more! As always, we highly recommend joining a pub crawl to ensure the most fun evening possible!
5. Explore Belem
Located just 3 miles east of Central Lisbon, this waterfront neighborhood is home to many of Lisbon’s most iconic tourist attractions, and is considered to be one of the best tourist districts in Lisbon. The district is filled with gorgeous parks, tree-lined plazas and scenic riverside walks, and offers a much calmer atmosphere than central Lisbon. But the main reason to visit is to see the famous, historical monuments of Belem: The Jeronimos Monastery, Torre de Belem, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, and Pasteis de Belem, home of the original custard tart!
Belem is located about 5km to the west of central Lisbon and the Baixa district. The easiest way to get there is by hopping on the number 15 tram at Praca da Figueira, and exiting the tram at the Belem-Jeronimos tram stop. The ride takes about 15 minutes and costs 3 euros per person (you can also use your Viva Viagem 24 hour pass). Another great option, especially if the tram is busy, is to grab an Uber or taxi, which should not cost more than a few euros. Prior to arriving, we recommend purchasing fast-track tickets for the monuments you want to visit, to avoid being stuck in long lines. We definitely recommend touring the Jeronimos Monastery, but the other monuments are up to you. Here is our suggested tour of Belem, followed by descriptions and explanations:
- Take tram number 15 from the Praca da Figueira tram stop, to the Belem-Jeronimos tram stop
- Grab custard tarts at Pasteis de belem
- Visit the Jeronimos Monastery
- Wander through the Jardim da Praça do Império
- Visit the Padrão dos Descobrimentos just across the street
- Walk past the Farol de Belem, or the old Belem lighthouse
- Stroll down the waterfront to Torre de belem
- Grab a taxi / Uber back to Lisbon, or make your way back to the tram stop
- On the way home you may want to consider stopping at the LX factory along the way!
6. Ride Tram Twenty Eight
Tram 28, which serves as both local transportation and a sightseeing adventure, is one of the best ways to explore some of the city’s most historic areas. Of all the tram routes that crisscross the city it is the number 28 that has become so iconic, as it takes in some of Lisbon’s most defining views and neighborhoods. Over the course of about an hour, the distinctive yellow tram cars navigate through steep hills, narrow streets and sharp turns of the Alfama, Baixa, Graça and Estrela districts.
As the capital of Portugal, this windy, hilly, gorgeous city truly is magical. Even if you are not a big-city type of traveler, we still recommend at least 2 days in Lisbon, as it has so much more to offer than big buildings alone. Between the history, monuments, ocean views, rooftop bars, incredible nightlife, excellent culinary scene, and more, it should be a must-not-miss stop of your next European trip. We hope you have enjoyed our post and can’t wait to hear about your Portugal adventures!