So far I’ve shared my guide to Porto and our day trip to Costa Nova as well as one of my favorite morning’s in Lisbon but today is all about a comprehensive guide to Lisbon! Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city and has a very different feel from Porto. It is more modern and eclectic and definitely more bustling. And the hills! Oh my god the hills. Come prepared to wear your favorite sneakers every day.
Merritt and I did lots and lots of planning around this trip and the following represents the best of the best when it comes to spending a few days in this thriving city. If you’re interested in visiting, I can’t recommend Portugal enough (and I’d go sooner rather than later…) Without further ado…
What to Do
- Viewpoints: Thanks to its hill, Lisbon is full of incredible viewpoints to marvel at the sights, beautiful red roofs and sea. A few favorites of mine included Miraduoro de Sao Pedre de Alcantara, Miraduoero de las Portas do Sol (the best!) and Miradour de Santa Catarina. They are all well marked on Google Maps so you can use them as a guide as you explore nooks of the city.
- Alfama District: Alfama is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Lisbon and is a maze of narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses. It’s a must if you delight in getting a little lost as you explore. I preferred this neighborhood to the Barrio Alto which was so heavily covered in grafitti that it was a bit hard to enjoy.
- Carmo Convent: The remains of an ancient church that was destroyed in Lisbon’s famed 1755 earthquake. The roof is no longer but you can still tour the bones of what is left from the original structure. Don’t miss going around the back to the staircase that has a beautiful view as well as a terrace with chairs when you need to rest your feet. The popular Santa Justa Lift is nearby as well.
- Castelo de São Jorge: Exploring the impressive remains of this Moorish castle was a Lisbon highlight. It occupies a commanding hill that overlooks much of Lisbon which means the views are stunning.
- Mosteiro dos Jernimos: Do not miss this ancient monastery! I was in awe of the beauty of it and all the intricate detail that is still in such good shape. See more here.
- Belém Tower: This fortified tower was built back in the 16th century and remains incredibly intact as it continue to loom over the Tagus river. It is recommended to arrive here early to beat the crowds. See more here.
- Ajuda National Palace: This was one of my favorite palaces I’ve ever visited in Europe. It was rather unoccupied when we got there which an Uber driver indicated tends to be the norm. (Apparently it is well visited by Portuguese people but often overlooked by tourists.) The rooms are so ornate and have so many objects adorning them.
- A Vida Portugese: This store’s several outposts are a must visit when it comes to Lisbon’s shopping. Everything they carry is made in Portugal and they have so many beautiful goods. I picked up some gorgeous glassware.
Where to Eat & Drink
- Prado: I absolutely loved this spot. It’s a very modern take on Portuguese food and only serves dishes that spotlight in-season ingredients. We had several delicious dishes and refreshing Porto Tonicos in the beautiful space that has high ceilings and plants adorning them. Reservations recommended.
- A Cevicheria: When I told people I was going to Lisbon, this was a spot that kept being recommended. They don’t take reservations so show up early to avoid a 90 minute wait. The menu is all seafood and each of the ceviches is in fact delicious. Don’t miss the BBQ octopus.
- 100 Maneiras: This is such a special spot. They offer a 66 euro tasting menu but you’ll get so much more than the six courses they mention. The food is incredibly inventive, the staff friendly and the restaurant intimate.
- Time Out Market: This venue is a food lover’s delight. The hall is filled with various purveyors offering everything from seafood to sushi to sandwiches, salads, gelato and everything in between. We had so much fun testing out loads of options here. Come hungry but prepare to wait in line and seating is rather limited so bring your patience as well.
- Old Pharmacy Wine Inn: This little wine bar used to be – you guessed it- an old pharmacy. It’s a charming little spot to grab a pre-dinner drink.
- Pastéis de Belém: In 1837 this spot began making the original Pastéis de Belém, following an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos next door. Their nata are severed hot alongside loads of other Portuguese sweets. Get there early! More here.
- Manteigaria: This spot serves pastel de nata hot from the oven and when you sprinkle some cinnamon on top it is very close to dessert heaven. We hit up this spot 3 times! The line moves quickly so fear not when you arrive.
- Landeau: This spot makes one of the most perfect slices of chocolate cake you’ll ever have. Do not miss this rich indulgence.
- Santini’s Ice Cream: You can find this name across Portugal and we included it on our food tour of the Time Out Market. The flavors range from fun and inventive to the classics. It was the perfect treat on a hot day.
- Copenhagen Coffee Lab: Portugal doesn’t have a coffee culture as much as some other European countries so they borrow from the Danish at this pot which has a couple locations in Lisbon serving up great caffeine.
- Fabrica: Right near the Heritage hotel (see below) this spot is great for picking up pastel de nata and espresso before you head out for the day.
Where to Stay
Heritage Avenida Liberade Hotel: This hotel was the perfect respite after long days in Lisbon. The location is excellent as we walked to a lot of the places on our list, they have breakfast in the lobby every morning and offer complimentary coffee, water, tea and port at all times. (The port was my favorite! We’d grab a glass after a long day out and enjoy it in our room.) If you’re looking for a hotel with great rooms (and comfy beds!) in a central location, stay here.
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Know before you go:
- While the city isn’t that spread out, the hills can make covering a lot of ground difficult. Ubers were incredibly inexpensive so it is recommended to take those when trying to make the most of your time.
- Multiple Portuguese people cautioned us about riding Lisbon’s trams citing the pickpocketing that happens while riding them. We avoided them entirely but just be extra aware if you choose to use them as a mode of transportation. (There are also loads of Tuk Tuks readily available if you’d prefer a ride in one of those.)
- English is widely spoken.
- Lisbon is Europe’s second oldest capital city. The history the city boasts is remarkable.
- Overall the country is incredibly affordable. Your Euro will go much further here than Paris or Rome.
- Lisbon gets lots of sunshine – pack SPF accordingly!
I loved Portugal and it is a country I certainly hope to return to! I have one more post from there left and it was my favorite day! I hope to have it done for next week.
p.s pieces of Paris in New York City and my guide to London.
I love your blog and was wondering what kind of camera you use while traveling. thanks
Thank you so much, Margo! I use a Canon Rebel T1i! When traveling I shoot with a 25mm “pancake” lens. Hope that helps!
Awesome guide to a great city! We went a couple of months ago and loved it. We loved the food hall and the Pastéis de Belém. YUM. Oh and also I recommend NOT going on the trolleys. We were traveling with a little kid who really wanted to go on one. We waited forever, it finally came and cost like $5 a person. It then traveled literally 2 feet and broke down, so we had to get off and didn’t get a refund. Oh well, at least the kid enjoyed the 2 feet of travel!
So glad you enjoyed the guide AND have been to Lisbon! SUCH a bummer about the trollys but also maybe why there are now so many TukTuks instead!?
Absolutely loved our time in Lisbon, and it was so wonderful to see you and Merritt there! I only want to rendezvous with my friends in exotic locations from now on… ha!
Such fate we were able to all meet up! Let’s do it again soon for sure!