Everyone told me I’d love Lisbon, and they were right.
Steep hills, colourful facades, delicious, creamy egg tarts, excellent wine, an endless array of beautiful doors and sunshine reflecting off the water.
We loved Lisbon- in only a few days, it became one of my favourite cities in Europe. Once a gateway city for explorers to discover new lands and things across the world, it’s now a vibrant coastal city.
We had three days in Lisbon, which felt like the perfect amount of time to explore a few different neighbourhoods, plus take a day trip outside the city. That said, it also feels like we only scratched the surface. I’m keen to make it back to Lisbon someday and uncover more of what the city has to offer.
What to Do
- Explore some of Lisbon’s best neighbourhoods
- Alfama: The oldest district in Lisbon, surviving the 1755 earthquake. Think: hilly, winding streets with historic architecture that lead to perfect views of the city. Not down to hike to the top? Take tram 28, it goes from central Lisbon to Castelo Sao Jorge and affords good views of the city throughout the ride
- Baixa: In the centre of the city, it’s known for being a shopping district. Here, you’ll find Praca do Comercio and Rossio Square / train station (which is the train you need to travel to Sintra)
- Chiado: Known as the posher part of Lisbon, it’s between Baixa and Bairro Alto and home to many boutiques and cute restaurants
- Bairro Alto: During the day, this hilly neighbourhood is perfect to stroll if you’re in search of cobblestone streets and beautiful facades. At night, the streets come alive with party goers in search of cheap cocktails (think 3-4 euros) and club scenes
- Admire the view from Lisbon’s endless overlooks. The city is built on seven hills, which means there are plenty of panoramic viewpoints, my favourites:
- Miradouro São Pedro de Alcantara
- Miradouro do Graça
- Miradouro do Monte Agudo
- Miradouro de Santa Luzia
- Miradouro de Santa Catarina
- One of the city’s most well known views is from the Santa Justa Elevator, a neo-gothic elevator made out of wrought iron. It’s pricey to take it to the top, so instead, I recommend putting ‘Carmo Convent’ near the top of the Elevator into Google Maps and heading there for nearly the same view
- Sit in a park and sip sangria. A spot I loved: Miradouro São Pedro de Alcantara. Here, there’s not only great views but also a quaint park with vendors offering pints of sangria (!) and ginjinha shots. Ginjinha is a typical Portuguese liquor made of cherries/berries and often consumed with a cherry or chocolate to make it even sweeter
- Roam the streets of Lisbon without an agenda, admiring the Azulejo tiles. One of the things I loved most about wandering Lisbon were these tiles, they’re brightly coloured and covered in intricate designs
- Head to Lisbon’s most photographed street, Elevada da Bica. Here, you’ll find the Bica funicular, a national monument that’s been in operation since 1892. Head to the top to shoot the funiculars as they pass each other on the steep incline
- Go shopping, there are so many cute boutiques in Lisbon, three that I like: Cerâmicas Na Linha (affordable, homemade ceramics), A Vida Portuguesa (authentic Portuguese products, great place to pick up gifts to take home), Comur. A Conserveira De Portugal (an entire store dedicated to sardine varieties)
- Take a day trip to Sintra, a cute village surrounded by rolling hills and craggy mountainside. In Sintra, we visited Pena Palace, an eccentric castle that’s a UNESCO World heritage site, and the Moorish Castle. Visiting Pena Palace on a foggy day was incredible- it would have been great to see the views of the surrounding mountains, but there was also something so magical about the low visibility- it felt like we were floating in a cloud forest. As if that wasn’t great enough, walking along the medieval ruins of the Moorish castle felt like we were high above the clouds in a completely different world
- We didn’t have time to visit Belem Tower or St George’s Castle, but both are high on my list for a return visit
Where to Have Coffee
Travelling with a huge coffee lover, and hearing Lisbon was the perfect city for caffeine fiends, I was excited to do a morning walking tour of the city on our first day to discover as many coffee shops as we could and get acquainted with neighbourhoods near ours.
- Copenhagen Coffee Lab: Hailed as the best third wave coffee in Lisbon, the flat whites are great and there’s a cute park next door
- Hello, Kristof: Cute little cafe with locally roasted beans
- The Mill: Excellent Aus brunch, but also great coffee smoothies
- Noobai Café: If you’re looking for coffee and a view, this is the place. Stunning views of the city and waterfront
- Tartine: Good coffee, but excellent pastries. I had a salted caramel doughnut and fell.in.love.
- Fabrica Coffee Roasters: Best place for cold brew in Lisbon
- Wish Slow Coffee: Ample space to relax, great coffee in the LX Factory
- Nicolau Coffee: On my next visit to Lisbon, I’ll definitely be stopping here for brunch- the menu looked amazing. We popped in here mid-afternoon one day for a caffeine pick-me up and to rest our weary feet (tired from tons of hill climbing). Super cute cafe with a relaxed vibe
- Veggie Wave: If coffee isn’t your thing and you’re staying in Bairro Alto, this place is great for fresh squeezed juice in the morning
Where to Eat
- Taberna da Rua das Flores: Reservations are a must here, it’s cosy and the menu changes routinely but oh so good
- Time Out Market Lisboa: Is this food market over-hyped and touristy? Sure. But, there’s also excellent food and so much variety – loved the croquettes, pizza, burgers, egg tarts, sangria and patatas bravas
- Manteigaria: This is a can’t miss. The egg custard tarts are incredible- by far, the best I’ve had in Lisbon (and in Macau/Hong Kong on my visit there). They’re cheap too, so even if you’re not sure you’ll like it- try one. If you don’t make it to the original shop, they have a location at the Time Out Market, making them accessible
- Taberna Do Avillez: Great food and great wine. Another place to make a reservation if you can get one
- Coyo Taco: Mid-way through our meal here, which we stopped in for because it was near our hotel, I realised this was a spin-off of a taco restaurant I loved in Wynwood Miami five years ago. Everything we had was great- the tacos, churros, margaritas, esquites and ensaladas
- Royale Cafe: Great seafood. We especially loved the octopus, but the hummus was also tasty
- Grapes & Bites: Local cheeses paired with local wines. A perfect snack stop or place to escape the rain for an hour, as we did
- A Cevicheria: I’ve never been a huge ceviche fan, but everyone in our group raved about the ceviche options, really loving the tuna one
- Landeau Chocolate: Go here for the chocolate cake, it’s epic
- Santini Gelado: Serving up tasty ice cream since 1949, this is a can’t miss, especially if the weather is warm
Where to Drink
- BA Wine Bar: Our very first stop in Lisbon. We lucked out walking in without a reservation (pretty early in the night, and before meeting up with friends). Normally, it’s reservations only and slow service, in a good way- they want you to savour the wines. With only 30 minutes to spare, we were grateful they accommodated us for a tasting – the wines were all from Portugal and fantastic
- By the Wine – José Maria da Fonseca: We ended up here every night we were in Lisbon, some nights for a quick drink and others for hours. We loved how affordable and great the wines were, and how cool the atmosphere was
- Pub Lisboeta: Craft beers and good wines, for a pub. Lively atmosphere and close proximity to our hotel made this an end of night stop for us more than once
- Portas do Sol: If you find yourself in Alfama, don’t miss stopping here for sangria, espresso or even a glass of wine while taking in the incredible view
A Few Other Bits to Know
In terms of navigating Lisbon, we walked pretty much everywhere, taking the metro, which was easy to figure out, a few times if we were going across the city.
At night, if we were drinking in the lower part of the city, we usually opted to take Uber back to our hotel at the very top of Bairro Alto- who wants to climb steep inclines after enjoying a few glasses of wine 😉 And, it certainly helped Uber was so affordable, usually costing less than £3 a ride.
Because the hills are steep, make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes. Trainers are a must.
With only a few days to visit Lisbon, we wanted to be centrally located for exploring. I visited with a group of 6 friends, which we split up into pairs for ease of lodging. Initially, my friend and I were in an Airbnb in the heart of Bairro Alto, less than five minutes from our friends. After our first night, we woke up to a pretty big issue in the flat, which the owner refused to resolve. Airbnb handled the situation extremely well and had us rebooked in a hotel only 5 minutes from where we’d been staying. We loved the neighbourhood, but I’d stay on the fringe on a future visit- the central bits get quite loud at night, especially on the weekends.
All in all, a spectacular first visit to Lisbon.
Have you ever been to Lisbon? What did you think of the city?