My trip to Lisbon was a last minute, YOLO decision. I decided to squeeze it in after wrapping up a business meeting in Frankfurt and planned most of the adventure on the fly. With that being said, between the awesome recommendations sent to me by friends that had already traveled to Lisbon, as well as recommendations from locals I chatted up, and of course the ever-amazing google, I was able to have a great trip. Below are a mix of recommendations from my trip itinerary as well as places that were recommended to me!
When it comes to Airport transportation options, all cities are not created equal. However, in Lisbon the Metro system is connected to the airport and it is ridiculously easy to navigate and a simple ride into the heart of the city. I would recommend saving the cab fare and grabbing the metro.
Downtown is incredibly walkable with easy to navigate transportation options—metro ( to travel to and from downtown), trams, cabs, Uber.
Warning: Although it is very walker friendly, it IS a city of hills—plan and pack accordingly. Comfortable shoes and clothing is a must. There are steps and inclines everywhere and it can be strenuous if you are not used to walking, have current injuries, or when you initially arrive and are navigating the area with luggage:
Tip: Make sure to grab a map early on! I’ve found that GPS can be easily confused with cities with lots of inclines (Lisbon, Dubrovnik, etc). When there are streets and alleys built on different levels, sometimes your GPS cannot tell if you’re on the street above or the street below. Get the map, you’ll be happy to have it!
Where to Stay:
I rented an apartment through Airbnb that I really loved. It had a convenient location, my host allowed me to check in early, and I thought it was a great value for the money. My host was out of the country but was reachable by phone to answer any questions I had.
If you prefer to go the hotel route, LX BOUTIQUE HOTEL was recommend to me because of the quality and great location. The hotel even has free bike rentals for guests.
What to See/Do:
Walking Tour: DO IT. I am usually the first one to recommend doing your own thing and exploring by getting lost in the city (and you should do that in Lisbon as well) but Lisbon is a city of stories and is made for walking tours. I highly recommend doing just to get a taste of the city’s personality. I did the Sandeman’s New Lisbon Free Walking Tour with Yuri and it was really good . The tour met in Camões Monument, Largo de Camões square at 10 am. There are several walking tours that meet at that time or around that time, so if you miss the one you wanted, just join one of the many others.
Tip: If you can, join Yuri’s tour. He was awesome!
Sao Jorge Castle – SKIP IT. You will probably see this repeatedly on the lists of “Things to see in Lisbon.” Skip this. It’s not worth the 8 euro entrance fee or using the limited time you have to spend in Lisbon. There is no official castle, it’s all castle ruins and I’ve definitely been to better and more interesting ones. Skip the castle, spend more time wandering the surrounding area of Alfama.
Alfama: Alfama is the oldest part of the city, and managed to survive the earthquake of 1755. It was formerly considered to be the home to thieves, prostitutes, and others of a somewhat suspect nature. It’s definitely worth a visit to check out the architecture, chat with locals, and grab a bite to eat.
Belem – This area isn’t actually in the main part of the city, but it is easily reachable by public transportation. It’s most notable sight is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
Recommendation for the area sent to me that I didn’t have time to personally check out: I have heard, the best pastry shop is also located here, called Pasteis de Belem (the national pastry is pastels de nata). I did not eat there myself, but passing forward the recommendations I was given! There is a converted factory complex of hipster-esque design shops, cafes, etc. in between Belem and Lisbon, in Alcantara, called LX Factory. It apparently has really unique jewelry. It is definitely on my list of places to visit if I make it back to Lisbon
I was informed by a local that there are things to look for when attempting to find a good representative of local cuisine in Lisbon:
- Leave downtown
- Look for a handwritten menu –it means that it was likely written that morning and that they’re using fresh ingredients. Extras points if it’s hastily scribbled on a napkin.
- Look for a rude waiter that doesn’t seem to care. He might be a little cranky, but it’s because he’s focusing on the food!
These were tips told to me, so I pass them on to you. A couple of places I ate:
Paco Real – It’s a tiny little spot. It’s definitely nothing fancy, but I had an incredibly inexpensive lunch and the fish was cooked perfectly.
Mercado de Riberia : It is a giant food hall with lots of different food stands. It’s basically like a permanent food truck rally, with mini restaurant concepts in stalls instead of trucks. It is a foodies dream. Go hungry, leave happy.
Tip: All of the food in the hall is delicious, but the line of restaurants at the end of the food hall ( if you enter the building and make you’re immediate left to enter the hall and turn right after the door to face all of the stands) is the Chef’s corner, and if you look closely at the sign, under the name of the restaurant it denotes that the food stand is being run by a trained chef
Cervejaria Ramiro : My friend described this as “THE BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE IN EUROPE.” I’m not sure if I would go that far, but it was pretty damn good! A “cevejaria” is a beer hall, and visiting one is a must while you’re in Lisbon, and I think this is one of the bests.
My food recommendations: THE CLAMS WERE AMAZING. The garlic shrimp and the bread and the crap…basically everything I ordered was great.
Recommendations from my friend Dori: garlic shrimp, crab is amazing, Portuguese ham, cheese, bread, beer.
Overall, I think you’re guaranteed quality no matter what you choose from the menu. In addition to the great food, it’s also a really fun atmosphere.
Tip: Build in an extra 30 minutes or so because there will be a line. If you happen to be going after a soccer game, the line will be longer than that, but the food is worth it!
Bairro Alto – Everyone is going to mention it. It’s an area of bars where lots of people go out and get schwasted. Very much a collegey scene, think cheap drinks and really drunk people wandering around. I am definitely not knocking it (we’ve all enjoyed those places…well most of us!) , but it very much depends on what scene you want.
Parodia – Another place I did not make it , but it also sounds amazing. It is supposed to be like a modern speakeasy where “people used to go to criticize the government during the dictatorship, run by this lady Filipa.” Another friend of a friend recommendation , but it sounds like a winner.
Park Bar – It was on my list of places to go but I didn’t make it. A local recommended it and I also heard about it from another traveler I met…it’s a bar at the top of a parking lot, how could you not want to go there? Not to mention, the drink are actually supposed to be delicious and the views amazing.
There are also your usual clubs. I wandered between two of them after doing a bar crawl. I can’t recall the names of them (sorry!), but they were nothin special. I also made it to Lux while I was there. It was recommended by a local and it was a typical European club.
Visit the Coast:
If you have time to sneak away for a day trip, I highly recommend it! Recap of my day trip and recommendations coming next week (maybe even sooner, just kidding!).
That’s all for now folks . If you’re reading this, I hope that means you’re planning a trip to Lisbon or thinking about it. If you are, get excited! I had an AMAZING time, so much that I’m planning a return trip this year. If there is anything crucial I’m missing, comment at the bottom so I can add it to my list.
Until next week!