Lisbon is one of the most popular cities in Europe. It features on many international visitors’ bucket lists because it has so many things to offer. Although is a busy place, you’ll no doubt feel the palpable tranquillity here.
Lisbon was built on seven hills, and flowing through its centre is the river Tagus. It is a very well lit city; it seems as if the sun particularly favours it, and the ever-present light reflects from the river’s surface onto the tiled, white streets.
The city is famous for its wonderful architecture, which was evidently influenced by its long and varied history. The city was changed repeatedly by first the Roman and Moorish conquest, before becoming a Christian monarchy, a republic, and a dictatorship. It is also famous for its beaches and alternative living scene; it’s quite an arty city, attracting creative types from all around the world.
In this guide you can find an overview of this welcoming city to help you navigate, visit the best spots, choose your accommodation and food, and more:
As people from all walks of life live here, the attitude is very much ‘live and let live’. There are a lot of students mingling with people of all ages and nationalities. It’s very easy to make friends, whatever your age.
Because of the laid-back attitude here, people will keep themselves to themselves, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly. If you start a conversation, you’re likely to receive a warm welcome. However, the chances are that Lisbon’s citizens won’t go out of their way to hassle you for too many details of your life.
If you can’t speak Portuguese, don’t worry – you won’t be the only one. As the language here is pretty complex, most visitors don’t! This won’t be an issue, as most locals in Lisbon speak English, and can understand quite a bit of Spanish too.
Portugal’s climate is absolutely lovely. It does get very hot in July and August, so prepare for that if you’re planning a summer visit. The rest of the year it’s almost always sunny, with a few cloudy days. Lisbon trips generally mean shorts and t-shirts, but it would be smart to pack something warm just in case.
You can expect it to get colder between November and February. Even then it can still be very sunny, but there is more of a chill in the air. Most months in between are warm, but the best time to go is from April onwards if you’re a sun worshipper.
Getting around Lisbon
Lisbon is an easy city. The transport links are well thought out and easy to navigate, even for those who have never been here and don’t speak the language.
Two major train stations, Santa Apolonia and Oriente (which is two stops from the airport) will connect you to practically anywhere in the country and beyond. The stations are easy to navigate and trains tend to be of a high standard. They’re almost never late, which makes a change from other places in Europe! Transport can be booked in advance online, and it can be cheaper this way. Check out CP.Pt for this.
The Lisbon underground system makes London’s look like a labyrinth. It’s very easy to get around, and lines are colour coded and well mapped, so you shouldn’t find yourself on any wild goose chases trying to navigate this city. It’s very cheap to travel on the Metro – you’re looking at around 1.50 euros for a journey.
It’s also possible to get around by bus. There is a huge bus station at the back of Oriente station, where you jump on a bus to anywhere in Portugal. Alsa bus company is one of the more reliable companies with great networks and reasonable prices.
Things to do in Lisbon
Lisbon’s distinctive architecture makes the most of the light that spills over the city. When you’re here, why not check out São Jorge Castle, which sits on top of one of the seven hills, overlooking the river and city below. It’s been around since 48BC, has a rich history and is one of the most popular sites to visit in the city.
Another amazing piece of architecture is the São Roque church, which dates back to the 17th century. Opulent is a word that would describe it well; the Jesuit chapel has handmade Baroque inlays full of precious stones and crystals.
For more examples of stunning architecture, put the Águas Livres Aqueduct, the Baixa Pombalina, and the Monument to Discoveries on your list. Even Oriente train station is a sight to behold.
The beaches here are wonderful. You can check out Portinho da Arrábida, which is Lisbon’s most popular and is reminiscent of the golden beaches of the Algarve; there is also Sesimbra, Carcavelos, and Guincho, which is particularly good for surfing due to the high winds present.
There are lots of green parks if you want to relax, and shopping options consist of everything from second hand thrift stores to high street and designer brands. Lisbon is also full of museums. Spend a few hours in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian or MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, if you’re into art and design.
As healthy living is a big thing here, you can find plenty of yoga classes, diverse retreats and workshops here, and there are lots of surfing opportunities on the beaches.
Where to eat
There are so many great restaurants in Lisbon that it’s hard to choose. Clube de Jornalistas is particularly good, though. The Lapa building is lovely and there is an outer terrace. Cuisine is an international mix; you could go for eggplant with miso caramel and pistachio, or shrimp moqueca risotto, for example.
Due to the healthy living orientation here, you can find plenty of well-stocked health food stores, as well as countless vegan and vegetarian cafes offering a taste of local foods with a twist. Download the HappyCow app for the full list.
A lot of the Portuguese diet is meat-based, but Lisbon knows well that this diet isn’t for everyone, so international travellers on plant-based diets are well catered for. Miss Saigon is one of Lisbon’s most popular vegan restaurants, with creative dishes made from the tasty meat substitute, seitan. You could also check out Aloha Café for it’s delicious brunches, including avocado toast… plus creative cakes are on the menu!
Places to stay in Lisbon
You can experience Lisbon comfortably even on a budget. Expect to pay around 15 euros per night for a hostel bed, which is cheaper than some other places in Europe. Hostels tend to be of a pretty good standard on the whole, as the city is so popular with travelers. Good Morning Hostel is one of the city’s most popular choices. That means booking early to avoid disappointment!
If you want to stay in a reasonably priced guesthouse, we can recommend The Angel’s Inn guesthouse, right outside the Anjos metro stop. It’s clean, comfortable, quiet and has friendly, helpful staff. You can get a room from 30 euros per night.
For those who don’t mind spending more, consider Altis Avenida, opposite Rossio station. It’s in a great location, Praҁa dos Restauradores, with 70 elegant, plush rooms and a rooftop restaurant. For this you’re looking at around 200 euros per night.
All in all, it would be very difficult to get bored in Lisbon. You’re almost guaranteed to have a fantastic time, and if you’re not in love with the city by the time you leave… you probably just need another visit!