Last updated on 06-Mar-2020
Lisbon is Portugal‘s hilly capital and largest city, located at the mouth of the Tagus River (where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean). It is a beautiful and vibrant city, where modern life thrives along with lots of history and charm. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, having gone through different invasions, empires, settlements, and waves of immigration. Currently, many of those influences can still be recognized in monuments and architecture, and the living result is a very interesting mix of people, cultures, music, and cuisine.
There is a lot to see and do in Lisbon, with a variety of museums, beautiful churches and squares, endless restaurants, bars, cafés and bakeries, lively nightlife, plenty of live music and cultural events, and so much more. You can spend a lot of time there and always have something new to discover.
The city is said to have been built on “seven hills”, but walking up and down the often steep terrain, I came to believe there are way more than seven! 😉 The geography has the advantage of offering breathtaking views from its several lookouts/viewpoints (miradouros), which are great locations to appreciate and photograph the scenery from different perspectives.
Lisbon (and its suburbs) has an excellent and affordable public transportation network, with metro (subway), buses, trams (don’t miss a ride on the nostalgic 28 Tram – it’s an attraction in itself!), funiculars/lifts, ferries, and trains. For more information on the transit system, maps, fares, etc., visit the Metropolitano (subway) website.
The best way to use the transit system is to buy a reloadable magnetic card (€0,50) on the machines available at the entrance of every metro station and then load the amount of your choice, starting at €3,00. Individual tickets are €1,50 and valid for travel within the municipal subway and Carris network (buses, trams and funiculars/lifts) within 1h after validation. A basic day pass (€6,40) is valid for 24h after they are first validated and also allows unlimited trips on the subway (Metro) and Carris vehicles. Other day pass options can include ferry rides on Transtejo (€9,55) and train rides on CP (€10,60) to reach stops on the Sintra, Cascais, Azambuja and Sado lines.
Also check out the Lisboa Card – it includes unlimited access to the transit system (subway, buses, trams, funiculars/lifts, and trains), free or discounted entry to attractions, plus many other deals and discounts.
A car is not needed to explore the city itself and may actually be a hassle due to narrow roads, heavy traffic and hard-to-find and/or expensive parking.
If staying in the region for a few days, it is nice to have a car available for day trips to Sintra and Cascais (also easily reachable by train), to Sesimbra and Setubal, to the beaches in the Arrábida region, to Mafra and Obidos, etc.
Check out this Google list with suggestions on what to visit in the city itself. Here are some of the top-rated attractions that are also some of our favourites:
- Sao Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge) – iconic Lisbon structure, where the first fortifications were built in the 1st century BC
- Praça do Comércio – main square in the historical centre overlooking the Tagus River, surrounded by shops and restaurants, and Rua Augusta Arch, a majestic sculptural arch facing the square connecting the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court buildings. From the gateway under the arch, follow Rua Augusta up towards the Rua de Santa Justa and the famous elevator (Santa Justa Lift).
- Baixa District – Restauradores Square, Rossio Square, Martim Moniz Square and surrounding streets – plenty of beautiful architecture, local shops, bakeries, bars and restaurants.
- Fado, shopping and nightlife at Bairro Alto
- Shopping and cultural hub at Chiado
- Time-Out Market – historic “Ribeira” (Riverside) area market turned into a hip food hall and cultural hub. Next to Cais Do Sodre station. Food stalls offer a variety of options by some of the best chefs/restaurants in Lisbon. It’s busy and touristy, but still interesting to see. At the front of the market, don’t miss a stop at Manteigaria for their delicious version of the Portuguese custard tarts (pastéis de nata) – make sure to get them warm!
- 25 de Abril Bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril) and Christ the King monument (Cristo Rei)
- LX Factory – In the Alcantara neighbourhood, a huge industrial space under the 25 de Abril bridge formerly occupied by textile companies is now a vibrant community hub -home to shops, offices, restaurants, bars, a lively weekend market, arts & culture events, and more! A cool spot to visit/enjoy anytime
- The Belem District, including:
- Belem Tower (Torre de Belém)
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument
- Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos)
- If a long wait in line doesn’t discourage you, try the original and delicious Pasteis de Belem (custard tarts) – although many other pastry shops around the city offer amazing tarts without the wait 🙂
- Aguas Livres Aqueduct (Aqueduto Águas Livres)
- Gare do Oriente Station & Parque das Nações – this area was revitalized for the World Expo in 1998, creating a modern combination of residential buildings, shopping and amenities, indoor and outdoor entertainment options, and several of the city’s top attractions.
- Smaller markets full of local flavour, like the Campo de Ourique, and the rotating offerings at Mercado da Baixa, Rossio, etc.
Ever been to Lisbon or planning to visit? Feel free to ask questions or mention your favourites in the comments!