A city break to this gem in the Atlantic is so worth it
Let me show you why Lisbon is a great place to stay and how to make the most out of your time.
If I had to name one of the European capitals very close to my heart, then I would definitely have to say, Lisbon. And I’m quite sure that I’m not alone in saying this. If you search the internet for reviews of the Portuguese capital, you’ll find countless descriptions of a charismatic, vintage and laid-back city that wins over every doubter with its unique charm. Headlines about new spectacular buildings or an especially modern and extraordinary piece of architecture are rare. Instead, you will discover a city that has fascinating views from all seven of its hills. The locals are particularly proud of the fact that their capital can boast temperatures of 20 degrees plus almost all year round. No other city in Europe can match this climate, which simply invites you to grab your board, head to this surfers paradise and show off your skills on the Atlantic coast. I have collected the best Lisbon tips for you to have a great time in this wonderful city.
Lisbon airport is not even 10 kilometres from the city centre and is connected excellently by public transport. If you want to get to the historic centre, you’ve got two options. The first option is travelling with the underground. In Lisbon, you have the blue, yellow, green and red lines. So, if you want to get from the airport to the city centre, take the red line in the direction São Sebastião. If your hotel is located in the old town, you have to take the green line, direction Cais do Sodré, and get off at the stop called “Alameda”. A single journey costs €1.40.
It gets a bit more expensive if you take the Aerobus as it costs €3.15 per journey. Nevertheless, I would recommend taking the bus as you get to see more and can get a great first impression of the city, which you’re not able to do with the underground. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the 20-minute journey along the “Avenida da Liberdade” to the beautiful old town.
Accommodation in Lisbon
If you get the chance to stay in one of the hotels in the historic old town, then you should definitely do so. Only here can you stay in one of the old buildings and get firsthand experience of how the “Lisboetas” live. By the way, some hostels in Lisbon were chosen as some of the best in the world. So, there are some cheap and nice alternatives to hotels for you to consider. A few examples of good hostels in Lisbon are the Lisbon Lounge Hostel, the Travellers House and the Yes! Lisbon Hostel. Contrary to popular belief, you can often book a single or double room with a bathroom in hostels. So you have your privacy, but at the same time you can also easily go and chat to other travellers in the common room or in the kitchen. Another very good and usually cheap alternative which I would highly recommend is Airbnb. Here, you can find the original Super Mario Airbnb, for example. A cool place to stay for the gamers amongst you!
Discover the Portuguese capital
Lisbon is located on seven hills which make it almost impossible to visit all the important places on foot. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on any of the highlights. All the attractions can be reached by taking the historical tram, the small and manoeuvrable buses or the underground. If you want to get a general feel for the city, then take a seat on tram 28. At first, this sounds like an insider’s tip, but you’ll quickly realise that you’re not the only tourists who have had this idea. However, this doesn’t detract from the fun in any way and you’ll be surprised at how patiently the tram drivers manoeuvre through the narrow streets. Even when the tracks merge into a single lane, two trains still drive on the same track and to make matters worse, the fire brigade can come flying round the corner with their flashing blue lights at any point. You’ll be in awe of their driving skills. If you do need a little more space to breathe, then the tram 12E is also a great idea, and the route covered is not so different, but I’d definitely check out the tram map in advance!
You should definitely get the Lisbon Card. With that, you can travel on public transport at no extra cost, you get reduced entry to more than 20 museums and sights and can also save one or two euros in many restaurants and shops.
Sightseeing – a whole host of treasures
A little tip beforehand: If you want to get a unique overview of the old town and want to experience how the “Lisboetas” live, then you should take part in one of the Lisbon Explorer Tours. Here, locals will tell you all about the city and point out hidden corners and amazing viewpoints. If you’d like to go about under your own steam, then you can happily follow my Lisbon tips.
My tour started with a journey on tram 28 which first takes you through the city. You could simply start from the old town and travel in one direction to the final stop. For starters, you can enjoy the view as both of the end stations are located on one of the seven hills. You should definitely get off at the stop called Castelo as, from there, you’re just a few minutes away from the beautiful São Jorge castle. Entry isn’t free but the view alone is worth it. You’ll be thrilled by the view of the old town, the Ponte 25 de Abril and the famous Cristo Rei statue.
After a tour around the castle, you can then go back down to the old town and head to the Elevador de Santa Justa. All of those who have a Lisbon Card can use the lift for free. Simply go from the lower town (Baixa) up to the Bairro Alto and see the city from another perspective.
A few more highlights…
After lunch, take tram 15E from Praça da Figueira to Belém (the stop is called Belém Jerónimos). There, the next impressive highlights are waiting for you. Once you get off, the Jerónimos Monastery is located right in front of you. Pop inside and take a look at the beautiful inner courtyard. It was probably an act of God that kept the monastery pretty much intact after the massive earthquake of 1755. Today, it belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Once you’ve visited the monastery, you can then treat yourself to one of the famous little “Pastéis de Nata” tarts to keep your strength up. The small bakeries near to the monastery have been making the pastries since the 18th century and are famous all over the city. After your refreshment, you should cross the road and take a stroll through the small park to Belém Tower. Built in 1521, this small watch tower greeted incoming ships for decades before it became a prison in 1570. From there, you’re just a few meters from the famous Monument to the Discoveries “Padrão dos Descobrimentos”. The Portuguese are very proud of their maritime past and aren’t afraid to admit it.
Beaches near to Lisbon
In Lisbon, you can quite easily combine a city break with a trip to the beach. For example, by taking the train you can get to the popular surfing hot-spot, Carcavelos Beach, in just 20 minutes. In the towns Estoril and Cascais, west of Lisbon right on the Atlantic coast, you’ll find some really beautiful bathing spots. You can reach both towns by taking the train from Cais do Sodré. It’s worth making the train journey just for the beautiful views you get as you travel along the coast.
There are some Portuguese specialities that you simply have to try. Just like in Belém, you’ll find small sweet and savoury pastries all over the city. Just have a try of what they’ve got to offer. The Portuguese love to eat. So, you should take note of the places that are full at peak times, then you’ll know which restaurants serve the best food. If you want to eat good but inexpensive food, then you should pop into one of the many “Tascas” in the old town. There you’ll find traditional Portuguese food. Particularly worth recommending and an insider’s tip is the Clube de Jornalistas. Steer clear of the typically touristy restaurants. You’ll be able to recognise these by the menu which is usually offered in several different languages.
Nightlife in Lisbon
Lisbon isn’t really a city with many clubs, but rather one with many outdoor party locations. Even in the main district for going out, the Bairro Alto, you can comfortably sit outside and chat to the “Lisboetas”. Order a nice glass of Portuguese red wine, some tapas and maybe a Ginjinha, a famous cherry liqueur.
If you’d like to listen to some typically Portuguese music, then I’d recommend one of the many fado bars. The music compliments this special city. Those in the mood for some Brazilian rhythm should check out the Bali Bar in the Bairro Alto. Here, they’ve got excellent mojitos and there’s often live music that you won’t be able to sit still to, even if you tried. Concerts and events in Lisbon take place at the former area for the World Exhibition, the Parque das Nações. This is also worth a visit during the day.
Last but not least, I’ve got a suggestion for you: again, this isn’t a real insider’s tip but it’s definitely worth doing all the same. Located at Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 58 is the former city palace, Casa do Alentejo. From the outside, you wouldn’t think that a real gem awaits you inside. The restaurant is obviously worth a visit, but for me, it was enough to just wander around the magnificent ballroom and imagine the amazing parties that once took place here. The same applies here as it does to the rest of the city: let yourself be taken over by the serenity of the “Lisboetas” and leisurely stroll through the streets. You will be thrilled…
Hope you like my Lisbon tips! So, do you think a trip to Lisbon would be something you’re interested in, or have you already been there? I think Portugal is beautiful and a real gem of the Atlantic coast. And for all of you who were wondering, I’ve obviously got some amazing Portugal deals for you. Time to get excited!