(To see more photos and highlights of our trip, please visit our Instagram account: @sylsteveeurope.)
We have been in Lisbon for two weeks now and we are in awe of its energy, beauty, culture, history, people and food scene. Even though we spend hours every day exploring new neighbourhoods, we realize that we are just peeling the outside layer of this vibrant city.
Lisboetas (Lisbon people) are uber-friendly, fun, and most speak English really well. They are also really young: we feel like the oldest people by far wherever we go.
We stayed in an Airbnb in the neighbourhood called Principe Real, which is our favourite area because it is outside of the high-traffic touristy areas yet it is full of parks, shops, cafés and restaurants. We really liked our accommodation, although it was on a fairly busy street so we probably wouldn’t stay there again. The contrast with quiet Tavira was a bit of a shock to us at first. Lisbon is a full-on urban centre, with noise and car pollution on the bigger streets. But we got used to the chaos after a couple of days and have grown to really appreciate the city.
Although we have a few suggestions of places to visit below, it is probably a good idea to avoid a rigid itinerary when you come to Lisbon to allow for some exploration and discoveries of your own.
***NOTE: You MUST have good walking shoes to explore Lisbon. The extreme hills and bumpy cobblestone streets are a killer on legs and feet. I strongly recommend that you get real hiking shoes like the kind that you would use to hike rugged terrain (click here for mine which I love, ordered from Amazon.com). Otherwise, Ubers are plentiful and a good option to get around.
Restaurants (most in Principe Real)
As covered in previous posts, the food in Portugal is fantastic. Simple, fresh ingredients, perfectly prepared and delicious. The food scene in Lisbon is no exception. Not only can you find great traditional Portuguese fare, but most every other ethnic cuisine as well, often as a fusion of flavours and styles. And there are restaurants at every turn throughout the city. So be prepared to be overwhelmed by options.
We arrived in Lisbon armed with restaurant recommendations from several sources. In the end, we chose our destinations based on location (mostly in the Principe Real neighbourhood), type of food, ratings, and atmosphere. Here are some our favourites, all excellent and in the moderate price range:
- Ginlovers, amazing gin cocktails, great food, beautiful decor, lively bar in back
- Tapisco, great tapas
- Cascais Remo, authentic Portuguese, cheap and cheerful
- Solar dos Nunes, authentic Portuguese, higher end but still reasonable
- Coppola, great pizza other things, in Plaça das Flores
- ZeroZero, amazing pizza and salads with a lovely outdoor patio in the back
- Season restaurant, healthy and delicious farm to table food
- Loop restaurant, great location right by Plaça das Flores, with an outdoor sitting area in the afternoon sun. Unique and healthy food. Best for lunch.
- Mercearia do Seculo, we didn’t eat here but regretted missing it because it looks fabulous and everyone raved about it.
- Flores da Pampa, delicious, fresh and healthy food with a vibrant atmosphere. Live music Wed – Sun.
- Taza in Giro, incredible, creative Italian cuisine near the Mosteiro S. Vicente de Fora
- Restaurante Descobre (Belem), authentic Portuguese food with a modern flair.
- Note that if a server brings you appetizers that you did not order, you will more than likely have to pay for them. Don’t be timid to ask them to take them away if you don’t want to eat them.
- Many restaurants don’t take reservations and if they do, you might have to call or email them instead of booking online.
- Many restaurants don’t have websites but might have a Facebook or Instagram page
- Tipping is optional (but we always do).
Coffee is generally very good in Lisbon, but we found the best coffee at these cafés:
Best pasteis de nata:
Pastel/pasteis de nata (singular/plural) is a custard-filled pastry that Steve and I have become addicted to. We eat one every day. ALL NATAS ARE NOT THE SAME! They are best when served warm, right out of the oven. Try Manteigaria (several locations) or take a trip out to Pasteis de Belém (Uber or electric scooter. Side note: scootering in Lisbon is not for the meek-of-heart.)
Principe Real Bars: (age appropriate for us!)
Best rooftop bars:
March in Lisbon is quite cool (18C average), especially at night, so we did not get to many spots on the list below:
Castles, churches and monasteries:
- Castelo de Sao Jorge: Buy tickets online to avoid lineups. Afterwards, have drinks on the outdoor terrace at Zambeze restaurant (NOTE: Lisbon secret elevators to the castle)
- Real Mosteiro De Santa Maria de Belem
- Mosteiro S. Vicente de Fora, with lunch at Taza in Giro
- Igreja de São Dominic (wow)
- Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (in Belem). Buy tickets online to avoid lineups.
- Berardo Museum of Contemporary Art – Fascinating collection
- Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – Beautiful gardens too
- 10 best museums in Lisbon
Lisbon has a stunning amount of beautiful spots to view the city. Many of these “miradouros” have on-site cafés, bars and restaurants as well.
- Click here for a Google map of all of the miradouros in Lisbon.
- Click here for a blogpost on the 30 best miradouros/viewpoints in Lisbon.
- We loved all the miradouros, but especially Miradouro do Jardim do Torrel , followed by lunch at La Villa Restaurante.
- Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is the highest miradouru in Lisbon and worth the long climb up. Tip: Take the outdoor escalor at the Martim Moniz Square to start your long ascent.
Markets and flea markets:
- The Lisbon LX factory market was our favourite market and it is open every day (but the best day is Sunday when the flea market is also open). We had a wonderful lunches at Boro Godó and Mex Factory.
- Sunday morning Flea market on Rua de Liberdade
- Ourique Market: Open every day
- Time Out Market, open every day. We had a great lunch at Marisqueira Azul.
- Note that many parks have Saturday morning markets
Lisbon is one of the greenest capitals in Europe so you will run into them everywhere. They range from small parks that are integrated into the center of the city, to great gardens that exhibit true natural beauty. Many of these parks have cafés and restaurants as well, which guarantee a vibrant atmosphere. Here are some of our favourites:
Graffiti and street art:
There is tons of graffiti and street art in Lisbon. Unfortunately, much of it is very unappealing and looks like nothing more than vandalism. It is something that you gradually get used to but it is quite off-putting at first. Apparently, there is no punishment for graffiti and the city has given up on trying to cover it up. However, there is also lots of beautiful street art so you just have to take the good with the bad. Click here for a great blogpost about Lisbon’s graffiti and street art scene.
Other things to see/do:
- Hire a tour guide to learn about the rich history of Lisbon. We loved Fred from tailormadetravel.pt: a young man with an impressive knowledge of Lisbon’s historical and cultural landmarks.
- Stroll on Rua Da Escola Politécnica in Principe Real for great shops and restaurants
- Stroll on Rua Garrett for more shops and restaurants. See oldest elevator in Europe in Benetton, 5 floor
- Visit the Pestana Palace Hotel, a luxury hotel with beautiful Casa do Lago (lake house) for brunch or lunch (high season only)
- Galeria São Mamede is a wonderful art gallery in Principe Real with a charming hostess, Catarina.
- Day trip suggestion: Walk or Uber to LX Factory then Uber across the Ponte 25 De Abril bridge to see the towering Cristo Rei statue in Almada. Walk down the hill from the statue (find the walking trail which is an old road, not the main road), to discover the rows of derelict buildings on the west Cacilhas quay covered in stunning graffiti. Check out the famous Ponto Final restaurant. Continue walking to the Cacilhas ferries and take one back to Lisbon.
- Day trip suggestion: Scooter or bike along the waterfront (You will find bike rental kiosks alongs the waterfront. Use Bird or Lime app for scooters.). Head west to the waterfront cafés and bars at the Docas de Santo Amaro, the historic Belém Tower and the incredible Padrão dos Descobrimentos statue. Continue on to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Pasteis de Belém for their famous Pasteis de nata. Have lunch or dinner at Restaurante Descobre. If you still have energy left, visit the wonderful Berardo Museum of Contemporary Art.
Accommodations: (most are in Principe Real or close to)
- Budget: Flores Guest House, ask for corner rooms with garden view of Jardim Fialho de Almeida (Plaça das Flores). Note: Major construction across park when we were there, might be noisy during the weekdays.
- Moderate: 1869 Principe Real House. We stayed in this little boutique hotel for two nights and loved the Tagus Suite. It is on a quiet street, however, there was a somewhat noisy street about 50 meters away so we could hear cars (mind you, it is hard to avoid this in Lisbon).
- Luxury: Memmo principe
- Other Airbnb’s
Note: Many Lisbon streets are very busy and noisy. Please do your research before you book accommodation to make sure that the street is quiet if you value your sleep. Tip: Find the address on Google maps on your cell phone (you can ask your host for it if it’s not available) and avoid booking a place on a street with red or green lines (especially double lines).
- The 500 Hidden Secrets of Lisbon (book)
- 8 Secret Places in Lisbon you Need to Visit
Have you been to Lisbon? What are some of your favourite spots? Please leave suggestions in the comments below: Obrigada!