Euro City Guides: Lisbon
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Unpopular opinion, but if you haven't been to Europe, your first stop should be Lisbon. It's super easy to get to with cheap flights from anywhere in Europe or North America, and despite being a capital city, it's super quaint and walkable. Portugal feels like the California of Europe, and the entire city has this super laid-back, beachy vibe. There are quite a few tourists, but not as bad as major European destinations. It's not the same hidden gem it was years ago, but it's not overrun by tourism yet, and still feels like somewhat of a little secret. English is widely spoken, and the people are so lovely.
Any time of year is a good time to go, but I went in mid-September and the weather was perfect. And as a plus, most of the buildings in Lisbon are made of painted tile, which adds a lot of beauty to the city.
Located right on the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon has unlimited beautiful views from it's myriad of hilly parks.
While the city of Lisbon has excellent public transport, I actually never ended up needing to use it. The city is just so walkable! I would recommend renting an Airbnb, and while I had a less than positive experience at mine due to a sewage smell, there are many great options. If you're traveling Europe on a budget, Lisbon is one of the best places to be. While I stayed in a quieter, more residential neighborhood, I was only a 5 minute cab ride from the city center, which allowed me to explore while only taking 2 cabs a day: one into the city in the morning, and one back home at night.
I had some of the best food of my entire time abroad in Lisbon, that's not an exaggeration. The food there was incredible. Granted, I was going off of a list of recommendations I had previously received (I'm not sure who!), but I found some other great spots. I'm a big foodie, and in my opinion, eating great food is an essential part of experiencing a new city. I've left below some recommendations, and I hope these can come in handy!
Mercantina: This incredible restaurant is located right next to Bairro Alto. Great spot to go and fill up on delicious Italian food before a night out! The staff was super friendly and the pizza was amazing.
Heim Cafe: Awesome brunch spot. It's pretty popular and quite small, so be prepared to wait a bit. Fortunately it's located in a beautiful neighborhood with tiled buildings all around, so you can walk around and enjoy that while you wait! Everything is made with healthy ingredients, and it's a great spot to fuel up for a long day of sightseeing.
Manteigaria: This is the place to go to try pastel de nata, Portugual's national pastry (which you have to try while you're in Portugal!). The have a few locations throughout the city, so just stop in one nearby when you're craving something sweet. If you're only going to try one pastel de nata while you're in Portugal, try theirs.
Gelato Santini: This gelato spot was highly recommended to me before coming to Lisbon, and for good reason. This is quite literally some of the best gelato I've ever had. They're right in the city center, and they have some great flavors along with mixes.
Nicolau: Another great brunch spot with a long wait time. This place is quite popular, but again, for good reason. Their brunch is pretty massive and filling, so come here hungry!
Time Out Market: One of Lisbon's must sees. This is the original Time Out Market, where it all began. It basically showcases the work of some of the best chefs in Lisbon, so come here hungry and ready to try new things.
Bairro do Avillez: This gem is all fresh, farm to table Portuguese goodness. It's a bit on the nicer side, so it wouldn't hurt to make a reservation. I'm vegetarian, and while they didn't have any vegetarian entrees, I told them I was and they brought out an incredible vegetable curry dish.
While it may not be world-renowned for its nightlife, Lisbon knows how to party. In Lisbon, the party is in the street. In the nightlife neighborhoods, you can find tons of people out on the street at any given night. Wander into a bar and they'll give you a drink in a to go cup, then go hangout outside.
Park Bar: This bar is so cool. It's at the top of a parking garage, which seems super sus when you're walking up the stairs, but once you get to the top there's great views of the city and great drinks. It's mainly hip hop music with a cool, lounge-y feel. There's also a dance floor if that's your vibe. I went on a weeknight and there were quite a few people, so I assume it gets pretty crowded on the weekends.
Pink Street: This is one of the main nightlife streets of Lisbon. It's lined with bars and usually pretty packed at night, and it's right on the water by most of the major clubs. There are some really fun spots here, so just wander in wherever looks cool.
Bairro Alto: This is another one of the main spots to go for nightlife. The party is all outside here, so just wander around outside and go in to little bars to get drinks to go. It can be fun, but I'd recommend going with a large group/with men, especially if you're a woman.
Alfama District: This place feels like stepping into a fairytale. Just behind the main plaza, this beautiful old neighborhood winds up a hill through beautiful tile house-lined streets. There are great views of the ocean the entire way up, as well as many cute little shops and cafes. Great lookout points over the ocean. Take the entire afternoon to do it, you'll end up at the castle on top of the hill for the sunset.
Castelo de Sao Jorge: The main castle of Lisbon, this beautiful palace on a hill is at the top of the Alfama District. It's worth paying the 5 euro entry fee, and there's incredible views of Lisbon and the ocean. The castle is massive and has so many different parts to explore, it's great way to enjoy the sunset after an afternoon in Alfama.
Alfama Lookout Point: This is definitely the most scenic out of all the lookout points in Alfama, and it's quite magical. There's a little patio area with fountains, a garden, beautiful buildings, and sometimes a little live music if you're lucky.
Santa Justa Elevator: This famous elevator in the city centre is honestly a bit of a hit or miss. I ended up going on a really cloudy day, so the view from the top wasn't quite worth the 3 euro entry price. It takes you to a lookout of the city, but you'd be much better off getting those views from the castle if you're strapped for time.
Praca do Comercio: This is the main tourist square in Lisbon. It's right on the water, and there's usually a lot going on. It's a great place to stroll and take pictures, and a good starting point to walk up to Alfama. The food and drinks here are probably overpriced and tourist traps, but it's a cool place to hangout and relax.
Check out my Flickr for more pics of this stunning city!