The Ultimate Travel Guide to Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating from Pre-Celtic times. Located on the mouth of the River Tagus and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is also the city of seafarers, adventurers, kings and…musicians.
After Phoenician, Roman and Arab occupations, Lisbon lived her Golden Era during the Age of Discovery from the 15th to the 17th century. From Belem, Vasco da Gama set off for India and Lisbon was the center of trade with Africa, India, the Far East, and Brazil. Many monuments, buildings, and museums reflect the Golden Era and allow you to relive Lisbon’s glorious past.
Today the city is a lively and big center of commerce, tourism, and culture. That’s where the musicians come in. Every two years, Lisbon hosts one of the biggest music festivals in the world: The Rock in Rio Lisboa Festival. Outside the festival, a visit to one of the many fado tabernas is a must to experience the unique melancholic Portuguese ballads.
You don’t have to travel to Rio to see a massive statue of Christ standing on the shore of the Tagus, Lisbon has her very own Cristo-Rei.
Not to forget the iconic yellow streetcars which take you up and down the steep hills. Originally imported from the US, they were called americanos and adapted to the topography of Lisbon’s seven hills.
Partly destroyed by several devastating earthquakes, the latest in 1755 which claimed 30.000 lives, rebuilding and restoration were quickly undertaken to make Lisbon a favorite destination for everyone interested in architecture.
In this Lisbon Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Lisbon travel tips and advice on how to get there, get around, itinerary, restaurants, best hotels, tour packages and more.
Best time to visit
Lisbon has a Mediterranean climate with rather mild but rainy winters and hot and dry summers. Consequently, the best times to visit are spring and fall.
How to get there
Humberto Delgado is Lisbon’s international airport which serves many airlines. The best way to get to the city center in approx. 25 minutes is by metro.
The easiest and most popular means of getting around in Lisbon is by Metro. It comprises 4 lines distinguished by color and features 56 stations.
Buses also run frequently and there are trains which run to other parts of Portugal as well as TGVs, the fast long-distance trains to Europe.
Bridges and ferries take you across the river Tagus. And there are the yellow streetcars to conquer the several steep inclines connecting the various ‘barrios’ of Lisbon.
Places to stay
Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel
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For the big budget, you can’t do any better than to stay at the Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel in Lardo de Corpo Santo 25.
The 5star luxury hotel incorporates a chunk of the 14th-century Muralha Fernandina and is perfectly located to reach all major sites. The hotel offers all amenities, wifi, AC, a great breakfast and restaurant. The helpful receptionists will arrange walking tours for you and help with everything else.
Pensao Praca da Figueira
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A lot cheaper but equally well located and scenic is the guesthouse Pensao Praca da Figueira in Travessa Nova de ao Domingo 9.
Located in a listed Baroque building and reached by the Rossio Metro Stop, the guesthouse is comfortable enough. Breakfast is included and wifi is available as well as a bike hiring service.
Turim Iberia Hotel
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If you like a modern hotel at very reasonable prices, you might want to stay at the 4star Turim Iberia Hotel in Av, 5 de Outubro 160.
The hotel with free wifi is located in the heart of the old town and famous for its huge breakfast room and buffet. Again, a Metro station is within walking distance and reception will help you with trips and excursions.
Best places to eat
For the ultimate Portuguese fish and seafood experience in elegant surroundings, make your way to Belem from where the seafarers departed and book a table at Feitoria in Doca do Bom success.
Remarkable is not only the quality of the food and wines but also the presentation. Each dish is a feast for the palate and the eyes.
For the best Mediterranean flavors, from sardines to meat, visit Coelho da Rocha in the popular district of Campo de Ourique. From three course meals to the Portuguese variety of tapas this restaurant offers it all.
You can’t leave Lisbon without having tasted the national sweet: egg tart. It’s a custard pie, best eaten warm and dusted with plenty of cinnamon and powdered sugar in the Confeiraria Cister, in Rua Escola Politecnica 107.
The lovely corner shop was founded in 1838 and you can have the pie with coffee there or take it away.
You’ll find plenty of pastry shops walking along the streets where you can also savor chocolate cake and ice cream.
Currency, language etc
Portugal’s currency is the EURO. Credit cards are accepted everywhere but it’s always a good idea to have some cash for minor purchases, entry fees to museums etc.
The official language is Portuguese but due to the huge amount of tourists, English is widely spoken. If you happen to speak Spanish you can have some fun with bi-lingual conversations.
WiFi is widely available, in all hotels and in many places of the city too.
Things to do and see
Lisbon is divided into various districts, each with its own charm and sites to see.
Popular on the riverfront you find Alcantara, with many pubs and bars and a hopping nightlife.
Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon stretching down the slope from the Castle of Sao Jorge to the river Tago. Narrow streets, old buildings (and some new ones) with tiny shops in the basements are the characteristics of Alfama which survived the 1775 earthquake with hardly any damage. Alfama is the place to hear to above-mentioned fados. Don’t miss it.
Lisbon is famous for her culture mix and Bairro Alto is the center of gay, punk, Goth and hip-hop culture due to the many bars that cater to them, all to be found in Bairro Alto.
Belem with the much-photographed Tower of Belem, which is a fortified lighthouse built in 1515 to defend the port from which Vasco da Gama departed for India in 1497. Behind it is the monastery of Jeronimos, well worth a visit and the lovely, green park and gardens of Praca do Imperio.
There are two museums which you need to visit. Portugal is famous for its tiles and you can see the best examples in the National Tile museums which exhibits amazing decorative ceramics from the 15th century to the present day.
If you want to see how Royalty used to move around, visit the National Coach Museum, housed in the palace of Belem. It’s the world’s largest collection of Royal coaches and one of the most visited museums in Lisbon.
Other important places to visit are the 12th-century cathedral, the Oceanario, considered as the best aquarium in the world and, of course, the park and statue of Cristo Rei built in 1959 and indeed, inspired by Corcovado in Rio.
Take your time and wander around especially in Alfama, enjoy the view from many viewpoints or make your own sightseeing tour just by riding the streetcars from one end to the other and, of course, walk across the bridges or take a ferry ride along the river.
Best places to shop
For souvenirs, especially ceramics, you’ll find the best places in the shops of Alfama.
But, Lisbon has some thriving shopping malls too. For upscale shopping head for the Centro Colombo. If you like a light-filled shopping mall with plenty of eateries, then Centro Vaco da Gama is for you.
Once you have visited Lisbon with her great variety of culture, you’ll understand why close to 3.5 million people visit the city every year.
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