If you’ve never been to Europe, Lisbon is rated as one of the most charming destinations for your trip. Known as the City of the Seven Hills, Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital, Lisbon is full of incredible views - just about anywhere you go - of its labyrinthine neighborhoods, pastel-colored buildings and waterfront.
Dotted with Middle Age accents and neoclassical architecture, Lisbon is a European treasure that will captivate you in many different ways. We’ve listed a few of these below.
The best way to discover all that Lisbon has to offer is to walk around the 19th century limestone and mosaic decorated sidewalks, and up and down the steps of its narrow alleys. You’ll find hand-painted, ceramic wall tiles (Azulejos) covering buildings throughout the city as well as murals and other street art. Tip: Wear comfortable shoes!
Castelo de São Jorge: This majestic Moorish castle is the top destination and best entryway to exploring Lisbon. The castle is located in the highest point in the city, allowing you to get magnificent views of Lisbon’s historic center and Rio Tejo (Tagus River). Once visiting this castle, you’ll be near to the Alfama neighborhood, a short walk to two other famous spots: the 17th-century Church of Santa Engrácia, a.k.a. National Panteon, and the nearby Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, one of the most important monasteries in Portugal.
The Belém Tower is a fortified tower and World Heritage Site in the civil parish of Belém. Here, you’ll also find a concentration of museums and some of Lisbon’s main landmarks and monuments, like the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum). You’ll simply be awestruck by the Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) and its late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. One of the ways that locals travel through historic neighborhoods like Belém is by the tram, called the elétrico. The legendary tram 28 is an experience you can’t miss.
Situated within the Parque das Nações is Lisbon’s Oceanarium, the world’s largest salt water Ocenarium and one of the world’s biggest aquariums. It hosts four huge salt water tanks that mimic what it's like in four Oceanic climates on Earth. Try to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds, although it will be worth the trip regardless of the hour. You can ride the cable car (Teleférico) while there, and there are plenty of restaurants and nightlife around for later in the day.
A great spot to start one of your days in Lisbon is at the Rossio neighborhood’s Dom Pedro IV Square, the busiest square in the city. Walk through Liberty Avenue (Avenida Liberdade), starting at Restauradores Square in Bairro Alto and ending at Marquis of Pombal Square. You can think of Liberty Avenue as the 5th Ave of Portugal, with restaurants, bars and the most expensive shops in Lisbon at your fingertips. Then stroll through Miradouro Parque Eduardo VII, one of the most extensive and diverse parks in Lisbon. Note: the park’s French garden offers gorgeous views of Liberty Avenue to the Tagus. Then, a couple hours before sunset, head to the Cristo Rei statue (the statue of Christ with open arms, similar to that of Rio de Janeiro). Take the train across the 25 de Abril Bridge to Portagem, which is a half mile away from the statue.
Foods to Try in Lisbon
To start your Lisbon food journey, try the feijoada transmontana, a traditional bean stew with beef and pork. During chilly winter months, taste the caldo cerde, a light onion, potatoes and kale soup. If you like seafood, walk down the waterfront on Ginjal Street (Cais do Ginjal) and you’ll find local fishermen and fresh seafood restaurants like Ponto Final that offer views of the Tagus and city. Order Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams in white wine) and bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish cakes) for appetizers. For the main dish, order cataplana - a seafood stew. For dessert, find a place that is known for making pasteis de nata, baked puff pastries with custard inside.
Shopping and Nightlife in Lisbon
Rua do Carmo is a pedestrian street and one of Lisbon’s most fashionable shopping areas that begins in the Chiado neighborhood and extends until central Baixa. Walk this street headed towards the Elevador de Santa Justa, and also shop up and down parallel streets to the east - Prata Street and Agusta Street in particular offer significant shopping experiences. Don’t miss the Roman galleries while you’re around the area! You’ll also be walking towards one of Lisbon’s iconic plazas and symbols of the city, Commerce Plaza (Praça do Comércio or Terreiro do Paço). This is a great place to end your shopping extravaganza. Take a riverside walk or a boat ride to fully experience the area. Tip: Climb up the Rua Augusta Arch to get classic views of Lisbon’s streets, Portuguese pavement (calçada Portuguesa) and the Tagus.
If you appreciate opera, a stop at Teatro Nacional de São Carlos is a must. In case you haven’t tasted a glass of Portuguese wine at dinner, head to By the Wine bar in Cais do Sodre. Visit bars that will make you wish you lived in Lisbon; examples include Silk Club, Casa Independente or Topo, overlooking the São Jorge Castle.
There are multiple ways you can experience Lisbon’s nightlife at its fullest, especially in Bairro Alto. Lisbon is considered by nighlife/party-goers to be a city that never sleeps; rarely will locals arrive at a bar before midnight, and they typically don’t get to a club until 4am (get a few hours of sleep before heading out the door, if you’re joining the locals!).
Flights to Lisbon
The Lisbon Portela Airport is the main global gateway to Portugal and one of the largest airports in southern Europe. It is located less than 5 miles away from the city center.
Lisbon can be more challenging to get to than your average European city. Don't let that stop you! If you're lucky, you can fly direct to Lisbon with carriers like TAP Portugal, Portugal's flag carrier. If you're already in Europe, you can save on flights to Lisbon with European low cost carriers like Ryanair, easyJet, Aer Lingus and Monarch.
What are you waiting for? Visit FareCompare’s search site to compare, find and save on your perfect flight to Lisbon. Once you arrive, public transportation makes it very easy to travel within the city. If you purchase a Viva Viagem card for your stay, you can use it on the tram, metro or bus all day long, as well as the TransTejo boat service.