Lisbon Portugal Travel Guide

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Lisbon Portugal Travel Guide

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All the answers to your most pressing questions about Lisbon, one of Europe’s most beguiling cities. Whether you have a single day or a week, this Portugal travel guide will give you a base from which to plan your Lisbon itinerary. Get ready to discover Lisbon’s capital, its colorful culture, interesting neighborhoods and welcoming character.

 

Is Lisbon Expensive?

Actually, Lisbon is not as expensive as other popular European cities. You will generally get good value for your money. The accommodation prices are reasonable and the properties themselves held to a high standard of hospitality. Public transportation, sightseeing and dining are all moderately priced. To get into the nitty gritty, you can expect two people to spend $1,599 for a week in Lisbon. So, is Lisbon cheaper than Barcelona? Yes, generally speaking, visiting Lisbon for vacation is going to be less expensive than visiting Barcelona.

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What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Lisbon?

The best time to visit Lisbon to save money is between March and May or September and October. The high season is during the summer, but you’ll be battling thicker crowds and pay higher prices. During those shoulder seasons, the weather is still beautiful and the crowds have dissipated.

 

How Many Days Should You Stay in Lisbon?

Budget about three days in Lisbon. This should give you ample time to fully explore Lisbon’s top sightseeing destinations, experience its renowned nightlife, eat plenty of delicious food and more.

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Is Lisbon a Walkable City?

Yes, in fact, it’s easy to get wonderfully lost as you wander the streets of Lisbon. Using your own two feet to get around this charming city will introduce you to its authentic side. Some of the most interesting streets to walk in Lisbon are:

 

  • Rua da Adica: In the Alfama neighborhood, this soulful little street is the epitome of Lisbon lifestyle – laundry hanging from balconies, multiple generations chatting outside and bubbling fountains everywhere you look.
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  • Rua Nova do Carvalho: Also known as the Pink Street, this popular thoroughfare is where to come for bustling nightlife.
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  • Rua do Vale: A typical city street in Lisbon, Rua do Vale takes you away from the tourist traps and into daily life. This is a great walk for art lovers – check out the Church of Merces and the Atelier-Museu Julio Pomar.
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  • Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo: A city highlight, this is one of the most photographed streets in Lisbon. Take the necessary selfie and enjoy the Bica neighborhood, with its views of the Tejo River, before hoping on the funicular train that has been running since 1892.
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  • Rua da Graca: Join the legions of young people and students in the historic Graca neighborhood, brimming with convivial cafes, restaurants and shops.
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  • Rua de Sao Bento: A boon for antiques shoppers, this adorable street is part of The Triangle, where Rua de Sao Bento, Rua do Poco dos Negros and Rua Poiais de Sao Bento meet. Admire the juxtaposition of old and new and save time to browse the many interesting antiques shops.
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  • Rua Augusta: This is the biggie, Lisbon’s main pedestrian street, so spend the better part of a day exploring its outdoor cafés and soaking up the lively atmosphere. Head to the top of the Rua Augusta Arch for a great viewpoint on the neighborhood.

If your legs need a rest, pick up the number 28 tram, which passes through Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. Otherwise, the best way to see Lisbon is on a self-guided walking tour or a walking tour with a reputable operator.

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What Is the Best Location to Stay in Lisbon?

City of seven hills and a mesmerizing scene of pastel-hued buildings and cobbled alleyways, Lisbon offers several different neighborhoods for staying in. Here’s a look at their various personalities:

 

Alfama: This is Lisbon’s oldest district, set between the river and the 12th-century Sao Jorge Castle. If it’s hidden alleyways and graceful arches, cobblestone Moorish-era streets and quaint cafes you seek, this is where to stay. Alfama is historic, romantic, characterful and artistic. And it’s easily reachable from Lisbon’s main tourist areas.

 

Bairro Alto: If you love the nightlife, look for accommodations in Bairro Alto. Quiet during the day, this neighborhood comes to life after dark. Restaurants and clubs offer indoor to outdoor dining and entertainment – all of which goes on until the wee hours. By day, visit for the street art and vintage shops.

 

Baixa & Chiado: Stay in Baixa & Chiado if you want to be on the doorstep of Lisbon’s top sightseeing attractions. This city center location allows almost immediate access to shopping areas, theaters, bustling squares and more. Don’t miss the Praca do Comercio by the Tagus River, the mini Eiffel Tower Elevador de Santa Justa and Nucleo Arqueologico da Rua dos Correeiros. From here, the historic downtown of the city, it’s easy to hop on public transportation to other Lisbon neighborhoods. The Chiado area of the neighborhood boasts museums and designer shopping.

 

Principe Real: Stay just off the beaten path in Lisbon’s up-and-coming neighborhood. Younger Lisbonites are flocking here, bringing with them hip and quirky boutiques and cafes. The view from here – because it’s higher in the hills – is fantastic.

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Belem: This leafy neighborhood is also a bit off the beaten path, yet still offering convenient access to the rest of Lisbon. Check out the historic Belem Tower, as well as the area’s many parks and gardens, the ancient Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and riverside restaurants and bars. There is a UNESCO World Heritage Site practically everywhere you turn.

 

Mouraria, Graca and Sao Vicente: More quiet choices with easy access to the tourist center. Here, you can mingle with the locals in their favorite restaurants and markets, visit artist workshops and people watch in peaceful squares.

 

Parque das Nacoes: This contemporary development on the Tagus River features the Lisbon Oceanarium, the Centro Vasco da Gama shopping area, the Knowledge Pavilion and the Camoes Theatre. Families enjoy taking the Telecabine Lisboa cable car to sweeping views and the trendy dining along the waterfront.

 

Is Lisbon Safe?

Generally speaking, Lisbon has a very low crime rate. The safest neighborhoods are Chiado, Baixa and Rossio, as well as Avenida da Liberdade.  The areas where you’ll want to be more aware of pickpocketing and petty crime are the sights in Baixa, the trams to Belem and Cais do Sodre and Bairro Alto after dark.

Should I Go to Lisbon or Porto?

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For a youthful, leisurely vibe and delicious wine from the Douro Valley, head to Porto. It’s not as crowded here as it is in Lisbon, where long lunches take the place of full days of sightseeing. Lisbon is not as frenetic as, say, New York City, but there is more bustle in the air here than in Porto. The pace is faster, the feel is urban and there’s a larger area to explore than Porto.

 

If you want to walk for hours, really, both cities are good choices. Porto is, without a doubt, inherently walkable. It’s made for getting lost in the labyrinthian streets and neighborhoods, which might take you Livrario Lello (said to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts). Visit the port wine caves in Vila Nova de Gaia and shop in Santa Caterina. Nighttime brings live fado music and street performances.

 

For a little more of, well, everything, head to Lisbon, where you’ll find old and new architecture on the same block, beautiful views from the seven hills and world-class museums. Like Porto, Lisbon is easy to explore on foot. The nightlife lights up in Cais do Sodre and Bairro Alto, so head there for fado music.

 

What Should I Eat in Lisbon?

As you dine your way through Lisbon and its scrumptious Portuguese cuisine offerings at restaurant after restaurant, you’ll taste the influences of the country’s former colonies, from Goa and Macau to Brazil and Mozambique. Here’s what to eat (best washed down with a local vinho verde):

 

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Pasteis de Nata (or Pastel de Nata): A delightful golden pastry round with a very soft, and very rich, egg custard in the center. Look for it at Pasteis de Belem. The Clarinha family has a copyright on the centuries-old recipe.

 

Piri Piri Chicken: The piri piri pepper was brought to Porgutal from Angola and Mozambique and today shines in this popular – and very spicy – dish. The piri piri chicken marinates for at least four hours before being grilled so this will be one of the most painstakingly prepared Portuguese foods you eat.

 

Arroz de Marisco: Taste the fruit of the sea, a staple of Portuguese cuisine. This dish, similar to Spanish paella, boasts rice, vegetables, an array of herbs, prawns, clams and other seafood.

 

Bifana: Stop along the street at a food stall or truck to indulge in these delightful slices of pork, which have been marinated in white wine and garlic, fried and served in a bun.

 

Cozido a portuguesa: This family-style Portuguese food favorite is best eaten with a crowd. Chunks of beef and pork are stewed together with carrots, potatoes, turnips, cabbage, various sausage and whatever else happens to be around and sounds good.

 

Bacalhau: Dried salted codfish is one of Portugal’s national dishes. Try it any which way, including with scrambled eggs, olives and fried potatoes.

 

What Is Lisbon Famous For?

Perhaps the most important question of all – what should I see and do when I’m in Lisbon? What is the best museo or tourist attraction to visit? Put these favorite spots on your Lisbon itinerary, both in the city and destinations perfect for a road trip:

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St. George’s Castle: The most popular Lisbon tourist attraction,  this magnificent castle near Alfama overlooks Portugal’s capital city. Explore the battlements, the interesting museum and the archaeological site of this Iron Age stronghold, then Moor-held castle against invading Christian forces. The view from the observation terrace takes in the city, the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.

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Mosteiro dos Jerónimos: Put this high on the list of priorities of your Lisbon itinerary. A UNESCO World Heritage Site you can’t miss, this 16th-century monastery is a iconic landmark of Portugal. Jeronimos signifies the Age of Discovery, built in 1498 to celebrate Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. Don’t miss the south portal, the beautiful Manueline cloister and Vasco da Gama’s tomb.

 

National Museum of Ancient Art: Immerse yourself in Portuguese culture at this preeminent gallery of 15th– and 16th-century paintings. Supplementing the collection, you’ll find European, Eastern and African art. Interesting note: the museum is housed in the remains of the Saint Albert Carmelite monastery.

 

Belem Tower: Another enduring symbol of the 16th-century Age of Discovery, the Belem Tower sits near the mouth of the Tagus River. Notice the ornate Manueline architecture, adorned with maritime motifs, visit the King’s Chamber with the royal coat of arms of Manuel I and the top floor tower terrace (if you don’t mind steep, spiral staircases). 

 

Sé: This Romanesque cathedral in the Castelo district near Alfama is worth a visit. Since its consecration in 1150, the building has been renovated many times, resulting in a mash-up of architectural styles. Check out the Gothic cloister, where excavations revealed the remains of Roman and Moorish dwellings.

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Santa Justa Lift (Elevador de Santa Justa): This Gothic, wrought-iron, seven-story elevator is a favorite Lisbon tourist attraction. Look for it in Baixa. Once you’re at the top, you’ll have an outstanding view of Lisbon’s main neighborhoods. Known also as the mini Eiffel Tower, the lift was completed by a student of Gustav Eiffel in 1902. There are just four of this early-20th-century historic elevators still used in the world, this being one of them, and it was originally used to take local residents from the lower streets of Baixa to the higher elevation of Lago do Carmo. There is typically a line for this short ride – if you get a 24-hour Carris public transportation card, access to the lift is included.

 

Arco da Rua Augusta: The massive Praca do Comercio square is most impressive when viewed from above atop the 19th-century Arco da Rua Augusta. The public is now allowed to visit the top, so take advantage of the access.

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Day Trip to Sintra: From Lisbon, it’s just a quick 40-minute rail trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sintra – and a delightful one at that. Live out your royal fantasies during a day trip in the lush Serra de Sintra landscape (the kings and queens of Portugal once summered here), as you marvel at the romantic town’s 8th-century Moorish castle and historic old town full of cute cafes and decorative houses.

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