Cheap, sunny, beautiful and brimming with culture, few cities exceed expectation like Lisbon does. From ancient neighbourhoods with fantasy architecture and medieval streets to laid-back locals feasting on one of those famous custard tarts, Lisbon has all the dazzle of other European destinations only with half of the fuss. Built on numerous steep hills above the picturesque Tagus River, Lisbon is one of those cities you feel as much as see. That’s not to say Lisbon doesn’t have its standout attractions and visitors will still need more than a few days just to scratch the surface of this surprising city.
With no one tourist hotspot and infamously steep hills, your best option for a blister free tour of Lisbon’s highlights comes courtesy of the iconic yellow tram. Costing just over one Euro for a ticket, the number 28’s rickety old carriages are a sight to see themselves and will take you on a journey through the hills of happening Bairro Alto all the way up into the Alfama district, where you can explore the winding lanes and anarchic stairways. The tram is also one of the best ways to access the Romanesque Se Cathedral, the Moorish walls of 11th century Castelo de Sao Jorge and Feira da Ladra flea market. Save some time too for portside UNESCO World Heritage monument the Belem Tower.
You only need to follow the irresistible scents floating though the breeze to find where to eat in Lisbon. The city is literally jam packed full of places to dine and these days there is so much more on offer than just custard tarts and salted cod (though you have to try those too). Seafood is a widely popular dish and Rua das Portas de Santo Antao and the restaurants across from Rio Tejo at Cacilhas are good places to find the best on offer. Lisbon also takes pride in its atmospheric cafes and beautifully tiled beer halls. Bairro Alto is the traditional centre of Lisbon’s nightlife and come weekend up to 50,000 people descend on the area’s maze of streets.
Where to Stay
You’ll find most international chain hotels in Lisbon but visitors also have the opportunity to stay at some beautifully kept independent lodgings, with everything from historic budget guesthouses to grand 5-star palaces on offer. The up-market area of Chaido has a good selection of hotels while Bairro Alto is as popular as ever so you should definitely book well ahead if you are visiting during the busy summer period. Alfama is another well-liked lodging location and is found in the historic centre of town. An exhilarating taxi ride through the narrow streets will take you to Ajunda, on the other side of the 25th of April Bridge, where you’ll find some of the city’s more regal lodgings.
Lisbon’s backstreets and alleyways are famed for their shopping, and within them you’ll find a Shangri-la of designs and decorations. While once Lisbon was segmented into artisan sections where you could find clusters of one type of shop, now most of the action is at Bairro Alto. Rua Dom Pedro is a great street to shop for boutique and individual items while nearby Chiado district is where you’ll find Lisbon fashionistas shopping at everything from boutiques and bookstores to international chain stores. Though shopping in Lisbon is by no means expensive, The Feira da Ladra flea market is where to go (early) to grab a real bargain. It’s held on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Lisbon like a Local
Feel like you’ve missed the party? Don’t stress, it’s on its way. Midnight is considered early in Lisbon so take your time before hitting the clubs. Bairro Alto is where the city’s nightlife gravitates to and it really doesn’t matter which one of the countless bars you choose to buy a drink from. Just do as the locals do and grab a cup of caipirinha from anywhere then head outside and join the throngs of locals chatting on the cobbled street, which often turns into a raucous dance floor as the night goes on.