It’s only a matter of time before Lisbon rises in popularity as a tourist destination. With its warm climate, beautiful beaches, and vibrant streets, it’s a sandy retreat and metropolitan wonder all in one. As the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is rich in history yet has a contemporary touch. The city is not quite the first place that comes to mind for visitors around the globe, but it is pretty popular with European vacationers so its not off the grid either. Sitting there in that sandwich, lies part of Lisbon’s charm. Now is the time to visit!
August is the hottest month of the year in Lisbon. While the rest of Europe starts cooling down in September, Lisbon remains warm and sunny. It’s arguably the best off-peak month to visit.
Here’s a Lisbon travel guide for first time visitors, to get to know the city’s must-sees, must-eats, and must-dos!
Upon arrival at Humberto Delgado Airport, take the Aerobus shuttle service that runs from the Lisbon airport to city centre. The bus departs around every 20 minutes. A one-way ticket costs €4.
Alternatively, you can also take the Metro to the centre for just €1.45 with the Via or 7 Colinas card which you can top up on the go and use it to pay for bus rides.
If public transport is too intimidating, you can also book a car on Uber, Cabify or MyTaxi. A trip from the Lisbon airport to the city centre costs about €20.
Praca de Comercio
Situated near the Tagus river, Praca de Comercio is a big square in the city centre where locals and tourists gather to enjoy the sunset. It’s definitely worth adding to your Lisbon travel guide. There’s so much history behind this beautiful square. Also known as Commerce Square, the buildings surrounding the square were historically government bureaus regulating customs and port activities.
Inaugurated in 1775, the statue of King Jose I sits right in the middle of the square. It was where the wealth of Portugal was channelled, and also the scene of the assassination of Carlos I in 1908.
The triumphal arch, also known as Arco da Rua Augusta, is magnificent. It leads down a busy street lined with restaurants and souvenir shops.
Santa Justa Lift
Navigating Lisbon involves walking up steep streets that lead uphill, and this lift was built to make it easier for travel between lower and higher streets. Decorated in a Neo-Gothic Style, the Santa Justa Lift connects the lower streets of Baixa to the higher Carmo Square. It has become a historical tourist attraction of Lisbon since it opened in 1902.
Address: R. do Ouro, 1150-060 Lisboa, Portugal
Lisbon has more panoramic viewpoints (also known as Miradouros) than any other city. To enjoy the sunset while sipping on cocktails and wine, head to Sky Bar, a stylish rooftop bar on the roof of Tivoli Hotel.
Speaking of which, Tivoli is a luxurious five-star hotel in the heart of Lisbon. It boasts an outdoor pool, a restaurant, a fitness centre. If you don’t mind splurging a little, this hotel is great for your stay in Lisbon.
Address: Av. da Liberdade 185, 1269-050 Lisboa, Portugal
Take the public transport to Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon spread on the slope between Sao Jorge Castle and Tejo river. Walk to Miradouro de Santa Luzia in the warm Lisbon weather and be rewarded with this panoramic view of Alfama as the sun sets.
For dinner, you can head to one of the several Fado restaurants to enjoy local cuisine and experience the tradition of Portuguese Fado folk music performed live.
The narrow streets
While the walks up and downhill look daunting, they really are quite a breeze. The colourful buildings along the way are also a treat for the eyes.
Don’t like to walk? Take the famous tram 28, which runs through the city. A word of warning: It’s crowded and rife with pickpockets, so stay vigilant!
Sweet treat: Portuguese Egg Tarts
What’s a Lisbon holiday without trying Portuguese egg tarts? Most tourists go to Pasteis de Belem in, well, Belem. But skip the long queues and go for the egg tarts at Manteigaria instead! I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Address: Rua do Loreto 2, 1200-108 Lisboa, Portugal
For Variety: Lisbon’s ‘Food Court’
For an abundance of food choices, head to TimeOut Market. There are rows of stalls serving up all kinds of Portuguese dishes, seafood, wine and dessert. It’s crowded and frankly rather touristy, but it’s a good start for a meal on the first day of your Lisbon trip.
Main Meal: Bacalhau
Portugal’s national dish, Bacalhau à Brás, from TimeOut Market. It’s a very rich dish made from a mix of shredded salted codfish, thinly chopped fried potatoes, bound with scrambled eggs.
Savour the classics: Great Restaurants
There are a couple of highly affordable restaurants that serve delicious, rustic Portuguese dishes.
Specialising in grilled meats, the window of Casa da India offers you a look at their grilled chicken, a rather clever way to tempt passers-by.
A plate of grilled pork ribs, pork chop, bacon, sausage, herbed rice and fries at Casa da India costs only €8.50. The ‘small’ is actually big enough to satisfy one starving diner or two people. Only come here if you’re absolutely famished!
Address: Rua do Loreto, 49-51, Chiado, Lisboa
Príncipe do Calhariz also a grill restaurant with a traditional Portuguese menu. Food portions in Lisbon are huge. A small pot of Portuguese seafood stew (which has the consistency of rice porridge) for just €11 is enough for two people.
If you’re one of the lucky patrons queuing outside Príncipe do Calhariz, the waiter would sometimes offer you a glass of white wine.
Less pork-focused than its rival Casa da India, this restaurant serves cod and grilled meats such as veal, and beef.
Address: Calçada do Combro 28, 1200-012 Lisboa, Portugal
Daytrips from central Lisbon
One of Lisbon’s iconic attractions, Belem is located at the mouth of river Tagus, 6km outside of Lisbon’s city centre and is accessible by ferry, bus and metro. It is home of the Pastel de nata/Portuguese egg tart, Belem Tower, contemporary art museum, Coleção Berardo, and magnificent Mosteiro dos Jeronimos pictured above. You will pass by these places just walking through the district.
Most monuments and museums charge an entrance fee so always keep some cash on you!
Finish off your holiday in Lisbon with a day trip to Sintra, a picturesque fairytale town tinged in yellow hues, just a 30-minute train ride from the city.
Pro-tip: You’d have to purchase a train ticket just for Sintra. If you use your regular card, you won’t be able to exit the gantry when you arrive at Sintra station.
Upon arriving in Sintra, purchase a bus ticket for a bus that will take you all the way uphill to Pena Palace. Take a walk through the 19th-century Romanticist castle and admire the view from the hilltop. Don’t miss the Moorish and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace, known for its elaborate tilework and twin chimneys.
With so much history and Arabic influence from its Moorish past, Lisbon is full of colour and character which can be seen in its architecture. It offers the most breathtaking panoramic views, deliciously affordable food, and museums to explore. It’s definitely a city worth putting this Lisbon travel guide on your bucket list.