Trams whisk you up seven hills with sweeping views of the sun-drenched city and its rivers, while Fado provides the wistful, romantic soundtrack. Getting lost along the winding alleyways and streets is half the fun. Your reward: pristine seafood, irresistible pastéis de nata, and other gustatory delights.
Lisbon has come a long way since the recession of the 2010s. Thanks to an ongoing revitalization program, dilapidated buildings have given way to hip hangouts, and young creatives are flocking to Lisbon for its perennial sunshine and low cost of living. The rest of the world is starting to take notice as well. Bountiful seafood, a rejuvenated riverfront, charming alleyways, and copious amounts of pastéis de nata might just make this Europe's coolest coastal city yet. So let the Fado play and never judge a city by its age again.
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Generally, March to May and September to October are the best times to visit Lisbon. The spring months see lower hotel rates, smaller crowds than during busier summer months, and ideal temperatures — typically between the 60s and 70s (~15-21C). Early spring weather can be volatile, so pack extra layers as thermometers reach the 40s (~4-9C), especially in the evenings.
Like the rest of Europe, Lisbon enters a high season between June and August. Hotel rates are at their highest, major attractions are mobbed with tourists, and temperatures soar above 80 degrees (26-31C). Luckily, the city offers nearby beaches and waterfront promenades for visitors to cool off. Numerous outdoor festivals and holidays take place during the summer (precipitation is at an annual low during this time), including Portugal Day on June 10th. August tends to be warmest; locals head south for the Algarve beaches then, which means many businesses are closed for the entire month. Expect windy conditions — a north sea-breeze known as nortada — to sweep the city in the summer afternoons, so packing long sleeves or a light jacket is not a bad idea.
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Autumns are idyllic for visiting too. Hotel rates have lowered, summer crowds have thinned, and temperatures are still pleasant enough for exploring the city (70s to low-50s, or ~20 to 10C). Lisbon winters are much warmer than the rest of Europe, but it is also sees the rainiest months of the year (between November and February) so pack an umbrella. That being said, temperatures remain in the 40s (~4-9C) most of the season, and accommodations and flights are at their lowest.
Compared to most European capital cities, Lisbon is very compact, making it easy to see the city by foot. Opt for comfortable shoes as Lisbon is known for its hills and cobbled streets. The metro also makes for an inexpensive and safe way to cover more ground. Four lines operate between 56 stations everyday from 6:30am and 1am, with some minor stations closing at 9:30pm; trains run every 6 to 12 minutes. The only downside to using the metro is that it is difficult to change between lines and routes don't extend all the way to some of the major tourist attractions. That's where the buses come in: 146 bus routes operate on different schedules but generally run between 6am and 9pm, while some lines provide a 24-hour service. Schedules are available and updated daily.
Arguably the best way to get around Lisbon — and the most emblematic symbol of the city — is the yellow tram. Five routes include 58 trams (40 of which are vintage streetcars) that travel through the downtown area. The most famous is the historic #28, which crosses some of the most picturesque neighborhoods of Lisbon including Bairro Alto and Baixa. The modern #15 is also packed and takes riders past Belém. Schedules vary depending on the tram but they typically run between 7am and 11pm. Because these are a major tourist attraction in themselves, pickpocketing is common, so keep an eye on your belongings at all times; also opt to ride during non-peak hours. In most vintage cars, remember to board at the front and disembark at the rear. Lastly, three funiculars and one lift provide assistance to locals and tourists needing to climb some of the steepest slopes. Keep in mind that buses, trams, and funiculars are operated by public transportation company Carris, and are not associated with the metro.
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A single Carris/Metro ticket costs 1,50€, a one-day pass costs 6,40€. A one-day Carris/Metro/Transtejo (ferry) pass is 9,50€, and a one-day Carris/Metro/CP (commuter rail) pass is 10,55€. For 0.50€ you may purchase Viva Viagem, a reloadable card available at any ticket vending machine or ticket desk inside stations. This pre-paid card can be loaded with individual tickets, a day pass, or specific values (like 5€ or 40€). It is valid on all forms of transportation (pay as you go or "zapping"). A Metro zapping journey is discounted at 1,33€ but note that additional fare is deducted from your card when you transfer between operators.
There are two Viva Viagem reloadable cards available for purchase: the green card can be topped off and used on all modes of public transportation; the white card performs the same functions but is not valid on Metro Transportes do Sul, the 3-line light rail system that provides services between the Almada and Seixal municipalities across the river from Lisbon. Tickets may be purchased onboard trams for 3€ from the driver on older cars or through a machine on the more modern cars; it's cheaper to buy a ticket in advance.
Major ride hailing services like Uber and Cabify are popular here. As always, Uber/Cabify provide a fixed price depending on distance and demand. Regular taxis are also available, inexpensive, and start with a base charge of 3,25€, with 0,47€ charged per additional kilometer. At night (9pm to 6am), fares increase by 20 percent (initial charge of 3,90€/0,56€ per additional kilometer).
Bikes and e-bikes are available to rent through Gira, the local bike-sharing program. A 24-hour pass costs €10 (currently, a day pass subscription costs 2€) and a 45-minute ride is included, 15€ for a monthly (you pay 0,10€ [bike] or 0,20€ [e-bike] for a 45-minute ride), or 25€ for an annual pass (you pay 0,10€ [bike] or 0,20€ [e-bike] for a 45-minute ride). Electric scooter companies, like Lime and Hive, are also available, and prices vary depending on the company.
Euros are the official currency of Portugal. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere but it's not a bad idea to keep some bills on hand for small transactions and for picking up the tab at cash-only establishment, since many bars, restaurants, and shops only accept Portuguese cards known as Multibanco.
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With its proximity to the Atlantic and River Tagus, Lisbon's seafood is unparalleled. Exceptionally fresh catches of the day light up menus across town, especially the one at Cervejaria Ramiro. The restaurant has been serving high quality, non-fussy seafood in a buzzy and informal dining room since 1956. Whether you're looking for giant tiger prawns or goose barnacle (percebes), they've got you covered. Portuguese-meets-Mediterranean fare at Ponto Final is enjoyed with breathtaking waterfront views, while A Marisqueira do Lis serve fresh plates inside a no-frills space.
Over the years, local chefs, including Henrique Sá Pessoa and José Avillez, have honored traditional Portuguese cuisine while reimagining it for the modern age. At Michelin-starred Alma, Pessoa serves gourmet Portuguese cuisine with Asian flair. Avillez takes a more dramatic approach to his food at Mini Bar Theater José Avillez, located inside the São Luiz Municipal Theater. The menu is framed as a five-act play, with creative iterations on Portuguese dishes and inventive cocktails as the stars. Or opt for Belcanto, Avillez's's exclusive, avant-garde dining experience that takes tradition to another level.
No trip to Lisbon is complete without sampling a myriad of petiscos. Like Spain's tapas, petiscos are finger foods ideal for sharing and often served with wine or cerveja (beer). Petiscos can be as simple as bread or olives and as exotic as pipis (chicken giblets), pastéis de bacalhau (cod patties), and snails. For sweeter tastes, pastéis de nata are the way to go. The recipe for pastel de nata is probably one of the world's most carefully guarded secrets — one location has been making and perfecting them since 1837. The iconic Portuguese custard tarts have a flaky exterior with a cream filling and a hint of cinnamon and best enjoyed with w cup of frothy cappuccino.
Although Lisbon is not known for its production of wine, the city does an exemplary job showcasing wines from varying regions of Portugal. Perhaps none is more important than vinho verde, or "green wine." The grapes used to produce this drink are grown on the hills of northwest Portugal where temperatures are cooler than in the capital. When harvested, the grapes have not reached maturity, giving this particular wine an acidic and floral finish with a hint of sweetness. Madeira wine is the second-most popular. The eponymous fortified wine comes from the Madeira Islands off the coast of Africa and range from dry (which can be consumed as an aperitif) to sweet (served with desserts). For an exceptional glass, seek out a 10-year-old Madeira which promises a more dynamic and intricate taste than younger blends. The Old Pharmacy Wine Inn, BA Wine Bar do Bairro Alto, and Grapes & Bites are just a few great places to experiment.
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Once you've exhausted your fill of seafood, stop by the Time Out Market. The trendy food hall housed inside a landmark building serves foods from Michelin-starred restaurants, celebrity chefs, and local cheap-eat favorites — simply put: you are never without variety. There is also a collection of African diaspora restaurants peppered throughout the city, particularly the food of Mozambique (a former Portuguese colony). The high-end Ibo and lively Cantinho do Aziz, tucked away in an alley, are good places to start. Or if you want to keep it local and meat-heavy, try a bifana sandwich. Prepared on a Portuguese bread roll (papa seco), the bread is stuffed with marinated pork loin or pork cutlets with its juices drizzled onto the bread.
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Lisbon is not known as a shopping mecca, but many take advantage of the fact that it is of one of Western Europe's cheapest capital cities. That means you can skip the kitschy and dive straight into the real goods. A Vida Portuguesa in Chiado is the perfect souvenir shop, and we're not talking about magnets and shot glasses. Products — home goods, soaps, notebooks, canned fish, stationery, and children's toys — are all of Portuguese origin and exquisitely packaged. A Loja de Cerâmica showcases a colorful array of Portuguese-style porcelain and pottery inside a homey space. Luvaria Ulisses is just a few blocks away; this Art Deco boutique specializes in hand-crafted leather gloves and with such a tiny space (about two people can fit at a time), you're sure to get personalized service while you browse all the styles. Find a pair of shoes to go with your gloves at Sapataria Do Carmo, a luxe, century-old emporium known for their hand-made loafers, braided leather, and heels crafted from exotic skins. LXFactory (Alcântara)is a multi-purpose space (think co-working offices, restaurants, and bars) but it would be a mistake to overlook their shops.
In Príncipe Real sits Embaixada, a 19th-century Moorish palace turned concept gallery filled with concept stores carrying everything from designer clothing to art. The architecture itself is stunning and worth a visit. For over 300 varieties of tinned fish, check out Loja de Conservas in Bairro Alto, one of the city's most popular neighborhoods. The tins are not only gorgeous but travel easily. All things cork (think furniture, accessories, even clothes) can be found at Cork & Co. And if you're looking to take home a piece of the artistic Portuguese tiles (azulejos), you can do so at Surrealejos in Alfama. If you're willing to hunt, great deals can be found at the centuries-old Mercado de Santa Clara, also known as Feira da Ladra.
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Lisbon's museums are nothing short of a celebration of the country's rich culture and heritage. As an added bonus, many are housed inside grand, historic buildings. For starters, The National Azulejo Museum (Penha França) explores the legacy and role of the glazed tiles in Portugal's history. About 300 patterns decorate the inside of this former convent and church. Visitors at the National Coach Museum in Belém can daydream about simpler times: the historic collection follows the evolution of the coaches from the 16th to the 19th centuries. For the musically inclined, the Museu do Fado (Alfama) features posters, photographs, artifacts, and instruments important to this wistful genre of music. Relive your childhood at the Museu da Marioneta (Estrela), a museum dedicated to colorful puppets and intricately carved string marionettes. Workshops and open-air shows are also available.
For more traditional museums and galleries throughout the city, visit the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Museu Coleção Berardo (with stunning city views), Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT), National Museum of Ancient Art, or the Museum of the Orient.
For such a small city, Lisbon packs a punch when it comes to nightlife. But because the dancing doesn't start until after midnight, you may as well hunker down for a few drinks until then. Toca da Raposa (Bairro Alto) is a good place to oil up. The drinks at this cave-like cocktail bar are based on fresh Portuguese produce. It's also intimate — the space only allows for 12 people at a time. If the irresistible drinks at Park (Bairro Alto) are not enough, the rooftop ought to do the trick. You'll have to walk through a questionable parking garage to get to it, but views and weekly DJ sets are worth it. Grown ups opt for Cinco Lounge's (Príncipe Real) top-shelf spirits and upscale vibes (low-lighting, plush seating), or Foxtrot's wooden bar, roaring fireplace, and Art Deco-inspired space (the drinks are pretty good too). For something a little out of the ordinary, try Pensão Amor (Cais de Sodré). The former brothel still maintains its bordello roots with vibrant red wallpaper, velvet chairs, chandeliers, and tchotchkes displayed throughout. Inside an old grocery store is Pavilhão Chinês, a 5-room gallery-bar hybrid chock full of antiques and lots of dark wood. A pool table provides friendly competition between drinks. Lastly, beer snobs can go all out at Fábrica Musa, an old warehouse-turned microbrewery with live music and a snack menu.
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Charming waterfront views are not the only things that make Lisbon an outdoor paradise. The city is one of the sunniest in Europe, which means taking advantage of the local nature is a must. The 11-acre Jardim da Estrela (Estrela) features exotic gardens, a Victorian gazebo, and roaming peacocks to round out the fairytale feel. Eduardo VII Park in Avenidas Novas sits at the center of the city. Its pavilion and manicured gardens, including the Estufa Fria greenhouse, attract thousands of visitors yearly. Horticulturist will delight in the Botanical Garden of Lisbon's (Príncipe Real) diverse botanical displays. Beach bums looking to catch some rays can hop on an hour-long train to the Cascais coastline, Praia de Carcavelos (Carcavelos) 30 minutes away, Costa da Caparica just south.
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Romantic Alfama is the perfect neighborhood to call home during your stay. Lisbon's oldest district, Alfama is situated on a slope that provides stunning views of the city and a real old-world charm. Cobbled streets, alleyways, and winding roads, add to the small village feel. Gaze over the picturesque terracotta roofs and the Tagus River from the rooftop of Memmo Alfama Hotel or luxuriate inside a converted 15th century castle at Santiago de Alfama.
The well-heeled neighborhoods of Lapa and Madragoa will also impress. Stately mansions and embassies make up the districts, with dazzling views of the water from its higher peaks. This quieter, more residential area is also home to the National Museum of Ancient Art and the rustic-contemporary Hotel York House Lisbon.
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You can't beat a stay in the Campolide neighborhood, which puts families right next to the Lisbon Zoo and Children's Museum. At the zoo, cable cars whisk visitors between big cats, primates, and reptiles (don't miss the dolphin shows) while the Children's Museum (located inside the zoo grounds) promises a fun and interactive space for kids to explore music, history, science, and the environment. The impressive Oceanário De Lisboa (Parque das Nações) is one of Europe's largest aquariums. Glass walls hold over 5 million liters of seawater and four marine habitats feature a dizzying array of sea creatures. Shark sleepovers are available for those brave enough to last the night. When all else fails, ride the #28 tram through Bairro Alto and Chiado for some spectacular views of the city.
While you can get a taste of the Lisbon art scene by wandering the streets, lined as they are by the traditional, tile-covered buildings, this is one city in which you ought to scratch below the surface.
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Where locals cling to coffee cups and navigate the cobblestone streets in flip-flops with socks (yeah, it’s a thing).