Lisbon – your guide to the Portuguese capital

When people talk about Lisbon they mention the amazing light. Maybe it’s the seemingly endless deep blue skies or the way the sun’s rays bounce off the gleaming tiled buildings, washing the streets with a soft glow. Either way, Europe’s second oldest capital city (after Athens) certainly charms.

Those that take the chance to leave the city limits will discover a region jammed with stunning nature, some of Europe’s best beaches and history like no other. From fishing villages to castles and UNESCO gems, a day trip into the Greater Lisbon region might take you to magical Sintra, Ericeira, Cascais, Costa da Caparica, Sesimbra, Setúbal and Palmela.

Essential Lisbon guides

Best places to visit in Lisbon

1. Lisbon, obviously

Spend a few days catching trams, eating pastel de nata and snapping tiles in the city of seven hills.

2. Get caught in the romance of Sintra

The UNESCO heritage town features half a dozen palaces and a Moorish castle nestled on a mysterious mountain microclimate, 40-minutes from Lisbon.

3. Hit the beaches south of the city

The further south you go, the nicer it gets. The beaches of Costa da Caparica are a favourite among Lisboetas, but my favourites are within Arrabida Natural Park.

4. Drop into Ericeira

Home to Portugal’s official World Surfing Reserve, this cute white-washed village is all about excellent seafood, cool cafes and yoga.

Best things to do in Lisbon city

  • Visit the Torre de Belém
  • Eat a Pastel de Nata
  • Ride a cute yellow tram
  • Soak in the view from a miradouro
  • Conquer all seven hills
  • Sail on the Tejo River
  • Get lost in Alfama and Mouraria
  • Take endless snaps of tiles
  • Listen to fado

Sunset tip… Lisbon is the city of seven hills and every peak seems to have a viewpoint or park. Take advantage of Lisbon’s brilliant weather and make one of its 30+ lookouts your spot for sunset. My favourite is Miradouro de Santa Luzia… and I’ve rounded up a list of the best viewpoints in Lisbon here.

Where to stay

In Lisbon it’s more about where not to stay. If you like to sleep before 4am, avoid the suburbs of Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre. Historic neighbourhoods like Alfama, Mouraria and Castelo are super cute, but be prepared to potentially carry your suitcase up cobbled staircases where there is no road to your front door (not fun). Places like Baixa, ChiadoPrincipe Real and Avenida Liberdade make a good base for exploring and it’s easy to walk everywhere. Lisbon is a great central location to explore the wider region too, and you can easily take day trips surrounding destinations like Sintra and Cascais.

What to eat

Lisbon is a brilliant city for eating. While here you absolutely must try some of the city’s great Portuguese modern restaurants, cheap tascas and cool hangouts. Of course, if you’re travelling around the country and are craving international flavours, Lisbon is where you’ll find that. I’ve written an article covering my favourite restaurants and tascas in Lisbon here.

How to get around

The public transport system around Lisbon uses the same Vive card. You can purchase one for 50c using the machines at metro or train stations. Top it up with ‘zapping’ credit. The metro, bus or tram cost approximately €1.30-50 per ride and trains or ferries are more expensive, depending on where you are going. Trains will take you to the beaches along the Cascais line or out to Sintra. South of the river is technically no longer Lisbon and they use a different transport card and system.

If you plan to hit a lot of museums, the “Lisbon Card” is a pass that offers 24, 48 or 72-hour access to stacks of galleries, museums, and sights, plus unlimited access whole Lisbon transport network.

Join the list

Subscribe to my newsletter and receive the latest stories once per month