Lisbon might not be Europe's hidden secret anymore, yet the vibrant Portuguese capital thrives well below the tourist radar. Although you've undoubtedly caught on to the exciting ripples of its stellar reputation, Lisbon still doesn't rank among the top 10 most visited cities in Europe. The city is known, but not that much. It is famous, but not overwhelmingly so.
If you're a discerning explorer looking for an exceptional European city break, one not marred by the sight of colossal organized tour groups, this spells fantastic news.
Get to know Lisbon. We promise you won’t regret it.
Lisbon, at a glance
A vivid and historical treasure on the far western end of Europe, offering an insanely varied array of attractions, Lisbon is an incredible place to discover for a week (or more). It boasts a unique historic core – Baixa de Lisboa – the likes of which you won't find anywhere else. Baixa is a maze of old neighbourhoods built on different levels, accessible by a myriad of hidden elevators only locals know.
There are also museums to visit, custard tarts to feast on, and a bevvy of traditional restaurants you'll want to go out of your way to find. Beaches are nearby and ideal for a day trip if visiting in summer.
Seriously, there isn’t much that Lisbon doesn’t offer!
Here are some first-time visitor tips you might want to know:
Take a free guided walking tour on day 1
There's only one way to discover the best nooks of Lisbon's historic centre – and all those hidden elevators: let a local show you where they are. The city hosts many free walking tours – pick one, and off you go.
Pack your walking shoes & get cosy with the Metro
Lisbon is a pedestrian dream – not only in the city centre but also in its surrounding neighbourhoods. The underground Metro is top-notch, inexpensive and runs from the airport, covering all the significant areas that may interest visitors. Download this Lisbon Metro Map, and if you want to save on accommodation, choose a hotel or Airbnb next to a Metro stop. Stay in one of the outer suburbs (like Moscavide in the east), and you can easily reach the historic centre and esplanade in 20 minutes while also seeing the authentic side of life in Lisbon.
Much like visiting Paris, a trip to Lisbon means hopping in and out of the Metro all day!
Grab a Lisboa Card
The Lisboa Tourist Card) offers free rides on ALL public transport in the city (this includes the Metro, city centre elevators, those super-cool trams, and buses) and entry into a host of museums and tourist attractions. All those costs add up fast, so a 72hr card for €44 is a steal.
Don’t miss Manteigaria’s world-famous custard tarts
In Lisbon, Pastéis de Nata are sold in every bakery and café. But everyone knows the best are found in Manteigaria. Join the queue, grab half a dozen, and sit on the square steps opposite the café...about the best way to take an R&R break on a Lisbon tour de force.
Photograph Tram 28 (but don’t rush to take it!)
Lisbon's historic heritage trams are highlights of their own accord. Their most notable aspect is their stunning aesthetics – they are gorgeous to photograph, especially as they slowly meander down the city's narrow streets. But they're not necessarily handy or comfortable to use as bonafide transport. The most famous tram in the city is #28, which runs alongside the stunning Martim Moniz Square. A photo backdrop like no other!
Discover the city’s many miradouros
A city built on several hills is bound to have many viewpoints. Well, in Lisbon, those spectacular terraces are called miradouro. Pop that word on your Google map, hovering over Lisbon, and you'll find them all!
Lisbon’s top neighbourhoods
The city that has it all? You bet!
Here are the top three (or four) neighbourhoods you’ll want to explore:
- Alfama: Alfama's twisting alleys and hilly streets are filled with local shops, restaurants and bars that offer an authentic taste of the city's charm. Stroll up to the iconic Castelo de São Jorge (St. George's Castle) for views of the cityscape, or visit one of the local fado houses to appreciate the region's rich musical tradition. This is the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon.
- Belém: Once the epicentre of Portugal's Age of Discovery, Belém is home to some of the city's most iconic sights. Stop by the Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém) to explore the centuries-old fortification and visit the nearby Jerónimos Monastery to glimpse Portugal's past.
- Bairro Alto: The best place to go for a night out in Lisbon is the sprawling neighbourhood of Bairro Alto. Right next door is Chiado, a fab shopping hub with elegance and charm.
Planning a trip to Lisbon this coming European summer? Tell us, in the comments, what you’re looking forward to most!