When people say “you have to visit Lisbon” – they can never fully articulate why (although maybe the custard tarts, humble locals, cheap wine and beach have something to do with it…hmm)
What I can be sure of though, is that no one tells you quite how hilly it is with its steep cobblestoned streets! So comfortable shoes are a must if you don’t fancy a trip to the emergency room.
The Portuguese are welcoming, friendly and overly apologetic with “sorry” being said for things Londoners wouldn’t even consider. Young men and women jump up to offer their seats to anyone who might be in need. Uber drivers are possibly some of the happiest and chattiest people you could ever meet!
They all however have one thing in common – they’re proud of their country. As such, they don’t like tourists being ripped off. With horror stories of greedy taxi drivers and pickpockets on trams, Lisbon is refreshing compared to some other European cities.
Visually, the city itself is a fine example of eclecticism – what I can only describe as “shabby chic” without trying too hard. Modern furniture rests amongst it’s antique predecessors, and colourful tiles clash with graffiti as an animated green man encourages you to cross the road.
Turn every corner and there’s vintage portraits blown up to cover scaffolding. Transforming mess to art and galleries tucked below into ground floor alcoves of sloped buildings.
Lisbon’s appeal at first glance may not be obvious – but the morning light, red-roofed townhouses and rustic facades will have you yearning for more.
So here it is, our Lisbon city guide:
Where to stay
What was a once a basketry shop became, a few years ago, a house with renewed spirit and a distinct soul. A Casa das Janelas com Vista is a home away from home for all those who want to enjoy Lisbon and its charms.
It’s located in the middle of the Bairro Alto, one of the most emblematic neighbourhoods in Lisbon.
The rooms are light and airy. Breakfast is simple, although you can’t go wrong with a Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Jam in the morning! The night staff have a thing for baking. So expect to wake up to delicious Pineapple Cake and other treats to snack on throughout the day.
Although Casa das Janelas com Vista (which translates to ‘The House of the Windows with a View’) is in the quietest zone of the Bairro Alto, it is just a step away from the following neighbourhoods:
Chiado (shops with international brands)
Santa Catarina, Príncipe Real (residential areas)
Baixa (shopping zone) and
Santos (design district) making it super easy to get around from.
The hospitality of the staff is like no other and they really do want you to make you feel at home. With its cosy communal living room and kitchen, it’s the perfect place to relax if you want a break from sightseeing.
Tip: The cheapest time of year to stay is February!
What To See
The trams that trundle up and down the streets are charming to behold but Tram 28 is the best. Hop on at stop number 2 with the locals to get a seat in the wood panelled carriage – for a fascinating way to experience the city and navigate the hills. Take water with you, it gets hot – and also be wary of pickpockets.
Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown
This is one of the many gems of Lisbon (I would say hidden, but this building is huge!) If you’re near Belém it’s well worth the visit just to marvel at the beautiful architecture perched upon the seafront.
Dating back to the 16th century and located right on the waterfront, this is one of the architectural jewels of the reign of Manuel I.
Other things worth seeing
- São Jorge Castle (for views of the Tagus River)
- Praça do Comércio
- The Park of the Nations – an area created for the Lisbon World Expo 1998 if you fancy a trip to the oceanarium.
Day trip ideas
Catch a train to Sintra (it will be the best €2,70 you’ll ever spend)
No trip to Lisbon is complete without venturing out of the city to the hilltop palace, Sintra. Standing majestically above the clouds, this Disney-worthy palace is like no other.
Before heading up the hill, eat the local “travesseiro” cake at Piriquita II, and tuck into some toasted sandwiches on local bread at Saudade. Otherwise you’ll be faced with overpriced tourist friendly food inside the palace. Plus, if you arrive at the palace around 2/3pm expect to queue a little less. I say little – because it still took a good half hour to get a ticket.
Getting to the top
Don’t be that person who says “it doesn’t look that far. Let’s hike”. You’ll be pulling out your phone and calling an uber in no time. Instead, hail a Tuk Tuk. If shared it can cost around €5 for a bone rattling ride of a lifetime (I’m surprised they even have seat belts).
And then to really make a day of it; order an uber to the town of Cascais – it’s impossible to do by public transport. Be sure to ask them to to take the scenic route along Guincho – a beautiful bay. It may cost a little extra but the views are priceless. This will take around 45 mins, costing around €20. It’s a welcomed rest from a full on day of walking.
You can then catch a direct train back from Cascais straight into central Lisbon just in time for dinner.
How to get around
Lisbon itself is fairly small so you can walk to most places.
However they do have buses and a metro system – if riding the trams get a 24 hour ticket from the metro for €6.15 rather than paying €3 per journey.
They also have Citymapper which is super useful, but I have to say Uber is the best option for those slightly longer distances, and be sure to grab one from the airport. It will stop you from being ripped off with prepaid fares.
To look at before you go
One of my favourite travel guides of all time (the packaging is beautiful too!)
‘Capturing Lisbon’s seductive power, a new generation of Lisbonites are bringing fresh life to its gastronomic, cultural and festive scene. All whilst taking nothing away from the still lively and vibrant image of its old trams and grilled sardines.
Here, Fado singer Carminho offers an insider’s perspective on Lisbon, enabling travellers to get their bearings right away.’
JO&SO is a carefully selected collection from of two sisters’ very favourite places in Portugal, for like-minded travellers – it’s like a list of recommendations they’d give to their friends who plan to visit their beautiful country.
It’s easy to see why Madonna moved here. The relaxed lifestyle and morning light is like no other, and as soon as the sun sets the city truly comes alive.