As you’ve probably noticed, Portugal is having a moment. Tourism is booming and it is easy to see why given its beautiful beaches, historical architecture, and delicious food. Its capital, Lisbon, is no exception and is now experiencing a wave of new hotels, restaurants, and museums, making it the perfect place to visit on your next trip to Europe. Below is a list of 8 things we recommend to guide your perfect Lisboa getaway!
Ride Tram 28
If you’re planning a trip to Lisbon, then no doubt you have seen photos of the iconic yellow tram. While it is touristy, the 28 line takes you past some of the most notable areas in the city including Graca, Baixa, Alfama, and Bairro Alto making it a great way to get your bearings upon arrival.
Given that Lisbon is full of hills, we recommend taking the tram up to the top of Alfama and then walking down its hill in order to explore that neighborhood further. But remember to get on earlier rather than later before the tram gets packed. It usually starts running about 7:30 am and should cost you less than $4 for a ticket.
Eat a Pastéis de Nata
While seafood may come to mind as a national dish for Portugal, the true icon is the pastéis de nada which is a small custard tart. These babies are delicious and can be found practically everywhere in Lisbon. But be warned, not all are created equal. The original ones are found in the Belém district at Pastéis de Belém. Expect to stand in a long line, but know that the prize at the end is definitely worth it. Another great choice, with a much shorter line, can be found inside the Mercado da Ribeira at Manteigaria. This version is a bit creamier and is usually fresh out of the oven, making it hard to eat just one!
Spend a day in Belém
Belém is about 6 miles west of central Lisbon and is accessible via a metro stop of the same name. After arriving, start your morning at Pastéis de Belém so you are fueled to explore the many notable monuments in this neighborhood.
Close by the pastry shop, you can stroll by the Belém Palace, which is the official residence of Portugal’s President, before continuing onto the Jerónimos Monastery. This church, built in the 1500s, is the resting place of explorer Vasco de Gama and is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Next up is the Belém Tower, which is situated along the Tagus riverfront. Built in the 1500s to guard the entrance to the harbor, it has become the city’s icon and is also a UNESCO heritage site. Continuing along the river, you will also notice the Discoveries Monument. Built in 1960, this site celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.
You may notice that these sites draw many tourists and as a result have very long lines. If you’re like us, you aren’t willing to stand in the heat with hundreds of people. Fortunately, we were able to enjoy most of these sites from the outside, while also taking a lovely stroll along the Tagus riverfront but decide for yourself how you wish to explore this area!
Eat a Meal (or Two) at the Mercado da Ribeira
I should start off by saying that this place is a culinary mecca, so come hungry. This market is
full of food stalls, which have all been carefully curated by an independent panel of city experts in order to bring its customers the best of the best in Lisbon. There is a mix of quirky food fusions along with classic Portuguese dishes so there is something for everyone. And of course, you can find plenty of libations to wash it all down with!
Spend the Night out in Bairro Alto
While the cobblestone streets may seem quiet by day, at nighttime they come alive. Bairro Alto is packed full of funky cafes and bohemian watering holes and a night out here is not complete without witnessing a Fado performance. Fado is traditional Portuguese folk music and is melancholy by nature. Their performances are always very passionate and are made even more emotional by the intimate environment of a small bar completely fixated not the singer.
A couple of spots to check out one of these performances are A Tasca do Chico and Adega Machado.
Take a Day Trip to Sintra
If you want to step outside the city and experience something that can only be compared to a fairytale, then make Sintra a must on your itinerary. This village hosts huge castles and ancient palaces set amongst a backdrop of lush greenery, which is no doubt what helped it gain a UNESCO site certification.
To reach Sintra, you need to take a train from the Rossio station and we recommend getting on the first one out because this place will get packed quickly. On that same note, avoid going on weekends if you can.
The star of the show is the colorful Pena Palace, which was built to be a romantic getaway for Queen Maria II and her husband. With its location atop a hill, you can take in the breathtaking views of the region. Other notable sites include the National Sintra Palace, the Monserrate Palace, Castle of the Moors, and the Quinta da Regaleira.
Visit the LX Factory on a Sunday morning
One of the coolest spots in Lisbon has to be the LX Factory. Originally an industrial site for a fabric company back in 1846, it has been converted into a venue for creative businesses.
On Sundays, this area hosts a flea market where you can find vintage and local designer clothes, handmade crafts, and plenty of food.
While there, you should not miss the Livraria Ler Devagar. Hailed as one the most beautiful bookshops in Portugal, it is an Instagrammer’s dream. Not only beautiful, it does also sell books (who knew?!) so it can be a wonderful spot to take a break and sip some coffee.
Watch the Sunset from a Miradouro
At least one of your days in Lisbon should end at one of the many viewpoints (or miradouros) in the city.
Two notable options are the Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte (Graça district) and the Miradouro do Adamastor (in the center of the city). Complete this setting with a glass of wine and you have the makings of a perfect evening.