Where to go, what to see and where to eat in Lisbon, Portugal
I visited Lisbon in June, where the temperature was ideal, not too hot not too cold. Let’s start with some general tips, shall we?
Walking is the easiest way to get around Lisbon, considering the small streets. You can see the whole city in 3 days.
Taking the old school trams is also a must – perhaps as a means to give your feet a break, as there are loads of uphill roads going from the centre up.
Everyone speaks really good English so getting around shouldn’t be a problem.
Trainers or comfy shoes are a MUST. There’s loads of walking in town.
We visited in June and the weather was a bit windier and rainier than normal but an average of 25 degrees. Coincidentally June and July is when “Festas de Lisboa” takes place and in the Alfama neighbourhood there were colourful garlands all around.
There are many tuk-tuks in the old town as well as electric bikes and scooters to rent and go around.
Where to stay
We opted for an Airbnb but the areas to look for are around Baixa-Chiado, which is where we stayed.
Avoid Baixa alto as it’s full of bars, great for a night out but probably too busy to stay in.
Where to eat
Fish, in general, is very important and offered in most places, as they can get fresh fish from the surrounding ocean. There are many stores that sell canned fish specifically sardines and though we didn’t buy any, the store is nice to see. There are quite a few stores all around but we went to Conserveira de Lisboa that’s been around since 1930 (under a different name).
A traditional restaurant with quirky decor. Warm sourdough bread, chorizo pate, and cheese are served upon arrival. The star of the show is the Migas – pork ribs in a loaf of bread. Supposedly good for 1 person but big enough for two to share! Both desserts we tried were great, though the Sericaia was the best of the two. The other one was called Farofias and it was basically a light meringue in a custard cream sauce topped with cinnamon. Most Portuguese desserts are based on eggs and sugar so usually white/cream rather than chocolate.
A local place, with a specialty of roasted suckling pig. If you like pork it’s a great option – smokey, soft and full of flavour. I personally got a steak that was super tasty. I’d give the desserts a miss.
Chapitô a Mesa
Supposedly the best view for a restaurant in town. Ask for a table upstairs by the window. Go around 20:00 to see the sunset – it’s worth it!! Food was good, but the environment and view enough are worth it.
The famous seafood spot that brings many locals. Its been open since 1956. It’s a very unassuming spot from the outside that fills up pretty quickly. It opens at 12:00 and it’s closed on Mondays so I recommend going around 11:30/11:45 to ensure you find a seat as soon as it opens. We got 4 oysters which were so cheap (about €5), some barnacles – which are mussel type things that get stuck in the bottoms of boats and are very popular in Portuguese restaurants. They can be sold for up to €120 per kilo and are very dangerous to catch. Then a giant tiger prawn (€67/kg) which was probably the best prawn we’ve ever had. They grill it so it’s nice and smokey. Then we shared one Scarlett shrimp (€81/kg, one is about 150grams), our waiter recommended one for each, but we wanted to try a few things so only got one. It was really soft and kinda buttery. We also got a lobster to share (€50 for 800 grams) which was good but the shrimps were better. Apparently, the place isn’t known for the lobster but for all other things! Also, they serve nothing else as a side – just hot buttered bread. Crab is a must but we couldn’t eat anymore! If you arrive after opening there is a screen that you have to get a queue number from and wait to be seated!
Azenhas do Mar
If you go to Cabo da Roca, this restaurant is not too far away. We combined it with Adraga beach, and had an absolutely amazing codfish – grilled, plus good clams. If you can, sit at one of the 4 tables outside and take in the views. It must be amazing at sunset but we didn’t stay that long. The beach looked pretty good too and they have a “pool” for kids. The service was really great too, and they were all really friendly.
Time Out market
A must. Time Out are meant to open more of these. It’s a bit too modern for me, I usually prefer a proper market, but everything here is carefully selected by the Time Out journalists and food experts so you will know it will be good. We probably got there at a bad time, 19:30 on a Sunday. After a while, we managed to get two seats and then just had to queue up for food. There SO much to choose from – Asian, local food, Petiscus (Portuguese appetiser type food), loads of desserts, Asian Lab had huge queues. We had Croqueteria with some meat and fish crocquets. A plate of 3 crocquets, crisps and glass of wine was €7.50, out of the selection the codfish croquet was amazing and I don’t usually prefer fish finger type of food.
Bairro do Avillez
The restaurant by famous chef, is a modern take on Portuguese cuisine. He has many others in the city, like Cantinho do Avillez. If you go sit at the patio (indoors), it’s a very nice space. Must book, though it’s quieter at lunchtime. Try out the Green Wine (Vinhos Verdes), a local white wine slightly sparkly and fruity. We had shrimp in garlic and chilly that was really good and a giant grilled prawn. The Iberico pork presa steak was really good, and the sautéed veggies on the side had a great pesto sauce.
A Padaria Portuguesa is a chain all around town with good quality sandwiches, traditional sweets and more. The decor is nothing special but food was good.
If you go to Sintra, stop by Casa do Preto for traditional desserts. The shop has been there since 1931. Get “travesseiros” (comes in the original almond based flavour, chocolate, pumpkin, apple/cinnamon) and “queijada” both desserts from the Sintra area.
The tapas-style places where you can have some chorizo and a glass of wine.
Graça do Vinho
A cute small place that we had a break at along our old town walk. It has 9/10 on Foursquare which is quite rare! Ham and cheese platters and a glass of wine, in this cozy place. Not at all touristy which is part of its charm.
The Pink Street is worth seeing at night. Apparently it gets really busy after 2am. It’s very lively. The bar that’s a bit of a secret without a proper door, which used to be an old brothel – Pensão Amor. There’s a second entrance away from the main street. It’s a hip bar nowadays, a cool space. The easier entrance is 19 R do Alecrim.
A super cool art type of space with many shops and street food. We went during the day but it will be amazing for drinks at night.
A rooftop bar on top of a parking lot. Would be perfect for drinks but when we went it was raining so didn’t stay. Pretty cool view and a relaxed vibe. The address is Calçada do Combro 87, and you enter through the door on the left. Take the lift to the 5th floor and walk up to the 6th. It’s open Monday to Saturday 13:00-2:00.
What to see
The old town. Lisbon was built on 7 hills meaning there are many viewing points around the city. The castle is well known because of the panoramic views of the city. See the castle of San Jorge. It’s quite big with a couple of exhibitions and many viewing points. Personally I think €10 entry was a bit much. You can spend at least 1 hour in there so be prepared! Also, there are peacocks which were my personal highlight. I personally don’t think this was worth it though.
In the same area, the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte was the best in my opinion. We reached it towards the end of the day and the sun was shining above all the buildings.
The coloured tiled buildings are amazing. Loved them all! Find them all round town. Praça do Comércio is the main square, walk around and sit by the waterfront. Walk through the arches.
Baixa – Chiado
The double neighbourhood. It’s where we stayed actually and were very happy as it was super central but not busy at night. There is a big road with shops and stores, pedestrians only, Rua Augusta.
The “party” neighbourhood with many bars and cute alleyways. They will try and sell you drugs or give them to you for free 😂maybe 3 times each day.
See the Santa Justa Lift. Officially opened in 1902, the lift can take up 20 people but down only 15! This Art Nouveau lift was created to transport people from one district to the other. It was built by the architect Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard by cast iron. It’s actually a National Monument since 2002. Get a day pass €6,80 (single ride is €3,40) which allows you to go up the lift, and then €1,50 to go up the stairs to the viewpoint. It was raining the day we went, but it was still nice to see the city from above in a melancholic light.
Tram 28 is not only old (since the 1930s) but gives you a great tour of the city’s main sights, with just €3,40 (or €6,80 for the day ticket). It would be perfect if it weren’t for such long queues. Supposedly it takes you through the best things to see in the city through Alfama – the old town – and then the centre and then down near LX Factory. The steep turns it takes are unsuitable for any other modern train that’s why it’s still in operation. Apparently people could queue up to 2 hours to get on the tram, which doesn’t come by very often and I don’t think it’s worth it. If you want to see the route you can walk it or even take a scooter (download the Lime app), or take a different tram route just to see the old tram style instead of 28. In case you still want to take it: 1) arrive early (it starts at 6am) or late (ends at 2pm) go to one of the starting points at Martim Moniz or Campo Ourique 3)Be wary of pickpockets who are known to operate on the tram.
We actually found a funicular (next to PARK bar_ that takes you down the hill 300 meters, and it’s the same style of tram. Included in the day pass too.
Where the tower of Belém is located. This used to be the place where they protected the city and saw the pirates coming. Of course, the area is particularly known for Pastéis de Belém, the oldest shop to make pastel de nata, the typical Portuguese custard tart. They started making it in 1873 according to a recipe by Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The recipe is a secret and they continue to use it today. We tried others in the city and it’s actually better. Not sure how! It was good even when it got cold! There are often queues but they move really quickly.
MAAT Museu de Arte Arquitectura e Tecnologia
With the tram, you can reach this gorgeous museum by the seafront. The current exhibition we saw was about digital photography and architecture, and how photoshop is employed for art 30 years after its invention.
Tickets for the exhibition and the other building of the museum (central)/terrace for €9. If you like structures and building it’s worth it. The second building explores electricity and it is housed in an old power station. The ‘Central’ building has quite a few art installations by different artists, but the bit we enjoyed was walking through the old factory.
Nearby, there is the Champalimaud Foundation (Fundação Champalimaud), not a particularly touristic attraction but a very beautiful and serene location. It was built in 2010 and it’s actually a research facility and clinical centre. It was closed on the Sunday but it was still great to see from the outside.
If you have an extra day
Visit the castles at Sintra. We rented a car and it’s about 45 minutes’ drive from Lisbon, but there are many tours that you can book in advance to get you there. The Pena palace is the most famous one and biggest – red and yellow – and the one we went to. There are so many within the Pena Park. Ticket is €12 and ideally book in advance so you can pick up your ticket at the automatic machines instead of queuing. Apparently it can take 3 full days to explore the whole park. There are also other palaces in the area but Pena is the most famous one. The interiors weren’t special for me but the outside was beautiful. It reminded me of the Czeski Krumlov palace in The Czech Republic a bit. To avoid the crowds go early in the morning before 10am or after 3pm. We went at 5 and it was busy but nothing crazy. You need a jacket it can get quite cold up there!!
The beaches at Cascais are traditionally surfer beaches due to the Atlantic. If you want to go to the beach this area is the closest to Lisbon. Carcavelos is the most touristic and popular. It’s a long sandy beach with many places to sit and enjoy! It was quite windy when we went so didn’t get in the water. When we went there was a huge issue with seaweeds apparently – it was on the news! And I hate seaweed so…
Cabo da Roca
The westernmost point of mainland Europe. This was for centuries where they though the world actually ended!! We spent an hour there walking around. It was so so magnificent. It was crowded with tours but there is so much space it wasn’t a problem.
And only a 15-minute drive away from Cabo da Roca we discovered an amazing beach Praia da Adraga. The natural rock formations, the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, the soft endless sand, it was all worth it. The water was freezing as expected but I couldn’t resist jumping in the ocean. There’s a small cafe at the beginning of the beach for water and refreshments. This is also a good surfing beach like most of them in the area. I’d happily go back despite the freezing cold water.
Have you been to Lisbon? Are you planning a trip there soon? Let me know!