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Is it your first time in Lisbon? Only have a couple of days or a weekend? Then read on and try to fit in a few of these must-sees …
Lisbon equals history, culture, quaint neighborhoods, delicious food, and of course, Portuguese hospitality. In the last few years, various key cities in Portugal have attracted an incredible amount of people. Lisbon especially is no exception.
So try to make your first time in Lisbon off-season – if you have a choice.
For your first time in Lisbon, be ready to explore its hilly neighborhoods and admire the union between old and new. You’ll also see some gorgeous azulejos designs, wander down (and back up) cobblestone streets, enjoy the buzzing nightlife, listen to traditional music and just relax in charming cafes, plus so much more.
Start here in the oldest district: Alfama.
I think if you can get past the people.. and come off-season it’s really the most authentic neighborhood in Lisbon. Walk around, take it all in and gaze at the amazing viewpoint at the Portas dos Sol.
You could spend an afternoon or the whole day, so check below for a few must-sees in Alfama for your first time in Lisbon.
CASTELO DE SÃO JORGE
It’s a steep climb up so, beware. Take your time, even if during your first time in Lisbon, you may not have that much time. Just pace yourself.
The castle is an imposing piece of architecture dating between the 13th to 16th centuries and offers impressive views over the city of Lisbon.
Entrance fee: 10euros
MIRADOURO DE SANTA LUZIA
If you can’t get enough walk to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia for another breathtaking view part of your must-see list for your first time in Lisbon.
Making your way back down, get lost in the small cobblestone streets and alleyways of Alfama, it’s the best way to explore and get the feel of this neighborhood.
Portas do Sol: Another great spot to enjoy the view! Just below the viewpoint don’t miss the cool mural about Lisbon’s history
PASTEIS DE NATA – (Portuguese custard tarts)
Only a few minutes walk from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia you’ll find the Pastelaria Alfama Doce, a very small and delicious bakery! It’s so good who cares about size? You’re here for the delicious and typical pasteis de nata ! Try the original and then try different variations.
It’s your first time in Lisbon? Then just go for it. For a vegan version, it’s a little further down 🙂
Adress: R. da Regueira 39, Lisboa
Between the edge of Alfama and Baixa neighborhoods, it’s only 200 meters downhill from the Miradouro Santa Luiza to the majestic Sé Cathedral.
If you’re a history buff or just love different types of architecture, then for your first time in Lisbon, don’t miss visiting the oldest church in the capital.
EXPLORE ON YOUR OWN OR HAVE A GREAT TIME ON A TOUR!
TRAM 28 (or 12)
Of course, you’ve seen and heard of the famous Tram 28.
What you probably don’t know is that it’s usually unbelievably crowded most of the time! This makes it almost impossible to enjoy the ride during the high season.
If you still want to try and board tram no.28 on your short time in Lisbon, then this is what you need to know.
- To get a seat, board the tram at Martim Moniz early in the day. You may find a long line, but it’s still your best chance to get a seat.
- Note: If you go for the entire loop: you’ll get off at the end of the line: Campo Ourique. From here walk a few minutes to Vegan Nata and stock up on delicious vegan pasteis de Nata!
- When the tram reaches the end, it goes in reverse on the same route.
- Route: These are the stops of Tram No 28. : Martim Moniz – Graca – Porta dos Sol (alfama) – Sé Cathedral – Rua Conceiçao – Chiado – São Bento – Estrela – Campo Ourique. (and then it goes back in reverse on the same route)
- You can buy a single ticket from the driver for 3e or a 24 unlimited public transportation ticket for 6.40e but, you’ll have to buy it at a metro station. The advantage is that it also includes elevator Justa, Gloria, and all trams
A BETTER OPTION – Tram No.12
Another option to get a seat and endure shorter lines is Tram no.12.
Tram no.12 departs Martim Moniz (Praça da Figueira) and then loops 4 km through Baixa and Alfama neighborhoods, about a 20-minute ride. Not as extensive as no.28, but so very worth it for shorter lines and a seat.
Get off at Portas do Sol if you wish to walk uphill to the castle.
Tram No.12 follows the same route as the famous tram No.28 via the Sé Cathedral and back into the Baixa neighborhood.
TIME OUT MARKET
So what’s all the hype about Mercado da Ribeira? Well, it was the largest fruit and vegetable market in Lisbon way back in the 1800s.
Today it’s called Time Out market and is a vast culinary-covered market with a multitude of food stands guaranteed to please any taste buds. In addition, they also have a separate space with local fruits and vegetables, and a flower and wine stand.
Once you order, take a seat on one of the shared tables in the center of the hall and say hi to your neighbor. An excellent idea to bring people together over some delicious food.
It’s often very busy. Make sure you have time to wait in line and navigate your way to a table. Most stands only take cards.
If you go in the evening, you may get lucky and listen to some music.
Adress: Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisbon
BELEM, JERONIMOS, and a sailing ship.
A Unesco world heritage site and an important landmark in Lisbon. It used to be a prison.
You can go up to the top, but they only allow a limited number of people. Again, try going off-season or early morning. Entrance fee: 6 euros
Not far from Belem Tower, admire the beautiful Jeronimos Monastery. You can see some of the most gorgeous stonework, and don’t miss the intricate details of the facade and ceiling.
Back in the day, sailors would come here to pray before going out to sea.
The entrance to the main chapel is free, but you’ll need a ticket to enter the monastery. If you combine tickets with the Belem Tower, you pay less.
MONUMENTS OF DISCOVERIES
Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a huge white monument that represents a caravel – the type of ship used in 15th-century Portugal. The other side has great figures and explorers that participated in the age of discovery.
Vasco da Gama set sail for India at this very point and returned with important news about a new trading route. This helped Portugal become a 15th-century superpower.
These three landmarks represent part of Portugal’s story and rich history. You can easily walk from one to the other and continue onto the waterfront promenade for lunch and relaxation.
How to get to the Belem Tower area:
Belem is located about 5km west of the center of Lisbon. You could take a taxi, just follow his route on your phone to make sure it’s the right way.
You could also take tram no.15, which leaves Praça da Figueira. The ride takes 15 minutes and costs 3euros.
Or you could take a tour and avoid all hassles.
If you add a well-deserved stop for some pasteis de Belem, then allow a half day or more to take it all in.
Pasteis de Belem was originally created by the monks in the Jeronimos Monastery. They differ from pasteis de Nata due to where they are made.
Here is the best place to try Pasteis de Belem.
LX is the abbreviation for Lisbon. The old spelling of Lisbon was Lixbôa.
The abandoned warehouse used to be an old industrial complex for textiles. Years later, it’s become a hip place to spend some time if you’re all “visited out”.
If you want to shop, then you’ll be happy here! Lots of cafes, delicious restaurants, different types of stores, trendy spots, concept stores, and bookstores, and an all-around good vibe for an afternoon.
Honestly, I found some places a little rundown compared to what it was, but if you have time, then come have a delicious lunch and window shop and enjoy the all-around artsy vibe.
For your first time in Lisbon, maybe leave these two spots for last. They might be a bit overrated. (Only my opinion!)
Of course, worth it if you have a lot of time, or really would like to visit, then by all means go for it 🙂 otherwise, keep it for another trip.
SANTA JUSTA LIFT
A very functional attraction, the Santa Justa lift, built in the early 1900s, takes you from the Baixa neighborhood to Bairro Alto.
Locals are happy to use this elevator but less happy about the lines because it holds only 15 people at a time and everyone wants to get on board!
It’s an impressive structure of wrought iron in the same style as Mr. Eiffel when he imagined the iconic tower in wonderful Paris.
If you bought a 24-hour transport ticket, and you see no lines by the elevator, then by all means use it for the Santa Justa lift as the views from the observation deck are just amazing.
Otherwise, it’s 5euros, including the observation deck, but if the lines are too long, it’s not worth waiting. Don’t worry, there are other wonderful viewpoints for your first time in Lisbon.
For example, you can walk 5 minutes around the corner to the Carmo Archaeological Museum and access the upper level via a walkway. You’ll get a great view, avoid lines and it’s free.
PINK STREET (Rua Cor de Rosa)
Behind the Time Out Market is Pink Street.
In the old days, this was the red light district of Lisbon. Today it’s changed quite a bit, refurbished, and revamped and If you’re looking for nightlife, then this may be your kind of place.
The street is painted pink, hence the name. It’s quite the bustling area with shops, restaurants, bars, and cool-colored umbrellas above.. a nightly rendezvous with friends for a cocktail or something to eat.
If you want the perfect picture, show up early. If you’re going to party then show up later.
Sounds great right? Well it could be, but it also gets extremely overcrowded as the night progresses, sometimes stinks of alcohol everywhere and the noise level is very very high.
Maybe go visit during the day and take some fun photos instead?
FIRST TIME IN LISBON? WHERE TO STAY
Chiado and Baixa neighborhoods are good places to stay during your first time in Lisbon. They’re considered to be central and within the city center.
Here are a few handpicked hotels :
My favorite cafe is in the Chiado neighborhood: A Brasileira with a statue of my all-time close to my heart poet Fernando Pessoa.
So it goes without saying that the hotel…
Chiado is close to the blue and green metro as well as tram no.28. You can also walk to restaurants, bars, and shops.
An excellent hotel close to everything. Enjoy the restaurant with panoramic views, a spa, comfortable rooms with a terrace, 24 hours reception, plus wifi, of course…
AND a library! Isn’t that fantastic? It’s of course named after Fernando Pessoa and they also offer a free walking tour!
Baixa neighborhood, like Chiado, is the second best neighborhood to stay in during your first time in Lisbon. It is considered to be in the city center of Lisbon because it is flat and going elsewhere is simple.
You’ll find lots of shops and restaurants in this neighborhood and it may be a little traffic noise as it’s a popular area. But try and get a room not facing the street and you’ll be fine.
In this neighborhood, you’re not far from the Santa Justa lift as well as Rossio square and Praça do Comercio.
HOTEL SANTA JUSTA
This 4-star hotel is located in a perfect location to get around and visit Lisbon! It’s inviting, the staff is always ready to help and the rooms are modern, clean, and comfortable.
You’ll enjoy flat-screen TV as well as a coffee machine, bathrobe, slippers, and toiletries. The mini-bar is restocked daily and several other amenities will make your stay here outstanding.
Rossio train station is 5 min away and they provide an airport shuttle for an extra fee.
Interested in other neighborhoods?
A quiet neighborhood during the day, but when night falls, it comes alive with parties, bars, pubs, cafes, and lots of people! It’s the place to be for nightlife.
If you do choose to stay here, make sure you know your way around the maze-like streets on your way back to the hotel and that you don’t mind a little “noise”.
Bairro Alto neighborhood is quite hilly, be sure you’re ready for it!
If you really want to stay here, then check for availability at this wonderful hotel!
BAIRRO ALTO SUITES
In this neighborhood, you’re within walking distance from lots of cool restaurants and bars, either up or down the hill 🙂
Inside, the hotel is quiet and peaceful and someone is always helpful at the reception desk.
The rooms aren’t huge but have very comfortable beds and are nicely decorated. Daily cleaning, fresh towels. and flexible times for check-in/check-out is a big plus.
Alfama neighborhood is more of a village within the city, I love this area. The buildings and houses sit quite tightly on extremely narrow streets. But I’m not sure I’d stay here. Although tram no.28 loops through here, there isn’t much in terms of public transportation. You will need to walk (probably uphill) or get a taxi.
There are a lot more apartments hosted privately than hotels. You may want to check Airbnb instead.
Want to explore further? Try these fun tours 🙂
- Here is a useful list of travel apps to make your first time in Lisbon simpler!
Of course, it also applies to any other city)
- Wear good shoes. Lisbon is an extremely walkable city and those hills.. but if your feet hurt you won’t get far, right? So, comfy shoes are a must.
- Remember, in Portugal, you pay in euros – or credit cards of course.
- Beware of pickpockets. Seriously. Unfortunately, many cities in Europe have a big problem with pickpocket scams. Lisbon is no exception.
Enjoy your first time in Lisbon!
Photo Credit: VNT