The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is the stunning capital city of Portugal, and is one of the most charismatic and vibrant cities in Europe.
It is a city that effortlessly blends traditional heritage with striking modernism and progressive thinking.
As a holiday destination, Lisbon offers you a rich and varied history, buzzing nightlife, and is blessed with a glorious year-round climate.
This article will show why you must visit Lisbon, and offers tips on how to get the most from your holiday here.
The Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge spanning the Tejo Estuary
Lisbon is a bustling and exciting city that boasts a wide selection of activities and fascinating tourist attractions. It has a welcoming and liberal atmosphere, while still embracing its deep-rooted heritage and extensive history.
Lisbon appeals to a diverse range of ages and tourists, from those seeking a cultural trip, relaxed city break or family holiday, to those who visit for its vibrant nightlife. Lisbon can even make a fantastic base for a beach holiday.
The Portuguese capital is consistently recognised as one of the greatest cities in the world, which is why millions of visitors choose to head here every year. The city is rapidly changing with the influx of tourism and foreign investment, but it still holds on to its unique charm and distinctive Portuguese character.
Lisbon is truly one of the finest cities of Europe, and is a destination you should definitely visit if you get the chance.
The delightful Torre de Belém once guarded the entrance to the Tejo Estuary
With a population of 2.9 million, a history spanning over 2,000 years, and its status as one of Europe's most liberal cities, expect a diverse range of sights and attractions to await you. A selection of Lisbon’s most notable and unique experiences include:
• Riding the number 28 tram, the traditional 1930s yellow that rattles and screeches through the historic centre of Lisbon.
• Visiting the historic Belem district, with its many fascinating sights including the delightful Torre de Belem and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
• Socialising in the many bars of the Barrio Alto district and then partying the night away in the clubs on Pink Street.
• Exploring the labyrinth of narrow streets in the Alfama district, which climb up from the river to the Castelo de São Jorge.
• Savouring the unique meals and dining experiences in Lisbon, from traditional Tasca cafes to exquisite Michelin-star establishments.
• Admiring the historic and architectural splendour of the Baixa district with its magnificent plazas, grand avenues, and lively atmosphere.
• Joining a romantic sunset boat cruise along the Tejo Estuary and viewing the city from the waterside.
• Embracing authentic Portuguese culture in the Graça or Príncipe Real districts, with their sociable cafes and bustling shopping streets.
• Discovering Lisbon’s creative and artisan side in LxFactory and the Alcântara district, or the up-and-coming Beato neighbourhood.
Related articles: The top 10 sights and activities in Lisbon - The secret sights of Lisbon
Enjoying the sunset overlooking the Tejo Estuary
There is a lot to see and do in Lisbon, and the recommended length of time for discovering the city is three days, but there are enough varied sights to easily fill five days of sightseeing. Many visitors wish to combine their time in Lisbon with a day trip to the wondrous town of Sintra to see the Pena Palace and gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira. During the summer, you may wish to take a day trip to Cascais or relax on the region’s beautiful beaches.
Other popular day trips from Lisbon include the port city of Setubal, the walled town of Óbidos, Mafra’s magnificent palace, the surfing town of Ericeira, the historic city of Evora, or the beautiful beaches of Sesimbra. If you prefer a relaxing holiday there are the glorious beaches of Carcavelos and Cascais, or you could go surfing on the Costa da Caparica.
Simply put, there is ample to do within Lisbon and the surrounding region to fill your entire holiday.
For a city break or Lisbon as part of a touring holiday we would suggest the following itinerary:
A city-break of three days in Lisbon
Day 1 – Explore the historic centre of Lisbon, which covers the Alfama, Baixa, and Cais do Sodre districts. Sights include Lisbon Castle, Praça do Comércio, Se Cathedral and a ride on the number 28 tram. The day could be finished with a sunset boat cruise and a meal in the TimeOut market.
Day 2 – Visit the Belem district and see the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Torre de Belem and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Afterwards, you could explore the Alcântara district and LxFactory. For the evening, head to Bairro Alto.
Day 3 – Visit the Parque das Nações in the morning. For the afternoon, visit either the Estrela and Príncipe Real districts or the Graça district, with its many murals. In the evening watch the sunset from the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and then end the night at Pink Street.
For a detailed three-day itinerary please click here.
If you are fortunate to have a weeklong holiday to Lisbon a suggested itinerary could be:
Day 4 – Day trip to Sintra (Pena Palace, Moors Castle and Quinta da Regaleira)
Day 5 – Day trip to Cascais and its beautiful beaches
Day 6 – Day trip to Setubal or Sesimbra
Day 7 – Day trip to Óbidos or Mafra Palace and Ericeira
Read our suggested itineraries: 1 week in Lisbon
Lisbon extends over seven steep hills; expect a lot of uphill walking!
For your first visit to Lisbon, it is recommended that you choose a base close to the historic centre; this covers the districts of Baixa, Alfama, Chiado, Bairro Alto and the Avenida da Liberdade. These areas are popular with tourists and within easy walking distance of the main sights and attractions.
The Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre districts are the nightlife areas of Lisbon, so these are a good choice of base for a party-focused trip. The stylish Avenida da Liberdade is the location of many of Lisbon’s high-end hotels, making it the perfect place to stay for a luxury holiday.
Alfama is an ancient and characterful district, but the narrow, steep streets can be very draining in the summer heat. The Mouraria district and the Avenida Almirante Reis provide cheaper options for backpackers and budget travellers, but these are not areas we would recommend to older or less clued-up travellers.
If you are travelling for business, consider a base in the Parque das Nações district to the northeast of Lisbon, which contains many modern hotels and is close to the airport.
If you are new to Lisbon, the best five districts and neighbourhoods to be based in are:
1) Baixa 2) Avenida da Liberdade 3) Alfama 4) Bairro Alto/Chiado 5) Cais do Sodré
The map below displays the tourist areas of central Lisbon
Districts: 1) Baixa 2) Avenida da Liberdade 3) Alfama 4) Bairro Alto/Chiado 5) Cais do Sodré 6) Príncipe Real 7) Graça 8) Martim Moniz, Intendente and Anjos (green metro region) 9) Mouraria 10) Estrela
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in central Lisbon. By altering the date to suit your holiday, the map will display current prices:
Related articles: Where to stay in Lisbon?
The Parque das Naçoes is the ultra-modern side of historic Lisbon.
Lisbon has hot, dry summers, and the city is pleasant in spring and autumn. In winter it will be mild, but possibly wet.
The best time of year to visit Lisbon is in late spring (May to June), when the days are bright and sunny but the temperatures are not unbearably hot.
The peak season is between June and August, so if you visit at this time of year you should expect the city to feel very crowded. The weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until the end of September.
There can be a significant amount of rain during the winter months (November to February), but the city offers many indoor activities for those wet days.
Lisbon is year-round tourist destination, and all tourist sights and activities remain open for the whole year.
Related articles: When to visit Lisbon? - Activities for a wet day
The daytime maximum temperature (measured in the shade) and night-time minimum
The average hours of sunshine per day and the strength of the sun
The average amount of rain and number of wet days
Lisbon is expecting a sell-out summer season for 2024, and this follows the incredibly busy summer season of 2023. If you are serious about planning a trip to Lisbon, it is advisable to book your flights and accommodation as soon as possible; the best deals will sell-out.
As a popular destination for weekend city breaks, flights on Friday evenings and Sundays or Mondays tend to sell out quickly.
Rossio plaza is the heart of Lisbon
Lisbon is close to a stunning coastline boasting beautiful sandy beaches and dramatic natural scenery. Many of the region's finest beaches are only a short bus or train ride away from central Lisbon.
There are two sandy coastlines easily accessible from Lisbon; the Cascais to Estoril coastline (to the west of Lisbon) and Costa da Caparica (to the south of Lisbon).
Slightly further out (and needing a car to visit) are the wild beaches of the Serra de Sintra coastline and the paradise beaches of the Serra da Arrábida.
Our Opinion: The beaches of the Lisbon region are just as beautiful as the Algarve, so there is no need to travel hundreds of miles to find the best stretches of coast.
Related articles: Lisbon beach guide - Costa da Caparica
The vast Praia de Carcavelos beach, only a short train ride from central Lisbon
Lisbon is a good choice of destination if you want to take your family on a city break. There are many child-friendly tourist attractions, such as the Oceanarium, tram rides, Lisbon Zoo, or the Pavilhão do Conhecimento (interactive science museum).
The Portuguese have a family-focused culture, and children will be welcomed in all restaurants, hotels and shops. Lisbon is a relatively safe city, but the main consideration with regard to children is the very high temperatures in summer.
Related articles: Lisbon for Families
A ride on the number 28 tram will be a highlight of a trip to Lisbon
There are many enjoyable day trips from Lisbon, and these can greatly extend a stay within the city. The most popular day trips are to Sintra and Cascais.
Sintra sits in the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra and is the setting for many marvellous palaces and villas, including the Pena Palace and the Moorish castle. Cascais is a charming resort town, which has a delightful historic centre and is surrounded by beautiful beaches.
Other excellent day trips include the pretty beach town of Sesimbra, the magnificent palace of Mafra, the picturesque walled town of Obidos and the port city of Setubal. All of these destinations can be easily reached using public transport.
Related articles: Day trips from Lisbon – Sintra Guide – Cascais Guide – Sesimbra Guide
The magnificent Pena Palace in the Sintra hills
Lisbon is one of Europe's least expensive capital cities, offering exceptional value for food, drink and public transport. Entrance fees to the historical monuments are sensibly priced, but gimmicky tourist activities (tuk-tuks, bus tours) can be expensive.
There are many great value places to eat and drink, most notably the Tascas. These cheap, no-frills, family-run restaurants typically serve a 'meal of the day' for less than €8 and can be found along almost every street in Lisbon (and Portugal)!
Overall, Lisbon provides excellent value for money. However, accommodation and flights should always be booked well in advance to secure the lowest prices.
Related articles: Cost of a holiday to Lisbon - Traditional meals to try while in Lisbon
Lisbon Airport is the main international airport of Portugal, providing direct connections to all major European cities and many larger cities across the world. The airport itself is conveniently located within the city limits, and onward travel is extremely easy using the metro.
The airport has two terminals, with Terminal 1 handling international arrivals and most departures. While the building itself is quite dated, it has all the expected facilities of a major international airport. Terminal 2 handles departures only for the low-cost airlines and is very basic.
Insight: Portugal is a relatively small country with an excellent express train network connecting Porto, Lisbon and the Algarve. It is fairly easy to fly into one of Portugal's three airports (Lisbon, Porto and Faro) and travel by train to a different region of the country.
Related articles: Lisbon airport to the city centre - Lisbon airport guide - Terminal 2 guide
Terminal 1 at Lisbon airport and the entrance to the metro, which is the best way to travel to the city centre
Compared to many other major cities, Lisbon is relatively safe.
Tourists may occasionally encounter pickpockets or opportunistic thieves, but if you use the same common sense that you would use back at home then you should have no issues.
Related articles: Is Lisbon safe?
English is much more widely spoken in Portugal than in Spain, France or Italy. Everyone who works within tourism speaks English fluently, while all transport hubs (metro, railways and airports) have English as their second language.
All restaurants have English menus, and most historical sights and attractions have descriptions in both Portuguese and English.
While it is not expected for foreign visitors to speak Portuguese, residents do appreciate it if you make an effort to speak a few words in their language. Overall, it is unlikely that you will encounter any difficulties communicating in English during your holiday in Lisbon.
A car is not necessary for your stay in Lisbon due to the availability of the excellent public transportation and inexpensive taxis, Uber or Bolts. Often a car would be more of an inconvenience due to the lack of parking, heavily congested roads and erratic driving of the Portuguese.
You do not need a car for the popular day trips such as Sintra, Cascais, or Obidos, as there is good public transport to these from Lisbon. A car could be a useful option if you plan on exploring areas outside of the city, such as the Serra da Arrábida, the Serra de Sintra or the Alentejo region.
Related articles: The best driving routes of the Lisbon region
A car is needed to visit the Serra da Arrábida coastline
Discover more of Lisbon with our most popular guides
We really appreciate you visiting our website, but the digital world is changing for the worse.
Independent publishers like us face many new challenges. Search engines now prioritize ads over organic content, and AI replicates our hard work.
If you enjoyed our work, please bookmark our website to easily find us again or share it on social media with your friends and family.
We aim to keep our 1,600+ pages accurate and fully updated. If you spot any errors or outdated information, please contact us at: [email protected]
A complete list of all of our Lisbon articles