The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is a wonderful city, boasting characterful districts, outstanding tourist attractions and vibrant nightlife.
On a map, Lisbon appears as a large and sprawling city. However, the main tourist districts are fortunately contained within a relatively compact area.The majority of visitors choose to stay within the tourist districts, and these will make an ideal base if this is your first trip to Lisbon.
This article looks at the best neighbourhoods and districts to consider when planning your holiday.
Related articles: Introduction to Lisbon – 3 days in Lisbon
The best districts of Lisbon for hotels and accommodation
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
(Read on for more details on these areas)
For business travellers, you will ideally want to be based in the Parque das Nações district, which is to the northeast of Lisbon.
The map below displays the tourist areas of central Lisbon
Tourist areas of central Lisbon: 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:
Along with central Lisbon, the other popular tourist and accommodation areas of the city are shown in the map below.
The dotted section shows the area of the first map and the route of the four metro lines (Red, Blue, Green and Yellow).
Outer districts of Lisbon: 1) Belem 2) Alcantara 3) Estrela 4) Campo Pequeno 5) Parque das Nações 6) Bairro Alto & Cais do Sodré 7) Avenida da Liberdade 8) Baixa 9) Alfama
The best areas of Lisbon
The most popular areas to stay
• Baixa district – The grand and historic centre of Lisbon
• The Avenida da Liberdade – A smart and stylish shopping district with many high-end hotels
• Alfama district – Steep hills, narrow streets and bags of character, and lots of options for rental rooms and apartments.
For a nightlife and excitement-based holiday
• Bairro Alto– Party district, don’t expect much sleep
• Cais do Sodré– Former red-light district and now nightlife hub where anything goes
Less touristy and more Portuguese atmosphere
• Graça – Bustling local’s district
• Príncipe Real – Smart, calm and Lisbon’s most exclusive district
• Estrela – Peaceful and prosperous district
• Belem district – Popular area as a day trip, but it is a long way from the city centre
• Alcantara – Artisan area of Lisbon, centred around the LX factory
• Campo Pequeno – The original business district of Lisbon with good connections to the city.
If you’re new to Lisbon, it is recommended to be within the Baixa district or close to the Avenida da Liberdade.
This area offers a wide selection of restaurants, bars and shops, as well as being close to many of Lisbon’s main tourist attractions. You will also be within walking distance of the vibrant nightlife of the Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodré districts, but far enough away to avoid the late-night noise and ensuing chaos.
The Alfama district is another popular location for first-time visitors. Alfama is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon, and has a wide selection of characterful apartments hidden within its warren of alleys and side streets that make up the district. The only downside to Alfama are the many steep hills.
Related articles: Alfama guide – Baixa guide
Always choose which location in Lisbon you wish to be based in before looking for accommodation. This may sound obvious, but it is all too easy to be sucked in by an amazing discount or outstanding reviews, without really considering whether the area suits your needs.
Tip: If you are to be based a little further out, always make sure you’re close to a metro station.
The Baixa/Alfama/Bairro Alto areas lie within the heart of the bustling tourist centre, but you may prefer a calmer location for your holiday. If this is the case, consider the districts of Estrela or Principe Real, which are prosperous and affluent neighbourhoods with classical houses, leafy streets and cafes filled with Portuguese locals.
While these areas may sound appealing, they can feel remote from the tourist buzz, and significantly more walking will be required when visiting the city’s main attractions.
An alternative is Graça, which is a working-class Portuguese district that is full of character.
For a business trip, it is best to be based within the Parque das Nações district. This area is packed with modern business hotels, as well as numerous restaurants and bars aimed at business travellers.
The district also has excellent transport links covering the whole of Lisbon. The airport is only a 10-minute metro ride away, with the historic centre just 25 minutes away. The main train station of Lisbon (the Estação do Oriente) is in the centre of Parque das Nações, and from here there are trains to Porto and the north or the Algarve and the south.
For a focused nightlife trip to Lisbon you will want to be based within the Cais do Sodré district. Until recently, this was seen as a seedy and tough neighbourhood, however it has been completely transformed with the creation of Pink Street. The area now has an urban, trendy and socially relaxed atmosphere, and is the only part of Lisbon that welcomes stag and hen parties.
If you are planning a stag or hen trip during the summer season (from May to October), a much better choice would be Albufeira in the Algarve.
Lisbon is like all major cities in that there is a mix of affluent and more deprived areas. A diverse, culturally rich and gritty urban district may appeal to some tourists, but may not suit others. It is difficult to say where to avoid, as this is subjective and based on opinion.
Some of central Lisbon’s less desirable districts follow the green metro line and include Intendente and Anjos. Mouraria is a multicultural district that is enjoyable to visit, but some tourists may prefer not to be based there.
Please note: A clued-up and worldly traveller could be very happy in these areas, but they are not recommended for older or solo female travellers.
In general, we’d recommend not being based further north than the Campo Pequeno district or further west than the IP7 expressway (GPS: 38.73367, -9.16857). There is not much to see in the north-eastern side of Lisbon between Graca and Parque das Nações, and is just nondescript residential estates.
If this is your first visit to Lisbon, avoid being based on the southern side of the Tejo Estuary (in Almada and Cacilhas), as these are just residential towns and travelling to the centre of Lisbon requires a long bus or ferry rides.
A pleasant alternative to being based in the city is the pretty resort town of Cascais.
If you are planning a holiday purely based in Lisbon, with day trips to Sintra and Cascais, then there really is no need for a rental car. If you are hiring a rental car in Lisbon, ensure the hotel has car parking, as it can be very difficult to find space within the historic centre.
Tip: Consider hiring a car only if you intend to leave Lisbon, and not for the entire duration you are based in the city.
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