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Lisbon, where to stay? Which district? Best area?
Lisbon is a wonderful city full of characterful districts, outstanding tourist attractions and vibrant nightlife. On the first inspection of a map, Lisbon appears a large and sprawling city, but fortunately many of the main tourist districts are focused around a couple of compact areas. These tourist districts are where the majority of visitors would want to be based for their holiday, and this guide will detail the best areas of Lisbon.
Our top districts of Lisbon
• Baixa (GPS 38.7132, -9.1385) – Grand, historic centre
• Around the Avenida da Liberdade (GPS 38.7218, -9.1470) – Smart and stylish shopping district
• Alfama (GPS 38.7106, -9.1305) – Steep hills, narrow streets and bags of character
• Graça (GPS 38.7176, -9.1299) – Bustling locals district
• Belem (GPS 38.6954, -9.2065) – Magnificent but a long way from the city centre
• Bairro Alto (38.7117, -9.1439) – Party district, don’t expect much sleep
• Estrela (GPS 38.7138, -9.1608) – Peaceful and prosperous
• Cais do Sodré (GPS 38.7067, -9.1436) – Nightlife hub where anything goes
• Principe Real (GPS 38.7159, -9.1488) – Smart, peaceful with Lisbon’s most exclusive address
• Parque das Nações (GPS 38.7668, -9.0980) – The ultra-modern side of Lisbon, long way from the historic centre but a lot going on.
Choose where you want to be based, before choosing your hotel or accommodation!
Always select where in Lisbon you wished to be based before choosing your 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 where you’re staying.
From personal experience, I have selected a room for an unknown city, based upon the price and reviews, while completely neglecting where I’m actually staying in the city…… So, before you click around on a map full of prices (for a popular room renting site) or see an endless list of accommodation (on established booking websites), at least have a rough idea of where you wish to stay.
For the typical visitor, where best to be based in Lisbon?
If you’re new to Lisbon, our recommended area to be based in, is either the Baixa district or close to the southern end of the Avenida da Liberdade. This area is where the majority of tourists stay, and is the setting for the many of Lisbon’s main tourist attractions. The Baixa/Avenida da Liberdade area contains numerous restaurants, open air-cafes and bars, and is perfectly set up for tourism. The area is close to the buzzing nightlife of Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodré districts, but far enough away from the late-night noise and ensuing chaos.
Where for a more relaxed holiday to Lisbon?
The above area is in the heart of the bustling tourist areas, and certain visitors may wish a calmer district to be based in. For this consider the districts of Estrela, São Sebastião or Principe Real. All three are prosperous and affluent neighbourhoods with classical houses, leafy streets and cafes filled with Portuguese. As much as these areas may sound appealing, they may feel remote from the tourist buzz and will involve significantly more walking.
Alternatively, Graça is characterful working-class Portuguese district.
Tourist advice: Even if you do consider being further from the city centre always make sure that you are near a metro station.
For the business traveller
For a business trip our suggestion is to be based around the Parque das Nações and along the Avenue Dom João II (GPS 38.7660, -9.0979). This area has numerous modern business hotels and within the actual the Parque das Nações are numerous restaurants and bars aimed at business travellers.
The district also provides excellent transport connections covering the whole of Lisbon; the airport is only 10 minutes (metro) and the historic centre 25min by metro. The main train station of Lisbon (Estação do Oriente) is at the heart of the district and this provides connections to Porto or the Algarve.
Partying, Stag or hen do, where to be based?
For a stag, hen or drinking trip to Lisbon you would want to be based within the Cais do Sodré district. Only a few years ago this was a seedy and tough neighbourhood, which was rejuvenated with the creation of the Pink Street. Now in 2018, it is an urban trendy and socially relaxed district, and the only area of Lisbon which will tolerant stag and hen do’s. Honestly, Albufeira in the Algarve is a better location, but is seasonal dependant (May till October).
Where to avoid in Lisbon?
Lisbon is similar to all major cities there are prosperous areas and deprived areas. A diverse, cultural rich and urban gritty district may appeal to one style of tourist, whereas may horrify another. When saying where to avoid is very subjective and based on opinion.
Some of the tougher and less desirable districts close to central Lisbon follow the green metro line, and include Martim Moniz, Intendente and Anjos. (Please note: A clued up, worldly traveller could be very happy here and find a great bargain, but I would never recommend this area to my parents.)
As a general advice don’t be based further north than Campo Pequeno (GPS: 38.7419, -9.1471), even if it is close to a metro station. There is not much to see in the north-eastern side of Lisbon between Graca (GPS 38.7176, -9.1299) and Parque das Nações (GPS 38.7668, -9.0980), its just a nondescript (or tough) residential areas. Alfama is a mixed area and has numerous steep hills to climb, which after a little while become very draining…
Lisbon Hotel and Accommodation Guide
Lisbon provides a wide range of accommodation catering for all types of visitors or tourist to the capital. Over the last 5 years there has been a steady year on year rise of prices and Lisbon is no longer the budget destination it once was with the price of accommodation comparable with most other European capital cities. This guide will provide an introduction to Lisbon hotels.
Lisbon Hotel Overview
This accommodation and hotel rooms guide is not written to promote or recommend any specific hotel or hostel, hotels can change owners and standards fluctuate between seasons. This accommodation guide has been written to assist you in your choice of location of the hotel and to provide a few helpful tips when selecting a hotel or hostel in Lisbon. For all new visitors to Lisbon it is suggested to stay within the Baixa & Rossio or the south end of Avenue de Libidard near Praça dos Restauradores. This area is packed full of hotels has excellent transport connections (bus, metro and tram) and is within walking distance of many of the popular tourist attractions.
Bairro Alto is again popular, but the area can be very noisy on Friday and Saturday nights with Lisbon revellers crowding on the streets socialising. Alfama has a number of good hostels but because of the narrow poorly lit streets care must be taken late at night, Alfama has a lot of hills to climb. To stay further north of marquis Pombal Square will require constant use of public transport and the feel of just being outside all of the action. For hotels with extensive amenities eg swimming pools are found outside of Lisbon city heading towards Cascais.
General Information for Booking Accommodation in Lisbon
With the advent of the internet booking accommodation has never been so easy, gone are the days of phoning Portugal with both parties never truly understanding what the other is saying, but internet booking does have some disadvantages. Every hotel that appears on intermediate booking websites pay high levels of commission and many good and established hotels do not wish to pay this additional change as they have regular customers from other sources, therefore limiting their visibility on the web. For example three of my favourite low/mid range hotels in Baixa were very difficult to even locate on the internet let alone trying to book a room.
The levels of booking fees vary from website to website so shop around first before booking a room using the internet. Reviews posted describing hostels and hotels are often very dated, only really consider the views or reviews that have been written within the last year and remember every one has very different opinions of service and quality. Always try to book well ahead as accommodation can become sparse during the summer months with the poorer options remaining.
If caught in this situation just book a couple of nights and try to locate a better establishment while out in Lisbon.
Before booking any accommodation, ensure that the location is either close to the historic centre of Baixa or close to a major tube station. The metro shuts early with the last train around 22:30 but afterwards taxi prices significantly increase and nights in Lisbon start very late.
Many of lisbon's budget hotels and hostels which inhabit the older buildings of the Baixa district do not have a lift (elevator) and many that boast of a lift start from the level of the reception not the street level. A hotel I stayed in once had a lift which started on the 1st floor and involved 3 flights of stairs to reach it; if you need a lift check that it suits your requirements before purchasing the room.
Services offered by Hotels but are they needed?
Tap water is safe to drink in Lisbon so long as it has been delivered straight from the mains system. As for everything use your best judgment, if the water dispensed from the taps is cloudy or has floating particulates avoid. Never drink hot water as water heaters may be old and attic storage tanks could be in filthy locations. A new flat screen TV may convince you to purchase a room but do consider what you are going to watch on it. The hotel may have cable (TV Cabo or Zone) but English channels are limited to news (CNN, BBC Prime and Euro Sport). The standard of Portuguese TV is poor with their evening schedules pack with quizzes, news and melodramatic soap operas.
The Lisbon is a noise city, the locals communicate by shouting in their coffee shops, the car horn is preferred to the indicator and the emergency services construct symphonies on their sirens. Consider this when selecting a room in a hotel especially if you plan to keep your window open during the night.
Further Lisbon accommodation considerations
An air conditioned room cost 20-30€ more than the equivalent non air conditioned room and is only required in the peak summer months (June – august) when the windless nights struggle to cool down. During spring, summer and autumn there are cooling breezes during early evening which continue until one hour past sunset but as the land cools the night air becomes very still and air conditioning can be a blessing for a good night’s rest in summer. In all others seasons apart from mid-summer air-condition is not required, nights cool down sufficient so that an open window is that is needed.
Be sensible with valuables never leave them on show in your room, locks on doors can be weak and hotels and hostels constantly have streams of people passing through. If your room has a safe use it, if not hide passport credit cards somewhere other than under the mattress or in the one draw of the room. If purchasing the room as a walking customer, ask to see the room, hoteliers will never take offence to this request if their standard of accommodation is good. While inspecting the room always test the level of the hot water.
The temptation of “breakfast included “may sound like a bargain but breakfast and morning snacks is what Lisbon does the best. There are literally hundreds of coffee shops spread across Lisbon selling cakes, pastries and coffee. The hotel must recoup the cost of the bland continental breakfast from somewhere; ask if you can have a discount if you choose not to take the breakfast!