The hilly coast capital of Portugal is filled with colorful old pastel architecture, beautiful ceramic tiles and large lamp posts. The grand São Jorge Castle sits on the hill, and offers the best 365 panorama view of the old city’s pastel-colored buildings, Tagus Estuary and Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. The National Azulejo Museum displays 5 centuries of decorative ceramic tiles. Just outside Lisbon is a string of Atlantic beaches, from Cascais to Estoril that are easy to visit for day trips by the cheap bus in the city. Besides being sought out 8 times a day on the streets to buy drugs by shady men, almost getting stung by a jellyfish one day being in the refreshing water on a hot day and falling down a huge stone staircase at the cathedral and almost hitting my head, it was a wonderful place. All more humbling moments on the journey. The pasteis de nata cream custard tart pastries were life changing. Overall this country was one of my favorite that felt like home with the most kind and friendly people I talked the deepest with about life.
How to Get there
The airport is only around 7km distance from the city center and is an easy 20 minute bus into the city center. Aerobus is a yellow bus service that has two lines to the city. The bus helps stop by major hotels as well as bus stups in different areas and leaves from the arrival hall in the airport.
- Line 1 is to the center every 20 minutes. The bus stops in Entrecampos, Camp Pequeno, Avenida de la Republica, Saldanha, Picoas, Avenida Fontes Pereira de melo, marques de pombol, avenida la liberdade, restauradores, rossio, praca de comercio, and cais do sodre.
- Line 2 goes to the financial center every 40 minutes. There are stops in Entracampos, Sete Rios, Avenida Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, Praca de Espanha, and Avenida Jose Malhoa.
Cost: a 1 way 24 hour ticket costs 4 euro and a return 6 euros. BOOK TICKETS HERE.
This is known to be the cheapest way to get into the city. The metro station is a new addition to the airport in the arrivals hall. The trip takes about 20 minutes. You buy a Viva Viagem card in the ticket machine for .50 Euro, and top it up for use. Altogether a ticket and one trip costs 1.50 eruo. Full metro information and maps here.
Things to Do
Ride the yellow Cable Car tram
These trams are operational antiques and have been lifting people up and down Lisbon’s hilly streets since the 1930s. These streets are real hills and it gets intense walking around all day, you will be thankful for the cheap tram. Buy a weekend travel pass, catch the tram at Praça da Figueira, and visit Lisbon’s coolest neighborhoods. The tram goes by all the landmarks, the 28 passes the Sé Cathedral—Lisbon’s oldest church, from the mid-1100s and the Estrela Basilica, a convent built on the orders of Portugal’s Queen Mary I in the late 18th century. This is only a 40-minute ride but covers all the best sites to see in the city.
- A single ticket for the tram costs €2.90. The best budget option is the 24-hour public transport ticket, which includes the metro and all tram and bus services. This ticket costs €6.30 but unfortunately can only be bought from the metro stations (the other ticket can easily be bought on the tram).
- Tip: This 24-hour ticket is exceptional value for tourists, as it includes the Elevador de Santa Justa, the Elevador da Glória and all of the tram routes.
- The number E28 tram route:
Martim Moniz – Graca – Portas de Sol – Se Cathedral – Rua Conceição (southern Baixa) – Chiado – Sao Bento – Estrela – Campo Ourique
(once the tram gets to the end it goes the same route back in reverse)
Watch the Pastel de Nata being made at The Manteigaria, a pastry shop
The Manteigaria is a Portuguese custard pies factory. This is a bakery and coffee shop. Their hours are 8am-12am daily. The pastel de nata are sold for €1 each. They have big open picture windows where you can see into their kitchen and watch their baking and process being made. This is a fun and free activity to do in the city. Then you can sample their delicious creations. I really loved adding these to my coffee time as a fun sweet pastry to eat. They are so cheap in the city. This is a must try when you are in Portugal. They are so delicious and life changing. They are so cheap at most of the coffee shops in the city and great deals if you buy several at once. The Manteigaria site here for details.
Explore the Street Art of Patio Dom Fradique
Lisbon has such a unique street art culture. Art installations and graffiti can be found everywhere as you wander through the city. Near the hill by the Castle of Saint George there is an area where lots of art installations and graffiti can be found. It is called Patio Dom Fradique. There is concrete, metal and wood and wire words and hearts formed. This part of the city ruins has been transformed into an interesting organic art gallery. There is furniture, graffiti and paint used to tell a story. There is a creative atmosphere even walking amongst the cute neighborhoods of beautiful colored and patterned tile, lampposts and often hanging garlands between alleys of houses. One of the pieces of street art that was my favorite reads, “don’t be mean!” Lisbon is filled with cool street art, graffiti and interesting paintings.
How to get there: walk up from downtown main plaza or Take the Tram 28 or bus 736 up the hill to the Castelo and walk down. This particular spot is on the southeast corner of the hill. Look for Marker #2 Patio Dom Fradique, or if you’re going uphill, look for Beco do Maldonado off Rua São Tomé.
Try Amorino Baixa Gelato
Amorino Baixa is an authentic Italian gelato shop in downtown Lisbon kitty corner to the Elevator Santa Justa. They are open 10:30am-12am daily. They make all of their gelato into rose petal layers that are works of art. You get to choose however many flavors you want. There are 3 sizes of cone, classic, small and medium as well as 5 sizes of cup. The small cone cost a bit less than $6. This is more expensive gelato but is quality and food art. You will find this place easily because of the large lines that gather and go out the door for this delicious best in town gelato. Don’t worry the line moves quickly and is worth the short wait! Their full menu can be found here.
Tour Castelo de Sao Jorge
This castle is on Lisbon’s highest hill, and is a small hike reaching the hill. There is also a bus from Praça da Figueira that goes to the castle entrance. The entrance fee is €8.50 ($7.15/£7.35) for adults, €5 ($5.35/£4.35) for children, and family fares are available as well. From the castle walls, the best views over Martim Moniz, Baixa, and the Tagus River (Rio Tejo) are found.
LX Factory shops, market & restaurants
Lx Market is a modern, hip art center that is home to many businesses, from funky restaurants to work spaces for designers and artists. This market is open 10am-8pm Sundays only. LX Factory holds a Sunday flea market along the main street every week, where the vendors present quirky vintage and local designer clothes, handmade jewellery, vinyl and old-school CDs. The market is especially popular among the young population of Lisbon, and it is an amusing adventure to leisurely observe the people while having a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe.
The co-working space and artists’ hub is built in brightly-colored shipping containers and abandoned double-decker buses. The hours daily are 11am-7pm. This is around the corner from LX Factory and is a similar artist hub creative space filled with cafes, restaurants and co working spaces. There is an awesome article written about this place and its birth place of London here.
You can take the tram or bus from Cais do Sodré and go to Belém to experience a few of Lisbon’s landmarks. Go to Jeronimas Monastery first. The monastery hours are 10am-5pm daily. A single adult ticket costs € 10. Full visiting details and tickets found here. The monastery, a Gothic Manueline-style, is the place where explorers (including Vasco da Gama) stayed before voyages and the famous recipe for pasteis de nata was created. The Pasteis de Belém shop is a five-minute walk from the monastery which is now no longer owned by the monastery. Order a few to go to try the egg-cream custards (only 1 euro each!!!) topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar, thought to be the best pasteisin the city.
Belem Tower is along the river a few minutes walk from Jeronimas Monastery and the famous Belem Pastry shop. Walk down to the riverbank to see the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), a Manueline (late Gothic style) fort built in the 16th century, and the nearby Padrão dos Descobrimentos sit—both monuments symbolize the Portugal’s role in the Age of Discoveries. This can be seen for free walking along the riverfront. If you want to go inside it is € 6 for a single adult ticket. This allows you to see and climb in the tower and is open from 10:30 am-6pm daily. More details and tickets here.
Elevador de Santa Justa
This is a historical transportation service. It is a cast-iron elevator with filigree details, built in 1902 to connect lower streets with Carmo Square. It is open daily 7am-10:45pm. If you bought the ticket for 24 hours to ride the tram that includes this historic site for free!!! This is definitely the best way to get a view of the city from above. Full site and information in different seasons here. Since this is considered a form of transportation in the city the way you pay is through the public transportation tickets. The below tickets are accepted to pay for the elevator lift:
- Santa Justa ticket (purchased on board); 5 euros per person
- Lisboa Viva Card , 7Colinas or Viva Viagem (loaded with valid titles in CARRIS);
- Yellow Bus tickets ;
- Lisbon Card.
Sintra Day trip to see castles in the national park
Sintra is a gorgeous area of Portugal that is grand castles and gorgeous national park along the rocky coastline of the country. This is an amazing day trip from central Lisbon. There are trains at least every 30 minutes on weekdays, every 30 minutes at weekends, from Lisbon’s city centre Rossio station. The journey takes 39 minutes and a return (round-trip) ticket is €4.30 (2016). This is a budget day trip idea from Lisbon as a basecamp in Portugal.
Praca De Comercio
This is one of the central squares in the city that leads into the open waterfront and is a historical landmark. On one end of the plazza is the grand arc de augusta, which is an ornate triumphal arch, completed in 1875, with sculpted figures & views over the city center. This is a waterside public plaza with a notable arch & statue, lined with outdoor cafes & shopping venues. The grand arches of the buildings offer great shade and areas to sit and have a coffee and people watch in the square. It is good to keep in mind that any cafes and restaurants in the main squares will always be more expensive for tourists.
Mercado de Santa Clara Flea Market
This is one of the most well known flea markets in the area and in Lisbon and Portugal, open Tues & Sat 9am-6pm, with an eclectic mix of housewares, clothing, antiques & media. This is great souvenir shopping from the creative artisan community and vendors who sell here in the public square. The 712 and 734 busses can be taken here. Full details and address here.
National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)
This is a heritage museum in Lisbon that may not be as well known. It is a museum of decorative azulejo tiles housed in a 16th-century monastery with a spectacular chapel. The museum is open 10am-6pm daily and closed Mondays. The museum is 5.5 euros per adult. The beautiful patterned ceramic tiles in Lisbon are called azulejos. They are sold in several shops as local artisan products. This beautiful museum has tiled exhibits especially with the famous blue and white tiles that make for killer backgrounds and pictures as well.
This is a ruined Gothic church destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, with an evocative roofless nave & museum. It is now an archeological museum with amazing architecture to walk through with the roof gone but the beams and archways for the cathedral still standing. During the day these make amazing shadows and are very artistic for pictures. Tickets for adults are 4€ and student 3€. The museum hours are 10am-7pm daily. Full information and tickets found here.
Go to the beach
Cascais and Tamariz beach are an hour west down the coastline is known for its beaches outside of Lisbon. The locals and many people though want to find good beaches a bit closer to the city than that. It is possible to catch the local bus and get to Cascais but is not as convenient. Two alternative options are Costa da Caparica and Portinho da Arrabida. Costa da caparica is only a 20 minute drive away from Lisbon city. These are across the Ponte 25 de Abril famous bridge and along the coastline almost parallel to Lisbon coast. The beach areas here as good to go to if you go visit Christ the Rei statue as listed below of things to do in the city. You can make a day trip out of going to the beach and seeing the statue.
Cristo Rei Monument
This historic statue is a Catholic statue dedicated to Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, inspired by Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. This statue sits right across the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge from Lisbon city. The monument is open 9:30am-6:30pm daily. Christ has his arms raised, blessing the city. Cristo Rei was built in the 1950s and it was in reverence for Portugal avoiding the horrors of WW2 and is a pilgrim destination for believers in Portugal. There is an 80m high viewing platform and the amazing panoramic views over Lisbon and the golden suspension bridge. The monument is free to see and walk around. The admission fee to go up to the viewing platform is €6.00/€3.00 (adult/child) and has an elevator to go up the 82m. You can take the 15 minute ferry there for €1.25 and is charged to the Viva Viagem ticket, the Lisbon public transport network. Catch the ferry from Cais do Sodré train station and metro station (last stop on the green metro line). There are three ferry departures per hour with more at rush hour. The 15 minute ferry journey terminates at Cacilhas ferry terminal.
Coolest Rooftop Bar City View : Lost in Esplanada
This is the coolest rooftop bar in Lisbon. This spot is a bohemian, colorful and artistic India themed oasis in the city set above with gorgeous views of the town. There is an outdoor courtyard garden and panoramic terrace with comfortable seating to take in the view under trees and colorful patterened umbrellas and classy sofas. The indoor decoration is an amazing combination of textures and textiles with wood, many different colors, patterns and mixed media decorations. This is a boho dreamers and artists paradise. Open 12:30pm-12am daily. Expect to pay 11-18 euros for most of the meal dishes and drinks 1-9 euros (9 euros for cocktails). This is an amazing hidden oasis outside the city to eat dinner, have sunset drinks and have an evening outside of the bustle of the city. Read more about this oasis in Lisbon here.
Rooft top bar: Park Bar
Park Bar is located on the top of a parking garage. They are open 1pm-2am daily and are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Cocktails are 5-8 euros. This is a really popular hot spot with younger locals. There is live music and a dancing area with hip DJs as well as a quieter city rooftop terrace with seating to take in the incredible view and sunset. This place has really chill vibes and offers one of the best views directly in the city if not the best. I got introduced and brought there by local friends I made and was not dissapointed. There is lots of live Brazilian and portuguese music and dancing in most bars in the city. This city is filled with amazing musicians and makes for a fun night to experience. Fado is also a cultural type of music that can be heard in most neighborhoods as well. See this cool rooftop bar and information on their site here.
Miradouros (neighborhood lookout points)
There are many Miradouros which are lookout points located throughout the hilltop neighborhoods. They are free park overlooks which are some of the best spots to catch a sunset in the city. One of the best in the Alfama area of the city is called Miradouro das Portas do Sol. These are budget ways to get a view without always needing to go to a cafe or bar for a drink for the location. You can explore on your own and find many more free locations like these as well.
This is one of the most beautiful historic neighborhoods of Lisbon on the hilly coast. The narrow passage cobble stone streets in between colorful houses with hanging decorative garlands are a famous area. The experience walking through this area is a beautiful adventure in the narrow passageways.
Where to Stay
There are lots of great hostel options for a cheap budget in Lisbon. There are many hostels owned and operated by local artists who have really deocrated their hostels in artistic and createive ways with local deisgns, art and furniture. One of the nicer places to stay is in the Alfama Neighborbood outside of the more touristy downtown area called Santiago de Alfama listed below.
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Living Lounge Hostel in Lisbon is a multi-award winning, 9.4 rated hostel run by four Portuguese artists – what more could you want?! The interiors are magnificent with each room freshly painted and decorated by local artists, and the location is purrrrfect for exploring the city. However our favourite part Lisbon Lounge Hostel is that you can get fed and drunk every night with their three course dinner *PLUS WINE* for just €9 – that’s £6.70, people! #meettheworld #hostel #lisbon
This fashionable hostel run by 4 Portuguese is a minute’s walk from the nearest subway station, 2 minutes on foot from the Elevador de Santa Justa, a cast-iron lift connecting city streets, and 2 km from Castelo de São Jorge, a Moorish hilltop castle with an archaeological museum. There are 4- to 8-bed mixed dorms ecclectically decorated that come with free Wi-Fi and linens, as well as bunk beds, lockers and shared bathrooms. Private rooms sleep up to 2 guests. Breakfast is free. There is a communal kitchen and a quirky dining room/lounge, plus rental bikes and shared computers.
Cost: $36USD/night , BOOK HERE
This is the most budget hostel in Lisbon while being a very modern, beautiful and clean hostel that is all wood and white modern asthetic. There is free breakfast included and is meant for those who find the party hostels too noisy and not their thing. The Loft is meant to be an upper level hostel that is nicer accomodations on a budget. The Loft – Boutique Hostel is located in the center of Lisbon. It is just moments away from the beautiful Praca da Alegria and Avenida da Liberdade (the main avenue in Lisbon).
Cost: $27USD/night, BOOK HERE
A 5-minute walk from Cais do Sodré train station, this relaxed hostel in an 18th-century townhouse on a side street is also 10 minutes’ walk from the nightlife of Bairro Alto and 2 km from the hilltop São Jorge Castle. The hostel is in the center of Lisbon next to Bairro Alto and the Pink Street. Casual mixed and female-only dorms sleep up to 10 and feature bunk beds and high ceilings, as well as free Wi-Fi, lockers and fans; some have balconies. Private rooms and upgraded dorms are air-conditioned.Breakfast, area walking tours and sangria tastings are complimentary. Other amenities include a 24-hour guest kitchen, a simple TV lounge and an airy living room. There are also lots of day trips outside of the city this hostel takes and helps you do tours.
Cost: $41USD/night, BOOK HERE
Santiago de Alfama – Boutique Hotel
This is a beautiful 5 star boutique hotel located in the historic center of Lisbon called Alfama on the coast. It was rated the best urban hotel in Europe. This charming boutique hotel is in a restored, 15th-century former palace and is a 9-minute walk from Castelo de São Jorge, and a 13-minute walk from the Terreiro do Paço, a waterfront plaza. Elegant rooms with wood floors and paneled ceilings feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, minibars and rainfall showers. Upgraded rooms have scenic views, and suites add sitting areas; some include vaulted stucco ceilings and free-standing baths. There is a restaurant serving local cuisine, as well as a bar and a terrace. There’s also a spa. Breakfast is extra.
Cost: $473USD/night , BOOK HERE