Unveiling the Charm of Lisbon: A Complete Guide to Portugal's Enchanting Capital
There is no shortage of beautiful places to visit in Portugal, but perhaps nothing will beat the timeless charm of its capital city—Lisbon.
Taking a stroll along Lisbon’s winding cobblestone streets on a fine day will get you falling in love with its stunning sceneries, marvelous architecture, fascinating culture, rich history, and scrumptious culinary delights. If you want the best of Portugal tours, consider exploring the wonders of this red-roofed city. And when you do, make sure you read this comprehensive guide to help you in planning a hassle-free trip to Lisbon, Portugal.
Essential Things to Know Before Traveling to Lisbon
The official language used in Portugal is Portuguese. However, English is also widely spoken here, especially by people who work in the tourism industry. While it would be helpful to know some basic Portuguese words or phrases, it will pose no problems for tourists if they speak English in Lisbon.
Currency and Modes of Payment
The official currency of Portugal is the Euro (EUR). Most shops, restaurants, and establishments in Lisbon accept credit card payments, but cash is always king. So, be sure to always have some cash on you.
ATMs in Portugal are called “multibanco” or “caixa automatica.” These can be used to withdraw money, pay bills, buy movie tickets, or make transfers. You can find these in banks, airports, train stations, and shopping centers.
Portugal ranks as the 13th safest country in the world. The crime rates here are low, and perhaps the biggest issue could be pickpocketing, but this only usually happens in high-trafficked areas. So, just as you would anywhere in the world, keep a close eye on your valuables.
Must-Visit Places in Lisbon
Príncipe Real is a trendy neighborhood and is one of the best places to wander around and explore Lisbon. Tourists love it for its narrow cobblestone streets, colorful houses, picturesque gardens, numerous art galleries, and posh restaurants.
There are also many interesting things to see and do in Principe Real. You can relax and be in touch with nature in the gardens or spend a leisurely afternoon chilling in one of its many cozy cafes. But if you want more outdoorsy activities, you can walk to the São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint and witness panoramic views of the stunning red-roofed city. Alternatively, you can shop til you drop in the chic boutiques here or party all night at clubs and bars.
Santos and Cais do Sodre
Just 15 minutes away from the heart of the capital city, you will find the design district of Lisbon—Santos and Cais do Sodre. This lively little neighborhood showcases a blend of historical, cultural, and modern attractions. For the most part, the lively and trendy atmosphere here is due to the many bars, restaurants, and shops in this district. Among the highlights of Cais do Sodré is the Time Out Market, a market hall dotted with gourmet food stalls, bars, shops, and even a concert hall.
Bairro Alto is a shopping district beside Principe Real. If you are an avid party-goer, you will surely love this place as it has the best nightlife scene in all of Lisbon. Bairro Alto comes alive with its neon lights and lively music after dark as it opens its restaurants, bars, and clubs. Its narrow streets get filled with people dancing the night away. And even if drinking and partying isn’t your cup of tea, you will still enjoy your time at Bairro Alto, as there are many historical landmarks here, like the São Roque Church and the Carmo Convent.
Amalfa is known for its marvelous architecture, delicious food, rich history, and friendly people. It lures tourists with its charming cobbled streets and quaint houses meandering up a steep hill from the banks of the Rio Tejo to São Jorge castle. Apart from the São Jorge Castle, some of the best tourist attractions in Amalfa include the Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Jerónimos Monastery. It is also home to numerous museums, art galleries, and theaters. And for beach lovers, you can visit the Cascais and Estoril beaches.
Where to Stay
The cobbled streets of Lisbon are best explored on foot! So when looking for a place to stay, you should choose accommodations located at the heart of the city. This way, you can easily walk from one neighborhood to another. Here are the best hotel accommodations in Lisbon based on your budget.
Lisbon Cheese & Wine Suites
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path accommodation, Lisbon Cheese and Wine Suites is your best bet. It may be considered a budget hotel, but Lisbon Cheese & Wine Suites offers a four-star experience at such a great price! This hotel offers a variety of rooms—from suites to apartments. Some packages include breakfast in their room rates. True to its name, the guests are greeted with complimentary cheese and wine upon their arrival. This hotel is situated just outside the busy Santos district.
Sant Jordi Hostels Lisbon
Sant Jordi Hostels Lisbon is in the neighborhood of Intendente. It offers dormitories, private rooms, and ensuite rooms. Guests fancy it for its vintage-inspired décor and amenities, including fast, free wifi, a guest kitchen, a tranquil patio, and an on-site bar.
1908 Lisboa Hotel
If you want an elegant place to lay your head without spending too much of your travel budget, the 1908 Lisboa Hotel is the perfect choice for you. This hotel is famed for its on-site art gallery. However, take note that this hotel is far from the many attractions in Lisbon, but you can always ride the metro, which is only a stone’s throw away from the hotel. The upside is that this place is in a quiet neighborhood, far from the hustle and bustle of the crowds in the city center.
Hotel Da Baixa
Famed for its green Portuguese tiles façade, Hotel da Baixa offers 66 spacious rooms. What’s interesting is that each floor is inspired by a different Portuguese figure, which can help you learn about Portuguese history. It also has an in-house library with a fireplace, which is essentially a haven for those who love to read during their free time. Hotel da Baixa is also a good choice for those who want easy access to Lisbon’s famous tourist sites, restaurants, and cafes.
Santiago De Alfama
This boutique hotel is within the heart of Lisbon, 8 minutes away from the iconic São Jorge Castle. Its location is a great starting point if you want to explore Lisbon’s thriving neighborhoods. Moreover, they offer a scrumptious continental breakfast in their onsite restaurant.
The Vintage Lisbon
Tucked between Avenida da Liberdade and Bairro Alto, this five-star spa hotel is your best bet for a health and wellness escapade. Each room is designed by Portuguese artisans, and it comes with its very own bar cart containing a complimentary gin and tonic kit. Continental breakfast is served every morning, and you are also free to access their gym. The Vintage Lisbon also has two bars, a restaurant, a spa, swimming pool. And the best part is that it is within walking distance from most attractions in Lisbon.
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Where to Eat
One of the best things about Lisbon is that it is known for having a steady supply of fresh produce and freshly caught seafood. Portuguese cuisine consists mainly of seafood, wine, and a generous portion of various spices. That's why Portugal is one of the most famous food tourism destinations. Here are the best restaurants you should try.
Mercearia Da Mila
If you like having brunches instead of breakfast, you will like the offerings of this cafe. Mercearia Da Mila is known for their everyday freshly baked bread, with Pão de Chocolate being the best seller.
Cafe Janis is an all-day café that serves French and Mediterranean food. There are also healthy vegan options, like their famous shakshuka and banana bread. They also serve tasty cocktails & local wines.
This food hall is in the Mercado da Ribeira at Cais do Sodré. It is a famous spot for tourists wanting to eat light snacks, finger foods, and street foods. This place is very lively all day long, and if you don’t mind being in a touristy and crowded area, you will definitely love the vibe here.
This is an Australian cafe serving all-day brunch and specialty coffee. They have vegan options too. They even serve Japanese dishes like okonomiyaki along with other famous foods from international cuisines.
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