Europe Portugal Travel

PLANNING YOUR LISBON TRIP: A FIRST TIMER’S GUIDE TO PORTUGAL

We just want to start off by saying how much we fell in love with Lisbon! The culture, the variety of things to see and do, the people, everything! We promise you Lisbon is for everyone and for every type of lifestyle. This guide will cover where to stay and for how long, the best places to eat, what to see and do, the best bars to go to for a drink, and must-visit day trips from Lisbon! After reading this, if you’re looking for a more in-depth itinerary, check out our post on our
7 Day Portugal Itinerary

The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.


GETTING TO LISBON

We flew into the Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS). From the Lisbon airport to where we were staying in a main area of Lisbon (see below), was only a 20 minute Uber ride away. We recommend taking an Uber if you can, as there were so many waiting at the airport and it was very convenient and inexpensive. You can also take a bus from the airport (Av. de Berlim – Aeroporto stop), that will get you to the downtown area of Lisbon in about an hour.


GETTING AROUND IN LISBON

Public transit in and around Lisbon is a breeze! For day trips to Belem and Sintra we took the train at Rossio Station, which is one of the main train stations in Lisbon. As a tourist attraction, we took the Tram 28 to see the city. To get around in areas of Lisbon that weren’t quite walking distance, we took the Metro. Lastly, if we wanted a faster way to get around, like when we went to the Benfica stadium – we took Uber. Surprisingly, Uber was amazing in Lisbon! We took it multiple times and had no issues at all.

The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.



WHERE TO STAY & FOR HOW LONG

To make the most of your time in Lisbon, we recommend staying at least 3-4 nights if time allows. You can see almost all of the main tourist attractions in 3 days if you plan it well. We stayed 3 nights as we knew we wanted to do a day trip to Sintra, but we completely fell in love with Lisbon, and could definitely see ourselves spending a week there!

There are endless accommodation options from luxury hotels, to apartments, to Airbnb rentals. Where you stay in Lisbon definitely depends on the type of trip you want to have! Also, Lisbon wins best hostel awards every year, so anywhere you stay will be great option. But, we recommend staying as close to ROSSIO SQUARE as possible. This is one of the main squares in Lisbon and is walking distance to everything – the water, shopping, and bars.

Here are the different districts in Lisbon and options:

Chiado and Baixa
These districts are located in the heart of downtown Lisbon and contain streets filled with shopping and restaurants. It’s definitely the main and central area in Lisbon and most things are walking distance from this area. However, if you are looking for somewhere budget-friendly this area probably isn’t for you.

Alfama
This is the oldest district in Lisbon. It contains numerous historical buildings, and is definitely an area you will spend a lot of time exploring. It’s not the most central area, and its on a hill so you will be climbing up some steps, but in our opinion it had the most breathtaking views in all of Lisbon.

Bairro Alto
This is another area of Lisbon that is filled with culture, from its excellent restaurants, to its roaring nightlife. It’s a great area to stay if you’re looking for some hip places to eat and get drinks. We were told it could get loud at night, as its where most of the popular bars are located.

Where We Stayed
We ended up staying close to the Bairro Alto district, near Rossio Square as it had many more budget-friendly options. We stayed at the Bairro Alto Suites. It was walking distance to Rossio Square and the train station, and so many restaurants. It was a very basic room, but had everything we needed. Since we went during the off-season in March, we didn’t experience any difficulties sleeping as there was no noise from the nightlife. Apparently, during the summer months it does become a more lively area, so keep that in mind!

Hostels
Stay at Travellers House or Yes! Lisbon. Both are fantastic hostels, very easy to meet people and they plan cute group dinners and fun activities!

Here is a link to some EXCELLENT accommodation options in Lisbon


WHAT TO SEE & DO

Check out our related post on The Best Places to Visit in Lisbon

The post above goes over all of the best things to do and see in Lisbon. It has over 10 main attractions and unique spots. See below for a list of must visit places!


Here are a few of our favourites from the list above:

Visit the Castelo de Sao Jorge for Sunset

The views from this Castle look over the entire city, with all it’s red rooftop gorgeousness! This is a MUST while in Lisbon and we highly recommend watching the sunset atop the castle. It was one of those, “We’ll never forget this moment” type of memories! Breathtaking! Go a couple of hours before sunset to walk all the way to the top and explore the grounds.

The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.


Visit Belem Tower & Eat a Pasteis de Nata in Belem

This famous landmark is on the waterfront, and worth seeing if you’re in the Belém area. The Tower is medieval and so stunning. We didn’t have time, but you can even do a tour on the inside that people say is worth it.

Guyssss, just thinking about these desserts make us drool! Seriously! Don’t think we’ve ever in our entire lives tasted a dessert this good. If you have a sweet tooth like us, you HAVE TO check out Pasteis de Belem, which was the first ever location to open and hold the original ancient recipe for Porutgal’s famous “Pastéis de Nata.” They basically are an custard tart dusted with cinnamon. They sell these all over Lisbon and Portugal, and I think we had one every single day, but there was something special about this place being the first, that we just fell in love with the history!


Attend a Benfica Football Game

If you’ve ever been to a sporting event in North America, it really is nothing in comparison to this. We decided to go to a Benfica game, as they were playing when we were in Lisbon and we do love soccer! We went a bit early to the game and bought tickets at the ticket booth for around 30 Euros each. This was surprisingly easy to do, even though the stadium was PACKED. We had so much fun! This was just a regular-season game, but we couldn’t believe how much energy was in that stadium! The chanting blew us away, and those fans seem to LIVE for this team haha! Amazing experience.

The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.


Rua Augusta Street

Rua Augusta is the main street for shopping and food in Lisbon. You may have seen this archway in photos, or the yellow building that surrounds it, but it is some of the most unique architecture we’ve ever seen. This area is on the waterfront and you won’t be disappointed by the beautiful views. There are endless streets to walk up and down on Augusta, as well as the cutest places to grab a bite to eat! The square is also stunning, and a great place for taking photos!

The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.
The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.



WHERE TO EAT IN LISBON

Decadante: One of our favourite restaurants! The best steak Shawns ever had. Also has a beautiful lookout point of the city right across the street from it!

Santinis: The best ice cream/gelato in the city. It is on Rua de Carmo, right off of Rossio Square.

Tosta Mistas, Bifanas, Sardines, & Bacalhau: All have classic Portuguese food (mostly seafood) & all are delcious

A Padaria Portuguesa: There are multiple in the city. A bagel shop! Grab a coffee too. I think we had pastries from here every morning.

Nicolau: A hip breakfast/brunch spot – usually very busy, the avo toast was so good.

Insolito: Rooftop bar to grab drinks in the Bairro Alto district.

Pasteis de Belem: The very first spot to hold the secret recipe to the famous Portuguese tarts “Pasteis de Nata” in 1837! MUST TRY!


WHERE TO GRAB A DRINK OR PARTY

Rooftop Bars

Park Restaurant & Bar: This was actually a rooftop parking lot turned into a hip garden terrace, great for having a cocktail! It’s filled with wooden furniture and small potted trees to create the feeling of a garden. It opens daily at 1PM and closes late at night, with a beautiful view over the city, the Tagus, and the bell towers of Santa Catarina Church. It presents a varied calendar of events, including performances by DJs and outdoor cinema, and there is still room for serving meals (burgers of meat, fish and soy).

Moniz (near Alfama): Weather permitting, this rooftop bar is open every day from 6:30PM to midnight. It’s on the 9th floor of the Mundial Hotel downtown (it’s open to hotel guests and non-guests), and in addition to offering cocktails, it also has some of the most magnificent views of the city, from the castle over Baixa and the river. (We loved it!)

Memmo Alfama Terrace: This bar is on the first and not on the rooftop of the building of the Memmo Alfama Hotel, but it is at the top of an entire neighborhood — picturesque Alfama. It has some of the best views of the Tagus and of Lisbon’s oldest district, and a contemporary décor. It’s by the hotel’s outdoor pool, offering a selection of Portuguese wines and tapas, to be enjoyed along with the magnificent views. It opens every day, from 6PM to 11PM.

Silk Bar (near Chiado): Member of The World’s Finest Clubs, this is the city’s most fabulous bar, and also a restaurant, found at the rooftop of a Chiado building. It offers nearly 360-degree views of Lisbon, and the most exclusive ambience in the city. The minimalist décor on the terrace is made up of tables and seats where you may enjoy a variety of cocktails and Mediterranean cuisine. A resident DJ livens up the place late into the night. From Tuesday to Thursday it’s open from 7PM to 1:30AM, while on Fridays and Saturdays it lasts until 4AM (although doors close at 2:30AM)

Terrace (near Bairro Alto): The small terrace on the top floor of the Bairro Alto Hotel is filled with comfortable sofas and chairs to offer river views along with cocktails and a few light meals.Perfect for a drink before or after dinner, it is usually packed, so you may have to wait a while for an available spot (if that happens you may also consider moving to the bar downtairs, Café Bar BA).

Clubs

Things might have changed since we’ve been, but Music Box and Urban Beach were our favourites. THERE IS/WAS A BURGER CART OUTSIDE OF URBAN BEACH. GET THE BURGER.

LUX: Lux is the most famous club. It’s massive, if you like the club scene, you’ll love it!

Bairro Alto: This is the main bar-spot/pre-drink location in Lisbon. It is basically dozens of windy street with hundreds of little bars. You just get drinks and walk about the streets. If you go in the day it looks like a ghost town because the bars aren’t open. Bairro stays open until about 3, and then you head to the clubs!



DAY TRIPS FROM LISBON

Sintra

We could write an entire blog post just dedicated to Sintra! We loved exploring this small town. It’s filled with cobblestone streets, and historic structures. We took the train to Sintra from Rossio Station and it was so easy! This is a MUST do day trip, we promise you will love it. After visiting the two spots below, walk about 15 minutes to the city centre and grab a bite to eat. We ate at Casa Piriquita which has a nice balcony. Be sure to try Ginja – it comes in chocolate shot glasses! It’s like the Italian Limoncello, but a cherry flavoured liqueur.

  • Pena Palace: The most unique castle we’ve ever seen. Feels like you’re walking into a real-life fairytale. We loved exploring the grounds and taking in the views from so high up!
  • Quinta da Regaleira: The grounds to this place are so big. It has underground tunnels and caves to explore, and a cute cafe in the centre.
The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.
Pena Palace
The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.
Quinta da Regaleira


Cabo de Roca

Drive through Cabo de Roca. This is the western most point in Europe! There are beautiful clifftop views of the ocean, and pretty lighthouses! This can be a quick stop to watch the sunset.

The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.

Other Potential Day Trip Options:

  • Caiscais: A coastal town known for it’s beaches and marina!
  • Nazara: This would be a good place to stop and sleep after Cabo de Roca and Sintra!
  • Almoural: There is a castle on an island, it’s pretty cool. But is definitely just an afternoon stop!
  • Fatima: Pilgrimage site in Portugal – “Our Lady of Fatima” was the Virgin Mary (Jesus’ Mother). People from all over the world come to visit this site and pray. It was beautiful.
  • Mira: A fishing town, closer to Averio
  • Aveiro: Known as “Little Venice of Portugal” – cute little city with canals. Could also be an afternoon stop! Had beautiful coloured huts on the beach.
The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.
Aveiro


Hope you enjoyed this guide! Don’t hesitate to ask us any questions. We truly think you’ll have the experience of a lifetime exploring the beauty of Lisbon!

Check out our related post on The Best Places to Visit in Lisbon

S & S

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The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.
The Ultimate Guide to Lisbon Portugal - Complete guide covering everything you need to know before visiting Lisbon - how to get there, how to get around, where to stay & for how long, what to see & do, where to eat, where to party, & easy must-do day trips from Lisbon.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    emma
    March 7, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    Ah Libson looks so dreamy, I cannot wait to visit! This post is super useful, will come back to it when I plan my trip!

    • Reply
      thompsontrotters
      March 9, 2020 at 2:34 am

      You’ll have the best time!!

  • Reply
    melissa
    March 11, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    That looks like an amazing place to visit and the view from Castelo de Sao Jorge looks breathtaking! Those are amazing day trips, well. I can’t wait to go! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    March 12, 2020 at 7:56 am

    This is an awesome guide. I especially love the checklist you made so you dont miss out on things to do while in Lisbon. The photos are beautiful too.

  • Reply
    Cass
    March 13, 2020 at 3:57 am

    Ah Lisbon is such a beautiful city!

  • Reply
    Marisa
    March 14, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    Lisbon is my fav place ever?

  • Reply
    Mel
    March 15, 2020 at 10:50 am

    What a detailed and comprehensive guide! Saving this for when I go. Portugal has been on my bucket list for a while.

    • Reply
      thompsontrotters
      March 16, 2020 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks! You will fall in love with it when you go!

  • Reply
    Kanupriyaa
    March 16, 2020 at 2:43 am

    I love the history in Portugal, it has so much to see that is historically relevant and beautiful! And the checklist is a great idea!

    • Reply
      thompsontrotters
      March 16, 2020 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks! Honestly, it is such an incredible country!

  • Reply
    Tina
    March 18, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Lisbon (& the rest of Portugal) looks incredible! Saving this for later <3

    • Reply
      thompsontrotters
      March 18, 2020 at 6:13 pm

      It really was incredible!!

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