I know I went on and on about how my time in Galway was a love affair for the ages, and I still maintain that a piece of my heart belongs there, but I can’t deny that after experiencing all of the amazing things to do in Lisbon Portugal, my heart has found yet another crush.

With it’s sexy slow-paced rhythm, winding white-and-black tiled streets, gentle sea breezes, and unbelievably sunny afternoons, how could a girl not fall in love?!

things to do in lisbon portugal

I went to Portugal with no expectations. Of course I assumed I would like it, but I hadn’t done much research so I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d find.

To summarize: Lisbon is a laid-back city with an extremely rich history, it has great food for very low prices, world-renown hostels, and a strong music culture. 

I kept finding myself comparing it to Madrid (where I’ve been living for the past 6th months), and I found it to be cheaper, have better food, and to be a much more beautiful city in general. I might be biased since I love cities that are close to water, but there was something so charming about Lisbon.

Also, nearly everyone I met spoke or understood English, much more-so than in Madrid or Paris. It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic sentences to be polite, but don’t think for a second that you’ll have a difficult time in Portugal if you don’t speak Portuguese!




WHERE TO STAY

If you’re on a budget:

Two of the best hostels in the WORLD are in Lisbon. Even if you’re not normally a hostel-lover (I’m not usually a huge fan), you should still consider checking out Home Lisbon Hostel.

They recently won an award for “Best Medium Hostel in the World” and it’s easy to see why. Just check out their Facebook page or profile on Hostelworld.com; almost every single reviewer claims it’s the best hostel they’ve ever stayed in, and I can definitely say the same.

The hostel is spacious and beautifully decorated, the community of travelers is warm and inviting, and the location couldn’t be better. You get the feeling that you’re staying in someone’s gorgeous home, rather than in a hostel.

The owner’s mother (“Mama”) makes an amazing dinner for anyone who signs up (10 euros) every night. It includes an appetizer, entree, dessert, wine during the meal and a toast with local Portuguese liquors/wines at the end. It’s a great way to experience local cuisine & make friends from around the world.

things to do in lisbon portugal

things to do in lisbon portugal

things to do in lisbon portugal

things to do in lisbon portugal

If your budget is a bit bigger:

If you aren’t into the hostel scene & you have a slightly higher budget, I’d recommend renting a room or flat via AirBnb. At one point I was considering staying in Lisbon for a month, so I was searching for something cheap on AirBnb, and I found some really great options!

Staying near the water would be lovely, or in Bairro Alto, the hip-bohemian neighborhood with great restaurants and bars that really come alive at night with a mixed international crowd of all ages. Here are a few examples of what I found:

Cozy flat for 2 people for $72/night.

Gorgeous loft for 4 people for $89/night.

Amazing home for 5 people for $74/night (with Portuguese cellphone during your stay).

Double private room with a view in Bed and Breakfast for $66/night.

Cute double room in a shared flat for $43/night.

WHAT TO DO

Free walking tour

I highly recommend starting off your stay in Lisbon Portugal with a free walking tour from Wild Walkers. It’s about 2 hours long, so bring your walking shoes and a camera because there will be tons of great photo ops. Lucky for you, Lisbon is a very photogenic city!

The tour guide was probably the best I’ve ever had due to his honest, quirky & interesting presentation of Lisbon. He was so good that we decided to also take his fado Tour…

The tours are offered every day, and assuming you enjoy it, it is customary to pay a small donation/tip at the end.

things to do in lisbon portugal

Watch the videos in HD for better quality!

Fado tour

If you do a Google search on Portugal, the musical genre of fado is sure to come up.

Fado generally has a melancholic tone, and was traditionally sung by the poor & the outlaws to express their sorrows, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I don’t want to give away too many details about the history of it, because it’s much more fun to learn from the local tour guide, but I can promise that it is fascinating.

Of course you could find an expensive touristy dinner & fado show package on your own, or even dig up a few free fado bars to check out, but chances are you won’t know what you’re listening to, you won’t understand the lyrics, and you’ll end up with a very superficial appreciation for the music.

The fado tour from Wild Walkers costs 15 euros & includes: a local guide who is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about fado & its history, free local ginjinha cherry liquor in a traditional chocolate cup, tapas & wine at a fado restaurant during the show, translations from the guide and discussions about the meaning of each song, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of the restaurant. We even got to meet and talk with the performers!

I was so thrilled by this tour, I would do it again in a heartbeat. To be honest, I looked up a fado video on Youtube before my trip, and wasn’t blown away. This tour completely changed my perception of the music, and was the most memorable part of my time in Lisbon. Of all the things to do in Lisbon, I recommend this tour the most!

As you might know, I obsessively seek out live music when I’m travelling, but I truly believe this is an activity that everyone would enjoy.

The fado tours are not offered every day, so contact the company beforehand to find out when they are.

things to do in lisbon portugal

things to do in lisbon portugal

 To watch more videos of Fado & other musical performances from Lisbon, read my post on “Music in Lisbon“.

People watch in Praça do Comércio

People watching is a great activity that can be done in any cafe or plaza anywhere in the world. But doing it in Praça do Comércio, despite its popularity with the tourists, is definitely worthy of a few hours in your schedule.

I recommend going in the mid-afternoon to soak up the last of the sun and relax with a cup of coffee or wine. Make sure to grab a seat at one of the restaurants on the left, then turning your chair outward to face the center of the square.

The food served at the restaurants here is good but definitely on the pricey side, so it’s best to plan on just having a drink and grabbing lunch/dinner elsewhere.

BUDGET SAVING TIP: If you’re trying to save money, grab some snacks from a market and head across the street from the Praça do Comércio. You can sit right by the water for as long as you want, & take in the river and the plaza at the same time. You might even catch some free live music

things to do in lisbon portugal

Catch a sunset from ZamBeZe Rooftop Restaurant

You’ll be taken to the ZamBeZe rooftop during the day on the free walking tour for the great views of the city, but it’s definitely worth going back in the evening to catch a sunset.

If you’re on a budget, you can order just a glass of water or wine while taking in the scenery. I even saw some people sitting on the edge of the rooftop who did not appear to be paying customers, so you could make this a free activity.

things to do in lisbon portugal

things to do in lisbon portugal

Experience Lisbon nightlife

Lisbon is known around Europe for its amazing nightlife. Having spent the past 6 months in Madrid where the nightlife doesn’t end until 9am (or later), I wasn’t totally blown away by the nightlife, but found it to be pretty on-par with Madrid. Americans read: you will most likely be blown away. 

If you’re staying at Home Lisbon Hostel, and  feeling like a big night out, just hop on the Pub Crawl that stops by the hostel every night.

The best neighborhood for a mix of eclectic bars with something for everyone is the Bairro Alto area that I mentioned earlier. The bars here close at 2 or 3am, so if you’re in the mood to dance or keep drinking, you’ll probably want to head to a club.

There are no clubs in Bairro Alto, but a local recommended Lux Club for a good time. There’s also a popular club called Lust in the Praça do Comércio.

Take a day trip to Sintra

Sintra is sometimes described as “the most romantic place on Earth“, and I couldn’t agree more. There is so much to do and see that I would recommend not trying to fit it all into one afternoon; it’s best to spend an entire day there.

A trip to Sintra deserves its own post, so keep your eyes open for one soon.

things to do in lisbon portugal

things to do in lisbon portugal

things to do in lisbon portugal




WHAT/WHERE TO EAT

The Portuguese seem to be a big fan of large portions of very filling, but relatively healthy foods. The food scene is quite international (more-so than Madrid), so you can find pretty much anything.

Bacalau, or cod, is the local favorite (but don’t be fooled, the fish actually comes from Norway according to my walking tour guide), so you can’t leave Lisbon without giving that a try because you’ll see it EVERYWHERE.

You can ask your hostel, hotel, or walking tour guide for more recommendations, but here are a few:

Santa Rita Restaurante

Recommended by a local, this is a fantastic spot for lunch. The portions are ENORMOUS, the food is extremely cheap, and it’s mostly filled with locals. It’s a little hard to find, but well worth the effort.

Keep in mind that in Portugal when the waiters put bread and butter on your table, you have to pay for it if you eat it – it’s not included with your meal.

Taberna Ideal

This was recommended to me by a local who said it was his favorite restaurant in Lisbon, but there were no tables open when I showed up on a Saturday night.

(Make a reservation regardless of the night to be safe! Not only is it a local favorite, I just discovered that it’s listed on the Lonely Planet site. This place is apparently so good that it’s not a secret!)

Luckily, they own a second restaurant right next door called Petiscaria Ideal, that had a few tables open.

Both restaurants are tapa-style, meaning you order a few different small plates to try and share them between your group. The food at Petiscaria was some of the best I’ve had in 6 months in Europe, so I can only imagine it was similar or better at Taberna Ideal.

things to do in lisbon portugal

Pastéis de Belém

Pastel de nata is a delicious Portuguese egg tart & Pastéis de Belém is a bakery famous for it’s own unique version of it. There’s usually a bit of a line, but it moves quickly and the pastries are warm, fresh & delicious. They’re so good, you might as well leave your self-control at the door and order at least two.

The pastry has a pretty interesting history, so I’ll refer you to Wikipedia if you’d like to learn more.

things to do in lisbon portugal

Trobadores Taberna Medieval

A unique medieval-style tavern, that goes all out in the details. Everything from the seating, to the candles, to the decor and the goblets seemed authentic.

This is more of a place to grab a drink, although there were tapas and small meals available.

To complete the experience, I recommend trying the mead (or hidromel in Portuguese)!

things to do in lisbon portugal

WHEN TO GO

Spring and Fall to take advantage of the pleasant temperatures, smaller crowds, and cheaper rates.

There is a huge festival called the Feast of St. Anthony in June, that draws loads of tourists and locals into the streets. If you’re planning a trip during that time, make sure to book your accommodations many months in advance.

things to do in lisbon portugal

I’ve heard many travelers profess their love of Lisbon, but most of them have spent a significant amount of time travelling in Europe.

I’ve rarely heard family or American friends ever express a desire to visit Lisbon, or even any interest in it.

Paris, London, Italy and Greece are always mentioned (often in that order), with Germany, Ireland and Spain occasionally making the list.

Of course most people would say they’d love to explore every European country if they had the money, time, freedom, etc., but with limited resources and vacation days, they can only cross a couple of European countries off their bucket list (if they’re lucky).

I want you to know that Lisbon is cheap, charming, and 100% deserving of your precious time.

—————

Have any questions about things to do in Lisbon Portugal? Leave them in the comments!

And if not, let me know what other European destinations you would like to see covered here!




46 COMMENTS

  1. We were in Lisbon for the briefest of visits. Still it was time enough to conclude that we preferred it to Madrid. Thanks for the itinerary for when we make our return there.

    • So glad you found it helpful! Sintra is beyond gorgeous…those photos don’t even begin to show how beautiful it is. Let me know how you like it whenever you make it there! 🙂

  2. Great post. You are right, not many Americans prioritize Portugal but this post inspires me to move it up my list. I live in an area with many Portuguese people that visit to see family but that is it. Thanks for the great suggestions.

  3. I love that you included so many things at so many different price points. I haven’t been to Lisbon before but you’ve made it look so appealing (and a nice way to avoid part of the Canadian winter)

    • Canadian winters are brutal!! I grew up on the border of Canada (Massena, NY) so I can relate. I hear winter is still pretty terrible over there – hang in there 🙂

    • I agree! I didn’t get to spend much time on the beach because it was still a little too chilly for that when I went. I’ll have to come back and give surfing a shot 😉

  4. If you loved Lisbon you must come to Oporto, cheaper the people are nice, cousier and with a lot of history starting with oporto wine!

    • I actually spent about 4 days in Oporto before visiting Lisbon! I loved it, but unfortunately it was pouring rain every single day so I’m planning to go back in Sept/Oct. 🙂 I’ll be writing a post on Oporto soon…

  5. Great article. I would add just one more item though. Lisbon has many
    great museums. If you love art and museums you must see the Gulbenkian
    and the Museum of Ancient Art and there are many more.
    There are also many beautiful churches and I would recommend the
    Igreja de São Roque and the museum that is next door.

  6. I had a brief 5 hour stopover in Lisbon and absolutely loved it. This makes me want to go back and see it properly. Great guide!

  7. So many very useful info here, thanks for sharing! I wanted to go to Lisbon for long time and this post is pushing me even more to book a one way ticket and just go. I love the look of the city, the street art and how friendly the people look. Home Lisbon Hostel looks great too, I think that would be my choice regarding accommodation. Thanks!

  8. I’m heading to Lisbon in June so this post will be EXTREMELY helpful! Thank you for putting together such a detailed guide 🙂

    • Hi, Lizzie and Christine
      I hope you, Lizzie, have a great time in Lisbon, but i’m going to give just a few advices regarding your stay:
      The best places to eat is in ‘tabernas’: small and cozy places, very cheap and with great food – Taberna da Rua das Flores (Rua das Flores), Santa Gula Snack Bar (Rua do Alecrim) Sol & Pesca (Cais do Sodré). You can look for all this places in website or Facebbok pages. Cais do Sodré is another night spot in Lisbon, besides Bairro Alto. They are closer to ecah other, Bairro Alto is up, Cais do Sodré is down (you can take the subway to both). The Cais do Sodré’s Pink Street (literally painted in pink) used to be a place where sailors would look for street lady’s. Nowadays is one of the most trendy places in the city, with its restaurants, tabernas, bars and dance clubs, like Musicbox, Tokyo and Jamaica.
      If you had the chance, take the train from Cais do Sodré to Cascais, the lovely village by the sea. On of my favorite spot in Lisbon is Chiado, with its trendy and fashion stores, the best ‘gelatarias’ (ice creams), like Santinis, and its michelin restaurants, like Belcanto. Chiado it’s very near Bairro Alto, but it’s upper class.
      Things you should take care: never eat in restaurants in Baixa (Like rua Augusta and Rossio), these are restaurants where the food isn’t good and it’s expensive for the quality.
      Look out for pick pockets and drug sellers in Praça do Comércio. Lisbon is a very safe place – its a city where my children take the subway and walk alone and feel safe – but in those places where are many tourists the are also thief. Portuguese are very friendly and nice, if you chat with someone it’s possible that you ended up having dinner with they. But if someone offer their help and look suspicious, doubt of their intentions, ok?
      The best places to see sunsets: Noobai- great view and food, great music selection (Santa Catarina, near Bairro Alto), Park (the roof top of a parkin lot), also near Bairro Alto, Bairro Alto Hotel (drink a gin or a glass of wine, it’s expensive( (look for all this places in websites or Facebboks pages). If you need some more advices you can also look for me in Facebook – Helena Ales Pereira (i’m a journalist). In June there Festas da Cidade (city’s parties), with sardines festival, concerts, walks through the city, exhibitions and so one. Enjoy your site, Lisboa is unique! : )

  9. Booked a trip to Lisbon for August and found your post amazingly helpful. Thanks for putting so much time into it and adding all of the helpful info.

  10. This is a great list of recommendations. Portugal has indeed many of these hidden gems but if you don’t have an inside connection you many not find them.

    If you’re visiting Portugal, I recommend using services like http://www.WiserGo.com which connects you with Portuguese experts, who can help you decide what do to, book everything and provide customer support while you’re in Portugal. Since they are local agents, they know the ins-and-outs of everything and you get to experience the country as a local! Service is free and the testimonials in their homepage are pretty positive.

  11. the more i read and the more photos I see, the higher Lisbon and Portugal climb on my bucket list. Which I am busy compiling right now lol! What a wonderful post, you clearly love the city, it looks beautiful in your photos! Thanks for posting – can I link this post to a post I’ll be writing on my blog on Thursday? please let me know. cheers – Andrew

    PS how do i subscribe to your blog? I can find a ‘follow’ link.

  12. I am portuguese and I live in Portugal and after reading this article I want to go to Lisbon with tourist eyes because unfortunately when I go there is always for others reasons and never to enjoy and visit with some time all this beautiful places.

    If you allow me, I work with some Holiday Rentals that can be a good place to stay for who is visiting Portugal, you can see them here: http://www.silvercoastfinest.com/holiday-rentals/

  13. Pinning for future reference…I’m hoping to finally go to Portugal next summer. It’s been high on my wish list for a long time, partly because my Brazilian in-laws are very eager to go there since they feel a cultural affinity.

  14. You’re right that Americans are not interested in Portugal ( Lisbon ) . It appears to be off the radar for most and I hope it remains that way . How great is it to not have to encounter that entitled, insular attitude or the overly loud voices and behavior they seem to bring with them to all the spots mentioned above !

  15. Great post! Just booked my trip to Lisbon, like you I booked without researching or anticipating much, but definitely looking forward to it! Do you know much about Lagos as well? I’m trying to find a comparison of the two places but not having a super amount of luck on the ol’ google machine.

  16. I love Portugal and I’d go back in a heartbeat! Food is fantastic, people are so lovely and places are incredibly beautiful!

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