The Complete Lisbon Travel Guide
GET TO KNOW LISBON
Lisbon is the capital and largest city of Portugal. This city, located directly on the mouth of the Tejo river, has a rich history, serving as entrance and exit for so many people throughout the times.
Lisbon is painted with ice-cream colored buildings that shine all year round, the cobbled streets will take you to hidden gems and the river sets the perfect mood to relax at the end of the day.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Lisbon gained more international recognition by being awarded World’s Leading City Break Destination by the World Tourism Awards and this brought a massive upturn in its tourism industry. This had the effect of changing the city in ways that are still taking place today with neighborhoods renovated, more infrastructures and jobs.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
- Best time to visit Lisbon
July and August are probably the busiest times to visit Lisbon; at the same time most of the locals have their summer vacations, so traffic in the city is reduced but lines tend to get longer in attractions.
Lisbon’s climate is mostly mild so practically any time is a good time to visit. Spring and Fall are great times to visit as the weather is pleasant to tour around. Traveling in the winter months means you will get better deals, but you might find some rainy days.
Lisbon has around 290 days of sunshine per year.
- How to get around Lisbon
The Lisbon city is very well connected with public transportation such as bus, trams (electrics) and metro (underground). The city is well served with Uber, Bold, Taxify as well as electric scooters and electric bikes to rent.
Lisbon city is made to walk but built on hills, so it is recommended that you wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
Portuguese is the official language, but English is widely spoken. You can use Portuguese words like “obrigado” & “obrigada” (thank you), bom dia (good morning) and olá (hello).
- Currency & Payments
The currency is the EURO. Major credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants but have some cash ready for cafeterias, snack bars, small shops and taxis.
When going to an ATM it’s best to go to an official bank rather than the regular that reads “ATM” as these will charge tremendous fees. Also, by going to an ATM in an official bank, if by any chance your card gets stuck, you can easily recover it.
TIP: Multibanco is the Portuguese word for ATM and the withdrawal limit is €400 per day.
- Lisbon travel costs
Lisbon is one of the least expensive cities to travel compared to other European cities, but the amount of money you need to spend on your visit to Lisbon depends on your travel style and your budget.
Lisbon has several options from budget travel to luxury holidays.
To make it easier we break it down (accommodation prices shown are per room, all others are per person):
- Budget/limited service
• Hostel Bed/Double Room/Apartment: €15 – €50
• Meals: €6 – €15
• Groceries for a week: €30
• Transportation card for 24 hours: €10.55
- Mid-range Service
• Hotel/apartment: €50 – €150
• 3 course Meals: €18 – €50
• Day tours: €20 – €80
• Attractions tickets: €6 – €14
- World class Service
• Hotel room: €150 – €250 (+)
• Meal in a Michelin Star or high-end restaurant: €100 – €190 (tasting menus, drinks not included)
• Dinner in a Fado restaurant: from €50
• Private Tours: €90 – €150
- Budget/limited service
- A Taxi from the airport costs €12-€15
- An Uber from the airport costs between €5 – €9 (depending on the time of the day)
- An all transportation pass for 24 hours costs €10,55. If you want to visit monuments at a discounted price or with free entrance, consider buying the Lisboa Card for €20
- A one-way metro ticket costs €1.50
- One bus ticket bought on the bus costs €2.00, when bought previously costs €1.80
- A bottle of water costs €1.30 when bought in a cafeteria/restaurant. If bought in the supermarket costs less than €0.30
- An expresso costs €0.65 – €1.50
- A pastry costs around €1
- Where to stay in Lisbon
Lisbon city has a total population of around 505.000 people and it is divided into neighborhoods or parishes.
Each of the city’s neighborhoods have its own charm.
Get the perfect combination of local and tourist life in Alfama or Graça. Stick close to the city center in Baixa, Chiado or Avenida, enjoy nightlife to the fullest in Bairro Alto, Princípe Real or Cais do Sodré.
Alternatively stay in the business area of Saldanha or the modern part called Parque das Nações.
- What to eat in Lisbon?
Visitors can experience a wide range of Portuguese cuisine and of other cultures in this dynamic city. There is something for everyone.
- Grab Pastéis de Nata and an expresso for breakfast
- Try a Bifana – pork sandwich. Take it to the next level of local life and eat your bifana at the counter in the bar
- Eat Caldo Verde – green kale soup, served from north to south of Portugal, it is one of the 7 Gastronomic Wonders in Portugal
- Eat Frango – roasted chicken that can be considered as local fast-food. We eat it on a Friday night when we do not feel like cooking. Spice things up by adding a bit of Piri-Piri sauce to your roasted chicken, then drink beer to calm things down
- Eat Bacalhau for lunch – bacalhau is codfish and we have more than 1000 ways of cooking it. Even though it is salted cod, it rests in water before cooked, so the texture and flavor are perfect
- Lose the fear of eating Polvo – octopus is not calamari and when cooked well it is the perfect combination between kitchen and Ocean. Polvo à lagareiro is the most common dish
- Cozido à Portuguesa is the most typical Portuguese dish and it is more common to find it in restaurants during cold months. It is a combination of meat, vegetables, sausages and tastes amazing
- For a weeks’ worth of calories try Bitoque – steak, fries, egg, rice and salad
TIP: It is customary to bring the starters to the table. You pay for what you eat and if you don’t want, you can send them away without paying.
TIP: If you see a sticker at the entrance of a restaurant saying “não temos multibanco” it means they do not accept cards.
TIP: Do not be surprised if it takes a bit of time to bring the check. A meal is all about relaxing and enjoying, so no rush.
- Things to do in Lisbon
The options are endless, from outdoor activities to seeing roman ruins underground.
- Get lost in Alfama
- Visit the National Tile Museum
- Ride a tram
- Head to Belém and learn about the age of exploration of Portugal by visiting the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery
- Venture off Lisbon to Sintra to visit the summer town of the royals and aristocrats
- Dive in the crystal-clear waters south of Lisbon
- People watch in Chiado – this is the bohemian area of Lisbon with one of the busiest metro stations and locals go out and about with their lives through here
- Wonder around the city center and in the Avenida relax in the shade
- Eat local food & talk to locals
- Buy your souvenirs from Lojas com História – shops with history are an initiative to help family’s businesses that have been around for centuries
- How long to stay in Lisbon?
Lisbon is a great city break, but you need more than 3 days to see the entire city. Although you can see the main highlights in 2 or 3 days, extra time in the city will allow you to explore nearby places such as Sintra, Cascais & Arrábida. You can use Lisbon as your base and take several day trips during your week stay to places like Évora, Fátima and Óbidos.
TIP: if the place you want to visit is more than 1h30 minutes from Lisbon, consider spending a night there. A day trip to Porto or Lagos, for example, can be very exhausting to do in one day, plus you will not enjoy the true atmosphere of the places.
- Is Lisbon suitable for children?
Lisbon is a great choice for a family holiday with many attractions for children such as Lisboa Story Center, the Oceanarium, the Planetarium and many more.
Portuguese culture is very family focused so children are welcome anywhere.
TIP: Consider swapping the stroller for a baby carrier because of the cobble stones.
- Is Lisbon gay-friendly?
Lisbon is a very gay-friendly city. Portugal was the eight country in the world to allow same-sex marriage in 2010 and since 2016 that full adoption rights were granted by the Parliament. Since 2011 that the Gender Identity Law was simplified allowing Portuguese to change name and gender from the age of 14.
The most LGBTQ attractions and events are in the urban centers of Portugal.
- Is Lisbon safe?
According to the Global Peace Index 2020, Portugal is the 3rd most peaceful country in the world.
The Portuguese are very welcoming and friendly, and the country has a stable political situation. Tourism represents a big part of the economy and no efforts are spared to make things running smoothly and safely, so it is common to find police officers in main touristy areas.
Pickpockets in Lisbon should be your main concern, specially in packed public transportation or in line for attractions, so common sense is expected – just as you would do in your home country.
It has been a long time that Portugal is a touristic destination because of the amazing coastline from North to South and warm weather, but there is so much more to see. Being a small country and easy to navigate, you can easily explore a lot during a two week stay in Portugal.
With an airport very close to the city center, great transportation connection, endless options of things to do and warm and welcoming locals, Lisbon is the perfect place to spend your vacation and hopefully this Lisbon travel guide will make things easier for you.
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