Lisbon, (or Lisboa), the capital of Portugal, is one of my favorite cities in Europe. I would be happy if I were stuck here forever since it is one of the few places in Europe with good Mexican food and Craft Beer. Yes, Mexican food…It’s amazing. Lisbon has this old, gritty feel to it that gave it a lot of character. It was the winding streets, the locals on the corners, and the beer that made me feel at home.
It is situated along the south of the country’s west coast and is home to museums, historic buildings, eclectic music and nightlife, squares, and cafés to watch the world go by.
Lisbon’s postcard-perfect postcard-perfect setting features historic ruins, cobbled alleyways, and white-domed cathedrals carved from the hills above Rio Tejo along with the lookalike Golden Gate bridge. The seven hills of Lisbon tower over the cityscape like lofty guardians of color and history. The collection of terraces known as miradouros (viewpoints) provides a no-filter view across Lisbon, the Tejo, and beyond.
There are many beautiful miradouros you can visit in the city, including Portas do Sol, Santa Luzia, Castelo de Sao Jorge and da Graça, da Senhora do Monte.
Lisbon is known for its cheap booze and lack of open-container laws. In the daytime, Bairro’s Alto may seem sleepy, but at night these narrow cobblestone lanes become one of Europe’s raucous drinking hotspots except now because of Covid curfews.
In the area called Cais do Sodré you have the famous Pink Street and environs are home to some of the city’s classic nightclubs and rowdiest cocktail bars, while trendier megaclubs line the waterfront from Santos to Santa Apolónia.
Lisbon is the most expensive city in Portugal – but it’s still quite affordable compared to other European capitals. Here are some tips to help you save money in Lisbon:
Pick up a Lisbon Card – A Lisbon Card is a good idea if you plan to visit a lot of attractions. You can get free or discounted entrance to many attractions as well as unlimited public transportation. The price starts at 20 EUR for 24 hours, and there are also 48-hour cards for 34 EUR and 72-hour cards for 42 EUR (which is the best deal).
Get a bus pass – If you do not have the Lisbon Card and you intend on using public transportation a lot, purchase a day pass. They cost only 10.50 EUR and will save you a lot of money if you use the bus, tram, or metro often.
Bus – Buses are the most common way to get around the city (and the cheapest). Much faster and more affordable than riding the trams, the buses in Lisbon are clean and efficient. Tickets cost 1.80 EUR for a single ride. The most common (and cheapest) way to get around the city is by bus.
Uber -With Uber, you can get around town easily and at a very low cost. They typically arrive really fast as well. Even if you want to get across the city, expect to pay under 6 Euros per ride.
Tuk-Tuks – There are plenty of tuk-tuks bopping around town as well – and each is decorated in colorful patterns and designs. These are more suitable for small groups that can fill an entire tuk-tuk car and want a city tour, as they can be a bit pricey.
Tram Tours – If you’re looking for a fun ride on one of Lisbon’s famous tram cars, Tram #28 is the one to catch as it runs close to some of the city’s major attractions. You shouldn’t be surprised if you have to wait a long time to get on board and are crammed in like sardines, which isn’t the best thing in these times. There are also two tram lines within the city. There are also two types of trams: the modern Siemens “Articulado” trams and the historic “Remodelado” trams. A single ride ticket costs 2.85 EUR and trams run from about 5am to 10pm.
Subway – For a single fare of 1,90 EUR, you can easily travel from one side of the city to the other. There are four lines and 55 stations on the system. The information and maps are provided in English, so it is easy to navigate.
Double Decker Tour Bus –
The 24-hour or 48-hour ticket includes a double-decker bus tour of Lisbon with a multilingual audio guide. With three different routes to choose from, you’ll be able to visit the different sites at your own pace. While not as much fun as the before mentioned trams they aren’t as crowded and gives you the opportunity to get some fresh air if you sit on the upper deck.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN LISBON
1. Spend the day in Belem
It is here that top attractions such as the MAAT Museum, Belem Tower, and Jeronimos Monastery are located. A lot of tourists visit this area, Quite a few people visit the monastery and tower. Visit those sites first and early in the morning if they are on your list (i.e. 30 minutes to an hour before opening time to be first in line) otherwise you could stand in line for hours.
When you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop by Pastéis de Belém for a sweet treat of pastel de nata (the best place in town for them in my opinion). Pastel de Nata is a small custard tart available throughout Portugal.
2. Shop till you drop at the LX Factory
The LX Factory is the place to hang out for quirky boutiques, coffee shops, and outdoor dining. On Sundays, they close off the main street and have a market outside, in addition to all the cute shops already lining the area.
3. Take in the views of the city
Lisbon offers so many amazing views, but my two favorites were found at Miradouro da Graça and from the lookout points at Sao Jorge Castle..
4. Take photos of the adorable trams in Lisbon
Enjoy a tram ride or check out one of the city’s funiculars, which will help visitors avoid walking up/down some of the main hills while providing great photo opportunities! There’s the Ascensor do Lavra, Ascensor da Gloria and Ascensor da Bica (my favorite of the three).
THE TOP DAY TRIPS FROM LISBON
It is known for its castles and for accessing Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point on the European mainland with stunning views. We stayed here a few years ago and made day trips to Lisbon but I would do it in reverse since Sintra is nice to visit but Lisbon has a lot more things to do.
This is a quaint and colorful beach town perfect for soaking up the Portuguese sun.
The sixth film of the James Bond saga Casino Royale, was largely shot in Cascais and other parts of Portugal.
The cast stayed at the Hotel Palácio Estoril, and the hotel’s exterior, the lobby, and the pool are integral to many of the scenes.
Author Ian Fleming, also a journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer, created James Bond in his first book, Casino Royale (1953), based on the spies he met while staying at the Estoril Palácio Hotel during World War II.
The casino is quite nice and on a previous trip, I managed to pay for my entire trip with an hour at the blackjack table.
Surf lovers should visit this town as it is the place to be if you want to catch a good wave.
Douro Valley Wine Region
If you have time to spend an overnight stay or a couple of days outside of Lisbon and are in the mood for some wine tasting, head out to the world-famous Douro Valley. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, famous for its port wine.
WHERE TO EAT IN LISBON
There are literally hundreds of tasty restaurants of all types in Lisbon, making it impossible to visit them all, and for me on this most recent trip, I found myself primarily eating one of my favorite cuisines (Mexican) more than anything else. If you are visiting you may find other places more to your liking but for good Mexican food I can recommend Coyo Taco and Guacomole (Think an upgraded Chipotles). I even managed to find a Taco Bell there.
For more traditional Portugese dining options, there are many restaurants on the Pink Street. The street officially is called Rua Nova do Carvalho and lies in the now popular neighborhood Cais do Sodre which is in the heart of the tourist area.
In Portugal, please note that any food placed on the table prior to your order is not free (e.g. olives, cheeses, bread baskets). The charge can add up quickly, so save your calories for your main meal.
The best way to save money in Lisbon is to eat on the go. You can try the prego (beef sandwich) or the bifana (pork sandwich). Local cafes sell them for just 5 EUR.
You can expect to spend around 15-20 EUR for a nice sit-down meal with drinks (prices are higher in the touristy downtown area). You can find many local restaurants outside of downtown for around 14 EUR with a drink.
Craft Beer in Portugal: Portuguese Craft Breweries
When people arrive in Portugal, they are often disappointed by the beer selection. Because they don’t realize there’s much more to beer here than just Super Bock and Sagres. It is no longer the case that two lagers are the only beer available. Many people are surprised by just how much Portuguese craft beer is actually available. It does require a little more effort to find, unfortunately. A typical café or bar will not usually stock anything else but the famous national beers. You’ll need to seek out specialty pubs, bars, and even restaurants that serve better beer with their food. While we are big fans of Portugal’s breweries, if you seek a beer with a little bit more bite you should try a local craft brewery!
Cerveja Musa is one of the most popular craft breweries in Lisbon. They’re spreading a beer revolution inspired by music to Portugal too, with brewpubs in both Lisbon and Porto. The bottle designs are attractive, and the names are inspired by music; you’re sure to notice them.
The Lisbon location is just yards away from a bus stop, has a small area outside where you can sit at picnic-style tables and is only a few hundred yards away from the next brewery on our list, Dois Corvos
Try the following beers: Born in the IPA, Red Ze-ppelin and Mick Lager to name a few.
Dois Corvos is Portuguese for two crows! One could argue that Dois Corvos is the American heart of craft beer in Portugal. The co-founders moved to Lisbon from Seattle and found that the beer scene in Lisbon was severely lacking. They started Dois Corvos in 2013. They are credited with kick-starting the craft beer scene in Portugal, and they opened one of the first specialist taprooms. Lee Chase, the original brewer at Stone Brewing and regarded as one of San Diego’s O.G. ‘s recently joined them as the new head brewer. As of today, the brewery offers over 64 beers and many of them are available on tap at their taproom in Lisbon. There are 12 beers on tap at Dois Corvos, from session beers to aged stouts. If you want to try a bit of everything, we recommend ordering a 6 beer taster tray.
We lucked out in that we were there during an anniversary party and were able to sample some great beers. I especially liked the Grape Ale, a sour beer, and a barrel-aged stout.
This place and the beers are clearly a labor of love from the owner and her friends and employees, so I hope they continue to flourish! If you like old-school craft beer you’ll love this place. It reminded me of some of the nano breweries that existed decades ago in the U.S. before craft beer really became a thing.
It is also conveniently located within walking distance of Marquês de Pombal square, in a neighborhood that may not be buzzing with nightlife, which makes the AMO Brewery there feel very local and unique. The main attraction is that it brings open-minded people together for a night of beer sharing and chitchat. We were able to chat with some very friendly local ex-pats originally from Sweeden, Australia, and the U.S.
The brews were good and more closely resembled homebrew than finely crafted craft beer, their brewing system is basically a larger scale homebrew system so it totally makes sense. It can be described as a guerrilla-style Canadian-run nanobrewery that’s as tiny as can be. A German baker next door bakes homemade pretzels to accompany the American, British and European-style ales
Where to stay in Lisbon
If you’re visiting Lisbon for the first time, where should you stay? Chiado, Baixa, Principe Real, Bairro Alto, Avenida da Liberdade, and Alfama may be the best areas for you if you want to be within walking distance of major sights, restaurants, transportation, and shops.
Because of an early flight scheduled out of Lisbon, we stayed at the Tryp Hotel by the airport on this trip, which was only about a 5-minute walk away from both the airport and one of the subway stops. It took about 40 minutes to get to the main tourist areas from there.
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