Last Updated on September 8, 2020 by queenie mak
I love Lisbon! It’s one of those cities that you can immediately fall in love with. It’s all about the beautiful mosaic sidewalks, gorgeous architecture, delicious food and friendly people. I always say “I can see myself living here” wherever I travel to, but honestly, I can really see myself living here!
As the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon is charismatic and stunning in every way. You can sense the rich history in the city with a hint of modernism. Gastronomy is one of the highlights and not to mention the nightlife. You cannot even tell that the city went through a devasting earthquake.
What I like most about Lisbon is the laid-back culture. I love how people can just have a relaxing afternoon at the park, sipping beer or wine and enjoying the weather and sunset. The people I’ve met have been so friendly and helpful. I really wished I can speak the language and learn more about Portuguese culture.
So whether you visit Lisbon for a quick weekend trip or long-term stay, you will fall in love with the city and want to return someday.
Related Post – The Complete 2 week itinerary in Portugal
Why Lisbon is great for a solo female traveller
Portugal is one of the safest countries in Europe. If you have safety concerns as a solo female traveller, you don’t have to worry too much in Lisbon. There are pockets in the city where you may feel out of place, but I had zero problems in the city. I felt safe walking around the city at all times. But as usual, you always have to be somewhat alert in a big city.
In terms of transportation, Lisbon’s efficient transportation can take you almost everywhere without a car. You can hop on the Metro, bus, tram, and suburban trains (for Cascais and Sintra) with the Viva Viagem Card (stored value ticket). Just make sure you keep the card and add money to it. Furthermore, there are plenty of taxis and Uber is also an option. Remember to download the app before you travel.
As for value, Portugal is one of the more affordable countries in Europe. There are plenty of affordable accommodation options and both food and wine are cheap in Portugal. The affordability aspect makes Portugal an excellent choice for long-term or slow travel.
And ladies, you don’t need to know Portuguese for you to visit Portugal. Most people speak English (especially the younger generation), but it would be nice if you learn a word or two in Portuguese. I only knew with olá (hello) and obrigada (thank you).
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Where to stay in Lisbon
Whether you are staying for a few days or a few weeks, it is a great idea to stay in a central location where you can easily visit all the sites on foot. There are many great neighbourhoods to stay, including Chiado, Bairro Alto and Alfama.
There are a ton of accommodation options in Lisbon. Hostels are great for travellers on a budget. Many hotels are available for people with different levels of luxury. You can find either option on Agoda. As for myself, I wanted a space that feels like home. So naturally, Airbnb was my choice.
I stayed at the newly renovated Zebra House in Chiado for the first few days in Lisbon. The spacious apartment is on the third floor of a quiet street. The apartment is all new (you can still smell the paint), has comfortable beds, a full kitchen and a comfortable living room. It truly is a treat to stay in such a nice apartment in such a central neighbourhood. I highly recommend this place! And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
Towards the end of my trip, I stayed at a hostel in Chiado. However, I didn’t quite like the hostel so I won’t talk too much about it here. I booked it very last minute and would’ve liked to stay in some other places like Hub Lisbon Patio Hostel or Back to Lisbon Hostel. They both have great common spaces where you can meet other travellers and private sleeping quarters.
Related Post – How to save money by booking Airbnb accommodation
Where to eat in Lisbon
It is rather difficult to choose something you want to eat in Lisbon because there are just too many choices! And if you are a seafood lover, Lisbon is totally for you!
Below are a few places I tried while I was in Lisbon. A typical entrée would cost about 8-10,00€ and a glass of wine is about 2,00€.
You will find restaurants almost everywhere in Lisbon. And coffee shops are popular amongst digital nomads and for anyone who needs a caffeine fix. And don’t forget to indulge in all the desserts in Lisbon!
And if you want to bring home some food souvenirs, then you must buy a few cans of sardines from Conserveira de Lisboa.
- Cervejaria Ramiro – Av. Almirante Reis nº1 – H; considered to be the best seafood restaurant in Lisbon. I bookmarked it on my Instagram for a long time because I knew this is a restaurant I want to try it. I went at 5:30 pm to avoid the long line-ups and I only waited for about five minutes or so. Even though I dined alone, I tried many things like grilled tiger prawns, garlic clams and a shellfish/clam which I do not recall the name. And of course, a half bottle of wine to pair with all the delicious seafood goodness! I have to admit – it was quite fantastic and highly recommend this restaurant!
- Alfama Cellar – R. dos Remédios 127-131; a cozy and intimate little restaurant in Alfama that serves an old Lisbon codfish stew and lamb stew. Both were excellent!
- Flor dos Arcos – Largo do Chafariz de Dentro 12; an alfresco restaurant in Alfama that makes delicious grilled sardines. And not to mention, a yummy white sangria!
- O Caçador da Oliveira – R. da Oliveira ao Carmo 73; it was recommended by my Airbnb host as this is a place visited by locals mostly. The grilled sardine and veal chops were both fantastic. And the price is on point too!
- Timeout Market – Av. 24 de Julho 49; a popular modern marketplace for traditional and fusion Portuguese food. The problem with this place is that there are too many good food vendors to choose from. Your task of narrowing down to just one entrée is somewhat difficult. The first time I was there, I had grilled sea bass with wine, of course. And on the last night in Lisbon, I went back and had grilled octopus and potatoes.
- Dear Breakfast – R. Gaivotas 17; a cool, hip and totally Instagrammable brunch spot that serves delicious eggs, smoothies and coffee. They even have a pink latte for those of you who like to take photos of your food and post them on Instagram. Ha!
- Café Boavida – R. do Poço dos Negros 119; a causal bohemian coffee shop that serves a great codfish on toast with salad and cappuccino. The cafe is an excellent space for working and catching up with friends over coffee.
- Hello, Kristof – R. do Poço dos Negros 103; a small coffee shop with super friendly staff. The latté and acai bowl are both delicious!
- Copenhagen Coffee Lab – several locations; they serve a strong coffee in a modern and comfortable interior. I went to two different locations in Lisbon, and they are both welcoming for people who want to do some serious work.
- Pastéis de Belém – Rua Belém 84-92; considered to be the best custard tarts in Lisbon. I must say, it is fantastic! I’ve had my fair share of custard tarts and this one is one of the best. The crust is especially flaky and crunchy and it is super good when it is fresh out of the oven. The takeout line-up is long and looks intimidating. But if you have a few moments, go to the back and sit in their lovely cafe and enjoy these little treats!
- Nannarella – R. Nova da Piedade 64; the menu is in Portuguese, but I had no problem picking two flavours of gelato. It is quite a popular place for locals and tourists!
- Gelato Davvero – Av. Dom Carlos i 39; don’t leave Lisbon without trying Geleta Davvero! They have unique flavours like lavender & ginger gelato and port wine. And they really pile on the ice cream on your cone – great value for you are paying.
What to do in Lisbon
Lisbon is the biggest city in Portugal, and you can leisurely see the city in 3-4 days. Stroll through Chiado, Bairro Alto, Alfama (neighbourhoods in Lisbon) and everywhere in between to see the best historical attractions.
Lisbon is a compact city and is best visited on foot. I’ve always love to see a city on foot. Not only do I get an up-close and personal experience with the city but walking is also a sustainable way to travel.
But some of the hills can be pretty daunting. If your legs are tired of climbing all the hills in Lisbon, hop on Tram 28 and see most of the sites on the tram.
Visit Praça do Comércio, an important hub in front of River Tagus. It is the largest public square in Lisbon where traditional buildings line all three sides. Then walk north and browse through the pedestrian streets full of shops and restaurants. You will also find Elevator Santa Justa in this area as well. The elevator is unique (and touristy) so be prepared to wait in line for taking the elevator ride up. One of my favourite sites is Carmo Convent, shown in the main photo of the blog. You can see how the earthquake of 1755 destroyed parts of the church. The roof is non-existent and the interior is completely exposed. And if you want to indulge in some culture, visit Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea – Museu do Chiado for Portuguese art from the 19th century to the present day.
Bairro Alto is full of character, graffiti, restaurants and hilly narrow streets. I loved wandering and not knowing where each road will lead me to. And local and tourists gather at the Viewpoint of Santa Catarina to listen to music, drink beer while watching the sunset. I loved visiting all the viewpoints in Lisbon but this one has the biggest crowd and best entertainment. If you want to do what the locals do, buy beer from the local store and bring it back to the viewpoint, then enjoy your beverage, listen to music and enjoy the sunset. This is typically what happens almost every night when the weather is beautiful during the warmer months. And while you are wandering in Bairro Alto, look for the Ascensor da Bica. You can either take a photo (the best view is from Largo do Calhariz) or ride the funicular.
Probably my favourite area in Lisbon! The streets are even more narrow and more hilly than ever! You get an awesome workout while visiting all the sites! Ha!
And because Lisbon is a very hilly city, the natural landscape created many panoramic viewpoints for people to visit and to enjoy the views of the city. Igreja e Convento da Graça and Miradouro de Santa Luzia are both exceptional for sunsets. Or you can visit Castelo de S. Jorge to watch the sunset and visit a castle. Further east, you will find the National Pantheon. And in close proximity, there is a flea market every Tuesday and Saturday at Feira da Ladra. It’s quite a specular scene to see all the vendors displaying all their goods and the massive crowd enjoying the atmosphere. Before you leave Alfama, also check out Lisbon Cathedral as well.
If you go a bit further east of Alfama, visit Museu Nacional do Azulejo. The museum displays tile art that is unique to Portuguese culture. They have displays of various types of tiles or azulejo, which is the blue and white glazed tiles that decorate many churches in Portugal. I’m pretty impressed with the beautiful azulejo because each decorative tiles is different from one another and collectively, they have an interesting pattern or tell a significant historical and cultural story. And these little intricate tiles is one of the best souvenirs from Portugal!
Interested in tours around Lisbon? Try one of these tours below:
Day Trips from Lisbon
There is so much to do in Lisbon that it can take several days to see all the sites. But make your way out of the city to visit Belém, Sintra and Cascais. They are all such extraordinary spots that they deserve their own blog post. Take a look at my post on Lisbon day trips.