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Solo Traveller’s Guide to Lisbon, Portugal

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 its 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. 

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What you need to know before taking a solo trip to Lisbon

Before you take a solo trip to Lisbon, take a look at my travel tips that you may find useful for Porto:

  • Lisbon is a safe city for solo female travellers.
  • You don’t have to know any Portuguese in order for you to visit Lisbon. You can get by speaking English only but it would be nice to learn a few basic phrases like hello (olá) and thank you (obrigada) in Portuguese.
  • Portugal has 3 network providers for cell phones and data. SIM cards do not require registration and topping up your card is easy. But there is free wifi (almost) everywhere in Porto.

How to get around Lisbon

Lisbon Metro

To take the Metro, purchase a subway ticket at a kiosk and select the metro fare. It will ask you to pay €2.00 (0,50€ for the Viva Viagem Card (stored value ticket) and €1.50 for the one-way ticket).

Keep the card because you already paid €0.50 for it and you can keep adding money up to a year after purchase. You can use the same card for metro, bus, tram and suburban trains (for Cascais and Sintra).

Uber

Uber is also an another transportation option. Remember to download the app before you travel.

What to do in Lisbon as a solo traveller

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 loved 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.

Chiado

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

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. 

Alfama

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 are the blue and white glazed tiles that decorate many churches in Portugal. I’m pretty impressed with the beautiful azulejo because each decorative tile 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 are 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.

Where to stay in Lisbon as a solo traveller

As a solo traveller, I prefer to stay in a central location so I can easily visit all the sites on foot. In Lisbon, the best places to stay for solo travellers are Chiado, Baixa, Alfama and Arroios.

Here are my top picks for hostels and hotels in Lisbon:

  • Rodamon Lisboa Hostel ($) – Choose a dorm bed or private double room at this boutique hostel in Baixa.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Selina Secret Garden Lisbon ($) – One of the best options for solo female travellers as this chain of hotel is tailored for the young and hip crowd who are also digital nomads.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Lumen Hotel & The Lisbon Light Show ($$) – Get an ultra-sleek modern room at this new boutique hotel in Arroios.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Airbnb Apartment in Alfama ($$) – I stayed on a third-floor apartment in Alfama. Love the newly renovated apartment and location.
    • Check prices & reviews: Airbnb

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.

Restaurants

  • Cervejaria Ramiro – it is probably the best seafood restaurant in Lisbon! Even though I dined alone, I tried many things like grilled tiger prawns and garlic clams. And of course, a half bottle of wine to pair with all the delicious seafood goodness!
  • Alfama Cellar – a cozy and intimate little restaurant in Alfama that serves an old Lisbon codfish stew and lamb stew. Both were excellent!
  • O Caçador da Oliveira – 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 – a popular modern marketplace for traditional and fusion Portuguese food. 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. 

Cafes

  • Dear Breakfast – 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!
  • Hello, Kristof – a small coffee shop with super friendly staff. The latté and acai bowl are both delicious!
  • Copenhagen Coffee Lab – 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.

Desserts

  • Pastéis de Belém – considered to be the best custard tarts in Lisbon. 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 – 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 – 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. 

Thank you for reading my Lisbon Portugal post

You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Portugal:

Lisbon posts
Porto posts
Algarve posts

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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