If you’ve already read my Porto post, you might enjoy this Lisbon city guide. I wanted to go to Portugal badly, but couldn’t choose between the two cities, so I spent two nights in each, travelling by train from Porto to Lisbon. Here you’ll find information about Lisbon hotels, what to do, where to eat and drink and other useful information if you’re planning a short city break.
Lisbon city guide: where to stay
Choosing where to stay in Lisbon can prove pretty time consuming because they’re all so bloody pretty. I settled on this boutique hotel in Bairro Alto, mainly for its gorgeous ‘living room’, that I wish was my own. They’re outrageously helpful and laid back, you can bring your own bottle of wine and lounge in the lobby or have a drink from the little bar. The staff are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to recommendations of where to eat and drink, directions etc. and luckily, like most people we met in Lisbon, speak perfect English. It’s 4 star and the hotels.com listed price included breakfast, which was pretty decent.
There’s also an abundance of unique little Airbnb apartments if you’d prefer to go fully self catering, have a bigger group or are travelling with kids. If you’ve never used the site you can get €35 off your first booking by clicking this link.
Lisbon city guide: getting there and transport
For flights, try the SkyScanner search box in the sidebar if you’re reading this on desktop. Flights take around three hours from Dublin direct daily with Aer Lingus and Ryanair from as little as €56 return.
From the airport, it takes about 20 minutes and €1.40 on the Saldanha route to the city centre. Uber is handy and cheap option all over the city.
If you’re arriving by train into Lisbon, check for the nearest local station to your accommodation on a map first.
We nearly accidentally got off the train at Oriente station, I’d seen pictures of it on Instagram so recognised it as being in Lisbon. But, if you’re staying central you’ll want to continue on to Santa Apolónia where you can walk, taxi or Metro onwards.
Click here for information if you’re travelling from Porto by rail.
Tram 28 is the most popular tourist route, however it can be pretty crowded. We were happy to just watch them go by and travel on foot or by tuk tuk instead. You can even take city tours in the motorised rickshaws.
Lisbon city guide: where to eat and drink
On recommendation of the Gastro Gays, Bonjarmin was one of the first ports of call on our list of Lisbon eateries for a lunchtime chicken feast. When in Rome. Their spit roast with piri-piri is finger licking good and is best washed down with the local brew. Order a half chicken between two, with chips, creamed spinach and salad as your sides. Even the bread while you wait is excellent, served with a whole wheel of cheese. No frills, budget friendly and easily one of the best meals we had in the city.
There are no shortage of areas to stop for an al fresco picnic or sundowner on the waterfront between Praça do Comércio and Cais do Sodré. Either BYO, head into one of the many cafés and bars or grab a cocktail to take away from the stalls lining the streets.
Afterwards, take a stroll through Time Out Market on your way back into the city. Pick up a Pastel de Nata, try an octopus hotdog or simply sip a nice glass of wine.
Custard and egg tart are not two things I want to put together in my mouth, but people go crazy for the iconic Portuguese pasty. Here’s a post on finding the best in the city.
Try a Ginja shot at least once while you’re in Lisbon. This stand was outside the entrance to Castelo de São Jorge, where for €1.50 you’ll get a measure of the Portuguese liqueur which is made with ginja (sour cherry) berries in an edible chocolate cup. Down the lot before it melts! If that sounds too sweet, stick with a shot of Port for a Euro.
While you’re up there, take a visit inside the walls of the hilltop castle overlooking the city. You can walk with your wine and even keep the glasses as souvenirs, although you’ll pay top tourist dollar up there, but it’s worth it for the view.
In the evening, Pensão Amor on Pink St (or Rua Cor-de-Rosa) is nice for cocktails. The building used to be a brothel and it’s right in the heart of the old red light district. There’s still a burlesque vibe to the bar with its peep show posters and risqué decor.
Park Bar is another you won’t want to miss, enter through the car park of an unassuming multi story and take the lift to the top before turning the corner onto a rooftop bar. The view at sunset is unrivalled and is best paired with a refreshing Aperol Spritz, but stay late into the night when the DJ comes on. Try their 6th Floor cocktail, but beware, prices are slightly higher here than elsewhere in Lisbon.
For the perfect antidote to all the vinho, wander down side streets for cute little fresh juice bars. Beetroot, carrot and ginger is my absolute fave, sweet without using any fruit.
For dinner, Taberna Rua das Flores is a must. You can’t book a table, so just turn up and stick your name on the list. You can either wait outside with a glass of wine or for longer waits go and come back close to your time slot (Pensão Amor is within walking distance). The interior is tiny, as you would expect in an old tavern, so big groups might get split up. They use every bit of available space, even fashioning a table setting on the steps. The menu changes daily and is brought over on a chalkboard, so listen carefully. We went for soy and ginger veal, a white fish dish, fresh seasonal veg in oil, bread, olives and carafes of wine, plural, if I’m honest.
Order a few dishes to share, like you would with tapas and forget your card, this place is cash only!
Lisbon city guide: what to do
The Santa Justa lift connects the lower streets of Baixa to to the higher Carmo Square, but rather than pay the €5 entrance fee, access the first viewing platform for free by simply walking in from the Chiado area.
Fado music is a genre born in Lisbon, but being honest, it was far to melancholy for our liking. To ‘try before you buy’, have a look through the window at Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto. We were actually queueing to get in with a glass of wine from the bar opposite while we waited and on hearing the sombre singing, decided it wasn’t for us. I was afraid I’d be shushed if we actually went in, like a serious trad session in an Irish pub. If you love, there are plenty of Fado houses around Lisbon’s cobbled streets.
You won’t run out of things to do in Lisbon just walking around the city. Take a ride on the old tram, head up to Castelo de São Jorge, go for a walk on the waterfront.
I went in spring, so it wasn’t warm enough to visit one of the beach towns, but during the summer head to Cascais for an easy day trip from Lisbon on the train.
But for the longest stretches of sand, head south of the city, to Costa da Caparica, or better yet, to refreshing Meco, sandy Troia, or secluded Adraga, ranked as one of the best beaches in Europe.
Eating and drinking definitely took up most of the short 48 hours I spent in Lisbon, and I’m absolutely fine with that. You’ll find good shopping too, with most of the high street stores like Parfois, Mango and Zara near Baixa-Chiado metro stop.
What I wore
The dress is old Penneys/Primark, I couldn’t find anything similar in the same colour, but just go for a spaghetti strap midi that can be layered over a cotton white tshirt for day. Add tights if it’s chilly and dress up with heels to go from day to night without weighing down your baggage.
Sunglasses mean less time getting ready in the morning for me. I rarely wear eye make up during the day (just mink lashes) and they hide all manner of sins. An adjustable strap bag that can be worn cross body as well as on your shoulder that’s a nice size for every day essentials and keep all your important bits safe from the hands of pick pockets is a must.