Despite traveling a decent amount, I don’t write many travel guides or blog posts. There are a few exceptions; I’ve written one for New Orleans, a city that I’ve visited more than a couple times and love dearly. I’ve also written a recap of our time at Excellence Playa Mujeres, because I got so many questions about the resort. Other than that, though, I try to stick to more general travel content — how I pack, my favorite travel essentials, etc. To write a city guide having only spent a handful of days in a city feels somehow wrong. There are always going to be more knowledgable people than me about any given city. Still, I’ve received a few requests for Lisbon suggestions and tips, so I figured I would compile the things I ate, drank, saw, and loved in one easy-to-bookmark place. While it’s worth repeating that this is the farthest thing from a comprehensive guide (there was sooo much more I wanted to explore), it may be helpful to you if you have similar interests to me or you had a question about my trip (or visiting Lisbon in general).
So without further ado, here is a breakdown of my favorite parts of the trip.
Where To Stay
We stayed at this Airbnb, which was awesome. Tons of space, great bathrooms, incredible water pressure (I was shocked), and a perfect location for seeing the city and exploring on foot. You could walk almost anywhere from it, but it was still quiet and peaceful at night. Plus: Air conditioning, which let me tell you… you will need in Lisbon. We were there in early May, and I was *not* expecting how hot it got. Anyway, more on that later.
OK. Let’s get into the main reason I go to any city: Food. I truly had more recommendations from others than I knew what to do with when I was planning where to eat in the city, so I was a bit overwhelmed, but the good side of that is we didn’t have a single bad meal in the city. Still, here are my favorites:
- Duque // This was SO FREAKING GOOD. Like, shockingly good. Go early if you can to get a seat. Order pretty much everything. Or two of everything. So good.
- A Cevicheria // So good I went there twice. This was on the more expensive side of restaurants, but it was also among the best (and not stuffy at all). I went once around lunchtime and sat at the bar by myself (so fun), but I also went with my friend around 3 pm for a late lunch on a weekend and sat outside, which was fun too (we did have to wait for 30 minutes or so, though).
- Ponto Final // I had one of the best nights of my life at this restaurant. If you look it up on Instagram, you’ll probably assume that you are paying for the view and the vibes and that is not entirely false (it’s on the pricier side for Lisbon, though nothing crazy). However, the monkfish stew (which is the dish they’re known for) is truly so, so, so good. Having said that, it might be kind of hard to eat on a hot day. Also, this place draws quite the crowd, so it’s worth knowing what you’re in for if you go without a reservation. Our experience: We went there on a Monday and arrived around 7:30 pm. After waiting for 20 minutes in a line, we were able to put our names down and told it would be 90 minutes until we could get a table but we could get a drink at the bar. There was only one bartender so I waited for at least 45 minutes for a bottle of wine, but it was still worth it. We grabbed a bottle (and then eventually one more bottle) and two glasses and sat on the edge of the water while the sun set in the background and it was magical. I didn’t care about the wait. I didn’t care about not being seated until 10 pm. It was all worth it. And honestly, it would have been too hot at 7:30 to eat the stew so…. it worked out. It was just the best. OK, that’s all. Pro tip: It’s across the river from the city center of Lisbon, so you can either take an Uber (Ubers are very cheap in Lisbon) or take the ferry and walk a bit to the restaurant. The ferry is probably faster and more aesthetically pleasing, but the Uber wasn’t bad.
- Time Out Market // This place is VERY overwhelming, but it’s fun to hop from vendor to vendor and try different foods. I don’t really think you can go wrong, but I did absolutely love the sushi place here (and sushi tastes SO good when you are constantly sweating). If you don’t like crowds, I would suggest eating here as early as possible. We arrived around 1 or 2 and it was really, really busy.
The above were my favorites, but some other honorable mentions: Prado (if you’re really into the newest, most modern takes on local food and ingredients, this could be a good option for you — super inventive but not stuffy), Mini Bar (incredible vibes and interior, fun, out-of-the-box tasting menu), M’arrecreo Pizzeria (very delicious pizza if you get sick of seafood at any point, which you may lol), Manteigaria (known for pasteis de nata AKA egg custard pastry… open until midnight… very good late night snack).
Admittedly I did not get to 90% of the bars and speakeasies that I planned to visit, but that didn’t stop me from drinking roughly 900 bottles of wine over the course of 6 days. Here are a couple spots I loved and some more I plan on visiting next time:
- By The Wine // This bar is gorgeous, and the food is really, really good, too, so it’s worth going for drinks and dinner if you’re able to. The wine is absurdly cheap and they have such a great selection…. just great. Go. Enjoy. Drink. Eat. I’ll be there in spirit cheering you on.
- Jardim de Sao Pedro De Alcantra // OK, this is technically a park and not a bar BUT… it is important to note that there is a little cafe at the back of the park that serves drinks all day and you can take them to go (or drink them there). There is public seating everywhere, and the park has one of the most gorgeous views of the city. I probably sat in this garden and drank wine or beer five or six times during my trip. Highly suggest catching a sunset here.
While I wasn’t able to go to a lot of the bars we had planned, I’ll still list them here so you can look them up if you want:
- Imprensa Cocktail Bar & Oysters
- Red Frog Speakeasy
- Pavilhão Chinês
- Lost In Lisbon
- The Old Pharmacy
Sight-Seeing & Tours
I tried to plan a good balance of free days to explore on my own and group tours, and that turned out to be perfect. Below are the tours we did, which you can book through a variety of places but we used Airbnb Experiences.
- Arrabida Day Tour // I wanted to have a day where we could visit some nearby beaches and viewpoints, and this one hit all the marks! It also took us to an incredible seafood market that was really interesting. Miguel was a great host and also offers kayaking tours, which I imagine are amazing.
- Sintra Day Tour // Everyone was right: If you’re in Lisbon, you have to go to Sintra. You can get there by train on your own, but I think it’s worth doing a guided tour to really see everything there is to see. This one hit some amazing highlights, including Cabo de Roca (western-most point of Europe) which was absolutely stunning. My only regret is that we didn’t get to watch the sunset here. Both this tour and the Arrabida tours were SUCH a good value.
- Sailing Tour // OK, here’s the thing… YOU MUST DO THIS. One of the first things we said to the captain when we boarded the sailboat is that he should be charging WAY more than $32 for this. It was the perfect, perfect, perfect way to end our time there. Oh… and there is unlimited wine.
Things I didn’t get to but wish I did:
- Secret Supper Clu (I’ve heard incredible things about this experience, but they were booked for our trip)
- The Tile Museum (This was very high on my list but was a little out of the way so I didn’t end up making it there. Will stop there first next time, though!)
- Weather: It is VERY hot in Lisbon. I grew up in Florida and I was still surprised by the level of heat. The sun felt more intense than I was used to, and because there are so many steep hills and climbs, you will sweat a lot, especially if you go in May or later in the springs/summer. We went in early May and honestly the weather was stunning *except* for when walking miles and miles uphill. Still great, though.
- Random tips:
- Uber is absurdly cheap in the city, so I suggest using that. I did take a cab once and they charged way too much money, so probably worth avoiding.
- People eat dinner very late in Lisbon. Not as late as Spain, maybe, but if you go out to eat at 6 p.m. it will only be you and other tourists.
- When people say that Lisbon is hilly, they mean it. There are some VERY, VERY steep hills throughout the city and it makes for an absolutely incredible (but sometimes brutal) daily workout.
- What to pack:
- I brought a crystal roller to help soothe and de-puff my face after flying, but it actually turned out to be an incredible way to cool down after walking a ton in the heat. Another good idea would be to bring a portable fan, either to use in your hotel/Airbnb or while walking.
- I truly would not have survived this trip (or any trip really) without Megababe Thigh Rescue. It saved me.
- Heed my warning here: You NEED to pack sunscreen for Lisbon. Just do it. Do not forget. Thank me later.
- Would also suggest packing a hat of some kind. I really am loving straw bucket hats right now, so maybe one of those.
- My husband goes everywhere with a handkerchief in his pocket, which I never really understood, but I can’t tell you how many times on this trip I wished I had a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off my face before ordering a coffee or glass of wine. Upper lip sweat is just very annoying, let’s be honest.
- If you listen to anything I write in this post, hear this: You need to take care of your feet in Lisbon. And ankles. The tiles that cover the streets and side walks are very, very slick and you will need shoes that offer both support and grip (I found my mid-form Tevas to be the best match for walking around a long time in the city). Do not think you can wear heels. You cannot unless you plan on Ubering everywhere (which, again, Uber is very cheap in Lisbon so you definitely can if need be, but still). Bring: Band aids and blister pads, good socks, good shoes, etc.
- Is Lisbon good for solo travelers? I spent quite a bit of time in the city walking around by myself, and I felt totally safe! I also met a lot of solo travelers who said they loved the experience and felt great exploring on their own. Portugal is also known for being a very safe country. Having said that, definitely do your research before going by yourself, etc.
- What are the COVID rules? I use Verifly before international trips to make sure I’m following all the right requirements for whatever country I’m visiting, and I did that for Portugal, too. I also have been using Qured to coordinate return-to-US covid tests, which has been a pretty easy process.
Overall, Lisbon was one of the most unique places I’ve visited in Europe and it was somehow also very different than what I expected. It felt bigger and more cosmopolitan than I anticipated, while also still having the warmth and accessibility of a smaller city. It felt very busy and young while still being easy to navigate and welcoming — completely unpretentious. I can honestly say that everyone I met was so friendly. Most importantly, it’s worth mentioning again that I only scraped the surface here in terms of what to do in Lisbon so it’s probably worth doing even more of your own research before booking a trip. Honestly, though, even if you planned nothing at all ahead of time, you’d still have fun… as long as you bring the right shoes 🙂