Lisboa, or Lisbon, is the capital of Portugal and is one of the main cities that you definitely should visit if you are taking a trip to Portugal. It’s a bustling city that is both old and new. In 1755 the city was hit with a major earthquake caused a large tsunami and left a large part of the city in ruins. But those in Lisbon rebuilt, and now the Lisboa is a city of both old and new. When it comes to traveling through Lisbon, whether it’s a first time in Lisbon or another visit returning back to this magical city, you’ll want to pencil together a plan of the things that you’re going to do but also give yourself the ability to freely explore city and let it reveal itself to you.
Portugal has been on my bucket list for quite some time, and after some planning and putting things together, this trip finally came to fruition. It’s been a place that I have wanted to go since the time I studied abroad in London and ever since I encountered a Portuguese native during a trip to Jamaica because of all of the great things she had shared with me about her home.
For this trip to Portugal, I traveled with one of my fellow Babes That Wander, Jess of Miss Moore Style, and we had an amazing time. Lisbon was our first stop for our entire Portugal trip, and below you’ll find a travel guide and vlog to guide you through your time in Portugal.
A GUIDE FOR YOUR TRIP TO LISBON PORTUGAL
Quick Tips FOR YOUR TRIP TO LISBON
When traveling to Portugal, citizens of the EU, USA, Canada and Australia just need their passport if they are planning to stay under 90 days, but, as always, check entry requirements prior to taking a trip. Once you get to Lisbon, many places take major credit cards but if you are looking to go into any smaller shops or vendors, having euros is always great to have. In Lisbon, the most widely spoken language is Portuguese. Mostly everyone that we encountered spoke English minus a few people on the street that we came in contact with but nothing that the translator app didn’t help with.
WHAT TO PACK for Lisbon
For your first time in Lisbon, you want to come prepared so that you don’t have to spend tons of time wandering into shops looking for things that you need instead of wandering the streets of Portugal exploring all that the city has to offer. Below are some key things to pack for your trip to Lisbon including pieces that I had forgotten myself during the trip, and realized that I definitely needed by the time that I got there. For more travel essentials to bring on your trip, you can also check out my Travel Shop.
TYPE F PLUG ADAPTERAll around Portugal, you’ll find outlets with the F-plug. So I highly recommend purchasing an international adapter, not just for this trip but for trips to come. Some of the hotels that we visited did have the adapters in room to use during the stay, but not all places did, so it was best to have one, especially, if you find yourself at a restaurant where you want to plug your phone in to charge.
AN INTERNATIONAL PLANUnless you’re planning on using a physical map, getting an international phone plan for data is your best bet – especially for navigating around the different cities. We found ourselves using the maps on our phone to get to the places we wanted to go because the streets were not the easiest to navigate by just walking and seeing.
WALKING SHOESLisbon is a city that is meant to be walked. It’s not great for cars in the more historic areas, but we found it easier, faster, and cheaper to use public transportation and then walk than it was to call a rideshare to get from place to place while navigating the city.
EXTERNAL BATTERYIf you plan to use your phone to take photos, navigate, or anything in between, having an external battery will become your best friend. With us using our phone to navigate, our phone batteries drained pretty quickly and not every place we went into had accessible places to plug our phones in, so that external battery become a must for this trip.
THE LISBON CARD
The Lisbon Card is super popular and ever-so-useful. Right after we got our bags from baggage claim, we walked right to the Visit Lisboa booth in the airport to pick up our Lisbon Card. This card can be pre-purchased online or you can buy it right at the booth in the airport. For us, this card was super useful and made our trip a whole lot better. It provides a range of discounts to various historic places, attractions, and restaurants, but most importantly, for us, it gave us free, unlimited access to the main public transportation. All you have to do is purchase the card for the set amount of time that you’re planning to use it for and then it’s yours to present for discounts at the attractions, some discounts being upwards of 50% off, and scan it as you navigate the public transpiration system. Literally, it’s a simple tap and you’re on your way through.
NAVIGATING THROUGH LISBON FOR YOUR FIRST TIME IN LISBON
If you are flying into Lisbon, there are different modes of transportation that you can book. You can book a private transfer from the airport to your hotel prior to your trip, or if you are okay waiting and taking ride share there is Uber and Bolt available. From the airport, we called and Uber and the pickup location was just in the garage right outside of the exit of the Lisbon Airport.
Lisbon is a city that you can take cars through, but for the most part, it is best just to use public transportation and walk. Throughout our entire time in Lisbon, we used the Metro with our Lisbon Card to get around the city and travel throughout the various districts. Then after getting off the metro it was time to walk. Let it be known that Lisbon is a city that is famous for it’s steep hills, narrow roadways, and cobbled streets. Make sure to pack walking shoes with a good grip, because at times that we were often, we also felt a little slip below our feet. And when you get a little tired of walking, there are plenty of places to rent an electric bike or scooter to get you around, but we often found it easier to just walk and take the Metro.
AS YOU PLAN FOR TOURING AROUND LISBON, TAKE NOTE OF SOME OF THE DISTRICTS / NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE AREA WORTH EXPLORING:
PRINCIPE REALThis neighborhood has been known to be one of Lisbon’s most loved neighborhoods. It’s famous for it’s 19th-century mansions and various places to browse local art, shop, and antique stores making you feel as if you have been transported back in time.
PRACA DAS FLORESThis area is super scenic and is filled with cute cafés and chic restaurants. If you’re looking for an area to stay where you can wander down the street for a morning coffee in a quaint café, I would highly recommend this area.
BELEMThe Belem neighborhood, where you’d find the Belem Tower, is the neighborhood where you would venture to if you are taking a boat tour. The area is well known for it’s fresh seafood, and colorful, tiled houses.
ALMAFASpared from the destruction of the earthquake, this neighborhood sits on the highest hill of Lisbon. This area truly takes you back in time as many of the houses and historic buildings predate the 18th century earthquake.
BAIRRO ALTOIf you’re looking for the party, you’ll find it in this district. Many of the celebrations are held in this area, and you’ll also find it to be a great place for nightlife.
MARQUESThis central district is home to many of the modern buildings and places around Lisbon. You’ll find many shops and hotels here especially since it is only a few minutes from the Lisbon Airport.
WHERE TO STAY
When it comes to finding a great place to rest each evening in Lisbon, it’s always best to plan to stay in the heart of the area that you’ll be exploring or in an area that has easy access to the Metro or other modes of public transportation. For more modern hotels, you’ll be aiming for the Marquês District, while, if you are looking for Airbnbs or more boutique style hotels, some other great neighborhoods to search are Pricep Real, Avenida da Liberdade, and Chiado.
During our stay in Lisboa, we stayed at the PortoBay Marquês – a hotel located in the Marques District. PortoBay Marquês is one of the many hotels a part of the PortoBay family as you can find a few of the properties right in Lisbon and other in other cities around Portugal which is great for a first time in Lisbon. The PortoBay Marquês is a hotel that is inviting and super comfortable. It’s a modern style hotel that has a variety of rooms that can fit a varierty of different travel parties. We were excited to be staying here because it was just off the way from many of the places that we had planned to go for dinner, and it was right near a couple of Metro stations along with bus stops so that we could visit other neighborhoods with quick access and easy navigation.
For our room, we stayed in a Junior Suite that had twin beds, that were put together, a living space, a bathroom, and an amazing view. It was quite spacious and gave us plenty of room for us to navigate, get dressed, have all of our stuff, and work during the moments where we took breaks from exploring to catch up on emails and things back home. It was a great hotel to be staying at right at the beginning of the trip.
OTHER GREAT LOCATIONS TO STAY FOR YOUR FIRST TIME IN LISBON:
Looking for more of a homey stay? Book an apartment at the Lisboans. Offering one and two bedroom apartments along with a penthouse, you cane find yourself feeling like you are spending time at your home away from home and living like a local.
FOUR SEASONS RITZ LISBON
You can always expect luxury at a Four Seasons and the Four Seasons Lisbon is no different. Located in an area that is close to navigate around Lisbon, but in a secluded area where you don’t feel like you’ll be hearing the hustle and bustle all night, expect to be pampered at this Four Seasons. And a little tip, make sure to visit the roof for an epic view.
HOTEL DA BAIXA
This refined and super immaculate hotel provides grace and is located in a central location if you are looking to stay in the heart of the city. Just by looking at the pictures, you’ll fall in love, and once you’re staying there, you may not leave.
THINGS TO DO
Carmo Convent is a one of the places that you must visit when you head to Lisbon. This once grand Gothic church is a a hauntingly beautiful reminder of Lisbon’s rich history since it originally was a functioning convent until it was destroyed in the earthquake. This open air museum is one that you gain access to with a purchase of the ticket, which is on discount with a Lisbon Card, and you can walk through to look at some of the relics that survived the earthquake and remain to share what once was. The architecuture itself is what makes this convent one that leaves you absolutely stunned. When we visited, we spent time just looking at the towering arches and columns that established and understanding on how gorgeous the convent used to be.
In addition to the outdoor part of the convent, you can also explore the Carmo Archaelogical Museum which is right at the opposite end of the entrance where you can take a look at some more of the artifacts and finds. There are a few interesting finds to look at including some mummies which gave more background on what used to exist in the area. Additionally, the museum houses a short little show that you can watch at your leisure that explains how the convent came to be and the different figures who influenced Portugal’s history.
You’ve probably seen the pictures everywhere, especially when you look up Lisbon, so why not take a walk over and explore Lisbon Square. As one of the iconic spots in Lisbon, you can expect it to be bustling with people exploring the area, taking photos, and wandering through the shops and cafés right in the area. Lisbon Square, also known as Praça do Comércio, is surrounded by stunning yellow buildings that have witnessed centuries of history and connects to Lisbon’s rich cultural history. We easily navigated to the area by taking the Metro and walking right into it from the station. Though it is a place that can get busy, we went about mid morning and though there were quite a lot of people there, it didn’t feel overwhelming because the square is so large that it makes it feel like there are less people there than there actually are.
One of the main structures that many come to see at Lisbon Square is the Arco da Rua Augusta. It’s a large arch that stands right at the entrance of the square, welcoming visitors and serving as a symbol to Lisbon’s resilience. If you access Lisbon Square from the metro station, you’ll actually be entering on the opposite side of the entrance where you’ll be right into the square, but if you head right through, you’ll get a view of the arch that is marvelous to look at.
If you’re looking for another area in Lisbon to visit, take in the culture and visit a few shops, Rossio Square is another location to visit. This square, also known as Praça Dom Pedro IV, is a hub of activity that is filled with buildings displaying some of the grandest architecture that the city is known for and a magical fountain that many come to view. The intricate design of the fountain and its playful water features make it a popular spot for people to visit. Our favorite aspect, other than the architecture, was the tilework on the ground. It creates a wave like view that just adds a little aspect of fun to the entire surrounding.
When touring anywhere in Portugal, cathedrals are places that you must head into to explore and take in the spirit. The Lisbon Cathedral, also known as Sé de Lisboa, is on of the oldest and most iconic landmarks in the city – dating back to the 12th century. Inside, you’ll find a blend of architectural styles, intricate carvings, imposing bell towers, high ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, and a multiple chapels each with it’s own charm and historical significance. One of the most loved chapels in the Cathedral is the Chapel of Saint Vincent, dedicated to the patron saint of Lisbon, that has a stunning altarpiece and ornate decorations.
Upon entering, you can explore the cathedral’s main floor, or you can head up to the Treasury Museum which houses a remarkable collection of religious artifacts jewel and sacred relics. One of the rooms adjacent to the treasury is a sight to behold because of the painted wallpaper, immaculate ceiling, and the religious artifacts in the room.
ST. GEORGE CASTLE
Towards the top of the city, you’ll find Saint George Castle or the Castle of São Jorge – a magnificent fortress that stands as a symbole of Lisbon’s rich past. This medieval castle dates all the way back to the 11th century and offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and heritage. If you’re planning on making a stop as this castle, make sure to carve out a good amount of time to get yourself to the location and prepare for a long line. It’s worth heading to the castle to walk along the outer edge and get an amazing view of the city.
BOAT TOUR OF LISBON
Though it’s a must to walk around the city of Lisbon and explore everything that city has to offer, it’s also essential to go on a boat tour of Lisbon to see the city by boat. Sailing along the Tagus River will not only be serene and a great way to enjoy a sunny day, but it gives you another way to see the city especially. We took a boat cruise with Lisbon by Boat which included drinks and a snacks that lasted a little over an hour and was one of the most enjoyable experiences on our trip. We were able to see some of the sights that we had already seen from a whole different view such as Lisbon Square and Belem Tower. And since we didn’t venture across the 25 de Abril Bridge during our trip, on the boat tour we were still able to see the Christ the King Statue from a closer view than we were able to while in Lisbon.
PADRÃO DOS DESCOBRIMENTOS
Down by the port where you’ll also find the boat tours is Padrão dos Descobrimentos (“Monument of Discoveries”)- a tall monument paying tribute to Portugal’s golden age of exploration. Once you arrive in the area, you’ll see that the ground right at the back of the monument is an actual map that looks majestic from above. The monument itself resembles a ship and hold various significant figures from the Age of Discovery including navigators, missionaries and more. You can sit by the monument and take in the sights of the river, and you can also, with a ticket, take an elevator to the top of the monument to see the river and city from above. But, in my opinion, the best view is from the river on a boat tour.
Another great way to explore Lisbon is on Tram 28. This tram car is a highlight of Lisbon and often times if you see a movie that takes place in Lisbon, you’ll see one of these in the background. Tram 28’s route takes you on a delightful journey through Lisbon’s narrow, winding streets, offering a unique view of the city. To catch the Tram, note there are quite a few that go around on the same track at different times, you can hop on at Martim Moniz or Praça Martim Moniz. There tends to be lines to get on Tram 28 depending on when you go, so just be prepared to wait. Also note that if you are planning on using Tram 28 to get to another location, like we did, make sure to give enough time for you to wait for the tram and then take it to the location. The tram does not go very quickly, but is super scenic. Along the ride, you’ll pass through various districts where you can hop off to explore, but depending on where you hop off, you may not have access to hop back on.
Pro-Tip: If you’re looking for the famous Instagram / photo spot to take a picture with the yellow tram, then you’ll want to head to the top of Rua da Bica de Duarte Below in the Bairro Alto neighborhood. There are two trams that come up and down the hill – one yellow and the other with graffiti. The yellow one does stop for some time to allow you to get pictures, but you also can ride it free with a Lisbon Card or pay a small fare. If you’re looking to take a photo without waiting for others around, I would go early in the day when it is less busy.