I recently visited Lisbon for the first time and was instantly captivated by its charm. 

Wandering through the (very) hilly streets of the city, I couldn’t help but feel immersed in a captivating blend of history and a welcoming atmosphere.

Whether it was the colourful tiles adorning the buildings, the tempting aroma of pastéi de natas wafting through the air, or the breathtaking views from its various miradouros (viewpoints), Lisbon definitely has a unique way of inviting you to explore its many delights.

Navigating the city proved to be an adventure, as the rattle of historic trams whisked me away to the must-see attractions.

The friendly locals were super helpful, offering their recommendations and pointing me in the right direction.

My first time in Lisbon was an unforgettable experience, as it served as a gateway to discovering the beauty and culture of Portugal. I say ‘my first time’ as I’m planning to go back to explore more of Lisbon and the surrounding area very soon!  

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Why visit Lisbon

Well, for a start, the Portuguese capital is full of stunning views, fascinating history, and extremely charming neighbourhoods. As a first-time visitor, I quickly fell in love with the city’s romantic and creative atmosphere.

One of the most striking aspects of Lisbon is its incredible views. 

The city is built on seven hills and each one offers fantastic panoramas of the cityscape and the Tagus River. It’s hard not to be mesmorised by these enchanting vistas, which you can admire from any one of Lisbon’s famous miradouros.

Another reason to visit Lisbon is the city’s animated neighbourhoods. Each area has its own unique charm, from the quaint, winding streets of Alfama to the trendy LX Factory in Alcântara. 

The variety of neighbourhoods means there’s almost always somewhere new to explore, whether you prefer strolling along cobblestone streets, people-watching at lively cafes, or browsing the boutiques of up-and-coming districts.

Lisbon’s rich history is also a major draw for travellers. The city is steeped in tales from its maritime past, which are evidenced by the many historic monuments and museums. 

If you’re lucky, you might even stumble across Fado performances, a traditional Portuguese music style that’s often referred to as the soul of Lisbon, as you wander the streets.

One thing you can’t deny about Lisbon is its romantic charm. Its atmosphere is a little bit of magic, with its glowing street lamps, historic yellow trams, and quirky cafes forming the perfect backdrop for a romantic walk. 

If you’re visiting with a partner, you’ll undoubtedly find plenty of opportunities to enjoy unforgettable moments together.

Book a romantic photoshoot with your other half (or friends) in Lisbon with the best Lisbon photoshoot! Read about my photoshoot here

Lisbon’s creative scene is outstanding, and was probably what interested me the most. From street art and emerging fashion designers to innovative cuisine, you’ll find a whole ton of creativity on display throughout the city. This energy makes Lisbon an exciting place to explore and discover new cultural experiences.

Visiting Lisbon for the first time left me wanting more, to put it simply. The city offers so much to explore and enjoy, and I can’t wait to return to uncover more of its history, charm, and creativity.

Planning Your Trip

Best time to visit Lisbon

When planning my trip to Lisbon, there were two things I wanted to avoid; extreme heat and high tourist numbers.  

I found that the best time to visit Lisbon is between March and May or September to October. During these months, the weather is milder, the summer crowds have thinned out, and accommodation prices will typically be more affordable during these periods.

In contrast, the high tourist season in Lisbon falls between June and August when temperatures soar, and the city gets crowded. Although it’s a fantastic time to enjoy the outdoors, you’ll find that accommodation prices will be much higher.

Of course, if you’re not pushed about having nice weather, you can avoid even more tourists and high prices if you visit during the winter. 

Miradouro de Santa Luzia photoshoot by balcony

Budget Planning

Although Lisbon is known to be relatively affordable compared to other European capitals, it’s still important to consider the cost of travelling to and from the city, accommodation, meals, sightseeing, and transportation within the city.

Here are some average costs to help you plan your budget:

  • Accommodation: I found that a budget hotel room typically costs around €40-60 per night, while a more luxurious option could reach €100-200. We opted for a 2 bedroom apartment which cost around €100 a night, however there were many cheaper options for 1 bedroomed apartments. 
  • Meals: A typical meal at a mid-range restaurant in Lisbon costs around €15-20, while fast food or a quick bite at a café might set you back €5-10.
  • Transportation: Public transport in Lisbon isn’t too expensive, with a one-day travel card costing only €6.40, allowing unlimited travel on buses, trams, and metros.

Some travel tips I found useful for saving money during my trip to Lisbon include:

  • Book your flights in advance: Airline prices tend to rise as the departure date approaches, so booking early can save a significant amount of money. Search for budget flights .
  • Pre-purchase attraction tickets: Many museums and attractions in Lisbon offer discounted advance tickets or combined passes, helping you save on entrance fees. Search or to prebook attractions and tours.
  • Get a Lisbon Card:  This card offers free or discounted entry to many attractions and includes unlimited public transportation use on the metro, bus and iconic trams. It’s definitely worth your while if you plan to spend a few days in the city visiting as many attractions as possible. 

Pre-order your Lisbon Card in advance of your trip

Getting to Lisbon

To get to Lisbon, I found that the primary point of entry for most visitors is Lisbon Airport (also known as Humberto Delgado Airport), which is conveniently located about 7 kilometres from Central Lisbon, making reaching our apartment quite easy.

There are plenty of transportation options available to take you into the city. One option is taking the AeroBus, which runs every 20 minutes and comfortably and can get you to downtown Lisbon in around 30 minutes. 

Another option is the Metro, with the red line providing a direct connection between the airport and the city centre. The metro is a cheaper option than the AeroBus, but with luggage, it may be a less convenient option. 

For those who prefer a more direct route, there are also plenty of taxis available outside the airport. 

My transport of choice from the airport was Uber. Our host had given us extremely helpful instructions on where to meet our Uber driver – after you collect your baggage, follow signs for P2 (keep walking around the Starbucks). You can order your Uber here and it’ll arrive within a few minutes. Taking an Uber is cheaper than using regular Taxis, but not as cheap as public transport. 

In summary, here are the main transportation options from Lisbon Airport to the city centre:

  • AeroBus: every 20 minutes, takes around 30 minutes
  • Metro: cheaper option, red line connects airport to city centre
  • Taxis: more expensive, especially during heavy traffic
  • Uber: less expensive than taxis, easily accessible from the airport

Don’t worry about getting lost – the airport is well-signposted, and helpful staff are always available to point you in the right direction. 

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Standing in front of the yellow Lisbon Funicular

Getting around Lisbon

Here’s what I found to be the most convenient and enjoyable ways to get around the city.

Good old walking is always my favourite method of getting around a new city, and this was especially the best in the historic Lisbon neighbourhoods like Alfama, Bairro Alto, and Chiado. 

One thing to remember is that Lisbon’s streets are mostly cobbled and on very steep hills, so if you have any mobility issues, you may find walking isn’t the best option for you. Also, when it’s raining, the cobblestone can get extremely slippery and even dangerous. 

The Metro was excellent for fast travel between different parts of the city. It was clean, comfortable, and efficient. You can purchase the Viva Viagem card for convenience, as it could be used on all public transport in Lisbon, including buses, the metro, and even ferries.

Apart from the metro, buses and trams were a common sight throughout Lisbon. They added a touch of character to the city and were an enjoyable experience. We hopped on the famous Tram 28 from our apartment and riding through Lisbon’s old quarters had me singing “Clang clang clang went the trolley” just a few times. 

The tram will get packed during peak hours (it is used by locals after all) so if you’re just taking it for the sake of a touristy experience, I recommend taking it during off-peak hours. 

Taxis and Uber also came in handy for late-night travels or when we had too far to walk (or too much to drink!). They were easily available, and the drivers were friendly and really helpful. Each driver gave us their own perspective on the city and their favourite areas to explore. It was like having a private tour guide! 

While I didn’t use these, there are a ton of bicycle and scooter rentals throughout the city. 

Lastly, my favourite mode of transport (other than walking) was taking a TukTuk! These three-wheeled vehicles are a fun and unique way to explore the narrow streets and hills of Lisbon. Plus, the drivers often give you insider tips on hidden gems and must-try local foods. 

Overall, getting around Lisbon was easy and convenient with so many options to choose from. 

Where to Stay in Lisbon for the First Time

Choosing Your Accommodation

There’s no shortage of accommodation options to choose from in Lisbon. Hotels and apartments are both popular choices and offer a range of prices and styles. 

I tend to opt for apartments these days as they give you a bit of a more personal touch and you have the opportunity to get to know your local hosts quite well. 

It’s worth considering a few factors when choosing where to stay. In my experience, being within walking distance of the main tourist attractions, restaurants, and public transport made my visit much more enjoyable. 

That being said, I knew I didn’t want to be right in the thick of it, as I’d heard that Lisbon’s central streets can get quite noisy at night – the city does turn into a party city at night after all! 

As a first-time visitor, I wanted accommodations that struck a balance between convenience, comfort, and cost.

Best Areas to Stay

Graça:  This quiet neighbourhood, where I stayed, was the perfect place for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city centre. It offers stunning views of Lisbon (especially from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte), and its streets are filled with traditional little cafes and local shops.

Alfama: Steeped in history, this is the oldest district in Lisbon. If you don’t mind lively streets at night, I recommend staying here for the narrow, picturesque streets, and easy access to attractions like São Jorge Castle. Many apartments and boutique hotels can be found in this area.

Baixa: This is the city centre and has plenty of hotels at various price points. It’s great for first-time visitors as it’s close to key sights like the Praça do Comércio and the Rossio train station. It’s a bustling, lively area with easy access to shopping and dining.

Bairro Alto and Chiado: These two neighbourhoods are also lively, featuring a mix of classic architecture and modern amenities. Bairro Alto is known for being am “arty” neighbourhood, while Chiado offers upscale shopping. Accommodation options here include chic hotels, apartments, and hostels. You’ll get a blend of charm, convenience, and culture if you choose to stay here.

In my opinion, choosing the right neighbourhood really depends on your personal preferences and priorities. Lisbon has something for everyone, and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect spot to stay during your first visit.

Hanging out of a red tuk tuk on the cobbled streets of Lisbon

Exploring Lisbon

What to do in your first day in Lisbon

On my first day in Lisbon, I wanted to see as much as possible initially, so I could then go back to where I wanted to explore the days after. 

So we booked a tuk tuk tour (my mum and I), not knowing exactly what to expect. It turned out to be the best decision! 

With 5 minutes, we had decided to extend our tour, and by the end we were booking our driver, Felipe, for a day trip the following day!

The tuk tuk tour of Lisbon brought us around the highlights of the city, including some hidden gems. We even visited Lisbon’s oldest bookshop, a bar with an incredible wall carving by artist Vhils and a secret garden bar with amazing views over the city. 

The tuk tuk is also a really fun way to explore the narrow streets and alleys, where cars can’t pass through. It was definitely a unique way to get to know the city and its history, while also enjoying some sightseeing.

Walking the Cobbled Streets

There’s something magical about strolling through Lisbon’s charming cobbled streets. I especially enjoyed exploring Bairro Alto, a bohemian neighbourhood that comes alive at night with vibrant bars and local restaurants. 

Comfortable shoes are a must for walking around, as Lisbon’s famously hilly and many streets have steep inclines.

Every Tuesday and Saturday, the Feira da Ladra flea market takes over the streets of Lisbon around the Campo de Santa Clara. It’s a great place to stroll through and find unique treasures and souvenirs. Be prepared to haggle for the best price! 

Noteworthy Neighbourhoods

Apart from Alfama, Baixa, and Bairro Alto, if you’re planning your first time in Lisbon, I recommend spending some time discovering some of these fantastic neighbourhoods worth visiting:

  • Chiado: The city’s historic shopping and cultural area.
  • Cais do Sodré: Once a seedy area, it has transformed into an uber-cool hotspot filled with trendy bars and eateries.
  • Parque das Nações: A modern riverside district with striking architecture and beautiful green spaces.
Saint George's Castle view from Miradouro in Lisbon

Unmissable Sights In Lisbon

Lisbon boasts a wealth of landmarks and attractions, and here’s what you should be including in your itinerary:

  • Castelo de São Jorge: Perched atop a hill, it offers spectacular views across Lisbon.
  • Elevador de Santa Justa: A historical elevator providing panoramic vistas of the city. Don’t ride the Santa Justa Lift to the top though! The queues are always really long and you have to pay to do this. Instead, get a picture from below and take a tuk tuk or walk the streets to the top. You can then reach the viewpoint without having to queue or pay the extra cost! 
  • Belém: A charming district that’s home to the iconic Belém Tower (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the stunning Jerónimos Monastery. This area is also famous for its delicious pastéis de nata, Portugal’s most beloved pastry.
  • Praça do Comércio: A magnificent square facing the Tagus river and the gateway to Lisbon. It’s a great spot to take a break, people watch, or snap some Instagram-worthy shots.
  • National Tile Museum:  It might sound dull, but it’s actually a fascinating museum that showcases the history and art of Portugal’s famous azulejos (tiles).
  • Lisbon Cathedral: The city’s oldest and most venerable church. Its interior is simply stunning, and it’s worth climbing up to the terraces for breathtaking views.
  • Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara: One of many beautiful viewpoints in Lisbon, offering breathtaking views of the city and the river.
  • LX Factory:  A trendy and artistic complex that’s home to galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s a great place to wander through and enjoy a leisurely afternoon. There’s a really cool (and huge) bookshop there I recommend visiting.
  • Walking tour:  For a great way to get to know the city, take one of the walking tours. They’ll show you some lesser-known sites and hidden gems that you might not find on your own. If you travel for the food, this food tour is the best option for you! 
Gluten free pastel de nata in Pastelaria Zarzuela Lisbon

Food and Drink

Culinary Staples

Food plays a significant role in Portuguese culture. There’s no shortage of restaurants serving traditional dishes, like Pastel de Nata – a delicious custard pastry. It was my mission to try a Pastel de Nata, but because I’m gluten intollerant I knew that mission may be a difficult one. But I did find one (ok I had more than one) in a fully gluten free pastry shop – Pastelaria Zarzuela.

Bacalhau is another traditional dish you have to try in Lisbon. It’s a salted cod dish that the locals and tourists love.

I found that Portuguese cuisine tends to be hearty, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and while I didn’t get around to taking a cooking class there, it’s on my list for my next visit. 

Book a Lisbon cooking class here

Coffee Culture

I’m not much of a coffee lover but my mum is and she was delighted to explore Lisbon’s vibrant coffee culture. 

The city boasts countless cozy cafes, where you can enjoy various coffee drinks like bica, the Portuguese equivalent of espresso. 

We learnt that coffee in Portugal is generally quite strong, which makes it perfect for sipping while people watching and taking in the sights and sounds of the city.

Portuguese Wines

Of course, no trip to Lisbon would be complete without sampling some of the country’s renowned wines. Our host had even left us a bottle of wine as a little treat! 

Vinho Verde is a popular white wine that pairs well with seafood dishes (which you’ll find many of in Lisbon), while Vinho Tinto is a delicious red that goes perfectly with meat dishes. 

If you’re interested in wine and want to learn more about Portuguese wines, try this highly rated wine tour

Wine prices were quite reasonable, making it easy to indulge in a glass or two with dinner. 

Book a food & wine tasting tour here

Lisbon Nightlife

I’ve mentioned that Lisbon turns into a completely different city at night, and that’s because it definitely knows how to party! 

The streets of the Bairro Alto are incredible to explore at night as it’s packed with quaint bars, where you can enjoy a relaxing drink or chat with friendly locals. What I loved about Bairro Alto is that it caters to every taste, whether you’re after a cosy wine bar or a more lively tavern with live music.

One of the most popular areas for a night out in Lisbon is Cais do Sodré. This area, once known for its seedy reputation, has luckily now transformed into a trendy hotspot full of lively bars, restaurants, and clubs. Partygoers head to Pink Street for a night of dancing and drinking, while foodies can enjoy some of the city’s best seafood restaurants nearby.

If you’re looking for something more cultural, you should take in a Fado show. Fado is a traditional Portuguese music genre that originated in Lisbon and is known for its melancholic melodies. Many places offer dinner and Fado shows, or you can simply wander around Alfama, where you’ll find many small bars and restaurants with live Fado performances. And if you’re on the more organised side (like me) and prefer to pre-book your activities, this Fado Show is especially highly rated. 

After a night out in Lisbon, make sure to try the local Ginjinha. This sweet cherry liqueur is a beloved Portuguese tradition and can be found at many street stalls or small bars. It’s the perfect way to end a fun night in Lisbon!

Boca do Inferno in Cascais

Day Trips from Lisbon

If you’re a first time visitor to Lisbon, you might be tempted to stay in the city for your entire stay. But I recommend getting out at least one or two days to explore the beautiful surroundings of Lisbon.

Cascais and Estoril

Our favourite trip out of Lisbon was to Cascais and Estoril. These coastal towns are just a short 45 minute train ride away from the city, making it an easy day trip. Cascais is a picturesque town full of colourful buildings and charming streets, with beautiful beaches and delicious seafood restaurants. Estoril, on the other hand, is known for its glamorous casino and luxury hotels. If you like seafood, you have to try this place in Cascais. Be sure to sit upstairs so you get the views over the Marina. 

Sintra

Another popular day trip is to Sintra, a beautifully picturesque town located just 30 minutes away from Lisbon by car. The town is known for its fairytale-like architecture, with colourful palaces and grand mansions scattered throughout the hillsides. You can easily spend a whole day exploring Sintra’s stunning gardens, palaces. 

Pena Palace, the most popular of Sintra’s palaces is perched atop a hill, overlooking the lush Sintra forest. The palace’s bright exterior and its blend of architectural styles would leave anyone in awe.

We chose to join our Cascais and Sintra day trip in one with the same driver we had the day before for our tuk tuk tour! A trip to Sintra involves a lot of walking and it’s all uphill, so it’s a good idea to book a private tour. You can go at your own pace, decide where and when you want to walk and stop off at lots of hidden gems along the way (like a beautiful lake full of turtles!). 

Book a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra here

Fátima

Another day trip to take from Lisbon is Fatima, considered to be one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world. Located about 2 hours away from Lisbon by car, this small town draws millions of visitors each year who come to see its grand basilica and attend religious ceremonies.

Book a day trip from Lisbon to Fatima here

Arrábida Natural Park

For nature lovers, a day trip to Arrábida Natural Park should be on your itinerary. The park is located just an hour’s drive away from Lisbon and is home to stunning beaches, rugged cliffs, and lush forests. You can take a hike along the trails or relax on one of the pristine beaches here for the day. 

Book a day trip to Arrabida Natural Park here

Óbidos

Finally, for those looking for something a little more of a unique cultural experience, I recommend Óbidos, a medieval town located about an hour away from Lisbon by car. Its cobblestone streets and charming white-washed houses make it really popular for tourists looking to step back in time. Inside the town’s walls, you’ll find quaint shops selling local crafts and delicious traditional treats like “ginjinha,” a cherry liqueur served in edible chocolate cups. 

While I don’t recommend trying all of these day trips on your first trip to Lisbon (unless you plan to stay for more than a few weeks), one or two should definitely be on the cards. 

First Time In Lisbon: Travel Tips

When I first visited Lisbon, I quickly fell in love with its vibrant culture and picturesque streets. But to make the most of my trip, I picked up a few essential first-time travel tips along the way.

Tradition: To truly experience Lisbon, embraced the local traditions!  The Portuguese are proud of their heritage and take great pride in their traditional ways. From fado music to local dishes, don’t be afraid to try something new.

Language: While many locals speak English, I found learning a few basic phrases in Portuguese went a long way in making connections and showing respect. For instance, you’ll find that saying ‘obrigado’ (thank you) and ‘bom dia’ (good morning) will truly unlocked the warmth of the locals.

Cash: Although credit cards are widely accepted in Lisbon, do make sure to carry some cash for small purchases like public transport tickets or snacks from small vendors. The city’s currency is the Euro, and ATMs are easily found.

Pickpockets: Like many popular tourist destinations, Lisbon has its fair share of pickpockets. I always kept my belongings secure and close at all times, especially when strolling through crowded areas or using public transport.

Besides these essential tips, staying open-minded and easy-going while exploring the city will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the Lisbon experience. 

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Ready for your first time in Lisbon?

Lisbon truly is a wonderful city that effortlessly blends the old with the new. Its rich history is evident in every corner, from the grandeur of the Jerónimos Monastery to the quaint charm of the Alfama district. 

The city also pulses with a youthful energy, evident in its thriving arts scene, bustling night-life, and innovative culinary experiences. 

But what really set Lisbon apart for me, was the warmth of its people. The locals and tour guides I met were so quick to share a smile, offer help, or engage in a friendly chat. 

If charming cafés, quirky street art, and captivating history sound like your kind of trip, Lisbon is the perfect destination for you. With its sunny weather, delicious food, and friendly locals, I can’t recommend a visit to Lisbon enough! 

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