Lisbon Travel Guide
Portugal in 72 hours
The perfect balance between old and new, Lisbon seems to embed a culturally unique experience. After studying abroad here in 2014, I fell in love with their hills, coastal town charm and most importantly, people. I have created this “72 hour layover guide” in hopes of showing you my local favorites and all that this wonderful city has to offer!
How to get around
From Lisbon Portela Airport, the easiest and cheapest option to get to the city center is by metro. Follow signs to the metro that is located directly outside the airport. Take the red line and you can connect to just about anywhere. Lisbon has A LOT of steep hills and depending on where you will be staying, walking will give you a great overview of the city and accessibility to some unique spots that you may miss by bus or subway.
The next best option is by subway. Lisbon’s metro stations are safe, clean and reliable (as well as easy to navigate). There are four main lines that connect you to just about every place mentioned in this guide.
Another great option if you’re trying to explore the outer skirts of Lisbon (Belém, Sintra, Guincho Beach, Cascais, etc.), would be via train from Cais do Sodré: yellow line to Cascais or Tram 15E to Algés (Belém).Uber also services the Lisbon area and is a convenient option late at night or if you’re on a time constraint.
Where To Stay
Depending on what types of amenities are most important to you, Lisbon truly has many diverse neighborhoods that are relative walking distance to downtown or just a metro stop away. Here are my favorites:
● Principe Real/Rato | Safe, hip and modern(ish) side of the city. I lived in Rato for my first 5 months, it is conveniently situated above Baixa-Chiado (downtown) and Rato also has a metro station.
● Graça/Alfama | Old, narrow streets wrapped around steep hills; Graça is located right on the other side of Alfama. It has a lot of personality, cute bakeries your grandmother would go to and distinct churches still intact. Accommodations will be cheaper than staying in Alfama (much of where the tourists tend to flawk).
● Avenida de Liberdade | Central, beautiful avenue that sits right below Marques do Pombal. Lush gardens and kiosk cafes line high end shops and restaurants, just a few of the amenities among great people watching for an afternoon.
● Santos-o-Velho | A micro neighborhood of Estrela. Santos-o-Velho is family friendly, full of museums and has quiet streets. Plus side, you will be a lot closer to a few of Lisbon's popular sites (i.e Pastéis de Belém, Jéronimos Monastery and nice beaches) and the breathtaking views of the 25th of April bridge by night.
Walk down to the water or grab the blue metro line to Terreiro do Paço. Praça de Comércio is known for its vibrant, iconic yellow commerce square located along the Rio Tejo. Across from Comércio, you can walk along the water front to Cais do Sodré and catch stunning views of the April 25th bridge. Grab a glass of vinho verde or cafe, “ um café” as the Portuguese say at the many kiosks/cafes near the water.
A few of my go-to’s: Honorato, Miguel Castro e Silva and Café de São Bento. Visit the Convento do Carmo (a former, Roman convent that was partially destroyed in the 1755 Earthquake) located just a walk uphill from the main downtown shopping Baixa- Chiado.
Try the ultimate pastry,“pão de deus” (sweet coconut bread) at A Padaria Portuguesa: practically a Portuguese staple bakery with several locations sprinkled around Lisbon- one being located in Praça de Luís dos Camões (pictured below), where the famous Luís Vaz de Camões (a national Portuguese poet) statue sits.
From there, wander up the hill to the Bairro Alto neighborhood, known for its vibrant nightlife and narrow streets. Bairro dates back to the 16th century; you’ll find tons of colorful, hole in the wall restaurants and bars; such as A Tasca do Chico (a traditional fado bar with live music most nights, prepare for a wait). For rooftop views of Lisbon and fancy cocktails, try Park Bar or Bairro Alto Hotel. Come at least past 10 PM and you’ll be sure to have a fun, eventful time anywhere in Bairro!
Start your day at Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (a former palace), now art museum that houses several impressionable collections from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. If art isn’t your scene, go check out the LX Factory. Weekends seem to be the busiest time because of its outdoor flea market. The industrial warehouses were turned into speciality shops, a unique bookstore and restaurants near the 25th of April bridge. Next, make your way to the Rato/Estrela neighborhood.
Jardim da Estrela is a little bit of a less trafficked place, and their outdoor cafe has a quant pond to watch the ducks swim. Grab at table outside, cold beer, or a piece of their homemade quiche. You’ll find lots of locals who meet up here, or simply just to enjoy the sun and a nice stroll in the lush scenery.
If you need to stop by a grocery store for anything, try a Pingo Doce or Continente nearby; both are conveniently located all around Lisbon as well as Rato/Estrela neighborhood. Just across from the park is a beautiful, baroque church from the 18th-century, Basílica da Estrela. It houses Queen Maria I’s tomb. Across the street is Tram 28--Estrela stop that gives you a memorable tram ride around Lisbon, it is a definite must do! You can get off and on at any stops along the way, however I’d recommend you ride it all the way up to the hills of Alfama. Visit São Jorge Castle and Cathedral, the views of the city that perimeter the castle are spectacular! The Moorish castles’ distinct history dates back to the 11th century. Get lost in the narrow, winding streets of Alfama, it will feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
For a different dining experience, try Chapitô à Mesa. It was an old circus school now converted into a theatre, but also restaurant and bar with fantastic views. However, my favorite lookout point and panoramic view of the city at sunset is located in Graça-- Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte (continue on Tram 28 and it will be your last stop before it goes the opposite direction). If you are craving some outstanding seafood delicacies, try Cervejeria Ramiro (one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites, established in 1950).
To get there from Miradouro, take Tram 28E from Rua da Graça and get off at Rua da Palma. During the summertime Praça Martim Moniz sometimes hosts the Outjazz Festival. The square also has nice lounge chairs and small, affordable street food vendors with all different cuisines. The square is a major connection for the Tram, as well as the green line metro stop, Martim Moniz.
If you can try to spend at least a half day in Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery, it is well worth it! You can get there from Cais do Sodré via the yellow line tram to Cascais or Bus 28. Located along the northern bank of the Rio Tejo, Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a national monument celebrating the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
You can get a different perspective from the other side of Lisbon and capture some photos near the water. Of course, the well-known Jerónimos Monastery and Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and reflects Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline Style architecture, both are a must see in Belém. Grab a table inside Pasteis de Belém and try the hot and flakey Pastel de Nata (featured above) and a coffee.
If you'd like to spend more time in Belém, there is also the Cultural Center of Belém that’s pretty impressive. Back in Lisbon, one of my favorite lunch spots is close to the lovely, Avenida da Liberdade. From Belém, take the same yellow line tram back to Cais do Sodré, then the green line metro to Rossio. Solar dos Presuntos is just shy of a 10 minute walk from Rossio metro station and has many delicious meat and seafood options.
To relax in the afternoon, window shop along the posh shops Avenida offers or grab a fresh squeezed juice and cold beer with locals at the Banana Café (outdoor kiosk). Just above Avenida is the large statue of Marquês do Pombal, also connected to the blue metro line and beautiful Eduardo VII Park.
To get more off the beaten path, head up to the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian Park and Museum (both, historic and modern art collections with a large park). My most memorable times were spent studying there with classmates, they have homemade gelato at their cafe inside the park! You can get there via blue line metro to São Sebastião or walk directly from Eduardo VII Park.
São Sebastião is also connected to one of the largest supermarket and shopping mall selections in Lisbon, El Cortes Inglés. If you’re a wine lover like myself, the grocery store has an extensive Portugues wine selection from all different local regions, as well as fresh produce and all other conveniences you may need. For a fantastic vegetarian lunch or dinner (all made in house) nearby, try Oasis Restaurante Vegetariano.
If you’re heading back towards Rio Tejo come sunset; time permitting, the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is worth while. From São Sebastião, take the blue line metro to Restauradores stop, then walk. Finally, my last suggestion and absolute favorite place to go out at night is Pensão do Amor (an old brothel that was converted into a modern, music/lounge bar). Check online for more up to date schedules. Come late night and that place is always packed with people, great music to jam to and you know, those fancy cocktails that almost look too pretty to drink.
Aproveite e até logo!
I hope after reading this guide you were able to gather more useful tips on Lisbon’s local treasures and just a piece of my time there. It is truly a unique and beautiful city that people find themselves returning to over and over again! I have also included a few transportation links for that may come in handy.
|Camille Bettencourt |
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