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Lisbon Travel Guide

Lisbon travel guide: The best things to see, eat, and drink

Portugal’s capital is full of hidden treasures — you can wander endlessly and discover new delights at every turn. This Lisbon travel guide includes the best off-the-beaten-path spots for 2019.

Ten years ago, I packed two suitcases and boarded a plane to Lisbon. I’d never set foot in Europe before and spoke only the most basic Portuguese phrases. I spent the next year exploring as many corners of this enchanting country as possible and, by the end, I felt utterly transformed by the people and experiences I encountered.

I swore to return soon, but time escaped me. Somehow, it took a decade for me to finally reach the stonemasonry streets of Lisboa again. Much has changed — far more tourism, lots of hip coffee shops, a faster pace — but the soul of the city remains intact. It’s as beautiful and compelling as ever.

This Lisbon travel guide contains many of the best spots to eat, drink, and explore — new and old. If you want an authentic experience, limit your time in Baixa and wander down a side street to one of these unique locales.

 

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Where to eat in Lisbon

The number of amazing restaurants in Lisboa warrants a full book, so I’ve tried to curate only the best bites that won’t totally break the bank. While a handful of spots below offer traditional Portuguese food, our post on must-eat local dishes in Lisbon will point you in the direction of more classic fare. The list below offers a variety of cuisines from the global realm of Portuguese influence.

 

Bettina & Niccolo Corallo – Rua da Escola Politécnica 4

Chocolate lovers rave about Bettina & Niccolo Corallo, which produces hand-crafted bars and truffles near the Botanical Gardens. The owners moved the shop from São Tomé and Príncipe to Lisbon years ago and it’s become a staple for sweet-tooths. You can grab a free sample of chocolate along with an espresso (the beans are roasted in-house, of course).

 

Bistro Edelweiss – Rua de São Marçal 2

A taste of Switzerland in one of my favorite Lisbon neighborhoods, this restaurants combines the style and flavors from the Alps with Portuguese wines and German beers. The space feels like a cozy ski lodge, serving everything from fondue to vegetarian dishes.

 

Boa-Boa – Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro 30

After wandering through the Chiado shopping district, you can fill your belly with delicious pan-Asian cuisine at Bao-Bao. They offer vegan and gluten-free options, plus a flavorful cocktail list. No reservations — it’s first-come-first-serve.

 

Cacué – ​​​Rua Tomás Ribeiro 93 B-C

For classic Portuguese fare at its best, make sure to find your way to Cacué. It’s elevated traditional cuisine at a reasonable price.

 

Churrasqueira da Paz – Rua do Paz 80

This mom-and-pop hangout offers real local flavor, along with mammoth sized portions for low prices. Order the charcoal grilled seafood. It’s cash only, so bring some euros!

 

Clube de Jornalistas – Rua das Trinas 129

Located in a beautiful mansion, eating at the Clube is a unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else. Excellent service, a great wine list, ambiance…It’s the perfect spot for a romantic evening out.

 

Comida Independente – Rua Cais do Tojo 28

Not in the mood to dine out? Buy delicious, local goods here instead! Foodies flock to this gourmet shop to buy artisanal cheeses, natural wines, and organic produce at a fair price.

 

Fauna & Flora – Rua da Esperança 33

You’ll probably need to wait in line to get a seat at one of Lisbon’s best brunch destinations. Fauna & Flora lives up to its name with ample greenery around the restaurant, not to mention plenty of fresh juices, smoothies, salads, and avocado toasts. They make a perfectly jammy egg to boot.

 

Frade dos Mares – Avenida Dom Carlos I 55A

Can’t get enough octopus? You’ll want to get your tentacles around a fork at Frade dos Mares, then! They also make an extraordinary duck dish, and pretty much everything else is mind-blowingly delicious too. Make a reservation to secure your seats at this somewhat-swank restaurant.

 

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina – Tv. Alcaide 4C

This cozy tapas bar offers a small but delightful menu of small plates. You’ll probably want to order one of each.

 

Kwa Doxi – Travessa dos Mastros 25

Authentic, tasty dishes that will transport you to São Tomé. Expect a simple but hearty menu and very reasonable prices.

 

Lebanese Corner – Largo do Rato 3A

If you get a hankering for delish shwarma and falafel, this fast-casual restaurant is the answer to your prayers.

 

Lumbini – Rua da Esperança 42

I can’t tell you how many decadent curries I consumed when I lived across from Lumbini. This Nepalese restaurant serves large portions of flavorful food for a fair price.

 

Mesa Kreol – Arco Portas do Mar 9

Mesa Kreol fuses Portuguese cuisine with the flavors of Cabo Verde and Angloa. Diners sing the praises of the coconut sauces and strawberry gazpacho. There’s often live music as well!

 

Needle in a Haystack (Agulha no Palheiro) – R. Jardim do Tabaco 3

You definitely want to make a reservation if you plan to eat at this small but mighty restaurant. The food is elevated Portuguese cuisine with a focus on farm-to-table freshness. They also source wines from boutique wineries and provide very knowledgable recommendations.

 

Prado – Tv. Pedras Negras 2

Just off the main tourist drag near the Sé, Prado serves up fresh, contemporary dishes with a focus on organic and sustainable ingredients. Gourmands who care about how their food is sourced will appreciate the care put into their seasonal menus.

 

The Old House – R. Pimenta 9

Can you handle Szechuan spicy? See if your tastebuds can withstand the flavorful Chinese cuisine at The Old House. The sweet and sour pork and Peking duck are particularly popular. Be sure to order the house-made hot sauce on the side!

 

Zuari – R. São João da Mata 41

A family-run Goan restaurant that serves up authentic, delicious plates at a great value. Some say they make the best Sarapatel in Lisbon. If you don’t know what that is, go and find out!

 

 

Where to drink in Lisbon

I am more of a craft cocktail kind of gal than a clubbing wild child, so the selection here zeroes in on the best wine, beer, spirits, and ambiance instead of raving until 4:00 AM. Some great coffee destinations are also included because, well, it comes in a cup! Similar to restaurants, the options in Lisbon are endless, but we highly recommend raising a glass at the locales below.

 

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A Ginjinha – Largo São Domingos 8

Follow the elderly gents in hats to the edge of Rossio and order a shot of ginjinha “com fruta” (with fruit) or “sem fruta” (without fruit) from the man in the window. It’s a classic outdoor drinking experience in Lisbon. The sour cherry liquor, ginjinha, has been beloved since its invention in 1840. Cash only.

 

Cerveteca Lisboa – Praça das Flores 63

Craft beer aficionados will appreciate the breadth and depth of brews at this bar. They sell a variety of beers from around the world, but most are Portuguese and European. Because there are no open container laws in Portugal, you can also take a bottle (or three) to go!

 

Dois Corvos Cervejeira – R. Cap. Leitão 94

Speaking of craft beer, this brewery is among several leading the movement in Lisbon. Super Bock and Sagres will always hold special places in my heart, but it’s awesome to see independently-owned operations brewing up tasty pints in Portugal!

 

Flor da Selva – Tv. do Pasteleiro 32

Flor de Selva is a family-run coffee roaster — NOT a cafe or shop. However, if you happen to swing by when they’re not busy, you may get a tour and an espresso from the friendly father-son team, who graciously welcome in passersby from time to time.

 

Foxtrot – Tv. Santa Teresa 28

Ring the doorbell and wait for entry to this speakeasy-style cocktail bar, where bartenders wear red plaid and suspenders. The Art Nouveau decor and garden makes the experience feel like a true escape.

 

Garrafeira de Santos – R. Santos-O-Velho 74

Buy a nice bottle of Portuguese wine from this little shop and take it to the nearest miradouro. The shopkeeper is super friendly and helpful — she’ll guide you to the perfect vino in your budget range.

 

Heim Cafe – R. Santos-O-Velho 2 e 4

Digital nomads alight to this cafe for coffee, brunch, and WiFi. Get there a bit early or expect a wait — the french toast draws a crowd!

 

Memmo Alfama – Tv. Merceeiras 27

Located inside of a boutique hotel, the view from this terrace wine bar will melt your worries away. Come during off hours on a nice day and soak in the sun.

 

Nova Wine Bar – R. Nova do Almada 18

Splurge on a wine and food pairing at this upscale, new spot in the city center. The service is excellent and you’ll have plenty of help selecting glasses or bottle to suit your tastes.

 

Paródia – R. Patrocínio 26-b

A tiny bar with vintage decor, Paródia makes killer cocktails with a side of free popcorn. Ask the bartender to tell you the backstory and for her recommendations among more than 50 drinks (on and off the menu).

 

Teatro da Garagem – Costa do Castelo 69

The hidden cafe and bar at this theater offer some of the best views in all of Lisbon. Come in the evening to watch the sunset while sipping a beer, and perhaps even see a show!

 

The Mill – R. do Poço dos Negros 1

The amiable Australian and Portuguese owner of this cafe roast their own beans at Flor da Selva and serve up a mean avocado toast. Espresso drinks are expertly brewed, including, of course, a flat white.

 

Transept – R. de São Bento 45

Unique food and drinks in a welcoming environment. The French owners have cultivated a hip (yet warm) atmosphere with a great music playlist always running in the background.

 

Where to stay in Lisbon

While loads of lovely AirBnBs abound, Lisbon is also known for boutique design hotels and family-operated inns. Wherever you choose to stay, try to find a place that is Portuguese-owned. Many foreign investors have been buying up and renting out Lisbon properties due to the recent Golden Visa program, which gives a residency permit to any family or individual that purchases real estate costing at least 500,000 euros (or 350,000 if they promised to make significant renovations). The law only requires buyers to stay in Portugal for two weeks every two years, so many of these homes turn into short-term rentals, putting money into the pockets of wealthy foreigners instead of locals.

I’ve done my best to vet the following hotels for local ownership, but I’m not a private investigator, so my sources are limited:

 

Casas de São Bento – Rua Correia Garcao 3

$

 

Casa Costa do Castelo – Costa do Castelo 54

$

 

Home Lisbon Hostel – R. São Nicolau 13

$

 

Casa de Sao Mamede – Rua da Escola Politécnica 159

$$

 

Solar dos Mouros – R. do Milagre de Santo António 6

$$

 

As Janelas Verdes – Rua das Janelas Verdes 47

$$

 

Casa dell’Arte Club House – Campo de Santa Clara 125

$$$

 

Santiago de Alfama – R. de Santiago 1014

$$$

 

Palacio Ramalhete – Rua das Janelas Verdes 92

$$$

 

 

What to see in Lisbon

Most Lisbon travel guide must-see lists regurgitate the same touristy activities. While all of Lisboa is beautiful and you really can’t go wrong, we tend to shy away from long lines and pricey museums. Instead, we look for free and affordable fun that involves stunning sights and cultural gems. All of these options fall into those buckets.

 

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Miradouros

The best way to see Lisbon is on foot. Wear comfortable shoes and stroll from miradouro to miradouro (scenic viewpoints) to take in the full splendor of the city.

 

Shops

Portugal is known for design and high-quality craftsmanship, so there are endless little shops all over Lisboa. For women’s accessories and shoes, I recommend El Otro Tigre and MDMA Eco-Shoes. Those interested in bespoke gloves should check out the famous Luvaria Ulisses. You can also feel transported to another time at Companhia Portugueza do Chá.

 

Azulejos

These tiles are another tradition of Portugal, harkening back to Moorish roots and the stunning tilework of Northern Africa. You can peruse the tiny shop Cortiço & Netos or tour the Sant’anna factory.

 

Street art

You’ll stumble upon awesome street art whether you intend to or not, but you can also take a self-guided walking tour of Lisbon’s most impressive pieces.

 

Nearby beaches

The public transit in Lisbon is super efficient, including trains, ferries, and trams. You can zip up to Cascais and rent bicycles to ride along the craggy oceanside cliffs and breathtaking beaches. Another nearby option is Carcavelos, with sweeping golden sands — there’s plenty of room to stretch out — and great facilities. Praia do Meco requires a car but is peaceful and gorgeous.

 

Stroll along the Rio Tejo

The trails along the Tejo River between Lisbon and Belém have much improved in recent years. Strolling, cycling, or scootering are all great options for taking in the scenery as you make your way under the Ponte 25th de Abril to the Monument to the Discoveries.

 

Watch a movie at an arthouse cinema

Cinema São Jorge is my personal favorite for catching a classic or indie flick. The historic theater is a sight to behold and you can grab a drink or a snack at the bar.

 

Watch a Benfica fútbol game

The Portuguese are crazy about fútbol (soccer) and Benfica is the local team with the biggest fan base. Tickets are reasonably priced and you’ll see just how intensely passionate people get about a good game.

 

Day trip to vineyards for tours and tastings

The countryside near Lisbon is bucolic, gorgeous, and well worth renting a car for a day trip. Portuguese vineyards produce wines of excellent quality at an incredible value. Some favorites are AdegaMãe, Herdade dos Coelheiros, and Herdade do Freixo. Email or call to book tours and tastings at least a few weeks in advance because schedules are often irregular and tour spots fill up fast!

 

Lx Factory

I’ll never be cool enough to hang out at places like the LX factory, but for some reason, they let me in any way. The factory is a collection of shops, restaurants, and cafes in an industrial indoor-outdoor shared space.

 

Day trip to Sintra

Although it’s on every tourist’s to-do list, Sintra actually does live up to the hype, especially Pena Palace. Don’t get duped into overpriced tours — you can easily buy tickets online, take the train to Sintra, then hop on the bus up to the castles. Try to go at off hours because the crowds can be intense, especially the aggressive Instagrammers. Walking is possible but it will take you a minimum of two hours of steep climbing to reach the palace.

 

 

What to avoid in Lisbon

Like every destination, Lisbon also has its tourist traps and common pitfalls. Don’t waste your precious time and money making these mistakes and you’ll have an incredible time!

 

    • Visiting during high tourist season when it’s super hot and crowded (June through August)

 

    • Losing your cash and passport thanks to skillful pickpockets (often working Tram 28 and the Baixa area)

 

    • Buying fake drugs from not-so-subtle hawkers

 

    • Forcing subpar food down your throat at Fado dinners (which are usually tourist traps)

 

    • Waiting in line for the Santa Justa Lift

 

    • Paying for couvert items at restaurants, which seem complementary but they’re not

 

    • Overdoing it on port wine and waking up with the worst hangover of your life

 

    • Eating at any restaurant with hawkers

 

    • Overtipping when only 5% or so is expected

 

    • Paying for underwhelming indoor sites like the Torre de Belem

 

    • Waiting in line at Pastéis de Belém when you can get the same pastries a million other places

 

    • Taking expensive taxis everywhere instead of taking advantage of trams, metro, and walking

 

    • Overpaying for AirBnB experiences that you could easily arrange yourself (ahem, Sintra)

 

    • Spending all your time in the city center rather than exploring hidden corners

 

Final words

The secret is definitely out. The amazing culture, sights, cuisine, and outdoor activities of Lisbon have stolen the hearts of many, leading to surges in tourism and rising prices. However, it’s still one of the best value and most captivating cities in all of Europe. You’ll never be bored, you don’t need to shell out tons of cash to luxuriate, and temperate weather makes it an ideal destination year-round.

Go now before it becomes further commercialized and altered by foreign investment. There are still plenty of authentic experiences to find, but Lisbon is changing very fast. And when you do book your ticket and pack your bag, include plenty of comfortable shoes — those stonemasonry streets will snap a stiletto in an instant!

 

All Lisbon travel guide photos captured on an iPhone 8 by Melissa M.

 


 

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