high angle view of Lisbon

Your Trip to Lisbon: The Complete Guide

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Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It offers stunning contrasts between historical sites, modern architecture, lively neighborhoods, parks, and world-class festivals.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best time to visit: Lisbon boasts 290 days of sunshine , but the best times to visit are spring and fall. The weather is warm and stable, lines at attractions are shorter, and accommodation prices are at their lowest.
  • Language: The official language is Portuguese . English is widely spoken, and Spanish is often understood.
  • Currency: Currency is the euro. Major credit cards are widely accepted, but always have some ready cash for coffees, snacks, and taxis.
  • Getting around: The most spectacular and popular way of getting around is by the two tram lines. But there can be long lines and they are quite expensive. Buses are faster and cheaper, and the metro is also a popular method of transport. Taxis are not too expensive but taxi drivers are prone to "flash strikes." For more freedom and spontaneity, you can also hire bicycles or rent a car if you plan to go outside city lines or to the beaches.

Things to Do

Riding the historical tram no. 28, visiting the 16th-century Torre de Belem at the river Tagus and the Monastery of St Jeronimos, and exploring historical neighborhoods like Alfama are just a few of the many things to do. For breaks between attractions, stop for some "pastel de Belem" to recharge your batteries after your long walks.

Ride tram 28: The yellow, historical tram takes you on a journey through the most popular districts of Lisbon, rattling through impossibly steep and narrow streets, making it a unique sightseeing tour not to be missed.

Torre de Belém: The 16th-century tower of Belém on the north shore of the river forms part of a defense system and is one of the most famous landmarks of Lisbon. A UNESCO World Heritage site , the tower offers you a look at the architecture from that time and also insight into the country’s relationship with other societies from around the world, notably South America. 

25th April Tagus bridge: Walk across another Lisbon landmark, the red suspension bridge over the Tagus River, for a panoramic view of the city. Often compared to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge because of its color, it was actually built by an American company and was the site of a car chase in the 1969 James Bond movie "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service."

Explore more Lisbon attractions with our articles on the best things to do and also the best budget-friendly things to do.

What to Eat & Drink

Lisbon is a cosmopolitan city which means you can find just about any food you fancy, even the most exotic. But your trip to Lisbon should focus on the dishes and drinks that are typical to the city.

Lisbon loves stews, prepared with the freshest local ingredients like fish and seafood, pork, vegetables, cilantro, and ham. Try the sandwich called Bifana, the ever popular soup Caldo Verde, and a delicious seafood stew known as Cataplana de Marisco. For a sweet tooth, indulge in pastel de nata.

No meal in Lisbon is complete without wine and a liqueur for digestion afterwards. The best table wines are Porto and Vinho do Douro as well as Madeira. Liqueurs you should try are Beirao and Ginja, made from cherry-like berries fermented in Brandy. If you prefer beer, the most popular brand is Sagres.

For a night on the tiles with all the food, music, and drink, you want start in Bairro Alto and move on from there until 3 or 4 a.m. if you have the stamina. 

Explore our articles about Portuguese food and drink.

Where to Stay

Where to stay depends on your budget, the length of your stay, what you want to do and see, and whether you travel as a couple or with kids. Luckily, Lisbon offers a solution for all options.

If you have only one or two days and want to see as much as possible without spending time on public transport, the neighborhoods of Baixa, Chiado, or Rossio are right for you. Rossio is one of the few flat areas in Lisbon. All the major sites are within walking distance, and if you want to reach Bairro Alto (for the nightlife for instance), there is an elevator. Baixa is the main shopping area, Chiado is lively with cafes, restaurants, and book stores, and both are also close to all landmarks.

If you have more time or want to experience the old Lisbon, Alfama should be your choice. It’s the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon , which survived the earthquake of 1755. Great for pubs and atmosphere but it's on top of a hill, so be prepared for a lot of climbing and use of elevators.

From Cais do Sodre, you can reach the other side of the river and are well connected to public transport including trains to other parts of the country. (You aren’t in walking distance of major sites, though.)

Explore the the best neighborhoods to stay in Lisbon.

Getting There

Lisbon’s international airport is Humberto Delgado (previously known as Portela Airport). The airport has two terminals: T1 is the major hub, and T2 caters exclusively to low-cost airlines. Connections to the city can be made by metro (the stop lies at the southern end of T1), bus and Aerobus for passengers with bulky luggage, or taxi. Metro and bus passengers must purchase a 7 Colinas/Viva Viagem Card which can be topped up and used on all Metro and Bus lines.

Lisbon is also a popular destination for cruise ships, so you may be arriving on a cruise and heading for a land excursion. The terminal stretches along the river Tagus, and there are five docks, the most important being Santa Apolonia and Praia da Rocha. Santa Apolonia is closest to the city center, but there are good connections from all of them.

Culture and Customs

Portugal does not have a tipping culture like the U.S. does, but it's always appreciated. The safest bet is to round up the bill to the next whole number or so. If, for instance it comes to 7.75 euros, leave 8. Be aware that sometimes a 10 percent service charge is already added, in which case you shouldn't tip at all.

Money Saving Tips

Free walking tours: If you wish to explore Lisbon in the company of others and a knowledgeable guide, go on a free walking tour. https://www.discoverwalks.com/tour/city/lisbon-walking-tours/

Free admission to museums: Some museums are free on Sundays, others on Friday, but always free of charge are: Berardo Collection Museum (modern art), and the Archaeological Museum.

Free concerts: Lisbon is a city of culture and music with art and music festivals year around.

Public transport and admission fees: If you plan to stay longer than a day, get the Lisboa Card. You can purchase it for 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours, and it also includes free admission to more than 30 Lisbon attractions. Buy online and collect at the airport.

Article Sources
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  1. Turismo de Lisboa Visitors & Convention Bureau. "Why Lisbon?"

  2. Turismo de Lisboa Visitors & Convention Bureau. "Useful Information."

  3. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon."

  4. Turismo de Lisboa Visitors & Convention Bureau. "Alfama, Castelo."