It's taking over your social media feeds, come and see what all the hype is about?
Lisbon seems to be one of the hottest places to visit at the moment! Social media is going crazy for this incredible city, and its easy to understand why. The people, the food, the architecture and the history are everything and more, one can hope for when exploring a new destination.
How to Get There
Being Portugal’s capital, Lisbon is very well connected; be it with planes, coaches or trains. Lisbon airport is the major international gateway to the country with frequent connections worldwide. If you’re already in the country, just in another city, the best options are coach or train travel.
Coaches can be pre-booked online or on the day at coach stations. In the summer months I would definitely advise booking in advance because the coaches are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. The major coach company, Rede Expressos, has an extensive network and luckily has an easy to use online site. In saying that, the booking system is a little annoying, being that it only lets you book thirty days in advance, but that is still enough time to secure a seat. Personally, I opted for this option due to it being slightly cheaper and being able to secure my luggage in the storage trunk beneath the coach. Naturally, travel cost varies depending on departure point.
Porto – Lisbon, 3hrs 30min, €15
Lagos – Lisbon, 4hrs 15min, €16
Note: Lisbon has two major coach stations, Sete Rios and Oriente. Make sure to check which is closest or most easily accessible to your accommodation.
Note: Individuals under 29 years are eligible for Youth Tickets, which can be purchased at a reduced rate. Every little saving counts when you’re on a budget!
Slightly more expensive than travelling by coach, but still cheaper than flying, train travel transports you between major Portuguese hubs. Online reservations can be made around two months in advance or at train stations.
Porto – Lisbon Oriente 2hrs 45min, €33
Lagos – Lisbon Oriente 4hrs €31
Where to Stay
Lisbon, like Porto, has a huge variety of great hostels to stay at. I can vouch for Yes! Hostel, having stayed there on my trip in June 2018. They had a great location and was within walking distance of so many great sights. They also organised day trips out of the city, group dinners and even a shuttle bus to Lagos. If this doesn’t sound like the hostel you’re after, then check out the city’s other hostels on Hostel World.
If you’re read some of my previous posts, you will realise that I absolutely love exploring on foot, it is the best way to get lost and really see much more to the city, that just the typical tourist hot spots. Lisbon can be quite a walkable city, but mainly around the old town. Also, be aware that Lisbon was built on a bunch of hills, so prepare for some steep inclines. But they do pay off, by offering a multitude of stunning vantage points. If you’re feeling ambitious you can walk from the town centre to Belem, but be prepared that it will take an hour or so.
If you’re not keep on walking too much, don’t stress, there are plenty of tram routes around the city. The most scenic tram route is the 28, but due to its popularity it’s a favourite amongst pickpockets, so just be weary of your belonging on the tram. Also be prepared to have to stand for the journey, it really is a popular choice.
Heading to Belem? Jump on tram 15.
Note: Single tram tickets cost around €3, but its much better value to buy a 24hr ticket from the metro stations for roughly €6.50.
Lisbon also has its own Metro system, but I’ll admit the only time I used it was to get from the coach station to my hostel.
What to Do
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Found on the highest hill in Lisbon, this certainly is a monumental landmark of the city. With parts of the castle dating back to the fifth century it sure is worth a visit, for more than just its great view. Entry to the site costs €8.50, and can be reached along the 28 tram route or on foot, just brace yourself for a solid incline.
Miradouro de Santa Luiza had to be my favourite vantage point over the city, and it was a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. It is a rather popular location, being on the 28 tram route.
Tip: To avoid the crowds head there in the morning, I went around 8am and was just about the only person around.
Time Out Market
Food heaven! I’m not even exaggerating! The time out market is a great market space that hosts 24 restaurants and 8 bars in the historic Mercado de Ribeira Velha. It’s a space that brings the very best of the city into one space. If you’re not convinced, definitely just wander through, and I’m sure, like me, you’ll be finding any excuse to come back for more.
Check out Marlene Vieira, they did a phenomenal grilled octopus and potato dish.
Surely, you’ve heard of the Portuguese tart, known by locals as pastel de nata. The caramel, custardy deliciousness is an absolute must try in Portugal and where better to try it than where it originated, Pasteis de Belem? The recipe dates back to the sixteenth century, having been created by nuns in the nearby convent. Over generations and generations, the recipe has been a favourite and continues to be known as the World’s Best Portuguese Tart; just be prepared to queue to try it for yourself.
Whilst you’re in the area don’t forget to visit Belem tower and the Jeronimos Monastery.
Tip: If you want to avoid to huge queue, opt to sit in and have a coffee rather than have take away. Plus, if you enjoyed them, you can always order extra to takeaway.
Who doesn’t love a freebie? Sign up for a free walking tour, and see the city in a different light. Guided by locals explore the rich history of the city, but also get an inside perspective into life in the city. Also get some tips on great local haunts. Check out Chill Out Lisbon’s free walking tour.
Elevador da Bica
One of the most photographed icons in the city is the Elevador da Bica, a funicular railway in the old town. The steep incline offers beautiful views over the river, but its more so the incline itself that gets captured. It wasn’t as dramatic an incline as I had expected but still impressive. You can ride the funicular for a return price of €3.70, however one could quite easily have walked it.
Note: If you fancy a great aussie inspired brunch, hit up The Mill nearby
Day Trip to Sintra
If you’ve got an extra day in Lisbon, definitely look into doing a day trip to Sintra. The World Heritage Listed region plays host to a collection of castles and mansions which truly make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a fairy tale.
Plenty of tour companies will offer guided day trips but I found it super easy to organise on my own and for a fraction of the cost.
Trains depart from Lisboa Rossio to Sintra frequently during the day with the first train departing at 8:11am. The train station caters well for individuals travelling to Sintra, having ticket machines clearly offering combination tickets (€15.50) to Sintra which include return travel from Lisbon and a bus pass to get around the castles in Sintra. The train journey takes just under an hour with Sintra being the terminating station. Exit the station and turn right, you’ll find a bus stop and some cafes, continue walking to the second bus stop, where you should find the 434 bus. The first bus of the day is the 9:05am, which is the Pena circuit to Pena Palace. The bus stops along the route, but if you want to visit Pena palace, wait until that stop, otherwise you’ll likely spend the entire day waiting in line to visit. Pena palace is also situated on the highest part of the region, so its much easier to start there and walk down to the other castles, than hiking up.
Pena Palace opens to the public at 9:30am so getting the first bus will still likely keep you waiting for 5-10 minutes before the gates are opened. From the gates there is a short uphill walk to the palace itself, you can opt to wait for the shuttle transfer for €3 but be prepared to wait. I chose to walk up and was so glad I did because I had the palace to myself just about. The palace is stunning inside and out, well worth a visit. Unfortunately, when I visited the weather was rather shocking with poor visibility so the panoramic view was rather non-existent but it was still beautiful to walk through the palace and surrounding gardens, which well worth an explore.
Palace of the Moors is another site within Sintra, only a short walk away from the bottom of the Pena Gardens. Although it is a very different style of architecture, and not quite as popular as Pena palace, I found it to be my preferred highlight. Walking along the remaining walls, climbing the towers and seeing the clearing weather is definitely not to be missed.
Note: Purchase tickets to the palaces online in advance, otherwise you might miss out, or you’ll spend half the day waiting in different lines to purchase tickets and then another queue to enter the site.
Tip: Catch the bus back to Sintra from the Palace of the Moors even if you don’t visit it. The line at Pena palace for the bus is ridiculous and you will be waiting at least 30-60 mins. Whereas there is barely anyone at the Palace of the Moors and the bus passes through here before reaching Pena.
Before leaving Sintra make sure to visit Casa Piriquita, a famous local pastry shop. The Portuguese sure love their sweets. Make sure to try Travessario and Pastel de Sintra!
If you have time and fancy exploring more of the region why not jump on a bus to Cabo da Roca, the most western point of mainland Europe. If you bought the combination bus/train ticket in Lisbon, you can easily get your moneys worth as this bus trip is covered under that one ticket (otherwise you’ll be paying €16 return just for the bus). Look for the 403 bus to Cabo da Roca, which should take roughly 50 minutes. The bus drops off at the main building with the lighthouse, definitely check out the view but its also worth wandering off to one of the walking trails for uninterrupted views of some stunning beaches.
The bus back to Sintra runs every 30 minutes or so and terminates at the Sintra train station, making it an easy transfer back to Lisbon.
Tip: Follow google map directions to Praia da Ursa from the light house. You’ll find a dirt road which you can follow towards an epic viewpoint.
Note: If you’re running out of battery on your phone, don’t stress there are charging ports on the bus.
Where to Eat
Time Out Food Market – an absolute must try when in Lisbon
Petisqueria Conqvistador – Sintra’s famous pastry shop
Casa Piriquita – great tapas and wine, affordable
Pasteis de Belem – home of the world famous Portuguese tarts
The Mill -aussie inspired brunch, need I say more?
Ginjinha – a local liquor, served in a chocolate cup! Delicious!
Lisbon is easily one of the best cities in Portugal. With so much going on, it’s easy to see why it is one of the most popular destinations! Start packing those bags and jump on the next flight to Lisbon, you will definitely not regret it!