A city trip to the beautiful city Lisbon had been on my bucket list for quite a while. It is the place where shopping meets the beach, where you jump onto an old tram to explore the historic city center and where architecture is so stunning that you don’t know where to look first.
In this blog we will take you straight to Lisbon and make your Lisbon city trip the perfect one!
Lisbon, also known as Lisboa, is the capital of Portugal. Before the city got the name Lisbon, it had several other names. Lisbon had been conquered a few times and received names as Alisubbo and Al-Ishbuna. In 1140 King Alfons I of Portugal managed to recapture the country with the help of crusaders. The city was built on economic and cultural level.
Unfortunately, a large earthquake destroyed a big part of the city in 1755 and various parts were declared uninhabitable. The King started to rebuild the city and even though not all historical buildings could have a second life, there are luckily still plenty of places you could visit.
Alfama & Castelo
The oldest and most famous neighborhoods are Alfama and Castelo. These neighborhoods survived the earthquakes and they show you exactly how the people used to live in the early twentieth century.
Follow the small labyrinth streets and let them take you back into time. You see old people sitting in front of their houses, hidden behind their laundry and sometimes entertained by happily chirping birds in cages at the front doors.
Alfama and Castelo used to be home to poor workers and unfortunately not much has changed for the current residents. This area is poor and it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is the place where the Fado (the Portuguese life song) comes from.
If you wish to experience the Fado, visit restaurant Esquina de Alfama. Singers from Alfama and Castelo perform here in the evening and they would love to introduce you to the Fado. Don’t forget to order Ginja, the traditional (cherry) liquor of Lisbon, to make your night complete!
Of all churches, museums and viewpoints, Castelo de Sao Jorge is the particular place you shouldn’t skip during your trip. This is one of the oldest and most famous castles in Lisbon. The city and Tagus river view is fan-tas-tic!
Personally we love to walk around and explore every street in the city. But sometimes there is nothing more convenient than to sit down and watch new things passing by. If you totally agree on this you would love Tram 28. It is an old, yellow authentic tram which takes you through all the small and cute streets of Lisbon. For a moment you become part of the local lifestyle of this beautiful city and the best thing is that you don’t have to walk!
It is advised to hop on early morning; during day time more people have the same idea.
Parque Eduardo VII
Lisbon has several parks, but Parque Eduardo VII is the largest and the most beautiful park you can find in the city. Walk all way up until you reach the fountain, get your camera and strike a pose!
You will have a magnificent view over the tightly landscaped garden, the Marques de Pombal statue, the Avenida Da Liberdade and the Tagus.
When you are done taking pictures in the park, walk to the Avenida Da Liberdade and enjoy this beautiful decorated street. The Avenida Da Liberdade is the most expensive shopping street in Lisbon and can be compared to the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
There are a few small coffee shops along the way where you could order a freshly brewed coffee. Sit, relax and watch the locals passing by.
Follow the Avenida Da Liberdade and walk straight into the neighborhood Baixa. Baixa is well known for its squares. The most famous square is probably the black and white mosaic Rossio square.
In the past the locals used the Rossio Square for the bull fights. Nowadays it’s crowded by tourists and students.
Personally I really enjoyed this neighborhood; the vibe is alive, shopping can be done and many restaurants are located here.
This neighborhood has the other must sees of Lisbon as well. Ruinas do Como (ruin of the biggest church of Lisbon) and Elevador de Santa Justa (the big iron-made elevator which gives an amazing view over the city center!) are located close to the Rossio Square. If you love chocolate as much as I do, make sure you visit Royale Café; they serve the best chocolate cake!
This neighborhood can be found 30 meter above Baixa and is famous for its nightlife. All kinds of cafes and restaurants can be found here. If you don’t feel like walking to Bairre Alto, go to the Avenida Da Liberdade and take the tram Elevador da Glória. You will enjoy this ride!
Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio is the biggest square of Lisbon. Back in the old days, it was home to a huge palace. Unfortunately the earthquake of 1755 completely destroyed the palace. Nowadays the square is filled with restaurants, terraces, tourists and locals.
Across the square you can find a small beach to escape the busy city life. Good thing here; there is a small food truck next to the beach where they serve freshly brewed coffee. Grab one and enjoy the view!
Visit the restaurant Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau for the local taste experience. This is the place where they serve the famous local dish Pastel de Bacalhau. Local food never tasted so good!
Belém used to be the departure point for the Portuguese explorers. The monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos shows where Hendrik de Zeevaarder started with his trips. If you want to know more about the history and the explorers, you can also go inside to watch a video. It is also possible to go all the way up (if there are no renovations!) to look out onto a square where the trips have been mapped out. Nice to see which colonies have been discovered!
Belém is also home to the tower Torre de Belém. The funny story behind the tower is that it was built on an island to protect the city. However, Lisbon extended the land area and the tower is now part of it. Unfortunately, no more island vibes for Torre de Belém!
It is possible to enter the tower for a few euros and enjoy the view it gives you. Personally we didn’t go up because we doubted that we would see more from the top than from the street.
If you follow the boulevard from Torre de Belém to Lisbon (which is really nice, especially in the morning), you can’t miss the large bridge that crosses the Tagus. This bridge is called Ponte 25 de Abril. It is a look-a-like of the Golden Gate Bridge, which isn’t quite a surprise. The company that build the bridge in San Francisco build the Ponte 25 de Abril as well!
On the other side of the bridge you will find a statue of Jesus Christ. This statue is called Christo Rei and is the little brother of the statue in Rio de Janeiro.
Christo Rei can be reached by crossing the Ponte 25 de Abril or by using the pont from Cais do Sodré. Cais do Sodré used to be the red light district in Lisbon, but it is becoming more and more a nightlife area.
You can’t leave Belém before you have tried the pastel! This sweet local snack is a little pie filled with vanilla cream with a thin layer of sugar and cinnamon. The best pastels can be bought at Confeitaria de Belém. They started in 1837 and nowadays they sell 10.000 famous Pastel de Beléms per day!
It could be very busy, so make sure you visit this place early morning. It will give you the opportunity to sit in the garden to enjoy a cup of coffee and pastels.
Another tip; sometimes the queue for the take away is much longer than when you order inside.
More places to explore outside Lisbon
If you have enough time, there are two other places which are definitely worth a visit; Cascais and Sintra.
Cascais is only a 30 kilometers drive away from Lisbon and used to be a fishermen’s village until the Royal family decided to build their summer villa’s here. Cascais became the place to be for the rich and famous.
Even though the village is filled with modern and luxurious restaurants and shops, it is still a lovely place to visit and enjoy the historical city center and nice beaches.
Sintra is a small, romantic fairytale village where the Portuguese kings used to have their summer palace(s). The reason to go to Sintra has everything to do with one particular palace; Palacio Da Pena.
Palacio De Pena is a colorful palace which can be found on top of the mountain. In the past several kings lived here and this clarifies the four different architecture styles. Every time when a new king moved in, he build a part in the architecture which was popular in that period. You can’t find a similar building anywhere in the world!
The entrance fee for Palacio Da Pena is fourteen euro and gives you access to the whole castle. If you have the possibility to buy your ticket online, please do so. We had to queue for a long time.
You could go by taxi, bus or tuktuk to reach the Palace. We went by tuktuk and we had so much fun! The tuktuk driver gave us also more background information about Sintra, the houses we passed and the famous Americans who still have a house in Sintra. It costs only five euros, so please give it a try!
We went to Lisbon for four days and I truly felt in love with this romantic city. It’s so colorful and alive and at the same time so authentic. Sintra was the cherry on top of my Lisbon pie; I wouldn’t miss this fairytale village!
Even though I can now remove Lisbon from my bucket list, it will definitely stay one of my favorite European cities!