I may not have ever told you this, but Portugal was almost our honeymoon destination besides Paris. Even though we changed our mind and did Belgium instead, Portugal had been on our list of quite some time, and it was exciting to finally go there!
Lisbon is the bustling, charming capital of Portugal. It is a coastal city with all kinds of amazing sites and beautiful scenes to witness, and probably an ideal place to begin exploring the country of Portugal. If you haven’t already, take a look at the photo essay we did, which visually captures a taste of the wonderful character of this city.
We loved this city, though we had little time there, and we hope to go back one day to explore more of it! Let us give you a quick breakdown of what to see, do and try in Lisbon.
Lisbon is a coastal town. So when it comes to weather, it is fairly humid and windy. We went in early August and it was quite warm, but a pleasant hot, not the kind where you feel like you’re melting as soon as you step outside. In the winter it can get fairly chilly, so be sure to dress appropriately, and not show up in board shorts and flip flops!
Portugal is part of the EU, so they use euros as currency like most of Europe. Prices in Portugal are also relatively cheap compared to many countries in Europe, we especially noticed the difference when we later went to Barcelona, where food and lodging is a lot pricier. So that makes Portugal budget friendly!
The national language is, of course, Portuguese, so brush up on a few key words and phrases to be a polite traveler. If you know Spanish pretty well, you should get by without too much difficulty.
Things to Do
Walk down Augusta street: This is a long pedestrian street that begins at Plaza Dom Pedro IV and goes all the way to the Praça do Comércio, a large square you enter through the archway of Augusta, and faces the coast. Along rua Augusta there are are shops and restaurants galore, as well as churches and attractions near by. Meanwhile, the Praça do Comércio is surrounded by museums and is where large social events and parties are held.
Visit the Castle:
I hope you’re in good shape, because this is quite a climb from the city to the mount the Castelo de S. Jorge sits on. Strap on your best sport shoes, bring some water, and make your way up the many, many stairs, but don’t go too fast! Not only because you might pass out, but because there are many neat things to see as you go up. Beautiful streets, charming little restaurants, and eye-catching urban murals. There is a tram that gets you you most of the way there, so if you can’t physically make the trip, then you can take the tram from the city center. Be warned, it runs a schedule and there are dozens of people lined up to get on, so you might have to wait a while longer to get on the tram.
Once you do get the castle, the entry is 8,50 euros, not bad! The area the surrounding the castle grounds are breathtaking. Luscious, crawling greenery and crumbling architecture of an era gone by, along with an incredible 180 view of the city from above. It certainly makes the work out worth it. There is more climbing of stairs as you tour around the castle to the different towers and sections, but take your time and discover all the little nooks and crannies!
Walk down the shore: There is a beautiful coastal walkway with gorgeous views of the water, bridges and land masses on the other side. There are museums and some drink carts, restaurants, and many people taking advantage of the relaxing atmosphere.
Visit Cathedrals: No one can deny the architectural beauty that are cathedrals, and each one is so distinctly unique and of their own character that you really can’t say that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all. The Jerónimos Monastery is an exquisite piece of gothic and renaissance beauty, and is listed on the World Heritage site, and therefore definitely worth a look.
Walking Tour: While we didn’t get a chance to do a walking tour in Lisbon, there is one through Sandeman’s New tours, and if you’ve read enough of our posts, you know we are big fans of this walking tour company! Always fascinating, always fun, always a great way to get to know a place.
See Belem Tower: If medieval times are your passion, you can take a quick little trip along the coast to see this medieval defense tower. We could see it while on our way to Cascais, but sadly could not simply hop off the train to take a picture and hop back on.
Where to Stay
Lisbon is not short on hotels, hostels and airbnb options that meet all kind of traveller styles and needs. We chose a an airbnb that was like a personally run hostel. The location was great, very close to the metro and to Barrio Alto, but the room was terribly warm at night and the bed was not the most comfortable (but we are very spoiled when it comes to our bed back home…).
We did have our own full bath, which was great, as well as a shared kitchen where we could store our snacks and cook if we wanted. Once we discovered a fan, the nights became much more bearable, and Yasemin, the young lady who runs the place, is extremely sweet and helpful. I had made no real research before arriving to Lisbon, so she gave us a lot of direction and suggestions. So if you’re made of tougher stuff and not travelling in the middle of summer, I do recommend this place if you are travelling in a pair or group.
If you’re looking for budget-friendly options with a social atmosphere, you can check out these top rated hostels in the city.
Places to Eat and Drink
Restos in city center – We ate in a small resto right along rua Augusta, and while it didn’t blow us away, the meat and beer were good, which is what any active tourist needs on a hot day. If you are looking for Portuguese cuisine, you can try Restaurante Belcanto, known for its chic haute cuisine. Or if you’re in the mood for a gourmet burger, have a go at Cafe de Rio. Just beware of ‘siesta’, a time of day where many restaurants close down for a few hours before opening up again in the evening, usually between 4 and 7 pm.
Breakfast Brunch – With a hike to the castle and a second beach day in mind, we went on the hunt for a good breakfast place to give us the energy we needed. We found an adorable brunch restaurant named Breakfast Brunch. It had bright and cheerful decor, and a relatively large menu. Everything was delicious and we noticed many tourists coming in, so it is quite popular as well. Probably because it is merely 3 blocks away from the Arc de rua Augusta! So it’s convenient and easy to find!
Drink cart – Just want to relax by the water, watch the sunset go down while the waves turn from a bold blue to a seafoam green as they crash on the shore? You can do this all with a yummy drink in your hand. There is a neat little drink card called “Pitcher Cocktails” where you can buy a hard lemonade that is fresh and makes you feel just a little bit fancy, and super chill.
Cascais: We have already told you about this precious little beach town that stole us away for most of the time we were in Lisbon! You can read all about it here in our previous post.
Sintra: If you have time, please book in a day trip to this gorgeous town at the foot of the mountains. It takes a little longer to get to than Cascais, but it is quite a stunning and charming city with some fascinating pieces of architecture and a castle of its own! If you want a country-side, small town feel to your holiday, this is the place to visit! This place is one the reasons Portugal is high on our “must-return to” list.
That’s the quick scoop on what to expect when you visit Lisbon! Stay tuned for one more Portugal post from the northern city of Porto!
Is Portugal on your bucket list? Have you been to Lisbon? What did you love about it? Let me know in the comments below!