I had the privilege of visiting Portugal in 2000, before the European Union, and it was even cheaper than now. Portugal is an incredible country to visit, and Lisbon is a must! I am naturally from Brazil which was colonized by the Portuguese, so I am fascinated by Portugal. It’s like we get a glimpse of our forefathers and how the cultures have fused and evolved. I had the honor of visiting Portugal once again with my husband last fall, in 2021, so here are my stress-free travel tips to Lisbon, Portugal.
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Best Time To Visit Lisbon
For me, the best time to visit Lisbon is during the fall. The weather is cooler and it’s considered low season, which means you will find better deals. Lisbon is also a hilly city, so cooler weather is a plus.
In the summer it can be very hot, but you are also not so far from the beach, so I understand why one would visit in the summer. So the best time to go to Lisbon, I would say, is in either May/June or September through early November. These would be the best months depending on what you would like to do.
Where to Stay in Lisbon, Portugal
Choosing where you stay can make or break a trip! Max and I always choose what we call a home base for our stays. We prefer this versus having to have too many check-ins and outs of hotels, which just tires us out. We actually love traveling low-key. Choosing a hotel that is further out from the main areas you need to visit can add so much stress to your trip, so we check the location first and foremost. We usually use Booking.com or Expedia, and we always triple-check reviews, looking for things like location, elevators, and overall customer service.
We felt so lucky in booking at Lisbon Art Stay, and we strongly recommend it for several reasons. #1 is location. It is a one-minute walk from the Santa Justa Lift, a few blocks away from the sea, near restaurants, bars, and cafes. I feel you could not be better centrally located. The street is called R. dos Sapateiros, which means shoemaker street, so my guess is there were a lot of shoemakers here back in the day.
@fusetravels Loved Lisbon Art Stay found on @bookingcom #lisbonportugal #lisbonhotel #visitlisbon #portugaltrip #portugalvacation #travelisgoodforthesoul #europevacations ♬ original sound – Fuse Travels
The second reason we loved this hotel was that they have a restaurant/bar! This was the only place we found happy hour deals in Lisbon. I am sure there are more, but on the first two nights of our arrival, we checked and didn’t find any. They also have live music every night, which was loads of fun. I had a little too much fun on our last night as you can see in this TikTok below.
Thirdly, the art decor is IG heaven! As per their website:
“Lisbon Art Stay is fuelled by art. Art is infused in all its walls, floors, and bathrooms — a uniquely compelling reflection of the groovy G-family. Whether you’re an artist or a business traveler who loves artsy things, we invite you to escape the ordinary with us. Kiss jetlags goodbye. A day at Lisbon Art Stay is everything but ordinary. Our hotel inspires a new generation of wanderers from near and far, who feel right at home here.”
Last but not least, the customer service. I had so many questions about trains and other things, and they were super friendly. I also love that they have this great Free Lisbon City Guide on their website. This is a gem of a hotel, and we can’t wait to go back!
Where to eat in Lisbon, Portugal?
If you aren’t thinking about food while planning your trip to Lisbon, why are you even going? Portugal has divine cuisine, and Lisbon is the epicenter of Portuguese food mastery. You will find their specialties like cod cakes, cod, seafood dishes, and of course the famous Portuguese pastry called pasties de Belem. So, here is where we ate during our trip.
On the same street as our hotel, R. dos Sapateiros, we found this restaurant called Licorista. It is located at R. dos Sapateiros 218. It was delicious! We had an appetizer, two entrees, and house wine, all for €29 euros which is insane! The restaurant had great customer service, and we ate there twice.
Ze dos Cornos.
My husband found this famous hole-in-the-wall restaurant on his YouTube searches before our trip. It has a very casual vibe and it’s super lively. You will find all ages and very friendly wait staff. Since it’s a very popular place, you may have to wait to get inside, but it’s worth it. Their Facebook states:
“The objective is simple: to eat traditional and homemade dishes in the heart of Lisbon. The dishes are well served and seasoned, which makes many customers loyal who have lunch there every day.”
So, my husband states that he wanted to go there because it was authentic food, cheap, and huge portions. He was right.
Rooftop Bar for happy hour. I love finding rooftop bars in Europe so we can snag some great views. I had read about Top Chiado which has a great view of the Santa Justa Lift, but the GPS was acting wacky, so here is the tip: In order to enter this rooftop restaurant bar, you actually have to go through a store.
You will find several locations of this popular cod cake spot. You can see the women making the cod cakes, and they also have a unique cod cake that comes with this special Portuguese cheese called Serra cheese. They have also joined forces with Port Wine, another Portuguese favorite, for a combo. I ordered a cod cake with ice-cold beer, and it was scrumptious.
Cais Das Colunas
We started out drinking some wine in the outdoor seating of this restaurant near our hotel when a Norwegian guy came over to ask my husband what his team jersey was, and we told him it was from Galo, which is a team in Brazil. He got all excited and said his friend’s wife was Brazilian, so then we began chatting with her. It was just so nice to meet new people. At this point, we started getting hungry and ordered the rice with a seafood dish. It was one of the best I had ever had. We devoured it, and I didn’t even have time for a photo.
Pau de Canela
For breakfast, we went to Pau de Canela, which was a bakery not far from the hotel. We loved the ham & cheese sandwiches, but the cappuccino could have been hotter, which we found overall while traveling to Portugal, except when we were in Porto.
We stumbled upon this Danish bakery while searching for a covid test site. It didn’t disappoint. I loved the cappuccinos, and the ham croissant was delicious. It has a lot of vegan as well as gluten-free options. They also have other healthy snacks, as well as fresh-squeezed juices.
How To travel Around Lisbon
Lisbon is a beautiful historical capital but it is a hilly city so prep transportation ahead of time. Our hotel was close to many attractions and was very walkable, but of course, we had to venture out to explore.
We didn’t book any official tours but we were interested in doing a Tuk Tuk tour, after all, it is a hilly city. Sadly it was overpriced since we left it for the last minute and we didn’t end up using it. I still think it is a great way to get an express intro to a city and I hope to do it in the future.
Lisbon Yellow Tram
If you have ever looked up anything Lisbon-wise, you will have spotted the famous yellow tram. And if you visit Lisbon, you must ride one and take a pretty photo near it.
As per Little Book of Lisbon: ” Tram 28 dates back to 1914 when the original horse-drawn carriages that helped locals to travel through the winding streets and hills of Lisbon were replaced by the now-iconic yellow electric carriages. The carriages are wonderfully preserved with wooden floors, timber window frames, and yellow bodies.
Nowadays Tram 28 is still very much used by locals but it also is a gateway for tourists to see the best sites Lisbon has to offer. The Tram 28 route is approximately 7 km long and passes through the popular districts of Graca, Alfama, Baixa, Chiado, Santa Catarina & Estrela and takes about 50 minutes to an hour to travel the entire route. The route starts at Largo do Martim Moniz and ends at Largo do Prazerez.”
The ride up coast was $3.50 Euros each so we decided to take the bus down. We also took the bus over to visit the region of Belem and we took the train to visit the town of Sintra. You can find many transportation options at Praça de Comercio. Lisbon also has a few lifts you can go up to visit one of the hills.
Sightseeing in Lisbon
We didnt book any official tours as you may have seen our style is more laid back and not tour crazy. We always like to do slow travel and go with the flow. So our first sightseeing walk started on the day we arrived. We couldn’t check in to our hotel so we dropped our bags and started walking towards Praça de Comercio & Arco da Rua. We walked around and took some photos.
Caution: What to Know About Traveling to lisbon
As soon as we arrived at Praca do Commercio, a guy came up to us offering Hashish. This was at noon! So broad daylight in a public area. Yes, he saw we were tourists but the crazy part is this happened during the rest of our stay as well. We were approved by men selling weed, hashish, and one even mentioned cocaine. It wasn’t very pleasant! Some of them pretended they were street vendors selling things like glasses but that is just a front. We still felt safe, but we had not read about this online and we were very surprised. As with any big city, always be vigilant.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
As we took the tram up, we spotted this viewpoint and had to get off! I love it when this happens on trips. The Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a romantic free terrace located right next to the Santa Luzia church. You will find people just hanging out there, playing music, and enjoying the beautiful views and breeze. This was a surprisingly quiet spot despite the tourists. It was so calming and I loved it.
Castelo Sao Jorge
Within walking distance of the Mira Douro, we headed over to the famous Castelo Sao Jorge. We paid to enter and explore the grounds but didn’t go inside. I absolutely loved the views. Built-in the mid-11th century, during the Moorish period, this fortification is situated in the area most difficult to access at the top of the hill, making use of the natural slopes to the north and west. The purpose of the castle was to house military troops and in case of siege, the elite who lived in the alcáçova (citadel). Unlike most European castles it was not meant as a residence. It still retains eleven towers, the most outstanding being the Torre de Menagem (Tower of the Keep), Torre do Haver ou do Tombo(Tower of Riches or Trumbling Tower), Torre do Paço (Tower of the Palace), Torre da Cisterna (Tower of the Cistern) and the Torre de São Lourenço (Tower of St. Lawrence) located on the hillside. Ruins of older structures and a cistern still remain in a second courtyard. Also found here is a small door on the northern wall called the Door of Treason which allowed secret messengers to enter or exit when needed.
You can’t visit Lisbon, without doing a half-day trip to the town of Sintra. As per Trip Advisor: getting to Sintra from Lisbon is easy. There are trains at least every 30 minutes on weekdays, every 30 minutes at weekends, from Lisbon’s city center Rossio station. The journey takes 39 minutes and a return (round-trip) ticket is €4.30 (tariff 2016). These are local suburban trains. During weekday rush hours there are more frequent trains from Rossio station to and from Sintra.
There are also trains, in both directions, to/from Lisbon Oriente via Roma-Areeiro, Entrecampos, and Sete Rios at least twice every hour, more frequently during rush hours. It is a pretty cheap train ticket ride but it does get crowded especially during the busy summer months, so arrive at the train station early.
Sintra is a charming town that was used as a vacation home by rich European families back in the day. We visited the colorful Palacio da Pena which is a must! There is also a Moorish castle to visit and lots of shopping to do in the town of Sintra.
Once we arrived by train, we paid for a ride up by a private driver. It costs only 10 Euros and he gave us some cool insights. He also mentioned that we could take the tuk-tuk down or take this easy hike which only took 20 minutes to get down. More on that to come.
The colorful exterior is magnificent and if you have never been to Sintra, definitely pay for the ticket to go inside. The castle has been restored to how it looked in 1910.
You can shop my travel outfit looks over at my LiketoKnowit Account.
Now the hike down was not what we expected. It was crazy. We are not hikers and the route would go up and down and took more than 40 minutes so double the time. As we headed down sweating and laughing, we saw people coming up in the opposite direction. We couldn’t believe it! Parents with small kids, strollers and all. Maybe we are very out of shape but it was rough. Here is a video snippet of this adventure.
@fusetravels We felt deceived lol hiking down After visiting castle in #sintra #sintraportugal #sintraportugal🇵🇹 #portugaltravel #portugaltrip ♬ original sound – Fuel For The Sole
After we finally made it down, we walked in the narrow streets and stopped by Bachlau na Vila restaurant for lunch. It is known for its cod dishes and it was delicious.
Visiting Belem Region
On the same day we visited the Miradouro & Castelo Sao Jorge, we ventured out to Belem. According to Wikipedia: Belém is a laid-back area on the Tagus River, known for its seafood restaurants and houses decorated with colorful tiles. Among the area’s shaded green lawns are historic landmarks that recall Portugal’s seafaring past, like the 16th-century Tower of Belém and the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument. Near the vast Gothic Jerónimos Monastery, the popular Pastéis de Belém patisserie is famed for its custard tarts.
This is an exciting region as it was from here that many of the Portuguese navigators left to explore the Silk route to India and discover new places such as Brazil. Christopher Columbus also stopped here when returning to Europe from the Americas.
We didn’t get a chance to go eat the famous Pasteis de Belem as we were tired by the end and it was a long line, but we did enjoy our time there. We first walked towards the Discovery moment but passed through the stunning Jeronimos Monastery. If you have time definitely visit inside.
The day was sunny and it was nice to see people riding skates, and bikes and sitting by the water while enjoying drinks. It is a short walk to the Discovery Monument. This monument was built in 1960 for the 500th death anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator. As per Go Lisbon: Inside is an exhibition space with temporary exhibits and an elevator that takes visitors to the top for some bird’s-eye views of Belem and its monuments.
As a world explorer myself, I closed my eyes, felt the breeze, and of course took some photos.
We then walked towards the Belem Tower! It is like you are in a movie! Charming, and beautiful to see. Go Lisbon states:
Built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor, the Belem Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors, it was the last sight of their homeland.
It’s a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument.
Built-in the Manueline style, it incorporates many stonework motifs of the Discoveries, sculptures depicting historical figures such as St. Vincent, and an exotic rhinoceros that inspired Dürer’s drawing of the beast. The architect, Francisco de Arruda, had previously worked on Portuguese fortifications in Morocco, so there are also Moorish-style watchtowers and other Moorish influences. Facing the river are arcaded windows, delicate Venetian-style loggias, and a statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming, a symbol of protection for sailors on their voyages.
If you ever travel to Lisbon, definitely at this attraction on your list! We walked back to the bus stop and had lunch. It was a great day.
Travel Tips to Lisbon
I hope you have enjoyed my travel tips to Lisbon. I simply loved to get a taste of Lisbon like a local. I would love to connect with you further on Instagram and Don’t forget to follow me on Tik Tok to follow more Europe Travel Adventures.
Also check out Visiting Portugal in February