The Ultimate Lisbon Travel Guide

Photo courtesy of Liam McCay on Unsplash

As a Global Citizen, we know you appreciate the lesser known gems of a city. So let’s skip the obvious travel tips and get you the good stuff. We wrote this Lisbon Travel Guide so you can experience a local twist on Lisbon with adventure in mind.

Lisbon Travel Guide Quick Links

5 Quick Tips for First-Time Lisbon Visitors

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Get a Viva Transport Card. From metros, to ferries, trains to trams, you can get pretty much anywhere on as little as €1.50. #protip: When buying a Viva Transport Card at any metro or train station, make sure to choose Zapping. It’s a prepaid credit you can use on various operators. 

Use Ride Share Apps. Don’t let the taxis scam you. Use Uber, Kapten, or any of the bike or electric scooter-share apps to get around. Yes, you read it right. We said scooter. Avoid the cobblestones and ride one along the river from the city center to Belém Tower.

Learn a Few Words. Most people in Portugal speak English, but a little Portuguese goes a long way in this town. 

  • Por favor means please
  • Com licença means excuse me
  • Obrigado (for men) or obrigada (for women) means thank you
  • Onde é…? Means where is…?
  • Sim means yes
  • Não means no
  • Tudo Bem? means How are you?
  • Tudo, obrigado/a, e com vôce? means Good, thank you, and you?

Pack Smart. Pack light and bypass the difficulty of rolling large luggage on cobblestone and up hills. Many apartments in Lisbon do not have lifts, so be prepared to work those legs. Pack comfy shoes for walking around and you’ll be set.

Travel Consciously. Over the past few years, Portugal has taken major steps to make eco-innovation a priority. They even won the 2020 European Green Capital Award for achieving a 50% reduction in C02 emissions from 2002 to 2014, among other impressive sustainability efforts. So, while you’re in town, make sure to take note of the recycling bins around the city, bring a reusable bag with you and say não to plastic. Most plastic cups from kiosks around the city are 100% recyclable. Tap water in Lisbon is potable, so make sure to pack your refillable water bottle.

Lisbon Weather Considerations

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The weather in Lisbon flows with the seasons. While summers in Lisbon are hot, hovering around 85-95ºF (30-35ºC), the winters are fairly mild, with lows around 52ºF (10ºC) and dropping to 47ºF (8ºC) in the evenings.

If you are traveling to Portugal in the winter, make sure to pack a sweater, warm jacket, and a raincoat. Even in cooler weather, you can fall in love with Lisbon in the off-season. In fact, it’s still one of the warmest European cities in the winter. The best part is that you can experience all that sunny Lisbon has to offer at a lower cost of travel, with less crowds. Take advantage of cozying up in a taberna and listen to Fado music or walk up the hills to the castles without breaking a sweat. April showers bring May flowers, right? That’s also true in Lisbon. If your trip is planned for April, expect showers, clouds, sunshine and excellent surf conditions.

The high season of summer, between June and August, packs a lot of heat, literally. During this time of year, all you need is a small bag, like The Weekender Duffel Bag, packed with summer clothes and a light jacket. In June, the days are hot, but the evenings can still get a little chilly.

When is the Best Time to Visit Lisbon?

The high season for tourism in Lisbon is June through August, driven by summer holidays, hot weather, and the most popular festival of the year, Santos Populares em Lisboa.

If you want to avoid the crowds, consider a visit to Lisbon in May or September when it’s warm enough to go the beach in Estoril, ride the waves in Carcavelos, or go on a coastal hike in Sintra.

The Best Time to Visit Lisbon for the Adventurer

surf in lisbon

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Get to know Lisbon by exploring the natural landscape. Just 30 minutes from the city center are some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Take the train from Cais do Sodre in the city center toward Cascais and stop by Carcavelos, São Pedro, or Cascais. Beach season begins in late-May and lasts through September, with August peaking in temperatures up to 104ºF (40ºC).

When the April rains are over, visit Lisbon in May. Bring your gear and rock climb on the coast of Guia, an area just 10 minutes from Cascais by car. If you don’t have equipment with you, climbing gyms in the city will rent out shoes and harnesses. You can also find everything you need at a sporting goods store like Decathalon.

Portugal is also home to the world’s biggest wave and some of the best surf spots in the world. You can hire boards and wetsuits at Carcavelos Beach or in Costa da Caparica throughout the year, but the best time to surf is from late winter to early spring.

The Best Time to Visit Lisbon for the Foodie

Photo courtesy of Jornal I

If you like street food, there is no better time to visit Lisbon than June. Each neighborhood sets up their own arraial street party, and the whole city celebrates throughout the month with grilled pork and sardines, local beer, and traditional music. On the Eve of Santo Antonio, June 12th, the streets are packed, and the party lasts till the morning.

Portuguese food is plentiful and delicious year-round, but you can avoid the crowds and take in the city’s most memorable dining experiences by visiting in late spring and late summer. Feast on the fresh seafood, sat at a dangerously close-to-the-edge table at Ponto Final in Almada, just an 8-minute ferry ride from Lisbon’s city center.

Don’t leave Lisbon without casting your vote for the best Portuguese custard tart, pasteis de nata. The city’s top bakeries, Manteigaria in the city center and Pastéis de Belém in Belém are both worth a visit. And at just €1 per pastel de nata, you may just have to eat a whole bunch before you make your decision.

The Best Time to Visit Lisbon for the Music and Art Lover

Agua no Bico

The streets of Lisbon are painted with art in every corner. The first Azulego Tiles, decorative glazed ceramic tiles, date back to the 13th century and have become a cornerstone of Lisbon culture. You can spot these tiles on almost every building.

Take a street art walking tour and get to know the meaning behind the pieces. Avoid April, as the spring rains typically last all month. Spend a day or two visiting some of Lisbon’s many art galleries and museums, or wander into little-known cafés like Agua no Bico and marvel at an original carved portrait by Portuguese street artist, Vhils, right from your table.

Street art in Lisbon

Experience the music of Lisbon beyond Fado. From May to September, you can enjoy live music and DJ’s at Outjazz, a free music festival that takes place every Sunday at a different park each month.

The Best Time to Visit Lisbon for the Digital Nomad

Work remotely in Lisbon

If you’re in tech, November is the month to be in Lisbon. One of the world’s largest tech conferences, Web Summit takes place and brings with it over 70,000 people.

While you’re in town, work from a different coworking space or café every day and taste what life is like to work remotely from Lisbon. Bring your laptop poolside at Selina Secret Garden, work on top of the famous Time Out Market at Second Home, overlook the Tagus River at Cowork Central, sip on pour over coffee at Hello, Kristof or Amélia Lisboa. The Meetup group Lisbon Digital Nomads often hosts free coworking days, networking events, and sports or professional development activities for locals and visitors.

Annual Events in Lisbon

Annual events in Lisbon outdoor festivals

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There is always something to do in Lisbon, so we’ve narrowed it down to the biggest events of the year.

March. Lisbon is home to many Brazilians, and naturally, their culture. Carnival parades take place just an hour outside of the city.

June. Santos Populares, the biggest festival of the year, takes over the month of June with neighborhood street parties, food, drinks, music, and dancing.

July and August. Music festivals bringing in the world’s top acts happen almost every weekend during these summer months.

October. The waves are back and so are the crowds. October is when the World Surf League's pro surf competition takes place in Portugal.

December. The Christmas holiday celebrations are in full swing with Christmas markets and concerts across Lisbon.

The Best Spots to Take Photos in Lisbon

Castle in Sintra Portugal

Anyone who has been to Lisbon can agree that almost every inch of the city is photo-worthy. You can catch the beauty of the buildings in Alfama and Bica, or the soft waves of the river from Costa da Caparica, but these spots will really take your breath away.

Escape into a fairytale in Sintra, where historic castles are nestled in the hills. Get lost in the books of Ler Devegar bookstore at LX Factory, or walk through the gardens at Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira.

Ler Devegar bookstore at LX Factory

Overlook the city with local beer at any of Lisbon’s miraduros or viewpoints, scattered throughout the city. It’s also a perfect excuse to stroll through different neighborhoods. Our top picks:

  1. Miraduro de São Pedro de Alcântara. Located between the busy party district of Bairro Alto and the peaceful hilltop neighbourhood of Principe Real, you can enjoy this spacious viewpoint with an espresso or beer in hand from a quiosque or one of the many food and drink stalls located in the square.
  2. Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte. Take in the panoramic views of the city from the highest point in the neighborhood of Graça. This miraduro is located on a churchyard and is one of the city’s most beautiful hidden gems.
  3. Miradouro Portas do Sol. A balcony viewpoint appropriately-named “the gateway to the sun”, overlooks Lisbon’s most historic neighborhood, Alfama, and the monasteries and churches that pop up between the iconic terracota roofs of the city.

Serra Arrabida

Breathe in the fresh air at the Natural Park of Arrabida, admire the rock formations at Ursa Beach, and place yourself at the most western point of Central Europe at Cabo da Roca.

The best way to find spots to take photos in Lisbon is to wander. Don’t be shy to walk aimlessly and participate in local culture by sipping on an espresso in a mini market, and ordering a traditional meal at a local tavern.

How Not to Look Like a Tourist in Lisbon

Tram in Lisbon

Blending in with the locals takes more than a change of clothes in Lisbon. The truth is, the city center is full of tourists, so chances are the locals will know you’re visiting. But there are still a few things you can do to experience Lisbon like a local.

Be Conscious of Where You’re Standing.
With the entire city being one photo opportunity after the other, it can be easy to be taken aback by what’s in front of you. Try not to stop in the middle of the sidewalk, so people can pass. Snap a photo and continue on with the flow of foot traffic.

Leave the High Heels at Home.
We’ll say it once and say it again. Lisbon streets are mostly cobblestone and there are lots of hills to climb. If you’re confident you’re a master at walking in heels, go for it! Locals know, it’s best to stick to sneakers.

Give Two Kisses or a Handshake.
In Lisbon, men give handshakes to other men, but a kiss on each cheek for women. Women always give two kisses to other women. Yes, you’ve got to pucker up even when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

Try the Local Food.
Give yourself the opportunity to get to know Portuguese culture by trying the food. Eat at a tasca, small traditional Portuguese restaurant, usually nestled in the old neighborhoods. Expect large portions for a shockingly affordable cost.

Get Your Music and Art Fix at a Cultural Association.
Support up-and-coming local artists and musicians, and treat yourself to some of the best and authentic entertainment in town. There are cultural associations in almost every neighbourhood. Associations, like Anjos70, host a free weekly jam session with the city’s top talent and there is only a one-time membership fee of €3 for the year.

3 Unusual Places to Visit in Lisbon

Trafaria Prison

This one’s for travelers who are all about the hidden gems and secret spots the Lisbon guidebooks and tour companies won’t tell you about.

  • Casa Independente. In the heart of what used to be a dodgy area is Casa Independente, an apartment building turned bar and live music venue. Vintage furniture, good food and crafty drinks, with an interior courtyard.
  • The Abandoned Trafaria Prison. On the other side of the 25th of April Bridge is the town of Trafaria and the location of an old prison. Founded in the 1700’s, it has all the marks of the prisoners who counted the days of their captivity.
  • Thieves Market. Feira da Ladra, or Thieves Market, is one of Lisbon’s oldest flea markets, dating back to the 12th century. Small stalls of antiques, books, clothes, and furniture fill the streets every Tuesday and Saturday.
Belem Tower in Lisbon

Lisbon has no shortage of things to do, eat, see and experience. It’s got a little something for everyone. What are you waiting for? Start packing! In fact, we’ve made it easy for you with The Carry-On Closet, so all that’s left is to buy your ticket. Até logo!