Ahh Lisbon, the city of light and calçada-clad streets, tiled houses and sunny viewpoints all overlooking the mighty Rio Tejo. With an average of 300 days of sunshine per year this is a city that’s easy to enjoy with few euros in your pocket. In fact the best thing to do is stroll the streets and soak up the atmosphere…
A Walking Tour of Alfama
On the slope between São Jorge castle and the Tejo river you’ll find Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood. Full of narrow streets, little squares and colorful houses, it survived the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of Lisbon and you can sense layers of history in its charming dishevelment. Previously populated by fishermen and working people it is now home to a multicultural mix of Lisbon residents (and plenty of Airbnbs). Download a free walking tour and learn all about the medieval, Moorish and Roman history of the area.
Feira Da Ladra
It’s not necessary to spend money to enjoy the lively and loud Feira da Ladra, held near the sixteenth century Pantheon in Alfama every Tuesday and Saturday. You can find anything at this ‘thieves fair’, from odd shoes and broken dolls to high quality antiques and racks of vintage clothes.
Come to Lisbon in June and you’ll find a city in party mode, especially this year after a two year covid-enforced hiatus. This is the time the city celebrates its saints and every neighborhood decorates the streets, sets up sound systems and lights up the barbecues to grill the first sardines of the season. As well as official food and drink stands many Lisboetas open their houses to take advantage of the crowds and sell drinks from their living rooms! Music and dancing is always free and the liveliest streets can be found in Alfama, Bica and Bairro Alto.
If you want to act like a local head to any miradouro, order a bica (1 euro espresso) and while away a few hours watching the light change over the city. For the best views try Miradouro da Graça or Miradouro de São Pedro da Alcântara. For a livelier atmosphere locals and tourists gather for sunset, drinks and live music overlooking the port at Miradouro da Santa Catarina.
Casa do Alentejo
You would never guess from the unassuming sign and plain façade of Casa do Alentejo that this is the site of a 16th century palace. Step through the doors and you’ll find a Moorish courtyard, rococo-style ballroom and restaurant rooms covered in beautiful hand-painted tiles depicting Lisbon's past. After it was abandoned by the Viscounts that built it it became a casino and later a social club for people from the Alentejo region. It is free to wander in and admire the architecture and if you’re looking for a low price lunch we recommend the Açorda do Alentejo, a delicious soup of garlic, parsley, bread and a poached egg.
Igreja de São Domingos
In the same neighborhood just off Rossio square this intriguing church is worth a visit. First built in the 13th century it was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1531, almost destroyed by the 1755 quake then rebuilt only to be gutted by a fire in 1959. When it was restored architects decided to leave many signs of the fire and the blackened walls and columns make for a striking monument to this church's past.
Soak Up the Views from Abandoned Restaurant
Beloved by locals, this viewpoint in the woods of Monsanto Park was a secret until it was recently reopened. Once a high society restaurant, you can still see beautiful tiles on the ground floor although they are now surrounded by graffiti. Follow the spiral staircase to the top and you’ll be rewarded with an unbeatable 360 degree view of Lisbon. Monsanto is also a beautiful place for walking, cycling or picnicking in the sun if you fancy a break from the city.
The neighborhood of Estrela is the kind of romantic place you imagine yourself living in Europe. Away from the downtown tourists there are neighborhood cafes, antique shops and the beautiful Basilica da Estrela. Head to Jardim do Estela where you’ll find huge tropical trees, ponds full of terrapins and a wrought-iron bandstand where you’ll often catch locals practicing all kinds of dancing and music.
Pump Track and Skatepark de Nações
To the east of the city on the banks of the river is Parque das Nações, a 5km area of green space, restaurants and museums. A skatepark and world class pump track sit next to the Vasco da Gama bridge, snaking out across the river to the south of Portugal and providing an amazing backdrop for photos.
Urban Art Walk
As well as beautiful architecture and charming buildings Lisbon’s streets have become a gallery for the many urban artists that live here. Check out the Galeria de Arte Urbana a city initiative that holds a yearly festival and provides free maps and self guided tours on its website.