Lisbon is all over the Internet these days, and for good reason. I admit, I was a bit cautious about getting my hopes up about Lisbon only to have them dashed by realizing it was overrated. Lisbon definitely isn’t overrated!
On our drive from the airport, I began to see the parallels with San Francisco almost immediately. The slopes, the bridge, the tram….I had to rub my eyes to make sure we were in the right city! I kid, Lisbon also has so many aspects that make it different (and I think prettier!) from San Francisco!
While two days certainly aren’t enough to really explore Lisbon, they’re enough to get a taste, and acquire a strong desire to return for longer!
Where to Stay
I highly recommend York House Hotel for the perfect stay in Lisbon! This hotel is a renovated 13th century convent! It’s located on a quiet street, very close to everything you’d want to see in Lisbon. Rooms are lovely, large and clean, the service is impeccable. The garden is beautiful, so inviting for a lazy afternoon glass of Vinho Verde!
Airbnbs in Lisbon are quite affordable, however, as a responsible traveler, I urge you to think twice about booking an Airbnb in Lisbon. Lisbon is one of the cities where tourism grew quite rapidly, and Airbnbs have overtaken the rental market so that actual city inhabitants are forced to find housing further away. Until the city and Airbnb agree upon some regulations, it seems irresponsible to contribute to the locals’ problems.
Where to Eat
Lisbon serves up an excellent breakfast! In fact, since time is short, I urge you to eat a heavy(ish) breakfast, and skip lunch all together.
Our first meal in Lisbon was at Heim Cafe, and it will always be a favorite. Basically anything on the menu is really good. Try the homemade Strawberry Lemonade, it is absolutely delightful on a warm day!
Dear Breakfast is a seriously gorgeous all day breakfast place. We got there soon after it opened, and there was already a waiting line. It’s totally worth it though, as you can see from the spread below (which we demolished in no time!).
You can find the best coffee in Lisbon at Comoba. It is also a fun place to sit and chat in, located in a super convenient neighborhood.
Time Out Market combines the best of Lisbon food and shopping into one big warehouse style place. We went there for lunch around 3 pm (so pretty late) but it was still PACKED! You have to find your own seats, so if you are in a group, send at least one person to first look for a place to sit. The food is amazing though, so it is worth a visit even though it is rather touristy.
Tip : The chicken satay from the Asian place was so delicious! You can try traditional Portuguese food too, they have a wide variety of options.
LX Factory has some cool cafes and restaurants. You could easily club lunch with exploring this fun place! Read more LX Factory below, in the ‘What to See and Do’ section.
We stumbled upon this gem because we didn’t get a table at Taberna da Rua das Flores. I loved the family style dining table! It’s pretty new, so make some allowances for the service. I recommend the falafel and the Israeli chicken wrap. The owner also offered us some of his freshly made spicy orange juice – which was amazing! Definitely try this if you want a break from traditional Portuguese food.
Taberna da Rua das Flores – This is a very popular restaurant in Lisbon, but we weren’t able to snag a table. You cannot make reservations, so head there at 5 pm the evening of your meal to put your name down for a table!
A Nossa Casa (on Rua da Atalaia No 31) – recommended by Taberna da Rua if they have to turn you away. This one gets pretty busy too, so go early!
Elsewhere in Bairro Alto – The Bairro Alto neighborhood has lots of good restaurants and bars!
For an elevated Lisbon dining experience, check out Conde Nast Traveler’s 20 Best Restaurants in Lisbon list!
What to See & Do
Sunsets & Miradouro
Hands down one of my favorite activities in Lisbon was looking at the gorgeous views from the Miradouro. Miradouro literally means ‘view-point’ and I love that the Portuguese have a special word for it! Hilly Lisbon, with its pastel and tiled houses, red roofs, Golden Gate-esque bridge, is simply stunning, even more so at sunset.
Some of my favorite Miradouro’s were –
This is my favorite sunset viewing spot in Lisbon! You can see the golden glow of the sunset on the pretty houses and roofs, with both the Castle and the Bridge in the background. The walk up there is very pretty too, we saw some of my favorite Lisbon tiles on the way there.
It gets a little crowded so get there early to snag your spot!
This bougainvillea filled Miradouro is the prettiest little spot! The views are lovely, though not as great as others. However, the spot itself it perfect to sit and eat some strawberries! Be warned that it gets crowded, so go early, or with the intention of people watching.
This is very close to Miradouro de Santa Luiza but higher on the slope so it offers better views. You can get sweeping views of the river and the red roofs from here!
In addition to this, look at my section below on Alfama to find your own Miradouros!
The LX Factory is a cool urban spot, an erstwhile textile factory turned into hip stores, cafes and art! Its such fun to spend a couple of hours exploring this place! My recommendations are –
- Ride a bike to make your own juice at the stand opposite the Wish Slow Coffee House.
- Visit Livraria Ler Devagar, a Portuguese bookstore which also contains cool science exhibits!
- Shop for the loveliest tiled coasters, magnets, stationary at some of the stores.
- Drink coffee at Wish (avoid Cafe na Fabrica) and browse the cute store.
- Walk around and see the art, stop for a bite or two!
Climb the Slopes of Alfama & Catch the Views
Alfama is one of the oldest districts in Lisbon. It’s set on the slopes of a hill, so walking around definitely gives you a calf workout. The views from the top are amazing, as are surprise sightings of the Castelo Sao Jorge.
Walk around without a purpose
Lisbon is probably the most fun city to get lost in. Any slope you walk up, or corner you round brings you to the next beautifully tiled house. Honestly, it took me double the recommended time to walk anywhere because I stopped for pictures every minute!
The best regions to get lost in are by the water, Alfama, Bairro Alto or Chiado.
I especially loved the bougainvillea situation in Lisbon!
Belem is a pretty town close to Lisbon. It is most famous for the Belem Tower and the origin of pateis da nata. There are quite a few cool museums there as well, so it’s definitely worth spending a couple hours in Belem.
The tower is more impressive from the outside, so skip going in if you are short on time.
Photograph the Lisbon Trams
Photographing the trams is more fun than riding them (much less hassle!). In order to get the photo below, head outside this spot where the tram starts from, walk ahead a few meters and walk up the stairs. Keep walking to a high enough point so that you can get the rooftops behind.
It’s also really fun to photograph Tram 28 along it’s scenic route. If you are lucky, you can get a picture with one of Lisbon’s gorgeous attractions as a backdrop.
Portugal’s Fado music is hauntingly beautiful! We didn’t get a chance to go to any of the bars, but check out this article for some recommendations.
Praco do Comercio has the dual advantage of being beautiful and perfect for people watching. It is full of tourists and people selling sunglasses, but still a must stop while in Lisbon! While you are there, take a look at the beautiful Arco da Rua Augusta as well.
What to Skip
This place has blown up on Instagram, but in reality it is just a grimy, sticky, smelly, pink colored street. It’s absolutely not worth going all the way there just for pictures. Luckily, we were walking past it anyway, so I could warn you about this!
Castelo de Sao. Jorge (go if you have more time)
We didn’t go to the castle since we only had two days. If you plan to visit Sintra to see the castles there, I recommend spending time on other things in Lisbon.
If you have longer, people have said it’s worth a visit, especially for the views from there!
I personally wasn’t a fan of the pastel da nata (Portuguese egg tart). Before you spend hours standing in line for the “original” pastel da nata at Pasteis de Belem, try one elsewhere in Lisbon to make sure it would be worth it for you.
Riding on Tram 28
Tram 28 is top of every tourist itinerary for Lisbon. However, we noticed that it was always packed. I also read that there are pick pockets on the tram. I highly recommend taking pretty pictures of the tram, but maybe not riding on it!
- Uber is very cheap, especially for larger groups
- Trams are very crowded and Tram 28 is quite touristy
- Contact me for the phone number of the driver for a day trip to Sintra / Cascais and/or airport pick up & drop off
- Wear comfortable walking shoes and carry water! Or else a bottle of water should be under €1.
- Combine LX Factory and Belem since they are in the same direction
- OR Combine Sintra and Belem in the same day trip!
- Taxi / Private car to and from the airport is decently cheap (€ 20) especially with a group of 4
Day Trips from Lisbon
The most obvious potential day trip from Lisbon is Sintra, the city of palaces. However, I recommend adding a stop in Cascais (Portugal’s answer to the French Riviera), especially if you aren’t planning a longer visit to the Portuguese coast.
Porto is also only a 2.5 hour train ride away, but from what I’ve read, you will probably want to stay overnight rather than cram it into a day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for Porto, but it’s on the list for our next visit to Portugal!