Guide to LISBON

By the time I got to Lisbon, I was an expert on trains and train stations in Portugal. I definitely knew the drill.

The contra-selfie culture: Asian tourist painting Lisbon’s Church and Monastery of São Vicente de Fora.

What, on the other hand, I still didn’t really get – being such a flatlander from Hamburg – was that Portuguese cities are very hilly. That makes them beautiful and grants their visitors with stunning views. But for the arriving passenger, it’s quite a challenge.

Arrival in Lisbon

Arriving from Coimbra at Lisbon’s Santa Apolónia station, I checked google maps for the way to my accommodation. I got the information it was a bit over a kilometer, less than a mile. Hence, no problem, I would walk this short distance.

What the app withheld was that it was a bit over a kilometer uphill. Partly on steep cobblestone alleys, partly on stairs. Even less than a mile uphill on alleys and stairs becomes pretty far. Especially if you are dragging a suitcase on far too small wheels behind.

If you want to drop in – it’s the first door on the left…number 11.

So I was a heavily sweating mess as I arrived at the apartment and knocked at the neighbor’s door for the key.

Yes, correct, I staid at an apartment. Nope, not the Airbnb-kind. It was a small room on street-level. I technically lived on the alley.

Modest Shelter

However, it was equipped with most things a visitor might need. Obviously, there was a bed – from IKEA, foldable. Also a table and three chairs – not IKEA, but still foldable. A kitchenette, consisting of two hot plates, a microwave, a sink, and all the necessary accessories. There was even a washing machine, which was irritating since there was no closet. I wonder why they rather put a washing machine in such a small room than a closet. Especially since there was hardly space to hang your freshly washed laundry.
Maybe washing machines were on sale.

There was no TV. I didn’t need a TV, but since there was no internet access, either. However, people without a good old-fashioned book might get pretty bored.
Or they’ll entertain each other fighting.
If I had stayed there with another person, we probably would have fought. It was a small room with not much to do, after all.

Location Location Location

Nevertheless, the apartment was in an incredible location: In a narrow alley within the castle wall!

Leaving my hood through the great wall.

Tourists were passing right in front of my cobblestone alley level door. There was neither an aircon nor a fan in the room. And since I left the door window open for fresh air, every single one of those tourists peeped in my room.
I didn’t blame them, that’s something you automatically do. They probably took me for a Portuguese bohemian.
I bet some of them were pretty jealous because of my million dollar location.
I was staying right next to the castle, after all!
Within the castle walls!
Did I feel like a queen?
Nope, not on twenty square meters without a TV and without Wifi.
Rather like the queen’s washing woman living close by to be available at any time; I had a washing machine, after all.

Did I like staying at the posh, comfortable places in Porto and Figueira da Foz?
Yes.
Did I like staying at a rather run-down one-room apartment at the Castelo, doing my own grocery shopping feeling like a true-born Portuguese?
YES!

Showing You Around in Lisbon

It’s like they say: Home is where the heart is. And I know that Lisbon occupies a big piece of my heart now. Actually, it’s definitely my second favorite city in Europe. The all-time favorite is Venice, just so you know.

Do you blame me for instantly falling in love with this place?!

Since according to this charming saying this is sort of my home now, let me show you around a bit. This way, you’ll understand why it took Lisbon less than 24 hours to make it to my all-time favorite list of cities.

Tram No 28

Guys, I’m sorry, I know I’m not original by guiding you through Lisbon along the iconic line of tram No 28. However, this route is just too perfect.

It would be more original and unique to send you to Lisbon’s satellite town and impoverished outskirts. Or to the business district around Parque das Nações. But those look like any other business district around the globe – besides the really cool Oceanário, the aquarium.

Still, the nicest places and most interesting attractions are located along the #28’s route and that’s how we travel. Nevertheless, I promise you some additional detours.

Although a major touristy mean of transport – and a tourist attraction in itself – the tram #28 still is a public cable car in Lisbon. Only that hardly any locals take it since it’s always packed and infamous for attracting pickpockets.

So if you take it, look a bit after your belongings. Also, try to hop on at one of the final stops which are either Martim Moniz downtown or Campo Ourique in the west to get the best seats. Or seats at all.

Take A Seat

However, I have to warn you: You will keep your nice seat only if you stay on the tram during the entire tour. If you use it as a hop-on-hop-off option, you probably have to stand from the first time you come back on board. The train fills up pretty quick and seats are very limited.

If you have a ticket for the day – either the 24 hours metro ticket or the LisboaCard – I’d suggest you do the entire route once without getting off and do the hop-on-hop-off thing another time, e.g. on your way back.

Praça Dom Pedro IV (Rossio)

Before getting on the train, let’s look around the Praça Dom Pedro IV a bit, aka Rossio. In the north-west corner is the grandiose building housing the Rossio train station; e. g. the trains to Sintra are leaving from here.

Train station Rossio Lisbon
Train station Rossio – the hub for the Sintra region.

The station was built in the late 19th century in a Neo-Manueline style. I find it’s one of the most striking buildings in Lisbon.

Lisbon Rossio Teatro Nacional
Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II
(Photo: anonym, TeatroNacionalDMariaII, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Next to the station on the northern side of the Dom Pedro IV square is the Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II – adjacent to the Largo São Domingos.

São Domingo

Here, the São Domingos church is worth a visit. This house of worship was built mid of the 13th century, but that’s not the reason why it deems a bit windblown. Actually, it should be called the Phoenix church since it resurrected from various damages caused by both nature and men – such as earthquakes and fires.

Lisbon Sao Domingos
The São Domingos’ decayed interior tells tales of a rough past.
Star of David in Front of Sao Domingos
As we all know, anti-semitism was not invented by the Nazis: Although Portugal used to have a large Sephardic community, Jewish people were not always accepted and considered equals, and in 1506, there was the so-called Lisbon pogrom, also known as the Easter Slaughter where more than 1900 people were killed. By the way, the Sephardic Jews had come to Portugal about 30 years before, fleeing the pogroms in Spain.

At the end of the Travessa Nova de São Domingos turn left into the Rua da Palma where you can get on tram #28.

Alfama

It carries you around the Graça neighborhood and takes you to the Alfama district overlooking the Rio Tejo. Alfama – architectonically influenced by the Moorish – is the home of the ordinary folks, very colorful and charming with lots of narrow alleys – and due to its elevated location, it grants grandiose views of the city and the river alike.

São Vicente

Soon, the tram stops at the Praça de São Vicente. Here you cannot only see the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, but you also enjoy some of the best views of Lisbon and the river Tejo.

Praça de São Vicente in Lisbon
Praça de São Vicente
View of the Lisbon and the river Tejo from São Vicente
View of the Lisbon and the river Tejo from São Vicente

If you feel like walking – to be precise: climbing – you can walk up the Rua de São Vicente up to Largo Rodrigues Freitas and enter one of Lisbon’s most visited attractions, the Castelo de São Jorge.

Mural in Alfama
Like in any other city, too, you get some of the most alluring views off the beaten tracks. This mural can be spotted on the way from Alfama up to the Castelo São Jorge.

São Jorge

The Castelo de São Jorge complex is a medieval citadel, consisting of the castle, ruins of the former Royal Palace, and the adjacent former elite’s neighborhood. Built by the Moors in the 11th century, it functioned as a defensive stronghold for the citadel’s inhabitants such as the Moorish governor and his entourage.

The fort can be visited daily from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m. from November to February and from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. from March to October. Tickets are €uro 8,50 resp. €uro 5 for students under 25 and  €uro 20 for families.

I suggest you don’t visit only the Castelo itself, but venture a little bit through the adjacent alleys to get a feel for the true Portuguese life.

Castelo de São Jorge
….but in all honesty: The views from the fort are more spectacular than those of the fort.
(Photo: anonym, Lisbon from the Castelo de Sao Jorge 2006, cropped to 1102×735, CC0 1.0)

To continue our tour, you don’t need to take the tram to the next stop since it’s only one block down –  literally down, so be a bit careful not to slip.

Santa Luzia

One of the most famous Miradouros, Lisbon’s many outlooks, is the square in front of the Igreja de Santa Luzia. I’m afraid that hardly anyone visits the church, that, after all, dates back to the 12th century – everybody is too distracted by the views from the courtyard.

Igreja de Santa Luzia
Once you turn your back to the gorgeous view, you’ll notice that the church is beautiful, too!

Across from the church is Lisbon’s arts and crafts museum, the Museu de Artes Decorativas. It houses paintings, textiles, ceramics and more from the 15th to the 20th century.

Museu de Artes Decorativas Portuguesas
The elegant Rococo music room.
 (Photo: Dguendel, Lisbon, museu de Artes Decorativas, music room, CC BY 4.0)

If you aren’t a total aficionado, you get to see so many of these all over Lisbon – and all of Portugal – that I’m not sure if it’s worth to visit this museum. But if you choose to go, here are the details:

Museu de Artes Decorativas Portuguesas 
Rua de S. Tomé 90
1100-564 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 21 881 46 00
Email: geral@fress.pt

Baixa

Now you should definitely get back on the train since from here to the next stop, it’s a crazy ride downhill. The tram gets so close to the houses that you might touch them – but don’t, it’s not safe to stick your head or arms out of the windows.

At the Sé de Lisboa, the Lisbon Cathedral, the tram turns with squealing wheels ’round the corner.
Here you can visit Lisbon’s oldest church which houses also the see of the Archdiocese. Since its foundation in the year 1147, the building has been modified several times so that it flashes a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architectural elements.

Santo António

One block down from the Cathedral stands the beautiful Baroque Igreja de Santo António, built in the 18th century; in comparison with all the other medieval churches in Portugal, it’s practically a hyper-modern building. It’s said that the Santo António Church marks Saint Anthony’s birthplace.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Lisbon Santo Antonio

After the tram crosses a couple of commercial streets, it reaches Lisbon’s most important square, the Praça do Comércio.

Praça do Comércio

This square was remodeled after the big earthquake in the 18th century. Designed as a rectangular square, it opens in the shape of a U towards the river Tejo. One of its most impressive buildings is the Arco da Rua Augusta, an arch that was finished only in the 19th century. It opens to the Rua Augusta shopping street.

Make an investment of 2,50 €uro and you won’t regret it – I find the monument’s terrace grants Lisbon’s best views.

Arco Monumental
The arch is beautiful from underneath…..
On the top of Arco Monumental
….as well as from the top.
View of the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon
I have guests from out of town – may we look over your shoulder at the Praça do Comércio?!
View of the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon
Hey, they want to see the river Tejo – you might take your big white foot out of the picture!?

Not only for the view from the arch, but also for the views of the arch, i. e. the statues on the top, I recommend getting up there. Don’t worry, you don’t have to climb, there is a lift.

Rua Augusta

A stroll along the Rua Augusta is…basically like a stroll along any shopping street in Europe.

The Elevador de Santa Justa, another iconic attraction in the center of Lisbon.
The Elevador de Santa Justa, another iconic attraction in the center of Lisbon.

It’s still worth it, if only for the Elevador de Santa Justa, aka Elevador do Carmo. This elevator connects the Baixa neighborhood with the bohemian Chiado. This lift, that….lifts passengers 8 meters / more than 26 feet up, was built at the turn of the 20th century according to the design of Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, a scholar of Gustave Eiffel.

Chiado

The Elevador de Santa Justa is one of the possibilities to get up to the bohemian and hip Chiado neighborhood – and it’s the most crowded one, people wait up to an hour.

Museu do Chiado
Ernesto Canto da Maia Desespero da dúvida (Despair of Doubt)

Obviously, you can also climb streets’n’stairs. Or you hop back on the tram and let it carry you up there. For instance, to the Museu do Chiado. I will not lie to you: This gallery is more interesting because of its architecture by Jean-Michel Wilmotte. This French architect remodeled the former São Francisco da Cidade monastery in a very plain and minimalist style.

Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado
Rua Serpa Pinto 4 | Rua Capelo 13
1200-444 Lisbon
Phone: + 351 – 213 432 148
Email: museuchiado@mnac.dgpc.pt

Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Especially here in hilly Chiado, you’ll be grateful that you don’t have to walk but that the #28 carries you comfortably to the most scenic places – like e. g. the Largo do Chiado, a busy yet very beautiful square with lots of cafés and snack bars, the Teatro São Carlos – and literally three churches.

Nossa Senhora da Encarnacao at Lisbon's Largo do Chiado
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação – one of three churches in one single spot.

Largo do Chiado

Around the Largo do Chiado, you’ll find the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Loreto aka Igreja dos Italianos in the north, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação across the square in the south, and one block further east the Basílica de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires – all three of them built in the 18th century in Baroque style. I’m not sure, but I have the impression that Portugal has the highest number of churches I’ve ever seen.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Lisbon Elevador da Bica
Make sure not to miss one of the most spectacular views of the entire ride.

Three blocks farther, don’t miss to look left towards the river: You’ll see the steep Rua da Bica de Duarte Belcio. On this street, the Elevador da Bica runs over 260 meters, connecting the Rua de São Paulo and the Largo do Calhariz. This funicular was constructed by Portuguese Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard and inaugurated in 1892.

About one kilometer further west, to your right you spot the Palácio de São Bento, the Palace of Saint Benedict which is home to the National Assembly, i. e. the Portuguese parliament. Adjacent to it is the official residence of Portugal’s Prime Minister – basically Rua Downing 10….

Stairs to the São Bento Palace, guarded by lions.
Stairs to the São Bento Palace, guarded by lions.
(Photo: Joaomartinho63, Escadaria da Assembleia, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Estrela

Only about four blocks further are the Basilica da Estrela – of course, Baroque, but also a bit Neo-Classicist – to your left and the Jardim da Estrela to your right. This is my favorite park in Lisbon since it’s just so pretty and serene. They have a nice café there, too, so it’s the perfect place to just relax from all that sightseeing.

 Basilica e Jardim da Estrela in Lisbon
Basilica da Estrela, seen from the Jardim da Estrela.

So, you guys, we’ve almost reached the final stop – which ironically is a cemetery. Before we get to the station Campo de Orique – or Prazeres, which is the graveyard’s name – I’d like to point out the Igreja do Santo Condestável, the Church of the Holy Constable, which was built in a Neo-Gothic style.

Igreja do Santo Condestável
Igreja do Santo Condestável
(Photo: JSBGuedes, Inglesia de Santo Condestável, cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Prazeres

Once you get to the Prazeres cemetery, by the way, Prazeres means pleasure – I have no clue who came up with this cute name for a graveyard, you have to get off the tram even if you want to take the same train back. Everybody has to get off and then stand in line about twenty feet further to get on again.

Trams waiting for passengers at the final stop Praça Orique at the famous cemetery 'Prazeres'
Trams waiting for passengers at the final stop Praça Orique at the famous cemetery ‘Prazeres’

Since you have to get off, anyway, you might want to take a stroll through the cemetery and look at some of these beautifully carved tombstones.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Lisbon Prazeres
Cemitério dos Prazeres: Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

So now would be the moment to take the tram back downtown – either for a joy ride just watching beautiful Lisbon passing bye – or adding a couple of stops at some of the most alluring places.

So riding the tram #28 is cute and fun and not exclusively touristy – and since at the last stop, everybody has to get off – to possibly get on again about five steps further and five minutes later, they mix things up a little and everybody has a new chance getting a good seat.

Amoreiras

What you can also do is either walk up north to the Amoreiras neighborhood – which would be about 1.5 kilometers – or go there by bus #774 – five stops towards Gomes Freire, getting off at Amoreiras.

As you get off in front of the Amoreiras Shopping Center, you might want to get up to the open-air platform on the roof to enjoy a 360°-view of Lisbon.

Lisbon amoreira shopping mall
Usually, I’m not that fond of shopping centers, especially when travelling. But the Amoreiras has a little extra for its visitors: A fantastic view of Lisbon.

A ten-minute walk east of the mall is another nice and peaceful park, the Parque das Amoreiras, named after the mulberry trees that Marquês de Pombal planted here. Apart from the mulberries, there are also many other trees like even ginkgos and banana trees.

Nossa Senhora do Monerrate
Crouched under the arches of the aqueduct is the Capela de Nossa Senhora de Monserrate

Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras

Beneath one of the arches of the aqueducts close to the Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras reservoir stands the Capela de Nossa Senhora de Monserrate. And once you’re here: The Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras reservoir is totally worth a visit.

 Reservatório da Mãe d'Água das Amoreiras
Not as impressive as the reservoirs in Istanbul, but still worth the visit: Reservatório da Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras
(Photo: Martinvl, Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras (Interior), cropped to 1102×735, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Reservatório da Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras
Praça das Amoreiras 10
1250-020 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 21 – 810 02 62

Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 12.30 p. m. and 1.30 p. m. to 5.30 p. m.

Not only did Mr. Marquês de Pombal plant mulberry trees, he also was an important statesman in the 18th century, hence they named a square after him, the Praça Marquês de Pombal. From here you can either walk back south towards the city center, or you choose to go north to the Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon’s largest and most manicured public garden.

Rigo

To get to the last stop of this extended city tour, you can take the metro on the east side of the park, cleverly called ‘Parque’, and go two stops to Praça de Espanha station. From here it’s just a very short walk to the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian and Centro de Arte Moderna complex.

Please meet Mr. Gulbenkian, the collector of great art, now to be admired by everyone
at the museum that was founded in his honor.
(Photo: anonym, Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian Lisboa, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mr. Calouste Gulbenkian was born in 1869 in Istanbul (then Constantinople), educated in Marseille, London, and Baku. He was a clever and successful businessman, active not only in Europe, but also i. a. in Iraq, South Africa, and Australia. He acquired British citizenship, lived in Paris, and finally moved to Lisbon where he died in 1955 leaving an incredible fortune – both in France and Portugal. Therefore long negotiations took place before all the personal art treasure could be sent to Portugal and are now on display at the museum’s Founder’s Collection.

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum 
Avenida de Berna 45A
1067-001 Lisbon
Phone: + 351 – 217 – 823 000
Email: info@gulbenkian.pt 

Opening hours are Wednesday to Monday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

Practical Information

How to Get There

By Plane

Unlike many other European capital cities, Lisbon has only one airport. Therefore, it is served by regular and low-cost airlines alike. The airport is conveniently located 7 short kilometers north of Lisbon’s center. 

To get downtown, you can take Aerobus Line 1 straight to Rossio station.

However, if you are planning on using public transportation the same day, you better get the Via Viagem for € 6,40. Then you can take the metro from the airport to Alameda station. There you change to the green line down to Rossio station.

By Train

There are three major train stations in Lisbon.

Firstly, Santa Apolónia, the oldest railway station, however the most important train station for long-distance travel. Secondly, Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio – short Rossio. This is the most centrally located one. From here, trains are leaving for instance to Sintra.
Going by train up the Atlantic coast to Estoril, Cascais, or only to Belém, you hop on the train at the train station Cais do Sodré, west of the city center.

By Bus

If you travel by long-distance bus Rede Expressos or one of its subsidiaries, you’ll arrive in Lisbon at the terminal Sete Rios about 4 kilometers north from the historic city center. From here, you can take the blue metro line.

However, all other intercity and international buses depart from the Estação do Oriente.

How to Get Around

If you need just a ticket without any further perks, the Via Viagem card is your best option. For 24 hours of unlimited rides on public transport – the airport is included – you pay only € 6,40.

A day-ticket that takes you all the way to Sintra and Cascais, sets you back € 10,55.

An even better deal is the LisboaCard that does not only grant you free travel on public transport – even all the way to Sintra and Cascais. There are also many discounts and even free entries to museums, attractions, shops, restaurants, and much more included.

 24 hours48 hours72 hours
Adults
(from 16 years)
€ 20€ 34€ 42
Children
(5 to 15 years)
€ 13€ 19€ 22,50

You can order the LisboaCard online: You get a voucher that you exchange upon arrival e.g. at the airport or the tourist office.
Since ordering the card online is a bit more pricey (although it’s less than a €uro) and you cannot use the voucher but have to exchange it first, I really don’t see the point in buying the card online.

Where to Sleep

Obviously, there are many accommodations to choose from. Since my experience with booking.com* has always been pleasant, you might want to pick one of their offers:

Booking.com

Where to Eat

Obviously, there are all sorts of eateries all over Lisbon. You won’t be starving.

However, I’d like to introduce two of my favorite restaurants that are a bit different.

Padaria do Povo

Firstly, there is the really original, bohemian place, the Padaria do Povo.

In 1904, the Padaria do Povo – which translates to People’s Bakery – was founded to offer cheaper bread in the parishes of Santa Isabel and Campolide.

Then, in 1919, António Ferreira de Macedo and Bento de Jesus Caraça founded the Universidade Popular Portuguesa, an institution of public education. The University became a tenant of the Bakery.

Today, this traditional institution is a mix of a community center, a cultural center, a coffee bar, and a restaurant.

Padaria do Povo in Lisbon
Home of Lisbon’s alternative bohemian scene: The Padaria do Povo

Albeit, it’s no bakery anymore.

So, anyway, if you are keen to experience an eatery totally off the beaten tourist tracks, treat yourself to a meal and a drink – and maybe some new Portuguese friends.

Padaria do Povo
Rua Luís Derouet, 20-A
1250-153 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 21 – 362 04 64

The Padaria is open Monday to Friday from 12 p. m. to 1 a. m. (Friday 2 a. m.), Weekends 3 p. m. to 1 a. m. (Sunday 2 a. m.)

Loja das Conservas

The other place I’m recommending is right in the city center. It’s a place where you can enjoy really good food and maybe stock up on some cute souvenirs.

What I like at their restaurant is the love for details. They serve their artisan food – Portuguese with a creative crossover twist – on beautifully decorated dishes. Everything is just a little…special.

Fine dining in a nice setting.

Another great thing is that there is a shop connected right to this really fine restaurant. So, with your full stomach, you can pick out some delicious gifts for your loved ones back home who didn’t have the privilege to visit Lisbon.

Loja das Conservas 
Rua Assunção 83
1100-043 Lisboa
Phone: + 351 – 913 552 984

Open Monday to Saturday from noon.

Lisbon was only the last of many beautiful places I’ve visited in Portugal. To read about the others, go to the main post and take your pick!

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* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal. I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me! I was very lucky to be supplied by a 72hrs-Lisbon-Card by Turismo de Lisboa. However, all opinions on these services are mine and weren’t by any means influenced by my cooperation partner.

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