Spread across steep hillsides that overlook the Rio Tejo, Lisbon offers all the delights you’d expect of Portugal’s star attraction, yet with half the fuss of other European capitals. Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums are all part of the colourful cityscape, but the real delights of discovery lie in wandering the narrow lanes of Lisbon’s lovely backstreets.
As bright yellow trams wind their way through curvy tree-lined streets, Lisboêtas stroll through the old quarters, much as they’ve done for centuries. Village-life gossip in old Alfama is exchanged at the public baths or over fresh bread and wine at tiny patio restaurants as fadistas (proponents of fado, Portugal’s traditional melancholic singing) perform in the background.
Meanwhile, in other parts of town, visitors and locals chase the ghosts of Pessoa in warmly lit 1930s-era cafés or walk along the seaside that once saw the celebrated return of Vasco da Gama. Yet, while history is very much alive in centuries-old Lisbon, its spirit is undeniably youthful.
In the hilltop district of Bairro Alto, dozens of restaurants and bars line the narrow streets, with jazz, reggae, electronica and fado filling the air and revellers partying until dawn. Nightclubs scattered all over town make fine use of old spaces, whether on riverside docks or tucked away in 18th-century mansions.
The Lisbon experience encompasses so many things, from enjoying a fresh pastry and bica (espresso) on a petite leafy plaza to window-shopping in elegant Chiado. It’s mingling with Lisboêtas at a neighbourhood festival or watching the sunset from the old Moorish castle.
Just outside Lisbon, there’s more to explore: the magical setting of Sintra, glorious beaches and traditional fishing villages.
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Best places to stay in Lisbon
A roller-coaster city of seven hills, crowned by a Moorish castle and washed in an artist’s pure light, Lisbon is cine-matically beautiful and historically compelling. This is a capital city of big skies and bigger vistas; of rumbling trams and...
Lisbon: grab a tram, a tart and an eyeful
Ticket to ride Vintage tram 28 offers the ultimate spin of Lisbon’s sights – from Basílica da Estrela to the backstreets of Baixa – for the price of a €1.35 ticket. The route from Campo Ourique to Martim Moniz is 45 minutes of astonishing views and absurdly steep climbs...
Lisbon's best bars and nightlife
Tours of Lisbon
Portugal - Lisbon & Around (Chapter)
Lisbon has captivated visitors for centuries. Windswept vistas reveal the city in all its beauty: Roman and Moorish ruins, white-domed cathedrals, grand plazas lined with sun-drenched cafes. The real delight of discovery, though, is delving...
Lisbon destination guides
Feast of St Anthony: a guide to Lisbon's sardine festival
'Alfama - Lisbon 's oldest district 'by detengase. Creative Commons Attribution Location: Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal Dates: 12–14 June Level of participation: 2 - snack on sardines On the feast day of St Anthony, patron saint of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital goes sardine crazy...
Óbidos, Nazaré, Fátima and Batalha Day Trip
Take a fascinating day trip from Lisbon to the Portuguese towns of Óbidos, Nazaré, Fátima and Batalha. During the day, explore the charming medieval village of Óbidos and learn interesting facts from your local guide. Enjoy lunch (included) in the picturesque fishing village of Nazaré.
Sintra Day Trip from Lisbon
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the mountainous region of Sintra on this day trip from Lisbon. With your guide, visit the fairytale-like Pena Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a traditional Portuguese lunch in Sintra (included) and have free time to explore the village or visit Sintra National Palace.
The rebirth of Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré
For years, riverside Cais do Sodré was one of Lisbon's seediest neighbourhoods. Its backstreets were the haunt of whisky-slugging sailors craving a little after-dark sleaze; a lacklustre place where brothels sidled up to sweaty clubs. Then suddenly everything changed. In late 2011, the district was given a makeover...