You’re going for the inexpensive food and wine, shopping and the beautiful tiles around the city.
Uber is incredibly inexpensive here. The airport to Bairro Alto costs about 15 Euro. Most rides across the city were in that same price range or less.
Local taxis These are an option but will cost a little more and only take cash. They were not drastically more expensive though in case you need to hop into one.
Walking This is a great way to get to know the city, but there are also street cars in some areas.
good to know
Lisbon custard tarts These the thing to eat, and you might as well try one from a local pastry shop or head to the Mercado de Ribeira to sample one.
Vinho verde A Portuguese specialty that translates to a ‘green wine.’ While the color is not actually green (disappointing, we know), the name refers to the fact that it’s a young wine. It has an enjoyable effervescent quality to it, though it’s not technically a sparkling wine. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Enjoy it on a hot day as the wines are light, clean and refreshing — aka very drinkable.
eats & drinks
Tagide Wine and Tapas Bar The main restaurant is harder to get into (there is generally a long line out the door), but their wine bar next door is more low-key with less of a wait. With a clean, modern decor, it offers automatic wine dispensers, which were entertaining and different. The grilled octopus that was tender and properly cooked (so hard to find that sometimes) and the menu offers a variety of fresh seafood options. You can make a reservation for the wine bar as it has both bar and table service.
Taberna rua das Flores Picture a tiny tavern with attractive men and women sitting close together, sipping on wine and enjoying their food and this is what you’ll find here. Probably the most typical “local” restaurant you will find. The menu is written on a chalkboard that they bring to you and explain, noting which ones have been crossed off because you’re dining too late (they were super friendly and spoke English, or at least one server did). They are trying to modernize a little and had pork buns on the menu (skip those), but everything else was great. They own a wine bar on the same street, so you can either drink wine on the street while waiting to dine — who doesn’t love that — or head down the hill a little to the wine bar. There, you can get oysters, meat/cheese plates with wine barrels as your table. They also serve a full dinner in a more modern setting, so that’s another option. It’s super small and doesn’t take reservations, so it’s best to go early and put your name down (it’s cash only also).
Mercado da Ribeira Located by the water and a short walk from Bairro Alto, it’s essentially a giant market and food hall that was taken over by Time Out magazine (the massive sign is pretty hard to miss on arrival and is a bit of an eye sore). You’ll find everything, from gelato, traditional Lisbon custards to their famous steak place Cafe de Sao Bento. They operate like Chelsea Market with small stands, communal seating areas and some vendors offering counter seats. It’s a fun place to walk through but probably better for lunch or afternoon drinks.
Cervejaria Ramiro This is a gem and a must for seafood lovers. It’s more of a local spot and very casual, but so good. The garlic shrimp, grilled prawns and crab were fantastic. It’s the kind of place where you’re banging a gavel to break open crabs and basically eating garlic and butter in a variety of ways, over and over again, and in the best way possible.
Decadente at the Independente Located by the top of the Gloria funicular, this restaurant is tucked inside the upscale, design-focused hostel with an outdoor, partially covered dining room. It’s super casual and inexpensive with picnic benches, but is a good spot for a quick lunch, working place or solo dinner.
La Boulangerie This place is adorable for breakfast. It’s a French bakery but still worth going to because it’s so cute. It’s across from the National Museum of Ancient Art, so you can sit outside, with an elevated view overlooking the square on high-top tables. It feels like ideal way to start the morning when on vacation. It’s about a 20-minute walk from Bairro Alto, but it was really close to Olissippo Lapa Palace hotel. From there, you can always cross the highway to walk along the water.
Fabrica The place to go for third wave coffee. The cafe is bright and welcoming with small booths.
Taberna Portuguesa Another classic taberna that’s simple and without any frills.
Bairro Alto Hotel Go for drinks in the early afternoon or pre dinner to enjoy the views of the city. It’s a small terrace and fills up quickly, so get there early or call ahead.
Gin Lovers Housed in a stunning building surrounded by shops, this gin-focused bar is a great pre- or post-dinner drink spot. On Sundays, they offer a fado show, which is a good alternative to some of the other, more established ones.
see & do
Gloria Funicular This funicular connects the Restauradores Square (borderline sketchy shopping area. The fancy shopping area is farther up ahead and has more manicured streets and designer shops) with Bairro Alto, and, whether you decide to trek up by foot (it’s a workout) or take the funicular, you’ll end up at the top of Bairro Alto and at the overlook of Sao Pedro de Alcantara, which provides a gorgeous view of the city. In that same square, there’s usually a market or stalls of some sort for drinks, food or shopping. From there, you can walk down through the colorful streets of Bairro Alto and then into the shopping areas of Chiado. These neighborhoods are fairly small, so you can let yourself get lost walking through them.
Fado This is the music of Lisbon, or maybe the old school music of the city, and it’s definitely more of a romantic setting as you are not supposed to talk or do anything distracting while they are performing. It is something you will be happy to have done once but will most likely not do it again. There are two in the city that are the most popular, Clube de Fado, which is more traditional in style and music. The other is O FAIA,which is more modern than Clube de Fado. They tend to have a money spend requirement per person, which will typically cover a bottle of wine and dessert. There is the option to eat a full dinner there, but we think dessert gets the job done.
Chi Coracao Lisbon/Portugal are trying to encourage their wool industry to grow, so you’ll see a lot of 100% wool products and stores promoting local goods. The shawls, blankets, capes and throws are beautiful. It’s super inexpensive for what you’re getting and a great store to look around.
Running There is a path along the water that you can run along, and you’ll hit a bridge that looks a bit reminiscent of Golden Gate bridge in SF.
Caiscais This beach town is a quick train ride (or even an uber ride) from Lisbon if you want a simple beach day.
Bairro Alto A small, boutique hotel with lots of charm and character in the rooms, plus a perfect location so that you can walk everywhere. It has a gorgeous rooftop bar where you can enjoy views of the city. $$$ *Editor’s note: It is currently being renovated and will reopen in August 2018.
Pousada de Lisboa This is a small boutique hotel located on the Praca do Commercio near the water and straddling Chiado and Alfama and a quick walk over to Bairro Alto. Note: The hotel website is very confusing when booking because there are several of hotels in the same hotel group with a similar name, so make sure to book the right one. $$-$$$
9Hotel Mercy A modern hotel housed in a historic building, you can expect all the modern comforts (like a Nespresso machine and high-speed complimentary Wi-Fi) while enjoying the charm of Lisbon. Straddled between the coveted neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Chiado, the hotel is situated in an ideal location. $$
Hotel de Chiado The rooms are clean, bright but lack defining character or personality. However, right outside of your room there are tons of it. Enjoy the gorgeous views from the hotel’s terrace or step outside for tons of shopping. Wi-Fi is complimentary and there’s no gym. $$
Independente This is more of an upscale hostel than a luxury hotel, but it’s great if you are on a budget. In a great location, the restaurant is a good option for lunch/dinner because it’s outside with benches and covered in case it starts to rain. $$
Bairro Alto and Chiado are the more fun and lively neighborhoods known for shopping, restaurants and bars. There are both big and small boutiques with local artisans who champion Portuguese products (especially the wool industry). They bleed into one another with Bairro Alto being full of tiny, beautiful windy streets with colorful buildings, probably the ones you’ve seen photographed. It’s mostly known for it’s night scene with Fado music bars located there and the streets packed with people on Friday and Saturday nights.
Lisbon is also a great jumping off point as the airport is close to the city, so you can easily spend a night or two there on either end of exploring the Douro Valley or Sintra. Faro is another popular part of the country.