Things to Know Before You Go to Lisbon, Portugal

Did you know Lisbon is home to the world’s oldest bookstore? It’s just one of the many unique facets that make Portugal’s capital another must-visit destination. This guide is packed with fun facts and essential things to know before you go to Lisbon, ensuring your trip is as fun as it is unforgettable.

People walking along the street in Lisbon
People walking along the street in Lisbon

Before Lisbon rose to prominence, Portugal’s crown had adorned other cities as its capital. Yet, Lisbon’s strategic position at the mouth of the Tagus River and its sun-kissed hillsides has long captured the hearts of explorers, artists, and locals alike.

Today, Lisbon stands as a vibrant blend of the old and new, with over three million residents navigating its historic streets and modern neighborhoods. It boasts a rich tapestry of cultural heritage, from the melancholic tunes of Fado music echoing in Alfama to the innovative art galleries sprouting in Chiado.

As we explore the essential things to know before you go to Lisbon, you’ll discover a city that not only honors its past but is also boldly stepping into the future. From timeless tram rides to the taste of traditional pastéis de nata, This City Knows is here to guide you through its historic streets, vibrant culture, and the warmth of its people— all ready to welcome you with open arms.

The Best Time to Visit Lisbon

Generally, Lisbon boasts a mild climate and welcomes visitors year-round. However, the best time to visit this radiant metropolis either falls between March and May or September to October. The spring and autumn months dazzle with perfect weather— sunny days with temperatures that are comfortable for wandering through Lisbon’s picturesque neighborhoods like Alfama and Belém. The city also basks in fewer tourists, allowing for a more laid-back exploration of its historic sites and open-air cafes.

On the other hand, summer brings higher temperatures and a surge of visitors, making the city’s famous attractions more crowded. This is so especially during July and August. And while Lisbon’s winter is relatively mild, especially compared to much of Europe, the cooler and rainier days from November to February exude a different charm, with fewer crowds and the chance to participate in the city’s festive celebrations.

The famous Tram 28 in Lisbon
The famous Tram 28 in Lisbon

The Best Ways To Get Around in Lisbon

Navigating Lisbon is an integral part of the city’s experience, blending historic charm with modern convenience. The iconic yellow trams, particularly Tram 28, offer not just a mode of transport but a journey through Lisbon’s scenic streets. For more comprehensive city coverage, the metro system is fortunately efficient, connecting major tourist sites quickly and affordably.

On the other hand, buses and trains can also extend your reach, allowing exploration beyond the city center to nearby UNESCO-listed sites like Sintra. Similarly, taxis and ride-sharing apps provide flexible options for direct routes, often necessary in Lisbon’s hilly terrain.

For the adventurous, renting a bike or an electric scooter can be a delightful way to discover the city’s hidden gems, though be prepared for some vigorous exercise on those famous inclines.

Things To Know Before You Go To Lisbon: To Dos, Must-Eats, and More

Lisbon’s sprightly culture offers a plethora of experiences spanning from historical deep dives to culinary adventures. So whether it’s a week-long holiday or a short layover, here’s your go-to guide for making the most out of your visit to the city.

TOP SIGHTS TO MARVEL AT

Make sure to explore the Jerónimos Monastery— a stunning example of Manueline architecture. Afterwards, take a moment at the Belém Tower to soak in the Age of Discoveries’ spirit. A short tram ride takes you to the São Jorge Castle, offering a glimpse into Lisbon’s Moorish plus panoramic views of the city below.

MUST-TRY DISHES

Lisbon’s culinary scene is a mix of traditional flavors and innovative twists. That said, what and where to eat is also one of the essential things to know before you go to Lisbon. First, make sure you won’t leave the city without sampling bacalhau (salt cod), served in countless ways but always delicious. For a sweet treat, the pastéis de nata are legendary— and for good reason. And finally, indulge in a seafood dinner at a fado house in Alfama, where the music enhances the flavors.

LOCAL EXPERIENCES

Hop on Tram 28 for a rolling tour through the city’s historic neighborhoods. Take a stroll through the LX Factory, a dynamic space of art located in a repurposed industrial complex. It’s here where you can score unique souvenirs, and attend a workshop to learn about azulejos, Portugal’s iconic ceramic tiles.

NIGHTLIFE AND MORE

As the sun sets, the city does, too! The Bairro Alto district comes alive at night with bars and restaurants catering to every taste and mood. But for a more subdued evening, enjoy a glass of vinho verde at a rooftop bar overlooking the Tagus River. 

A bedroom with a balcony at a house in Lisbon
A bedroom with a balcony at a house in Lisbon

Where To Stay in Lisbon

Each neighborhood in Lisbon offers a slice of city life tailored to various tastes. Whether you’re after historical charm, nightlife buzz, or tranquil retreats, Lisbon has a spot for you.

If you wish to wake up to winding, narrow streets and the soulful sounds of Fado, Alfama is the place to be. Stay in a traditional guesthouse or a boutique hotel nestled among ancient buildings, offering a deep dive into Lisbon’s rich history.

On the other hand, if vibrant nightlife and trendy shops are more your speed, Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real won’t disappoint. By day, explore contemporary art galleries and boutique stores; by night, the area comes alive with bars and restaurants catering to every preference.

For first-timers, Baixa and Chiado are ideal, putting you within walking distance of major attractions like the Santa Justa Lift and the lively Rua Augusta. Accommodations here range from luxury hotels to charming apartments, but always suitable for every budget.

Meanwhile, those with a penchant for history and culture will find Belém captivating. Stay close to iconic landmarks like the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. The area is more laid-back, with riverside cafes offering stunning views of the Tagus River.

And finally, there’s the modern and sleek Parque das Nações. This area is perfect for those who prefer contemporary comforts. Once the site of Expo ’98, it’s now home to the Oceanário, casinos, and a range of modern hotels with easy access to the metro for city exploration.

Insider Tips & Tricks: Things To Know Before You Go To Lisbon

Embrace Lisbon like a local with these insider tips that promise to enrich your visit to Portugal’s captivating capital:

  • Lisbon is famous for its miradouros (viewpoints), offering breathtaking views across the city. Don’t wear yourself out and make use of the many public elevators and funiculars.
  • While pastéis de nata are a must-try, dive deeper into Lisbon’s culinary scene with lesser-known treats. Sample a bifana (pork sandwich) at a local tasca or try out a seafood rice dish at a marisqueira
  • Explore beyond the guidebook and venture to the neighborhood of Campo de Ourique or Alvalade, where fewer tourists go, offering a genuine feel of daily Lisbon life. Moreover, visit local markets like Mercado de Campo de Ourique for a blend of traditional shopping and trendy eateries under one roof.
  • Spend an afternoon in Praça do Comércio— the city’s grandest square. Locals refer to it as “Lisbon’s living room,” where events, concerts, and casual gatherings bring the space to life. 
  • Lisbonites start their nights late and end them even later. Dinner often starts around 8 PM or 9 PM, and many don’t hit the clubs right before midnight. So you may want to start your evening with a leisurely dinner, then explore the bars in Bairro Alto or Pink Street in Cais do Sodré.
  • Enjoy free entry to many of Lisbon’s museums on the first Sunday of each month. It’s a great opportunity to explore the rich culture and history without the admission fees.
  • Stay connected and pick up a VIVA Viagem card for public transport, saving time and money during your stay. Also, take advantage of the widespread free Wi-Fi in public spaces and cafes to share your adventures or plan your next move in real time.
A woman with a backpack walking along an uphill road in Lisbon
A woman with a backpack walking along an uphill road in Lisbon

Explore The Best of Lisbon with This City Knows

As we wrap up our journey through the essential tips and must-see spots of Lisbon, it’s clear this city has a rhythm all its own. It sings a melody composed of clattering trams, whispering tiles, and the laughter that fills its historic streets. Armed with all the essential things to know before you go to Lisbon, you’re now ready to dive into the heart of the city. Soon, you’ll realize Lisbon is a place where every corner promises a new discovery and every meal is a celebration of Portuguese tradition.

From the breathtaking views at each miradouro to the intricate designs of the azulejos that adorn the city, Lisbon tells a story of exploration, history, and culinary excellence. Whether you’re savoring a moment of quiet in a hidden garden, feeling the soul-stirring power of a live Fado performance, or toasting to the sunset with a glass of vinho verde, this city knows how to offer moments that linger in the heart long after you’ve departed.

Above all, we’re excited to hear about your own discoveries in Lisbon. Your adventures, stories, and tips will surely inspire our community of travelers eager to explore the world, one city at a time. 

Let the magic of Lisbon inspire your next adventure, and remember, the best of Lisbon is just waiting to be explored with This City Knows by your side.

Katie
Author: Katie

Katie is all about hitting the road solo, always on the lookout for spots the internet hasn't fully discovered yet. She’s the one turning left when the map says right, hunting for those genuine, "you had to be there" moments. With a style that's as engaging as a late-night chat by the hostel fire, her stories aren't just about places, but the raw, unfiltered joy of exploring them on your own terms.

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