How to spend a weekend in Lisbon

I visited Lisbon for the first time in July 2015 and fell completely in love with the city. My love affair continued later that year when I got the opportunity to live and work there for 7 months. Needless to say, I left my heart there and love going back for visits.

I’m always asked for my favourite recommendations (or I over-enthusiastically offer mine up when I hear the word ‘Lisbon’, never quite sure) so here’s my longstanding, frequently added-to list of what to do, see and eat over 48 hours in Lisbon.

What to do & see

  • Do the Sandeman New Europe free walking tour – the history is really interesting and you see most of the key areas (Lisbon is very walkable) including Praça do Comércio, Alfama, Bairro Alto, etc.
  • Or, if you don’t fancy walking, take a ride on Tram 28 which takes you around past lots of these sights too!
  • Explore Alfama (this is where I used to live!) – beautiful old windy streets and lots of the famous azulejotiles. You can also get some good insta shots of the famous trams by the Sé (the cathedral).
  • Go to Belém to see the Mosteiro de Jeronimos, Torre de Belem and try the famous pastéis de bélem (ignore the big queue, it moves fast, and buy two each!). Guidebooks will tell you to get the tram here, but the train from Cais do Sodré is cheaper, quicker and less busy. If it’s good weather, you can also cycle along the river.
  • On your way back from Belém, stop off at LX Factory – a really cool industrial area underneath the 25 de Avril bridge, now converted into cafés, restaurants, art galleries, concept stores. Great for the ‘gram.
  • Principe Real is a also a nice area for a wander and good ice cream shops (and gin bars! Recommend Gin Lovers in the Embaixada concept store ) – it’s just above Bairro Alto.
  • If you have time, I really recommend you take the train out to Sintra to see the incredible Disney-esque castles (Just Google it – so beautiful!
  • You can also take the train along the water from Cais do Sodre to Cascais – hop off a couple of stops early and walk along the sea.

What & where to eat

These are my tried and tested places if you’ve only got a weekend – there are so many good places to try, you could spend the whole weekend eating your way around the city! Some you’ll need reservations for, many you can walk up to and wait. And if in doubt, head to the Time Out Market for some inspiration!

  • Try a pastel de bacalhau on Rua Augusta (Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau)
  • The Time Out Market in Cais do Sodré! Mini kitchens of all the best places in Lisbon under one roof – try different bits from different places, has traditional food and pan-European, but all so good! Also has bars and is open til late, if you want to eat with the locals.
  • Gelato Davvero (just behind Time Out Market) – does great ice cream
  • Restaurante Cabacas in Bairro Alto – doesn’t look much, but does THE BEST steak on a stone. Good cheap eat, around 10EUR a head including wine. Doesn’t take reservations, but leave your name and get a drink to drink while you wait outside.
  • Pharmácia – a cool concept restaurant in the National Pharmacy Association building, where the decor is vintage hospital equipment.
  • Sea Me – good Portuguese/Japanese fusion seafood restaurant. If you can’t get a reservation, they have a small kitchen at the Time Out Market.
  • Esperança (there’s one next to the Sé and one in Bairro Alto) – Italian restaurant with really good pizza and a nice atmosphere.
  • Café Pit – a good lunch spot in Alfama. Good soup, sandwiches and light bites (it’s on the way up to the Santa Luzia viewpoint).
  • Taberna das Rua das Flores – never went but recommended by a friend from Lisbon for having the best fresh tuna!
  • Restaurante Farol – again, recommended by a friend for amazing seafood. Take the boat from Cais do Sodré (around 1EUR each) across to Cacilhas and it’s next to the port.
  • If you feel like splashing out for food – The Decadente – (it also does good cocktails in their bar)
  • Finally, if you’re just wondering around and need a cheap, cheerful and quick lunch, A Padaria Portguesa do decent sandwiches, soup and salads (and cakes!)

Where to get the Insta-worthy views

After spending a day in Lisbon, you may notice that it’s a pretty hilly city! The benefit of this is that there are so many viewpoints and rooftop bars from where you can enjoy incredible views across the city. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Miradouro de Santa Luzia (in Alfama)
  • Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (Bairro Alto)
  • Park bar, also in Bairro Alto (this is a bar on roof of a car park – don’t be put off by the dodgy un-signposted stairs you have to go up to get there, follow the people!)

  • The castle is beautiful, but there’s a restaurant just below it with a great terrace and the same great views across the whole city and the famous bridge – Zambeze. To get to it, you need to go to Pingo Doce supermarket on Largo do Chão do Loureiro and take the car park lift to the top floor (sounds bizarre, but trust me!)
  • Chapitô à Mesa (also Alfama) – an old circus school with a great terrace
  • Go to Praca do Comercio, head right along the waterfront and there’s a kiosk where you can buy drinks, live music, deck chairs and a great sunset view of the 5 de abril bridge and the Christ the Redeemer!

At most of the miradouros (viewpoints) across the city you will also usually find a quiosque where you can buy coffees (or beer!) to enjoy with the view.

Where to go out

Lisbon has got some great nightlife, ranging from smart wine bars to drinking caipirinhas in plastic cups in the street. The below recommendations are based on my slightly student-like lifestyle while I was living there, but there are so many jazz bars, wine bars, to choose from in Bairro Alto.

  • Head to Bairro Alto from about 11pm onwards and you get a drink from any bar to enjoy in the street (good mojitos for 3EUR and beer for 2EUR). It’s a bit Erasmus-y but super cheap and a buzzy atmosphere. (All the drinks are in plastic cups from every bar, so you can just take your drink to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara)
  • For dancing, we always went to Bar Aché Cohiba in Bairro Alto (a.k.a. The Cuban Bar – good latino music and friendly people).
  • Try Pink Street if you’re feeling a bit more out-out – can’t miss it, it’s actually pink!
  • Park Bar (in the list above), is also a great place to spend the evening with good music.
  • O Purista – a fun bar, which is also a barber shop!

This list is by no means exhaustive and I’ll continue to add to it as I go along!

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