*I spent 3 days in Lisbon in July 2012 and I really enjoyed it! In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
It’s sort of obvious that Lisbon is overshadowed by more well-known destinations in Europe.
And to be frank, I didn’t have high expectations going into Lisbon. I thought it was going to be just like your average European city, with a few cathedrals here and there, a few cool parks and old architecture. I couldn’t even ask any of my friends or family for recommendations, because nobody in my network had been to Lisbon before (at the time that I visited).
Well, Lisbon turned out to be an awesome city that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition.
The cobbled streets, historic buildings, old tram system, beautiful weather, great seafood and affordable prices are just some of the things that made me fall in love with this city.
At some point everyday during my trip, I parked myself on a bench in a crowded public area and just simply watched the people as they passed by. It was great to observe how the people live their lives and to appreciate the wonderful atmosphere in Lisbon.
It didn’t take long for me to notice that street art is a big part of the culture in Lisbon. All over the city, in the alleyways and on major buildings, I saw some spectacular graffiti artwork. It was all professionally done which made it even more legit than some random teenagers with a spray paint can. The graffiti gave a certain character to the city.
I recommend taking a Free Walking Tour (your hostel can arrange this for you) as it will give you a great introduction to the city. The tour is given by a guide and a group of people who wander through the city to all the tourist attractions. The tour guides are all knowledge about Lisbon and they’ll give you an educational tour through the main landmarks, squares and other tourist attractions around the city. I learned a lot about the incredible history of the Lisbon, and this tour was well worth my time.
Alright, let’s get into some quick facts!
– Currency: Euro (EUR)
– Language: Portuguese
– Population: 600,000 (city), 3 million (metro)
– Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, with inhabitants dating back to 1200 BC
– Lisbon has one of the mildest climates in Europe, with an annual average sunshine of 3000 hours/year
– The Vasco de Game Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe
– Lisbon is sometimes called “The Town of 7 Hills” because of the 7 hills that surround the city
– Beneath the streets of the downtown shopping area is a hidden Roman underworld with corridors, chambers, bridges and rooms. The entrance is located at the top of Rua da Conceicao
– A massive 8.9 earthquake killed 40,000 people and nearly destroyed the entire city in 1755.
Culture & People
It’s interesting — Lisbon is a different city in the daytime versus nighttime.
During the day, Lisbon is a bustling city that can take on a stressful way of life. The streets are always packed with cars, trams, buses, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians. Street vendors set up their local shops and people can be heard shouting at each other when bargaining for goods in the street markets. People are trying to get to work and things are moving at a very fast pace.
But by night, the streets are less crowded with vehicles and the tram stops running. When the sun goes down, there is a certain bliss that enters the atmosphere. The hustle and bustle of the city vanishes.
However, there is a certain area in the city that becomes electric with young partiers during the nighttime. That neighborhood is called Barrio Alto, and it turns into the center of activity with hundreds of bars and cultural events. People stay out all night drinking, socializing and having a great time.
Another thing that I was surprised to see was a lot of poverty. I noticed a lot of homeless people that were begging for money. It sort of threw me off guard. I guess I just wasn’t expecting to see loads of poor people, but they are really everywhere.
Every person that I met in Lisbon was pleasant and genuine. I met dozens of locals when I was out partying on Barrio Alto, and they were happy to talk to me. Some local guys even showed us around introduced us to their favorite bars in the area. We were out all night, shooting the shit, and having a blast.
I recommend learning the Top 10 Portuguese Words, so you can make some local friends!
What to Do?
In Lisbon, there are many fun Things to Do that will keep you entertained!
Meander around Lisbon to find all the hidden corners, weaving alleyways, beautiful neighborhoods and stunning views of the Tejo River. The Alfama District is particularly special for it’s alleyways and breathtaking red rooftop neighborhoods. It’s impossible not to take an obnoxious amount of pictures.
For transportation, ride the historic trolley up and down the hills. Despite feeling like it’s going to break down on you because it’s so old, it’s a great cultural experience. The trolley will take you to all the notable landmarks in the city.
After you’ve spent a few days in this charming city, take a day trip to one of the nearby beaches in the Cascais District. The marvelous coastline is just a short 20-30 minute train ride from the center of Lisbon. The beaches are always packed, with tons of activity happening. Whether you are looking to chill out in the sun, engage in beach activities or binge drink through the night, the beach is the place to go. Some popular beaches are Carcavelos, Guincho and Praia Grande.
For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Lisbon.
Lisbon is home to my favorite pastry in the world- Pasteis de Belem (shown in pic). The famous egg tart recipe dates back 300 years, and they will literally melt in your mouth. Find these pastries in a small shop located in the Belem district, right next to the Belem Tower.
But Portugal is really famous for it’s fresh and tasty seafood.
Portugal actually has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita, and is among the 4th highest in the world! Fresh cod, sea bass, grilled octopus, crab and sardines are some of the most common fish around Lisbon.
Don’t forget to drink Sangria (fruity wine) while you are in Lisbon. It was the best (and strongest) Sangria I’ve ever had! Most bars and restaurants place will serve Sangria with their own recipe, so some drinks have more flavor than others. You can try a few different places to find one that you like!
To learn more about the best foods, please read my post on 6 Portuguese Foods to Try.
The nightlife in Lisbon is all about the bars.
There is a district called Barrio Alto that is THE place to drink and party on every night of the week. You will find yourself walking up and down cobble stone streets with an alcoholic beverage in your hand, while socializing and meeting new people all night long. The streets are set up in a narrow grid-like fashion, with bars lined up one after another. When I went on Barrio Alto, I met a good amount of both locals and foreigners and I was out until the sunrise. It was a wild experience that was just too much fun!
Many of the bars have local music and dancing called Fado– a traditional Portuguese music genre that dates back to the 1820s. Normally, Fado is folk music that consists of someone playing the guitar and someone singing in very high pitch. It was truly an awesome cultural experience to hang out in Barrio Alto and watch live Fado with the locals! The picture you see was taken in a bar in Barrio Alto with live Fado Music.
If you want to know the hotspots for where to party and listen to Live Fado, then read up on my Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Lisbon.
*Thanks for reading! Have you been to Lisbon before?
*Please comment and share your experiences with me!