Ola Lisbon, I am hopelessly in love with you! Can I be yours forever?
There are two kinds of people in this world – those who have never been to Lisbon and those who are in love with Lisbon. I belong to the latter group.
My love affair with Lisbon started in August 2016, when I spent a few days being swept off my feet in this charming city. Since then I have visited Portugal over and over again for solo trips, road trips, adventure-based beach vacations, and much more.
My latest travel to this stunning Portuguese capital city was in 2023 and fell in love all over again. (top Instagram spots in Lisbon)
I realize I am still in love with it. Yes, as of now I have visited Portugal five times!
I am not a big fan of metropolitans but Lisbon will always hold a special place in my heart, and that’s why I decided to share my favorite things about the city.
Quick Introduction about Lisbon – Portugal’s Capital City
If you’ve been living in a cave and don’t know about Lisbon, then let me introduce this place to you so that you know what is Lisbon like. Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal.
If you see the map of Europe, you will notice that Lisbon is actually quite close to the African continent. Also, it is one of the Westernmost cities in Europe. (The actual westernmost point of Europe is Cabo da Roca in Portugal)
The locals call it Lisboa, Lisbon city is built on seven hills, so expect many stunning viewpoints here. These viewpoints are called “Miradouro” in Portuguese and the city has many of them.
There are pastel-colored buildings that are intricately decorated with tiles and charming narrow alleys.
As if the above wasn’t all, there’s more – this stunning city faces the Atlantic Ocean so if you visit, be sure to enjoy it too!
One of the best ways to explore Portugal is by road. The car rental prices in Portugal are cheaper than the other countries of Western Europe. If you rent a car, you can also do a road trip to the Algarve and enjoy the beaches.
Lisbon is unlike any other European city in so many different ways and even more so in terms of weather. Lisbon is warm and comfortable, lively and colorful, fun and happy. It is a city where I can see myself living too.
If you are on this web page, then most likely you are considering traveling to Lisbon and wondering if Portugal is worth visiting.
I’d say Hell Yeah – in fact why just visit Lisbon, if you’re there then take some time out to travel further and explore Portugal’s old towns (like Porto and Coimbra) and coastal areas (like Nazare, Lagos in Algarve). Also, check out my Lagos itinerary.
As per Condé Nast Traveler, Lisbon is the most underrated city in Europe because it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. So why visit Lisbon? There are so many reasons. I will start by telling you why I fell in love with Lisbon, and you will have your answer then:
Here’s Why You Should Visit Lisbon, Portugal
1) Everything is Beautiful in Lisbon, even the dustbins
Believe it or not, every spot in Lisbon is worth a picture. From metro stations to cobblestone streets, to pastel houses along the Tagus River, everything is a delight to the eye.
You will find viewpoint after viewpoint and historical landmarks. Lisbon is built over nine hills and as a result, there are plenty of viewing terraces or Miradouro all over the city. It isn’t always easy to get to these viewpoints because of the steep hills but the views are worth it.
Apart from just the iconic buildings, even the simple houses along the roads are super pretty.
Most of the residential buildings look very old, well-kept, and loved. Not just walls, but also ceilings are adorned with patterns of beautifully painted ceramic tiles called azulejos. By the way, the azulejos are one of the many things that Portugal is famous for.
2) Lisbon has Many Historical Buildings
Now that we have established the fact that Lisbon is beautiful, let’s talk about the historical buildings that make this Portuguese capital city as beautiful as it is.
Of course, the city has many museums but in my opinion, the entire city of Lisbon is like one big museum in itself. (and so is Porto, in the North of Portugal).
The city has a lot of history, which is evident in pretty much every corner here. The Sao Jorge Castle, Jerónimos Monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and Belém Tower are all iconic historical buildings.
One of the oldest buildings in Lisbon is Castelo de São Jorge, which is on top of Santa Maria Maior hill. The oldest fortification on São Jorge Castle dates back to the 2nd Century BC. The castle is perched on top of Alfama and you can see an amazing view from the top.
Let’s talk about the Santa Justa elevator, which is a lift for transporting people and also a popular tourist destination.
When you stand at Rossio Square, you will see something interesting in every direction. From there walk to the Santa Justa elevator. In the peak season, the lines are super long here but you can just stand on Rua de Santa Justa to see the Neo-Gothic lift tower of Elevador De Santa Justa.
Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower are next to each other and are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The latter is a symbol of Europe’s Age of Discoveries.
You don’t need to visit every single historical building or tourist attraction in Lisbon because you will waste a lot of time in the queues. Just admire the architecture from the outside and move on. Pick just one attraction and go inside.
3) Lisbon’s Weather is Sunny and Warm
No matter how beautiful a place is, a visit when the weather is bad can limit your options. I have traveled to many places in Europe and there have been days when I couldn’t explore as much as I wanted because of too much rain.
Lisbon is one of the very few destinations in Europe and the world where the weather is pleasant throughout the year. In fact, Visit Lisboa introduces this city as “where the sun shines 290 days a year”, which was an important factor for me to enjoy its beauty.
Yes, Lisbon is the Sunshine capital of Europe. After traveling around for a few months in Europe, I finally got a chance to comfortably wear flip-flops and shorts without a worry in Lisbon’s warm weather. By the way, be sure to check out these amazing places to visit near Lisbon where you can make a day trip and enjoy Portugal’s sunny weather.
4) Lisbon Has a Happy Vibe
There are many reasons why I love Lisbon but one of the first ones that hit me was how happy everyone around me was.
It started at the Aeroporto da Portela (that’s the name of Lisbon’s airport) where I met the world’s most cheerful immigration officer who made us smile. As soon as we got out, a smiling local helped us with Metropolitano de Lisboa, the internal rail.
Perhaps it was the warm weather but Lisbon is where I met the happiest people in Europe, if not the world! Their smiles were contagious and I felt happier than I had felt in the last few months of traveling while I was here.
So if you’re nursing a broken heart, or are generally feeling sad then visiting Lisbon will surely lift your spirits.
5) Public Transport is Adorable, especially Tram 28
It is very easy to get around Lisbon because of its network of metro trains and trams. Yes, these metro trains and trams are beautiful but are very convenient too! My favorite is the iconic bright yellow Tram 28, which goes through Lisbon’s old towns of Alfama, Graça, and Baixa.
You can use tram 28 as a cheap hop-on, hop-off alternative because it moves through the city’s famous and interesting sites. Even though this tram is usually very crowded with tourists, a ride on it is worth it.
Confession: In my numerous trips to Portugal, I was never able to get on the historical Tram 28 because the queues are crazy long and I’m not even talking about the peak season. I realized that it is better to just follow the route of this tram and photograph it as it goes slowly through Alfama’s winding streets.
Most likely you won’t get a seat on Tram 28 during the peak vacation months but don’t worry, traveling in Lisbon is super simple by metro or bus. Use Google Maps and select the public transport option. Rent a cycle, walk around, or even catch a ferry. By the way, check out this post for ways to explore Lisbon for free.
6) Lisbon’s Pretty Streets + Street Art
Of course, I have mentioned how beautiful Lisbon is in the first point, but I feel the streets deserve an extra mention. Even if you don’t go to the famous landmarks in Lisbon, walking down its pretty streets is sure to win your heart.
Head to Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district, and from there walk till Graça, which is the highest neighborhood. Here the streets are the prettiest and super old. Most of the narrow streets here are slanted and you can also see the blue Tagus River from some of them.
Enjoy getting lost in this labyrinth of old streets as you see some of Lisbon’s oldest residential buildings.
For me, the most enjoyable part of being in Lisbon was exploring these streets that were lined with pretty buildings and roadside cafes with chairs on the pavements.
A lot of streets in Lisbon are hilly and you can see the view of many other streets that are further up ahead. Also, Lisbon’s streets have cobbled floors, which gives the city a very weathered-down and old look.
If things couldn’t get better, there’s street art everywhere! Some of the artwork and murals were so big that they stretched to the entire lengths of buildings.
7) Old Town Alfama is Seriously Stunning
If you’re wondering what is Lisbon known for, then this point is the answer. There are many things to do in Lisbon but no travel article about this city is complete without mentioning Lisbon’s oldest district, Alfama.
With Rio Tejo River (or Tagus in English) on one side and São Jorge Castle on the other, Alfama is the icing on the cake of Lisbon’s beauty. You don’t really need a city guide for Lisbon or research about where to go, just visit Alfama.
Here you will some of Lisbon’s most beautiful streets, museums, and cathedrals. In earlier times, mostly the fishermen and Lisbon’s poorest families lived here, which is evident in the small houses here. Oh and also, Lisbon Cathedral, which is the city’s oldest church, is in Alfama.
8) Lisbon Has Many Spectacular Viewpoints
Do you remember me mentioning that Lisbon is built on seven hills?
The fact that Lisbon is a hilly city, adds another dimension to the beauty and charm of the city because these hills provide extraordinary viewpoints. These viewpoints and the atmosphere truly make Lisbon one of the best cities to visit in Portugal.
A viewpoint in Portuguese is called Miradouro, and my favorite ones were Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Miradouro das Portas, Miradouro da Graça, and Miradouro do Recolhimento. Some of the best viewpoints are in Alfama and Graça.
Miradouro das Portas and Miradouro de Santa Luzia are a short walk from each other because they are on different levels at the same spot. Others may look like a short walk away but because of the steep roads, short walks are not as easy as you might think.
I also enjoyed the view from the top of Cristo Rei, which overlooks Lisbon’s red-roofed houses, the sea, and the famous Vasco de Gama Bridge. Another interesting viewpoint was from the Castle of São Jorge, which overlooks the old town of Alfama.
I do mention a few other viewpoints in my Lisbon Instagram Spots post along with map coordinates.
9) Lisbon is Full of Color
I will be honest; Lisbon appeared to be mostly red and white at first glance because of the houses. However, as I explored the city further, it turned out to be one of the most vibrant European cities because of the brightly colored tiles, street art, and trams.
Many houses and buildings are painted in pastel shades of yellow or blue and a few of them in pink. These pastel tones are soothing to the eye in Lisbon’s warm weather and accentuate the happy vibe of this city.
10) Lisbon’s Pastel de Nata (Egg tarts) are Yummy
“If you go to Lisbon, do eat the egg tarts”.
So what’s the most popular food in Lisbon? Definitely this delicious snack.
As soon as we announced our Lisbon trip on social media, not one, but at least 10 different people suggested we try the famous egg tarts here. I’m glad they did because these little mildly sweet pastries are heavenly! Eating these custard and egg tarts was one of my favorite things I did in Lisbon.
These custard tarts are sold literally everywhere for usually €1 or €2 and are perfect for a light breakfast with coffee.
Little did I know that these egg tarts are locally called Pastel de nata, and have a little history of their own! Catholic Monks created them before the 18th century using leftover egg yolks. While a lot of monasteries closed down after the Liberal Revolution in 1820, the monks for a little income sold these.
A few years later, the secret recipe was sold to a sugar refinery, which in turn opened the famous Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém which still exists in Lisbon today.
Eat one or two pasteis de nata – it makes a perfect filling breakfast because of the protein from eggs and of course loads of carbohydrates from the flour and sugar. In a place like Lisbon where one has to climb a lot throughout the day, such a breakfast actually helps.
11) Lisbon has an Amazing Nightlife
If things couldn’t get better, Lisbon has an amazing nightlife. During my visit here, I visited the Bairro Alto district, where there was a nightclub every few steps. Bairro Alto is kind of like Bangkok’s Khao San Road with both locals and tourists come together to enjoy the vibrant nightlife.
You can also visit the Pink Street, LX Factory, or Chiado to experience amazing cocktail bars and the party scene. I also enjoyed Imprensa cocktail bar in Lisbon where I had the most amazing cocktails and a memorable time.
It’s amazing meeting locals as well as other travelers in these clubs where there is a party every day. I may not have a picture of this, but it was enough to make me fall in love with Lisbon even more.
12) Lisbon has Fado Music
If you have been reading my Portugal travel blog posts, then you know for sure by now about Fado music – it is Portuguese blues music that’s very emotional and is played on a special guitar, of course, the Portuguese guitar.
In Portugal, there are two types of Fado sub-genres – Fado from Lisbon, and Fado from Coimbra. So when you are in Lisbon, you can enjoy the mesmerizing melodies of Fado as you sit in a traditional restaurant and sip port wine.
Here’s an option for you to book a spot for a live Fado show with a complimentary glass of Port wine in total for EUR 19.
The above-mentioned place is in downtown Lisbon in Baixa Chiado not far from Rua Augusta.
The place that I visited for Fado was Santo André in Graca, Lisbon’s highest district. If you walk on Rua de São Pedro (street), you will definitely find a few restaurants and bars with live Fado shows.
13) Lisbon’s Food Scene is Amazing
As an Indian living in Germany, I’m super bored of European food but things are different when I’m in Spain or Portugal. In my opinion, these two countries have the most flavorful food in Europe because they don’t shy away from using loads of fresh herbs and garlic.
As a seafood lover, I love eating out in Lisbon because I’m spoilt for choices. First, there’s the famous Time Out Lisboa, also known as Mercado da Ribeira which is not your usual food court but a curated hotspot with top-rated Portuguese chefs and their restaurants. This place is so good that it was also covered in Somebody Feed Phill’s Lisbon episode.
Try the bacalhau à brás (codfish with potatoes and egg), garlic prawns, bifanas (pork sandwich), ameijoas a bulhao pato (clams cooked in sauce) and caldo verde (green soup).
Another amazing place for experiencing good food is LX Factory, which is a creative space for artists, chefs, and musicians.
We also loved visiting a small Nepalese restaurant called Yak and Yeti in Graca, which was on a slanted street. We ate momos as the yellow trams drove by right outside the restaurant window. We came back to this place over and over again because of the amazing food and honely atmosphere.
Lastly, you will most likely have an amazing experience if you walk around in Alfama, follow your gut, and visit a traditional restaurant. Enjoy the traditional Portuguese food in Alfama and the local atmosphere.
14) Lisbon is a Starting Point for Exploring Portugal
Lisbon is situated in Central Portugal and because of this, it makes it a perfect starting point for exploring the entire Portugal. You can take a train from Lisbon to Lagos and in just 3 hours you will arrive there to explore the sandy beaches of the Algarve which will leave you speechless. From Lagos, you can go further to Carvoeiro and the Benagil Cave.
Seriously, if Lisbon is the most amazing city in Europe, the Algarve is the most beautiful beach destination in the continent because of the spectacular rock formations, beautiful beaches with golden sand, and clear water.
Let’s not forget the day trips! A popular day trip option from Lisbon is to Sintra to see not just the colorful Pena Palace, but also the nearby sandy beaches.
15) Lisbon is Surprisingly Affordable
Traveling in Europe is expensive but Lisbon is an exception. I felt it both in 2016 and then again in 2023.
In my experience, the accommodation was affordable as compared to other cities in Europe. This is a big deal because accommodation cost is a huge chunk of the traveling cost. We found a few bakeries and cafes where snacks were as low as 1 or 2 Euros.
We ate well and ordered seafood, starters, and also cocktails and usually paid 7-15 Euros per person in 2023 – which is very good as compared to European standards. These affordable prices encourage me to keep going back to Portugal every summer, sometimes even twice a year!
Moreover, we often found shops that were owned by Indian, Nepalese, and Chinese families that were selling everyday things for as cheap as 1 Euro. I bought a pair of flip-flops, a headlight, and a hand fan in one of these Euro shops for the Boom Festival in 2016.
But in 2023, I realized that the kiosks turned into tourist traps with expensive things and I did most of my shopping from Lidl Supermarket.
Conclusion: Why Visit Lisbon?
If you are looking to explore a city that has a timeless old-world charm, and historic buildings, with a rich history but also a vibrant nightlife where you will have a great time, then look no further than this second oldest capital city in Europe.
History, culture, food, art, beaches, and nightlife – Lisbon has it all. The city has so much beauty, love, and happiness that I just did not want to leave.
Want to know more?
I will also share a guide with things to do in Lisbon, which will come in handy if you’re visiting my favorite European destination anytime soon.
A few more posts about Lisbon from other travel content creators:
- Lisbon’s beaches
- things to do in Lisbon
- What is Lisbon known for?
- There are so many more interesting things about Lisbon that you should know.
- Check out this guide for spending one day in Lisbon.
- things that Portugal is famous for
- How to spend 72 hours in Lisbon.
- what to do in Lisbon in 3 days.
So, are you ready to fall in love with Lisbon?
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