What I learnt about Lisbon is that it is a city of Pastel de Natas, steeped in history and beautiful tiles…and not a Nando’s in sight! Going for a 3 day trip to visit my brother there, we got a real insight into local culture and things to do and see. As always, we’ve compiled the highlights and the best ways to do it without spending loads of your hard earned euros.
We were unknowingly extremely lucky the weekend we went. There’s a great story around which Lisbon is built on religion, sport and music (it sounds so much better in Portuguese), and the weekend we were there was the weekend the pope was there, Benfica won the league, and Portugal won the Eurovision – so the party was amplified even more and the locals were seemingly on top of the world!
Portugal is inexpensive and beautiful, find out what we did below with our top tips for exploring Lisbon for less.
What to do:
You have to do a free walking tour that starts in the local square. We had a great guide, who was hilarious as well as super informative. I’d recommend the Sandemans one(we use these all over the world), not only for their reputation, but also their experience, it’s the one I look out for in every city! Cost: Free – you tip as much as you can at the end.
Walk around Graca and the Castle in the old town. Get lost in the windy streets and take in the cute views and funiculars, cute shops and lovely cafes. Cost: free
Livraria devagar. Quite possibly the coolest place I’ve ever been in, and so stupidly Instagram-able! It’s got a cafe in it, a printing press, thousands of books and a crazy owner! Cost: free
MAAT Museum, walk down to the river and spot the cool white round building. Slightly reminiscent of the Guggenheim in NYC. The exhibition on when we were there was thought-provoking and totally wacky! The architecture(one of the A’s in the name) is the building itself, so make sure you walk up on the roof and take it all in. Cost: free on the first Sunday of the month; €5 any other time
Belem: Belem is a municipality in Lisbon, where lots of the great sights and monuments are. You can visit the churches and various museums or just walk around the beautiful parks and take in the history. Cost: free
If it’s good weather take a boat ride on the river! Cost: variable depending on company and length of tour, but worth it in the sun!
If you have access to a car, and you go when it’s still warm (or even warm-ish) I would whole-heartedly take some time out to drive to the beaches. It’s an amazingly scenic trip, they’re so beautiful and in some cases completely deserted. The food at the beach bars is good value for money and totally delicious!
Where to eat:
The first thing to note is that the people of Lisbon are very proud of two things: their tap water and their coffee. Tuck in to both, regularly! The second is, they’re known for great fish and not much else, lots of boiled veg but embrace it, it’s all delicious.
Where the locals eat:
Pistola y Corazon: the best all round restaurant to go to in Lisbon! Great food, great music, great atmosphere.
Paço Real: have the fish but don’t expect Michelin star presentation and service but it is delicious. Really great for lunch.
O Comforto (the one with the yellow door): right in town, not silly cheap but great food
Né-Né: a cafe with good food and good prices. They also have a bakery attached so you can’t go wrong!
Zona Franca: really excellent veggie meals and great staff!
RDA 69: this is something unreal. So wacky! It has a bike repair workshop, runs all sorts of sessions and movie screenings and is full of local vegetarians, they like to see themselves as a family, not a cafe and definitely not a bar.
Manteigeria: the BEST place to get pastel de nata in Lisbon. No kidding. The smallest cafe with the longest queues at times. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on them and have a coffee. They ring a bell when they have fresh pastries straight out the oven, and people migrate to the shop!
What to do in the evenings:
LX Factory: check it out in the day time now, it’s a really cool little place, and often has all day raves in the building. Also, the rooftop bar is lovely and has great views in the daytime too!
Sky Bar (on top of Tivoli Hotel): not cheap, but the BEST views of Lisbon!
Park: literally up on the top of a multi-storey car park. Once you’ve made our way up you won’t regret the weird choice, and it’s perfect for a sunset!
Pensao Amor: the weirdest little club in the middle of the Lisbon nightlife. An old brothel that they have made up to be brilliantly brothel-like with huge pop tunes and goblets of drinks!
Things we didn’t get a chance to do but will do next time:
Put on more weight eating more Pastel de Natas! Seriously they were so good, I can’t get enough.
Go and visit Sintra. The photos look so beautiful and it’s only 30 minutes away by car from Lisbon, it’s high up on the list of places to go on the next trip!
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