“Every choice you make has an end result.”
– Zig Ziglar
There are so many cities to choose from for a city trip, that it may be hard to decide which one(s) to visit. Maybe my list of 7 reasons why you should visit Lisbon can help you choose. I have recently spent a wonderful week in this charming city and can honestly say that I think Lisbon offers something for everyone. I would definitely go to Lisbon if…
1. You like city trips and you are keen on beach days. Lisbon offers both!
2. You like sweet and salty food. Go to Lisbon and you can enjoy both!
3. You like good food and live music. Have dinner in a Fado restaurant in Lisbon and you have both!
4. You like reliable and inexpensive public transport. Travel to and in Lisbon and you have both!
5. You like city trips and you like to do some walking and cycling. Lisbon offers both!
6. You like wine and you like bubbles. Have some vinho verde in Lisbon and you have both!
7. You like modern and classical art. Lisbon is full of museums and certainly offers both (and more)!
Read on for tips and background information about food, public transport, miradouros, the best beaches, museums, Fado restaurants and more.
Let me also tell you that Lisbon is a great city to visit in winter, since Lisbon offers mild temperatures and sunshine☀️ in these months. I think it’s wonderful to enjoy that kind of weather in winter, when many of us have to do without warm and sunny days. Another good reason to put Lisbon on your list of cities to visit👍
1. You like city trips and beach days
Lisbon is situated at the mouth of the Tagus River and you can feel the sea air whenever you get close to the river. At the end of the main shopping street, the Rua Augusta, when you walk under an impressive arch (Arco da Rua Augusta) a wide square (Praça do Comércio) opens in front of you with the broad river and a beach at the end of it. We visited Lisbon end of February and people were already sunbathing on this beach🏖
Following the river in the direction of the Atlantic, you walk along boulevards with many restaurants and public benches where you can enjoy a vinho🍷with a view, getting totally into a beach mood.
When you’d like to have a real beach day, you can take the train from the Cais do Sodré station to Cascais, a charming fisherman’s village situated where the river Tagus meets the Atlantic ocean. You will find a sandy beach with gentle waves there, perfect for a relaxing day. The train will take you in 35 minutes to Cascais for only EUR 2,25 (a return ticket is simply double the price).
Cascais does not only offer a beautiful beach, but also a small and pedestrian-friendly old centre with many shops, bars and restaurants. You can also take a stroll along the boulevard from Cascais to Estoril (where you can find the largest casino in Europe) or through the stately Parque Marechal Carmona.
Only a short walk from the city centre is the Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth), which offers a dramatic scene when the Atlantic is rough and the ocean makes its way through the hole with a roaring sound. A great alternative when the weather isn’t that beachy. On quieter evenings, it’s a wonderfully romantic spot to watch the sunset.
2. You like sweet and salty food
You cannot visit Lisbon without eating at least one (and probably many more) pastéis de nata, the traditional Portuguese custard tart, served with cinnamon and iced sugar.
The most famous bakery of Portugal can be found in Belém, a district in the southwest of Lisbon. Monks of the monastery Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) used loads of egg-whites for starching clothes. Not willing to waist the leftover egg yolks, they created the now so famous pastéis de nata. After the monastery was closed, they sold the recipe to a nearby sugar factory and the descendants of this factory still own the business and (even more importantly) the recipe. Rumour has it that there are only a few who know the exact recipe and they can never travel together. You never know, if distaster strikes the recipe is lost forever… Sounds almost like the type of precautions monarchs take!
Bakeries all over Portugal make the same sort of pastéis and they are all called pastéis de nata, except in Belém, where they are called (surprise, surprise) pastéis de Belém.
Every year a competition is held among the bakeries in Lisbon to decide which one offers the best pastéis de nata of the capital. The Belém bakery does not participate, since theirs aren’t called pastéis de nata. Nothing stops you from sampling and judging several pastéis de nata yourself! We had pastéis from several different bakeries and the ones from Manteigaria are exceptionally yummy.
Let’s go from custard to cod, another specialty in Portugal and Lisbon. Cod is the favourite fish by far and traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. Since the cod is salted and dried, you can get it all year round and in all sorts of variations. Look for a restaurant that serves traditional food and several cod dishes will be on the menu. These dishes are more than worth exploring!
The love for cod, Bacalhau, dates far back too (like with the pastéis de nata). It is not thanks to the monks, but thanks to the sailors that Portugal is so fond of cod fish. On their long and hazardous journeys over the world seas, the sailors took salted, dried cod fish with them and over the centuries the Portuguese have created over 1000 Bacalhau recipes, so chances are big that you will come across one you fancy!
In summer you should try freshly caught sardines. Sardines are traditionally eaten from the barbecue and not served on a plate, but on a slice of bread, soaking up the salty taste of the sardines.
3. You like good food and live music
When you like good food and live music, Lisbon is the place for you! You will be able to enjoy a well prepared cod dish and a glass of vinho verde (green wine – the green referring to the age, not the colour of the wine) while enjoying a live Fado performance. The word Fado comes from the Latin word fatum, which means fate. You can imagine that the music is not very upbeat, but a good performance will certainly cause goosebumps.
There are many restaurants in Lisbon where you can enjoy a Fado evening. Make sure one of the guitarists plays the traditional Portuguese guitar (the round one), otherwise you’ll have a too touristic evening and not the real thing!
I can highly recommend going to the Alfama or Bairro Alto district for a Fado evening.
4. You like reliable and inexpensive public transport
The city centre of Lisbon is small enough to explore on foot. Of course, you do want to take the tram too, since the charming old yellow trams and their uphill and downhill routes through the small and narrow streets should be part of any city trip to Lisbon. Therefor you may want to buy a day-ticket for Lisbon, which can be used for trams, busses, the underground and for the fantastic lifts, like the Elevador de Santa Justa in downtown Lisbon.
Mind you, a day-ticket will not reduce queuing for the funiculars or for tram 28☹️. A day-ticket costs only EUR 6,40. A ticket for the Elevador de Santa Justa is EUR 5,- so the choice is an easy one I’d say.
Like written in point 4, the trains are good value for money too. A day trip to Cascais will only cost you EUR 4,50 and a return ticket to Sintra is EUR 5,- (trains to Sintra depart from Rossio station). To make use of the bus in Sintra (highly recommended), you pay EUR 6,25 for a whole day of hop-0n-hop-off possibilities.
Living in Switzerland, I am very spoiled regarding public transport and I was pleasantly surprised that the trains in Lisbon stuck to their time-tables like Swiss clockwork. They were also not packed, but bear in mind that my trip was in February! When riding the trams, especially the famous number 28 or number 15 to Belém, you’ll feel like canned sardines (how appropriate😉)
5. You like city trips and walking and cycling
You have come to the right place in Lisbon when you like walking and cycling. The city centre is small enough to explore on foot. Mind you, lot of stairs and steep streets with charming cobble stones though (dangerously slippery when wet), so make sure to wear appropriate footwear! In case you have a step counter on your phone, make sure to check it at the end of the day, since it will make you very proud!
Since Lisbon is situated on the banks of the Tagus River, you will understand that cycling along the river is pure joy!
There are also plenty of possibilities to book (free) walking and cycling tours in Lisbon.
Cycling and walking options can also be found outside the city when you go to the impressive Atlantic coast. You can rent bikes in Cascais Station to enjoy a bike tour on a cycle path along the coast from Cascais to Praia do Guincho (10 kilometers one way). Or you can take bus 403 from Cascais to Sintra (or vice versa of course) to the most western point of continental Europe, Cabo da Rocca. From there you can enjoy a fabulous coastal walk to Praia da Ursa.
6. You like wine and you like bubbles
You will have noticed by now, that I do enjoy tasting local specialties, so here is my next food tip: you simply have to drink a “vinho verde” when in Lisbon. Lisbon is built on 7 hills and offers loads and loads of viewpoints, called miradouros. The Portuguese love for wonderful wine and equally wonderful views is often combined in Lisbon, since you can find plenty of bars, restaurants and street vendors offering you a “wine with a view”.
You can do your own budget-friendly version of “wine with a view” by buying a chilled vinho verde in a local supermarket and bring it with you to your favourite miradouro.
Vinho verde means green wine. The green does not refer to the colour of the wine, since it can be white, red or rosé, but to the young age of the wine. It’s a fresh, fruity and often sparkling wine. Restaurants serve it in bottles and sometimes even from a tap. It goes very well with Bacalhau, so you can treat yourself on an ultimate Portuguese lunch or dinner.
7. You like modern and classical art
Lisbon offers plenty of museums and is, as it were, a kind of open air museum as well with the Tower of Belém, the Jerónimos Monastery (both a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the unique funiculars and the enormous Christ Statue overseeing the city from the other river bank.
When you are keen on visiting museums, check out this list of museums and pick out the ones you like most! There is something for everyone in Lisbon!
I hope I have given you more than enough reasons to visit Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in Europe. When you feel I have missed another good reason to go to Lisbon, please add your tip in the comments section below.
Obrigada for reading my blogpost.
Useful links for a city trip to Lisbon:
For more information about public transport in Lisbon, check out the Lisbon Guru Travel Guide.
For free walking tours, check out this website.
For more information about Cabo da Rocca and the beaches you can walk to, check out the Lisbon Guru Travel Guide.
Here you can find tips for Fado Evenings where you can listen to Free Fado!
For fantastic food, you should visit the Time Out Market, close to Cais do Sodré station.