I’m finally getting round to writing my Lisbon City Guide, almost a month after visiting Portugal’s beautiful capital city! I’d planned on calling this a ‘mini’ city guide, but judging by the sheer amount of photos I’ve included (this was cut down from over 2oo…), it’s going to be anything but mini! There is SO much to do in Lisbon, and this is just a tiny snippet of what the city has to offer. We crammed in as much as we could in a 4 day stay, but could have easily stayed for much longer and wouldn’t have got bored!
Lisbon is a city I’ve wanted to visit for a while now after falling in love with Portugal’s Algarve, and visiting the neighbouring island of Porto Santo where we got engaged! It seemed the perfect choice for a getaway to celebrate turning 30 last month, with great weather in September. Prior to our trip, I’d gathered lots, and I mean LOTS, of recommendations from friends, colleagues and some of my followers who all had some brilliant suggestions. I popped these all in to a Google Map and pretty much lived by this for the entirety of our trip! If you’re thinking of visiting I would highly recommend doing this as there are so many things to do, eat, see and enjoy, its almost a little overwhelming when you first arrive!
We landed in Lisbon pretty late at night, and didn’t get to our hotel until 1am, so didn’t really get to see much of the hotel or its surroundings until we woke the next day. We stayed at The Indy House – a hotel that had been on a shortlist of mine for a few months prior to booking. I had a couple of other hotels and some Airbnbs on the list, but after seeing the lovely Katy & Kim show this place in more detail from their own trip over on Instagram, I was sold.
It’s a really cool and quirky hotel with lots of interesting features and areas to explore. We booked a standard double but were chuffed to find that we’d been upgraded to one of the apartments on the top floor! It had everything we needed for our four day stay, was super comfortable and had the jazziest toucan wallpaper. The hotel was about a 5-10 minute walk from the nearest metro station (Intendente), and then another 5-10 tube ride in to the main city centre. We could have stayed a lot more central, but this more affordable option worked for us and we didn’t mind the walk.
On our first morning, we had breakfast in our room, then headed out in to the city centre to buy some travel cards for the duration of our stay. The Lisboa Card costs around €40 per person and covers all metro, train and some tram travel for 72 hours – well worth it if you’re planning on getting about! Then the next pit stop was Manteigaria for the first of many Pastel de Natas! This is highly rated as one of the original and best places to get Pastel de Natas, and my god are they good! None that I’ve tried in the UK even come close.
After stopping in the Luís de Camões Sqaure to devour our pastries, we then strolled over to the much larger Rossio Square, took in the sights and browsed some of the shops around there. We hunted out a few places that we wanted to visit during our stay to get our bearings for later, and obviously did some tram-spotting!
Next up was a lunch reservation at Boa Bao – a place that came highly recommended and probably one of our favourite meals of the stay. As you can tell by the name, this place specialises in Bao Buns but also has lots of other classic Asian dishes. We ordered Duck Bao Buns, Vegetable Spring Rolls and Chicken Massaman Curry and it was all to die for!
I took my Hello Day planner (gifted) with me to Lisbon which was perfect for planning out our days and keeping on top of our meal reservations. I booked so many throughout our stay as I’d heard that you can often wait for hours for tables at restaurants in Lisbon, so it was so handy to have them all noted down in here! The planners are super handy and have many features for to-do lists, budgeting, goal planning and affirmations, plus they’re packed with motivational messages, too! I love mine and will be using it all year round to keep myself organised and on track.
After a LOT of walking, we then headed back to base and had a couple of hours to rest our feet and get ready for the evening. We decided to try out a tapas restaurant for our first proper evening meal, and went to Tapas N Friends not too far from Rossio Square. There seemed to be a few of these dotted around Lisbon and they always looked busy whilst we were there! We ordered copious amounts of meat, cheese and carbs to fill our bellies and it was all so delicious!
After plenty of sangria, we decided to call it a night after dinner as we still hadn’t quite recovered from the late night the day before. It was so nice to see the city at night though, and I couldn’t wait to get back out and explore again on day 2!
The second day of our trip to Lisbon was probably my favourite! Whenever we had mentioned to people that we were going to Lisbon, everyone said ‘you must visit Sintra!’. It was the one thing that came up in every conversation about must-see places, so we obviously had to give it a go. Our Lisboa cards that we had purchased covered the train trip to Sintra, which was about an hour out of Rossio Train Station.
Before we headed for our train though, our first stop was for brunch! There are SO many brunch restaurants in Lisbon, and I had a least 10 of them saved on my Google Map, so whittling it down to just 3 for our trip was a little tricky. We settled on Zenith for our first brunch stop and I’m so glad we did. Zenith is a small brunch and cocktail bar with a menu that’s packed with comfort food favourites, from waffles and pancakes to avo toast. I’d recommend their Eggs Benedict with bacon!
This set us up for the day, and so off we went for our train to Sintra! The trains are fairly frequent, but since there are a lot of stops at various towns along the way, they fill up quickly with locals and tourists alike, so get to the station in good time to ensure you get a seat. Sintra station is the last stop on the line, so no worries about having to listen out for your stop in case you miss it!
Sintra is home to some of the main tourist attractions that people visit Lisbon for, so be prepared when you arrive as it is busy! The train station is only tiny, and there are hoards of people all trying to get to the same places, so you do have to be prepared to wait for transport, especially around lunch time and early afternoon. There are a number of ways to travel around Sintra, but the one that we opted for was the bus. It seemed the cheapest, easiest option and although we did have to queue for around 20 minutes to get on one, it was a fuss-free journey up to the Park and National Palace of Pena.
We had both agreed on the train journey that the place we wanted to see out of all of the attractions in Sintra was Pena Palace. We weren’t particularly bothered about visiting some of the other castles and palaces, so decided to jump on the hop-on-hop-off bus and journey to the top of the hill in the Sintra Mountains. It seemed that most other people had the same idea as us too!
Pena Palace was for me, the highlight of our trip! I mean, just look at those colours! The buildings are absolutely beautiful – covered in stunning hand-painted tiles, and the views over Sintra are incredible from the top. The queues to get in to the palace are LONG, but we’d seen a few reviews that said if you get the lift up to the restaurant on the top floor, you can go out and see a lot of the exterior and views from there without having to queue or pay any extra. We were happy just to do this and didn’t bother with the inside. There was enough for us to take in and see up at the top! You do still need to pay to get in to the grounds though, so be prepared to part with some cash on arrival. We booked our tickets in advance online and got to skip the queues at the main entrance at the bottom of the hill, which I’d recommend doing if you can.
We decided to venture down the hill on foot after leaving the palace, and saw the gardens and lakes on the way down, which were really peaceful and beautiful. We then hopped back on one of the buses back to the train station. When we arrived back in to Lisbon, we then stopped off at O Bar Da Odete, a chic little wine bar near Rossio Square that had been recommended to me by a colleague who spent a couple of years in the city. This trip was part of my 30th birthday celebrations, so we wanted to do some things that were a little more special, and this was perfect!
The waiters here are super knowledgeable and helped us pick out some beautiful premium Portugese wines to suit our tastes, and we ordered a charcuterie board to keep us going until dinner. It was nice to do something a little more fancy than we usually would, and spend some time watching the world go by. I could have sat there, wine in hand, for hours on end, but time was getting on and we were both feeling tired after the busy day we’d had, so we went back to our hotel to have a power nap and get ready for another evening out!
This was probably one of my favourite nights of the trip, mainly because it involved pasta! We had a bar in mind that we wanted to visit, so found a restaurant on our map that was close by in the Cais do Sodre area, and that was Mano a Mano, a lovely Italian. Give me pasta and pizza and I’m a happy girl, so I was really looking forward to eating here, and it did not disappoint! We shared the burrata starter (because burrata is life) and then I had a dreamy filled mushroom and truffle pasta dish which I still think about one month on! If you’re looking for somewhere that’s reasonably priced with great comfort food and a chilled out vibe, this is the place.
After this, we crossed over the road to Pensão Amor, which is probably one of the most famous bars in Lisbon and one that had been recommended to us by nearly every person I spoke to! The bar used to be a brothel at the end of the 19th century, but is now home to burlesque shows, live music and an impressive cocktail menu. The walls are painted in the style of burlesque posters, and if you decide to climb the stairs up to the other rooms, you’ll find a few surprises! It’s well worth a visit, but get there early as it can get VERY busy. Be sure to ask for the Madame menu – a list of amazing cocktails that are all apparently named after the girls who used to work there back in it’s original form!
Our last full day in Lisbon was another busy one, starting off with breakfast at Cafe Janis. I found this place on Instagram after browsing a few Lisbon Foodie accounts and loved the look of the food and the interior. It’s just a few minutes away from Cais do Sodre station in a great location, and we arrived at just the right time to get a table. I chose the hearty breakfast which was HUGE! The bowl was piled high with eggs, halloumi, mushrooms, vine tomatoes and Parma ham and was delicious. Definitely a good choice to fuel a busy day!
Over breakfast I checked through my Hello Day Planner to see what we had planned for the day ahead, and first stop was to browse the Time Out Market. This was another thing that was recommended a lot before our trip, and it was just across from Cafe Janis so we couldn’t miss it! I couldn’t quite get over just how many food vendors there were in the Time Out Market – you name it, it’s there! Sushi, dim sum, ice cream, fish croquettes, noodles, curries, seafood – the lot. We decided that we’d head back here later in the day for a late lunch as we were too full from breakfast to try anything out!
We also had a nosey in the food market that was adjacent to the Time Out Market which was incredible! This place was packed with fresh produce from local stallholders, and we couldn’t get over the size of the fruit! Everything looked and smelled so beautiful, and we planned on picking some things up when we returned later. When we did though, this side of the market had closed, so we sadly missed out. If you stop by here, don’t make our mistake – snap up what you want quickly before it shuts!
Next up on our fourth day in Lisbon was a ferry trip across the Tagus River to Cacilhas, which is known for its amazing views over Lisbon. The ferry leaves from Cais do Sodre really frequently and only costs a few euros for a return ticket. The journey is super quick – around 10 minutes – and runs like clockwork! A friend had recommended that we walk along the coastline and head to a restaurant called Ponto Final, so that’s exactly what we did!
The walk takes about 15 minutes – just take a right when you leave the ferry and walk alongside the water, along a stretch of old warehouses, and keep going until you don’t think you can go any further! Every single building is covered in street art, so we stopped quite a lot to get some photos. Lisbon really does have some brilliant street art, and this walk featured some of our favourites!
We made it to Ponto Final and enjoyed some drinks and olives whilst looking out at the incredible views of Lisbon – we picked such a good day to do this as the weather was beautiful! When we inevitably go back in the future, we’ll definitely stop here for a meal as I’d love to eat here whilst the sun is setting. It gets extremely busy – most tables were already reserved by noon when we were there – so be sure to book!
We then went up the elevator just beyond Ponto Final up to the top of the hill, where we were able to see the Cristo Rei statue, another thing that Cacilhas is known for. For some odd reason the elevator wasn’t working when we were ready to go back down though, so we took a detour and walked through the village. It was around a 20 minute walk back to the ferry port, and it was such a lovely stroll. It was so nice to see where the locals lived and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a little while.
Once we arrived back at Cais do Sodre, we ventured back over to the Time Out Market and decided to try out some Spring Rolls and Gyozas from one of the stalls, followed by yet more Pastel de Natas! The food we tried was really good, and I wished we had come here earlier in our trip so we could sample more. Definitely one to go back to when we return in the future!
We spent the rest of our afternoon exploring, strolling around in the sun and figuring out where to get dinner that evening, then headed back to base to get ready for the night ahead. We settled on a restaurant that was a little more special for a bit of a birthday treat.
Cantinho do Avillez is a small restaurant about a 15 minute walk from Cais do Sodre station in Chiado and is owned by a famous Portugese Michelin star chef called José Avillez. The restaurant’s menu is made up of traditional Portugese dishes with twists influenced by the chef’s travels, and it’s pretty special! If you’re going here, definitely book a table. It was quiet when we arrived around 7.30, but boy did it’s two dining rooms fill up fast!
We enjoyed some gorgeous food here, starting with Portugese baked cheese with truffle oil and Parma Ham for me, and Tuna Tartare for Dan, followed by an insanely good burger for him and flaked cod for me, one of the restaurant’s best selling dishes. Of course we made room for dessert – Dan went for raspberry cheesecake and I opted for Orange and vanilla crème brûlée which was an absolute dream! I’d highly recommend this place if you want something a little more refined. The prices obviously reflect that, so we spent more here than we did on any other meal, but it was totally worth it. The staff here were also brilliant and really attentive. Oh, and the Don Giovanni cocktail is one of the best drinks I’ve ever had – an Aperol lover’s dream!
Our final day in Lisbon was only a short one as we had to head to the airport around 3pm, so we didn’t have a great deal planned. We spent the morning packing up our cases, then went out for breakfast to a little spot called Heim Cafe. We didn’t realise at first but this was quite a walk, and a lot of it uphill, but it was so worth the visit! This was another one I had found on Instagram and the food looked delicious so it was top of my list. Was it a little bit hipster? Yes. But so what, if the food is good, who cares!
I ate Heim’s ‘panwiches’ – a sandwich of pancakes, bacon, cheese and a fried egg on top, drizzled in syrup. Basically heaven on a plate! This was hands down my favourite breakfast of the trip. After food, we walked back in to the city, over towards Rossio Square, and found some gorgeous buildings along the way. One thing I love about Lisbon is how stunning the architecture is. There are so many different coloured buildings with beautiful details, and oh, the tiles!
We did a spot of shopping around Rossio Square as I’d spied some jewellery and some art earlier in the trip and decided to use some birthday money to treat myself, then of course we stopped by Manteigaria one last time. I wasn’t leaving Lisbon without one last Pastel de Nata, no way José! By this point it was almost time to check out of our hotel, so we hopped on the metro back to Intendente and walked back to Indy House to pack away the last few bits. The great thing about our hotel was that check out wasn’t until 12pm, so it meant we could enjoy our morning without having to worry about rushing back too soon.
We still had a bit of time to kill before our taxi to the airport was due to arrive, so we left our bags at reception and hopped in an Uber to LX Factory, a 20 minute drive through the city. LX Factory was another one of those places that came highly recommended, and I’m so glad we managed to squeeze it in to our trip before we left for the UK! It’s such a cool place – here you’ll find tonnes of quirky restaurants, gift shops, art and music, situated directly under the huge 25 de Abril Bridge. It reminded me of similar concepts in Shoreditch and Manchester, but was super unique in its own right.
We spent a couple of hours here, browsing the shops, drinking coffee and eating lunch. We chose to eat at a place called DOG, which served, you guessed it: hot dogs! It was a pretty darn good lunch, and all the other places looked really good too! Much like the Time Out Market, I kind of wish we’d come here earlier so we could try more. I’d imagine it would be really cool in the evenings!
After a whistle-stop tour of LX Factory, it was time to head back to pick up our bags and make our way over to the airport. I can honestly say that this has, hands down, been one of my favourite holidays to date. It might have only been four days, and it might not have been the most relaxing, but I had so much fun! I know there’s still so much of the city that we’ve yet to see, but I’ve fallen in love with Lisbon well and truly, so much so that I already want to go back.
If you’ve been to Lisbon, I’d love to hear all about you experience! Let me know where your favourite haunts are and maybe I’ll add them to the list for next time!