Lisbon, Portugal

First arriving in Lisbon was a shock to the system.

Yellow tram in a narrow street in Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

First arriving in Lisbon was a shock to the system.

After our laid back time in Sagres and Monchique, this bustling, busy city swarming with people and traffic was a complete change of pace for us.

Yellow Remodelado trams and cars whiz through the narrow, crowded streets at near-chaotic speed. Once we got our bearings we started to become one with the chaos, navigating through the crowds with ease.

We spent four whole days exploring the city, walking up and down the narrow cobblestone alleyways (much like Porto, there's tons of hills here). We were entirely enthralled with everything we encountered. There is art anywhere you look. There are beautiful buildings on every corner. There is food everywhere you go. There are people in every place you wander.

And each day, we just kept discovering more and more of the city that we hadn't seen the day before.

There is so much to do, so much to see here. And we did and saw so much.

Let us tell you about it.


LX Factory

A collage of different street art photos
LX Factory, Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

The LX Factory is an industrial revitalization project, created in 2008 to bring new life to a former 19th century textile factory complex. The whole industrial complex was reimagined as a unique, creative market promoting independent art.

Old warehouses were turned into art exhibitions, studios and storefronts. There are restaurants, cafes and bars throughout the whole complex, making this the perfect spot to spend an afternoon or evening!

LX Factory is located just out of the main tourist area, under the Ponte de 25 Abril Bridge.

Our advice to you:

  • If you are staying close to Praca do Comércio, either catch an Uber or hop on an e-scooter (you can find these pretty much anywhere!) and ride along the waterfront
  • Check out the nearby underground railway station, Alcantara-Mar, where the walls are completely covered in graffiti and street art

Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT)

A modern white building to the left of a walkway by the water with a bridge in the background
MAAT and the Ponte de 25 Abril Bridge, Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

There are many museums in Lisbon to choose from, but we highly recommend going to the MAAT.

Not only are the exhibitions in the MAAT really powerful and interesting, but you basically get to see two museums in one. Admission to the old Electricity Museum (Tejo Power Station) is included with your ticket, and we thoroughly enjoyed both. We learned so much about both the history and future of Lisbon and this experience left us with a totally new perspective on the city.

Our advice to you:

  • Plan to spend a few hours here, between the two buildings we completely lost track of time
  • Bags must be kept in lockers upon entry to the museum (they provide you with a free token for the lockers) so plan what you want to bring inside accordingly
  • If you are staying close to Praca do Comércio, either catch an Uber or hop on an e-scooter (you can find these pretty much anywhere!) and ride along the waterfront

Castelo de São Jorge

Alexia sits in front of an old castle
Castelo de São Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

Castelo de São Jorge is a gorgeous castle that has a history dating back to the 1st century BCE. It's easy to spend a couple hours here exploring the grounds alongside a muster of resident peacocks. You can even climb up to walk along the tops of the castle walls, which offers amazing views of the city.

There's also a small museum which is actually super interesting and contains some really old artifacts, including a display of ancient smoking pipes (which naturally caught this stoner's eye!).

Our advice to you:

  • Buy tickets online in advance
  • Line up before it opens, we went half an hour early after grabbing some pastries and coffee from a nearby café to snack on while we waited

Santa Justa Lift

A gothic detailed elevator tower stands between two buildings
Santa Justa lift, Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

The Santa Justa Lift is an iconic Lisbon attraction. Built in the 19th century, this elegant wrought iron elevator tower was created to help people more easily navigate between the Baixa neighborhood and Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square).

On our final night in Lisbon we grabbed ice cream and watched a live street music performance on the stairs at the base of the lift, which was a really memorable experience.

Our advice to you:

  • Don't bother lining up and paying for a ticket to go up the lift, it's just a costly elevator ride: the real beauty is looking at it from the outside (yes, there is a nice view at the top but there are tons of other places in the city to get a good view!)
  • To go to Largo do Carmo, where the lift ascends to, find the H&M nearby and just take the escalators to the top!

Torre de Belém

Intricately detailed stone building stands in water
Torre de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

The Torre de Belém (Belém Tower) is another one of those iconic Lisbon attractions. Built in the 16th century, this gorgeous limestone ceremonial gateway to the city served as an entry point for early Portuguese explorers.

It's placement makes the tower appear as if it is floating in the Tagus. There is a fairy tale-like feeling about this place.

Our advice to you:

  • Don't bother waiting in the line for tickets to go inside. The outside of the building is much more impressive and you don't have to wait, or pay, to see it!
  • Pastéis de Belém, the OG place for pastéis de nata (it's been around since 1837!), is in this part of town and is worth a stop if you're looking for a snack

Other spots to check out

  • Praca do Comércio: The image you think of when someone says Lisbon, this harbour facing plaza is a beautiful spot to hang out and is central to the main tourist area of the city
  • Time Out Market: A fun indoor food market offering a wide variety of Portuguese and international options, but be forewarned, it gets quite busy and is very loud inside
  • Hop on an e-scooter: Electric scooters can be found pretty much anywhere and are a great way to cruise along the waterfront, all you need to do is download the app and off you go
  • Pink Street: What used to be Lisbon's red light district, this street is quite literally painted pink and is also home to the iconic hanging rainbow umbrellas
  • Green Street: You can find various restaurants and cafes down this cute, picturesque little street covered in plants
  • Avenida da Liberdade: This massive boulevard is the city's high-end luxury shopping area, a great place to grab a coffee and go for a stroll

Note: Livraria Bertrand is the world's oldest bookstore, but we left it off our list because we found it quite underwhelming. It's fairly modern inside and felt just like any other commercial book store.

For a truly magical bookstore experience, read about Livraria Lello in our Porto blog post.

Where we stayed

A yellow and white building called Varandas de Lisboa
Varandas de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

We stayed in a nice apartment called Varandas de Lisboa, right on the Rio Tejo (Tagus River) and close to Praca do Comércio, essentially in the centre of the madness. This area is the heart of the main tourist area (Alfama district) and there are tons of shops, restaurants and cafes to explore.

This city offers so much that was, and so much that is to come.

A diverse and vibrant place, full of diverse and vibrant people, Lisbon was an exciting and enlightening experience.

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