Lisbon

Introduction

Since 2011, tourism to Portugal has been on a spectacular upswing, eventually earning record numbers in 2015 when it welcomed 10 million international visitors. As its capital, Lisbon has been enjoying a significant slice of this pie (it helps that it has the most capable airport), especially among Americans. Travel to Lisbon from the U.S. increased 17 percent from 2015 to 2016, and there’s every reason to expect similar growth moving forward thanks to new flight connections from both United and Delta taking off in 2017. With all this foreign interest, the city continues to build hospitality and cultural infrastructure to complement its wealth of historic monuments. Charming boutique hotels, extravagant luxury properties, and stylish apartments have been consistently opening to accommodate this influx. New high-profile museums are bowing all over the city: MAAT was the big one in 2016, but the Berardo Collection Museum and Museum of Portuguese Jewish History are scheduled for 2017 unveilings. The already impressive culinary and nightlife scene (five Lisbon restaurants now have Michelin stars) hasn't stopped growing—and star chef Jose Avillez isn't the only one behind the expansion. Add nearly 300 sunny days a year and temperatures that rarely dip below 60 degrees, and Lisbon has all the ingredients to make it  one of the world’s most desirable destinations.

Best Time to Go

There really isn’t a bad time to visit the Portuguese capital. Weather is generally mild, and there are a lot of events and festivals scattered throughout the year. But spring and fall, when the weather is very comfortable (temperatures range between mid 50s and mid 70s), and tourists haven’t yet mobbed the city for the summer season, are the best times to get the most out of Lisbon.

Airport info

Portela Airport, which has been undergoing modernizing upgrades, is a 15-minute car ride into downtown Lisbon. It shouldn’t cost more than 12 Euros to most parts of the city by taxi (the airport has a stand). If you’d rather plan ahead, organize a luxury sedan pickup by Amiroad, which charges about $35 to any hotel in town. If you’re not in a rush, the bus service (a dedicated route from Portela to several key locations in downtown Lisbon) and metro are straightforward and inexpensive.

Getting Around

It’s a great city to walk around in if you can tackle the hilly terrain, which is part of Lisbon’s charm. The color-coded metro and the public busses are cheap and easy to use. There are also the beautiful old school trams, which are not just for tourists; locals do in fact use them to get up and down these hills. (The city is San Francisco’s European sister for a reason.) The narrow, winding streets of downtown Lisbon can make finding parking spots a hair-pulling exercise so renting a car while in town is not advisable. Taxis are easy to hail, but Uber is the best option.

Can’t Leave Without

1. Thanks to its topography, there are tons of miradouros (viewpoints) that offer postcard-perfect snapshots of the city. Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara at the edge of Principe Real is one of the most well-known and can be quite crowded, but Miradouro do Torel, just east of Avenida de Liberdade, is more of a secret.

2. Time permitting, check out the northern neighborhood of Alvalade. Developed in the 1950s, the architecture here (a lot of big, modern, and sometimes brutalist styles) is a massive departure from the historic, red-roofed buildings of downtown Lisbon. Charming cafes and restaurants cater more to locals than tourists.  

3. Lisbon itself doesn’t have great beaches, but there are plenty nearby that are worth the (day) trip. Guincho in Cascais is a 20-minute drive west. An hour away in Alentejo, Comporta has been a favored quick-break destination for Lisboetas but is quickly gaining renown among foreigners, too. It attracts a fashionably laid-back scene thanks to the mix of rusticity (farmlands everywhere) and pristine coastlines.

Local Dish to Try

Portugal is known for its vast selection of delectable desserts; the most famous of them all is pastel de nata, a cup-shaped puff pastry filled with egg custard. Uber-popular Pasteis de Belém (Rua Belém 84-92; 351-21/363-7423; pasteisdebelem.pt) has been making these treats from the same traditional recipe since 1837. Pastelaria Aloma in Campo de Ourique has been winning a lot of awards for their perfectly creamy iteration of the iconic natas (Rua Francisco Metrass 67; 351-21/396-3797).

Local Drink to Sip

Ginjinha is a sweet liqueur made from sour cherries and peddled all over town. The legend goes that 19th-century Galician monks were the originators of the drink, and it has since become one of the country’s most iconic tipples. These days, there are a handful of small historic bars dedicated to the stuff. Ginjinha Sem Rival (Rua Portas de Santo Antão 7; 351-21/346-8231) and A Ginjinha (Largo de São Domingos, 8; 351-21/814-5374), two of the oldest purveyors in Lisbon, serve homemade ginjinha to long lines of locals and tourists. For a more elegant setting, try it at Foxtrot (Travessa Santa Teresa 28; 351-21/395-269), an intimate lounge in Principe Real decorated with Art Nouveau flourishes.

Local Tip

Lanche (pronounced “lunsch”), which roughly translates to afternoon snack, is a popular dining tradition among the Portuguese, who enjoy taking an extended coffee break between lunch and dinner. Pair um bica (an espresso) with cakes or small savory dishes such as croquettes and rissois, pastries stuffed with cheese, meat, or seafood.

Seasonal Highlights

WINTER: Winter temperatures are generally pretty mild in Lisbon (hovering around the mid 60s for most of the season), but it can get a little rainy. And while there are some events and festivals taking place (like February’s Córtex Festival for short films), winter is best spent visiting museums and eating in the city’s top restaurants.

SPRING: So many events, so little time: Peixe em Lisboa, the food festival that celebrates Portuguese cooking, and especially seafood, occurs in April with tastings, chef cooking demonstrations, classes, and more. The international music festival Rock in Rio is staged in May. ARCO, the contemporary art fair from Madrid, has started a Lisbon edition and also takes place in May.

SUMMER: It’s music festival season in Lisbon. Super Bok Super Rock, which focuses on rock and metal has been running for over 20 years. There’s also a lot of jazz events, including Jazz em Agosto. Expect performances and conferences at the Gulbenkian Museum. It’s also the best time to get away to the country’s beaches, both near (Sintra, Guincho) and far (Azores, Tavira).

FALL: Early autumn is a great time to visit Lisbon-area beaches. They’re not as crowded, but the water is still quite warm. The city is otherwise flushed with high-profile events: Caixa Alfama (a Fado festival) is in September, Moda Lisboa (the local fashion week) is in October, and the Lisbon and Estoril Film Festival (previous editions were attended by the likes of David Lynch and Juliette Binoche) happens in November.

Quick Tips

Car Service to Know

Amiroad
351-914/075-830

Extended Stay

Altis Prime
351-21/045-6000

Same-Day Dry Cleaning

Titaturia Jaguar
351-21/886-8165

Tailor to Know

Ayres Gonçalo
351-914/471-671

Hair Stylist to Book

Helena Vaz Pereira, Griffe Hairstyle
351-21/346-6369

Makeup Artist to Book

Antonia Rosa
351-96/407-3619

Personal Shopper

Helena Assedia Maltez
351-93/331-2211

City’s Best Spa

BSpa by Karin Herzog
351-210/400-220

Gym with Week Pass

Clube VII
351-21/384-8300

The Hotel With the Best Gym

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon
351-21/381-1400

The Best Souvenir

Tiles, Solar Antiguedades
351-210/458-993

Best Place for Gifts

A Vida Portuguesa
351-21/346-5073

The Fixer to Know

Rita Rolex
351-91/698-6831
Hotels

Palacio Ramalhete

Tucked away in a pretty residential neighborhood just west of the city center, Palacio Ramalhete is a charming 12-room sanctuary.
Janelas Verdes

Bairro Alto Hotel

Its address in the middle of downtown Lisbon makes this a perfect pick for first-time visitors who prioritize location, location, location.
Bairro Alto

Altis Belem Hotel & Spa

The minimalist aesthetic here is unique in Lisbon, but so is the hotel’s close proximity to many of the neighborhood’s cultural highlights.
Belem

Pestana Palace

This grand 20th-century palace built for Portugal’s Marquis de Valle Flor offers some of the most opulent accommodations in Lisbon.
Belem

Santiago de Alfama

It took roughly six years to restore this 15th-century palace into a hotel with 19 bright, individually decorated rooms and suites.
Alfama

Palacio Governador

Rich with antiquities and built on a Roman site that dates back to the first century, this 60-room hotel is like a museum.
Belem

Palacio Belmonte

Palacio Belmonte is easily Lisbon’s most exclusive booking—and one of the most special places to stay anywhere in the world.
Castelo

Memmo Principe Real

The design-forward boutique property stands as the Portuguese hotel brand’s sexiest and most luxurious outpost yet.
Principe Real

Valverde Hotel

Right in the middle of Lisbon’s ritziest boulevard, this intimate boutique hotel boasts interiors of high style and restraint.
Liberdade

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

The monolithic exterior of this modernist 1950s building is harsh, but inside all the comforts of a classic luxury hotel abound.
Marques de Pombal
FH&R
Restaurants

Time Out Market

This uber-popular riverside food hall houses stalls from the country’s hautest chefs all under one roof.
Cais do Sodre
Food Hall

Ponto Final

The 30-minute detour to this long-standing favorite is necessary for two reasons: The food and the best views of the capital, especially at sunset.
Almada
Traditional Portuguese

Pharmacia

Susana Felicidade’s playful, pharmacy-inspired restaurant serves elevated twists on petiscos, the Portuguese version of shared plates.
Santa Catarina
Petiscos

Leopold

Chef Tiago Feio use unconventional cooking methods to highlight the unique flavors and textures of every ingredient featured in his seven-course tasting menu.
Castelo
Modern Portuguese

Cervejaria Ramiro

There are a lot of tried-and-true taverns in Lisbon, but this old-school spot is the ultimate stop for fresh, simply prepared shellfish.
Independente
Seafood

A Cevicheria

As the name suggests, Kiko Martins’ second Lisbon restaurant focuses on Peruvian cuisine, especially fresh, flavorful ceviches.
Principe Real
Seafood

Loco

This restaurant without a menu gives diners the choice between two different multicourse tasting menus—the rest is a surprise from start to finish.
Estrela
Tasting Menu

Alma

The sexy stone and dark-wood dining room is the perfect home for celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa’s take on modern Portuguese cooking.
Chiado
Modern Portuguese

Casa de Pasto

The kitchen is known for turning out clever updates on traditional ingredients and the lower-level bar is the perfect post-dinner pit stop in the neighborhood.
Cais do Sodre
Modern Portuguese

Belcanto

Chef Jose Avillez’s whimsical creations make Lisbon’s only Michelin two-star restaurant as popular today as it was when it opened in 2012.
Chiado
Haute Gastronomie
Bars + Lounges

TOPO

Vistas of Lisbon’s hilly terrain all the way up to the castle are outstanding here, making it an ideal place to grab a drink during sunset.
Martim Moniz
Rooftop Bar

By the Wine

The flagship bar of one of Portugal’s oldest producers, José Maria da Fonseca, By the Wine is nearly entirely dedicated to the brand’s impressive and historic inventory.
Bairro Alto
Wine Bar

BA Wine Bar do Bairro Alto

With more than 500 labels here—all served by the glass—BA Wine Bar is an excellent spot to learn about Portugal’s 350+ native grape varietals.
Bairro Alto
Wine Bar

Rive-Rouge

This destination on the upper floor of the Time Out Market is a mellow lounge by early evening and a raucous dance party by late night.
Cais do Sodre
Lounge + Club

Red Frog

Red Frog is a stylish speakeasy inspired by the Prohibition Era serving an expansive, creative menu.
San Antonio
Speakeasy

Casa Independente

This multifloor venue features one of the most interesting events lineup in town. Check the calendar in advance to see who playing, or show up with an open mind.
Intendente
Live Music

Mini Bar

Mini Bar is still an ideal pre- (or post-) dinner hangout with a lively atmosphere and innovative cocktail menu.
Chiado
Cocktail Bar

Lux Fragil

This club, partially owned by John Malkovich, has been the place to party in Lisbon since it opened in 1998.
Santa Apolónia
Club

Cinco Lounge

Largely considered one of the pioneers of Portugal’s mixology scene, Dave Palethorpe’s cocktail program is as diverse as it is impressive.
Principe Real
Cocktail Bar

O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão

This lively, laid-back cocktail lounge in a transformed townhouse comprised of several rooms means a night out never feels too cramped or too loud.
Cais do Sodre
Lounge
Shopping

Cais Pimenta Rosa

This gourmet shop in Cais do Sodre is full of design personality and sells an incredible selection of artisanal goods.
Cais do Sodre
Gourmet Shop

Branca Lisboa

Local design firm Branca Lisboa produces streamlined furniture full of whimsy.
Saldanha
Furniture + Design

Livraria Ler Devagar

Two-floor Ler Devagar in the LX Factory has enough inventory for any bibliophile to get lost in, but there’s plenty more to do here than buy books.
Alcantara
Bookstore

Caza das Vellas Loreto

A visit to this candle emporium, which first opened in 1789, is a trip back in time.
Misericórdia
Candles

Cutipol

With its timeless, minimalist cutlery, Cutipol has remained one of Portugal’s most internationally renowned design brands since its founding in 1965.
Chiado
Cutlery

Manuel Tavares

A local treasure that has been serving Lisboetas since it opened in 1860, Manuel Tavares is Lisbon’s quintessential wine and Port shop.
Rossia
Wine Shop

Luvaria Ulisses

This sliver of a storefront was first opened in 1925 and has sold one thing and one thing only ever since: gloves.
Chiado
Leather Gloves

J Baptista

J Baptista’s vast inventory is famous for being the largest collection of antique Portuguese jewelry, silver products, and objet d’art dating back to the 15th century.
Baixa
Vintage Jewelry

Solar Antiguedades

This antique shop in Principe Real claims to have the world’s largest collection of tiles, which is saying something in Portugal.
Principe Real
Antique Tiles

A Vida Portuguesa

There’s no better place in the city to pick up the perfect Portuguese-made gifts to bring home.
Chiado
Local Gifts
Things To Do

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Due to its location off the tourist map, Gulbenkian is an excellent place to escape the crowds and explore a world-class art collection at the same time.
Avenidas Novas
Ancient and Modern Museum

Sintra with Heritage Tours

A day-trip to nearby Sintra is a classic addendum to any Lisbon vacation. Here’s how to do it in style.
Sintra
Day Trip

Fado Experience

Every first-time visitor to Lisbon must experience Fado, the country’s most traditional musical expression. Here’s how to do it right.
Barrio Alto
Live Music

Lisbon City Runners

Elevate the fitness quotient offered by Lisbon’s hilly terrain and take on the city at greater speed.
Various
Running Tours

Museum for Art, Architecture and Technology

MAAT’s campus is so expansive it would wise to dedicate at least half a day to discover all of its riches.
Belem
Contemporary Art Museum

Street Art Tour with Underdogs Gallery

Members of the gallery’s knowledgeable staff offer fully customizable experiences touring the most important public artworks in town.
Armazem
Urban Art Tour

Ceramics Workshop at Caulino

Pessoa's studio is full of products for purchase, but there’s also the option to learn from the master and make your own ceramics.
Baixa
Ceramics Class

National Coach Museum

Dedicated to historic European carriages, this museum—the first of its kind—houses some of the most prized carriages in the world.
Belem
Museum

A Soccer Experience with Tours For You

Expert tour operators can find last-minute VIP tickets to the most sought-after games, and even organize an opportunity to meet some of the players.
Multiple Venues
Local Sporting Event

Cooking with Chef Vitor Sobral

The Portuguese fine-dining pioneer offers completely customizable classes in a gorgeous cooking space.
Amoreiras
Cooking Class