The Essential Lisbon Travel Guide
You've come to the right place if you're travelling to Lisbon this summer and in need of some expertise and tips for travelling in Portugal.
Lisbon is Portugal's effortlessly cool capital which blends the perfect balance of culture and history, while modestly boasting THE BEST CUSTARD TARTS ON THE PLANET!
Mix this all up and you have the perfect recipe for what promises to be an ideal european city break.
Coming up, we're going to take you through our top tips for 48 hours in Lisbon. We've done the hard work for you, meaning that your trip to Lisbon is hassle free.
Here's what to expect from this guide to Lisbon…
- Some interesting facts about Lisbon
- A better start to your Lisbon trip with Holiday Extras
- Getting to Lisbon from the UK
- Public transport in Lisbon
- Top things to do in Lisbon
- What's the food like in Lisbon?
- What language do they speak in Lisbon?
- Money tips while you're travelling in Lisbon
Some interesting facts about Lisbon
Who doesn't love an interesting factoid? We flamin' well do, so here's a few interesting facts about Lisbon, Portugal.
Lisbon is Western Europe's oldest city. In fact, records for Lisbon predate those for Paris, London and even Rome. Also, speaking of The Eternal City, like Rome, Lisbon is also built on seven hills giving it the moniker A Cidade das Sete Colinas. Lisbon is Portugal's largest city and is the capital.
The city of Lisbon is renowned for its nightlife, a hip-and-happening food scene, plenty of stunning architecture and tonnes of culture. Plus, Lisbon also boasts loads of rich and interesting history and plenty of beautiful beaches to lap up the mild climate.
Lisbon is about 1364 miles from London, which brings us nicely to our next section…
A better start to your Lisbon trip with Holiday Extras
Of course, most journeys abroad start with a trip to the airport. That being said, you could be parking your car at Dover or Southampton and hopping on a ferry, but we don't travel well on boats, so flying is always best.
We left Holiday Extras HQ promptly at 10am. Since our flight was at a reasonable time, we didn't use an airport hotel on this occasion, but had our flight be really early, we would have thought nothing of booking ourselves in the night before to avoid the mad rush in the morning.
We drove our car to a nearby airport carpark to leave our car for the few days we were away for our trip to Lisbon. We booked as soon as the trip was planned and got a really good deal. The money we saved went towards our airport lounge, where we had a hot lunch and far too many treat from the buffet.
Getting to Lisbon from the UK
Our journey from Gatwick took a little over 2-and-a-half hours. Arriving in Lisbon, we were pleased to find out that the airport is a mere 4-and-a-bit miles away, which means that hiring a car and driving, or hailing a taxi, should take about 20 minutes in good traffic. We opted for the latter and were that all-in-all, the journey was painless and relatively quick.
As for hire cars, there's nothing quite like the freedom of jumping in a car and driving off into the sunset. That being said, the streets of Lisbon are old and windy and weren't built for today's traffic. If you're planning on staying in the city, don't bother and opt to use public transport instead. Of course, if you're planning to explore local areas like Estoril and Cascais, then hiring a car in Lisbon is a no-brainer.
An alternative to getting to Lisbon by car, is taking the aerobus, which has two lines running to the main hotel areas and cost €4 per person, each way.
It's worth noting, that like most major cities, there are plenty of public transport options to get you to the city centre. For example, the metro runs from 6am – 1am everyday, or the city bus. They're cheap compared to private transport but do allow for more time on your journey as they'll certainly take longer.
Public transport in Lisbon
With all of those hills in Lisbon, we're not going to hold it against you for wanting to save your legs – public transport is cheap, reliable and efficient.
Some of your options include:
- And funicular lifts
The metro is good choice if you're traveling long distances, but bear in mind that it doesn't cover all areas of the city. That being said, it's worth noting that Lisbon's metro system is one of cleanest in Europe and that most stations are open 6am – 1am, every day.
Fortunately, there are trams that cover areas of the city where there is no access to the metro. There are two types of trams: the yellow Remodelado trams that route round the old narrow streets and the modern Articulado trams that operate along the flat sections of the city connecting central Lisbon to the Belém district.
The funicular lifts are used to help locals and tourists climb all those hills. The most famous lift is the Santa Justa Lift linking lower and upper Lisbon. Yes, it is technically a means of public transport but it also doubles up a a major tourist attraction and has great a view point at the top.
Lisbon has hundreds of buses and with 88 different routes, it's safe to assume that there's one going in your direction. For more information about navigating the buses and other transportation, we've got some tips coming up in a bit.
How much is public transport?
Working out how to pay for transport in Lisbon can get confusing … so here's our simple breakdown…
You can pay for single tickets on board trams, buses, lifts and at the station for the metro but this will cost you more. It's more cost efficient to purchase a prepaid Viva Viagem card from the metro station, which works like a TFL Oyster card where you zapp it every time you use it.
These cards cost €0.50 and can be topped up as you go and to demonstrate the savings check this out:
Planning on making at least 5 journeys over 24 hours? Save money and buy a 24-hour day pass. It costs €6 and includes unlimited travel on all trams, metro, buses and lifts including the famous Santa Justa which usually costs €5 alone.
A good tip is to pick up the transport map, Rede de Transportes de Lisboa, from the tourist office for timetables and prices. In our opinion, the best tourist office in the city is in Praça dos Restauradores inside the Palácio Foz, so if you're in the area head here for any help. We would also recommend downloading google maps to help you navigate your way around without having to rely on wifi.
Top things to do in Lisbon
Where do we start when it comes to the top 5 things to do in Lisbon? In all honesty, there's a lot and our 48 hours was jam-packed, so to help you out here are our 5 favourite things to do in Lisbon during your trip:
OK, here us out… Firstly, they're a novel way of seeing Lisbon and since the city is so big, they're a great way to see as much as possible for very little money. Plus you're effectively killing two birds with one stone, particularly when you take the number 28 tram. This tram takes takes a circular route round the city and will also save your legs from a lot of walking. Oh, and also, this is especially savvy if you've bought a 24 hour transport ticket since this tram is included.
Torre de Belém
The Torre de Belém is an iconic tower that was built in the 16th century as part of Lisbon's defence system. This stunning piece of architecture wouldn't be lost in Gondor with it's beautiful white bricks and ornate decor. You can find it by the harbour and it can only be reached via a walkway across the water. Definitely one for Instagram.
Jardim de São Pedro
Speaking of Instagrams, budding photographers looking for panoramic views of Lisbon castle need to make their way up to Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara. Fortunately you can jump on the Elevador da Gloria funicular lift to get there, otherwise, it's a hefty walk. It's worth though because there are also cute market stalls and plenty of live music.
Eat Portuguese custard tarts
Treat yourself to a Portuguese custard tart, otherwise known as a Pastel de Nata, at the original cafe that sold them back in 1837. Pastéis de Belém has queues outside everyday due to their secret recipe that makes them the best in town. These tasty treats were first created some time before the turn of the 18th Century by the monks in the Jeronimos Monastery. Much like Guinness in Dublin, these delicacies definitely taste better on their home turf and if you don't believe, have two just to make doubly sure.
Hit the town and experience Lisbon nightlife
Start and end your evening with a drink in the Bairro Alto area. The bars flood the streets with locals and tourists who come to drink portuguese beer, mojitos and caprinis until the early hours of the morning. If you want something a little sophisticated (at least to start with) head down to the waterfront of the river Tagus for cocktails and see where the night takes you.
What's the food like in Lisbon?
Lisbon is a cosmopolitan city so you're going to be able to find every type of cuisine here. You will probably stumble across many 'Tasca' style restaurants along the back cobbled streets near the Bairro Alto area, serving rustic Portuguese dishes like stews, steaks, and fried or grilled fish.
For something a little more quick and fun check out Mercado de Ribeira…
Mercado da Ribeira has been Lisbon's main food market since 1892. A few years ago it was taken over by Time Out Lisboa magazine, who added canteen style dining selling anything from traditional portuguese cuisine to burgers and sushi.
What language do they speak in Lisbon?
It should come as no surprise that Portuguese is the most-spoken language in Lisbon, in fact according to UNESCO, Portuguese is the fastest growing European language after English. We appreciate that while English is widely spoken, it's great to give the locals an opportunity to laugh at us, so here are a few tips and some phrases to get you by during your Lisbon trip.
Firstly, you need to know that in Portuguese there are masculine and feminine variations of certain words, with masculine ones often ending with an 'O' and feminine ones ending with 'A'.
- Hello - Olá
- How are you/greeting – Como você está?
- What's your name? – Qual o seu nome?
- My name is India – Meu nome é India
- Count 1-5 – um, dois, três, quatro, cinco
- Thank you – Obrigado / Obrigada
- Goodbye – Tchau
Money tips while you're travelling in Lisbon
The Portuguese currency is Euros. There are plenty of cash points around and debit and credit cards are accepted in most places. We recommend using a currency card like FairFX if you're concerned about taking large amounts of cash out with you.
Here's a look back at our costs to give you an idea of what you can expect to pay:
- Our return flights with easyJet from Gatwick – £88 per person
- 3 nights in our Lisbon apartment for 3 people – £248.39
- Worldwide travel insurance from Holiday Extras – £16 per person
- Our Holiday Extras hire car – £153.60 for a large Audi
- x6 Pasteis de Belém – €6,30
- A pint in Bairro Alto – around €3 – €5
Do I need to tip in Lisbon?
Like the rest of Europe, tipping is a done thing throughout the whole of Portugal, including Lisbon and other cities.
A service charge is not usually added to bills but double check first, especially if you are in the tourist areas. If it's not been added, it's custom to give 10% of your bill, but only if you feel the service was exceptional.
That's it for our Lisbon city guidehellip; at the risk of sounding super cheesy, Lisbon certainly captured our hearts and bellies and we'll definitely be back again. If you're after a city break that packs in loads of history and culture, is absolutely beautiful to look at and don't mind walking up lots of hills, then Lisbon is the trip for you. PLUS, they have those delicious custard tarts, which are worth the visit alone. Nom…
If you're reading this and think we have missed out a top tip then let us know and leave a comment to share with other travellers!
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