Just before Christmas, I got the chance to experience two unusually warm weeks of advent: Lisbon is a charming city located around a hill with small streets, beautiful tile covered house fronts and a riverside with cafés to sit in for hours, drink a coffee and enjoy a good read. Furthermore, I was positively surprised by the variety of vegan places to eat. Since the way to everyone’s heart – and mine in particular – is through their stomach, it is hardly surprising that I fell in love with Lisbon. I hope this guide will offer you an insight to the beauty of this city and help you explore its streets on your next visit.
Where: Capital of Portugal, situated at the mouth of the Tagus River (Rio Tejo)
Size: 545245 people (2011), 84,92 km2
Transportation: Metro, Bus, Tram, Lift, Urban Train (along the coast)
Before your first ride, you can purchase the reloadable Via Viagem card for 0,50 € at the automatic vending machines at any metro or train station. You then load your desired ticket on the card (single, 24h, “zapping”). Be aware that you can only load one type of ticket on one card, which you have to use up before reloading it with another one. The card is valid for the metro, all buses/trams/lifts operated by Carris, Transtejo and CP.
Note: The Metro only runs from 6.30 am to 1 am with the airport bus only running between 8 am and 11 pm. So in case your flight goes earlier (as ours did) you’ll have to book an Uber or taxi.
Walking – for everyone who doesn’t mind walking up and down a small hill, Lisbon is the perfect city to explore by foot. If you don’t have to rush around, enjoy a stroll through the streets.
10 Things to do in Lisbon:
1. Explore history at the Castelo de São Jorge
Located on top of a hill, your walk up is rewarded with a beautiful view over the city and the perfect place to watch the sunset from the huge terrace. You can also walk around the ruins of the castle and imagine how everyday life must have looked like a few hundred years ago.
The castle is open to visitors everyday from 9 am to 6 pm and there’s a discount on the entry ticket for students, children and elderly people.
2. Walk around Alfama
The neighbourhood around the castle is perfect for a long walk through the small streets of Lisbon. On your way, you’ll discover little restaurants, enjoy the view over the city and river now and then and maybe visit the National Pantheon (open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm). Every Tuesday and Saturday, there’s the Feira da Ladra flea market next to it, selling everything from clothes, to books and records.
3. Enjoy some good street art
I’m planning on doing an entire post dedicated to this topic since there are so many graffiti and all different kinds of tile patterns to admire while walking around. Often, you don’t have to go to a museum to enjoy some beautiful art!
4. Relax at the beach
Well, I know it’s not a real beach but more a riverside, but it’s still beautiful to spend some time sitting in the sun, reading a book, or just calming down while sipping on your favourite drink. Make sure to check out next weeks post about my favourite cafés to know where I loved to spend my Sunday afternoons!
5. Listen to live jazz
Every Sunday evening, café Tati is packed with locals and curious tourists who all come in order to listen to some local guys playing jazz together. It’s the perfect place to finish the weekend with a glass of wine.
They start at 5 pm, however, make sure to be there earlier if you want to get a good place.
6. Shop at the LX Factory
Visiting the LX Factory is the best start for a walk from Alcântara to Belem. Its design almost reminds me of a small village with little shops and places to eat next to each other. You’ll find local goods and even a vegan and ethical shoe shop called Nae.
7. The craziest co-working space
Just a short walk away from the LX Factory, you can have a look at probably the coolest and craziest co-working space ever: Village Underground Lisboa. It’s a construction out of several shipping containers, two old buses and a lot of bright happy colors.
Located inside of the tram depot, it can be a little hard to find but there’s a sign outside the entrance. Just tell the guard that you want to have a look at the space when they ask you why you want to enter the area.
Continuing your walk from the LX Factory, go along the river to Belem. On the way there you’ll also see the MAAT, Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, with an interesting architecture kept in all white. Eventually, you’ll reach Belém, another part of Lisbon. Many come here for the Pastel de Nata, Portuguese egg tart pastries, which aren’t vegan. You can still sit in the park, have a look at the Santa Maria de Belém Church or continue your walk along the river to the Torre de Belém.
9. Christmas time
There are several Christmas markets all around town during advent, where you can get mulled wine, candied fruit and little gifts. You have a nice view over the city and on the castle from the one located at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara. On your way there or afterwards you can rest at the Jardim do Príncipe Real, which is covered by a huge tree whose branches spread all over a scaffolding, almost building a roof over the whole area. You’ll see many locals enjoying this place as well, reading books or playing chess.
10. Fairytale daytrip to Sintra
Located an hour northwest by train, Sintra is perfect for a daytrip from Lisbon. If you want to know more about this place, famous for its fairytale-like castles, you will find a detailed insight into my fairytale experience in an upcoming post.
Vegan Food and Work Places
Make sure to check out next weeks in-depth blogpost with delicious vegan restaurants in Lisbon and little cafés for getting some work done or reading a book for a relaxed afternoon.
Enjoy your travels and get inspired!