Planning a solo trip to Lisbon? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The capital city of Portugal, with a population of around 550,000.
- This global city is recognized for its influence in finance, commerce, arts and culture.
- Located on the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and Tagus River.
- The second oldest capital after Athens, Lisbon was first settled by the Phoenicians in 1200 B.C. Steeped in history, Lisbon predates modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years.
- Nicknames: City of the Seven Hills, The White City, Lisboa
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: Portuguese and English.
- Best time to visit: from May to October for the popular climate that is also the mildest in all of Europe, with the warmest summers and gentlest winters.
- Arriving via airport: Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) is connected to downtown Lisbon with a ride aboard the Aerobus costing €3.50 one-way or by metro for €1.40. Taxis charge €10-€15.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers: Home Lisbon Hostel. Why not try one of the best hostels in the world? Exceptionally clean rooms and facilities (serviced daily), close to the action, and known for its cozy atmosphere. “Mama’s dinners” are a perfect way to meet other travelers. Book ahead, as this one sells out fast!
- Baixa marks the centre of the city and stretches from Praça Dom Pedro IV to Praça do Comércio, the two major squares. The area is popular for its 18th century architecture, open-air cafés and range of accommodation, which includes everything from upmarket hotels to hostels.
- Chiado is the heart of Lisbon and is a hive of activity with a range of accommodation options.
- Pena is quieter at night, yet still close to the centre of the city.
- Most of Lisbon’s main attractions are located within walking distance.
- The Lisboa City Card combines free or discounted entry at over 80 museums and attractions with free use of the public transportation system. Get the 24-hour card for €18.50, the 48-hour for €31.50 and the 72-hour for €39.
- Carris operates the bus and tram services. Tickets cost €1.40 per ride of €6 for a validity of up to 24 hours. Tickets are available to purchase from drivers on board all tram, bus and metro services. A single fare on a bus purchased using a Viva Viagem (rechargeable) ticket cost 1.80 EUR (the same ticket purchased directly from a driver will set you back 2.85 EUR).
- There are 55 metro stations covered by four subway lines across the city. Tickets cost €1.40.
- Taxis are an inexpensive way to cross the city and reach the outlying neighborhoods. Call 21 812 9275 or 21 811 1100 to book.
- Tram: tram #28 runs through old town and is a great way to view the city. A ride is 1.05 EUR.
- There are several funiculars that operate within Lisbon. A typical fare is 3.50 EUR.
- Ferries that connect Lisbon to the suburbs across the Tojo river operate daily. Fares start from 1.15 EUR.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is 3 AM (discos and clubs sometimes stay open until 6 AM).
- Chiado is popular among the after-work crowd looking for an easy drink and lively chatter.
- Bairro Alto is the epicenter of Lisbon’s nightlife thanks to a vibrant bar scene. You will find the best Fado houses in Alfama and Bairro Alto. There are also some smaller places near Lapa and S. Jorge worth checking out.
- Docas or Santo Amaro Docks has a lively atmosphere helped by sophisticated bars and nightclubs.
- Looking for general bar recommendations? Cerveteca Lisboa (craft beer), Dois Corvos Cervejeira (craft beer), Fábrica da Musa (craft beer), Cinco Lounge (cozy cocktails), Fama d’Alfama (drinks with Fado music), Foxtrot (cocktails), Outro Lado (cozy bar)
- Cocktails with a view: Sky Bar Oriente ($$$), Level Eight Rooftop ($$), Java Rooftop ($$), Ponto Final ($$ – waterfront views from Almada)
- Looking for a sports bar? If there’s a game on, any bar with a TV will do! Mignon Sports Bar is a particularly loved location.
- Looking for techno clubs? LuxFrágil and Ministerium Club are your best bets. Warning: there’s a strict door policy, and they won’t let you in if you look like a tourist.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most prominent symbols of Portugal’s power during the Age of Discovery, built by Hieronymites.
- 25 de Abril Bridge connects Lisbon to the municipality of Almada located on the left bank of the Tejo River. It is one of Portugal’s longest suspension bridges, inaugurated in 1966.
- Castle of São Jorge is located at the top of the tallest of the 7 hills over which the historic centre is draped. The Moorish fortress is visible from long distances and provides uninterrupted views of the city and its countryside.
- Belèm Tower (Torre de Belèm) was built in the 16th century to defend Lisbon harbour, and makes for an imposing gateway to the city. The Manueline fortress is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Are you into marine life? Check out Oceanário de Lisboa, one of the largest aquariums in Europe. A sight to behold.
- Tip: weather in Lisbon is known to rapidly change from sunny to windy and wet. It pays to carry an umbrella and an outer layer, especially in spring, autumn and winter. It is very dry in the summer months.
- Take advantage of the free walking tours in Lisbon. It’s a great way to see the sights and meet other solo travelers, too!
- Avenida da Liberdade was built in the style of the Champs-Elysees in Paris and is the main artery of the city, an elegant tree-lined stretch that epitomizes Lisbon’s character.
- Rossio Square is the liveliest stop in the city, a meeting place for leisurely lunches at any of its excellent cafés and their outdoor seating and the perfect place from which to admire the grand architecture.
- While walking to Alfama from Baixa, stop at the Portas do Sol that opens up to the vast scenery of Lisbon’s rooftops.
- Rua Augusta is the main pedestrian street and the shopping mecca in the city.
- Follow the tracks of the famous 28 tram as you walk through the old town to downtown.
- Wander around Lisbon Botanical Garden and admire the hundreds of plants and bizarre hanging trees that have been planted here for centuries. This collection of plants was created by a former king of Portugal, who wanted a garden filled with every plant on Earth.
- Need to rest your feet? Stop for coffee at Baobá Café Bica and just enjoy the city walk by.
- If you have an extra day in the city, go for a day trip to beautiful, historic Sintra (a short train ride away). Just remember to wear a hat and sunscreen on hot days!
- The Portuguese are known for their sweet tooths – Lisboans are no exception! Try pastéis de nata (a sumptuous custard tart) and tarte de maçã (a melt-in-your-mouth apple tart) for an introduction to their favourite pastries.
- Try to guess the secret ingredient as you wipe sugar and cinnamon from your lips after polishing off a Belèm custard tart from Pastèis de Belèm.
- The elétrico 28 is Lisbon’s legendary vintage tram that crosses the city accompanied by the insistent chime of bells used to warn pedestrians of its approach.
- Looking for great restaurants in Lisbon that locals love? Quick recommendations: A Licorista ($), Zé dos Cornos ($), Pinóquio ($$), Bastardo ($$), Sala de Corte ($$$), Ramiro ($$$), Seen Lisboa ($$$$ – cocktails and sushi, epic views of the city)
- Where to find good cheap eats: head to Rua das Gáveas for cheap traditional dishes. You can also check out Chiado. Most restaurants will have a dish of the day and you will find this is often cheaper and fresher than other dishes on the menu. Look for the small coffee shops and restaurants crowded with locals for good cheap, homestyle cooking. Be aware that if you choose to eat in a restaurant playing Fado music you will often pay more than the food is worth – remember it is the music you are paying for!
- Dangerous areas: pickpockets are known to operate aboard the tram lines and in crowded public places so belongings should always be secured. Otherwise, Lisbon is very safe.
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days