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Visit Lisbon: 10 things we do (and 10 things to avoid)

In the last years, Lisbon has become one of the main European city destinations. The opening and democratization of the market to low-cost airlines has significantly increased tourism in the city. In addition to tourists who come to visit the city, Lisbon is also a gateway to other European destinations and a really nice place for a stopover when in transit to other countries. 

The growth in tourism has brought many more options for activities and points of interest to the city. But on the other hand, it has brought typically tourist areas that may be less desirable for those who want to know the true culture of the city and stay away from places that are overcrowded with tourists.

We, who spend most of the year in Lisbon, continue to prefer what really identifies the city: the typical sites, the cozy places and the proximity of the city to the river.

Lisbon is not a city so small that it is possible to see everything in just one weekend. If this is the purpose of your trip, you should opt for places that are not filled with queues which may delay the experience.

In this post, we’ll talk about the 10 things we like to do in Lisbon over the weekend and also the 10 things we do not advise doing to enjoy the weekend in full.

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10 things we like to do

1. Visit Parque das Nações

Parque das Nações was an area intervened in the world oceans exhibition in 1998 and, in symbiosis with the river, has modern architecture, several gardens, and an excellent commercial network. It’s a great area to spend the morning, enjoy one of the terraces, or even do some shopping. There is also the rooftop of the Hotel Tivoli – SkyBar, which has a breathtaking river view.

2. Visit Marvila

It is one of the new creative zones of the city. Here you can try a traditional beer in the Lisbon Beer District (Dois Corvos, Lince or Musa), visit art galleries and choose one of the new restaurants in the area for a meal. We recommend Aquele lugar que não Existe or El Bulo Social Club.

3. Take a stroll in Passeio das Naus promenade and sunbathe in the terrace

This area, which extends from Terreiro do Paço to Cais do Sodré, is usually very crowded by tourists, and it may not be easy to find a place on the terrace. However, the entire riverfront area allows you to sit on the steps and enjoy the sun and the river Tagus.

4. Spend the afternoon in LX Factory

It is an unoccupied factory that has been transformed into a “space of experiences where it becomes possible to intervene, think, produce, present ideas and products in a place that belongs to everyone, for everyone.” This space is filled with restaurants and creative shops. There are regular street markets where second-hand goods and handicrafts are sold. We recommend having lunch in the restaurant A Praça or in Sushi Factory, visit the bookshop Ler Devagar and try the cakes in Bolos da Marta.

5. Have a drink and enjoy the view of Ponte 25 de Abril in Village Underground terrace

Described as a network of spaces of production and cultural exchanges, it is, in reality, a peculiar space in which buses are parked on top of cargo containers serving as a restaurant and a workspace.

6. Walk down the Avenida da Liberdade and enjoy one of the terraces of the kiosks for a cocktail

This avenue is one of the best known internationally for the luxury clothing stores that are installed there. However, Avenida da Liberdade is not just that. It is a central passageway of the city, totally wooded, with kiosks and terraces, where you can have a drink or a light meal. In the late afternoon or early evening, some of these kiosks have background music.

7. Enjoy the view of the Panorâmico de Monsanto

This old warehouse, in one of the highest points of Lisbon, has one of the best views of the city. It reopened to the public in 2017 and really deserves the visit.

8. Visit S. Jorge Castle

Located at the top of one Lisbon hills it is a space that, besides all its historical component, has a fantastic view over the city and the river. There’s an entrance fee but it is well worth visiting.

9. Shop in Baixa Chiado

A commercial area by nature, it was reborn from the ashes after a great fire that, in 1988, consumed completely one of the main warehouses of the city. Nowadays, in addition to a street shopping area, it is also a cultural area with excellent restaurants for a meal, such as the Cantina do Avillez and the Bistro 100 Maneiras (must book in advance).

10. Take a stroll between Docas and Torre de Belém

Another area of symbiosis of the city with the river. It is a pedestrian walk of some kilometers between the 25 de Abril bridge and the Belém area, with gardens, restaurants, and terraces. It is also the area where the impressive MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) is located. At Docas, we recommend eating a steak in República da Cerveja accompanied by an excellent beer sangria, and finishing the meal with an Artisani ice cream (the “salame de chocolate” flavor is to die for).

10 things to avoid in a weekend in Lisbon

1. Eat pastéis de Belém

At the weekend, especially in the high season, the most typical place to eat custard tarts, may have long queues. It is worth to try a pastel de Belém during the week, but at the weekend there are other options with custard tarts similarly crispy and creamy. We recommend, for example, the Manteigaria in Largo de Camões or Fábrica da Nata on Avenida da Liberdade.

2. Eat fast food

In a country where we spend a lot of time at the table, it can be a waste to eat the same as they do in any other city in the world. Take advantage of the Portuguese gastronomy that fills our soul and experiment, for example, one of the many codfish dishes.

3. Rent a car to go around Lisbo

In Lisbon, the parking can be chaotic and the car may not allow you to reach everywhere with ease. For those who are in the center of the city, the public transport system serves the purpose of visiting the tourist sights. For places difficult to reach by public transportation, we recommend Uber, Cabify or Taxify. We usually use these transport services and if you want to get a discount you can use the code mzzay5hbue for Uber or RUHMP for Taxify.

4. Catch tram 28 in peak hour

This line, besides being very used by tourists, is also used by locals. The maximum capacity is very limited and the experience may not be the best.

5. Eat in one of the restaurants in Rua das Portas de Santo Antão or Rua da Prata

Restaurants with colorful menus at the door or with people trying to convince tourists to enter will never be a good option. Our rule of thumb when we travel is to go to the restaurants where the locals are because then we are sure to know the culture and eat better. Opt for something quieter or more discreet like family restaurants.

6. Visit Campo de Ourique or Ribeira Markets

These places are a great option to eat. They were old traditional markets that were modernized with several restaurants where it is possible to try different types of gastronomy. However, with the increase in tourism, the weekend can become very crowded. If you can choose, try to visit on a weekday.

7. Have dinner before 20:00

If you plan to go out for a drink after dinner, the night in Lisbon does not start early, so opt to delay dinner a little to not have a break of energy until the night begins to warm up.

8. Choose an expensive place to have dinner with a Fado show

These sites are too touristy and the food is usually mediocre. To listen to free fado, try Tasca do Chico.

9. Visit the city in one of the tourist buses

Even being the city of 7 hills, Lisbon is an excellent city for walking and the Baixa area is very flat. To climb to the hills you can always use public transportation: buses, metro, and tram.

10. Waste time in shopping malls 

In Portugal, the shopping malls have most of the shops that exist in any other city in Europe and the prices usually are not lower. In a city that has an excellent weather all year round, take this opportunity to visit a garden or to shop in street commerce instead of wasting time in shopping malls that are usually too crowded at the weekend.

Transportation tips

Visitors to Lisbon should be familiar with the city’s transportation system to make the most of their stay. Public transportation in the city is well-developed and offers several options. The metro, also known as the subway, is a fast and efficient option for traveling between different neighborhoods of the city, with lines covering much of the metropolitan area. Additionally, trams and buses are a picturesque and affordable way to explore Lisbon’s narrow and steep streets, providing a unique experience for visitors. For those who prefer a more panoramic option, elevators and funiculars offer stunning views of the city while transporting passengers between Lisbon’s higher and lower neighborhoods.

There are some routes that can be taken within the city using urban trains, to places beyond where the metro reaches. Finally, for longer trips to destinations outside the city, CP trains (Comboios de Portugal) and intercity buses offer convenient connections for exploring other regions of Portugal from Lisbon.

In addition to the various options for public transportation in Lisbon, visitors can enjoy the convenience of the Navegante card, which provides integrated access to the metro, buses, funiculars, trams, and urban trains. This rechargeable card can be purchased at vending machines at metro and train stations, providing flexibility to users. It is possible to top up the card with money (Zapping), offering more freedom in choosing means of transportation, or purchasing specific trips that allow for the exclusive use of one type of transportation. This ease of use and integration makes the Navegante card convenient for visitors to explore Lisbon efficiently and economically.

Safety tips

When visiting Lisbon, it’s important to be aware of some safety tips to ensure a peaceful and enjoyable stay in the city. Lisbon is generally a safe city, but like any tourist destination, it’s always good to take basic precautions to avoid problems. Always keep your personal belongings, such as wallet, phone, and camera, in safe and visible places, as popular tourist spots like tram 28 may attract pickpockets. Avoid displaying unnecessary valuables and be cautious with crowded pockets or gatherings in tourist areas, where pickpockets may be present.

When walking around the city, especially at night, it’s advisable to stay in well-lit and busy areas. Avoid deserted or poorly lit streets, and if possible, use public transportation or taxis to get around at night. When using ATMs, always check for anyone suspicious nearby and shield the keypad when entering your PIN code. If you’re planning to visit less touristy neighborhoods or lesser-known areas, research local conditions beforehand and avoid problematic areas.

In case of emergency, the emergency phone number in Portugal is 112 and can be used to contact the police, fire department, or medical services. Always carry a copy of your passport or identification document and inform someone about your travel plans, especially if you’re exploring less touristy areas. With these simple precautions, visitors can enjoy Lisbon with peace of mind and security.

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Activities at Lisbon

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