Destinations Europe

Exploring Lisbon, Portugal – A Weekend City Break

Lisbon, the vibrant Portuguese capital sits on seven hills at the mouth of the Tagus river where it meets the Atlantic, we’ll get back to the hills later. Lisbon is also continental Europe’s westernmost capital city.

This often under-appreciated city is only a 2 and a half hour flight from the UK making it an ideal city break location.

View of Lisbon

Looking over the city towards São Jorge Castle

We stayed in the Cais do Sodré area just above the infamous Pink Street (Rua Nova do Carvalho), formerly Lisbon’s seediest neighbourhoods, it is now the most happening nightlife district. Although our boutique hotel was very nice we would not recommend staying there unless you like the bass vibrations of dance music until 4.30 in the morning.

Baixa / Chiado

Praça do Comércio

The Lisbon main square – Praça do Comércio

This is the downtown and shopping area with the large square Praça do Comércio. Most of this area was rebuilt in the 18th century after the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

Santa Justa Lift

The Santa Justa Lift

Chiado is the elegant neighbour of Baixa with its eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional shops and some of the best restaurants and is a great place to people watch.

Connecting Baixa to the Bairro Alto is the Santa Justa Lift, Elevador de Santa Justa. This lift was designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a student of Gustave Eiffel and you can really see his influence.

Bairro Alto

Lisbon Tram

The Lisbon trams

High up the steep cobbled streets from Baixa is the Bairro Alto, get your walking shoes on as there are lots of very steep hills. For some reason, we always seemed to be walking uphill. The Bairro Alto is relatively quiet during the day but at night there are lots of bars which spill out onto the narrow streets and some good little restaurants.

Alfama

Alfama District, Lisbon

Alfama, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon

The Alfama area is Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood and was originally the Arabic area. Winding, narrow alleys and steep staircases lead you up the hill to the Moorish Castle of São Jorge which overlooks the city.

This area is also the home of Fado and the location of the Fado Museum. ‘Fado’ is a style of Portuguese music dating back to the 1800s. Don’t expect to cheer yourself up and have a good dance listening to Fado. The melancholic songs are usually about the torments and realities of everyday life, you don’t have to speak Portuguese to feel the despair. We went to a Fado night and despite the incessant mourning, we had a great time.

Belém

The Belém Tower

The fortified Belém Tower

Belém, a few miles west of the city centre and alongside the River Tagus, is the cultural district of Lisbon. Here you can find many of Lisbon’s landmarks such as the Torre de Belém and the Monument to the Discoveries.

The Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery

The extravagant UNESCO heritage site, the Jerónimos Monastery and its cloisters are definitely worth a visit. It was constructed in 1501 to commemorate the return of Vasco da Gama from India. The monastery does get very busy with tour groups so visit early, also it is closed on Mondays.

The one thing to taste when in Belém is the Pastéis de Nata, the traditional home of the egg tart. Originally created by the monks from the monastery the recipe has remained unchanged and remains a closely guarded secret.

Monument of the Discoveries

The Monument of the Discoveries in Belém

We will definitely be returning to Lisbon and would love to combine it with a visit to Porto, the Douro valley and a visit to the Port houses.

Read more about our trip to Portugal and our trip from Lisbon to the beautiful Pena Palace in Sintra.

What is your favourite European city break destination?

Exploring Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal

Exploring Lisbon, Portugal – Pin For Later

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Cath - BattleMum
    October 4, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Great post Mel! Lisbon is firmly on our to-do list, although we’ll have to bring my folks. And I’m a huge fan of tarte de nata since moving to Portugal!

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 13, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Mel didn’t write this one, it was me, Mr W. Although she did help me and took most of the pics.
      Our hotel gave out free tarts and a few glasses of port every afternoon.

  • Reply
    Rhonda Albom
    October 7, 2017 at 8:32 am

    You’re quite right that it’s underappreciated. We were a bit rushed through Portugal and chose to skip Lisbon. Pity that I only found out about the Belém tower afterwards.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      We loved our stay in Lisbon, we could have stayed longer and explored the local coastal area.

  • Reply
    Sreekar
    October 7, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Had written about Lisbon after being in awe of it on our trip a few years back. Loved the Belem tower, Caixa and most of all the tarts. Ymmm. No one else makes them as Portuguese!

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 7, 2017 at 7:04 pm

      Yes, the tarts were good. Our hotel gave out free tarts and a glass of Port every afternoon.

  • Reply
    karen
    October 7, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Lisbon looks dreamy Mel! My city break destination was a small town in Oslo called Arendal, but feel that I should have added this to the list. you captured the experience beautifully. I especially loved the second photo.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 13, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      It was a fab trip, we were surprised how much we enjoyed it. Best avoid the mid-summer time but Spring and Autumn are perfect.

  • Reply
    Cindy Collins
    October 8, 2017 at 2:59 am

    We loved Lisbon, we didn’t expect much because it’s not overly popular like Barcelona etc, but we had the best time. The Alfama was amazing so was Belem. We loved the food, so many nice restaurants. I remember staying in a boutique hotel in the nightlife district too!! We’d love to go back there for longer next time.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      We plan to go back but we’ll choose a slightly quieter hotel this time.

  • Reply
    Gokul Raj
    October 8, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Such a great city with some historical architecture. I heard that Lisbon is one of the cheapest cities to live in. I hope that is true.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 10, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      It wasn’t expensive although it wasn’t particularly cheap although we did eat in some very good, reasonable restaurants.

  • Reply
    Simon
    October 9, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I really enjoyed your Lisbon video. It highlighted the many different monuments and attractions and it was well done. The Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower are both impressive works of art.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 10, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      The architecture is amazing especially in the buildings you mentioned.

  • Reply
    Susan R
    October 9, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    I haven’t been to Lisbon for a couple of years but I love it, there are so many cool areas. We also found the fado music a bit depressing though definitely atmospheric! As for the custard tarts, I can’t get enough of them

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 10, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      We really enjoyed the Fado although I like a good depressing tune. My fave singer is ‘Nick Cave’.

  • Reply
    Elisa
    October 10, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Good summary about what Lisbon has to offer. I’ve been to Lisbon twice but I have not made it to the pink street yet (too far). I am also missing a fado concert so for sure there will be a third time. What was your favorite neighborhood by the way?

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 11, 2017 at 11:13 am

      We enjoyed the history of Alfama but the bars and restaurants in Bairro Alto were good.

  • Reply
    Meg Jerrard
    October 10, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    So jealous of those who live in the UK for your awesome options of city break! I saw an episode of the Travel Man recently where they did 48 hours in Lisbon and now I’m dying to get there! The architecture, the monuments, food, culture, and landmarks, I can’t wait to explore. Torre de Belém is on the list, as is the Jerónimos Monaster (I love history, and am fascinated to visit UNESCO sites). Thanks for sharing your itinerary!

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 11, 2017 at 11:14 am

      We are lucky with the range of cities less than 2 hours away. We love watching ‘Travel Man’ !

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    October 11, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I’ve been to Porto and the Douro Valley, but not to Lisbon. I always hear really good things about it though and I should visit before it becomes so overrun with tourists. I wasn’t honestly so impressed with the Portugese food I had on my trip, but the custard tarts do sound delicious.

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 11, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Yes, we feel Lisbon could soon get like Barcelona and get a bit too busy, so try and get there before it does. Regarding the food, we were near the ‘Time Out’ market it’s an old market which has been redeveloped and is full of really good wine, drinks and food venues from some of the best chefs in Portugal.

  • Reply
    Paige
    October 12, 2017 at 2:41 am

    I’m dying to get to Portugal. Especially Lisbon. This looks like a perfect weekend. Belém Tower is a site that I’ve never heard of. It looks absolutely stunning!

    • Reply
      Mr and Mrs W
      October 13, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      We’re sure you will love Portuga; when you get there. Amazing history culture, food and drinks.

  • Reply
    Agness of Fit Travelling
    October 14, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Lisbon is one of the most charming cities in Europe. Its history and remarkable architecture are jaw-dropping! How many days would be enough to explore all of the highlights of Lisbon?

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