I was wary when my family suggested spending New Year’s Eve in Lisbon. I’d seen countless posts on Pinterest and Instagram so, while I never doubted its beauty, I was worried it might be slightly touristy. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the food either (aside from the archi-famous and instagrammable Pastéis de Nata) nor of the local vibe. I let my mum and my sister organise the whole trip – as you already know, I’m not one for detailed itineraries.
The result? Portugal, and particularly Lisbon, completely exceeded my expectations. Not only have I rediscovered the joy of tourism, but I was reminded how much I appreciate late and long lunches, swiftly followed by the sweet drowsiness from digestion and slight inebriation.
So, to direct you to a wonderful experience as I had, here’s a detailed list of sightseeing and restaurants to add to your own Lisbon Itinerary.
Monuments and landmarks
Lisbon is a city with a cultural offering suitable to almost anyone. It’s also very well connected with public transport, so you’ll be able to cover almost anything in your plan.
Top tip! Buy the Lisboa Card as soon as you start exploring, it includes all public transport, the entrance to many museums AND you get priority access and you won’t have to withstand the queues!
Placa del Comerço
Mirador de la Senhora
Monasterio dos Jerónimos
Torre de Belem
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Sé de Lisboa
Among other things, Lisbon has become a popular sight on social media thanks to the gorgeous tiled and colourful façades. Once you’ve soaked up all the different cultural landmarks, the best way to digest the gorgeous meal you just had is to walk the town. I dare you to get a little bit lost and take in the architecture.
Also known as the birthplace of Fado, Alfama is a labyrinth of winding streets, leading all the way up to Castelo de San Jorge. You can always visit Museu do Fado to kick-start your walk and learn about this popular music genre. Did you know that it’s part of UNESCO World Heritage?
The Pink Street and Chiado
Chiado is, in my humble opinion, the most touristy part of Lisbon. For starters it has great options for shopping and eating, plus constant performances by street buskers. Fear not, though, you’ve also got Convento do Carmo – the ruins of a church turned archeological museum.
You’ve also got the “Pink Street”, in the lower part of the neighbourhood. Visiting was a delight for the gram, but I loved how alternative this small section of Chiado is. International bookshops inside a café? Yes, please! I was surprised as I had not read anything about this street even though Instagram is littered with pictures of influencers. Make sure you sit down for a coffee after you’ve taken your pictures (if that’s your thing) – it’s far from any tourist landmarks and you’re sure to appreciate the peace and quiet.
Just above Chiado is Bairro Alto. Still a massive tourist hub, although less transited as Lisboa Baixa or Alfama. Take a walk around here to get drawn in by the unique baroque church of Sao Roque, and go back to the main strip via steep pedestrian staircases. Castelo de San Jorge will preside your walk in the horizon, making you feel you’re in a fairytale.
Restaurants and food
What? Fish, especially the seafood.
How much? £££
Where? Rua do Loreto 21
Ze da Mouraria
What? Whatever’s the special of the day.
How much? ££
Where? R. João do Outeiro 24
Top tip: most dishes are served with the intention of being shared. Either come with a BIG appetite or with friends.
Pastelería de San Antonio
What? Pastéis de Nata
How much? £
Where? R. Milagre de Santo António N.10
Top tip: there’s plenty of seating upstairs, and hardly any downstairs.
Tips for solo travellers
I spent four out the five days in Lisbon with my family and on the fifth day I was left to my own devices.
My limited experience in Lisbon is conflicting. Of course, it’s easy to move around and see all the main attractions, but the real test of solo-traveller friendliness resides in the meals. Can you go for a meal alone and not eat crap food? Large cities such as London, New York, Berlin and even Paris or Madrid are wonderful for solo travellers – restaurants and bars are used to cater to the individual, and one can have a grand old time.
Outside of these huge metropolia, you might be left hungry or relegated to the far corner of a pub eating a sad shoe-sole burger. I was expecting something similar in Portugal, and this is why you should too.
Similarly to Spain, Morocco, Italy and Greece, Portuguish folk eat communally. This means that, in day-to-day life, a party will order one or two big dishes and share everything. Choosing a restaurant as a solo traveller, that is not a tourist trap, will eventually leave you facing a baffled waiter that doesn’t know what to do with you. I’m fortunate in the sense that I have zero shame so I order what I want where I want it. Aside from this, Portugal is as friendly to solo travellers as any other country as long as you’re open-minded.
The capital of Portugal is reaching peak tourism and will soon be saturated. A great deal of the travel-influencer posts I’ve spotted on Instagram are almost exclusively about the pastéis and “cute” “instagrammable” spots.
My advice is to go if you want to be delighted with the food and immerse yourself in the cultural landmarks, but give it a skip if you’re only going to add an overtaken picture to your feed. And this goes for anywhere.
Have you been to Lisbon? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!