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4 Days in Lisbon: What to See, Do and Eat

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There are places that just stick with you - and Lisbon is most certainly one of them. The terracotta tile roofs, postcard-perfect overlooks, beautiful streets and eclectic city culture - I could go on and ON!

I could have spent weeks exploring every nook and cranny of Lisbon, but we ended up staying 4 days here I felt like this was just enough time to catch the major sights, wander the city, shop and eat some incredible food. This short (and by no means exhaustive!) guide captures the activities, restaurants and cafes we LOVED and would 100% recommend.

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At a Glance

  • Best time to visit - March to May or September to October.

  • Currency - euros. Most places take credit cards.

  • Getting around

    • Foot - Bring comfortable walking shoes with some tread for slippery cobblestones, uneven sidewalks and stairs!

    • Tram/Train/Bus - there is a great network of public transportation within Lisbon. One of the best deals is to buy a 24 hour travel pass. It gives you unlimited access to all public transportation for a flat fee of 6.50 euros. This may be your best bet if you want to ride the tram a few times or jump on a bus.

    • Uber - we relied heavily on Uber while in Lisbon to help us get around. It is very affordable and there were plenty of drivers available.

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Getting There

Lisbon is a 7 hour flight from Washington, DC, however since we were coming from Lagos, we drove there in our rental car. It was an easy 3 hour trip, but we also made the drive on a Sunday. I would bake in some extra time for traffic if you’re driving on a weekday.

If you’re taking a rental car from Lagos to Lisbon, get an automatic toll reader. Much of the journey takes you on the A22 toll road. If you don’t have a toll reader, you’ll be forced to go through a checkpoint with cashiers to pay your toll. Trust me and just go for the automatic toll reader. We rented one as an add on through our rental with Sixt and it was an extra 2 euro a day - worth it to speed through the tolls with ease.

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Where to Stay

It stinks when traveling to quickly realize that you should have stayed in a different part of the city, ugh. I’ve definitely been there, but thankfully this wasn’t our experience in Lisbon. We stayed in an Airbnb in the Bairro Alto, an area known for its bars and nightlife. If partying all night long isn’t your thing (it definitely isn’t mine!) I recommend staying on the fringes of this area on a quieter street. This area offers close proximity to Cais de Sodre train station, Time Out Market, cute cafes and restaurants. Our experience at this Airbnb was great.

Looking to be in the center of the action? Consider the Baixa-Chiado area. It is centrally located and offers easy access to transportation and key parts of the city.

For romantic charm, stay in the Alfama district. This is the city’s oldest district, characterized by steep hills, narrow walkways and historic facades. Most tourist sites are a 10-15 walk or tram ride away. I’ve heard great things about The Lisboans apartments.

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Where to Eat

Lisbon’s food scene is overwhelming. From tiny, family-run tascas to modern eateries, there is something for everyone. Also not to be missed is the infamous pasteis de nata, a custard egg tart with a flaky crust. Eat as many of these as you can while visiting!

For dinner, especially at the city’s hotspots, book a reservation either through concierge at your hotel, by calling ahead to the restaurant directly, or using the Fork app. We made reservations at both Bairro do Avillez and Frade Dos Mares using the Fork.

  • The Mill - we were lucky to be just a 10 minute walk from this Portuguese-Australian cafe. Go for the flat whites, pancakes, and tasty renditions on avocado toast. We came on a weekday around 10 am and waited about 15 minutes for a table - not too bad, and it’s well worth it.

  • Fauna & Flora - this contemporary cafe caters to a young, international crowd and serves up gluten free and vegan breakfast. No reservations are accepted here, so come early if you’re hoping to snag a seat quick. If you do have to wait, no worries, there’s lots of plants and decor to admire. Try one of the “nests” made of finely shredded filo dough piled high with eggs or smoked salmon.

  • Time Out Market - a must when visiting Lisbon. This bustling food hall is home to 24 restaurants, 8 bars, and more than a dozen shops. Because our Airbnb was just a few blocks away, we grabbed dinner here one night, then came by the next day to buy meats and cheeses for an afternoon snack. For artisan-made souveniers including paper goods, soaps and lotions, there’s A Vida Portugeusa.

  • Cevecheria - come for the pretty tiles and IG-famous octopus, but stay for the amazing pisco sours and ceviche. Yes you will most likely have to put your name on a wait list, but there are snacks and drinks to enjoy while you wait.

  • Bairro do Avillez - upscale but not too stuffy, this restaurant offers modern takes on traditional Portuguese cuisine.

  • Frangasqueira Nacional - another highlight from our Lisbon eats! We heard about this place via Iz Harris’ YouTube series on Portugal and had been obsessing over it for months. The verdict - amazing chicken! Try the garlic rice and olives as a supplement to your meal. Be sure to check the hours of operation and note that they are closed on Monday. Expect a bit of a wait to get your food once you order.

  • Frade Dos Mares - this restaurant was recommended to us by one of Greg’s friends who grew up in Portugal and was one of our favorites of the entire trip. We shared the seafood cataplana, a traditional Portuguese dish, which was amazing and stuffed full of lobster, mussels, clams and giant prawns. They only accept reservations for dinner so be sure to snag a table on the Fork app.

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Where to Grab Coffee/a Snack

Fellow caffeine lovers, rejoice. There is a thriving cafe scene in Lisbon. If you’re on a mission to cafe-hop around the city, here are my top picks:

  • Manteigaria - while we didn’t make it to Pasteis de Belem, we popped into this pastry shop multiple times for sweet, flaky pasteis de nata. Pair with a shot of espresso and it’s the perfect afternoon treat.

  • Comoboa - I was pleased to find out that this IG-famous cafe was right down the street from our Airbnb. The staff here is very welcoming and friendly. Pair your coffee with one of the house made baked goods. We tried the gluten free cake and banana bread - both amazing.

  • Landeau Chocolate - the rich, dark chocolate cake here is another must-try treat in Lisbon. There are a few locations throughout the city. We went to the location in the LX Factory for a quick pick-me-up.

  • Hello Kristof - great coffee, magazines and plants in a cozy setting - could you ask for more?

  • Copenhagen Coffee Lab - we stumbled on their Alfama district location early one morning and loved their lattes and flat whites. Try the cardamom buns - fresh baked and made in house.

  • Gelados Santini - This gelateria has been serving up 100% natural gelato since 1949. We went during the afternoon because there are often long lines in the evening.

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What to Do

  • Wander the Alfama District - take the famous Tram 28 from central Lisbon and you’ll be transported back in time. I put my map down and let my eyes guide me, one cobblestoned street at a time.

  • See panoramic views of the city atop Casteo de S. Jorge - for 10 euro you can gain access to this historic castle situated on a high point above the city. There is ample shade and unbeatable views.

  • Ride Tram 28 - when Lisbon’s hills get to be a bit too much, hop on board one of these yellow trams. They still use the original models commissioned back in the 1930’s. The tram route is long and connects a few parts of the city so you’ll get a good sense of where everything is.

  • Check out LX Factory - located in the Belem area, what was once a collection of abandoned garment factories and warehouses has become a fun shopping and dining district. Grab coffee or lunch and shop the boutiques and stores in this exciting corridor.

  • Ride the Elevador da Bica - this photogenic funicular connects one of Lisbon’s steepest hills. Either ride it to the top for 3 euros or stop by to snag a photo.

  • Climb the Escadinhas de São Cristóvão - this colorful, graffiti-ed staircase provides that perfect photo op.

  • Shop for Souvenirs - there is no shortage of touristy shops to pop into and browse. But for something a little bit more useful and well made, check out the homewares, soaps and paper goods at La Vida Portuguesa.

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Jane D'Angelo