Lisbon wasn’t originally part of our itinerary, but when we checked our map we realised it wasn’t far from Madrid, so we added it last minute. It turned out to be a great decision as it was such a beautiful city.
From Madrid to Lisbon it was a short 1 hour 15 minutes flight. If you are on a budget, compare flights on Momondo to find the best value. We ended up going with TAP Portugal Airlines. If you want to save one night accommodation you can choose to catch a sleeper train from Madrid to Lisbon instead.
Once in Lisbon, we caught the Aerobus into the city centre for €3.15.
WHO WE STAYED WITH
Airbnb – Apartment
Enroute to Sao Jorge Castle, nearest metro stop: Rossio
Entire Studio apartment from AUD$50/night
We had 3 people this trip, so we found a studio apartment near the old town via Airbnb. The host was one of the nicest we met our entire trip and the apartment was clean and convenient. However, as it is located on a hill, there are quite a few flights of stairs. Also note, the apartment is situated in a quiet neighbourhood on ground level enroute to the castle, so if you have the curtains open during the day, you will see a lot of people walking past.
The host was one of the nicest we met our entire trip…
If you plan to stay here, take note not to leave any valuables near the window as people can easily reach in through the window and grab it. It never happened to us, but the host did warn us of the possibility.
Another thing to take note of: the apartment only has one double bed. If you have more people, you can utilize the double sofa bed. The apartment fits a maximum of 4 people. Check out my video above for a room tour.
We definitely recommend booking early, especially if you are visiting during the peak season of summer as apartments get booked out really quickly. We were really pleased with the apartment we booked, but we suspect if we had started looking earlier, we may have been able to find something even better value.
WHAT WE DID
You can find plenty of information on what to do in Lisbon on TripAdvisor. But, these were our favourites:
Alfama is the oldest district in Lisbon with many historical sites, restaurants and fado bars. We wandered through the labyrinth of streets and had dinner at one of the restaurants. It was so much fun walking around soaking up the atmosphere and culture of the city. The streets of Alfama are super charming and peaceful – if you are a photographer you will love it! There is also some amazing street art.
Taking a day trip to Belem
From €1.45 (Price may change)
If you are ever in Lisbon, it is definitely worth a visit to the district of Belem. The architecture in Belem is so beautiful, especially the UNESCO heritage listed Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower. We unfortunately missed the chance to see the Belem Tower as it was covered up for restoration, but it is one of the most iconic buildings in Lisbon, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
Try not to visit Belem on a Monday as the Monastery and Tower are closed. We didn’t know that, so unfortunately missed the chance to go inside the monastery.
Apart from amazing architecture, Belem also has the best Portuguese egg tarts! Read in the Where We Ate section below to learn more.
To get to Belem from Lisbon, there are a few options. We took the train from Cais Do Sodre, but many people prefer the tram or bus. All three options are similarly quick and cheap.
Taking a free walking tour
Meet at Camões Monument, Largo de Camões
We took a free walking tour with Sandemans New Lisbon Tours as it was our first time in Lisbon. Walking tours are a great introduction to a new city and the Lisbon tour was one of our favourites! We didn’t realise Lisbon had so much history and interesting stories to tell. From spies to poets to explorers, there have been so many interesting individuals that have helped shaped Lisbon as a city, making it one of the most interesting places we had visited in Europe.
Viewing the city from the Santa Justa Lift
Rua do Ouro
5.15€ per person – FREE if you choose to walk or have a Lisbon card/24 hour public transport ticket
If you take the free walking tour like we did, your guide will show you through a back way to get to the top of the Santa Justa lift without having to actually ride it. We actually enjoyed the walk rather than standing idly in a queue and the view at the top was definitely worth it.
The Santa Justa lift was designed by a disciple of Eiffel, so you will immediately spot the resemblance from a distance. If you want to take a ride, be warned the lines are really long and tickets cost 5.15€. Once on top, there is a spiral staircase that can take you even higher for an extra 1.50€. If you have a Lisbon card or 24 hour public transport ticket, the ride on the lift is free, but you will still need to pay for the staircase.
Lisbon’s food scene is a mix of traditional and modern. We found there were a mix of cuisines and many hipster-style restaurants. You can have a look at TripAdvisor for some recommendations. Here are the places we ate at:
Praca da Figueira 18B, Lisbon 1100-241
Open since 1829, this bakery has an aura of old school romance. Peering in at the amazing selection in the window display, you are guaranteed to be wowed by how beautiful and tasty each piece looks. We couldn’t help but order a variety of pastries for breakfast. The Portuguese egg tarts here are quite popular, but if you are a fan, make sure to try the ones in Belem (see below).
Pao Pao Queijo Queijo
Rua de Belem 126, Lisbon 1300-086
If you find yourself in Belem and are after a quick and cheap eat, you can find this baguette shop near Jeronimos Monastery. We got something that resembles kebabs, but instead of being served in a wrap, it is served in pita bread. They were filling and tasty, however, if you are after something fancy and romantic, this is not the place to go.
Cruzes Credo Cafe
Rua Cruzes da Se, 29 – Alfama, Lisbon 1100-192
A lovely modern hipster-style cafe in the Alfama district. Serves some delicious Portuguese dishes in a modern way. Presentation is nice and food is decent. The cafe has a relaxed atmosphere, and is a great place to have a coffee in the morning as well.
Pasteis de Belem
Rua de Belem n0 84 a 92, Lisbon 1300-085
If you are only going to eat one thing in Lisbon, you must have Portuguese egg tarts! Especially the ones served at Pasteis de Belem. Serving the original Portuguese egg tart, a recipe passed down from monks in the nearby monastery, Pasteis de Belem definitely lives up to the hype. I’m salivating just thinking about it right now. TIP: Make sure to add some cinnamon to your egg tarts before eating, it makes it extra delicious! We ended up having 3 each, and if not for health reasons, we would have had more.
Rua Augusta 209, Lisbon 1100-051
If you visit during summer, like we did, nothing is better than having some gelato to cool off. Serving a huge selection of gelato and sorbets, Amorino is the place to go. They even serve it like flowers, so it’s great for Instagram! Just make sure to snap a photo before it melts – as you can see, we weren’t quick enough.
WHEN WE VISITED
We visited in July 2016. As it was summer, it was very hot. Make sure to always carry around a bottle of water as we found ourselves drinking endlessly. Lisbon wasn’t as busy in comparison to some of the other cities we visited in Europe over summer, however, there are a few crowded areas. Be wary of pickpockets.
…we found ourselves drinking endlessly.
We actually had an incident with pickpockets on the streets, which lead us to believe Lisbon isn’t very safe in terms of petty crime in general. A couple with a child sped past us holding a map like they were tourists in a rush. Luckily, AK felt a tug on his bag and noticed what they were actually up to. They left with nothing, but we spotted them later on walking down the main street scoping out tourists. When we pointed them out to police, they said they couldn’t do anything without proof. They were obviously aware of them, but even the police seemed like they didn’t want to get involved.
WHY 36 HOURS WASN’T ENOUGH
The Portuguese egg tarts are reason enough to go back! But, as well as that, we also would have loved to visit nearby Sintra and experienced Fado music. A bit more time to wander through Alfama and take more photos would have also been nice. We also missed the chance to go inside the Jeronimos Monastery and see the Belem tower, so a bit more time to see that properly would have also been good. In terms of food, we didn’t feel like we got a chance to try enough local dishes. Maybe another 3-4 days in the city would have been perfect.