One of the perks of Europe is that you can hop on a plane and in as little as an hour and a half, sometimes even less, you’re in a different country with a different language and culture. The first time I visited Lisbon was in 2013 when Instagram was a toddler at three years old and social media was still a fairly newish phenomenon. Back then, Lisbon was this gorgeous, well-kept secret. But fast forward a few years to Instagram hubbies and showing off for the gram, Lisbon has still remained gorgeous, but the secret is out. This bustling European city has really blown up and become a hot destination for young travelers in Europe, and rightfully so. This hilly city has so much to offer, is extremely affordable, and is filled with charm at every turn. Lisbon is a great destination for solo travelers. The city’s rhythm is just the right pace and it’s easy to navigate through, plus how can you resist the quaint, narrow streets, the historic tiles, and that ultimate tram life. Ready to see what the buzz is about and find out all the things to do in Lisbon? This guide is perfect if you’re visiting the city for the very first time or are only in Lisbon for a day or two. Keep reading to find out what to do in Lisbon. By the time you finish, you’ll be packing your bags and saying òla to this picture perfect city.
Things to know about Lisbon
Lisbon is not only the largest city in Portugal, it’s also the capital.
Lisbon is located West of the Tagus River at the mouth and the river runs through the city.
In Lisbon, the sun shines close to 290 out of the 365 days of the year and the temperature is rarely below 59°F (15°C)! Can we say perfect?!
If you’re into surfing and love the beach, get ready! Lisbon has a beautiful coastline with awesome beaches that you can easily get to by bus or train.
Lisbon is a very hilly city. In Portuguese, it’s known as ‘la cidade das sete colinas’ the city with seven hills. Legend has it that the city was built on seven hills and each one has its very own story, so bring your best walking shoes cause it’s gonna be a hilly ride.
The 25 of April Bridge is a famous bridge that connects Lisbon to another city, Almada, and is often called the sister bridge of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge due to its similarities.
How to get around Lisbon
Getting around Lisbon is super easy! You can walk, travel by bus, and take the metro. However, one of the most popular and iconic ways to navigate through Lisbon is with the antique Tram 28. Try to get on early as there can be long lines, but if you’re looking to hit up classic, tourist spots in Lisbon, the Tram 28 is a good way to go. Enjoy the winding twists and turns and check out the greatest landmarks in Lisbon along the route, including the streets of the Alfama district and the famous Sé Cathedral.
Eat Pasteis De Nata
Portugal is known for their pastries and the most legendary of them all is hands down: Pasteis de nata. Also known as Portuguese custard tarts, pasteis de nata are delicious puff pastries filled with a creamy egg custard. Perfectly crisp on the outside and nice and rich on the inside. Heaven. I’m always too embarrassed to disclose how many of these beauties I can devour in one sitting, but believe me, you can gobble quite a few of these down and they’re found all over the city. To get your fix, go to Fábrica da Nata, which has some of the best. (You can also go to the famous Pasteis de Belem where they were created or Manteigaria, which also has excellent ones with a few locations spread out over the city. You may have to wait in line, but it moves fairly quickly and is totally worth the wait.) Come in the morning for breakfast with a nice cup of hot espresso or in the afternoon for a sugar boost for all the hills or stop by before heading “home” for the evening as they close at 11:00pm. The space is beautiful as well with signature Portuguese tiles and gorgeous chandeliers.
Explore LX Factory
Once you’ve stuffed your face with a enough pasteis de nata to feed a small village, head to where the Portuguese hip go to hang out: LX Factory. It’s a bit out of the way from the city center but only a short bus ride away, in Alcântara. LX Factory is decked out in beautiful street art and has a young, artistic vibe. This old fabric factory turned creative space is filled with cute cafes, restaurants, bookstores, and independent boutiques, all tucked under the suspension bridge. While it’s not the most novel concept, it’s still cute nonetheless. In the winter it may be a bit cold and damp so the place may be a little sleepy, but try to imagine what it’s like in the summer with the warm sun rays shinning down…I know you can dig it. There’s a flea market on Sundays, so I would suggest coming on a Sunday to get the full experience.
Soak in the old world beauty
Lisbon is incredibly picturesque. I mean really, she loves to show off her adorable cobble streets, attractive pastel buildings, and she’s always instagram ready. After LX Factory, get carried away in the old world beauty and walk around a bit. Every two seconds there’s a good photo op and you’re not gonna wanna stop clicking. Ride to the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa, a stunning 19th century elevator with a cool view of Lisbon at the top. It’s open from 7:30am to 11:00pm (9:00pm in the winter) and costs €5.30 for a return ticket. Walk down the flashy, hot pink street of Rua Nova do Carvalho. Back in the day, sailors used to head to this funky pink road because it was near the port and was in Lisbon’s Red Light District filled with brothels, bars, and prostitutes. This isn’t the case today, as the city has worked hard to transform the area and its reputation. These days it’s filled with nightclubs and cafes.
Listen to Fado by going to a Fado Show
Fado is to Portugal what Flamenco is to Spain. It’s the classic sounds of Portugal wrapped up in a melancholic bow and ruffled with traditional, folky melodies. Just Youtube the famous fadista Amália Rodrigues and you’ll get a taste of what I mean. The distinctive sound of Fado originated in the early 1800’s and is performed in many restaurants. Enjoy a delicious Portuguese dinner and get lost in the soul of Fado. For a list of the best places, check out Time Out’s piece on the most excellent Fado Houses in Lisbon from touristy places to more traditional venues.
Pick up souvenirs at Conserveira de Lisboa
If you’re looking to bring some souvenirs home from your solo trip to Lisbon, you can’t call your trip a wrap without stopping at Conserveira de Lisboa. This tiny shop is famous for cute, colorful cans of fish. Tuna, sardines, mackerel, and more, in everything from spicy olive oil to tomato sauce. Their fish is top quality as well, used by some of Portugal’s best chefs. If you’re a fish lover, you can’t leave Lisbon without grabbing a can or two. The shop has been there for ages, three generations, and as you walk in you can see why. Tucked inside the small space is floor to ceiling colorful cans and you’ll find locals and tourists alike deciphering which ones they’ll have. Buy some cans for yourself, family, colleagues, friends, and anyone else you know that loves fish.
Check out the incredible food scene at Time Out Market Lisbon
We’ve covered where to get your sweet tooth fix with Pasteis de Nata and where to get your fish fix at Conserveira de Lisboa, now it’s time to make all the foodies droll uncontrollably. Enter Time Out Market Lisbon. Markets are always nice when you’re solo traveling because there’s less pressure. Only problem is, there’s not another person to grab a seat for you or hold your space in line…but I know you can manage. Mercado da Ribeira has been around since 1892, but when Time Out took on the initiative to revamp it in 2014, it has since then turned into a gastronomic hot spot in the city. This market brings some of Lisbon’s best culinary superstars and classic brands together, and with the varying price range, there’s loads of options.
So there you have it, a jam-packed two days in Lisbon. There’s so much more that this city on hills has to offer. I truly hope you enjoy your visit to Lisbon. What was your favorite part? Leave a comment below and let me know your favorites. Come back with a friend and wow them with your navigation skills and how much you know about the city.