Guide to Lisbon highlights for great city breaks

updated 10/10/2021
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Lisbon highlights make a long list. It has great museums and interesting districts. The hotels are smart, the clubs cool and the vibe's friendly. Plus it's good value for food and drink. Easy to understand the popularity? Here's why Matthew Hancock thinks Lisbon's a top city break. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Portugal, your essential guide for visiting Portugal.

An easy mix of tradition and cool

Lisbon does tradition. But it does hip too. Then sometimes it combines the two. Take Ribeira Market. It's been the place to eat, drink and play for years. And it's still cool.

Even the city museum's have an edge. See the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in Belém. Try the Fado Museum in Alfama. Or discover the Berardo Collection Museum.

Its centre always tops Lisbon highlights

Lisbon's fun to get lost in. Head to the centre. Pocket your phone. Then just wander.

You'll stumble upon tiled buildings. Come across little-visited squares. Discover alleys hiding tiny cafés.

Not that Lisbon lacks big sights.

Don't miss the view from Castelo de São Jorge. See Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belém. Catch unusual art at the Gulbenkian. Drop in on quaint Carris Tram Museum. And the Maritime Museum is another must do.

In fact, Lisbon highlights could fill weeks.

But you'll probably spend a lot of time just looking at the city. It's built on hills. So there are plenty great vantage points.

Visiting Lisbon on a budget? Stay at Selina Secret Garden on the edge of Bairro Alta.

Alfama's extraordinary skyline is one of the main Lisbon highlights /CC0

When the weather’s good, it’s great

Lisbon enjoys over 3000 hours of sun a year. Even in December, there's sunshine for at least five hours.

Fortunately, there's also lots to do outdoors.

It's a short hop to the coast too. Estoril is famous for its James Bond connections. Today it also has some of the region's best beaches.

Cascais is another easy train ride away. Beaches here are smaller. But the town compensates with mansions and historic backstreets.

Short on time? Book a packed day trip round Cascais, Estoril and Sintra from Lisbon.

Lisbon food is delectable

Portuguese cuisine is one of the underrated Lisbon highlights.

Almost every restaurant serves grilled fresh fish. Seafood's generally affordable. And variations on bacalhau – dried salted cod - are many.

Pork's also a big deal. And succulent grilled chicken is another staple. Have it with, or without, piri piri sauce.

Local wines tend to be cheap and highly drinkable.

And don’t miss the pastries. Pastel de nata custard tarts always taste best in Belém.

Need a city break base? Stay at Famous Crows Lisbon Suites in Belém.

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Nightlife is no holds barred

The Portuguese can be sedate. At least until the clubs open. Then they let go.

Lisbon nights kick off round midnight. And Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré are where to go. Expect to be up late.

Lisbon's also the home of fado. This is the distinct music of Portugal. But avoid touristy fado clubs. Find authentic fado bars instead. Believe me, you'll be moved.

Discover the history of Fado. Take a walking tour of Alfama with local guides.

Nightlife starts late and ends later in Lisbon © OFFFSTOCK/Shutterstock

Lisbon hotels offer more than just rooms

Look for restored townhouses in Baixa. Many are now smart hotels. You'll also find them as hostels and apartment rentals.

Character hotels are an Alfama signature. Bairro Alto is very cool for night owls. And many districts offer budget accommodation.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Portugal or Portugal Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Portugal expert.

An easy to get around city

Central Lisbon's small and walkable. Catch an historic elevadore to negotiate its steep hills.

The city's metro is efficient. Buses are good too. But trams beat all. They mostly date back to the early 20th century. And all tackle Lisbon's steep streets easily.

Around for a few days? Pick up a 72-hour hop-on-hop-off transport pass for Lisbon.

Ready for a trip to Portugal? Check out the snapshot Rough Guide to Portugal. Read more about the best time to go to Portugal, the best places to visit and best things to do in Portugal. For inspiration use the Portugal Itineraries from The Rough Guide to Portugal and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

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updated 10/10/2021
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