Ahhhhh Lisbon. This was my second time going and I can see myself going back again & again… so I hope I can use this post to convince you to visit too! If you’re craving some European charm, or even a solo trip, Lisbon is a great option because it is:
It may be across the pond (& I won’t pretend the jet lag doesn’t affect me), but it’s a 6 hour direct flight from NYC. That’s basically how long it takes to get to LA… just saying.
The flight will be your biggest expense. Once you’re there, everything from accommodation to food & drinks to Ubers are inexpensive.
As a solo female traveler, I felt incredibly safe in Lisbon.
I was there in late April for about 4 days, which was a great amount of time to see a lot of the city, although I can definitely see myself staying longer. It’s a big hub for digital nomads which made it easy to pop into a café and get some work done when I needed to, and while tourism is a big industry, I never felt overwhelmed by my fellow tourists (which has been the case in several other cities).
On my first night in Lisbon, fresh off of a redeye and trying to push through until bedtime, I booked a last minute food tour on Airbnb experiences and it was absolutely incredible. For starters, I was joined by a great group of fellow travelers, so I immediately made some new friends. But in terms of the experience, the host João curated an amazing evening with tons of great food and drinks. We made 5 stops and always got a good size portion to try along with a drink, and along the way João gave us lots of history and context about the dishes & drinks we were trying. Highly, highly recommend this experience!
Lisbon is full of street art & graffiti, so I decided to take a walking tour that took us around a neighborhood known for its street art. It was fascinating to hear from the host Igor about the culture of street art & graffiti in the city, and learn about several different pieces and artists.
A friend of mine did this graffiti workshop and raved about it – unfortunately I didn’t have time to do it, but maybe next time!
Since Lisbon is known as the city of 7 hills, walking around can get exhausting. I took this bike tour as a way to navigate some of the hills on an electric bike and visit the Belem Tower, an important Lisbon landmark several miles from the city center. The host, Miguel, was a fun and knowledgable guy, and it was fun to venture outside of the city center for the afternoon.
Alfama is the city’s old town, with winding narrow streets and beautiful, old architecture. I took this free walking tour of the neighborhood & our guide was great – it was an easy way to explore the neighborhood while getting a bit of a history lesson and some local recommendations, too! We ended at the Mirador de Santa Lucia, which was an incredible viewpoint of the city.
The castle is at the top of a hill in the Alfama neighborhood and is worth a visit for the excellent views (and the beautiful, if also very rude, peacocks that roam the grounds). I recommend going before or after the free walking tour of Alfama.
Fado is traditional Portuguese music that historically revolved around lots of hardship and sorrow, but now has become a way for tourists to learn more about local culture. There are several bars and restaurants that have Fado shows throughout the evening. I went with a friend to a restaurant in Alfama called São Miguel d’Alfama for their 7pm show, but our tourguide also recommended a place called A Bauica.
I visited Sintra when I was in Lisbon back in 2017, and it was a beautiful (yet very toursity) activity. I didn’t feel I needed to go back again, but it’s definitely a must-see! It’s easy to get on the train there and explore on your own for the day (that’s what we did), or book a tour if that’s more your speed.
My friend and I caught the ferry for Cais Sodre to the other side of the river and then walked about 10 minutes to Ponto Final, a waterfront restaurant known for its stellar sunset views. Even though the wait for a table was over an hour, it ended up working out for the better—we grabbed a beer at the restaurant bar and took it to a patch of grass with a bunch of other onlookers to watch the sunset. My recommendation would be to eat before (or plan to eat after) and go over there just for some drinks in the grass!
Ok, this is similar to the food tour — but if you decide not to go on the food tour, make sure you keep your eye out for all the traditional goods!
This one is probably on all my travel to do lists—give yourself time to get lost and wander! (You have my full permission to do this in Lisbon, since it’s such a safe city). Take a look at the architecture and the beautiful tiles, along with the street art and graffiti. Walk along the promenade by the water, too!
Café Copenhagen → This café has multiple locations throughout the city and came recommended by several friends as a good place to grab breakfast and/or work from because they have a good amount of seating and Wifi. They have a breakfast menu and fresh juices, too.
Comoba → Cute café I came to on my very first day when I was fresh off of a redeye, starving, and had a few hours to kill before checking into my Airbnb. The coffee + green juice I got was great and they had Wifi so I was able to get some work done. I got the breakfast burrito which I wasn’t crazy about, but all the other food looked absolutely amazing.
Dear Breakfast → This place also has multiple locations throughout the city and always a line out the door. So I decided to get there 10 minutes before it opened one day to be the first one in (I wasn’t even the only one waiting!). It was definitely worth the hype – a beautiful interior with delicious breakfast food. I got the eggs bene, obvi.
Hello, Kristof → Cute smaller café. I got the most delicious salmon and lemony ricotta toast for breakfast here one day! It was a Saturday and busy, and because it was the weekend they didn’t let me use my laptop, but they do have Wifi & allow laptops during the week.
Time Out Market → This is a huge food hall with various different vendors (apparently there’s one in NYC too… who knew?!). It’s busy and crowded and loud, but an easy place to go to have lots of options and maybe even try a few different things. As a solo traveler it was an easy way to grab something quick(ish) and not have to do a whole sit down meal when I wasn’t up for it.
Cafeh Tehran → An Iranian restaurant that came recommended by a friend that was so delicious I’m still thinking about it! I tried the beetroot hummus and eggplant (both of which they gave me half portions of because I was solo), and I so wish I could’ve gone back to try more of the menu.
Ceverjeria Amigo Antonio → This is a little hole in the wall in Alfama that our tourguide brought us to because the dining area is in a cave of sorts, and has a secret door to the altar of the church next door. He recommended it for the best bifana, which is a traditional Portuguese pork sandwich, which was no frills & delicious. (The sandwich & a bottle of water was €5 total).
A Baiuca → I didn’t get to go here, but this is the restaurant & bar in Alfama that our tourguide recommended for a traditional Fado experience (Fado is a genre of music traditional to Portugal that is worth checking out!). We went to see Fado at a restaurant nearby called São Miguel d’Alfama, which was still a wonderful experience but has much lower ratings on Google so I wanted to include the one that came recommended!
Taberna da Rua das Flores → One of my friends highly highly highly recommended this place to me. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go, but she raved about it. Get there early & know that it’s cash only!
Manteigaria Silva → A place where locals will stop in for their meats & cheeses. We came here on our food tour to try some cheese with marmalade & port wine.
Casa Brasileira → We came here on the food tour to try what is apparently the best pasteis de nata in the city center.
A Tendinha do Rossio → Came to this little spot on the food tour for a Portuguese samosa and some green wine. The samosa was delicious and reminded me a lot of an Indian samosa!
Caso do Alentejo → This was our last stop on the food tour for a traditional feast. We tried a yummy tomato soup with poached egg, smoked chorizo that cooked over a fire right in front of us, and lots of cheese and snacks (bacalhau, which is salted cod, included).
Pastéis de Belém → This is the most famous spot for the best pasteis de nata in the city. I can confirm that it was my favorite (& I tried quite a few). It was warmed up and the ratios were juuust right!
There are so many different neighborhoods to consider and, since I’ve only been twice, I will not pretend to be the authority on the topic. What I will say is that I stayed in Cais Sodre and loved it. It’s a much quieter part of the city center and was a quick walk to basically everywhere I needed to go. The place you probably want to avoid staying is Barrio Alto, which I’ll equate to the Times Square of Lisbon.
Portugal’s currency is the euro but I barely needed cash. As with most card-friendly cities, I had a small amount of cash on me for smaller purchases or the infrequent cash only place, and relied on my card. Tipping is not expected or required, but obviously appreciated.
Lisbon is a very walkable city (although there are several hills, so wear comfy shoes!). Uber is also very cheap and easy. I was only there for a few days so I relied on walking & Uber, but the public transportation system seems easy too. For context though, most Ubers around the city were €3-6, and my Uber to the airport was less than €20.
As mentioned, Portugal is the 3rd safest country in the world! And Lisbon felt incredibly safe. The biggest threats are pickpockets, so practice common sense with your belongings.
It seems to randomly rain there a lot, but they also get lots of sunshine, so I’m not sure what to tell you here. Carry your umbrella with you if the forecast calls for rain, because when it rains there it really pours.
Not that many people in the world speak Portuguese, and it’s a tricky language, so the Portuguese do not expect you to… haha. Honestly, the Portuguese were some of the friendliest people towards tourists that I’ve ever encountered, and most people in Lisbon happily spoke English.