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Lisbon Travel Tips: 40 Things No One Tells You About Lisbon

I have been to Lisbon many times and want to share all of my most important Lisbon travel tips with you.

This way you don’t make all of the same mistakes I did. Because, per usual, my first time in Lisbon was a series of giant travel fails that I don’t want you to suffer through.

Especially since Lisbon is filled with stunning, architecture, bright skies, and delicious food that make it a popular travel destination.

However, like any city, Lisbon has some unique features that you might not know about – which is why these travel tips for Lisbon will come in handy for your next trip to Lisbon.

Trust me, I have been to this gorgeous city many times and want you to use this guide to plan the perfect trip.

So, let’s swan dive into this epic expert’s guide for anyone visiting Lisbon for the first time.

 This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. 

Contents show

Lisbon Travel Tips for Top Attractions

1. Purchase Tickets in Advance for Top Lisbon Landmarks

A view of a yellow trolley coming down the street in Lisbon.

Like with most cities, the top landmarks in Lisbon are usually packed with people.

So, if you don’t want to spend hours waiting in line then snag tickets ahead of time for Jerónimos Monastery and Castelo de São Jorge.

This applies to Sintra as well, which is home to magical places like Quinta de Regaleira and Pena Palace.

I personally use Get Your Guide but the ticket provider you use is totally up to you.

2. You Don’t Need to Visit the Interior of Belem Tower

View of Belem Tower in Lisbon with the sun setting behind it.

I am a HUGE fan of getting to know places and exploring every nook and cranny. However, there is really no point in visiting the inside of Belem Tower.

This stunning piece of Manueline architecture is super pretty from the outside and there isn’t all that much to see/do once you step inside.

The rooms aren’t super beautiful or filled with anything exciting to see. Plus, you’ll probably have to wait in line since this is one of the most popular things to do in Lisbon.

So, don’t pay to visit Belem Tower and enjoy the views from one of the many other lovely viewpoints in the city.

3. Think Twice About Getting the Lisbon Card

Many people purchase a Lisbon Card before even planning their Lisbon itinerary. This is a big mistake because the major benefit of the card is not related to attractions but to using public transportation.

See, with the card you can use the city’s buses, metro, trams, and even the train to Sintra. So, the Lisbon Card will really only be super beneficial if you plan on using a lot of public transportation.

Sure, you will get free entry to Jerónimos Monastery, Belem Tower, the National Tile Museum, and the National Coach Museum.

But, places like Batalha Monastery and Alcobaça Monastery probably won’t even be on your Lisbon itinerary since they are over an hour away from the city.

So, do your research before you buy the Lisbon card and make sure it will be a good fit for you and your trip.

Pro Tip: Even though you can purchase the Lisbon Card online, you’ll need to pick up the actual card in Lisbon so that you can use it.

4. Don’t Wait in Line for the Santa Justa Lift

View of the Santa Justa lift in the evening with the sun setting in the background. This is a view looking up at the lift from the ground below.

Designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard and opened in 1902, the Santa Justa Lift is stunning and easily one of the most famous landmarks in Lisbon.

It was initially designed to connect Chiadoa/Bairro Alto with Baixa. However, fast forward to today and this fancy elevator is more of a carnival ride.

So, skip the long lines and use a small street to the right (near a roofless church) and use this to get to the top of the elevator.

It’s free and you’ll enjoy the same views that you would if you rode the lift.

5. Sightsee by Neighborhood

Before visiting Lisbon for the first time, plan out your itinerary and try to visit attractions that are located within the same neighborhood.

This way you don’t have to go all the way to Belem and the Belem Tower to go all the way back to Alfama and to see Castelo de Sao Jorge. This is also a great way to discover unique things to do in Lisbon.

6. Have Low Expectations of the Castello de Sao Jorge

A view of Castello de Sao Jorge in Lisbon. It sits at the top of a hill in Alfama on a sunny day with older buildings beneath it.

Speaking of Castelo de Sao Jorge, I would have very low expectations of the interior.

Don’t think you’re gonna see lavish rooms that are dripping with historic furnishings that show you exactly how the Portuguese royals lived.

Rather, you’re here to soak up some of the best views of Portugal from the ramparts.

See, the castle was rebuilt three times and the interior wasn’t super well-maintained.

So, while it is an important spot where the country was founded in 1143, you won’t find a ton of impressive furniture inside. But, you may see lots of peacocks.

7. Book a Cruise Along the Tagus

A view of the 25th of April Bridge. It is red and spans the Tagus River with the run rising in the background. This view is looking up at the bridge.

Honestly, a cruise along the Tagus is 110% worth it when visiting Lisbon for the first time.

Not only do you get to hop aboard a vintage sailboat, but you get to choose between daylight and sunset departures.

I preferred the latter and thought that the views of Lisbon from the water were incredible.

It’s also pretty affordable for a 2-hour cruise IMHO and most tours conveniently depart from Belem.

8. Visit Lisbon Churches for Free

Many of the churches in Lisbon are absolutely stunning and totally free to visit.

So, if you’re backpacking in Lisbon and looking for some of the best free things to do then be sure to visit the Church of São Domingos, the Church of São Roque (very over-the-top decor), and St. Anthony’s Church (loved the crypt).

You can even visit the Church of Santa Maria de Belém for free. It is adjacent toJerónimos Monastery which is probably already on your Lisbon bucket list.

Pro Tip: The exceptions to this rule are Lisbon Cathedral (the interior is a bit lackluster since it has been rebuilt a bunch) and the Carmo Convent. Both charge small fees if you want to visit.

9. Don’t Book a Fado Tour

 If you have no idea what Fado is a traditional form of Portuguese music. It is a soulful folk music that is performed throughout the city.

Now, since I had no idea what Fado was I didn’t make reservations to attend a performance.

As a result, I was terrified that I wouldn’t find a restaurant where I could watch a performance. Therefore, I booked one of those insanely overpriced  Lisbon tours that I would NOT recommend.

Sure, the performance was lovely. But, it wasn’t good enough to justify the insane amount of money that I spent.

Therefore, just reserve a table at Tasca do Chico Fado and call it a night. Just be sure to make a reservation.

This club is also a ten-minute walk from the Baixa-Chiado metro station in the Barrio Alto. So, it’s super easy to get to.

Lisbon Travel Tips for Getting Around The City

10. You Won’t Be Able to Walk Everywhere

Lisbon is a big, super hilly city. So, you definitely won’t be able to walk everywhere when visiting Lisbon for the first time.

Sure, you can walk around within a certain neighborhood, but you definitely won’t be able to walk from one end of Lisbon to another.

However, you can take a tram (super scenic), the metro, taxis (very easy to find), and more.

11. Tram 28 is Pretty But Not the Best Way To Navigate the City

I too had to ride on tram 28 and found the views to be stunning – especially since the ride cost about €3.00. You also get to pass by Alfama and the Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint.

However, it is always packed with people, making it difficult to enjoy the ride. It’s also filled with pickpockets who like to target naive tourists who get trapped in the crowds.

So, if you want to quickly get around the city, Tram 28 is not for you. And if you just want to enjoy the ride, get up super early to avoid the crowds.

12. Use H&M to Get from Baixa to Chiado

Believe it or not, the huge, multi-floor H&M on Rua do Carmo has escalators that take you to separate floors.

So, you can use these if you want to quickly get from Baixa and Chiado. You can also pick up some well-priced clothes along the way.

13. Wear Shoes with a Good Grip

A view of a yellow funicular that you can use to get up hills in Lisbon.

Lisbon, and Portugal in general, has a thing for tiles. Now, while the tile work throughout Lisbon and Alfama is gorgeous, it can be a bit tricky to walk on in the rain and when you’re walking up hill.

See, when these tiles get wet, you feel like you’re ice skating on a giant slip-and-slide.

So, one of my fave Lisbon travel tips is to be careful when walking in the rain. Also, wear shoes with a good grip to prevent you from failing.

And if you don’t feel like walking up some of these crazy hills then you can take a taxi (you can travel across the city for around €10.00) or use funiculars like Glória, Bica, and Lavra (not popular).

14. Taxis are the FASTEST Way to Get to Lisbon from the Airport

Typically I hate taking taxis because they are expensive and feel like a total rip-off. However, in Lisbon, taxis are the quickest way to get to the city.

In fact, there is a taxi stand right outside of arrivals at the airport and you can use it to quickly grab a taxi.

Sure, you can use the metro to get from the airport to the city center. But, it will take more time.

It’s cheaper though to take the metro. So, you just have to decide which is more important to you, saving time or money.

It’s also worth noting that taxis in Lisbon have no set fee. However, you should spend between €15.00 and €20.00 on the ride.

15. Download FreeNow to Quickly Get a Taxi

If you plan on taking taxis to travel around Lisbon then one of the best Lisbon travel tips for you is to download FreeNow.

It’s widely used across the city and is a lot like Uber. However, your driver will be in an official taxi.

16. Lisbon Has More Than One Train Station

When booking train tickets for a day trip, remember that Lisbon has more than one train station.

So, always double-check your departure station and make sure you are heading to the right station so that you don’t miss your train.

Thankfully, many of these stations are located near one another. But, you don’t want the added stress of having to run to another station to catch your train.

In general, Sintra bound trains depart from Rossio Station, Cascais bound trains depart from Cais do Sodre Station, and Porto bound trains depart from Santa Apolónia Station.

17. Taxis are Faster Than Trains

A great way to do fun day trips from Lisbon is to travel by taxi. Yes, trains are a bit cheaper but they take longer.

So, if you are part of a group and don’t want to worry about where to park your rental car, then consider taking a taxi.

18. Airconditioning is Lacking On Trains

Many Lisbon trains do not even have A/C – which is a problem in the summer when the city gets super hot.

Plus, even when they do have A/C, it is usually weak and doesn’t cool down the train.

In fact, when it’s hot out, the train can be warmer than the ambient temperature. Thankfully, Lisbon is a fairly mild city and you don’t typically have to worry about this.

General Lisbon Travel Tips

19. You Can’t Walk to the Beach from Lisbon. But, Do A Day Trip

Even though Lisbon is surrounded by water, there aren’t really any beaches in the city itself.

However, there are a ton of great beaches that you can visit as part of a quick day trip from Lisbon.

These include Cascais, Estoril, Costa da Caparica, and Praia de Carcavelos which is super close to Lisbon.

20. A Day Trip to Porto from Lisbon is NOT Worth It

A view of the exterior of a church in Porto. It is adorned with beautiful tiles that create a blue and white mural on the side of the church. You are looking up at the church.

I’m not saying I don’t like Porto. I LOVE Porto. Maybe even more so than Lisbon.

However, the real reason you do not want to do a day trip from Lisbon to Porto is that the journey takes too long.

Even if you use a high-speed train, it will take you around three hours and fifteen minutes.

So, you’ll hardly have any time to explore the city. Instead, plan to spend around two days in Porto AFTER you visit Lisbon.

21. Visit Lots of Lisbon’s Hidden Gems

Yes, some of the best attractions in Lisbon are well worth visiting. But, they are often super crowded.

This leads to long lines and packed places – a fact that makes these places harder to enjoy.

So, if you want to see some of the most beautiful places in Lisbon without the hordes of tourists then check out the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora and the National Coach Museum.

The National Museum of the Azulejo (popular but a bit far from the city center so many people don’t go), the National Pantheon, and Ajuda Palace are also worth exploring.

22. Don’t Over Plan and Wander Through Picturesque Neighborhoods

A view of a blue door in Alfama on a historic building. Take time to wander through this neighborhood when visiting Lisbon for the first.

So, you should 100% plan some aspects of your Lisbon itinerary if you’re short on time and want to enjoy all of the best things to do in Lisbon.

However, Lisbon is home to a ton of beautiful neighborhoods that are perfect for just wandering around.

These include exquisite places like Belem, Alfama, Baixa, Chiado, Bairro Alto, Cais do Sodré, and more.

Now, if you’re planning a return visit to Lisbon, be sure to explore a bit more outside of the city.

Highlights include Campo de Ourique and the Prazeres Cemetery, Estrela and the Jardim da Estrela, Graça, and more.

23. Start at the Top and Work Your Way Down

There’s no escaping it. There are a ton of hills that you are gonna have to walk up while visiting Lisbon for the first time.

However, one of my fave Lisbon travel tips is to start at the top of the city and work your way down.

This way you don’t have to spend an extended amount of time walking downhill and can give your knees a well-deserved break.

24. There Are Other Day Trips from Lisbon Besides Sintra

A view of the stunning, yellow and red exterior of Pena Palace in Sintra on a cloudy day.

Sintra is amazing and you should 100% visit during your time in Lisbon. Seriously, the palaces are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

However, a day trip to Sintra isn’t your only option since there are a ton of awesome day trip options in the area. Plus, the entire place is heaving with people which kind of detracts from the beauty.

So, other options include hitting the beach at Cascais, going hiking at Arrabida Nature Park, exploring the Medieval town of Obidos, or visiting Alcobaça Monastery.

25. Take Your Ticket to Wait in Line

The citizens of this city have an affinity for tickets. And not just any tickets, like to ride a train while traveling in Lisbon.

No, these tickets hold your place in line for well, pretty much anything. The tickets in Portugal are similar to those that you would find at a deli counter.

You know, the ones that you pull out of the machine. Generally in the States, they don’t really mean anything because no one cares about the number.

However, these tickets matter in Lisbon and are found at tourist attractions, the Tourism Office, and the Pharmacy.

So don’t be like me and assume that these tickets aren’t a big deal, because they are.

I mean, I was waiting in line at the Tourism office and didn’t realize that I needed a ticket before I got in line.

I figured that it wouldn’t matter, but it did. I was promptly escorted to the back of the line because I simply didn’t have a ticket for the number that was called.

So, one of my fave Lisbon travel tips is to make sure that you hold onto your ticket because without it people probably won’t serve you.

26. Only Stay in Bairro Alto/Cais do Sodré if You’re Into Nightlife

Basically, these neighborhoods are great if you want to party like a rockstar until dawn since this is where you’ll find the best nightlife in Lisbon.

However, if you value peace and want a good night’s sleep then try staying in Belem, Estrela, Santos, Lapa, Campo do Orique, and Parque das Nações.

27. Heat and A/C are Not Standard in Hotel Rooms

Because Lisbon has a fairly mild climate, many hotels don’t have A/C and heat in their rooms. Yeah, it is just not needed.

So, double-check what your hotel room includes before you book a place. This way you have everything you need for a comfortable stay.

28. Learn Some Portuguese Before You Visit

Honestly, knowing a few Portuguese phrases will just make your life a lot easier. Yes, many people speak English, but some people don’t.

Most of the taxi drivers I encountered did not speak English and were grateful when I spoke a little Portuguese. It’s also just polite and very much appreciated by locals when you visit.

29. Don’t Stay in an Airbnb that Doesn’t Support Sustainable Tourism

This is an issue that I’m not going to delve into too deeply. However, in recent years Lisbon has blown up as a major tourist destination.

Now, when you have an exponential increase in tourists, people try to capitalize on this by catering to the needs of anyone visiting the area.

As a result, older buildings in Lisbon are being renovated and converted into Airbnbs – not apartment buildings. This is because owners can make more money by renting to tourists instead of locals.

The result? Many locals can no longer afford to live in the area and are being priced out of the city.

S,o unless you want to visit a city full of tourists, make sure that you stay somewhere that is officially registered with the Tourism Office of Portugal.

30. Watch Out for Pickpockets

When I visited Lisbon, I wasn’t super concerned about pickpockets. But they are out there. And if you’re not careful, you could lose some of your most valuable possessions or money.

While I was in Lisbon, I knew someone was too close to me. But, I just kept stopping and crossing the street and walking faster to avoid her.

Well, she must have gotten close enough to open my bag because before I knew it, I had some kind soul informing me that my bag was out there, flapping in the breeze.

Thank God I had nothing valuable in my backpack because if I had then I would have lost it.

So, pay attention to all those signs In Lisbon, telling you to beware of pickpockets.

Lisbon Travel Tips Related to Food

31. Make Dinner Reservations

Lisbon locals love making reservations for dinner and you should do the same, especially if there is a particular spot that you want to go to.

Generally, you can make a reservation that same day or the night before. The only exception is if you want to visit a popular eatery on a weekend.

32. Enjoy Port Responsibly

Yes, Port is an amazing drink and it is even better in Portugal. But, it is very strong and the alcohol content is probably not what you’re used to.

On average, Port in Portugal has 20% alcohol, not 12% like the stuff in the States.

Also, because Port is on the sweet side, it can be easy to drink a lot too much. So, pace yourself when it comes to drinking Port.

I suggest doing the same with ginjinha. It’s around 18% alcohol but the pours are smaller.

34. Don’t Eat a Francesinha Here If You’re Visiting Porto

What is Francesinha you might be wondering? Well, it is a giant Portuguese sandwich that was created in Porto.

It has layers of toasted bread that are filled with assorted hot meats (ham/steak) and cheese that is melted as you pour hot tomato and beer sauce over the sandwich.

It’s sometimes served with an egg on top or with a side of fries.

It’s delicious but is way better in Porto. So, if you plan to visit that city then don’t order it in Lisbon.

35. Eat Portuguese Pastries

One traditional paste de nata sitting on a white plate.

I feel like the pastries in Lisbon are on par with those that I found during a day in Paris.

I regularly daydream about the warm, flaky, phyllo dough pastry that I devoured in Sintra since it was slathered in a sweet and creamy almond-flavored custard.

So, pack some elastic waist pants and eat as many pastel de nata as you can. These tasty little sweet egg tarts are amazing and can be enjoyed at places like Pastéis de Belém.

Pro Tip: Sprinkle cinnamon or powdered sugar on top of your pastel de nata. You can also delish versions at Fábrica da Nata, Manteigaria, and Pastelaria Santo António.

36. Grab a Table at Pastéis de Belém

I am honestly not sure why everyone opts to get pastel de nata to-go here. I mean, this iconic restaurant has a historic vibe and is a great place to relax while you enjoy a coffee and a pastel de nata.

Plus, the dining room is quite spacious. So, it’s not like you’ll be on top of anyone.

As a bonus, the line for a table is usually WAY shorter than the line for take-out.

Pro Tip: Avoid the crowds and stop by on a Monday. Many local spots are closed and so the lines are shorter since many people aren’t here.

37. Invest in a Lisbon Food Tour

IMHO a food tour is 100% worth it in Lisbon, like this city walking tour with food tasting and drinks.

It’s a great way to orient yourself to the city, learn about the culture behind the city’s food, and eat delicious cuisine from non-touristy spots that you couldn’t find on your own.

Now, this incredible 3-hour tour starts in Praça da Figueira. It then takes you through the Baixa neighborhood and stops at traditional restaurants where you can taste 9 foods and 4 alcoholic drinks.

These places were so good that I went back on my own afterward.

38. Don’t Plan on Eating Early

Like many places in Europe, the Portuguese like to eat dinner late. Not as late as some cities, but don’t plan on eating before 7:00 pm. In fact, most restaurants don’t fill up before 8:00 pm.

39. Don’t Eat at Overrated Touristy Restaurants

People sitting and eating at Time Out Market in Lisbon. One of my Lisbon travel tips is to eat the food here.

We’ve all eaten at overpriced restaurants with terrible food since we’re been lost, tired, hungry, and completely desperate.

So to help you avoid this predicament, speed walk straight to Rua de Duque.

All along this quaint side street are a ton of restaurants that locals frequent and that won’t eat up your entire food budget (lame pun intended).

Plus, you know the food is amazing since you’ll find nothing but locals here.

This street is tucked far away enough to remain hidden, but close enough to Rossio Train Station (Maybe a 5-minute walk up a small hill and to the left) that you’ll have no problem finding it.

Pro Tip: Places to eat include Lisbon are O Galito (a Mediterranean restaurant that has lovely stew), Landeau Chocolate (best chocolate cake), Taca da Esquina (Portuguese tapas), and Forno d’Oro (Naples-style pizza).

40. Watch out for Hidden Restaurant Fees

You know when you sit down at a restaurant and your waiter automatically brings you something, like bread, which is usually free?

Well, that rule doesn’t apply in Lisbon. Because when you sit down in many Lisbon restaurants, waiters will bring you out a plate of cheese, bread, and olives.

Yeah, this plate is not free and you will be charged for it. So if you’re not down with paying for this appetizer, then leave the plate alone and send it back to the kitchen.

Lisbon Travel Tips and FAQs

What You Need to Know Before Going to Lisbon?

Before going to Lisbon, you should know that about the best time to visit (March to May/September to October).

You should also wear good shoes, don’t bring a car, avoid pickpockets, and use taxis/Uber.

Is 3 Full Days in Lisbon Enough?

You can see most of the top landmarks in Lisbon in around 2 days since the city has good public transportation with top attractions being semi close to one another.

However, if you want to do some day trips or see more unique historic sights, then 3 days in Lisbon would be great.

How Many Days is Ideal for Lisbon?

The ideal number of days for Lisbon is between two and three days. This way you can explore all of the top attractions and enjoy the nightlife that the city is known for.

What is the Best Month to Visit Lisbon, Portugal?

The best month to visit Lisbon, Portugal is March through May and September through October. The weather is still nice but the summer crowds are gone. So, you can often find discounts on hotels.

That wraps up this list of the best travel tips for Lisbon.

Did your fave Lisbon travel tips make the list? If not then let me know below.

And if you found this post useful, don’t forget to join our email list and Facebook group for even more awesome travel advice.

Ralph Ahseln

Monday 16th of November 2020

Been twice. One week, two weeks.. As I told everyone there, I came for.. "A comida, o vinho, o Fado" The food, the wine, the Fado. It's a city full of charm. The modern alongside the ancient. Touristy? Yes, in some places, but a short walk or ride takes you away from the crowds. Pasties de Nata (little custard pies) and coffee, Heavenly. If you only have one day, spend all day in Alfama! Drop into one of the (admittedly touristy) Fado clubs/restaurants and soak up the sounds of the Fado. You don't need to understand the words, the music will pull on your heart anyway. Have a Bom Dia !


Monday 16th of November 2020

Great tips. Thanks so much for sharing.


Thursday 30th of January 2020



Friday 11th of October 2019

Thank you so much for all of this information. I have been to Lisbon before but there is so much more I want to see when I return in a few weeks, so this is really helpful. I see a lot of people posting about how beautiful Sintra is, and I can't disagree - its wonderful. But even when I went, a lot of people did not seem to know about the initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira which is an inverted tower in a beautiful park - just magical!


Saturday 12th of October 2019

So glad you found this helpful and I Loved Sintra as well. I definitely need to go back though since I feel like there is so much to see and I easily could have spent a couple of days there. Thanks for reading and enjoy your travels,

Sonny Jadun

Friday 27th of September 2019

Thank you very much for great information. One of the best blog. I surely will be following your blog during your future travels. Love the advice.


Friday 27th of September 2019

Happy you found what I had to say helpful and thanks so much for reading!


Monday 12th of August 2019

Great read and so appreciate your advice. We plan on being in Lisbon, Sintra and Porto in September. If it weren’t for a wedding, we probably would never visit Portugal. However we are now excited. Good weather? Anything you would add for us to consider? I


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

Have a blast and enjoy the wedding. I haven't been to Porto but loved Sintra. I took a day tour up their just to make my life easier but you could probably spend at least two days there if you like historic castles. The pastries are also to die for. And the weather should be great since you're there after the intense summer heat! Thanks for reading and have a great time!

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