Saudade – a nostalgic longing to be near again or something or someone that is distant, or that has been loved and lost, “the love that remains” (Portuguese)
Portugal, you have stolen a piece of my heart.
I have had mixed feelings about writing this guide. While I have fallen in love with Portugal, I cannot express the same feelings for the city of Lisbon. Now, don’t get me wrong! I know a ton of people who are very affectionate for the city, but it just wasn’t my jam. We were there during busy tourist season, so it was very crowded. The narrow sidewalks and the tram cars sneaking around the corner were not something I had a big love for.
Additionally, my group experienced a handful of moments where discrimination within the city was out of control. My friends of color had difficulty going out dancing because clubs refused to let them in! We even experienced a night that turned violent, wrecking my feelings for the city even more. I highly encourage you to read the accounts of my friends who posted about the racist nature of the clubs in Lisbon and be aware of what places to completely avoid: When Assault, Robbery, and Destruction of Property are Perfectly Legal by Connor McCreesh and The Black Rooster Crows by John Michael Eubank. Definitely DO NOT go to K Urban Beach!
Outside of these negative experiences, I fell in love with Portugal each time I left the city and experienced the nature and the culture of this diverse country. I loved exploring the coast, trying new things, and gazing open-mouthed at the beautiful architecture.
This guide does not feature a ton of things to do within the city, as I tried to leave as often as possible, but offers great suggestions for things to do around the city. Everything listed is a short train ride away!
Things to do within Lisbon
Visit LX Factory – This is a must-see in Lisbon! It was previously an industrial complex, full of different factories, but has been transformed into a lively marketplace. Stroll through local artisan shops, delicious eateries, and enjoy the beautiful street art. If you are into books, don’t miss the book shop, which is several stories high and has an old printing press upstairs!
Walk around Rossio Square – This is one of the main squares in Lisbon and is surrounded by cute cafes, wineries, local art booths, and pretty fountains. I love the patterns in the cobblestone here! Plus, it is close to one of the main train stations that you would take to some of the surrounding cities.
Visit Baixa District – If you are into shopping, this is the place to be! This district is full of stores, romantic restaurants, and street performers. You can also enjoy a nice view of the city by riding the Elevador Santa Justa lift (costs about 6 USD). Forewarning, this place is super touristy, so expect a lot of crowds!
- Ride a tram car or take a walking tour
- Enjoy a wine tasting and learn about Portuguese wines
- Stay up late to watch an awesome drag show at Finalmente
- Visit local monuments – Ulysses Tower, Torre de Belem, Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta
- Visit the Lisbon Oceanarium
- Watch the sunrise over the city. We watched from Miradouro das Portas do Sol.
^ Video from @kimberlychristine90
Enjoy Outdoor Activities
Try Surfing – We took surfing lessons with Shore Break Waveriding School and had the best time. I had never surfed before, but we had wonderful instructors who taught me to stand up on my board and ride it to shore! That’s about all I could do, but still… way fun! Plus, they will take you to whichever beach is best for surfing that day, so you may get to experience multiple locations if you sign up for multiple classes.
Jeep Adventures – The guys at Safari Flamingo gave us such an incredible adventure along the coastline. Their drivers were great people who made the day special. We got to explore “hideaway” places and views that took my breath away. It was one of our favorite days as a group!
Go to the beach – There are a ton of beaches nearby Lisbon and most are accessible by the trains. I visited Carcavelos often, which is usually pretty crowded, but features bars, restaurants, volleyball courts, and more. The water was too cold for me, so I hardly swam, but it is nice to just lounge on the sand. Pro tip: Get to the best early, around 8 am, to enjoy the views with much fewer visitors.
Other suggestions: Look into some of the boat tours and canoing options. A number of people in my group enjoyed such excursions, though I never managed the time for it.
Visit Nearby Cities
Cascais – Cascais is one of the resort towns in Portugal and is host to fancy hotels, adorable town squares, and gorgeous beach fronts. I would go without much of a plan and enjoy wandering around the city, which has a bunch of fun street art. If you have the time, take a later train back and enjoy the romance of Cascais in the evening with the monuments and buildings lit up under the night sky. Although it is still very crowded and touristy, I found the pace to be a little slower than Lisbon, so I liked the casual vibes.
Sintra – Oh my goodness! Probably one of my favorite places I have visited so far. As soon as I stepped off the train from Lisbon, I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh air and lush greenery. I stayed in a unique hostel, Almaa Sintra Hostel, that is sort of tucked away from the main square and was the perfect place to getaway from the city. I love exploring the Moorish Castles, Pena Palace, and Regaleira Palace and Gardens. Forewarning, while totally worth it, the attractions in Sintra are fairly expensive compared to other places I visited.
Check out this fun video of my explorations:
Psstt… I filmed a yoga video while staying at Almaa Sintra. Watch it here >
Where to Eat
Time Out Market – This thriving center is housed in the oldest market place in Lisbon and featured a variety of eateries in the food court and local shops. If you plan on cooking during your stay, this is the best place for fresh produce, bakery items, fish, and meat (if that’s your jam). The food court is a great option if you are with a group of people who are all craving something different for dinner. Pro tip: Take a cooking class at Time Out Academy!
the mill – This place is a cafe by day, wine bar by night. However, I have only stepped by for their delectable breakfast! According to their website, “(the mill was) founded by Madeline and Paul, a Portuguese-Australian partnership. The mill was created as Madeline and Paul saw a great opportunity to serve the people of Lisbon the best Portuguese produce, served with a contemporary and fresh Australian twist.” I’d say, best coffee in Lisbon!
Ao 26 – Vegan Food Project – Hey veg friends! I found an amazing vegan place in the heart of Lisbon. I took a non-veg friend with me who loved it too. Funny story, she ordered the setain steak, which I could hardly eat because it tasted too similar to meat! So, maybe your non-veg friends won’t even notice. This restaurant is pretty popular though, so plan to wait a bit if they are busy. Pro tip: Order the mushroom appetizer!
- Visit Pop Cereal Cafe and relive your childhood
- Try cod – Y’all know I don’t eat fish very often, but it is a must if you want to live like a local
- Visit Manteigaria and try one of their famous custard pastries
- TRY. PORTUGUESE. WINE.
Nomad life – Work & Stay Fit
Work – For Remote Year, we used WIP Coworking Lisboa, which has a variety of work spaces designed for digital nomads. I also loved working from a couple cafes that were close by, including Hello, Kristof and Dear Breakfast. Pro tip #1: get the Acai Bowl at Hello Kristoff. Pro tip #2: Have your laptop fully charged when working from a cafe, as a lot of places don’t offer power to keep you from hanging around all day 🙂
Stay Fit – Honestly, you don’t even need a gym membership here if you don’t want one. The number of hills and stairs you climb just wandering the city should keep your bum in pretty good shape. Plus, surfing kicks your butt! However, many of us still visited a local gym that has several locations throughout the city: Fitness Hut.
I will definitely be back to Portugal one day. I absolutely love the beautiful nature and know there is so much more to explore. I’m pretty sure you could visit any city and find something magical. Plus, wine.
In all honesty, the best part of traveling are the people you meet along the way. I am lucky enough to have made some incredible connections in Portugal and friendships that could last a lifetime. I highly encourage you to find ways to interact with the local people!
Have you visited any places in Portugal? Did I miss anything amazing? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Stay tuned to see all of the fun happening in Hanoi, Vietnam! Are we insta friends? As per usual, I used a bunch of photos taken by my fellow RY Earharts. Check out their insta feeds too! They are a pretty awesome crew.
Kisses, Taryn <3