You’ve heard all about this beautiful coastal city that’s growing in popularity throughout Europe and you must be wondering…
“Why visit Lisbon anyway?!” Well…
Lisbon, the captivating Portuguese capital, is famous for its stunning hills overlooking the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), its beautiful ceramic tiles (aka azulejos) and its incredibly rich history. This city has exploded in popularity in recent years – and for good reason (17x to be exact!). Lisbon has this blend of old vs new where historical architecture and modern attractions meet, creating a unique experience for travelers of all ages and interests.
As a safe city with friendly people, Lisbon welcomes travelers from all over with open arms. But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are also 4 reasons that people are beginning to skip this coastal city.
Key Takeaways – Why You Should Visit Lisbon (Or Not)
There’s a lot to love about Lisbon…whether that’s the charming architecture, friendly people or the delicious food. But there’s also some downsides to visiting this city (as with most places).
Here’s the key points of why you should visit Lisbon (or not):
- You won’t get over the stunning views. The views overlooking the orange-roofed houses that spill onto the Tagus River are unlike anything you’ve seen. You can easily enjoy sunsets from many viewpoints in this city (even from corners of a castle).
- A perfect blend of old vs. new. When you walk around the city, you will feel like you’ve been transported back in time because of the delicate, charming architecture. But you will be reminded that you’re in the 21st century because of all the hip events like an outdoor cinema, vibrant nightlife spilling out onto the streets or the booming digital nomad scene.
- Best value for money destination in Europe. The prices have risen in Lisbon and while it’s true that it’s more expensive than it used to be, we still believe that you can get the most value out of your money here. Accommodation is going to be your biggest cost but everything else like dining out is still very affordable.
Now you can see why visiting Lisbon is a great idea…but let me explain some things that you should be aware of that could be a downside.
- Crowds, lines and more lines. This city has exploded in popularity in recent years. Naturally, there will be more travelers visiting Lisbon, which means more crowds. We found that we had to line up for around 15-30 minutes at most restaurants, especially if they were popular spots. They don’t take reservations at most places but just expect customers to wait in line!
Now that’s just the tip of the iceberg on why you should (or shouldn’t) visit Lisbon. Here’s everything else you need to know before taking a trip to this Portuguese capital.
17x Reasons Why You Should Visit Lisbon, Portugal
Why is Lisbon so popular?
It all comes down to this: Lisbon has something to offer for every kind of traveler.
Whether you are a foodie looking to visit cool restaurants with delicious food, a history buff looking to visit museums, or a keen explorer wanting to learn about this incredibly rich culture – Lisbon has it all!
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world known for its pioneering on the seas, the beautiful ceramic tiles all around the streets and the vibrant culture! There’s a lot to love about Lisbon whether you are only visiting for a few days or if you’re staying for months (or longer).
So why visit Lisbon exactly? Here’s 17x reasons you’ll fall in love with this city!
1. Panoramic City And River Views
Did you know Lisbon is built on seven hills?
This makes it easy to be mesmerized by the stunning views of the city, the iconic orange-roofed houses and of course, the Tagus River. Lisbon has many viewpoints to enjoy the panoramas over the city during the day, at sunset or even at night such as Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, or Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
Our personal favorite spot is Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara because there’s usually a food market above with live music (sometimes) and there’s a small park area below to enjoy the views. Want to venture further out? We also loved Miradouro da Graça. It’s a more local area with a hip vibe!
The most iconic viewpoint has to be Miradouro de Santa Luzia! You’ll see lots of photos on Instagram of people taking pictures on the observation deck with the pillars and beautiful ceramic tiles (azulejos). Remember: it’s a popular spot, so expect crowds! But – it’s still worth a visit during sunset if you can make it!
2. Interesting Architecture Everywhere
When you think of beautiful European architecture, France or Spain comes to mind at first…but what about Lisbon?
Lisbon is definitely underrated for its beautiful architecture. When you walk around the city center, you will see a blend of different architectural styles such as Gothic and Baroque, sometimes combined with the famous azulejos (colorful ceramic tiles). Some famous landmarks known for their stunning architecture around Lisbon are Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery and Praça do Comércio.
3. Friendly, Open-Minded People
Why visit Lisbon if not for its architecture or stunning city views?
Well…one of the best reasons is because of the Lisbon locals!
The people of Lisbon are known for being warm, welcoming and open-minded. Portuguese people have been happy to share their tips, secret spots (maybeee!) and stories about their beloved city. The only thing you can’t ask a Lisbon local is…”where is Tram 28?” (obviously a popular tourist question lol!). They have plenty of signs and graffiti that point to it which made me laugh the first time I saw it.
If you learn a few Portuguese phrases, you will be met with a wide grin! We only learned a few and the owners at our local espresso shop really appreciated it (we were in THEIR country, after all). Even if you can’t speak Portuguese, English is still widely spoken. This also makes it easier for you to make friends with the local people and get to know them a little deeper even if you can’t speak Portuguese.
4. The Weather Is Great Year-Round
Want the relaxed Mediterranean vibes with year-round sunshine? Lisbon is one of the top destinations in Europe for great weather, no matter when you choose to visit. In fact, this capital Portuguese city has 321 days of sunshine (that’s out of 365 days 😉).
Even in winter? Yes, Lisbon usually has mild winters where temperatures get to around 60ºF (16ºC) during the day which is actually a really nice cool temperature to walk around with a cozy jacket. At night, the temperature does drop to more like 46ºF (8ºC) which can be pretty cold for people like us who actively avoid the cold as nomads.
During the summer months (mid-June to mid-August), the temperatures can get very HOT – anywhere from 82ºF (28ºC) to the extreme heat of around 95ºF (35ºC).
This means that you can even visit Lisbon during the low season and take advantage of the lower prices but still get enough sunshine to do all the activities! Lisbon is also pretty awesome during the peak season, just be prepared for some crowds!
You can visit Lisbon any time during the year, which makes it such a great European destination!
5. The Brunch Scene Is Booming
We finally found a place that rivals Bali in the brunch scene.
It’s easy to see that Lisbon is a brunch city with lines out the door of cafes every weekend morning! You’ve got tourists and locals all going out for a cute brunch date in the city. Lisbon’s brunch scene is thriving, with old and new cafes offering everything from avocado toast to acai bowls.
If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll know that we LOVE brunch! Waking up a little later, and then heading out to a trendy brunch spot for good coffee and delicious food is the perfect start to our weekend.
You will not run out of brunch spots to try in Lisbon, there are just so many options (and good ones at that!). Here are some of our favorite brunch spots in Lisbon to get you started:
See?! There are just so many GOOD places to visit. Our only TTA TIP would be to go early and beat the crowds! If we arrived by 10am we usually didn’t have to wait for a table. If you get there later, you could be waiting 30+ minutes in line (more of this downside below).
6. Affordable Prices (For Certain Things)
Is Lisbon expensive to visit?
Price is always an important factor when planning a trip. Thankfully, Lisbon is the most affordable Western European city compared to other capital cities!
We will be honest: prices have risen in recent years. However, we felt like that was mostly for accommodation. When I first visited Lisbon in 2015 on a solo trip, I paid only $40 USD for a room in the heart of the city center. Now? It’s hard to get a decent, comfortable place for $100 USD.
Other than accommodation, Lisbon is very friendly on the wallet. You can easily get around, enjoy delicious food, hang out at wine bars or do a range of activities without breaking the bank!
7. Cool Activities At Any Given Time
You won’t get bored in Lisbon!
We spent 4 weeks living in Lisbon and honestly, we could have easily stayed longer. There is always something happening in this city, from festivals and concerts to exhibitions. During the summer, there are a number of pop-up events in the parks or city squares. One of our favorite pop-up events is the outdoor cinema scene in Lisbon! Watch a movie above the city rooftops and gaze at the stars – so much fun!
8. Portuguese Cuisine, Wine And Pastries
- Pastel de nata
- Bacalhau à Brás
- Bifana sandwiches…
…that’s just the start of the highly underrated Portuguese cuisine you’ll encounter. Why visit Lisbon if not to try some of the widest variety of food ranging from fresh seafood to sweet pastries and desserts?!
If you’re a seafood lover, you are going to enjoy Lisbon the most! You can taste the famous Portuguese codfish dishes like the Bacalhau à Brás or the Pastéis de Bacalhau. More than that, you can also have simple fried fish or the beautifully canned sardines. There’s some really cool shops with fancy tins of sardines that you have to check out – even if you aren’t a fan of sardines!
What if you aren’t a seafood fan? There’s still plenty of dishes for you to try. Matthew doesn’t love seafood (like at all!) and he loved Portuguese cuisine. If you don’t like the codfish croquette, you can try a meat alternative instead. Also, make sure to try the humble yet delicious Bifana sandwich. Not sure why this dish isn’t talked about more, but it’s great! Matt had one nearly every day. We loved the ones at Magdalena da Solar.
But it’s not just for the food as to why you should visit Lisbon…but also for the wine scene. Portugal is famous for its port wine (although it’s much more popular in Porto). You can still find plenty of bars to try port wine or you can even try natural wine, a variation that’s growing in popularity. A great spot to try natural wine is Holy Wine!
9. Beaches Are A Train Ride Away
Only a short train ride away from Lisbon, you’ll find relaxing beaches perfect for lying in the sun, swimming in the water or even surfing. It’s very easy to get to any of the beaches around the city or the nearby coast. The trains are also very close to the beach, so it’s usually only a 5-10 minute walk once you tap off at the metro station!
These are some of the popular beaches in Lisbon and the surrounding towns:
- Praia de São João
- Praia do Tarquínio-Paraíso
- Praia do Castelo
- Praia de Carcavelos
- Praia de Caxias
- Praia de Parede
You should be warned though: the water is very cold! People kept telling us it’s cold because it’s the Atlantic Ocean…whatever that means! We went to the beach for the first time and I could barely dip my toes in the water lol. If you want to swim at the beaches, visit Lisbon in the summer when the heat gets too much!
TTA TIP: Take the train from Lisbon to Cascais BUT get off at the Monte Estoril station. This is one stop before Cascais but there’s a beautiful coastal promenade that you can walk along for about 20 minutes to reach Cascais. We only saw people doing this as we were on the train but wished we had done it! If you get the chance, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the ocean the whole way.
Why visit Lisbon if you aren’t going to the beach?! It’s very quick (20-60 minutes) and easy to take the train to any of the beaches near the city.
10. Incredibly Rich History
Lisbon’s history and charm continue to draw people from all over the world. If you are interested in history or culture, visiting Lisbon is a no-brainer.
Did you know that the Portuguese were one of the leaders in the Age of Discoveries? This makes them key pioneers in the history books. Portuguese explorers were experts in seafaring and it is said they discovered nearly 70% of the world previously unknown to Europeans.
Visiting Lisbon means you can delve into the past from Roman times to marveling at the city’s resilience after the horrific 1755 earthquake. Taking a FREE city walking tour will also allow you to learn about the key historic moments around the city – you will actually see with your own eyes the effects of the earthquake!
You can also take a quick and iconic tram ride to Belém and visit all the beautiful 16th-century palaces and monasteries. There’s just so much to see for any history buff in Lisbon!
11. Easy Access To Nearby Towns
Want to get out of the city?
No problem! Lisbon’s excellent transportation options make it very easy to get around. This city is a great hub to base yourself and see the nearby towns like Sintra, Óbidos, Cascais, Belém, Estoril or Évora.
You can reach these towns within a few hours and the trains are surprisingly comfortable. For a metro ticket, it only costs €6.60 for 24 hours. If you want to go further to Sintra, it may cost a little extra. But that’s the best part about Portugal – the transportation is very affordable, making it possible for everyone to venture further out of the city.
12. Fun Day Trips Aren’t Too Far
Now that you know that transportation is quick, easy and affordable…
You can take a day trip to nearby towns! If you want to see the famous dramatic cliffside that showcases breathtaking views of the rugged coastlines, visit Cabo da Roca. It’s a town located 30 miles west of Lisbon and only takes 2 hours by train to get there.
The most popular day trip has to be Sintra. Once you escape the city, you will be transported to this forest area that’s filled with castles and palaces. Each palace is unique in its own way with its intricate details, colors and designs.
If you love day trips, you will love Lisbon because there are just so many good options nearby!
13. Lisbon Nightlife Is Pumping
When the sun goes down, the city of Lisbon comes alive!
If you love exploring the nightlife scene of a city, you’ll enjoy Lisbon’s wide range of partying, from sipping on cocktails and listening to live music, to dancing the night away on the infamous Pink Street (yes it turns a little rowdy after hours).
The locals eat dinner late by our standards (lol), which means that the parties usually start from around 11pm and go till around 4am when the clubs begin to close. If you’re looking for the buzzing nightlife, some great neighborhoods to visit are Bairro Alto, Cais do Sodré or the LX Factory.
Not into the partying/clubbing scene? Don’t worry, this city has cool rooftop terraces if you’re looking for a more chill vibe. There are popular rooftop bars with beautiful views of the city like Park Rooftop or Hotel Mundial’s Rooftop Bar. An upscale, modern place to have drinks on the rooftop would be SUD Lisboa…it’s closer to Belem but easy enough to get there and enjoy the stunning views.
14. Efficient Public Transportation
Getting around Lisbon is easy, affordable and efficient. The public transport system consists of buses, trams and a subway. A 24-hour ticket on all modes of transport only costs €6.60 ($7.10 USD) or it’s €1.65 ($1.80 USD) for a one-way ticket, making it very affordable to go to as many places as you want!
You can easily explore the city on foot, although I will remind you – Lisbon is built on seven hills! One time we were walking on a flat road, had to turn left and looked up…it was a hill with a steep incline to get to our destination. It’s at these times we wished we had just taken the affordable (and charming) trams!
When you want to explore Lisbon city center, the best way to get around is by tram. They go through all the little roads, up the hills and through most areas within the city like the popular historic district, Alfama. One of the most famous things to do in Lisbon is ride the Tram 28 through the Alfama district – we highly recommend it! But make sure to get there early or around sunset – the line can get very long!
Looking to head further out of the city to places like Belem, Sintra or even LX Factory? The metro system or the buses will be your go-to mode of transport. The metro can be a quicker option depending on where you go, but the bus can usually get you closest to your stop (so you don’t have to walk much).
15. Good Connections (Domestic + International)
As Lisbon has grown in popularity, the airport has had more flights and connections going through. The Lisbon airport (aka Humberto Delgado Airport) feels new and modern (very different from when I visited back in 2015).
Lisbon’s International Airport offers various international destinations with direct flights to New York, Miami, San Francisco, Cancun and, of course, to many popular European destinations. If you are looking for a shorter flight to enter Europe, Lisbon is starting to become that gateway for travelers across the Atlantic.
What about the domestic flights and connections from Lisbon? Within the Schengen area, Lisbon’s airport makes it very easy and quick to visit other countries nearby. They usually have plenty of direct flights to cities like Paris, Madrid or London.
Lisbon has become a great hub for travelers, making flight connections and routes so much easier!
16. Lisbon Is Quite A Safe City
Is Lisbon safe?
The short answer: Lisbon is generally safe for tourists. Whenever we have visited, we have always felt safe in this city. The people are warm, friendly and seem trusting. In saying this, crime happens in every corner of the world. The good news is that crime rates in Lisbon are considered to be very low. The best way to avoid any troubles is to pick good areas to stay in Lisbon and avoid the riskier neighborhoods.
Quick story: When I was on exchange, I wanted to go on a solo travel trip to get out of my comfort zone and to prove to myself I could do it. My dad had to approve the destination and his biggest criteria was safety. Cheap flight tickets narrowed it down to Copenhagen or Lisbon. As a student, I went with the more affordable destination – Lisbon. My dad only approved it because it was one of the safest cities in Europe.
When you’re in Europe, regardless of where you are, you need to be aware of ‘Attenzione Pickpocket’ (iykyk). You still have to be vigilant no matter where you travel and use common sense. As a smart traveler, you already know this!
17. Digital Nomad Hotspot
As digital nomads ourselves, we think that Lisbon is one of the best digital nomad hotspots to visit. There are a few reasons: growing community, fast wifi, plenty of coworking spaces and lots of events to make friends.
If you want a great work-life balance, Lisbon is a great city to get stuff done and play!
Why Visit Lisbon? 4x Reasons To Skip It
Lisbon isn’t for everyone. Some people will love it and some people will hate it – that’s life! You can’t please everyone and that’s why we felt it was important to add this section on why visiting Lisbon might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
1. Long Lines For Top Restaurants/Cafes
We did not expect this!
Our first weekend in Lisbon, we wanted to head to brunch. Flora & Fauna has been on my list for a while and we took a Bolt there. When we arrived, there was a long line out the door! Turns out, most cafes and restaurants do NOT take reservations. You simply have to wait in line (if you don’t arrive early enough).
The next night, we found a cool ramen spot (Panda Cantina) for dinner. We strolled over casually, not realizing the massive lines we were about to encounter. Matt and I like to eat dinner early and we arrived close to the opening hour, so we were shocked that there was already a huge line on the street. We lined up and it ended up being about a 30-minute wait!
If you want to visit a popular restaurant or go for brunch, prepare to wait in line for at least 30 minutes! There were tons of restaurants we wanted to try but the wait times were way too long – we decided to go elsewhere.
The cafe in the photo above is a great one (sister cafe to Seagull Method), we arrived pretty early and quickly put our name on the waitlist. The wait was about 40 minutes but they came out and gave everyone that was waiting a glass of prosecco. We LOVED this gesture!
None of the other blogs seem to talk about this and I feel it definitely hindered our experience at times. If you’re not a fan of waiting in line for 30 minutes to 1 hour, you might not enjoy Lisbon’s restaurant scene as much. Our biggest TTA TIP: Arrive early…if you want to eat at a set time, arrive 30 minutes earlier than that!
2. It Can Be More Expensive Now
Years ago, Lisbon was seen as this cheap European destination, especially compared to other capitals like Amsterdam or Paris. When I visited Lisbon in 2015, this was the case. Accommodation, dining out and activities were way more affordable!
Now, Lisbon has exploded in popularity which has resulted in prices rising. This new, trending hotspot now costs more (mainly for accommodation). You will see the biggest increase in the price for a hotel or Airbnb stay. When I visited back in 2015, I paid $40 USD for a private room in the center. Now? That price and location are unheard of!
Why visit Lisbon if the prices are rising? Here’s the thing: Not everything has seen a dramatic increase in price. You can still get a snack (ie. Bifana sandwich) for only €2.50 ($2.70 USD), a specialty cup of coffee for €3.50 ($3.75 USD) and a glass of wine at a rooftop bar for €5 ($5.40 USD). If you can find a decent deal for accommodation, Lisbon will still be a very affordable city to visit!
3. Crowds Are Everywhere
As Lisbon continues to become a very popular tourist destination, it draws the crowds. If you visit during peak summer season (June to August), you can expect to be surrounded by tourists and large crowds throughout your travels. Whether you are just walking around the main square, Praça do Comércio or you are visiting the beautiful Sintra palace…the crowds will follow!
If you’re the kind of traveler who prefers the laid-back, less crowded atmosphere, or you just like traveling off-the-beaten-path, the bustling streets of Lisbon may not be your city this time around.
When we were living in Lisbon for a month in September, we still found that the crowds were a little overwhelming (and that’s rolling into low season). If you still want to visit Lisbon but don’t like crowds, consider visiting during off-peak season (November to February) as there will likely be fewer tourists around.
4. Steep Hills Made For Walking
Throughout this blog post, you’ve already read about the infamous seven hills Lisbon is built on and how much we adore walking them (not!). They are steep and even slippery because of the cobblestones!
It’s hard to avoid walking uphill when exploring Lisbon. This can make it a challenge for travelers with mobility issues such as bad knees. And if you visit Lisbon during the summer, the uphill walks paired with the heat of the sun don’t make for a fun combination! We huffed and puffed up some of the hills too. Thankfully, you can always use the reliable public transportation system to get around. The trams are super fun and they do all the heavy lifting for you, going up and down those hills.
While it can be a challenge and something to consider before visiting Lisbon, there are ways around the seven hills other than walking!
Final Thoughts: Why Visit Lisbon, Anyway?
So why visit Lisbon, anyway?
There are countless reasons why Lisbon should be on your Europe bucket list. This country will surprise you in the best ways and you will find yourself falling in love with the architecture, history and amazing atmosphere (at least we did).
Here’s a short and sweet recap of the 3 reasons that make this city a must-visit destination on your trip to Europe:
- Easy, affordable public transportation: It’s cheap to get around. A Viva Viagem card gives you access to all transport modes for 24 hours: trains, trams and buses and only costs 6,60 € ($7.10 USD). It’s simple enough to follow directions on Google Maps, making it easy to go to further destinations like Cascais or Sintra. It’s well connected too – you can take the regional trains from Lisbon to other cities like Porto or the Algarve coast!
- Stunning architecture, views for days: Lisbon is a picturesque city. Period! You can walk the most simple streets and it will make for the perfect photo backdrop. More than that, you’ll be captivated by the mixed architectural styles of Gothic to Baroque and the iconic azulejos (ceramic tiles) details.
- More activities than you can count on your fingers: Go sailing on the Tagus River at sunset, wander the magical palaces of Sintra or explore the historic district of Alfama. You can enjoy the fun nightlife with plenty of rooftop bars overlooking the city! There’s always something to do in Lisbon, making it a great travel destination.
However, there is one important drawback that you might consider before planning your trip to Lisbon:
- Rising prices, bigger crowds: Okay, this is kind of 2 in 1 but humor me. As Lisbon grows in popularity, these two things will naturally grow too. While Lisbon is still very affordable, this is starting to change, especially in terms of accommodation. The crowds are a little more bearable as that’s how travel is with the more popular destinations.
Visiting Lisbon is for every kind of traveler! This city will win you over with its irresistible mix of culture, charm and cuisine. Whether you are a history buff, a foodie or an adventure seeker, you’ll find there’s something for everyone in this city. The great weather year-round is just a bonus! While you might have to conquer a few hills during your visit…
…We say – go for it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Lisbon A Walkable City?
Yes, Lisbon is a walkable city. You can walk to several neighborhoods within 10-25 minutes, but beware – it’s a city built on seven hills. Make sure you wear some comfortable shoes and clothes to wander the cobblestone streets. If you want to save your energy, you can also just take public transport which is a lifesaver, especially if you visit in the heat of summer.
Is Lisbon Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! The blend of architectural styles and the iconic azulejos (ceramic tiles) gives Lisbon its unique beauty and charm. You won’t get bored with all the fun activities, nightlife and delicious cuisine to try! It’s a great destination year-round as the weather is pleasant for most of it.
How Many Days In Lisbon Is Enough?
We recommend spending 3 to 4 days in Lisbon to fully explore everything this city has to offer. This gives you enough time to visit the charming Alfama district, go on a sunset boat cruise along the Tagus River and simply wander around the charming city center. You can always extend it to 5-6 days if you want to take it slower or explore nearby destinations like Sintra or Cascais.