5 Unforgettable Areas to Explore in the Heart of Lisbon
While I am very much a planner, I also enjoy doing things on the fly. I love choosing an area I want to go and simply exploring until I find points of interest (unless I’m hangry. Then I’m 100% planning wherever we’re eating). In Lisbon, this is easy—every step you take you’re a stone’s throw away from some spectacular sight to see (ahem, and food to eat…).
How we got Around
Y’all, Lisbon has Uber. This made travel around the area SO easy & made any language barriers a non-issue. We utilized Uber many times as well as traditional taxis if the need arose. However, I think one of my favorite means of transportation was Lisbon’s Hop-On Hop-Off buses. Obviously, if you’re just trying to get from one point to another, it’s not the most helpful. But if you want to explore neighborhoods and see local monuments, this is the way to go.
We bought 2-day 24-hour passes through the Cityrama Gray Line that covered the main routes in Lisbon. 100% affordable & the routes are designed to take you by all the touristy areas of the city. One route, which we didn’t purchase, would even go out as far as Sintra and Cascais. Our plan (originally) was to take the different routes and hop-off at areas we deemed interesting. The next paragraph outlines the biggest issue we had to consider when utilizing the hop-on-hop-off tours.
Not all buses are created equal. The shorter routes utilize smaller buses that are NOT double-decker. We, unfortunately, ended up on one where they did not have windows open and it was stifling. Also, because the buses were smaller, it was very hard to get back on them once you got off. We went almost an entire line without exiting our bus because we saw the long lines of people waiting at the stops. Plan accordingly and choose times to ride the bus that may not be as popular—or plan on a long wait at stops.
1. Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
When (not if) you go to eat at La Paparrucha, just down the sidewalk is this adorable square (perhaps terrace is a better word) with a gorgeous view of Lisbon. There was some construction work being done when I was there so a large fence blocked part of the view—and apparently another area you can walk down to with a garden, better viewpoint, etc. None-the-less, when I was there in the evening, it wasn’t for the view.
We walked down the street into what was a little market with some goods for sale, food stands, & drink stands. I had the best Sangria I’ve ever had walking through this little market. Vendors sold various goods made of cork, numerous unique tiles, as well as clothing. The majority of the souvenirs I purchased on my trip I found in this little gem of a market. I highly recommend taking a stroll through here, listening to the music, while sipping some Sangria. Perhaps when you go the view will be less restricted & you’ll get a full glimpse of the city (ahem, not one taken at an angle through a fence…).
2. Alfama District
One of the smaller hop-on-hop-off buses went through Alfama, the oldest District in Lisbon. We realized as we climbed the narrow cobblestone streets that there was no way the larger double-decker buses would have fit in the streets—width or height. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave the bus to explore the streets, do some shopping, etc. In hindsight, this is somewhere I’d go back to, with some proper walking shoes. São Jorge Castle overlooks this area & I would’ve loved to visit. We heard it was wonderful, so if you’re in Lisbon go check it out! The sweeping views of the city & the vibrant streets will draw you in completely.
3. Arco da Rua Augusta
This is a stop where we did indeed exit off our tiny little bus and we walked under this glorious Arch into Comércio Plaza/Terreiro do Paço—a beautiful square lined with shops and restaurants. It also had a magnificent view of the Tagus River. This is a fun area just to walk and explore. We perused every menu of the cafe’s lining the square and settled on an Italian place. The pizza we ordered was good, the atmosphere open and bright, and the desserts we saw being delivered to tables around us were exquisite. The square also holds an equestrian statue of King José I.
Fun Fact: In 1755 much of Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake/tsunami. A palace once stood where the square is now. When they rebuilt the riverside, the square that is here today was designed. Many of the buildings, architecture, etc. can be dated back to the 18th Century. It’s so beautiful and historic!
There are so many monuments when you jump off at this stop of the train lines/bus that I am simply packaging it all under the title of Belem. Read on to see some of the places you can check out here.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
This is a beautiful statue that was originally built in 1940 to commemorate the “age of exploration” and the role that Portugal played in trade and commerce. It’s located along the Tagus River. The main statue is of Henry the Navigator. If you want to read more about the history, this is an awesome article on it.
This is just down the road from Pasteis de Belém (which, I’m not gonna lie, was the primary reason for our stop) & a site to behold. The construction of the monastery begain in 1500 and was completed over a 100 years later. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to Wikipedia (yes, yes I am quoting wikipedia): “The monastery was designed in a manner that later became known as Manueline: a richly ornate architectural style with complex sculptural themes incorporating maritime elements and objects discovered during naval expeditions, carved in limestone”. Y’all, it is gorgeous. Go.
Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei
I just barely saw this on our tour, but it is a Catholic Monument of Jesus Chris that overlooks the city of Lisbon. It was modeled after the Chris the Redeemer statue in Brazil!
5. Time Out Market Area & Pink Street
I didn’t really know where to categorize these two since I don’t know the area well enough to state exactly where this stuff is (my guess is Bairro Alto). This general area is where we found a lot of fun things that I wanted to share.
Time Out Market
Okay, so I did cover Time Out Market in another post but wanted to talk about the neighborhood around it. We found some cool graffiti, a cute square with a fountain, and some pretty views.
Pink Street—Rua Nova do Carvalho
Pink Street, which was formerly similar to a Red Light District, is now considered the trendy go-to place for area night-life. We stumbled upon it after leaving Time Out Market and wandering the streets. While I’m not the partying type, it was fun to sneak through here in the daylight and snap a photo of the iconic pink street.
So Much More to Explore
So this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of all the places to see in Lisbon. I’m sure it’s just scratching the surface. But with the time we had, I’m very happy about seeing as much as we got to while we were here. What are some places in Lisbon you’d like to see or have traveled to that I shouldn’t have missed?