We recommend spending a couple days in Lisbon, as the historic capital is filled with beautiful landmarks. Lisbon is broken into different areas/districts and each one has more to offer.
1. GETTING AROUND THE CITY
In the last couple of years, Lisbon has become the top destination city to visit in Europe and getting around this enchanted city has never been made more easy. With Tuk-Tuk tours filling the city, there is no limitations to getting around. However, we recommend using the transit system as it is very easy to use within this historic city. You have the option to walk, metro, train or bus (tram). To get the most for your money, we would recommend that you get a day pass (approx 9 euros) if you are planning on site seeing several things in one day.
Discover Tip: With your pass you will have access to using the classic yellow and white trams; a traditional way to getting around Lisbon and a must do when visiting the city for the first time.
3. RICH HISTORY
With historic castles, fortresses, churches and muesuems on every corner of Lisbon, it is no surprise that this city is has a story to tell. There are several places to check out including the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower). For approx. 8 Euros you can go inside this 'mini' castle that has been a UNESCO Heritage site since 1983. Torre de Belem is a trademark site of Portugal so don't miss out! Nearby you can also visit the Jeronimos Monastery or the Coaches Museum that hosts the great coaches that the royal families of Europe used as transportation. Similar to Brazil, Portugal has its own Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the capital of its country. In Portugal, the statue is named "Cristo Rei' (Christ the King) and is located in the heart of Almada. It boasts a beautiful overlook of Lisbon at the top of the 341 ft base.
Discover Tip:Walk the streets all the way up to Sao Jorge Castle which is the hilltop of Lisbon. On the way you will appreciate the cobblestone walkways as well as the small cafes. Stop in and enjoy a "bica" which is a expresso coffee. If you have a chance to visit during 'golden hour' before sunset you have the opportunity to get the perfect picture.
5. THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST
Lisbon has a district for everyone. The Bairro Alto and Chiado Districts are considered the trendy areas for people who are interested in fashion, theatre and art. During the day you can walk around these areas and find endless local street art mixed in with historic places like the Igreja de Sao Roque (Church) which contains beautiful gold religious art designs inside. Experience the live performance of traditional Fado music. Check out the variety of bohemian styled shops that have moved into this district giving the area a space for upcoming Portuguese artists. Be sure to stay for the nightlife. Bairro Alto-Chiado is not a place to stay if you are looking for a good nights sleep as it boasts excellent bars and dancing into the early hours of morning.
4. TIME FOR RELAXATION
Portugal has an endless supply of beautiful coastline... so not going to the beach would be taboo! With a variety of nearby beaches you will have the perfect opportunity for getting that glowing golden tan. Public transportation accesses most beaches around the Lisbon area but we recommend connecting with the locals on which beaches are worth your time. Depending on what time of year you are visiting it may not be 'beach weather' but do not let that stop you from taking a stroll along the coastline.
Portuguese relaxation includes a glass (or bottle) of Vino! Before you leave ensure to try some of Portugal's finest wine. You have not had wine until you have tried a glass of Porto/Douro. Beach restaurants make the perfect setting for a mid-day glass of vino especially while watching the sunset and listening to the crisp sounds of waves. Make a purchase of a dark bottled Porto wine made in your birth year. Warning: the older you are the MORE expensive and difficult it gets to find!
2. SHOPPING WITH A BUDGET
Portugal is known as the cheapest western European country and we hope to stays that way! Lisbon offers a variety of amazing shopping experiences, especially those who are on a budget. One of the main shopping districts in Lisbon is the main strip of La Baxia. You can find all your shopping needs here while grabbing a coffee at a local cafe. The mix between big box stores (ie. H&M, Zara), local owners and street artisans provides you with a variety of options. A souvenir that is a must buy is a Sardine! Whether it comes canned or printed on a postcard, you have your endless options of taking home some Portuguese sardines! ....and if Sardines are truly not your thing then be sure to pick up a colourful clay rooster. Its good luck to have one in Portuguese culture.
Discover Tip: If you are interested in gaining a spectacular viewpoint of Lisbon, be sure to spend the 2 euros to the top of the arch way in La Baxia. The price is right! So do not miss out on the photo opportunity.
7. VISIT THE CRAZINESS OF FUTBOL
If its soccer season you better be heading to the stadium. After all the Portuguese do love the sport! Some of the big name teams within the country include Porto, Sporting and Benfica. Because I am Portuguese-Canadian I was born pretty much loving the family team of Benfica!!! The Estadio De Luz (Benfica Stadium) offers awesome tours for around 10 Euros... and its well worth the backstage tour. In comparison to North American sporting tickets, the prices to a regular game is affordable (approx. 25-50 Euros). If you are not visiting during game season but still want to experience the energy of the sport, go to any local pub with a television. You will find locals usually yelling at the television depending on if their house team is in the lead. Regardless of what city you visit in Portugal you will find a field with excellent upcoming stars.
6. NO DIETS ALLOWED
If you love seafood, your in the right Country. Portugal is the place to splurge on the cravings of various types of seafood. Sardines, Cod fish and Squid are part of most locals diets. As a backpacker you will be happy to know that seafood dishes are priced perfect for a backpacker budget! With the sea right beside you, fishers provide restaurants with fresh fish daily. A traditional seafood appitatizer is Pasteis de bachalu and their is a house dedicated to making this popular treat in La Baxia. If your looking to indulge your sweet tooth one place that should not be missed while you are in Belem is visiting the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem. This delightful cafe makes the famous Portuguese custard tarts (Pasteis de Nata) in house and has been doing so since 1841. One of our lunch recommendations is having a Bifana (Pork Sandwich) with a Sagres (Portuguese Beer). This combination of YUM is cheap, delisious and truly Portuguese. Visit one of the best and oldest (since 1890!) bifana houses called Restaurante Beira Gare.
Discover Tip: Portugalia is one of our favourite restaurants to visit when in Portugal. The famous brewery/beer hall was first established in 1925 and serves excellent beer and food. Although there are several restaurant locations, make sure you go to the original. It is located near the Arroios metro stop (Linha Verde). Ensure to try out the famous Bitoque (steak meal). If you do not eat meat but are a seafood fan they have excellent seafood choices as well. Although prices range, a budget backpacker may find this a little bit pricier but trust me, splurge.
8. EXPLORE MORE
Although Lisbon already offers so much culture for any first time visitor, we recommend exploring other parts Portugal if you have the chance. Even after visiting Portugal countless times, I find that Lisbon is the central hub for any day trip. It is easy enough to take the train to the suburbs and check out other local areas and hidden gems. Trains are reasonably priced to the suburbs and visiting castles are usually free. One day trip we would recommend is visiting the town of Sintra. It is often a main attraction because of Pena Castle which was inspired by eastern cultures. Items within the castle come from all over the world and the castle itself is 'Instagram-able'. Additionally, It is where the last queen of Portugal resided.
Discover Tip: If you are visiting Portugal during the high season (June-September) be prepared for lines and crowds if you plan to visit Sintra. Additionally, because Sintra is a focused on tourism, its an expensive day trip but well worth the cost. To help cut costs, use local transit instead of tours to get to the town and pack food as resturants are not only busy but pricey.