Essential Country Information:
🌎Currency: Euro €
🌎Zone: 0 GMT
🌎Phone Code: +351
🌎Best time to visit: April-October
🌎Must eat: Pasteis de Nata,(Custard Tarts)
🌎Must drink: Ginjinha liquor
🌎Don't miss: Belem Tower
Getting there and Transportation:
Located Southwest of Europe, Portugal only boarders with neighbouring Spain. The rest of the country faces the Atlantic Ocean, one of the main reasons for coming to Portugal, to view, swim and enjoy relaxed and calm moments by the sea with friends or family. The country’s main gateway is Lisbon, the capital. However it’s possible to reach Porto and Farm by direct air links from many European destinations.
The national airline is TAP Air Portugal, which flies from most European capitals and cities to it’s home base in Lisbon, with easy connections across the mainland and also to the islands of Madeira and The Azores, colonies of Portugal. It’s also possible to reach the cities and the islands direct with low cost airlines such as Ryanair or EasyJet which fly direct from Spain, France, Germany or the United Kingdom. For those travelling from overseas, TAP Air Portugal offers direct links from North America and Brazil, its biggest markets. For other destinations, one stop transit is required.
Once in the country, the local transportation of Portugal is practical, cheap and effective. Major cities have trains, metro, trams and busses whilst smaller cities or towns offer bus connections and trams. See more information about the transportation in each city listed below.
TAP Air Portugal is the National Airline, it's the best airline to travel to Portugal
Climate and Temperature:
Portugal’s climate varies a lot from north, where higher rain falls and greener scenery is abundant, in contrast to the south, where a dry and hot climate is more typical. Overall, the coastal regions in the South and western parts of Portugal are excellent to visit all year round thanks to the lower altitude and ocean currents. Northern Portugal generally experiences colder temperatures than the South, with pleasant warm Summers but rainy Winters. The best time to visit depends on the region and type of travel experience you’re seeking. For a beach vacation, the best months for guaranteed sunshine are June to August. Always remember to bring protective sun lotion, sun glasses, hats and stay hydrated, as temperatures can rise up to 35/40 C in the peak summer! Naturally, these are also the busiest months for tourism along the coast, so be prepared for high prices and crowds.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, head inland closer to the border with Spain. The best time to go is mid season, Spring and Autumn: from March to end of May and September to November. These are when tourist destinations are less crowded and weather is still pleasant at around 15 to 20 C.
Food and Drink:
Portuguese cooking is not too well known in other parts of Europe, nevertheless it is definitely worth exploring the many dishes which are commonly associated with seafood, as it’s a regular ingredient and part of many dishes. Especially the salt cod that is very much a love or hate taste. It forms the base of hundreds of recipes and you should try it at least once. Anchovy, bass, clams, mussels, salmon, sea bream, sole and swordfish are also very common. You will notice as well many restaurants, bars and cafes serving pastries and tarts, with great places to sit to relax whilst you enjoy a drink and snack. Also there are many spanish inspired restaurants serving Paella's ,sea food dishes and meats, since Spain brings in the most tourists.
The spice peri-peri is widely used to flavour chicken and shrimp, while Goan curry spices also add extra flavour to a variety of dishes and broths eaten widely. Meat lovers can taste the espetada (grilled skewers of beef with garlic), leitão (suckling pig) and cozido à portuguesa, which mixes beef, pork, sausage and vegetables in a delicious dish. Another traditional delicacy is porco à alentejana (pork and clams Alentejo-style).
Sweets such as chocolate mousse and “arroz doce” (lemon and cinnamon-flavoured rice pudding), together with classic egg-yolk and sugar-based cakes, can be seen on tables up and down the country.
Specialities in Portugal include: Bacalhau á bràs (scrambled eggs with salted cod, potatoes and onions; popular in Estremadura). Lulas recheadas à lisbonense (stuffed squid; a Lisbon speciality). Tripa à moda do Porto, Queijadas de Sintra (cheese tart found in Sintra). Açorda de mariscos (shrimp stew cooked in a bread bowl). Caldo verde (green soup made with finely shredded green kale leaves in broth). Pastéis de nata (traditional custard-filled tarts typical of Lisbon).
A trip to Portugal would not be complete without sampling some of the wonderful drinks native to certain regions. Portugal’s most famous wine is Porto, like the city. Porto, naturally, can boast a wide selection of different wines and grape denominations. Other wines like Vinho Verde from Minho in the north together with Vinho do Dão and Vinho da Bairrada stand out from the usual favourites. Other kind of drinks you can find are Aguardente (a sugar cane based drink) and Beirão and Ginjinha (or Ginja) are distinctly unique liqueurs.
Bakery in Portugal is very popular, not to say delicous!
The Pasteis de Nata, (Custard Tarts) are a must try!
As lisbon shadows other bigger European capitals, it was a great surprise to discover this city finally. The scenery which surrounds the historic city, together with the hills, narrow cobbled streets where trams are running along its medieval architecture make for so many photo opportunities. With plenty to see and do, Lisbon has everything you need for a weekend city escape. Cheaper Hotels and restaurants for all budgets make the city perfect for all kind of visitors. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, and sun cream if you come in the summer or Spring. The city lays within many hills and walking around requires a little effort, however, the transport is very practical and you can travel up many of the hills with the trams which act a an tourist attraction itself.
Its very easy to travel out of Lisbon as well thanks to some very interesting towns like Sintra and Cascais, making ideal half day trips to explore further and relax on some excellent beaches of the area. Come to Portugal for relaxing, exploring or eating. There is a place for everyone here! Additionally people are friendly, speak good english and helpful.
Lisbon Tourism Information
The views of the city from Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Lisbon is Europe's second-oldest capital (after Athens), once home to the world's greatest explorers, like Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Prince Henry the Navigator, becoming the first true world city, the capital of an empire spreading over all continents, from South America (Brazil) to Asia (Macao, China; Goa, India). Lisbon is a great attractive city, often overlooked by other bigger capitals. Come to Lisbon for its culture, one of the world's great historic cities, with characteristic and surprising sights, cultural treasures, and a beautiful setting that make it a paradise for walkers and photographers. Other advantages of Lisbon are it’s value for money, location from Europe, warm and moderate climate, pristine beaches near the city, good size to walk around and take a short weekend break and last but not least it offers a good variety of surroundings, incredible tourist attractions, world-class golf and fun in Europe's largest casino in Estoril, surfing in Cascais or escaping to a natural park in Arrábida and dolphin-watching in Setúbal, some of the many things to keep you busy in Lisbon whilst visiting.
Belém Tower, one of the main attractions in Lisbon!
When arriving to Lisbon, the most common way is by plane. The capital only has one international airport so all connections and flights arrive at the same place, making it easier to plan your journey. The airport is located 9 km from the city centre, the Metro is the cheapest and the quickest means of transportation from having been connected to the red line, which can get you from the Airport to Saldanha station in just 20 minutes. From there you can switch to other lines. A one-way ticket is just €1.50 (plus €0.50 card cost) or a daily pass for €6.40 which includes all other means of transport. Metro trains run around from 6am until 1am daily.
You can also take the bus from the airport. There are three major kinds of buses:
Aerobus 1,2 &3, City buses and night bus. Aerobus costs €3,60 if you buy it online. It operates from 7.30am to 23h and goes to the city centre. Normal busses can also be a good option if your accommodation is along the route of the bus. You can pay with the electronic card which also costs €1.50 one way.There are four routes for city buses, line number 705, 722, 744 and 783. Lastly, if you arrive late or at night, you can take the night bus number 208. The first night bus departs the Airport at exactly 11.42pm and later ones at 12:12am, 12:42am, 2:42am, 3:42am, 4:12am and the last one at 4:42am.
Once in the city, Lisbon has 4 metro lines, numerous busses and a tram network to get you around the points of interest. There is also a ferry to take you to Cacilhas, which also is part of the transport. To combine the transport modes Tram, Metro and ferry (Carris/Metro/Transtejo (Ferry to Cacilhas)) and use it multiple times it’s best to get the electronic card of the city, which costs €0.50, valid for one year. Read more about the card here, Lisboa Viva card. Also you will see plenty of "tuk-tuk" style scooters in Lisbon offering rides to tourists. They are often expensive and should always ask the price before getting in. Tours in these cost around €40/50 for one hour tour.
TIP: For visitors, the best card to buy is the basic white card (see image below), which allows you to up balance or load daily travel passes. Each day travel pass costs €6.40 for unlimited rides on all transport modes in Lisbon city, (except the Metro in Sul). Below you can find the transport maps available for download of Lisbon:
The VIVA card is the best way to move around Lisbon. (get the basic white card for only €0.50).
Electric classic trams are a tourist attraction in Lisbon.
Interurban trains from Lisbon
Busses are comfortable and time reliable.
What to see and do?
Lisbon is one of Europe's most captivating and picturesque capitals, built on a series of hills with scenic views from every angle. The great thing about Lisbon, is that the city is the only European capital with sunsets on the sea, close to sandy beaches and with one of the world's largest state-of-the art aquariums. The city is lively but serene and melancholic with an insatiable appetite for long dinners, coffee breaks and nightlife. It’s also a great spot for culture seekers, with World Heritage monuments and singular museum treasures, from international design and contemporary art, to treasures from when the East met West. Lisbon remains a safe haven, it escaped the WWII, therefore keeping a traditional look but in a modern and open minded society, which welcomes foreigners and tourism with open arms. Below are the highlights of what to see and do in Lisbon:
- Jeronimos Monastery: The resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama is a church built in the 1500s as part of a magnificent monastery. Its cloisters are considered among the most beautiful in the world and it has been listed as a World Heritage Site. It’s free to visit the first Sunday of every month. Also adjacent to the same building is the National Archaeology Museum, which for a combined ticket of €12 you can visit both places. To get there take bus 201, 714, 727, 728 or 751 or tram 15E to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos stop.
- Belem Tower: The city's icon is also a symbol of the Age of Discovery. Built in the early 1500s, this ornate watchtower has been declared a World Heritage monument by UNESCO. It stands out over the mouth of the Tejo, guarding the entrance to the city's harbour. It is a symbol of maritime Lisbon, and is reached via a walkway raised out over the water on timbers. Inside it is filled with intricate stonework and has wide Atlantic views. To access the tower, tickets cost €6. To get there take bus 729 or tram 15E to Largo da Princesa stop. TIP: Also visit the tower at night, when little or no tourists are around and take great pictures with the tower lit up.
Jerónimos Monastery panoramic view
The Archaeological museum is also next door.
The views of the Tagus River are superb just opposite the Monastery.
Belem Tower is the highlight of the trip
Its possible to access the tower see the views
The main facade of the Tower
- St George Castle: From the millennium-old battlements of this castle you have a bird's-eye view of the city in the company of roaming peacocks. Inside is a small archaeological museum and down the hill are a couple of terraces with perfect postcard views over Alfama, the city's medieval village-like neighborhood. Tickets cost €10. To access the castle take bus 737 to Castelo stop or also trams 12E/28E stop near by the area. Note that the castle is very popular at weekends and long queues can be expected.
- Alfama: there are lots of free walking tours in Lisbon, many hosted by students who benefit from tips. These tours will walk you around Alfama, Lisbon’s most fascinating district where history can be told on every narrow streets.Be ready for culture, history and great views from the viewing platforms in the area! TIP: This tour has something for everyone: history, yes, but it also explores Lisbon’s music, fado, its flag, its patron saint and the famous azulejos (tiles) that characterise the city. Take a camera and flat shoes for the hills and cobblestones.
The entrance to St George Castle is normally quite busy.
The views of Alfama
Lisbon Cathedral in Alfama
- Bairro Alto by Tram 28, to see this historical area the best idea is to hop aboard a tram up and see Lisbon’s steep hills. Take the classic wooden tram 28 through Lisbon's prettiest and most historic streets. Starting at the foot of Bairro Alto, the vintage carriage takes you through the shopping districts of Baixa and Chiado before it reaches past the churches and castles on the cobbled hills of the Alfama and Graça neighbourhoods.
TIP: Taking tram 28 is extremely popular and busy. To guarantee a seat take the tram from its terminal stations at Campo de Ourique / Prazeres or at Martim Moniz, and enjoy the entire ride which is 30 min. Note that the tram number is designated as 28E. Also, avoid carrying any valuables aboard the tram if possible and safeguard your mobile, handbag and wallet as this ride is infamous among locals for being one which pickpockets target as it is mainly used by tourists. The tram runs every 15 mins. Another option is to take tram 12E, which runs a very similar route and is less crowded. Both depart from Largo Martim Moniz bus stop.
Tram 28 at it's starting point.
Also Tram 12 is popular option to ride, less busy than Tram 28.
- Alcantara: this area is famous for it's bridge, the Arabic word "al-qantara", meaning bridge, is where the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge leaves land to soar over the Tagus. This bridge is the sister to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA. The Alcântara area, together with the Doca de Santo Amaro, draw weekend and evening crowds to its many restaurants and bars based in former warehouses. On the other side of the highway and train tracks is the rest of this neighbourhood, with residential blocks surrounding the new LX Factory, formerly an industrial site. To get closer to the bridge take Tram 15E. TIP:The best views of the bridge can be appreciated from Belem Tower.
- Parque das Nações: Contrasting with the city's oldest neighborhoods is this 21st-century district showcasing striking contemporary architecture with Europe's longest bridge as the backdrop. It includes a state-of-the-art aquarium, a casino, and a wonderful waterfront promenade. Also take the Lisbon cable-car across the front shore to see the great views from above, prices are €3.95 one way. To get to the Parque das Nações, take the red metro line to Oriente station.
The Alcantara Bridge from Belem Tower
Parque das Nações views
The Cable car ride at Parque das Nações is a great experience!
Day trips out of Lisbon:
The following destinations are easily accessible from Lisbon and can be a nice day out of the city if you are staying for a longer period of time:
- Sintra This aristocratic hill town to the west of the city is studded with fairytale palaces, botanical gardens and wild woodlands. It is famous for its misty, cool microclimate, which is one of the main reasons royalty would retreat here from Lisbon during the hot summers. The train to Sintra departs from Rossio station and takes about 40 minutes. TIP: Best to take the train in the morning or midday and see the views when its a clear day. The trip to Sintra although is short, walking to the different locations takes time, allow at least half day to visit Sintra.
The main highlight of Sintra, is its Moorish Castle, at the top of the hill, built as a military fortress around the tenth century by the Muslim occupiers of the Iberian Peninsula. It acted as a watchtower over the Atlantic Coast and the northern territories, functioning as an observation post of the city of Lisbon. To access it you can walk up a well built trail to the mountain, taking 45 min upwards. The walk has many interesting stops along the way, with many viewing points, WC, cafe, authorised climbing spots and well singed posted along the way. Another option is to take Tuk-Tuk style rides to the top, but they often overcharge. However coming back it only costs €5 when you share the ride down.
- Cascais and Estoril: These neighbouring beach towns are the best of the city's seaside suburbs. Destinations in themselves, they are connected by an Atlantic-front promenade. The region's best beaches (Adraga, Guincho and Grande) are found on the coastal road north, beyond Cascais. However if you don't drive and take the train, the beaches (Praia) of Tamariz, Das Moitas and Da Duquesa are very pleasant to spend a few hours soaking up the sun, swimming and enjoying local restaurants along the promenade. Also areas of interest are the Estoril Casino, Cascais town centre, Boca de Inferno and Farol da Guia. From Cais do Sodré station, the coastal train to Cascais and Estoril leaves every 20 minutes and takes about 40 minutes for €4.50 return.
TIP: Walking to the Farol da Guia (lighthouse) can take around 45 min from Cascais town centre, the walk is very pretty, interesting sites along the way with cafes and snack bars to recharge energy. The walk is mainly along the coast line, also suitable to ride the bike. Take note, that on sunny days, the sun is always in front of you when heading towards the lighthouse. Adequate sun protection, glasses and water should be carried.
Portugal might surprise you as being one of the cheapest places to stay in Hotels in Europe. Specially during the lower season, Hotels in the city centre of Lisbon can be found at €30-35 per night. Always book early to grab the best deals. Hotels, hostels and resorts are widely available throughout the city, depending on your budget. Private accomodation is also very popular now with Airbnb or Booking.com providing a more personal touch to your stay like a local. When looking for places to stay always make sure you stay near a metro or tram station for ease of transportation around the city.
For a first time visit to Lisbon, the city is not that big as other Europeans capitals and it takes not more than a day or two to see most highlights. However, the city is situated on many hills, making it more difficult to walk around in hot weather specially. Taking public transport and visiting other areas outside of Lisbon is also recommended, making the trip more enjoyable. Three or 4 nights is enough to see Lisbon. If you like to discover and learn more about the history, visit the many museums and relax by the beach, then 5 days would be a more relaxing experience in Lisbon.