Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Lisbon For The First Time

Portugal’s capital is loaded with fun, food, and the friendliest people. Here’s how to make it an unforgettable trip.

Portugal's capital, Lisbon, is full of colorful, historical architecture, fresh and unusual seafood, and, of course, plenty of hills. Tour Lisbon by foot to see some of the best holiday markets, boutique shops, restaurants, art, and to even try some new foods like barnacles (aka percebes) with some proper Portuguese wine.

When visiting for the first time, here are some great ideas for making the most of your vacation.

Where to Stay

Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade is in a great location when it comes to exploring Lisbon's seven hills (come prepared to walk a lot). It's located near the River Tagus, offering guests a comfortable place to relax after roaming the city all day. The room has a huge rainfall shower, giant king bed, beautiful views, and nice amenities like high-end coffee at your disposal with a side of Pasteis de Nata.

The staff truly wants guests to have an incredible time, learning about the city. There's breakfast available for guests in the morning and a beautiful restaurant within the five-star hotel offering Portuguese cuisine. If you don't feel like venturing out into the city one evening, you can have a completely immersive, Portuguese dining experience right inside the hotel at Matiz.

Where to Dine

If you're looking to dine outside of the hotel, check out Pap'Açorda located within the Time Out Market in Lisbon. It's a wonderful location to try some traditional dishes. The customary Portuguese stew is a must, with spices and full of flavor, mixed with pork, chicken, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, sausage, and other delicious ingredients. The prawns and lime risotto are a real star. Without a doubt, you have to save room for dessert, specifically the chocolate mousse.

This casual, three-story Cervejaria Ramiro opened in the 50s and is still a staple when it comes to trying a variety of seafood in Lisbon. For a dinner out on the town to taste test the local food scene, Cervejaria Ramiro has a wide range of fresh seafood, some of which is really specific to the area like barnacles. Additionally, they have plenty of other dishes like the Presunto Seleção, Al Ajillo Especial, and Clams on Garlic.

Bairro do Avillez might look modest from the cobblestone street entrance, but inside there's a huge dining space, patio, a back mini bar, and a gastro bar serving delicious local cuisine and woodfire pizzas. Taste one of their signature dishes like the cod with their secret exploding olives or the partridge pies to share.

Explore Even on a Rainy Day

Check out the Royal Treasury Museum to see the Museu do Tesouro Real/Joias da Coroa (aka the crown jewels) sparkling inside the vault. These beautiful works of art and jewelry are a sight to see. Spend the afternoon browsing throughthe MAAT to view the cultural centre and walk through the exhibition of Joana Vasconcelos.

Stop into the Oceanário de Lisboa ("considered the best aquarium in the world by Tripadvisor, in 2015, 2017 and 2018") followed by lunch at the Myriad Hotel or Central Palace. Explore the National Tile Museum and if the sun comes out, take a walk through the Belem quarter. In the area, you'll find plenty of monuments and museums like the Coach Museum to peruse.

Parque des Nações and Street Art

While wandering around Lisbon, seeing what you stumble upon, check out the ​Parque des Nações right along the Tagus. Here, you can see works from international architects and stunning art while taking in the fresh air. Continuing the outdoor art tour, take in the urban art murals and pieces from the "Muro" festival in person.

Head to ​​Príncipe-Real, then make your way towards Chiado. Be sure to keep your eye out for some traditional Portuguese shops that you'll pass along the way like Vista Alegre, Caza das Vellas Loreto, Sanjo, Cutipol, and Leitão e Irmão among others.

Baxia

In the afternoon, explore the downtown area of Baixa in Lisbon, where there are plenty of restaurants and cultural locations. In addition to the patisseries and a bunch of small shops, there are a few Christmas markets sprinkled around the city this time of the year, like the Rossio Christmas Market, among others.

This time of year really gets visitors in the spirit, exploring the with a crêpe in hand or hot chocolate, purchasing jewelry, ornaments, specialty goods from local vendors and salamis. With plenty to do and see like the Arco da Rua Augusta, the Lisboa Story Centre, and the Interpretative center of the History of Cod, it's easy to fill your day in Lisbon. Stop into one of the many patisseries to try Christmas Cake with a cup of coffee.