The ability to navigate a new city without worrying about veering into an undesirable neighbourhood is a weight off many a traveller’s mind. Fortunately, Lisbon is friendly, welcoming, and generally very safe to explore. Plenty of neighbourhoods have a traditional ‘old world’ charm and it’s common for residents to smile and greet passersby with a ‘bom dia’ and a wave or nod of the head. The public transportation is also safe to use, whether by day or night, and crime rates are generally low.
The hilly streets may occasionally be annoying to scale but efforts are nearly always rewarded with a stunning view. Cityscapes oftentimes include the River Tejo and either the Ponte 25 de Abril (25th April Bridge) or the Vasco da Gama bridge. From miradouros (lookout points), it’s possible to sit and gaze across the historic downtown or the river, and a few of these miradouros can be enjoyed from venue terraces. Also, Lisbon has unbelievable sunsets that light the sky in flaming orange and sometimes, a tranquil purple.
Portugal in general is very affordable, and while the cost of living in the capital is higher than other parts of the country, it is still less than other European capitals. On average, apartment rentals remain under €1,000 per month – even in the expensive parts of the city – and room rentals range from €200-€400 per month, varying by location. Dining out can be very cheap if you know where to go, and an authentic Portuguese lunch complete with glass of wine, espresso, and dessert can cost between €7-€10. A small draft beer called an Imperial normally costs between €1-€1.50. Navigating the city on public transportation is also cost-effective and a monthly pass for the metro, bus, and trams are around €35 per month.
It’s easy to find what you’re looking for in Lisbon, whether it’s a train to another part of Portugal, health food grocery items, a variety of restaurants, or activity groups. As a fairly diverse melting pot, there are a number of different shops and restaurants that can satisfy exotic culinary needs, especially of the Asian variety. It’s also easy to get from point A to point B within the city, and the public transportation runs regularly (and usually on time).
It’s impossible to not find a café open during daytime hours, seven days a week, and many of these spots are perfect for catching up with friends or reading a book. In Lisbon, cafés come in many shapes and sizes, and some of the trendier spots are located along the river, such as the Cais do Sodré metro/train station or at Doca in Alcântara. Plus, since a coffee and pastry can range as low as €2-3, incorporating café breaks into a daily or weekly routine is easy to do.
People who love to dance will have fun in Lisbon. There are many schools of dance across the city, and practices are organised in city squares, bars, and basically any venue that will allow it. For clubs and bars, Santos is a popular neighbourhood with an eclectic mix of musical styles. Bars and late-night cafés showcasing books and art are also trendy at the moment.
Seafood lovers will appreciate the many markets and restaurants with fresh fish and seafood on display. From cod to salmon to tuna and octopus, squid, clams, and even barnacles, the options are endless. Arroz de Marisco is a medley of rice mixed with crab, clams, shrimp and any variations that the chef may add to set their version apart from the status quo. Codfish is also a culinary staple and the Portuguese have invented hundreds of ways to cook it.
Speaking of the sea, it’s close by and easy to get to. The ocean and beaches also offer one of Portugal’s coolest activities: surfing. Head to Cascais or Estoril, which are an easy 40-minute train ride from Lisbon’s centre, or jump in a car and drive an hour to Ericeira. Almada, across the River Tejo, is another spot to check out and can be reached by a scenic ferry ride.
For €1 a barista will pour cherry-flavoured liquor into a cup of chocolate; the combined flavours are heavenly. One of the best and more popular ginjinha brands is the Ginjinha de Óbidos, which is easy to find in many bars throughout the city.
Lisbon has been growing in terms of tourism and progressive initiatives – adding the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology in 2016 – and it has also become a hub for start-ups and artists. Finally, the city has begun to receive recognition as a trendy and happening destination and the attention helps as it continues to evolve.