Once a city full of secret fado bars and traditional restaurants that only the locals knew about, Lisbon has now become one of Europe’s most-visited destinations and it sometimes seems as if each corner has already been explored. Social media makes visiting even easier, providing tourists with lots of insider tips, and now many of the city’s coolest spots are out in the open. A few locations, however, remain largely off tourists’ radars. Here is a breakdown of some of the spots that are still something of a secret from most visitors.
This restaurant is located inside an amazing palace that dates back to the 17th century. The jaw-dropping dining rooms, lit by chandeliers and decorated in ornately gilded work, add to an already grand ambiance, and azulejo tiles give it a touch of unique Portuguese tradition. In addition to the dining room, there is a relaxed tavern meant for casual parties, a courtyard, and an elaborate waiting room. The menu reflects traditional recipes, many stemming from rural Alentejo, and the prices are very fair, especially considering the surroundings: a party of two can eat for approximately €20–€25. Tucked away on a side street east of lower Avenida da Liberdade, it is an easy location to miss, but one well worth finding.
Rooftop bars are as much a symbol of Lisbon’s social scene as its cafés, and one just off the beaten tourist track is Limão Chillout Terrace at the top of the lovely H10 Duque de Loulé hotel. It’s a short walk north from the Marquês de Pombal statue and anyone can go for a drink (it’s an excellent spot to enjoy a cool cocktail while reading a book in the summer). The outdoor terrace on the 10th floor offers amazing views over the city. Bright and beautiful, it is characterized by a white bar and cool blue and white patio furniture.
Lisbon is full of lovely gardens and viewpoints perfect for spring and summer days, but one that is much quieter than the others is the Torel Garden. The entrance conveniently opens near the top of the Lavra lift, meaning you can take a unique and scenic ride up for only €2.90. This 19th-century garden offers benches and lounge chairs so visitors can sit and relax while enjoying the view over Avenida da Liberdade, and if you get hungry or thirsty, there is a café on the lower level of the garden. One extra unique feature is the swimming pool that opens on hot days.
Young and trendy Largo do Intendente is a bright square surrounded by beautifully renovated homes with azulejo-covered facades and hip local bars/restaurants, like the Casa Independente. Once one of the seedier parts of town, it is now a cool hangout spot for the city’s artistic, freelance, and entrepreneurial circles.
Open since 1943, the Pastelaria Aloma is a favorite pastry shop where locals swear by the pastéis de nata, even suggesting that they may be the best in Lisbon. If you’re up for a walk, you can find Pastelaria Aloma just past the Jardim da Estrela, near Campo de Ourique.
Most tourists beeline to the Miradouro Portas do Sol or the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, where they will surely find iconic views, but, instead, go to Graça and take photos from the highest peak in the city. Although it doesn’t particularly qualify as a secret, it still lacks the crowds that are attracted to most other viewpoints.
A true secret in Lisbon is this seafood restaurant, found at the end of the pier in Alcântara. Spacious and bright, it’s also easy to find a table because many people simply don’t know it – including some locals. This isn’t a place for artistic presentation: the food is simple, honest, fresh, and budget-friendly.
Mercado de Campo de Ourique is Lisbon’s cozier and local version of Timeout Market at the Mercado da Ribeira, and although it is usually packed, like its riverside cousin, it is still a place that tourists usually miss unless someone specifically recommends it. Fish, meats, and fruits and vegetables can be purchased from the stands around the market, and stalls also sell ready-prepped meals like pizza, sushi, and traditional Portuguese petiscos.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere peaceful to drink coffee, have lunch, or just sit and read, Linha d’Água is a great café to know. Located behind El Corte Inglés, it sits in the middle of a park and beside a small artificial pool with a fountain. Sit on the lovely terrace with friends to soak in Lisbon’s sun, or head inside where there are many more tables beside the long counter.
Ajuda is a beautifully authentic neighborhood near Lisbon, located northeast of Belém. Even some locals can’t resist playing tourist to walk through those streets and past the grandiose and beautifully preserved 18th-century National Palace, or strolling through the lovely botanical garden. Although it’s only a short 15–20 minute walk from the Jerónimos Monastery, tourists sometimes miss it while exploring Belém. The entrance fees are €5 for adults and €3 for children and it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
One more miradouro café that’s often missed is the Café Esplanada do Miradouro do Monte Agudo. Laid-back and peaceful, the terrace offers more amazing views of the city and the café serves incredibly budget-friendly drinks, cocktails, and snacks. This is one of those locations where you can watch a stunning sunset unhampered by an excess of tour groups. You’ll find the viewpoint and café in Lisbon’s Penha de França neighborhood, at the top of one of the city’s seven hills.