Craving a Lisbon solo adventure? Our trusty guide gives you the lowdown on places to stay, what to do, and where to eat and drink in this buzzing metropolitan city that’ll steal your heart.
Cinematic Lisbon is the kind of European city that, once visited, you’ll keep on coming back to. And travelling solo in Lisbon means you don’t have to worry about your partner feeling left out as you fall in love with its art and cafe culture. The compact centre is easy to navigate due to the grid-like street pattern of a city reshaped after an earthquake in 1755, which destroyed much of the medieval centre.
If you’re travelling alone, relax and indulge your senses as you stroll around the friendly neighbourhoods that define the city, stopping to eat, drink and join in.
What’s the vibe?
Solo traveller or not, you’re in for a ride here. And not just on the old and faithful trams that rattle up and down the hilly streets. Lisbon is a city that keeps evolving, as historic neighbourhoods become hip – and it’s home to cool and characterful hotels, arts venues, restaurants and cafes serving heavenly custard tarts as yellow as the Portuguese sun, and bars that give the local nightlife a well-deserved reputation.
Where to stay in Lisbon as a solo traveller
This architect-led beauty wrapped in shiny glass, warm oak and limestone stands out against the red-roof clustered hillside in the residential Príncipe Real. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame views worth staying in bed for, in meticulously designed rooms with fur throws and spaces neatly divided by Scandi-ish wooden slats. Cool off in the slender outside pool in view of the open-plan ground floor. If you like cocktails, cheers – you’ll be gifted a bottle of an orange aperitif after checking in.
One street back from the River Tagus, on the very charming Praça do Município, this hotel excels at celebrating all things Portuguese – from the beamed and stone-floored 18th-century building itself, to the geometric tiles and textiles. The relaxed style and friendly atmosphere make it perfect for solo travellers, and the concierge desk makes it easier than ever to join walking tours and day trips.
Recycled wooden beds and deep blue walls blend with midcentury modern pieces at this downtown hotel on one of Lisbon’s most famous squares, the cafe-lined Praça da Figueira. Don’t get so fixated on those lovely tiles as you scoot around the Baixa district that you forget to look up and spot the Moorish Castelo de São Jorge towering above. It’s only a short walk away, but save it for tomorrow and head to the sultry on-site restaurant to reflect on your day over cod-based dishes such as bacalhau à brás and grilled sardines.
You’ll spend a night at Hotel My Story Figueira as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive nine-day Portuguese trip.
Eat and drink in Lisbon
With a dreamy setting opposite the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a sea-view bougainvillea-clad terrace in the elevated Alfama district, this rustic spot draws locals and tourists up the hill for its stellar seafood dishes. Taking its name from the copper pot it’s cooked in, cataplana de peixes is a fish stew just made for sharing.
Settle into red leather banquettes with in-the-know locals at celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa’s bar-restaurant in Príncipe Real. Sit at the long marble bar where you can watch staff prepping Spanish tapas and Portuguese petiscos (small plates) such as warm pan con tomate and jamón croquettes.
Sweet-toothed tourists and locals all love Portugal’s pastéis de nata – the well-known creamy-custard tarts created by Catholic monks. Follow your nose west of Lisbon to the riverside suburb of Bélem, home to this tiled bakery-cum-cafe which today is something of an institution. Arrive early to beat the queues, and eat as many as you can, perhaps with a shot of bica (espresso) to keep the food coma from setting in. And remember: six of these divine tarts fit perfectly into a takeaway tube, so you can take a little circle of sunshine back home.
What to do in Lisbon as a solo traveller
The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT)
In the once-neglected waterfront area of Belém, this low-slung museum on the banks of the Tagus is worth visiting for the exterior alone. Crackle-glazed ceramic tiles sparkle in the sun like sublime scales, and the overhanging roof creates welcome shade as you queue. You can walk under, over and through this curvaceous building, sister to the Central Tejo power station next door.
A walking tour of Lisbon
We all know the most authentic way to see a city is on foot – especially when you’re with an expert Local Insider who can reel off a stream of facts far better than Google could spew. Yes, you’ll see the top-rated tourist attractions such as the Elevador de Santa Justa, but also quirky cafes and top-secret shops as you amble around town. Expect a prize-winning picnic of cured meats, olives and other local goodies.
A guided walking tour of Lisbon is just one of many immersive activities you’ll experience on Culture Trip’s nine-day Portuguese adventure, led by our Local Insider.
Take a trip on Tram 28
Hold on to your hat and jump aboard this rickety old wooden tram, which now trundles along the most popular route in Lisbon due to all the landmarks that line the way. Shuttling through old neighbourhoods such as Alfama, Graça and Baixa, up and down through centuries of history, hop on and off to meander down Fado bar-lined lanes or for a photo at Castelo de São Jorge, the highest point in Lisbon.
Stay safe, stay happy
Liberal Lisbon feels like one of the safest cities to visit in the world – because it is. Portugal ranked fourth in the Global Peace Index for 2021 (the fewer points the better), and second among European Union countries. While Lisbon generally enjoys a low crime rate, do keep an eye out for the pickpockets you get in any major city.
Getting around Lisbon as a solo traveller
The Aerobus runs from Lisbon airport to the city centre every 20 minutes and takes half an hour. Taxis take around 20 minutes to the centre and are easy to hail around town or at ranks, stations and high-end hotels. Ridesharing is easy, too, with Uber and Cabify – a Spanish rideshare company – both available here.
Once settled in, slip on your comfiest walking shoes and saunter as much as you can to see every inch of the Portuguese capital. The Lisbon Metro is a fast and efficient way to get around, too, with just four lines to keep it simple, while regular buses run until past midnight. Whether your legs are tired or not, riding the bright yellow classic Lisbon tram is a must for any traveller.
Solo travel doesn’t have to be a lonely affair. Join other culturally curious travellers on Culture Trip’s nine-day Portuguese tour – designed to lift the lid on Lisbon, Porto and all the beautiful Portuguese culture and scenery found in between.
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