Portugal’s capital is an idyllic city, full of beautiful streets, cozy venues, a strong culture, and wallet-friendly restaurants. In Lisbon, history blends with modern times and a centuries-old landmark may sit side by side with a hip hotel. Each street has a story to tell and each corner may reveal a different secret, but these are the coolest neighbourhoods to visit when in Lisbon.
Baixa & Rossio
The most tourist-friendly area during the day is that between Baixa and Rossio, where many of Lisbon’s main landmarks, shopping and dining opportunities can be found. Although ‘downtown’ is a term used vaguely to describe a few neighbourhoods, this is Lisbon’s real downtown area. It is also the main part of the city that was destroyed during the famous Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 and rebuilt in the late 18th century. A few key features include Livraria Bertrand (the oldest bookstore in the world), the elaborate Brasileira café, the bright yellow and elegant Praca do Commercio, and the historic Rossio train station.
If you want to know where everyone is on Saturday night, chances are good that it’s Bairro Alto. This windy, hilly neighbourhood is filled with bars and a bohemian aura, making it one of the coolest places in the city. There are also restaurants, cafés, tattoo parlours, and hostels/hotels, in addition to the ever-present historical landmarks. It’s not just for hanging out in either; the side streets are filled with apartments and those who can handle the busy weekends love the central location.
Alfama is perhaps the most charming part of Lisbon, and it’s the oldest too. This is the place to go if you want to eat a traditional meal accompanied by equally traditional fado music. In Lisbon, windy and narrow medieval alleys are common but they seem to be more so in Alfama, and the roads have been described as a labyrinth. If you know where you’re going, this maze leads to landmarks in other parts of the city including the Castelo de São Jorge and the beautiful lookout point at Portas do Sol.
Technically, Alcântara is a municipality of Lisbon but locals consider it part of the city. Situated between downtown and Belém, it’s a neighbourhood along the river where visitors will find Docas (a dock filled with bars and restaurants) and the LX Factory (an artistic road filled with renovated factory buildings that have been converted to stores, offices, restaurants, and more).
This trendy neighborhood is west of Avenida da Liberdade and north of Bairro Alto. The buildings here are grander than many other neighbourhoods in Lisbon – giving off a pricey vibe – and its name even translates into ‘royal prince’. Príncipe Real is a residential neighbourhood but doubles as a social district filled with stores and gardens.
Parque das Naçoes
Parque das Naçoes is an ultra modern area where Oriente train station and the Oceanario de Lisboa are located. It was built to accommodate the World Exposition 1998 (also known as Expo ’98) and stands today as a living memory. A high number of restaurants and bars can be found on the strip along the river, as well as dance clubs, office buildings, and apartments. There is also a popular boardwalk where joggers and dog walkers are among those enjoying the beautiful Lisbon weather.
Avenida da Liberdade
If you want to buy designer clothes, Avenida da Liberdade is where to go. Built in the late 19th century, it runs between Rossio train station in the south and Parque Eduardo in the north. Magnificent hotels and banks are found here, as well as names like Burberry and Armani, and the Hard Rock restaurant. Each side of the street has a comfortable walking path lined with grass, trees, and the occasional kiosk where friends meet for a drink when the weather is nice.
Graça & São Vicente
Like Alfama, Graça and São Vicente are in an older part of the city, which is apparent in the tiny streets and even tinier sidewalks with barely enough space for one person to walk. They offer wonderful views of the Tejo River from above and wrap around jaw-dropping landmarks like the National Pantheon (which is often portrayed in panoramics over Alfama) and the Igreja de São Vicente. Fun fact: this is also where visitors will find the Feira da Ladra, an outdoor flea market that takes place every Saturday near the National Pantheon, where lucky shoppers may find antique or traditional keepsakes from their trip.
Another secret area in the middle of the tourist spots is the old Moorish district called Mouraria, which stretches from Alfama in the south, below the castle, and towards Martim Moniz in the north. This area has always attracted immigrants, even dating back to the twelfth century, and only became popular in recent years. Its history of poverty, diversity, and fado can still be experienced while walking along the stone streets and past the old buildings and homes that still portray art and décor from the past.
Cais do Sodré
The last terminal metro stop (before heading towards Alcântara and Belém) is in Cais do Sodré. From here, travellers can hop on a ferry and sail across the Tejo River to cities on the other side. Like Bairro Alto, Cais do Sodré is also another good spot to go for a beer and catch up with friends. The Time Out Market, or Mercado da Ribeira, is one of the city’s main food courts that holds everything from traditional meals to trendy treats and bakeries. It is also the home of the colourful Pink Street, full of bars, restaurants, and artistic personality.