What to do in Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, is the perfect place for a quick, relaxing city break.

When planning a short holiday, it can sometimes be difficult to find somewhere that isn’t too far away, has plenty to do, but also allows enough time to chill out. But visiting Lisbon for the first time, and as my first trip abroad since the pandemic started, I was delighted to find it ticked all of the boxes.

Visit Lisboa

The calm yet vibrant city is full of winding, cobbled streets streaked with colourful art and decorated tiles. They’re lined with homely restaurants and inviting cafes as you make your way up to reach the impressive hilltop views. And being a coastal city, the sea is almost always visible. I visited in February, so the city felt quieter than during peak holiday season (May-August). But if you prefer cooler temperatures and less crowded places, it’s perfect.

Three days feels like long enough to visit all the key spots in Lisbon, without being rushed for time. It’s recommended that anyone looking for a longer stay could use the extra days to visit other towns nearby, especially if you’d like some time on the beach.

Lisbon hotels

There is a wide choice of hotels to choose from in Lisbon, with many in the city centre towards the bustling Bairro Alto area. However, I stayed in As Janelas Verdes hotel, which is situated around a 20 minute walk away from Bairro Alto and about a 20 minute car ride away from the airport.

As Janelas Verdes is a charming B&B that replicates the same feeling of a countryside villa, despite being located within walking distance to the most popular areas. The staff are lovely, welcoming and on-hand with whatever you may need. Although what I loved about the hotel was a particularly hands-off approach – when you’re there, you’re there to stay in a home away from home.

The rooms are simple, yet replicate a signature relaxed Portuguese style. Breakfast is served until midday in the lounge area, which is yet another way the hotel helps you sink into its relaxed atmosphere. The selection of food includes a variety of continental options and hot food, including cakes, crossaints, meats and cheeses, eggs, sausages, and a Nespresso coffee machine. You can also request a table outside in the garden area, which is just lovely in the sunshine.

While there’s no restaurant in the hotel, it has a chilled out library area with river views, a balcony with seating, and a selection of snacks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic hot and cold drinks for guests to enjoy as and when they please. It was the perfect place to enjoy an after-dinner tipple and pre-breakfast coffee in the sunshine.

Lisbon restaurants

For the biggest selection of food all in one place, you have to visit the Time Out Market. There, you’ll find rows and rows of tables surrounded by restaurants, bakeries and bars offering everything from octopus hotdogs and duck croquettes, to deliciously fluffy doughnuts and the iconic Portuguese pasteis de nata (custard tarts).

Mesa de Frades is a restaurant located in one of Lisbon’s old towns. It showcases traditional cuisine and Fado music – a Portuguese jazz or blues-style of song – in an incredibly intimate setting.

Da noi is a small restaurant that’s a short walk away from As Janelas Verdes, serving up delicious food, good wine and a trendy but friendly atmosphere.

I’d also recommend Bairro do Avillez, where there’s three restaurants in one place – Páteo, where seafood and fish rule the menu; Mini Bar, a restaurant and gastro bar; and Pizarria Lisboa, a pizza restaurant.

Lisbon: What to do

The best way to see Lisbon and get around is by foot, so be prepared for hills and cobbled streets (comfortable shoes are a must). The good news is, Uber, Bolt and taxis are very cheap if you wanted to get a lift somewhere.

There are several museums, including The Gulbenkian, Museu de Arte Antiga and Museu do Chiado. We also climbed up to St George’s castle to get a view of the whole city, as well as wondering the central neighbourhood of Príncipe Real and paying a visit to LX Factory, which is full of bars, cafes and restaurants. Avenida da Liberdade is considered as one of Lisbon’s chicest streets, as it’s lined with shops.

Wondering around the city you’ll notice a lot of printed tiles, so if you’d like to try an indoor activity, I suggest a Lisboa Social Press art class. It’s co-run by Tom, a British artist who moved to Lisbon. Classes are priced from 40 euros per person and last about two hours, during which the artists explain how prints are created, and you get to create your very own print to take home.

If you are planning a longer trip, it’s worth paying a visit to Belem which is around eight minutes away by train. It has outdoor monuments, museums and restaurants, as well as a view of the Lisbon bridge and the iconic statue of Christ.

Slightly further away you’ll find coastal town Cascais, which you can read more about here.

Best for:

A relaxed vibe and walking.

Kanika was a guest of As Janelas Verdes hotel where prices start from 115 euros per night.