“We travel to change not of place, but ideas.” - Hippolyte Taine Have you always dreamt of travelling to Portugal? If you’ve already got your tickets, you can move onto the next steps: planning your time in Lisbon, holiday rentals, hiring a car, budgeting for accommodation, and where to stay in Lisbon. Portugal is one of the most popular European holiday destinations. Even though tourism only accounts for 7% of GDP, it’s responsible for 25% of the jobs created in 2016, which has been helping Portugal get back on its feet since the recession. 11.7 million tourists, up 12.7% on 2015, visited Portugal in 2016. Are you going to visit Lisbon? Here’s our mini guide on visiting the Portuguese capital.
When Is the Ideal Time to Visit Lisbon?
Most guides are pretty unanimous that the best time to visit Portugal is in the summer when it’s hot and dry, with average temperatures of 21.4 in May, 24.8 in June, and 27.5 in July and August. Summer is also the most touristy time and the prices peak around the summer solstice. Between May and September, there are only between 3 and 40 millimetres of rainfall. This means it’s great for visiting the old neighbourhoods of Alfama, Belem, Bairro Alto. So when should you visit Lisbon? The weather in Lisbon is pretty good throughout the whole year. There’s more rainfall in winter, with between 92 and 106mm per month between November and February, but the temperature remains nice thanks to a Mediterranean climate that’s tempered by the Atlantic Ocean. And if it rains, you can always visit the museums. There’s the National Museum of the Azulejo, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the Chiado Museum, the Museum of Fado, the Jerónimos Monastery, etc. With a good amount of sunshine throughout the year, you should consider taking a stroll around the historic city centre and trying the pasteis de nata pastries. You can enjoy Lisbon throughout the whole year and we recommend going in winter if you’re on a tight budget. Get a Lisboa Card, a pass that’s valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours, for €20, €34, or €42. This will allow you to visit a number of museums, use public transport, and generally get the most out of your trip to Lisbon without waiting in lines for tourist attractions or buying plenty of bus, metro, or tram tickets. Lisbon is home to a number of large hills and some great views. There are 16 viewpoints, or “miradouros”, in the city and they’ll offer you a fantastic view of the Tage estuary and the 25 de Abril Bridge. Some of the most popular include: the Miradouro Santa Luzia, the Miradouro da Graça, the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, and the Miradouro do Parque Eduardo VII. Are you looking for a cheap flight to Lisbon? Check out cheap flights on Skyscanner! Keep an eye out for the cultural events going on in Lisbon. In April, the city welcomes the Estoril Open, which causes an increase in the price of accommodation. The Festivities of Lisbon (June), the popular saints days, Saint Anthony of Padua (13 June), the Lisbon Tango Festival (end of May/start of June), the Feast of São Jõao (23 June) will all see the price of accommodation in the city rise.
How Long Should You Go to Lisbon For?
Lisbon is mainland Europe’s most western capitals and you can get there in just over a couple of hours from the UK. Generally, your work schedule will probably dictate how long you can go for. Typical workers in the UK are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave per year. Students, job seekers, freelancers, or retirees can obviously go for longer. There are plenty of trips you can take around Portugal, too! With Porto, the Douro Valley, Alentejo, and the Algarve all worth a visit, you’ll need to think about what you want to do, where you want to go, and what your budget and holiday allowance will allow you to do. So how long should you visit Lisbon for? Five days would be enough to visit the essentials:
- Castelo São Jorge
- The Alfama, Baixa, Bairro Alto, Chiado, Belem, and Ajuda neighbourhoods
- The streets of the Line 28 tram (Lisbon’s famous yellow trams)
- Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square)
- Lisbon Cathedral
- Rua Augusta Arch
- Convento da Ordem do Carmo (Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel)
- Parc Eduardo VII
- Amoreiras 360° Panoramic View
- Lisbon Botanic Gardens
- The Tower of Belém
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries)
- The Santa Justa Lift
- And this list is far from exhaustive!
If you want to visit other attractions in Portugal, get out of the city, and explore the surrounding areas, you might want to consider staying longer in Portugal, perhaps between 15 and 20 days. Are you looking for work in the UK? Why not use this time to go to Lisbon to learn how to speak Portuguese?
Where Should You Stay in Lisbon?
Here we are! The obvious question. When it comes to accommodation, you need to think about the best neighbourhoods, hotels on a budget, renting a holiday flat, etc. While the cost of living in Lisbon is quite low, accommodation can be quite expensive. So even though you can get cheap return flights to and from Lisbon, accommodation might take a big chunk out of your budget. So where should you stay in Lisbon? For short stays, you can probably look to Airbnb, Booking.com, Hotels.com, etc. If you’re staying for longer, you might want to consider renting an apartment in the city centre. However, prices can reach up to €1,500 per month! Check out sites like Sapo, OLX, and Idealista. You need to remember that landlords will make the most of tourists renting and adjust their prices accordingly. You can’t avoid supply and demand. Airbnb is often a great way to get holiday accommodation like flats and houses in great locations in the city. Lisbon city centre is arguably the best place to stay in. The Alfama, Baixa, Chiado, Bairro Alto neighbourhoods are all good but will be more expensive. Just make sure you don’t book at the last minute. On Airbnb, you can find more luxurious options for a little more. Use the map features on these websites to browse where you can stay. You could even go to Lisbon for a stag-do or a road-trip, for example! You could pay anywhere between €50 and €150 per night depending on the season. On Booking.com, you’ll find the best hotels all cost over €100 per night in the historic city centre. If you’re on a budget, there are always youth hostels. You can get a bed in a dormitory for around €25 for two.
The Best Neighbourhoods in Lisbon
Which are the best neighbourhoods in Lisbon? There are four neighbourhoods in the city centre and two on the periphery that we should mention: Baixa, Chiado, Bairro Alto, Alfama, Belém, and Ajuda. Search for Portuguese courses London here on Superprof. The Alfama neighbourhood is one of the most picturesque with its coloured buildings, narrow streets, bars and restaurants serving traditional dishes, and its small-town vibe.
Between 50,000 and 70,000 people died in an earthquake in Alfama in 1755. Despite this, the Castelo de São Jorge, one of the neighbourhoods most popular attractions, remained standing. This has left the area with a mix of modern and historic Moorish architecture.
Do you think that some of the buildings in Alfama look a bit dilapidated? This is part of the area’s history. Under the Moorish rule in Portugal, the interiors of buildings were far more important than their exteriors as it would be considered superficial. You can also visit the Baixa neighbourhood, the city’s beating commercial and touristy heart. Here you’ll find the Praça do Comércio and the Rua Augusta Arch. Accommodation might be quite dear here. If you take the stairs or the funicular railway, you’ll arrive at Bairro Alto and Chiado, two complementary areas. The first is famous for its nightlife (it’s calm during the day) and the other for being busy during the day. Full of bars and shops and a young population, the beer and wine flow readily here. Not a fan of being in the city centre? Head along to Belém, with the Tower of Belém, the Jerónimos Monastery, and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries). A 90-minute walk from the city centre, Belém offers another experience of Lisbon with its popular residential areas, particularly on the Ajuda side, and a fantastic view of the 25 de Abril Bridge! Find good Portuguese lessons here on Superprof.
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