To get to know Lisbon well, you have to start climbing up its hills to see it from above. The Castle of São Jorge, although very touristy, is ideal for seeing the city that stretches along the banks of the Tagus River. The Santa Catarina viewpoint is another possibility, and for those who don't shy away from cemeteries, the Cemitério dos Prazeres viewpoint is beautiful and also provides an eagle's eye view.
To really get to know a place you need to get to know its aromas. One of the best places to do that are the markets. The Mercado da Ribeira market has turned very fashionable, but in our opinion, has lost most of its authenticity. We believe the markets of Arroios or Ajuda to be better options.
The city is divided into neighbourhoods, each with its own peculiarity:
Chiado or Baixa Pombalina: this is the pulsating heart of Lisbon. Full of shops, people from one side to the other and a lot of noise. Today, many of the streets in this area are pedestrianised and connect with several monumental squares, such as Rossio, Praça do Comércio and Praça do Municipio. It should be visited, but at a rather brisk pace.
Graça is a diversified neighbourhood where rich palaces cohabit with more modest buildings. It is located next to the emblematic São Jorge Castle, known for the magnificent view it offers to its visitors. The neighbourhood is also home to two well-known viewpoints, Graça and Senhora do Monte. Many of the people who used to live here have been driven out by rising rents and temporary rental accommodation has sprung up in their place, which has taken away a little of its endearing character.
Alfama: it is not only Lisbon's oldest and most typical neighbourhood, but also the second oldest in Europe. A sort of village in the middle of the capital, it has a quaint and traditional feel, with a relatively small and close-knit community. In Alfama life goes on as it has for centuries. The neighbourhood is known for its small restaurants and fado houses, and in June the streets are the site of the famous Santos Populares festivities.
Bairro da Lapa and Estrela: in this traditional neighbourhood you can feel the grandeur of old Lisbon. Formerly a favourite spot to live for the nobility and the upper classes, it is still a very a pretty residential area inviting to you to walk around on foot.
Bairro Alto: after the sun sets it becomes a paradise for lovers of the night. As most of the bars are relatively small, people end up spreading out into the narrow streets with drinks in their hands, creating a very special atmosphere, as if it were a street festival.
This neighbourhood is part of the district of Misericordia and is characterised by its narrow cobbled streets, old houses and traditional commerce. In 2010 it was classified as a Site of Public Interest. Be careful! In high season this area is flooded with tourists.
Mouraria: this neighbourhood is also known as the birthplace of Fado and is attractive for its multiculturalism and at the same time for its traditional character. There are restaurants and shops from various countries, as well as several Fado houses and typical taverns. The Largo do Intendente, which has one of the most beautiful tiled façades in the city, and the Colégio dos Meninos Órfãos, on Rua da Mouraria, with its tiled staircase, are well worth a visit.
Cais do Sodré: Situated by the river and once a disreputable and somewhat forgotten area, it has now become a must for Lisbon's nightlife, especially since the opening of Musicbox and Pensão Amor. The famous pink street has a very diverse crowd, which is spread out between bars and nightclubs, drinks in hand all night long. It is also a nice place to stroll along the river during the day. On the west side of the square is the dome of the famous Mercado da Ribeira, run by Time Out Lisboa magazine, with stalls of the country's best known chef’s and traditional gastronomy.
Príncipe Real: Lisbon's trendy neighbourhood, the hip par excellence where new restaurants and alternative shops are concentrated. Being a predominantly residential neighbourhood, it is relatively quiet and characterised by palaces, museums, antique shops and green spaces. The Royal Prince's garden is ideal for relaxing and the beautiful viewpoint of São Pedro de Alcântara invites you to take in the flair of Lisbon. Down the hill towards the West, you will come across the São Bento district, one of our favourite shopping areas, where you will find small shops with everything and something more, and restaurants to suit all tastes.
Bica and Santa Catarina: small but hipster neighbourhoods, very similar to Alfama. Visit the Mirador de Santa Catarina and its well-known lift.
Santos is increasingly becoming Lisbon's design district. Behind Largo de Santos are the narrow streets of the typical Madragoa neighbourhood, which, like Alfama, used to be home to the varinas and the fishing community. This neighbourhood is known today for its typical taverns, petiscos (the Portuguese version of tapas) and houses with tile-covered facades. The Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of the Orient is a must-see. Next to Santos-o-Velho is Alcântara, which has several old warehouses converted into restaurants, especially in the Docas de Santo Amaro (the marina under the 25th of April bridge). Quite touristy nowadays but not to be missed is the Lx Factory complex, one of Lisbon's trendiest spots.
Belem: Flat and facing the river, it has beautiful gardens to rest or read a book in front of the marvellous Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The Belem Tower, the planetarium and the Monuments of the Discoverers are also just a few steps away