Three Characters from the film 'The Good the Bad and the Ugly' walk together on a street in Lisbon

What is Lisbon Famous For? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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What is Lisbon Famous For? 

In this article, I’ll take you through the many sides of Lisbon — the good that draws visitors, the bad that locals endure, and the ugly issues that are often hidden away.

Living in Almirante Reis for the last two and a half years has given me a front-row seat to the city’s true story.

Let’s dive into what Lisbon is really famous for, through the eyes of someone who calls it home.

💎 Pro Tip: I’ve created a Google Maps list pinpointing all the bars, attractions and hot spots listed in this guide. To have it at your fingertips, simply ‘Add the ‘What is Lisbon Famous For’ List to Your Google Maps‘. Now, wherever you are in the city, the best of Lisbon is just a tap away.

What is Lisbon Famous For? The Good

The Amazing Weather

Sunny Lisbon and the Rive Tagus in the background
Sunny Lisbon and the River Tagus in the background

Lisbon basks in sunshine, boasting the title of the sunniest capital in mainland Europe, with a pleasant climate all year round.

Summertime in Lisbon means bright, clear skies and temperatures that often soar above 25°C, peaking around 30°C. July dazzles with an average of 352 hours of sunshine.

To cool off, locals and visitors alike flock to nearby beach havens like Cascais, Ericeira, and Costa da Caparica.

The charm of Lisbon extends into the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October), when the weather remains warm—hovering between 18°C to 22°C—and the tourist throngs thin out.

However, if you’re visiting in these milder months, remember to bring some cozy attire, as evenings and nights can bring a cooler touch to the city’s otherwise temperate days.

💎 Insider Tip: For comfortable sightseeing, March to May and September to October are prime months to visit Lisbon. If you’re visiting during the hotter months of June to August, when temperatures often exceed 30°C, opt for accommodation with air conditioning.

Winter in Lisbon is generally mild, with daytime temperatures averaging around 15°C, but nights can be colder, especially in December and January. Despite the cooler days and the chance of rain, it’s still a great time to visit.

However, it’s worth noting that building insulation can be poor, so if you are looking to rent, find a place with a good heating system to stay cozy.

The Delicious Cuisine

Delicious Piri Piri Chicken at Churrasqueira da Paz
Delicious Piri Piri Chicken at Churrasqueira da Paz

Lisbon’s gastronomic landscape is as rich and varied as its history, a delicious blend of the old-world and the new, the simple and the sophisticated.

The city’s love affair with food is evident in every corner—from the bustling seafood markets to the tascas (taverns) that dot the neighborhoods, each offering a taste of local life.

Seafood is the star of Lisbon’s culinary show, thanks to its prime location on the Atlantic. Cod, or bacalhau is served in countless ways, each more inventive than the last.

Sardines, grilled to smoky perfection and served on a slice of rustic bread, are not just food; they’re a part of Lisbon’s soul, especially during the Santo António festivals in June.

The incredible Giant Prawns at Ramiro
The incredible Giant Prawns at Ramiro

Here are a few traditional Portuguese dishes that you must try:

  • Caldo Verde: This popular soup consists of finely shredded collard greens and smooth potatoes, all brought together with a drizzle of olive oil and a seasoning of black pepper and salt, mainly flavored with onion and garlic.
  • Bifana: A soft bread roll cradling marinated pork cutlets.
  • Bacalhau à Brás: Shredded cod and fried potatoes with the rich textures of scrambled eggs, adorned with black olives and a flourish of parsley.
  • Polvo à Lagareiro: Octopus bathed in the finest olive oil and accompanied by roasted potatoes.
  • Pasteis de Bacalhau: Golden, crisp cod fritters, tender and savoury on the inside.
  • Porco Preto: The Iberian black pork, juicy and succulent. 
  • Bacalhau à Lagareiro: Cod baked to creamy perfection.
  • Frango Piri Piri: Charcoal grilled marinated chicken.

But Lisbon’s food scene isn’t just about traditional dishes. It’s also a hotbed for culinary innovation, where chefs are reimagining classic Portuguese flavors with a modern twist. Restaurants like Alma and Belcanto, both proud bearers of Michelin stars, showcase the city’s gastronomic finesse.

Pasteis de Belem
Pasteis de Belem

Pastries deserve a special mention, with the iconic pastel de nata leading the charge. These custard tarts, with their flaky crust and rich, sweet filling, are the perfect companion to a bica, the Portuguese espresso.

The Antiga Confeitaria de Belém is a pilgrimage site for pastry lovers, where the secret Pasteis de Belem recipe draws queues that are worth every minute of the wait.

💎 Insider Tip: To truly experience Lisbon’s culinary delights, venture beyond the tourist hotspots. Visit the neighborhood tascas for authentic dishes, or time your visit for the Taste of Lisboa Food Tours, where you can savor a variety of local flavors while soaking in the city’s history.

And let’s not forget the wines. Lisbon is a stone’s throw away from several wine regions, each offering a unique sip of Portugal’s vinous heritage.

Whether it’s a glass of rich, velvety red from Alentejo, a crisp Vinho Verde, or a sip of the world-renowned Port, the wines of Portugal are the perfect accompaniment to the city’s culinary treasures. 

History

Lisbon’s history is deeply intertwined with the Age of Discovery. It was the launching point for many of the world’s most significant maritime voyages, including those led by Vasco da Gama.

The Monument to the Discoveries on the Tagus Riverfront commemorates these explorers and their contributions to the era when Lisbon was the heart of a global empire.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge, currently the longest bridge in Europe.
The Vasco da Gama Bridge, currently the longest bridge in Europe.

Key historical sites like the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, offer a glimpse into the city’s past prominence and the unique Manueline architectural style that emerged during Portugal’s age of prosperity.

The city’s resilience is perhaps best exemplified by its recovery from the catastrophic 1755 earthquake. The Pombaline Baixa, a downtown area rebuilt in the aftermath, is a testament to Lisbon’s ability to reinvent itself, featuring a grid-like layout that was innovative for its time.

💎 Insider Tip: For those fascinated by this era in history, a visit to the QUAKE museum in Belém is highly recommended!

The Alfama district, Lisbon’s oldest, retains a palpable sense of history with its narrow lanes and traditional Fado music venues, which echo the cultural legacy of the city’s diverse inhabitants.

For those interested in a deeper dive into Lisbon’s past, a guided walking tour can offer insights into the city’s evolution from a strategic Roman port to a modern European capital.

The Lisbon Nightlife

Lisbon’s nightlife is carving out a reputation as one of the most vibrant and innovative in Europe.

Whether it’s the allure of sophisticated cocktails accompanied by the rhythms of live music or the magnetic pull of the dance floor that keeps you out until dawn, the city caters to every nocturnal preference.

A few pointers before you dive in: Dinners in Lisbon mirror the Southern European tradition of starting late, setting the stage for an even later night of revelry.

Bars, which usually don’t charge an entry fee, come alive post-11 pm and keep the night buzzing until the early hours of 3 or 4 am.

For those who prefer the club scene, be prepared for a cover charge and don’t be surprised if the party doesn’t wind down until around 6 am.

Here are my recommended Lisbon nightlife spots: 

Largo do Intendente / Casa Independente

The beautiful outside are at Casa Independente
The beautiful outside are at Casa Independente, a lot of fun in the evening.

Kicking off the night at Largo do Intendente is a must, where a curated selection of bars awaits.

Among them, Casa Independente shines as my personal favorite and the pinnacle of Lisbon’s bar scene. Make sure to check for any live events during your visit for an even more memorable experience.

Pink Street

Pink street at night
Pink street at night

While it’s very touristy (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), I’d say you must at least experience the vibe. It’s literally a pink street that becomes super lively later in the evening, with many bars flanking either side. I’d recommend visiting Pensão Amor, a former brothel.

Bairro Alto

Barrio Alto Party scene at night
Barrio Alto Party scene at night

Bairro Alto stands as the most iconic neighborhood for a festive night out.

This area is a major hotspot in Lisbon, boasting over 100 bars and restaurants that come alive as the sun sets, transforming it into one of the city’s liveliest party destinations. If you’re looking for something more traditional then check out Fado at Tasca do Chico.

Príncipe Real

What is Lisbon Famous For? Pavilhao Chines!
Pavilhao Chines

Just a stone’s throw from Bairro Alto, Príncipe Real offers a more refined nightlife experience.

This chic neighborhood is home to live music venues, sophisticated cocktail bars, and the distinctive Pavilhão Chinês bar, making it the perfect choice for an upscale evening.

Alfama

Madonna playing at Bar Tejo
Madonna playing at Tejo Bar

For those seeking a more laid-back evening, the historic quarter of Alfama is the place to be. Here, you can immerse yourself in a tranquil atmosphere, where the pace slows down, allowing you to savor the serene side of Lisbon’s nightlife.

I would very highly recommend a visit to Tejo Bar (around the corner from Tasca do Chico), it’s an incredible little venue that hosts live performances. One not to be missed!

The Stunning Beaches

The district of Lisbon is blessed with so many incredible beaches there are just too many to list here. Here are a few of my favorites:

Praia da Ursa (My Favorite)

Beach Ursa
Praia da Ursa

Situated close to Cabo Da Roca, Praia da Ursa, named after a bear-shaped rock formation, is an untouched spot ideal for those seeking solitude and possibly a nudist experience.

When you arrive the hike involves a challenging 20 minute descent, but the reward is a breathtaking and secluded pristine beach. 

Praia da Adraga 

Praia da Adraga, near Sintra, is a hidden treasure offering a picturesque setting with its cliffs and tidal pools. Staying until sunset is highly recommended for the breathtaking views that make for perfect photographs.

Praia de São Julião

Praia de Sao Juliao
Praia de Sao Juliao

I had the good fortune of living near this incredibly beautiful beach, which is perfect for sunbathing and, when conditions permit, surfing.

Atop the cliff, there is a café that only accepts cash. Additionally, at low tide, one can embark on a stunningly scenic walk from Praia de São Julião to Praia da Vigia.

Epic Views (Miradouros) 

Famously named ‘The City of Seven Hills’, Lisbon’s undulating topography is legendary, and while the ascent of its hills might test your endurance, the panoramic rewards at the summit are truly breathtaking.

For those pondering free activities in Lisbon, a trek to one of the city’s many miradouros (viewpoints) is a delightful answer.

Each miradouro offers a unique perspective over Lisbon’s terracotta rooftops and beyond. From the iconic April 25th Bridge to the stretches of Margem Sul, the vistas are as varied as they are stunning.

Here are a few favored miradouros that promise postcard-worthy scenes:

Miradouro da Graça

Experience Lisbon authentically by riding the number 28 tram to Graça, then soaking in the panoramic views at Miradouro da Graça. Beneath the church’s pines, find a peaceful retreat with a café to relax.

If craft beer is your thing then Taproom Oitava Colina is a short walk down the street. 

Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte

La Matta Pizza and Graca Miradouro. The perfect combination!
La Matta Pizza and Graca Miradouro. The perfect combination!

Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is indeed a hidden gem in Lisbon’s array of scenic spots.

Tucked just a short walk above Miradouro da Graça, it offers arguably the most breathtaking vista in Lisbon. As you gaze out, the sprawling city unfolds beneath you, leading your eyes to the shimmering Tagus River.

In the balmy months, the setting sun over the Tagus often plays backdrop to spontaneous musical performances.

And for those contemplating a marriage proposal, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot 🙂.

💎 Insider Tip: Don’t miss out on La Matta, my top pizza spot in Lisbon, and it’s just a stone’s throw away! Grab an amazing pizza and enjoy it with a view from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, only a 2-minute walk away.

Miradouro das Portas do Sol

The view from Miradouro das Portas do Sol
The view from Miradouro das Portas do Sol

This miradouro serves as a grand terrace that presents a sweeping view over the old Alfama district.

It’s an essential destination for photography enthusiasts seeking to snap shots of historic Lisbon, framed by the prominent towers of the Monastery of St. Vincent and the distinctive dome of the Panteão Nacional rising against the horizon.

Check out The Ultimate Portas do Sol Viewpoint Guide for all your miradouro needs.  

Tourist Attractions 

Belém Tower

Belem Tower
Belem Tower

Standing sentinel at the mouth of the Tagus River, the Belém Tower is a symbol of Portugal’s Age of Exploration.

It’s a masterpiece of the Manueline style, with intricate carvings that have whispered stories of sailors and explorers for centuries.

Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site is like stepping back into a time when Lisbon was the center of the world’s oceans. 

💎 Insider Tip: My preferred mode of transport to this destination is renting a Whoosh e-scooter. For just €5 a day, you can enjoy a scenic ride along the promenade, taking you all the way to the iconic Belem Tower from Lisbon city center.

Jerónimos Monastery

Outside Jeronminos Monastary
Outside Jeronminos Monastary

A short stroll from the tower, the Jerónimos Monastery is an ode to Lisbon’s maritime history. Its cloisters are a web of sculpted stone that captures the light and shadows of passing days.

This architectural jewel is a must-visit for anyone looking to comprehend the city’s former wealth and influence.

Castelo de São Jorge

Castelo de São Jorge
Castelo de São Jorge

Perched atop Lisbon’s highest hill, the Castelo de São Jorge is a window into the city’s ancient past. The castle’s ramparts offer commanding views and a silent narrative of the many hands that have fortified, conquered, and cherished this emblematic stronghold.

Santa Justa Lift

Santa Justa Lift
Santa Justa Lift

In the heart of downtown Lisbon, the Santa Justa Lift isn’t just a means to an end but a monument in its own right.

This wrought-iron elevator bridges the lower streets of the Baixa with the elevated Carmo Square, and riding it is a quintessential Lisbon experience.

💎 Insider Tip: To avoid the Santa Justa elevator crowds and fees, access the viewing platform via the rear of Carmo church; simply cross the walkway and ascend the wrought-iron staircase for a modest €1.80.

MAAT

Outside the MAAT museum, Lisbon
Outside the MAAT museum, Lisbon

The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) is where Lisbon’s future-forward vision shines. Its sleek, undulating design along the riverfront is a beacon of contemporary culture and a symbol of the city’s ongoing evolution.

Tram 28

Tram 28
Tram 28

No visit to Lisbon is complete without a ride on the vintage Tram 28. This yellow chariot weaves through the city’s most picturesque quarters, offering a rolling tour of Lisbon’s charming landscapes.

💎 Insider Tip: The Lisbon Card grants you complimentary access to all these must-see attractions.

It’s Passion for Sport

Benfica, Estadio da Luz
Benfica, Estadio da Luz

Lisbon’s passion for sport is as deep-seated as its rich history and culture. The city is a pulsating hub for football, home to legendary teams like Sporting CP and SL Benfica.

These clubs have not only dominated the domestic leagues with their thrilling successes but have also made their mark on international stages.

Beyond the roaring stadiums, Lisbon’s love for football extends to its vibrant amateur scene.

The city is dotted with top-notch astro turf pitches, making it a paradise for five-a-side football enthusiasts.

These well-maintained venues offer locals and visitors alike the chance to indulge in the beautiful game, fostering a community spirit and a healthy, active lifestyle.

💎 Insider Tip: If you’re in Lisbon and eager to get involved in the local football scene, I’ve got you covered. My directory lists five-a-side games happening daily, and I can connect you with a well-established amateur team in the city. Sign up using the form below for my newsletter to access all the information you need to get on the pitch.

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