A Backpacker’s Guide to Lisbon

I swear just the name Lisbon brings me back.  With the uttering of the name I can see the red tiled roofs, narrow streets, and wide plazas.  Almost instantly Lisbon grew on me and will go down in history as one of my favourite European destinations.  Of all the places I’ve been in Western Europe, I’m most looking forward to a return here.  I love the character of the city: a blending of histories and cultures; and I love the warmth of the people that inhabit it.  There’s something about Lisbon that seemingly pulls visitors in and makes them want more of it once they leave.

Time Needed: 3-5 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 40-50 Euros

The view from Castelo de San Jorge

Things to Do in Lisbon

There is plenty to do both in and around Lisbon so be sure to give yourself plenty of time.  On top of the things I have listed below, even just wandering around town can be quite a rewarding experience.

  • The Trams: The best, and easiest, way to climb the hills of Lisbon is to jump onto one of the trams.  The most popular among tourists is tram 28 which will take you to places like Castelo de Sao Jorge
  • Castelo de Sao Jorge: Not only is the castle itself worth visiting but the views over Lisbon are phenomenal as well.  I recommend a visit up here late in the afternoon as it’s a great place to watch the light disappear.
  • Museums: There are quite a few good museums in the city but favourites include Museu do Fado, Nacional do Azulejo, and Museu Coleccao Berardo.
  • Belem District: This is the old district and a great place to spend a day.  Be sure to stop in at Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
  • Barrio Alto: Head here and party until the wee hours of the night… or morning.
  • Sintra: This wealthy city of Sintra is well worth at least one day of exploration.  There are some stunning buildings, views and a fascinating history to boot.
Beautiful Sintra

Where to Eat in Lisbon

The food scene in Lisbon is up and down.  On one occasion I ate a delicious pizza and then next place over the worst I’ve had in my life.  My recommendation is to go for the local steak dishes at lunch time which are delicious and come in massive portions.

  • Rossio Plaza: The plaza itself has a couple good outdoor eating spots. Also, if you can find the place on the corner that looks like a bit of a dive right across from the train station go in!
  • Fragelato: Got a craving for ice cream, don’t forget to stop in here.
  • Faca and Garfo: Well out of the core, I went here on a recommendation and it didn’t disappoint.  Try the Steak in wine sauce.
The eateries near Rosso Square

Where to Stay in Lisbon

Lisbon Destination Hostel

I was put up in the incredible Lisbon Destination Hostel right in Rossio Station and personally I wouldn’t even bother considering any other place if I returned.  That being said, there are a lot of really good hostels in the city and you really can’t go wrong at most of them.

For a list of the hostels in Lisbon check out the page on hostelbookers.com here.

Getting out of Town

Lisbon is definitely not all that well connected to the rest of Europe on the ground.  There are regular trains to Porto and other Portuguese destinations, but to get anywhere else is a bit of a challenge.  There is, however, a good overnight train to Madrid from where you can get just about anywhere else on the continent.  Truthfully, if you’re headed somewhere like France, you’re likely to find a much better deal flying.

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