The history and culture of Lisbon are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Portugal’s fascinating capital. This coastal cosmopolitan city is one of the oldest in the world and boasts impressive architecture ranging form Romanesque to Post-Modern, as well as exciting art, fashion, and music scenes. This, coupled with a sparkling coastline and some real good food and drink, brings in travelers from around the world.
Where to stay at a hotel in Lisbon? Important neighborhoods at a glance:
Alfama: Charming old city
© Santiago de Alfama - Boutique Hotel In the oldest neighborhood of Lisbon, find half-crumbled buildings, winding cobbled streets, and an old-world spirit best ruminated on with a glass of wine and a sunset view. The area around Camões Square is filled with pastel-colored houses and is the location of the famous Santa Catarina viewpoint, which provides panoramic views of the waterfront and Lisbon’s famous steep, winding streets. These streets are lined with local shops selling regional ware as well as a myriad wonderful cafes and bars, where you can sit for a bifana sandwich or pastel de nata pastry. Make sure to check out the Sao Jorge castle for more views and to surround yourself with the energy of thousands of years of Portuguese history. A slightly taxing walk up alleyways gets you to the oldest cathedral in the city, the Lisbon Cathedral, with a history spanning back to the 1100s. Lisbon is a city of viewpoints, so it only makes sense that the hotels would grab onto this idea and offer sweeping views of the ancient and rugged skyline from rooftop patios. The hotels in Alfama are historic with a modern flair, surrounding you with colorful, old-city facades while promising total comfort in lux rooms with high-quality amenities.
Baixa: Sightseeing in the city center
© Internacional Design Hotel Baixa is considered to be the city center of Lisbon; with all the city’s major landmarks and destinations at your fingertips, this is a great place to get a real feel for all that the city has to offer. The neighborhood is comprised of grand buildings and boulevards that stand in as reminders of the revitalization project following the devastating 1755 earthquake; after the tragedy, this neighborhood was the first of Lisbon’s to be reconstructed according to a grid pattern. For a romantic excursion, head out to the city’s largest square, Terreiro do Paço, for an evening concert with a view of the Tagus River and a snack cast in moonlight. Here you’ll experience the confluence of old and new that Lisbon does so well. All the churches are free, and a day spent wandering through all their magnificent interiors is a day well spent. The Archaeological Center and the ancient Roman tunnels shed light on a history that’s believed to harken back to the 1st century AD, while the Santa Justa Lift was significant in its time, 1902, for being one of the pioneers in the idea of iron-as-art.
Avenida da Liberdade: Shopping & class
© Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa The Avenida da Liberdade, or Avenue of Liberty, extends out of Baixa 1,100 meters to form Lisbon’s main boulevard, famous for being one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world. Here you’ll find everything from designer stores to ritzy boutiques to trendy bars. On one end, the Placa de Marques de Pombal monument is hard to miss in its grandeur, and the Parque Eduardo VII park directly behind it is worth a stroll for its elegant beauty. On the other side is the iconic obelisk, Restauradores Monument, tucked into a wonderful plaza. On and near the Avenue of Liberty, you’ll find the city’s most luxurious hotels. Some of them come equipped with multiple restaurants, most of which sit on sunny rooftop terraces or are situated within elegant dining halls. Some stylish design and boutique hotels even put on theater shows within the hotel, providing you with a taste of the culture and tradition of Lisbon before you even step outside. On a wellness-oriented vacation, luxuriate in the onsite spa facilities or bring the family along to a 4-star spot in a central, yet quiet location, tucked just off of the Avenida da Liberdade.
Bairro Alto and Chiado: Nightlife in the bohemian district
© Bairro Alto Hotel Bairro Alto is the bustling boho district of Lisbon, filled with the young and the old, visitors and locals alike. The drastic difference between the night and day in this neighborhood is the most palpable in the city: boasting a totally charming shopping and eating scene during the day, and then a wild party vibe all through the night. If anything, Bairro Alto is worth a visit for a fancy cocktail on the roof with a sunset view. In the day, opt for a funicular ride on the Elevador da Gloria and take in the sights as you emerge up the city’s steep alleys. The Museum of Sacred Art and the adjoining Church Of Sao Roque are fascinating relics of a bygone era, worth a visit for lovers of culture and history. Technically encompassing other neighborhoods, the title of Bairro Alto does not refer to a particular district of Lisbon, rather just to a loose collection of neighborhoods in the city center. The area’s genesis can be traced all the way back to the 15th century, when the city was to expand as a reaction to an increase in population caused by new commercial development. The connection between Bairro Alto and Chiado is one with a thousands-year-old history, spanning back to the 16th century when the two districts shared a medieval wall. Chiado is situated between Baixa and Bairro Alto, encompassing the Chiado square and the area surrounding it. Here you’ll find hotels with panoramic views, modern furnishings, and classic design. Lovers of literature will also be pleased to discover the oldest bookstore in the world lies within the streets of Chiado.
Alcântara and Belém: Waterside oasis
The western waterfront neighborhood of Alcântara maintains its historic city charm in a way that the rest of the city has partly lost due to recent surges in the city’s appeal as a travel destination for all. Bustling with locals and authentic shops and restaurants, Alcântara was once a thriving river port and is now peerless its unique grandeur—in all the half-abandoned mansions and an energy straight out of the 1970s. Lisbon’s Alcântara and the neighboring Belém are a great choice for those looking to strike a balance between the happening city life and something quieter and directly waterside. The hotels in the area are super luxurious, often housed within the old mansions. Alternatively, here you’ll also find chic design hotels right on the port with sprawling spa centers and first-rate in-house cuisine. With palace-like interiors, it’s easy to spend whole days believing you’ve really stepped back into an era of Portuguese history long passed.
Good to know
Getting there: Fly from London to Lisbon (LIS) in two and a half hours on most budget or standard airlines. A taxi ride into the city center will cost you 20 EUR and have you there in just 20 minutes. Alternatively, opt for a bus for 4 EUR and 45 minutes.