Lisbon Pre-Travel Guide
How To Get Around
Lisbon is incredibly accessible by public transit. Be smart and buy a reusable Viva Viagem card so you can pay for local Lisbon trams, buses, trains, metros and ferries with “zapping.” Zapping is essentially paying as you go with a preloaded Viva Viagem card, allowing you to save on each public transit ticket.
This is especially true when it comes to the popular tourist tram, Tram 28. It‘s €2.90 on board with cash, but just €1.45 when using zapping with a Viva Viagem card. See more info on the card here. You can use your card to take the train to most of the day trips from Lisbon listed below, but you’ll often have to purchase a separate bus ticket to get around the destination location.
Another great way to get around Lisbon is walking. You’ll have to walk up and down a few hills, but on foot is one of the best ways to explore the old neighborhoods like the Alfama and Mouraria.
What to Pack
Lisbon has a moderate climate, with an average of 24°C (74°F) in July and 11°C (52°F) in January. I spent most of the summer in Lisbon and there were plenty of days that felt scorching, especially with the bright sunlight bouncing off the white limestone buildings and sidewalks.
If you’re headed to Lisbon in the summer, pack plenty of shorts and lighter clothes, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Be prepared for cooler temps and some rain in the winter. Lisbon in known as the city of seven hills, so you can’t forget comfortable walking shoes.
Where to Stay
Each neighborhood in Lisbon has a distinct character, so I’d pick your spot based on your interests. If you want to party all night long, find a place in Bairro Alto (such as Altis Grand Hotel, Bairro Alto Hotel [newly redesigned], and Hello Lisbon Sao Bento Valley). If you want a neighborhood where locals still live and meet up for drinks at the local refreshment kiosk, head to Príncipe Real (check out Lisbon Flores Typical and Charm Flats), or even further out to Campo de Ourique (stay at Dom Dinis Studios).
My favorite area? The Alfama District. Being the oldest (and most charming) district in all of Lisbon, you’ll find gorgeous cobblestoned alleyways, outstanding viewpoints, colorful pastel buildings, and more.
It’s an absolutely wonderful spot to take photos, and I find myself wishing to be back in the Alfama every time I visit Europe. Rest your head at The Memmo Alfama (a stylish choice with a rooftop terrace), Hello Lisbon Castelo, or Alfama Patio Hostel (where I stayed and LOVED).
When To Go
There really is no bad time to visit Lisbon. If you’re visiting for the beach in the warmer months, note that July and August can get crowded with more Europeans are on holiday and prices are higher.
If you’re looking for a few ideas and what to do in Lisbon, check out our bucket list of 101 amazing things to do in the city. After you’ve spent some time getting to know Lisbon, head out of town on one of these day trips.
Best Day Trips from Lisbon
If you can’t decide on which day trips from Lisbon to do, pick my favorite- the fairytale town of Sintra. Sintra feels like a place full of magic and mystery, with castles, palaces, and large estates hidden among the trees of this beautiful hillside town.
The colorful Pena Palace is perched atop the hill, the old wall of a Moorish castle is a perfect spot to lookout to the valley below, and the gardens of Quinta da Regaleira are a mysterious place to explore.
Sintra is a quick 45 minute train ride from Lisbon, and easily the most popular day trip from Lisbon. The train to Sintra leaves from the Rossio railway station, right in the heart of Lisbon. For a complete guide to the palaces of Sintra, see our guide here.
Cascais has a great laid-back vibe of a quaint seaside town. The old city center is paved with the beautifully patterned black and white stones like Lisbon, and the streets are lined with trendy boutiques and nice restaurants.
There are two beaches right in town. If you want to venture out further, rent bikes to visit Boca do Inferno, Condes de Castro Guimarães house and Casa de Santa Maria. Just 45 minutes up the coast from Lisbon, it’s the perfect beach escape on a hot (and it can get hot!) summer day.
The train to Cascais leaves from the Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon. One of the best day trips from Lisbon and so super close by! For more tips on a day trip to Cascais, see our guide here.
3. Palace of Queluz
To see one of the finest Rococo palaces in Europe, visit the opulent Palace of Queluz. This palace has been referred to as the Portuguese Versailles, and features carefully designed gardens, complete with waterfalls, grottos, and a series of decorated canals.
The train to the Palace on Queluz leaves from the Rossio railway station, on the same line that goes to Sintra.
4. Carcavelos Beach
If you’re seeking soft sand and bright blue waters, then Carcavelos is the perfect beach for a summer day. It only takes 30 minutes on the train from Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon, and the beach is just a few minutes walk after you hop off the train.
5. Guincho Beach
Guincho beach is another beautiful beach to visit on a day trip from Lisbon. It’s 10km down the road from Cascais, so easily combined with a day trip to the town. Guincho features large rolling sand dunes, great surfing, and it’s a popular spot for kiteboarding.
The bike ride from Cascais to Guincho runs along the coast, but if you don’t feel up to pedaling, catch the Scotturb 405 and 415 buses from Cascais.
6. Cabo da Roca
If you want to visit the most westerly point in mainland Europe, head to Cabo da Roca. Once thought the be the end of the world, the steep cliffs jutting out of the ocean still give it that feel. There is a monument and a lighthouse set atop the high sea cliffs.
Getting to Cabo da Roca is a two step process if you’re using public transit. This area is connect to both Sintra and Cascais by Bus 403. First, take the train to either Sintra or Cascais, and then hop on the bus.