Lisbon simply oozes old-world charm. Built on seven hills, this compact city is chock full of pretty pastel-coloured buildings with terra-cotta roofs all sloping towards the Tagus River. As a holidaymaker, Lisbon offers up some of the best neighbourhoods to explore. Street art, hip bars, trendy restaurants, boutique hotels, and fado music clubs, you’ll quickly see why it has been one of the hottest travel destinations in the last couple of years.
Guide to the Best Neighborhoods in Lisbon
One of the greatest things about Lisbon is the diversity in its neighbourhoods. If you want to know which ones are the nicest, coolest, and safest you’ve come to the right place. Want to know where to stay in Lisbon, or areas to avoid or spend more time in? I will answer all those questions in this guide, so let’s get to know the best neighbourhoods in Lisbon.
The tourist-friendly neighbourhood of Baixa is where many of the city’s top attractions are found. It is the city centre of Lisbon or the heart of the city. Where you will find the greatest concentration of restaurants and accommodations. The Lisbon city trams pass through. Mere steps from the waterfront of the Tagus River. This is why the Baixa neighbourhood is considered one of the top areas to stay in, especially if you want to be close to everything.
A recommended stay is at Baixa House, a boutique self-catering apartment.
The Baixa neighbourhood, like others, was completely destroyed during the famous earthquake of 1755 but was immediately rebuilt later that century. Some of the top sites to see are:
- Praça do Comércio – a large square with an arcade surrounded full of restaurants and art galleries
- Elevador de Santa Justa – a scenic lookout point reached by elevator
- Rua Augusta – the main street full of shopping and dining
- Rossio Square – a lively square with an attractive wave-patterned pavement with fountains and restaurants
- Notable churches include Igreja da Conceicao Velha – known for its Manueline architecture, and Madalena, Sao Nicolau and Sao Domingos
The charming neighbourhood of Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest areas. It’s one of the few areas in the city that didn’t need to be completely rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake and that’s what makes this area so special. Wander through the maze of winding, narrow, cobbled streets and alleys and you will instantly see this district has a distinct village feel. It’s where the locals live and shop.
The Alfama neighbourhood is known for its history, charm and steep hills. The best landmarks or things to do in Alfama are:
- Se Cathedral – 12th-century church making this one of the city’s oldest landmarks
- São Jorge Castle – Saint George’s castle that overlooks the city
- Portas do Sol – a must-see viewpoint with a lively atmosphere of live musicians and kiosk selling drinks or Santa Luzia – a secret viewpoint considered to be one of the most romantic viewpoints in the city
- Fado music – listen to the traditional music of the Portuguese guitar at Mesa De Frades, a converted chapel now restaurant or visit the Fado Museum
- Sao Vicente de Fore Monastery – St. Vincent monastery dates back to 1582 and contains the world’s most extensive collection of tiles
- National Pantheon – which allows you to visit the dome with a panoramic view over Alfama
- Notable churches include Igreja de Santiago and Menino Deus
- Take the traditional number 28 tram route which goes through the narrow streets and hills
The Cais do Sodré Neighbourhood
The cool neighbourhood of Cais do Sodré is a popular hang-out spot. Whether it be at a local bar or cafe, or courtyard square, or maybe the riverfront watching the sun go down. The popular Time Out Market in Mercado da Ribeira is a large food court offering endless choices of cuisine. It’s also home to the famous Pink Street, which comes alive at night with a lively bar scene.
Casis do Sodre is known for being trendy and one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Lisbon. The best things to see and do are:
- Pink Street – officially called Rua Nova do Carvalho, and is known for being a popular nightlife spot
- Praça de São Paulo – a pretty square
- Timeout Market – or Mercado da Ribeira which is full of food and drink stalls
- Elevador da Bica, the historic funicular that starts here and takes you to the Bairro Alto neighbourhood
- Praca de Sao Paulo – a pretty square and church of the same name
The Chiado Neighbourhood
The bustling neighbourhood of Chiado is where commercial and culture collide. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was turned into a shopping district, where museums, art galleries, and opera and theatre houses were built. Most of those buildings were renovated in the 1990s due to a devasting fire that destroyed much of this district. It continues today to be a hot spot for people to come, meet for coffee, and go shopping.
The Chiado neighbourhood is a great mix of artsy and modern. It’s also a very touristy area full of chain stores and hotels. The top things to do in the Chiado district are:
- Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro – a building covered in tiles depicting mythological figures
- Rua Garrett – main street featuring lots of unique shops, like Bertrand Bookstore known as the oldest in the world and the historic A Brasileira cafe
- Convento do Carmo – 14th-century church now in ruins
- National Museum of Contemporary Art
- Notable churches include Basilica dos Martires, Igreja da Encarnacao and Loreto
- Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos – opera house
The Bairro Alto Neighbourhood
The bohemian district of Bairro Alto is one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Lisbon. This hilly neighbourhood is asleep by day but comes alive by night. It has a high concentration of art galleries, restaurants, cafés, bars, and hostels. Even if that isn’t your scene, it’s still a neighbourhood to spend some time in.
The Bairro Alto neighbourhood is not as touristy as other areas in Lisbon. It’s mostly residential. Some of the best things to do in this district are:
- The many viewpoints – Santa Catarina, Santa Luzia, Sao Pedro de Alcantara
- Funiculars Gloria and Bica
The Belem neighbourhood sits on the outskirts of Lisbon and is the last district before you leave the city. It’s a neighbourhood full of top landmarks- from old to new. You can’t visit Lisbon without visiting this here.
The Belém neighbourhood is for history lovers, architecture enthusiasts and museum-going visitors. Here are all the top things to see in the Belem neighbourhood:
- Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery (both World Heritage Sites)
- MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) is considered the best Lisbon modern landmark
- Berardo Collection Museum features modern art and includes works by Picasso and Andy Warhol
- Discoveries Monument is a top landmark in Lisbon
- Museums – Maritime, Coaches, National Archaeology
- Ajuda Botanical Garden – Portugal’s first Botanical garden
Top Guided Tours in Best Neighbourhoods in Lisbon
- History, Stories and Lifestyle Walking Tour. Learn about Lisbon’s history as you explore its charming neighbourhoods on a guided walking tour. Discover Chiado and Bairro Alto, admire the views from Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara, and more. Click here for more information.
- Food and Wine Walking Tour. Savour the flavours of Portuguese food on a 3-hour tour of Lisbon’s traditional eateries. In the company of a culinary guide, get tips on wine, petiscos, food, and fado on a shared or private tour. Click here for more information.
- Street Art Tour. Discover the street art of Lisbon and encounter urban art from large-scale installations to political and social murals on a walking tour. Learn about symbols and how they are used by artists. Click here for more information.
As a holidaymaker…
Go to Lisbon and experience the city. The only real way to do this is simply getting lost in its diverse neighbourhoods. By exploring each neighbourhood you quickly discover its rich history, culture, cuisine and people. Yes, the city is a little gritty, but it’s so alive. And for me, it was love at first sight.