Check this backpacker’s guide to Lisbon to squeeze every inch of fun from the winding streets and vibrant bars of the Portugese capital.
Rolling from the hills to the Tagus estuary, Lisbon peaks and troughs through Moorish castles and cobbled districts that rattle with trams. It’s a mix of history, art, chilled-out Euro vibes, and – of course – hedonism. You can settle in for a coffee on a bustling square in lively Baixa. You can see Berber fortresses and quaint cottages trimmed by Azulejo tiles in the handsome Alfama area. You can party until dawn with Portuguese wine and company in the Bairro Alto.
This ultimate backpacker’s guide to Lisbon can help you navigate the fun-filled capital of Portugal. It’s got a few pointers on the things every first-time visitor should be adding to their itinerary. It’s also packed with tasty food tips, and some in-the-know pointers on the top hostels. Let’s get started.
Guide to Lisbon: Your Very Own Lisbon Bucket List
Salty days down by the sea mingle with rambunctious evenings in the Bairro bars and eye-opening moments standing under millennia-old castles, all with this top bucket list for Lisbon…
Get lost in Alfama
A maze of higgledy-piggledy streets and alleys and little squares, the Alfama is a rabbit warren of a district. It’s one of the oldest in the whole city, so expect lots in the way of narrow lanes and crooked houses. Be sure to make your way to the very top of the hill on which the area is draped. That’s where the strong walls of São Jorge Castle offer amazing views and enthralling tales of Moorish invasions more than 1,000 years ago.
Party in the Bairro Alto
You’ll bounce around the Bairro Alto like a really bouncy thing come Friday and Saturday night. This is the stomping ground of Lisbon’s young crowd – and plenty of backpackers to top up the numbers. The crisscrossing lanes host everything from chic cocktail joints to smoky jazz bars to traditional Portuguese taverns that echo with plaintive Fado music.
Hop on Tram 28
There’s no better way to take in the sights, sounds and people of Lisbon than with a ride on famous Tram 28. Daffodil yellow and vintage enough to fit onto the hillsides of San Francisco, this charming little trolley car from the 1930s runs routes through the tiled buildings of Alfama and the palatial façades of Baixa. It’s still a commuter line, so tickets are just €3!
Plan a surf trip
Lisbon sits right on the cusp of some of the best surfing in Portugal. Sun-kissed Cascais has golden sands washed by regular waves – you can get there on the train direct from Lisbon in less than 40 minutes. A little further (1.5 hours in the bus) opens up the varied Peniche surf. In that fun-loving town of bars and board renters, there are loads of surf schools and waves for every level.
The Best Portuguese Eats in Lisbon
Custard tarts and strong coffee, BBQ sardines and creamy soups – the Lisbon kitchen has plenty to keep traveling foodies munching and smiling…
Pastéis de nata
Let’s get one thing straight – mornings in Lisbon start with a pastéis de nata. It’s as simple as that. Sweet and soft, they match perfectly with a bitter espresso. Places are always vying for the title of the best bakery in town, but standouts include the Manteigaria factory and the always-busy Pastéis de Belém.
Step into any of the traditional Portuguese taverns of Baixa or Alfama around lunchtime and you’re likely to see caldo verde sitting pretty somewhere near the top of the menu. Try it! You’ll be rewarded with a bowl of healthy collard greens, ruffage, peas, and potatoes, all enriched by stock and lots of seasoning.
Come to Lisbon for the vibrant Santo Antonio festival in early June and you’ll be greeted by the smells of sizzling sardines on the street corners. It seems like every family, bar owner, and restaurateur bring their own BBQ grill to serve a version of the small fish. Oh, and there’s dancing, music, and plenty of wine to match!
Our Hand-Picked Hostels in Lisbon
There’s no shortage of top-quality hostels in Lisbon. You’ll find places tucked into old tiled mansions and others gazing across the Tagus estuary. To ensure you catch remarkable stays, we’ve handpicked the best options going… Join our Europe Pass waitlist to be the first to know when its on sale!
If you’ve got anything to add to this backpacker’s guide to Lisbon, we’d sure love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Whether it’s info on cool Bairro Alto bars or soaring lookout points for those Portuguese picnics…