Wondering where to stay in Lisbon? To help you choose where you want to stay in Lisbon, we have put together this blog of 10 of the capital’s best districts, for that city break or long weekend.
Where to stay in Lisbon: Best areas to stay in Lisbon
1. Baixa, a great district for Lisbon’s history and attractions.
In 1755, along with most of Lisbon, Baixa was devastated by a category nine earthquake, which claimed thousands of lives.
Reconstruction of the city was given to the Marquis of Pombal, who did away with narrow, windy streets, and designed the first city to be built in a grand neoclassical style using the grid system.
It was also the first city whose buildings had an element of quake protection built in.
Baixa is now one of the favourite places to stay in Lisbon. Having been almost totally rebuilt after the earthquake, it has become the tourist centre of the city with its many visitor attractions, grandiose Portuguese Pombaline buildings, and magnificent plazas, squares, and avenues.
Some of the Baixa sights and attractions are Praça do Comércio, MUDE fashion and design museum, Rua Augusta archway and elevator, Lisbon Story Centre, or the Santa Justa elevator.
As the most central area in Lisbon, bustling, vibrant Baixa stretches from Praça dos Restauradores (Restorers Square), to the Praça Marquês de Pombal (Marquis of Pombal Square), from where it becomes ‘Modern Lisbon’.
Baixa’s Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue), is said to be the most stately avenue in the city. It’s half-mile length is full of imposing 19th century buildings, and black and white mosaic tiles, which can be seen everywhere around Lisbon.
History has it that the use of these black and white tiles originated during the rebuild, from Säo Vicente, an area further along the coast. Black, as the favourite colour of the Säo Vicente area, and white, representing the white tabards worn by the crusaders.
Stroll through Restauradores Square with its Portuguese Independence obelisk, and on to Rossio Square, also known as Pedro IV Square, which dates back to the 13th century, and is a favourite meeting place for local Portuguese and visitors.
All along your route you can enjoy plenty of window shopping, and rest and relax on the terraces of the many coffee shops and taverns, taking in the atmosphere and ambience of one of the nicest places to stay in Lisbon.
2. Chiado, one of the best areas where to stay in Lisbon
In 1988, a major fire destroyed 18 buildings in the Chiado district, a disaster said to be second only to the big earthquake of 1755. Ten years later, in 1998, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, Chiado’s rebuilding was finally completed.
A new shopping centre and metro station were included inside, while outside, the old buildings original façades were faithfully reproduced. As you meander through the streets of Chiado, look out for the ruins of Convento do Carmo. It is the largest building (ruin) still standing after the 1755 earthquake.
Old 18th century dwellings, traditional cafes, imposing theatres, and retro-boutiques, happily co-exist with modern shopping malls, designer stores, and fashionable beauty salons. If you have a love of modern art, a visit to the Museu do Chiado is a must.
In the evening you can enjoy a real taste of Chiado’s bohemianism, when the local hippie population and students emerge to enjoy the nightlife in the taverns and restaurants.
Look out for Tavares Rico, a Michelin starred restaurant and said to be the oldest in Lisbon. Dine al-fresco at the Terreiro do Paço, or eat under the arches at Largo’s.
To round off the warm evenings, find yourself a table on the terrace of one of the many taverns, order a drink, and do a little people watching as the world passes by.
With its excellent range of accommodations to suit all budgets it is a popular district to stay in Lisbon with all age groups.
3. El Bairro Alto, for those who like quiet days and party nights
If you like variation during your holiday vacation, then Bairro Alto could be the best place to stay in Lisbon, and a ride on one of the two funiculars still serving the district should be the way to get there.
Sitting high above Chiado, Bairro Alto is quiet and relaxed during daytime, and a vibrant party area when the sun goes down.
That’s not to say there is little to do during the day, far from it. Check out the street art on walls and buildings, and visit the Museu da Farmacia, and its history of pharmaceuticals from around the world.
Treat yourself to some casual sightseeing and curio hunting along the old cobbled lanes. Stop off and browse the small bric-a-brac shops for those different mementos, and enjoy a light lunch and glass of Portuguese wine at a sunny pavement cafe.
For those interested in arts and crafts, you can visit Retrosaria Rosa Pomar, a traditional arts and craft shop which also holds various workshops every month.
The area is also gaining a reputation for gourmet dining, with local restaurants offering Portuguese tapas and the famous salt cod dishes, alongside pizzerias and international restaurants from Europe, the Middle East, and Korea.
Barrio Alto is also famous as the go-to area for its lively nightlife. Dining early is to be advised, before the main event of the evening. Most of the bars are small establishments, but there are plenty of them.
Even so, it doesn’t take long before the terraces fill up, and the younger set overflow to pavements and cobbled roadways, drinks in hand, and earnestly putting the world to rights.
Start your evening off in quiet Loucos e Sonhadores tavern, enjoy a little jazz at Páginas Tantas, or check out the curious decorating Pavilhão Chinês.
In the warmer summer months, you can add a little romance to the evening, by looking up a few of Bairro Alto’s rooftop terrace bars, and the fabulous views over Lisbon city.
4. Principe Real, where to stay in Lisbon for antique and curio hunting
Principal Real, is the epitome of Lisbon’s modern day, affluent, cosmopolitan lifestyle. Many of its old 18th century buildings are being demolished, to be replaced by high-end, expensive apartments, which are being snapped up by Lisbon’s new money.
Around the Principe Real district, new international restaurants are opening up alongside traditional stores, art galleries, antique and speciality shops, and trendy fashion outlets. But there is still plenty of its hippie style culture, traditional art, and relaxed lifestyle to be enjoyed.
If you prefer casual, unhurried sightseeing and exploring during the day, Principe Real could be the place to stay in Lisbon. Relax in the Jardim do Príncipe Real (Principe Real Gardens), and explore the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens).
Visit Embaixada, an 1877 palace converted into a Portuguese concept gallery, and revamped to be one of Lisbon’s premier dining and shopping malls.
International brands like Shoes Closet, Organii Bebé, VLA Records, Cosmética Biológica, Linkstore , and many others can be found inside, with cafes and coffee shops to rest those tired feet.
Other places of interest include an indoor market at Entre Tanto. For a little antique shopping, look up Isabel Lopes da Silva, and AR-PAB. Take a stroll into the São Bento neighbourhood, home to Portugal’s parliament, and more antique shops.
Look up Deposito da Marinha Grande for hand blown glasswork, Alma Lusa for designer jewellery, fashions and accessories, and Jorge Welsh for Chinese and Japanese porcelain.
Everywhere you go you will find niche shops and businesses catering for the unusual and rare, interspersed with cafes, bars, and eateries on every street
Just like Barrio Alto, Principe Real has lively bars and clubs to suit all ages and genres. If cocktails are your thing, look up the Pavilhão Chines for its great cocktails and funky bar decor. Enjoy a gin cocktail at Gin Lovers.
Take in the fantastic views over north Lisbon from the Lost In bar, or take a stroll through Rua da Rosa, the centre of Lisbon’s LGBT community with its lively bars and clubs.
5. Lapa, a place for grand palaces, museums and embassies
Although primarily a residential district, Lapa, now combined with Estrela, has some magnificent architecture, friendly bars, and excellent restaurants, with a good selection of hotels, guest houses, and apartments for long or short stay guests.
Originally an up-market residential area for the nobility and well-heeled merchants. Their legacy has been to leave grandiose townhouses, palaces, and mansions to be admired by today’s visitors.
Although still an area favoured by the well-off, many of these magnificent buildings have been turned into embassies (over a dozen), and museums housing many of Portugal’s most prized treasures. It is also the district where the Portuguese Parliament sits.
The Basilica da Estrela has to be top of the list for a visit, not just because it is the most baroque church in Lisbon, but also its interior, which includes a permanent 500 figure nativity scene carved into cork.
Be sure to climb to the Basilica’s terraced viewpoint, for some great photo opportunities across the city skyline.
Before moving on, relax in the Jardim da Estrela, a beautiful garden laid out in 1852 at the front of the Basilica, it has a gazebo, terrace, and lake, and a play area for the little ones.
For the diners, Café de São Bento is said to provide the best steak in Lisbon, while the Italian restaurant Come Prima is said to provide the best pasta dishes.
If you fancy enjoying some genuine Portuguese entertainment while you dine, visit Sr. Vinho, for traditional Portuguese cuisine, with genuine Portuguese fado music and singers.
Evenings in Lapa can be a pleasant way to wind down after a hectic day of sightseeing. The district has a good selection of local and international restaurants, and small friendly bars are plentiful.
If you prefer something a little livelier, the Chiado and Barrio Alto areas are close by using metro, bus, tram, or cab. Lapa is a nice area where to stay in Lisbon.
6. Belem, for a history of Portugal’s seafaring past
With Belem being just 5km from Lisbon central, many visitors choose to commute into the district for their sightseeing. However, during busy times queues can be long and slow moving.
In the 15th century, one Vasco da Gama set sail from Belem, to blaze a nautical trail to the Indian continent. It was the start of Portugal’s period of empire building. Today, many of Belem’s lavish buildings stand testament to its rich colonial past.
One of the district’s most popular attractions is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a former monastery. Building started in the early 16th century and, with its elaborate cloisters, stonework, and sculptures, took 100 years to complete.
Visit the Torre de Belem, a 16th century waterside fortress. Close by is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a sculptured nautical history of 33 of Portugal’s most famous seafaring explorers.
If you want to take the weight off tired legs, how about booking a boat excursion on the River Tejo, a great photo opportunity for a mariner’s eye view of Belem. As midday approaches, it’s time to consider lunch or a snack in one of the many cafes and coffee shops.
Time to sample one of Portugal’s favourite pastries, a snack developed in the 1600s by the Catholic monks of the Hieronymites Monastery in Belem.
Although variations of the pastéis de nata, (a custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon), have become a firm favourite across Western Europe, the original recipe, is still a closely guarded secret.
During the afternoon, visit the Centro Cultural de Belem, the Museu Coleção Berardo with its 900 pieces of contemporary art, and the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, said to be the equivalent of London’s Tate Modern.
With so many fabulous museums and galleries to explore, spectacular architecture to view, river walks, and fine dining opportunities, Belem provides an excellent setting to enjoy a short stay in Lisbon.
The area has a good selection of accommodations to suit all budgets, and booking a local hotel will give you a head’s start to get into the many attractions that draw large crowds.
7. Alfama, where to stay in Lisbon to enjoy a step back in time
As one of Lisbon’s oldest and most historic districts, Alfama has been attracting visitors since the early days of mass tourism and is still one of the most popular places to stay in Lisbon.
Originally built outside the city walls on hard rock substrate, Alfama escaped most of the devastation of the 1755 earthquake. In those days it was a village of mass poverty and hardship, and virtually ignored by the more affluent locals (Lisboetas), within the city walls.
Although its fortunes have changed, the area retains much of its original Moorish influence, seen in the small whitewashed terrace houses with their red pantile roofs, and wrought iron balconies.
Add to that colourful potted plants filling most of the balconies, and washing hanging over them drying in the sun, and with a little imagination you could be back in the 18th century.
Having been built on the highest of Lisbon’s seven hills, Alfama stretches from the Tejo Estuary, to the Castelo de São Jorge. Steep hills and stairways have to be negotiated, as you wend your way through narrow cobbled lanes and across tiny squares.
A journey well worth the effort, as you explore alleyways and side-streets, to discover those artisan workshops, local taverns, or new trendy coffee shops.
However, if walking is an issue, the number 28 tram will noisily transport you around the district. Or you can alight at the top, and stroll back down, heading toward the sea.
Being higher than the rest of Lisbon, Alfama provides some fantastic viewpoints to take in the vista across the rooftops of the city.
With a new development along the waterfront including hotels, restaurants, shopping mall, and nightclub; plus many properties being converted to self-catering apartments and boutique hotels, Alfama has a good selection of accommodation available at all levels for those looking for somewhere to stay in Lisbon.
8. Avenida da Liberdade, not a district, but a luxurious place to stay in Lisbon
The Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s main avenue, and often compared to France’s Champs-Élysées for sheer grandeur. At 1.5km in length, it stretches from Baixa’s Restauradores Square, to the Marques de Pombal Square.
Ninety metres wide, the avenue can carry 10 lanes of traffic, but that is not how to get the best from the Avenida da Liberdade.
On each side, tree lined cobbled walkways discretely shade a shopaholic’s paradise. Designer stores such as Gucci, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada stretch along the boulevard.
Five-star and boutique hotels, chic fashion outlets, shopping malls, high end restaurants, coffee shops, and street-food vendors, all offer the best of Lisbon hospitality.
A stroll along the avenue is not just about retail therapy, window shopping, or food breaks. Along its length are many grand 19th century buildings, beautiful water features, a monument in memorandum of Portugal’s 50,000 killed in the First World War, and more of Lisbon’s black and white tile mosaics.
Relax in The Eduardo VII Park. It is Lisbon’s largest park, and has three large greenhouses housing exotic plant life from around the world.
Depending on the time of your visit, many of Portugal’s national festivals take place on the Avenida da Liberdade, including the Saint Festivals through the middle of June. Months of preparation are undertaken on the many floats for the carnival, and locals celebrate with grilled sardines, and copious amounts of beer and wine.
Not the cheapest of places to stay in Lisbon, but for that special occasion short break, why not treat yourself to a few days of ultimate pampering in the centre of modern Lisbon.
9. Avenidas Novas, at the heart of Lisbon’s business community
You might wonder why anyone would want to stay in a city’s business district while on holiday, but Avenidas Novas is a business district with a difference.
Unlike the majority of hilly Lisbon, it is a flat, elegant, modern district, with green parks and leafy streets. And very popular with families. For those who enjoy exploring by bike, cycle paths are everywhere, and 19th century ornate mansions stand side by side with modern glass office blocks.
Small shopping malls, like the Centro Commercial do Campo Pequeno, Monumental, and Saldanha Residence are dotted around the area, while you can get everything from designer bags to the latest fashions, to home kitchen utensils, at the large international El Corte Inglés Department Store.
Some of Lisbon’s favourite parks such as the Amalia Rodrigues Park, Parque Eduardo VII, and the arty Gulbenkian Gardens are also close by, where the kids can burn off that excess energy.
At the Parque Eduardo VII, you are also very close to the Marques de Pombal Roundabout, named after the Marques tasked with rebuilding Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake. In the centre of the roundabout, a plinth holds a bronze statue to commemorate his achievements.
The roundabout also joins to various avenues and streets; the Liberdade, Fontes Pereira de Melo, Duque de Loulé, and Joaquim António de Aguiar, and Braamcamp streets, making navigating round the area that much easier.
Trendy coffee bars, cafes, and international restaurants intermingle with small independent stores, service industries, schools, health clinics, and hospitals.
On the event circuit, Campo Pequeno and The Gulbenkian Museum offer everything from exhibitions, to modern, jazz, and classical music concerts.
Just a short metro or tram ride from many of Lisbon’s main attractions, 15 minutes from the airport, and with hotels competitively priced to attract business clients, a stay in attractive Avenidas Novas is well worth consideration.
10. Park of Nations, from Expo 98 to modern business and tourist venue
The Parque das Nações (Park of Nations), was originally constructed for Lisbon’s highly successful World Expo 1998. After the event, it was converted into a large, modern commercial and residential district, which very quickly became one of the most popular places to stay in Lisbon.
Easily accessible, the Park of Nations has plenty of open spaces, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, and theatres – and Altice Arena, a venue that has grown to become the premier live music venue in Lisbon.
Around the district you will find something for the whole family. The Park of Nations stretches for 5km along the River Tagus, and has been designed with great emphasis on water, to celebrate Portugal’s maritime history.
You will find beautiful cobblestone mosaics decorating the walkways and avenues depicting deep water fish, Neptune, mermaids, celestial globes, used for navigating by the stars, and old 15th century sail boats.
Stroll around the boardwalks of the water gardens, with its many aquatic and exotic plants. Wander along the path of the Alameda dos Oceanos, as the two-metre high volcanos irregularly erupt, forcing hundreds of gallons of water high into the air. A great feature for the kids.
As you continue your walk you will find the Docks of Olivais, and Portugal’s biggest visitor attraction, the Oceanarium. The massive aquariums depict the aquatic eco-systems of the Antarctica, Indian Ocean, Atlantic, and Pacific
If you want to take a break from the walking, call into the Knowledge Pavilion (Pavilhão do Conhecimento) the kids will love you for it.
A science and technology museum, there are all sorts of gadgets and gizmos on show that the children can get interactive with, as well as launching a rocket, building a house, and watching a high-wire bicycle act.
To round off a very full day, book a ride on the cable car (Telecabine). You can buy a one-way ticket, alighting at the old Vasco da Gama tower, now the My Riad hotel. Or a return ticket, bringing you back to the Park of Nations.
So there we are. Ten of the favourite districts to stay in Lisbon, where you can be close to everything you want to see and do.