Lisbon’s star has never shone brighter: Instagram feeds are littered with snaps of its ubiquitous indigo-hued tiles, tech startups are flocking there, and a wave of modish restaurants and hotels have opened. Portugal’s so-called city of light lives up to the hype, too, offering visitors a winning combination of culture and cafés, a Mediterranean climate and great value for money. Want to find out what the fuss is about? Here’s what to do.
See the view
Take a deep breath and zigzag up the bright limestone cobbled streets to the miradouros (viewpoints) at the top of the seven hills on which Lisbon is built. You’ll emerge looking across the terracotta-roofed houses which ramble down towards the mouth of the Tagus river, flowing in from the north of the country. Spot landmarks such as the Moorish São Jorge castle, then refuel under the shade of an umbrella at one of the outdoor kiosk cafés, where the service is breezy, prices are fair and the bica (espresso) is strong.
Lisbon’s iconic 28 tram is a good way to see much of the city’s architecture
Buy a ticket to ride
Gravity-defying 1930s trams creak up narrow streets all over Lisbon, but the submarine-yellow number 28 offers the chance to see many of the city’s attractions in one go. Board at Campo de Ourique for your best chance to get a seat – though be mindful of pickpockets – and spot the Baroque architecture in Estrela; the parliament headquarters in São Bento; and the ramshackle Arabic buildings in Alfama (the only district to have survived the 1755 earthquake which destroyed most of the Portuguese capital). A 24-hour ticket valid on trams, metro and buses costs €6.15, and is available from any metro station.
Sip white port and tonic
A glass of the locals’ favourite aperitif – mellow, honeyed white port from the Douro Valley, mixed with bitter tonic and garnished with lemon – will soon have you questioning your loyalty to Aperol spritz. It’s served everywhere, but the peaceful Limão Rooftop bar at the H10 Duque de Loulé has a side of exceptional views across the city.
Ler Devagar book shop plays folk music and has bicycles suspended from the ceiling
Be a bookworm
The smell hits you first, in Lisbon’s independent bookshops: musty paper and leather, mixed with coffee (usually being sipped by a bespectacled cashier). Wood-panelled Livraria Bertrand is the oldest in Portugal, while Livraria Sa Da Costa often plays host to live music and art…