It has been over 2 years since I’ve been living in Lisbon. This period has coincided pretty well with Lisbon’s tourism boom and the good and bad that come with it. Although tourism has been a boon for the Portuguese economy in general, it has also brought some downsides with it.
Today I want to share with you some insider tips for Lisbon and off the beaten path recommendations that you won’t find in guidebooks. Living in, and loving a city often gives you a different perspective on what makes it special and I’d like to share this perspective with you. Perhaps you already know most of this stuff, especially if you’ve lived in Lisbon for a while but maybe you’ll learn something new.
I may throw in some referral codes in this article but I will not recommend anything that I’m not happy to use. None of the content here is sponsored, I just love all of these things.
Use Bolt for Ride Sharing
Although walking in Lisbon is pure joy, sometimes you do need to take a cab or use a ride sharing service. A lot of tourists, and even local residents, just know Uber and immediately open the app to get themselves a cab. Even though Uber is cheaper than taxis in Lisbon, it’s still considerably more expensive when compared to Bolt.
Bolt is an Estonian company that is very similar to Uber. The difference is that it’s about 30% cheaper for the customer and takes a smaller cut from the driver as well which results in better payouts for drivers. Also, it doesn’t have the rather turbulent reputation that Uber’s upper management have earned for themselves.
I’ve compared Bolt to Kapten (another ride sharing app) on several occasions and found that it’s still cheaper. There may be some edge cases where the three are competitive but overall I’ve found that Bolt gets the lowest price about 80% of the time.
So 30% cheaper most of the time, get Bolt. Download it for iOS or Android using the following link and use the discount code SMT5W to get €3 off your first ride.
Use Glovo for Food Delivery
When I moved to Lisbon two years ago one of the things I missed the most was food delivery. Portugal just doesn’t have a culture of food delivery at home. People like to go out and eat and there are so many great things that come with that. I’ve also experienced severe chair fatigue with 5 hour long Portuguese meals but that said, they are a delightful affair in general and I can’t wait for summer to roll around and have some more of those experiences. It’s a really wonderful experience to sit in the afternoon sun, sip some wine, while delicious things come off the barbecue next to you. Portuguese summers are definitely special.
However, for the rainy days that you just want to chill at home and watch some TV and get some takeout, there wasn’t an option for a long time. Then Uber Eats showed up. Again, Uber Eats costs €2.90 per delivery and those numbers can add up pretty fast.
Glovo is another app that offers a larger delivery radius, this means that you can get food from further away. Most of the deliveries on Glovo cost €1.90 so that’s quite a lot cheaper than Uber Eats. Glovo is also good for other services like picking up your groceries, etc. but I never use that so I have no idea about that.
I can say that for food delivery, Glovo has been pretty quick and I’m happy to recommend it.
Late Night Food
Lisbon is a late night city. But the options when it comes to late night food are severely limited. After a night out partying in Bairro Alto, everyone tends to get hungry. During the night, there are several hawkers in the area selling pao com chourico (sausage in a bread) and samosas and some other treats.
But getting a proper meal after 12AM feels like a distant dream. A lot of people think that McDonald’s is the only option at this time of the night. But there are a few other late night joints worth checking out.
A Merendeira on Avenida 24 de Julho serves a delicious combo for €5.90. The combo includes a freshly baked pão com chouriço but can also be pão com bacalhau for those that don’t eat meat, caldo verde (portuguese collard greens soup), arroz doce (sweet rice pudding), a drink (water/beer/soft drinks), and coffee. Overall, it’s a solid deal and the food is pretty good. A Merendeira is a true late night spot since it’s open until 7am.
Another spot that you can check out is Galeto. It’s open until 3.30am and is in the Saldanha area. I’ve never been there but the food is pretty expensive as a main dish will set you back by €16 or so. But if it’s late, and you’re hungry, who cares!
The last two spots that I can recommend are in Alcantara. This is not exactly a late night party area and tends to be more residential. But if you are desperate for a meal and sweet fix, this is the right direction to head in. At the bottom of Rua Luis de Camoes, right next to the Carris museum is Santo Amaro. It’s open till 2am and serves hot Portuguese food. The reason I believe this restaurant is open so late is because it’s next to the offices of Carris, the public transportation company. Workers from Carris tend to skip across the street to grab a late night meal and of course, hungry party people as well. The food is pretty good so at least they do have that going for them.
Walk up Rua Luis de Camoes next to it and in 10 minutes you come to a mysterious bakery that opens its doors.. or what looks more like a window at 8pm. Their signs say that they are open from 8pm to 5am. Beware though that they are closed on Saturdays so that is something to watch out for if you’re out on Friday night. The bakery makes fresh bread, croissants, pao de deus, cakes, etc. and you can have these hot out of the oven between 8pm and 5am. My guess is that they supply this stuff to other bakeries and sell some on the side just for kicks. Well, I’m happy that they do this and hope it keeps going!
Beware of coffee menus in English
When you go out to get coffee in Portugal, it’s always best to order in Portuguese. We have a helpful guide that you can refer to, so that you can pick your drink of choice.
I’ve noticed that several establishments will charge more for a Cafe Latte vs a Galão, even though they are essentially the same item. Cappuccinos for example, sometimes cost €2 whereas a Meia de Leite (essentially the same thing, but without foam) will cost €0.95.
Take in some great but quiet views
One of the downsides of the heavy tourism in Lisbon is that the various viewpoints in the city centre have become tourist traps. What was once a moment for Lisbon residents to enjoy a beautiful view with a cup of coffee has now become some sort of tourist pantomime. But there are still areas and viewpoints where you can experience this quietude that is quintessential to Lisbon life.
Miradouro de Monte Agudo is a viewpoint in between Graça and Anjos. It’s at the top of a secondary school so it’s hard to spot from below. Tourists almost never go to it. So it’s a beautiful and quiet spot overlooking the city. There’s a little kiosk that you can buy a coffee or a beer from and enjoy the sunshine and solitude. It’s got that great feeling you could once find at Adamastor or the Graça viewpoint.
Another solid viewpoint that you can check out is in Alcantara. It’s called the Miradouro do Largo das Necessidades. It’s got excellent views of the river, bridge, and the south bank. Also a very quiet spot with families and locals. No kiosk though so bring a bottle of wine and enjoy the sunset here.
Get 360° views and see spectacular art – abandoned building
Up in Monsanto, the park that sits atop Lisbon is an abandoned restaurant. The humongous building was a commercial failure and now it’s abandoned. However, graffiti artists took to it and have decorated it with beautiful murals. What’s more, the view from this spot is unbeatable!
You can take an
Uber Bolt up to it or you can get a bus and walk for 10 minutes to get to it. This is definitely worth it but there are no services in the area so take some snacks, some drinks, and make a picnic out of it.
Pasteis de Belem, skip the queue
A lot of people queue outside the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem to get their chance to eat some of the famous pastries produced here. But the queue outside is strictly for takeaway. It can also be a really long wait. What you can always do though, is walk into the restaurant and grab a table. They do have table service and you won’t have to wait so long because they are an enormous establishment.
I can also recommend that you try their Chamuça, Pastel de bacalhau, and Rissol. They do make pretty good savoury treats!
Run by the water
If you’re into running head down to the waterfront and run there. It’s a beautiful stretch by the river and a great place to get some exercise. Also, the terrain is flat and that is a luxury in Lisbon.
Bars that are worth checking out
There are lots of interesting spots in Lisbon, especially when it comes to late night activities like drinking or clubbing. However, I’m just going to list some of my personal favourites here. Lisbon has a culture of some bars being associations. They basically run the bars as non-profits. I don’t know why they do this but the bars that are associations tend to be really cool.
Case Independente is a fairly well known spot. They have a beautiful building and two floors that are open to everyone. The first floor has the Tiger Room that often has concerts on the stage, a dining room, bar, kitchen, and outside area. The second floor is also very unique with balconies running along the length of it and some nice hangouts overlooking the courtyard below. Definitely worth checking out.
Crew Hassan is just up the street from Casa Independente. Another association but includes a bar, record store, second hand clothes, a basement area with a DJ/Dance Floor, a recreational area with ping pong and other things to do. Also definitely worth checking out if you want to see something trippy.
Remember that Lisbon is a late night city so these places are most happening post 12AM. They are open earlier than that but will have a chill vibe with people eating dinner or just having some quiet post dinner drinks.
Anjos70 is another cool spot that has a great vibe on Wednesday evenings. They host a jam session there that gets really busy. Beware however that it can get very smoky in there since people smoke indoors.
Crafty Corner near Cais do Sodre is a pretty centrally located spot and has lots of craft beer on tap. They also host a music open mic night on Tuesday nights where local musicians gather to perform and share their art. Sometimes I host The Shitty Comedy Night over there too, also usually on Tuesday evenings, so if you’re lucky, or unlucky, depending on your perspective you might catch both.
Fado – get the real deal
In Lisbon, Fado can be quite a commercial affair. Most tourists will end up at one restaurant or another and pay for their set menu so that they can enjoy some fado at the end of their meal. There is nothing specifically wrong with this. The artists at these restaurants are real fado performers and often are very good.
However, what I recommend is a spot that you can go to and listen to fado along with local people. This cultural association is called the Associação do Fado Casto. There is no sign on the door, but once you enter you’ll see a beautiful hall with high arches and great acoustics. This is one of the places that fado singers come to practice and exchange their art. Often they will have shows with fusion performances with Fado and Jazz or Fado and Samba where musicians from different disciplines jam it out.
It’s best to go there after 11pm. They have a system where you can make a dinner reservation but this is unnecessary. Just head there on a Friday or Saturday evening around 11pm and you can go in and catch some authentic live fado with a few rounds of really affordable drinks.
Lisbon has a fast growing specialty coffee scene. My favourite cafes to work from are Cafe de Finca and Copenhagen Coffee Lab in Alcantara. I’m usually at the Copenhagen Coffee Lab every Monday. This is because we started doing what we call Casual Co-working Days over there. It’s an event by the Lisbon Digital Nomads and it’s an excuse to get together on Mondays, get some work done, have some good conversations, and of course, some great coffee. There are many other cafes to choose from but I especially like these spots for the friendly quiet vibe and excellent coffee.
There are several branches of Copenhagen Coffee Lab around the city. One thing to watch out for is that they do not serve any decaf. I do sometimes go off coffee for some weeks and during those times Cafe de Finca helps me get my coffee taste fix without the caffeine jitters. They have some really great decaffeinated beans from Mexico.
If you’re not into specialty coffee, I highly recommend going into any Portuguese cafe and trying out some coffee. Refer to our guide on how to get your fix at a Portuguese cafe. Portugal has a huge coffee culture and although they serve an extra dark roast that takes some getting used to, coffee is consistently good across the country. It’s a unique experience to just walk into a random cafe, stand at the counter and ask for a bica (a shot of espresso) and then sip it right there at the counter. It doesn’t get more Portuguese than that.
There’s a lot more that I would love to share about my city. Lisbon is changing very fast with new businesses and things to do springing up every single day. The city has for the first time in 40 years started to see an increase in resident population. After a long and slow decline, Lisbon is once more rejuvenated and is pulsing with positive energy. It’s a really exciting time to live in Lisbon right now and if you have any questions or comments leave a comment below and lets get the conversation going!