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Best areas to stay in Lisbon

Top areas to stay in Lisbon

Lisbon’s hotels range from sumptuous five-stars to backstreet hideaways packed with local character. The grander ones tend to be found along Avenida da Liberdade, around Parque Eduardo VII or out of the centre, though in recent years around forty hotels have opened in the central Baixa where there are now endless options. The Alfama and Bairro Alto, too, are beginning to offer a greater choice, with crumbling buildings being done up into hotels or smart self-catering apartments - often with great city or river views thanks to the districts’ hilltop positions. Wherever you choose you won’t be stuck for where to stay in Lisbon.

  1. Make the most of the vibrant districts of Bairro Alto and São Bento
  2. Enjoy the trendiest areas in Lisbon - Chiado and Cais do Sodré
  3. Soak up history in the Castelo and Alfama neighbourhoods
  4. Discover the beach in Lisbon
  5. Stay in Sintra for a memorable getaway just outside Lisbon

Over the past decade or so, a wave of boutique-style hotels and guesthouses have sprung up across the city, often in old townhouses that have been transformed into stylish accommodation - these are usually reasonably priced and make for an atmospheric and comfortable stay. Lisbon also still has a few old-style guesthouses (alojamento local or particular, some of which keep the now abandoned titles of pensão or residencial) and various good-value hostels. If you’re inspired, take a look at our excellent selection of Lisbon holidays.

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1. Make the most of the vibrant districts of Bairro Alto and São Bento

The Bairro Alto, the Upper Town, sits on a hill west of the Baixa and is the best neighbourhood to stay in Lisbon. After the 1755 earthquake, the relatively unscathed district became the favoured haunt of Lisbon’s young bohemians. Home to the Institute of Art and Design and various designer boutiques, it is still the city’s most fashionable district. By day, the central grid of narrow, cobbled streets feels residential. After dark, however, the area throngs with people visiting its famed fado houses, bars and restaurants, while the city’s LGBTQ community coalesce around the clubs of neighbouring Príncipe Real. There are impressive monuments too, including the Palácio da Assembléia, Portugal’s parliamentary building in nearby São Bento. São Bento is also one of the best areas to stay in Lisbon. It houses good ethnic restaurants, a legacy of the city’s first black community. There are some fantastic hotel options in this area of town, look at Albergaria Insulana and AlmaLlusa for some comfortable stays.

Best for: Creatives

While you’re there: Everyone should ride the famous Glória Funicular at least once while in Lisbon.

2. Enjoy the trendiest areas in Lisbon - Chiado and Cais do Sodré

The well-to-do district of Chiado (pronounced she-ar-doo) is famed for its smart shops and cafés, along with the city’s main museum for contemporary arts. Down on the waterfront, Cais do Sodré (pronounced kaiysh-doo-soodray) is one of the city’s “in” districts. Many of its waterfront warehouses have been converted into upmarket cafés and restaurants and a stroll along its characterful riverfront is very enjoyable. Nearby Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon’s main market, is also big on atmosphere, as is the hillside Bica district, which is served by another of the city’s classic funicular street lifts - the Bica. Cais do Sodré is also where you can catch ferries across the Tejo to the little port of Cacilhas which not only has some great seafood restaurants with views over Lisbon, but is also the bus terminus for some of the region’s best beaches and for the spectacular Cristo Rei statue of Christ.

Best for: Trend-setters

While you’re there: Chiado’s most famous street, Rua Garrett, is where you’ll find some of the oldest shops and cafés in the city.

3. Soak up history in the Castelo and Alfama neighbourhoods

East of the Baixa, the streets climb past the city’s ancient cathedral, or Sé, to the dramatic remains of the São Jorge Castle, an oasis of tranquillity high above the city. East of the castle lie two of Lisbon’s most prominent churches, Monastery of São Vicente de Fora and Santa Engrácia. The districts around the castle - Mouraria, Santa Cruz and particularly the Alfama - represent the oldest and most atmospheric parts of Lisbon. Down on the riverfront, Santa Apolónia, the international train station, is situated in a revitalized area that boasts the glitzy LuxFrágil club and cruise ship terminal, while a little further east lies a historic steam pumping station and a fascinating tile museum.

Best for: Historic sights

While you’re there: The leafy square of Campo de Santa Clara is home to the twice-weekly Feira da Ladra (“Thieves’ Market”), Lisbon’s main flea market.

4. Discover the beach in Lisbon

Lisbon’s most accessible beaches lie along the Cascais coast just beyond the point where the Tejo flows into the Atlantic. Famed for its casino, Estoril has the best sands, though neighbouring Cascais has more buzz. The River Tejo separates Lisbon from high-rise Caparica, to the south, on a superb stretch of wave-pounded beach, popular with surfers.

Best for: Sun, sea and sand

While you’re there: Estoril is home to a fantastic park, perfect for a pitstop or somewhere to while away an afternoon.

5. Stay in Sintra for a memorable getaway just outside Lisbon

The beautiful hilltop town of Sintra, close to Lisbon, is the former summer residence of Portuguese royalty and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only does the town boast two of Portugal’s most extraordinary palaces, it also contains a semi-tropical garden, a Moorish castle and proximity to some great beaches. Looping around a series of wooded ravines and with a climate that encourages moss and ferns to grow from every nook and cranny, Sintra consists of three districts: Sintra-Vila, with most of the historical attractions; Estefânia, a ten-minute walk to the east, where trains from Lisbon pull in; and São Pedro to the south, well known for its antique shops and best visited on the eve of São Pedro (June 28-29), the main saint’s day, and for its market on the second and fourth Sunday of the month.

Best for: Fairytale views

While you’re there: Reached on bus #434, or a steep drive, the ruined ramparts of the Castelo dos Mouros are truly spectacular.

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