Home > Best Places to Stay in Lisbon
Updated: January 21, 2020
The Best Areas to Stay in Lisbon
Lisbon has many distinct neighborhoods which vary both in atmosphere and in how busy they are, so your experience will be different depending on where you stay. There is no single best neighborhood for tourists; major sights are clustered in the city center and there are big attractions further out too. The city is large but the center is walkable, and there are good transport links to other districts.
Most of the best hotels are in Chiado or Avenida da Liberdade, though there are good luxury options a little further out too. Look for mid-range and budget options in Baixa and Bairro Alto in particular.
Baixa is Lisbon’s historic downtown, in the valley between Alfama to the east and Bairro Alto to the west. Its elegant streets were rebuilt as Europe’s first grid system after the catastrophic earthquake of 1755. Just to the north is Rossio, with its bustling squares and traditional ginjinha joints. This area is packed with attractions and hence is very tourist-friendly. Great for both high-street and more niche shopping. Watch out for tourist traps as you find some excellent eateries too. Big range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to guesthouses and fine hostels, but noise can be an issue.
On its hill to the west of Baixa lies Chiado, sloping down to the riverside area of Cais do Sodré. While Chiado attracts culture vultures with its old-world elegance, museums, and designer shopping, Cais do Sodré is edgier, a former red light district turned nightlife magnet. Excellent high-end accommodations and some budget options too.
Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real climb the hill north of Chiado, and are both trendy and great destinations for nightlife. Bairro Alto is bohemian, full of vintage shops and street art, and comes alive when the bars and clubs open in the evening. Príncipe Real feels more polished, with lots of hot restaurant openings, designer boutiques, and art galleries. Nice guest houses, cool hostels, and some high-end hotels, though the nights in Bairro Alto are not quiet.
Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s answer to the Champs-Élysées, running northwest from Rossio. It is upscale and leafy, and boasts the best high-end shopping and some of the chicest dining in town. The place to stay in if you want a grand hotel, though you can find some more affordable options too.
Photogenic Alfama sits on the hill east of Baixa, watched over by the Castelo de São Jorge. This is Lisbon at its oldest and most charming, with medieval streets and stairways winding down to the river. The district survived the 1755 earthquake and is one big tourist attraction, with its miradouros and traditional restaurants hosting evening fado shows. Accommodations tend toward boutique hotels.
Mouraria, Graça, and São Vicente to the north and east of Alfama, share its historic charm but not its touristy bustle. These are characterful areas, where you can mingle with the locals at cute cafés in peaceful squares, discover traditional restaurants, and shop at markets and artisans’ workshops. Accommodations are mostly guest houses, with some standout hotels.
Three miles west of Baixa, Belém is a historic riverside area, and is also known as the place from where the Portuguese launched their voyages of discovery. It is dominated by UNESCO-listed sights and top museums, including the grandiose Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Here you will also find restaurants and bars with river views. Some mid-range accommodations, along with a couple of luxury options.
The Best Places to Stay in Lisbon
Best Areas in Lisbon for…
- Best Areas in Lisbon for Sightseeing: Baixa & Rossio, Belém, Alfama
Baixa & Rossio are full of attractions, such as the magnificent Praça do Comércio, the mini-Eiffel-Tower Elevador de Santa Justa, and the fascinating archaeological find of Núcleo Arqueológico da Rua dos Correeiros. Belém has an amazing concentration of historic UNESCO-listed sights and top museums. Come here for the opulent Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, iconic Torre de Belém (from which Portuguese explorers set sail), fantastic contemporary art at Museu Coleção Berardo, and blinging carriages at Museu Nacional dos Coches. Alfama is one big attraction, with its well-preserved Moorish-era streets, stark 12th-century cathedral Sé de Lisboa, and access to the majestic Castelo de São Jorge.
- Best Areas in Lisbon for Nightlife: Bairro Alto, Príncipe Real
There is no shortage of cool bars and hot clubs in Lisbon. Head to São Vicente for Lux Frágil, one of the top clubs in the city, and don’t miss the famous Pink Street (Rua Nova do Carvalho) in Cais do Sodré, a parade of bars and restaurants that positively heaves with nighttime crowds. But for an eclectic mix of craft beer, fine wine, slick cocktails bars, and sweaty clubs, go straight to Bairro Alto & Príncipe Real.
- Best Areas in Lisbon for Food and Restaurants: Chiado, Cais do Sodré
The city is full of great dining options; just beware of tourist traps in Baixa. Príncipe Real has a clutch of hot restaurants, with cuisines ranging from South Indian to Peruvian and Mexican. Avenida da Liberdade has some very chic restaurants. However, Chiado and Cais do Sodré have a bit of everything: gourmet street food at Mercado da Ribeiro, the biggest market in the city; traditional Portuguese tascas, especially around Rua das Flores and Rua Nova do Carvalho; and daring fine dines at Bistro 100 Maneiras and Michelin-starred heavyweights Belcanto and Alma.
- Best Area in Lisbon for Families: Belém
Belém packs a lot of big attractions into a small area, including the innovative Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia, and the spectacular Museu Nacional dos Coches. These are surrounded by parks and scenic riverside walks past romantic monuments to Portuguese explorers. There is also a cycle path along the river all the way to Cais do Sodré, and it is a short train ride to the seaside at Cascais. Another good area is Avenida da Liberdade: upscale, more residential, and less raucous at night than some downtown areas. There are excellent transport links to other parts of the city and day trips to Sintra from Rossio train station, and the huge green Parque Eduardo VII to the north.
- Best Areas in Lisbon to Stay for First Timers: Baixa & Rossio, Chiado, Cais do Sodré
If you are a newcomer, central Baixa and Rossio are great because they both have plenty of sights and atmosphere of their own and also because areas like Chiado, Bairro Alto, Alfama, and Avenida da Liberdade are a short walk (or climb) away. Chiado & Cais do Sodré are also great picks – central, with bags of culture and cool shopping mixed with quieter residential areas. Choose Alfama if you want to immerse yourself in the oldest part of the city.
- Most Romantic Area in Lisbon: Alfama
There is almost no contest here; although places like Chiado and Príncipe Real boast sweeping views, elegant boutiques, and fine dining, Alfama is Lisbon at its most breathtaking – and not just for its steep streets. Medieval alleys and stairways invite you to wander, miradouros look out over red-roofed houses sloping down to the river, and there are cool bars and artisans’ workshops to discover as well as gorgeous boutique hotels to stay in. At night, the castle walls are beautifully illuminated and the sound of fado can be heard from many traditional restaurants.
- Best Areas in Lisbon for a Local Vibe: Mouraria, Graça, São Vicente
Locals still live in Alfama and there is a traditional vibe despite the growing tourist crowds. Bairro Alto is the bohemian, uninhibited face of Lisbon, with its vintage shops, tattoo parlors, little tascas, and many unique bars packed into the narrow steeps. However, Mouraria, Graça, and São Vicente are historic, characterful areas clustered around Alfama, which have somehow remained working-class and relatively un-touristy. Mouraria is more diverse, drawing immigrants ever since it became the Moorish ghetto in the 12th century, and has seen more urban renewal. Mingle with the locals at Feira da Ladra, the famous flea market, or in the authentic Portuguese, Goan, or Mozambican restaurants, and discover local crafts, artists’ studios, and street art celebrating fado, which was born in Mouraria.
- Best Areas in Lisbon for Walking: Avenida da Liberdade, Alfama
Lisbon is a pleasure to walk around, but a hilly one. Embrace the inclines and explore the winding streets of Alfama – there is really no other way to discover the treasures of this neighborhood. Mouraria, Graça, and São Vicente have similar narrow streets which also reward leisurely wandering. Or stroll along broad, flat Avenida da Liberdade instead, taking in the designer boutiques on either side. The center of the avenue has walking paths running all the way up to Parque Eduardo VII, lined with trees, flowers, and ponds, and on some days, the market stalls of Feira na Avenida.
- Safest Areas of Lisbon
Lisbon is in general a safe city with a very low crime rate. In particular, Chiado, Baixa & Rossio, and Avenida da Liberdade are very safe. Tourists should simply take the usual precautions, e.g. watch their bags and stick to busy streets late at night.
- Unsafe Areas of Lisbon
Busy areas and public transport that attract tourists tend to be places where pickpockets are a risk, so take care, especially around sights in Baixa and on trams 28E and 15E to Belém. At night, Cais do Sodré and Bairro Alto get loud and full of partygoers, while Martim Moniz and Intendente, just north of Mouraria, can feel sketchy.
The 6 Best Neighborhoods in Lisbon for Tourists
Baixa, with Rossio just to the north, is Lisbon’s historic downtown and its elegant, bustling heart. Levelled by the 1755 earthquake, it was rebuilt (now quake-proof) by the Marquês de Pombal. The busy streets are full of attractions, from the grand colonnades of Praça do Comércio in the south, where visitors to Lisbon used to land, to the cast iron filigree of Elevador de Santa Justa, built by Gustave Eiffel’s apprentice Raoul Mesnier. There is plenty of shopping, with high-street and edgier brands, especially on Rua Augusta. It’s also a good place to find Portuguese restaurants and gourmet street food at Mercado da Baixa. Around Rossio is the best place to find tiny ginjinha bars, for a taste of Lisbon’s iconic sour-cherry liqueur. This area also has the widest range of accommodations, from high-end to hostels, if you do not mind the hubbub.
2. Chiado & Cais do Sodré
West of Rua Áurea in Baixa rises chic, historic Chiado, with Cais do Sodré to the south and Praça do Comércio on the east. Chiado offers plenty of sightseeing, with its theaters and museums, including the ghostly Convento do Carmo ruins and Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado, and literary landmarks like Livraria Bertrand and Café A Brasileira. Fantastic shopping can be found, particularly around Rua Garrett. The food scene here is hard to beat – Cais do Sodré’s main landmark is foodie mecca Mercado da Ribeira, while Chiado’s dining includes Belcanto, one of many restaurants by José Avillez and Alma, both with 2 Michelin stars. There are fine cocktail and wine bars such as Le Consulat and Topo Chiado, but the undisputed nightlife destination is Cais’ vibrant Rua Nova do Carvalho. Once a red light district and now reborn as hipster Pink Street, the unique bars like Sol e Pesca and hot club Music Box party till dawn. There are some top hotels here, but also affordable options.
3. Bairro Alto & Príncipe Real
Bairro Alto, the ‘upper quarter’ north of Chiado’s Praça Luis de Camões, and Príncipe Real, further north from Rua Dom Pedro V and extending west, are young, trendy, and party-loving districts. The Bairro is alternative and graffiti-studded, while Príncipe Real is also arty but more affluent. Check out the art galleries, street art, and repurposed palaces on Rua Dom Pedro V, and catch memorable views from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. Shop in Bairro Alto’s boho boutiques and Príncipe Real’s glossy designer ones like Kolovrat and concept stores like Embaixada. Some of the hottest chefs in town have opened restaurants here, such as Ljubomir Stanisic at 100 Maneiras, Diogo Noronha at Pesca, and Kiki Martins at A Cevicheria. At night, Bairro Alto comes into its own, drawing crowds from across the city to cozy bars, sweaty dance floors, and terraces with a view. Meanwhile, Príncipe Real has cool craft beer, wine, and cocktail joints to discover. Accommodations tend to be cool guest houses and hostels, with some standout hotels, but avoid Bairro Alto if you do not want nighttime crowds.
Avenida da Liberdade is an affluent area northwest of Rossio and east of Príncipe Real. More modern and residential, its spine is the broad, leafy avenue itself, a glittering parade of luxury shops, from big names like Miu Miu and Armani to art galleries/boutiques like 39a Concept Store. There are fewer big attractions here, but the avenue leads pleasantly to Parque Eduardo and regularly hosts the fanciest flea market in town, Feira na Avenida. You can also find fine dining at venues like JNcQUOI, and some of Lisbon’s best cocktail bars, including Red Frog and Monkey Mash. A good choice if you want a big luxury hotel, with some boutique and mid-range stays.
Rising east of Rua da Madalena and south of Castelo de São Jorge, Alfama is the oldest and most Instagrammable corner of the city. The medieval streets have seen the Moors, the Jews, and the Portuguese royalty come and go, making the area as a whole an important sight to explore (or rather, get lost in). Standouts include the Museu do Fado, the cathedral Sé de Lisboa, and the Museu do Aljube Resistência e Liberdade, chronicling the rise and fall of Portugal’s 20th-century dictatorship, as well as the castle. You can shop for traditional crafts and mingle with locals at miradouros and in the cafes; fortunately, the influx of tourists has not yet gentrified the neighborhood completely. Eat in traditional tascas where fado singers perform, or seek out more modern takes on Portuguese food at Boi-Cavalo, Chapitô à Mesa, and Prado. Accommodations tend to be beautiful boutiques, with some budget options.
Joining Alfama on its hill are 3 more historic neighborhoods – Mouraria on the northern slopes towards Martim Moniz, Graça to the northeast and São Vicente to the east. These are working-class areas, full of local color, relatively undisturbed by tourism. Graça and São Vicente are Alfama’s more peaceful cousins, while Mouraria is both more multicultural and undergoing more regeneration. Landmarks include the church and convent of São Vicente de Fora, Miradouro da Graça, a scenic gathering place, and Portraits of Fado, a street exhibition of photos in Mouraria, fado’s birthplace. You can find contemporary art galleries like Hangar alongside the latest street art and shop for bargains at Feira da Ladra, the ‘thieves’ market’. There are great, affordable local restaurants – Portuguese cuisine at Taberna Sal Grosso, Mozambican at Cantinho do Aziz, Goan at Tentações de Goa. At night, find a cool local bar, such as alternative Damas, or dance till late at supercool club Lux Frágil. Some lovely guesthouses, and a couple of high-end hotels.
Well away from the historic center (3 miles or a 30-minute tram ride west along the river from Baixa), Belém is a tourist magnet due to its major sights, scenic parks, and river views. In fact, it packs a great deal into a small area, from UNESCO-listed historic masterpiece Mosteiro dos Jerónimos to one of Lisbon’s newest and coolest museums, Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia (MAAT). It is a place of icons – Torre de Belém is the place from which Portuguese explorers set sail, while Pastéis de Belém is the birthplace of the pastel de nata. Stroll along the river to discover bars with a view, great seafood restaurants, and Michelin-starred dining at Feitoria. Some fine luxury hotels as well as cool hostels and mid-range options.