A speedy seven-hour flight from New York City, the allure and charm of Lisbon’s cobbled alleys, ancient ruins and white-domed cathedrals makes spending a long weekend there well worth your time. Aside from being compact and postcard-pretty, the Portuguese capital bustles with age-old traditions, culinary delights and cultural hotspots – each with the ability to leave a lasting impression. Read on as we recommend our favorite places to stay, explore, shop and see.
Stay: With so much to take in and absorb, finding the perfect hotel to start and end your day is always a top priority. For something tranquil and wonderfully zen, choose Santa Clara 1728. Located at the heart of Lisbon in the city’s old cultural quarter, Santa Clara 1728 feels like a home away from home. Consisting of six spacious suites, be sure to explore the hotel’s secluded gardens, beautiful tubs and neutral interiors which all beg for some serious relaxation. For something classic and refined try the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz, if only for its historic location and unmissable Veranda Restaurant. Lisbon also boasts a healthy Airbnb culture, allowing you to live like a local at favorable rates (especially should you prefer to cook yourself). For all accommodations be sure to book well in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit during the summer months.
Dine: As Lisbon continues to develop into one of Europe’s prime hotspots, the food scene will not disappoint. For lunch, try Rio Maravilha at LX Factory. Rio Maravilha offers creative twists on traditional Portuguese food, with cocktails curated to complement each dish. The restaurant plays live music and is situated on a rooftop with impressive views of the Tagus river and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge. If you’re looking for the ultimate dining experience, we recommend Alma, a signature cuisine restaurant awarded two Michelin stars in 2019. Celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa continuously modifies the tasting menus, ensuring a unique experience for each guest.
Explore: Once you arrive at Lisbon’s airport, take a cab to the nearest train station, Estação do Oriente. The station, famous for its impressive stark and modern architecture, is a sight to see in itself. From there, take a quick 20 minute train ride into Lisbon’s city center.
Located on the western edge of the Iberian peninsula, Lisbon is a city rich in culture owed to a long history of trade and commerce. As a waterfront city, bridges and ports have always been crucial to life in Lisbon. There are two incredibly intricate suspension bridges that take you across the Tagus River— the red Ponte 25 de Abril (38.6896° N, 9.1771° W) bridge, which is locally referred to as the ‘Golden Gate Bridge’, and the Vasco da Gama bridge, one of Europe’s longest bridges.
Take Tram 28, a compact yellow trolley car, on a route through the city’s most historic and charming neighborhoods. As it winds through the city’s streets and hills, you’ll catch glimpses of beach and city views, all while hopping-on or off at your convenience (Pro tip: be sure to get there early in the morning to beat the crowds).
You won’t want to miss the São Jorge Castle, a medieval fortification located atop Lisbon’s Alfama district. Aside from exploring the castle and its impressive stone walls, be sure to check out the expansive 360° views of the city below. The area immediately surrounding the castle is also worth getting lost in – just steps away is the Lisbon Cathedral, which features a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Rococo architecture. Venture further and you’ll find the Museu de Teatro Romano, which houses strong examples of ancient Roman ruins dating back to the first century B.C. Should visiting an art museum be a must, definitely stop by the Museu Coleção Berardo. We enjoyed roaming the galleries, offering a wealth of modern art favorites including Picasso, Duchamp, Warhol and several local artists like Paula Rego.
Before you leave, download the GIRA app on your phone to use Lisbon’s convenient bike-sharing system. With stations scattered throughout the city, taking a bike is a fun and easy way to see all of Lisbon’s eclectic neighborhoods.
Caffeine Fix: Coffee is a necessity and part of everyday life in Portugal. Before you begin exploring everything Lisbon has to offer, start your day at The Mill – a coffee shop in the Bairro Alto area. This local haunt is the perfect place for a quick bite before starting the day. Take your coffee to go and walk the area to see local artists’ vivid murals and street art.
Shop: Avenida de Liberdade is hands-down the best street for shopping in Lisbon. You’ll find the usual high-end stores and luxury boutiques, but also some specialty boutiques and concept stores unique to the area. Among our favorites is JNcQUOI, a multi-level concept-store which artfully combines food with fashion. You’ll find menswear on the lower level, a bar on the main floor and a restaurant on the top floor (we loved the wide selection of seafood, especially the grilled Atlantic cod). If you’re a fragrance aficionado, stop by Embassy, a niche perfumery with a wide selection of exclusive scents and artful blends.
Relax: When you’re ready to unwind, relax at the BSpa by Karin Herzog in the Altis Belem Hotel. This spa offers a typical selection of treatments, but for the ultimate indulgence treat yourself to the B Detoxed spa program, which includes a detox scrub, draining and toning massage, purifying facial and oxygen treatments. Continue to relax by the pool afterward, while catching the sun set over the Tagus river.