Lisbon is a unique blend of ancient history and modernity, with an impressive food scene, world-class museums, and lively nightlife experiences. As with any major city, this one’s also got a wide range of neighborhoods to explore.
Whether you are planning to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, alone, with your partner, or with family, there are numerous areas to pick and choose from. Although many of the neighborhoods in central Lisbon offer similar travel experiences, a few have some unique features to suit your specific needs.
In this guide, we’ll explore the five best areas to stay in Lisbon, highlighting their distinct features and reasons why they’re perfect for travelers. No matter which you choose, just know that each of the areas featured in this post has its own unique charm and ambiance!
No choice is the wrong choice because you’ll be in Lisbon, after all!
From the bustling city center to the charming historic neighborhoods, we’ve got you covered.
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Table of Contents
Best for: Lisbon’s history and major attractions
If you want to be in Lisbon’s historical and central area, then Baixa is the place to stay.
Baixa was rebuilt in 1755 after the Lisbon earthquake destroyed the city. The Portuguese statesman and politician, Marquis of Pombal, immediately got to work on rebuilding the area, including designing a grid city layout for Baixa. Thanks to this grid system, it is now easy for travelers to find their way around.
An interesting fact is that the streets are named after the merchants that had shops in the area. Examples include Rua da Prata (Silversmith Street) and Rua dos Sapateiros (Shoemaker’s Street).
The shopping in Baixa is comparable to the best in the world, with Avenida da Liberdade being the most renowned shopping street in Lisbon, housing all the major high-end brands.
Baixa is also home to most of Lisbon’s iconic streets and squares, displaying traditional Portuguese designs and artistic character. These visual features are the perfect introduction to the local culture, making it ideal for first-time travelers – even children.
People of all ages might also enjoy the lift (elevator) that transports you up to the highest hill in Baixa, which allows for stunning views of the neighborhood.
The area can be pretty busy during the day, especially in its famous squares (Restauradores Square and Rossio Square to name a few), with the latter being the busiest square frequented by travelers and locals because of the array of restaurants available to suit every need.
You can end your day by popping into A Ginjinha, where you can enjoy a ginja (a sweet cherry liqueur). This drink was thought to cure childhood illnesses, which some older Portuguese people still swear by today!
Recommended Hotels In Baixa
Great for a luxurious stay: Hotel da Baixa
Great for budget travelers: Goodnight Hostel – go for the 3-bed dormitory for more privacy!
Best for: all types of travelers who want to be in the heart of the city!
Chiado is much smaller than its neighbor Baixa (though the two areas are close enough to share a metro). While Baixa is busy during the day, Chiado really comes alive at night, when people from all around flock to enjoy the nightlife in the taverns and restaurants.
A fire destroyed the area of Chiado in 1988, and rebuilding the city took ten years. Luckily, the rebuild did not change the area’s character, allowing the original family-run businesses to still exist today.
Let’s start with some daytime activities. São Roque Church makes for a pleasant visit, regardless of whether you are religious or not. This church was constructed in the 16th century and is one of the few buildings that survived the Lisbon earthquake (1755). It is also one of the city’s most iconic and visually pleasing churches.
Although Chiado is trendier than Baixa, it still has an abundance of museums and art galleries. It is also home to Lisbon’s grand opera house, the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos.
The area is trendy and has easy access to all transport buses, trains, and adorable trams. Using these modes of transportation (as well as walking on foot!) is highly recommended, as you can experience and see the neighborhood from different perspectives.
To round off a busy day in Chiado, you should make your way to one of the best bars in the area, called By The Wine. It boasts 3,267 wine bottles covering its ceiling (take on the challenge and count them!). It also offers good food to satisfy any hungry traveler.
Recommended Hotels In Chiado
Modern Boutique Hotel in an Old Palace: Palácio das Especiarias
Best for a cozy yet luxurious guesthouse experience: Solar dos Poetas
Best For Families and Groups: Residentas Arco do Bandeira
3. Bairro Alto
Best for: travelers who like quiet mornings and party vibes at night
One of the oldest areas in Lisbon, which has a bohemian feel, has tattoo parlors, picturesque cobble streets, art galleries, and street art tours. This area is very popular with the young at heart, and there is no better place for nightlife and partying in Lisbon than Bairro Alto (which means upper district).
Visiting Bairro Alto during the day is not as exciting as the previously mentioned areas. However, there are a few decent attractions. A place you might want to visit for a late afternoon drink is The Park Bar. This bar is situated on top of a car park and has one of the best aerial views of Lisbon.
Bairro Alto comes alive at night, with some pubs and restaurants opening late evening and operating till the early morning hours. In the high season, it gets so busy that the restaurants do not have enough seats for everyone!
As a result, the people congregate outside the restaurants and pubs, socializing until the early hours, turning the narrow-cobbled streets into one big festive party.
For more partying, you can easily walk to Rua Nova do Carvalho (otherwise known as Pink Street) in Cais do Sodre. Don’t miss Pensão Amor as well as the small bar right across from it–while it might be small, they play really good music!
Recommended Hotels In Bairro Alto
Best for a cozy guesthouse experience: Casa das Janelas com Vista
Best for a 5-star experience: Bairro Alto Hotel
Best for: travelers who want to experience what Lisbon once was
Bairro Alto might be old, but Alfama is its even older sibling.
Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest and most historic districts, and has been drawing visitors since the early days of tourism and remains a very popular destination within the city. Constructed on a solid rock base outside the city walls, Alfama largely withstood the destruction of the massive 1755 earthquake.
As one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, it has managed to retain its Moorish influence with picturesque terraced houses, winding narrow streets, and beautiful tile work.
This old neighborhood is the capital of Fado (traditional, melodic songs created by homesick fishermen). Even if you don’t understand Portuguese, you feel the emotion through the music. Some say it is like American country music, just sadder, with themes ranging from lost loves and grief to fishermen far at sea longing for their family.
You can experience Fado at one of many restaurants in the Alfama area or during one of their annual Fado Festivals. A visit to the Museu do Fado (Fado Museum), among other museums, is also well worth your time.
If you visit Alfama, a must-do is to try the famous grilled sardines. If you walk in the neighborhood, don’t be surprised if you notice the smell of sardines permeating the cobble streets of this once fishing village.
Another thing to try when you’re in the area? Ginjinha that’s homemade by the locals of the Alfama district (these are typically the best tasting versions of the drink)! Also known as ginja, this is a sweet liqueur made from sour cherries soaked in a distilled spirit called aguardente.
Locals drink this any time of the day they feel like it, so it’s something that you’ll want to try to help you better understand the culture here. Definitely try it with the chocolate cup!
Nowadays, Alfama is an architectural wonder along the Tagus River. There are numerous sites and castles to visit (such as Castelo de São Jorge), so your time spent here will be busy.
The area is very hilly with narrow cobble streets, making traveling by car slightly more challenging. Instead, keep your journey on foot as far as possible. To help, you can access one of the 30m escalators in certain areas to make your way uphill without having to walk up all the hills!
One local tip for a popular scenic walk (hike) route is to follow the tram lines.
For those seeking an authentic Lisbon experience with plenty of character and culture, Alfama district is a must-visit.
Recommended Hotels In Alfama
Great all-around accommodation: São Vicente Alfama Hotel by TRIUS Hotels
Great for budget travelers: Hotel Convento do Salvador
Best for: travelers who want to experience life as a local
Mouraria (as well as Graça and São Vicente) are all wonderful areas to stay in Lisbon, particularly for travelers looking to live like a local. These neighborhoods are less touristy than Alfama and offer a more authentic experience of the city.
The “Moorish quarter,” also known as Mouraria, was named after the Moors who survived King Afonso Henriques’ conquest of Lisbon in 1147 and were permitted to reside there until their expulsion alongside the Jews in 1497.
Additionally, this district holds significant cultural importance, as it was the birthplace of fado, Lisbon’s soulful musical genre, thanks to the legendary singer Maria Severa who lived there in the 1800s.
Mouraria is also known for its cultural diversity, hosting a variety of African, Asian, and Arabic shops and restaurants within the area.
Visitors can wander through narrow streets lined with local shops and restaurants, watch locals going about their daily business, and enjoy panoramic views of the city from various viewpoints.
With their rich history, cultural diversity, and relaxed atmosphere, Mouraria, Graça, and São Vicente are perfect for travelers who want to immerse themselves in Lisbon’s local lifestyle.
Recommended Hotels In Mourario
No matter which neighborhood you pick from this list, you’ll essentially be close to the center of all the activity in Lisbon, so they’re all great choices in our book!
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