Lisbon: The Best Neighbourhoods to Stay In

Lisbon view, sourced from Pixabay

In which district of Lisbon is it better to stay in so that everything is within walking distance, close to tasty, non-touristic restaurants, and all sights are within reach? A place where public transportation is not far, where the Airbnb has a great few, for not too much money?

I have prepared a brief description of each district so that any traveler, even the one who is going to Lisbon for the first time, can determine for himself where he wants to stay in this authentic city.  Budgets vary.

History of Lisbon’s districts

Historically, Lisbon was born on the banks of the River Tagus. So the historical center of the city consists of the coastal districts like Alfama, Baixa, Castelo, Chiado, Bica, Cais do Sodré, Mouraria.

Belem at that time was a separate city and retained this status until the beginning of the XX century. Other surrounding districts were formed at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century.  Among those, there were  Avenida da Liberdade, Principe Real, Estrela, Madragoa, Campo de Ourique, and Graca.

In the 20th century, Lisbon began active maintenance towards the mainland. This is how the areas of Avenidas Novas appeared, and later in the late 90s  popped up with the modern Lisbon Park of Nations.

Alfama: a famous Lisbon district

Alfama district of Lisbon, sourced from Pixabey

What Alfama is famous for?

Fado Museum, Jewish Museum, Kaza dos Bicos, Pantheon, Flea Market, and several houses that survived after the earthquake,

Alfama is the most picturesque old quarter of Lisbon. Narrow streets, lots of stairs, restaurants, where in the evenings you can hear Fado being played. In this area the tourist apartments are often side by side with the flats of local residents. Alfama is very colorful because of its medieval street layout. But there are some minuses of the region in it – very small apartments (sometimes up to 30 sq.m), lack of transport, even taxis cannot drive through all of the streets. But this area is conveniently located to explore the city by foot.

In June, this area is very lively and on weekends they celebrate the feast of St. Anthony until late at night.

The nearest subway station is Santa Apolonia. If you are coming by car, be sure to check with the host where the nearest parking is. It is possible that it will be located 15 minutes from your home.

Sé and Castelo de Sâo Jorge

Castelo de Sâo Jorge in Lisbon, sourced from Wikimedia

What this area is famous for?

The Castle of St. George, the Roman Theater, the Church of St. Anthony, the Museum-Prison of Azuba.

The area is located on the castle hill, so often all apartments have beautiful views. If the building in which the apartments are rented is not reconstructed, then there is a high probability that the apartments will be tiny. There is almost no public transport, but you can catch a taxi.

The tram 28 is at the foot of the hill, but in summer, be prepared for the fact that it will be crowded with tourists. The area is very colorful, but here it will not be very comfortable for people with wheelchairs and small children. The parking situation is similar to Alfama. And be prepared for the fact that from morning till evening crowds of tourists will stroll under your windows.

Graça and São Vicente districts

Graça district in Lisbon, sourced from Wikimedia

In the eastern part of Lisbon, the Graça area hangs over the lower areas, where from the observation platforms you can enjoy stunning views of Lisbon. There are not so many hotels here, but lots of apartments.

These were once factories and villas for workers. Today it is a very pleasant area with shops and cafes on the first floors.

As for transport you have trams and buses, the subway to this hill has not yet been built.

There is a beautiful, quiet Serca da Graça garden with a playground. Mouraria quarter is below this area, within walking distance to the areas of Alfama and the Castle of St. George. On Saturdays and Tuesdays, there is a flea market nearby. A large monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora and the Pantheon are located there.

Mouraria district in Lisbon

Mouraria in Lisbon, sourced from Wikimedia

This is the third oldest district of Lisbon, which is currently in the process of”finding” itself. The area is divided into several parts – the upper, which is comfortable to be in, and the lower, where there is a little more poverty amongst residents.

This is one of the mort interesting districts of Lisbon, in the upper part near the church of São Cristóvão, within easy reach of the Castle of Saint George, where traditional “alfacinhas” live.

And in the lower part, closer to Martim Moniz Square, along the streets of Rua do Benformoso and Rua da Palma, there are many immigrants from different countries: Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, all people from the former Portuguese colonies.

Thanks to this multicultural community, you can enjoy pleasant aromas of spices around the area, signs in completely different languages, and a huge number of international restaurants. This district is the factory of Fado singers, from where all the famous Fadistas began their careers – Mariza, Amalia Rodrigues, Maria Severa, Fernando Mauricio.

In this area  there is an amazing choice for supermarkets as they are here for every taste: find anything from African roots to Asian spices.

If you are curious and want to stroll through this colorful area, then I invite you!

Intendente area in Lisbon

Intendente in Lisbon, sourced from Wikimedia

In this area you will find one of my favorite small squares, Largo do Intendente Pina Manique. There is a new hotel in a very beautiful building in 1908 in the modern style.

There are many cozy cafes in the square. Near the most popular seafood restaurant Cervejaria Ramiro, where there is always a queue at the entrance. The district has bad fame from the late 80s at the time when prostitutes greeted client in the area.

Only rumor remains from this former glory.

Meia pensão – an apartment which had previously been used “temporary” visitors, has since been spruced up into a lovely Guest House. Along with the lively restaurants and well-stocked supermarkets, it makes for a good location because you can walk for 25 minutes to Piazzale Rossio. The area is bordered by the Mouraria district.

Baixa district in Lisbon

Baixa district, sourced from Wikimedia

Perhaps this area has one of the most comfortable locations. It can be defined as the core of the historical center. One part of the name suggests that the area is in a lowland. It rests against the Commerce Square in the Tagus River, and on the other side is bounded by the Rossio and Figueira squares.

It was this region that the Marquis de Pombal restored in the 18th century. Previously, these streets seemed to be wider, but Pombal claimed that they would narrow with time.

Today there are a lot of hotels and restaurants. From here it is convenient to walk by foot.

There is a beautiful Museum of Design and Fashion, which was opened in the summer of 2017, after reconstruction, and shops of historical commerce with beautiful windows. Also a must visit is the free Money Museum on the Square of the Municipality. From the Baixa district, the famous Santa Justa elevator takes tourists to the Chiado area.

Avenida da Liberdade avenue

Avenida da Liberdade, sourced from Wikimedia

This is one of the widest avenues of Lisbon, which was once designed according to the prototype of the Champs Elysees in Paris. Century-old trees create here a pleasant shade in the hot season.

This is the most expensive street in the city where all high brand boutiques are concentrated. Hotels are quite different varying from 2 to 5 stars.

There are several metro stations, within walking distance to the shopping center El Corte Ingles, Rossio Station, and the historic center.  There are typical places in the parallel streets where local lunch and dinner are served.

Despite the fact that it is a lively avenue, the courtyards are very quiet there, and behind the glossy avenue and brilliant shop windows, picturesque old-style houses are beginning to spread out along the streets.

Chiado district of Lisbon

Chiado in Lisbon, sourced from Wikimedia

On Chiado (“Shiaudu”), there is so much located there that the head can go spinning. All these sight viewing platforms, the endless shops, cafes, restaurants (including those with Michelin stars), squares, and beautiful views.

Rua Garret and Rua do Carmo is quite lively. On a day off there is almost no free place because locals also love Chiado for shopping and the atmosphere.

This is a great location with completely new hotels and hostels. Many attractions are located here – the Carmo Monastery, the church of Sâo Roque, the viewing platform of the Santa Justa Elevator. It is close to the Bairro Alto part, but there is no noise at night. The area is located on several hills, so no matter how cool it looks the descents and ascents cannot be avoided.

Bairro Alto district

Bairro Alto, sourced from Wikimedia

It is a chameleon district – an area of bars where you will find party-goers on benders, awake for up to 3 nights in a row. It is in this area that a huge number of apartments are being rented by locals. If you are going to drink and hang out, then this area is for you. If you want quiet nights, then this area is one of the last on the list.

There are quiet streets, but not too many. If you are looking to stay out all night head to Rua da Atalaia. Festivities continue late after 3 am because the cheerful crowd refuses to dissolve into the night.

During the day, it is really quiet and colorful here, there are interesting shops on Rua da Rosa. The main thing you will see on the advertised menus here are cokctails. Only residents, taxis and special vehicles can drive to this area by car. The nearest metro station is Baixa-Chiado. The area is bordered by areas of Chiado and Principe Real.

Principe Real district

Principe Real, sourced from Wikimedia

It is a trendy quarter of Lisbon. There are many shops, conceptual design, galleries, and interesting restaurants.

The area is located on a hill, so you always have to go up and down. There are no metro or trams here, so basically you have to walk by foot.

The area is very quiet being loved among the Portuguese Bohemians. A few years ago LGBT-friendly clubs and bars opened here.

There is an interesting shopping center – Embaixada, a cozy square with a playground. The district borders the areas of Chiado and Bairro Alto.

Santa Catarina district

Santa Catarina, sourced from Wikimedia

This area is bordered by the areas of Bairro Alto and Chiado, located on a hill, and that is why at the end of the XIX century a funicular was launched here.

Until recently, it was a slightly dilapidated quarter. Many buildings have been restored, and in apartments where there was no ceiling before, wonderful apartments are being rented today.

The area is good for hiking in the city. There are good bars and restaurants with terraces such as Madam Petisca and Farmacia. On the observation deck, Santa Catarina always smells like weed, but in the evenings there are beautiful sunsets and a lot of young people resting, with music and beer. Get ready for the stairs, of which there is a huge amount.

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