Ranked: A Guide to the Best Neighbourhoods in Lisbon

Lisbon might be small, but it’s made up of vastly different neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct character. Which one should you choose?

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There’s nothing quite as annoying as planning a trip to a new city and immediately being faced with a bunch of neighbourhood names. We feel you. The short answer to where you should stay is always ‘it depends’, but for the long one, we decided to ask our Home Critics to compile a list. Their top picks surprised us (a little).

8. Bairro Alto

Yes, you should give Bairro Alto a go – but only if you know what you’re getting yourself into. The narrow streets of the neighbourhood are cute and superbly photogenic, boasting boutique museums and cosy bars where you can stop and soak in the sights. It’s central. It’s nice. It might look a bit busy during the day, but that’s nothing compared to the influx of partygoers after dusk. Outdoor terraces fill with locals and tourists alike, and if you’re not ready to go with the flow (or if your windows are poorly insulated), your good night’s rest might be at risk. Still, great brunch cafes. Great transport links.

Homes in Bairro Alto are usually a rich mix of traditional architecture and modern touches. The windows are a bit smaller on average, but that’s precisely why mood lighting was invented.

7. Baixa

After the great fire of 1755, Baixa was completely rebuilt as a majestic neo-classical neighbourhood. Think azulejo façades, theatres, Lisbon's most emblematic grand squares, and more. You won't be starved for entertainment either, with world-class museums and street performers, as well as ancient Roman ruins. This is definitely an area that's more popular during the daytime than at night. And by popular, we mean packed. Aside from the architecture and the historical sights, Baixa’s authenticity is somewhat disputed – you’re much more likely to encounter fellow travellers than locals. After sundown, however, things settle down, and the neighbourhood noise becomes much more manageable.

Homes in Baixa usually have high ceilings and beautiful french windows, which are remnants of the Pombaline restoration. They’re usually a bit pricier due to the central location, but if you want to explore on foot, then this is the place to be.

6. Cais do Sodré

Cais do Sodré personifies the change and uplift Lisbon has had in the past, spearheading Lisbon's change from the traditional to the modern. Once a neglected area at the harbour, Cais do Sodré is now one of the most pleasant spaces to be in the capital – dare we say 'a hidden gem'. With a mosaic of new cafes where digital nomads take advantage of the free WiFi, fashionable shops, restaurants, and bars, it's a seaside refuge that reminds its visitors of Lisbon's almost forgotten naval nature.

The nightlife does get a bit rowdy sometimes though, especially around Pink Street, so it might not be the best place to stay for those who prefer their nights to be spent in full serenity.

Foodies take note – Mercado da Ribeira, now taken over by Time Out magazine, is a must-see. Come hungry.

5. Graça

If Graça was a person, it would be a local shop owner who knows everyone and asks you if you want 'the usual' after you've been there only a few times – tourist or not. But although Graça is one of Lisbon's oldest neighbourhoods, it's far from a sleepy village. Situated on the highest of Lisbon’s seven hills, this neighbourhood is a very sought-after location for young locals to go on romantic walks, chasing orange and pink sunsets over the river from the many miradouros.

Relatively untouched by Lisbon’s mass tourism, it’s a brilliant place to stay if you actually want to relax. Of course, travel times to the centre increase the farther out you go, so you might find yourself using the tram more than walking.

Homes in Graça are usually bigger, quieter, brighter, and on average, more of them have private patios than the strict centre of the city. There’s just more space to chill.

4. Lapa

Lapa is somewhat similar to Graça, but the architecture is posher – mostly because it used to be yet another refuge for aristocrats when the downtown parts became too crowded. The promise of the most amazing views over the Tejo river drives visitors into its heights, and few are ever disappointed. In spite of the extravagant architecture, Lapa has maintained a quiet residential feel since its aristocratic days.

It's the perfect spot for a late afternoon stroll and a leisurely meal with some fado in the background (Senhor Vinho, one of the most reputable fado houses in Lisbon is, in the area after all).

A lot of embassies call Lapa their home, which can tell you a lot about the atmosphere. Some might find it too quiet, but we liked it.

3. Alcântara

With the booming of tourism in Lisbon in the past few years, some areas have inevitably changed. Alcantara is not one of them. Its name stems from the Arabic word for 'bridge' which is, as anyone who strolls through Alcântara will realize, a very literal name. 'The 25th of April Bridge' dominates the sky from every point in Alcântara and adds a backdrop of grandeur. Alcântara's streets are filled with street art, cosy restaurants, and according to local chocolatiers Landeau, the best chocolate cake in the world.

Being halfway between the old city centre and Belém, this is the place to be if you’re keen to have it all, but you’ll need to use public transportation to get around.

For things to do locally, we recommend the former industrial complex of Lx Factory, a deconstructed shopping mall with street food and indie retailers.

2. Alfama

Being arguably the most characteristic neighbourhood in Lisbon is no easy feat and Alfama's residents take much pride in that. It's not only the most authentic, but also the oldest, having survived the great earthquake of 1775. Colours, narrow cobbled streets, and flaking facades reveal warm locals who peek out of the windows and watch the world go by. A smile goes a long way in Alfama and if you strike a conversation with a resident, you just might get invited to lunch.

They say this is the best way to explore Alfama – let yourself get lost – but the less adventurous visitors can rely on tram 28 to take in the sights.

As much as we adore Alfama, we need to mention that it’s not the most accessible neighbourhood – lots of streets are too narrow for cars, even local taxis. Plus, the internet in the whole neighbourhood is slow.

1. Avenida da Liberdade

New York has 5th Avenue, Paris has Champs Elysees, and Lisbon has Avenida da Liberdade. If you want luxury, then you've come to the right place. Walking down the avenue is a trip of pure opulence and lavishness, with a tradition of extravagance dating back to the mid 18th century when it was built for the Portuguese nobility to stroll and enjoy the good things in life. Central, full of life, and armed with a great selection of stores, it’s the ideal area for a shopping spree - if your pockets can handle it, of course.

Shopping aside, Avenida da Liberdade is an amazing place to stay. You can easily walk to the riverside or take a tram to the more residential areas, while still staying true to your needs (especially if your needs include treating yourself every once in a while).

Homes in and around Avenida de Liberdade are without a doubt the most beautiful and well-located in Lisbon, in exchange for a slightly higher price tag that is.

Well done, you now know precisely where to go in Lisbon – tell a friend, and if you’re visiting, please don’t forget the chocolate cake in Landeau. We can’t imagine anything sadder than leaving Lisbon without ever trying it.

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