Where to Stay in Lisbon For First Time Visitors
A Plum Guide approved round-up of the best areas to stay in the City of Seven Hills
Forget Paris, Lisbon is the real City of Light. With almost as many days of sunshine as there are Bacalhau cod dishes (there are 365), it’s no wonder locals call the Portuguese capital 'Luzboa'.
Beams of sunlight illuminate vistas from rooftop bars, miradouros and on the sun-kissed faces of its warm, peaceful people. Unlike other European hotspots, we’d say Lisbon is the only city that truly welcomes curious visitors eager to discover its stress-free secret with open arms.
Come to Lisbon with little expectations and you’ll leave stunned by what you find hiding amongst its seven hills. A history remarkably unscathed by time, diverse architectural styles and a land of prolific navigators, each corner of Lisbon has its own story to tell.
Whether you’re coming for the wine, artisanal shops, gourmet delights or to find out what “saudades” really means, follow our guide to decide where to stay in Lisbon. At Plum Guide, we love doing the hard work, so trust our expert advice for the perfect stay.
Stay in Alfama with the family
Finally planning on taking that digital detox? Then Alfama is the place to do it. The internet connection might be slow here but, if you’re still with us, it makes up for it with its views of rolling greenery, colourful facades and more character than all of your friends back home…put together. It’s the oldest quarter of the city and has a unique Moorish charm. This district won us over with its pedestrian village feel (family-friendly check) and is the city at its most authentic. Pay a visit to the Castelo de Sao Jorge and discover some Portuguese crafts at the Decorative Arts Museum. Long terrace lunches can be enjoyed/ruined (you decide) by the mournful fado music reverberating through its ancient walls. If you’re feeling a bit wobbly after a glass or two of the old vinho, then the Tram 28 will take you to the main sights. Just remember the names of the Se Cathedral and the Magdalena church - their tilework is unforgettable.
Stay near the oldest cafe in Baixa
Ah, Baixa. The neighbourhood that rose from the rubble of Lisbon’s devastating 18th-century earthquake. This central area has it all at your fingertips: historical and cultural jewels, good restaurants and bohemian cafes. For culture seekers keen on discovering the lifeblood of the capital, Baixa is without doubt the best area to stay in Lisbon. It’s sharp, polished and full of life. Championing Neo-classical grandeur; feast your eyes on and point your camera to its colourful ochre mansions with Azulejo tiling, triumphal arches and iconic grand plazas. We wouldn’t dare call Baixa anything close to a “hidden gem” but with world-class museums, theatres and lively waterfront street performers, what would you expect? The buzz dies down in the evening but you’re perfectly positioned to explore nearby Chiado, Principe Real and for a good night’s sleep. There’s a great collection of Plum homes here if this downtown neighbourhood is your pick. Lisbon’s oldest cafe, Martinha da Arcada, dating back from 1782, can be found by the Praca do Comercio, which looks onto the waterfront.
Travel to the stylish district of Chiado
Stylish and dripping in old-time glamour, just like you. Chiado wins points for being Lisbon’s most elegant artistic quarter. The smart calcada stoned enclave of Chiado, once a hotspot for famous Portuguese literary giants, is now where to stay in Lisbon for luxurious clothing stores, theatres, Art Nouveau cafes and Michelin-star restaurants. Oh, and the world’s oldest library, if you can be bothered to queue. Silversmiths, artisan stores and shops for old Portuguese porcelain are also popular, so you can finally bring home that green-cabbage motif plate you’ve always dreamed of. If Chiado has your name on it, then there's a collection of colourful tiled Plum homes (some with views of Paroquia dos Martires) to choose from.
Enjoy a romantic stay in Graca
In case you hadn’t already guessed, Graca means grace in Portuguese and although a bit full of itself, we hate to admit that we found quite a lot of it here. Perched atop Lisbon’s highest seven hills, (taxis and trams will take you straight there, don’t sweat), Graca’s sunset vistas from its miradouros are breathtaking - climbing the flight of stairs included. This is where to stay in Lisbon if you want to spark a romantic flame or for a relaxing escape (or both), without having to share it with crowds. A little further from the city’s main draws, (but not from pastéis de nata or local Gengibre bars), a stay in Graca offers a slice of local life. There’s more space to roam here so you’ll be treated with generous, bright homes with private patios, river views and a chance to sing in the shower.
Book a home in the luxurious Avenida da Liberdade
If you’re seeking pure luxury, then staying in Avenida da Liberdade is a safe bet. Built in the mid 18th century specifically for Portugese nobility to enjoy, designer shops like Prada, Armani and Burberry gloss its wide streets. If this area doesn’t already scream you, it also helps that the airport and business district are just a stone’s throw away. Oh, and if you’re in need of some fresh air, after all there’s nothing more stressful than buyer’s regret, the city’s largest park, Eduardo VII, is right on your doorstep.
Stay in the design district of Santos
Santos fancies itself as a design district and claims to be the “coolest” area in Lisbon - just ask the local hipsters. If the idea of sharing a neighbourhood with a fiery international hub of artists, architects and designers appeals to you, we won’t stop you. After all, a visit to its art institutions, design studios and museums is bound to give you a little creative nudge. Bairro Alto next door might be better known for its nightlife, but we think Santo’s more experimental take on a good time is that little bit better, plus Santos has the Tagus River.