Lisbon Without The Tourist Traps: 10 Must-See Places
Illustration by Victoria Fernandez.
If you’re reading this, then it’s no surprise to hear that Lisbon is quickly becoming one of the hottest travel destinations in Europe. The city is changing daily, and this vivacity is reflected in the markets, beaches, shops and other points of interest — sights that appear in every Lisbon travel guide, and are packed with tourists accordingly. So here’s something different: I’ve chosen 10 spots around Lisbon that will make your visit to the Portuguese capital a bit more exciting.
In my Lisbon travel guide, I’ve gathered tips for anyone who’d like to escape the tourist hubbub and enjoy some of the more authentic spots, like nearby beaches or a wine tour. (There are also many wonders to discover just a bit further afield, in the Sesimbra or Setúbal regions.) Let’s get started!
1. LX Factory
LX Factory is an industrial complex in the Alcântara district, with a large array of shops and restaurants and a small crafts market every Sunday. Standout spots include Landeau Chocolate (don’t miss their sublime chocolate cake), the antique shop Muito Muito with its countless tiny keepsakes, and Pura Cal, a shop specializing in interior design.
Meanwhile, book lovers may lose several hours in Ler Devagar (which translates to “reading slowly”). This beautiful bookshop offers a rich selection of literature for adults and children alike, and on the second floor, there’s also a charming café. Don’t miss this building’s incredible facade: It was part of the 2012-2013 Espaço Brasil event and was painted by the Brazilian artist Derlon.
2. Feira da Ladra
When it comes to giving old objects new life, you won’t do better than this flea market at Campo de Santa Clara. Make sure to take plenty of time to browse and rummage around so you can see as many of the unique objects as possible. Don’t be surprised if the merchants spread their wares right on the sidewalk! With just a little patience, you’ll surely find a treasure: porcelain, silver, or even local handicrafts. By the way: the locals all know that this market is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Now you do, too!
3. Miradouro de Santa Catarina
The viewpoint at Miradouro Santa Catarina is a beloved meeting spot of young locals. Here you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Tejo River, and if you’re hungry, you’ll find many delicious pubs and restaurants nearby. This is also a favorite spot for street musicians, who provide a killer soundtrack while you take in the sunset.
4. Cervejaria Ramiro in Bairro Alto
In the city center, you’ll find many Cervejarias, which serve delicacies of the sea. An alternative to the very well-known (and very touristy) Cervejaria Trindade in the Chiado district is the Cervejaria Ramiro in Bairro Alto. At this spot they serve my favorite dish: Gamba à la Guilho, or garlic fried shrimp. If you’re not in love with seafood, then I recommend the Prego no Pão, a delectable sandwich made with fried beefsteak (and garlic, of course). The menu also boasts a great selection of Portuguese wines.
5. Chocolataria Equador
Chocolateria Equador, in the center of Lisbon, makes a variety of fine chocolates. From traditional offerings to extraordinary creations with figs or port wine, you’ll find everything chocolate-related here. In addition to the incredible smell that wafts through the whole shop, you’ll also be dazzled by the store’s colorful geometric packaging. This chocolate makes a truly unique souvenir to bring home to friends — or to yourself!
6. Gelados Santini
While we’re on the topic of sweet treats: The ice cream at Gelados Santini, a chain founded in Cascais with multiple locations throughout Lisbon, has become a true institution in this Iberian harbor city. The gelados, as the Portuguese call “ice cream,” are a delicious way to cope with the hot Lisbon summers, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying them on mild winter days, too. Be ready for long lines out the door, especially on hot days — but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
7. Mercado Time Out
The Mercado Time Out — also known as the Mercado da Ribiera in the Cais do Sodré district — is the ideal destination for anyone interested in discovering new interpretations of Portuguese cuisine from local chefs. The numerous restaurants and bars in this hall are run by locals who offer their signature dishes at affordable prices. Here, you can try the famous Pastéis de Nata, a sweet Portuguese puff pastry.
8. A Vida Portuguesa
In the shop A Vida Portuguesa, you’ll find a great selection of quality Portuguese goods. Amidst the soaps and fabrics here, you’ll also find roupas de casa, or sheets and towels, as well as traditional sardine tins and the unbelievably beautiful handcrafted notebooks from the Emílio Braga paper mill. There’s one of these shops in the Chiado district and one in Mercado Time Out.
9. José Maria da Fonseca
This historical wine cellar offers guided tours through its wineries in the Setúbal region. On the menu you’ll find over 40 types of wine from five regions of the country. Here you’ll not only learn something about the history of wine production but also about the manufacture of specific brands such as the Moscatel de Setúbal, a dessert wine that comes from a controlled growing area. The José Maria da Fonseca wine cellar itself also produces the Periquita variety, which was the first bottled wine in Portugal.
10. Praia do Ouro
Lisbon’s surrounding areas offer numerous inviting beaches. If you’d like to make a day trip outside of the Portuguese capital, the Praia do Ouro in Sesimbra is a great choice. This beach is in the Setúbal district and is about one hour by car from the city center. On the coast, you’ll find lots of restaurants and plenty of fresh seafood on offer, including local delicacies such as percebes (gooseneck barnacles), almejoas (clams) and caracoles (snails). It’s sure to be a high point of your stay!