Where to Stay in Lisbon, Portugal: Traveler’s Guide to the City of Seven Hills
By Camila Perez on Dec 13, 2019
Lisbon is home to major landmarks, traditional fado music, and some of the freshest seafood in the world. So it’s no wonder then, that six million of us come to visit Portugal’s capital every single year.
Named the city of seven hills by the Romans after its similarity to Rome, Lisbon is also known as the San Francisco of Europe. It’s located about halfway down the West coast of Portugal, right on the Tagus river. Quaint surf towns are also close by.
As a capital city, a first time visit can be overwhelming or intimidating, with many wondering where to stay in Lisbon. To learn more about your options when it comes to the best neighborhood in Lisbon, read on.
In this guide, we'll take a look at:
An introduction to Lisbon
Lisbon neighborhoods map and breakdown
Where to stay for specific attractions
City of seven hills alternatives
The ultimate best area to stay in Lisbon Portugal
In this guide, we’ll cover best neighborhoods in Lisbon, with our unique take on different activities to enjoy throughout the city. As it turns out, the answer to the question of where to stay in Lisbon Portugal depends on what you’re hoping to get from your trip. Let’s take a closer look!
Welcome to Lisbon
Let’s start with a little context. Lisbon has a rich history when it comes to royalty and religion. As the origin of the crusaders, about 81% of the country identifies as Christian and this is reflected in the monasteries and architecture surrounding the capital city. It also means in each of the neighborhoods in Lisbon, there are different cultural attractions and activities.
Lisbon, city of seven hills, is perched right on the Atlantic Ocean. This means that there is plenty of water in view thanks to its position along the northern bank of the Tegus river. Bursting with a hub of great bars, restaurants, breathtaking scenery and historical sites, this city of sunshine has become an attractive option for artists and young entrepreneurs alike.
The streets of Lisbon are laid out in a grid pattern and could be compared to the ‘blocks’ found in American cities. Each area has its own large square for meeting, and many of the towns have a ‘suburban’ feel, rather than a true city centre.
Much of Lisbon’s history is reflected in its buildings, with many original features that are centuries old. Fortunately, town planners took this into account when rebuilding, renovating and expanding the city. Therefore, even the more modern areas have an older vibe, although these are usually described as classic, rather than dated.
With each area having its own cultural quirks, a few things must be considered before deciding where to stay in Lisbon neighborhoods.
Map of Lisbon Neighborhoods
Lisbon is divided into several major districts, which you’ll find on our Lisbon neighborhoods map. Depending on your priorities, any one of them could be your personal answer to the question of where to stay in the Lisbon hills.
Cais do Sodre
Best for: nightlife, arts and culture.
In our opinion of the best neighborhoods to stay in Lisbon, Cais do Sodre takes the cake. Here, you’ll find endless opportunities to experirence the best of Portugal’s capital.
This trendy area is within easy reach of cool vintage shops, beautiful art galleries, wonderful cafes, and marvelous riverfront venues. If you’re planning a visit to LUX Fragil, which holds claim to fame as one of Lisbon’s biggest (and best) nightclubs, you’ll appreciate Cais do Sodre for its close proximity and affordable, friendly hotels.
Cais do Sodre is effortlessly fashionable yet unpretentious. This diverse neighborhood boasts a welcoming atmosphere, where digital nomads and students rub elbows with visitors, adding to its vibrant appeal. A train station offers direct connections to Lisbon’s beaches, which are just about 20 minutes away. Timeout Market showcases an endless array of food stalls, and the colorful Municipal market makes for a unique shopping experience. All along Pink Street, which is named in honor of its colorful pavement, nightclubs and bars offer after-hours fun, where you can sip local ginjinha and dance to local beats till the early hours.
Because this neighborhood is within a short distance of so many popular attractions and offers so many things to do, it’s our top pick for the best place to stay in Lisbon.
Best for: business.
Visitors to Lisbon really can’t get more central than Baixa. Located in Lisbon city center,it’s definitely the one of the best Lisbon neighborhoods to stay for those who prefer luxury over affordability, as there are some luxurious properties from which to choose.
While it’s known as Baixa district, Lisbon’s main business is also sometimes called Rossio after the main square, which is described as the city’s nerve center. The area was rebuilt after much of its infrastructure was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. It’s home to Café Nicola, which is one of Lisbon’s most famous coffee shops, and a popular place for artists, entrepreneurs, and locals to unwind.
Best for: shopping.
Urban concept shops, amazing designer stores, and close proximity to Bairro Alto make Principe Real an up-and-coming neighborhood. It’s probably one of the best districts in Lisbon for those who want to prioritize shopping, and who prefer five-star hotels that boast incredible design details along with luxurious extras.
This is easily the most exclusive district, with a clean and classy feel about it. Those looking for a leafy green neighborhood in Lisbon would likely prefer this area. Think upper Manhatten in New York, or Chelsea and Kensington in London. If money is no object, shortlist Principe Real on the neighborhoods of Lisbon map.
Best for: partying.
When searching up where to stay in Lisbon, first-timers might choose the towering heights of Bairro Alto.\
During the daytime, it is best known for its views. Once it’s time to party, bars and restaurants open their ground floor doors wide to welcome guests. If you’re looking for something cheap and within close proximity to exciting hotspots, then this might be the best place to stay in Lisbon.
Be careful though – the partying lasts well into the early hours, with happy crowds gathering in the streets and flowing from one establishment to the next. If you need peace and quiet to sleep, the best areas to stay in Lisbon will be elsewhere. Cais de Sodre is a good bet.
Wander the roads of Alfama, and you’ll notice signs of the area’s Moorish roots. The streets of Lisbon old town seem to wind with a will of their own and buildings are situated almost on top of one another. It’s as old as neighborhoods of Lisbon go, with many sites dating back to the middle ages. The fascinating architecture here is among the buildings that were spared in the 1755 earthquake.
The main drawback to this neighborhood is that it is difficult for cars to access, and it can be tough to navigate after dark. Yet, for those who are homebodies even when on vacation, and if Lisbon’s history is the number one reason for visiting, staying in Alfama is likely to be the perfect answer to where to stay in Lisbon.
Where to stay in Lisbon for attractions
It’s very hard to get bored in Lisbon. Even if history is not particularly of interest, Lisbon boasts crystal clear waters, colorful festivities and tantalizing local cuisine. If the best neighborhood in Lisbon depends on how close tourists can get to the thick of the action, it’s time to get to know the local attractions.
Praca do Comercio and Rua Augusta
On the Baixa Lisbon map, visitors will find the likes of Praca do Comercio and Rua Augusta.
Being home to these top attractions, it would be absolutely criminal not to mention this area on the Lisbon neighborhood guide. Due to Baixa offering the Praca do Comercio and Rua Augusta, many hotels in this area also boast some intriguing historic features.
For those traveling on business, the Baixa Chiado area offers close proximity to the Lisbon city center, where large banks and companies share wide avenues with supermarkets, restaurants, and more. Take a walking tour for more insight.
There is no shortage of attractions in the Rossio area, which is within easy proximity to major landmarks. The Santa Justa elevator in particular is an immersive experience, with some of its original parts dating all the way back to the 1930s.
Since this part of Lisbon is flatter than many other districts, the elevator offers unmatched panoramic views across the Lisbon Portugal neighborhoods. Plus, Rossio square provides a welcome break from all the hills
Jeronimos Monastery and Belem
Belém is an ancient settlement that perches on the bank of the River Tagus, with a visit here at the top of many Lisbon to-do lists. Amazing monuments and incredible architecture often take the breath of visitors away.
After finding comfortable accomodation here in Cais do Sodre, there are two monuments not to miss: the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém tower. Fortunately, both of these are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Lisbon Maritime Museum is also located here, and so is the Berardo Collection, which is one of Europe’s most prominent modern art galleries. This makes Cais do Sodre (hands down) the best neighborhood to stay in Lisbon.
National Museum of Art and Local Galleries
Where to stay in Lisbon for art and theatre lovers?
Chiado is the only place to choose. With free-flowing hippy town vibes, this Lisbon district hosts a multitude of independent and local feeling stores, alongside events and shows at the Sao Carlos theatre.
Also here is a historic section, being home to the Museum of Cormo, which offers a strong focus on archaeology. The Convento do Carmo is a nearby gothic convent in Chiado and remains one of the most iconic sites in Lisbon.
LGBT & Nightlife
When searching where to stay in Lisbon for nightlife, there is really no other option than Principe Real or Bairro Alto.
Lisbon neighborhoods may flow almost seamlessly into one another, but each is famous for distinct attractions. Here lies the country’s most popular gay sauna, Trombeta Bath, as well as many dedicated gay bars.
In general, Portugal is rated highly among the LGBT population for safety and comfort levels. Of course, this aspect could be one of the biggest considerations for people looking to visit the country, so it’s good to know that Portugal is frequently referred to as one of the most ‘ gay-friendly’ countries in the world.
Best Districts in Lisbon for Day trips
Lisbon is pretty great, but sometimes tourists crave the exploration. We get it, so as well as the best place to stay in Lisbon city centre, we’ve got some recommendations for stays further afield too. Let’s check out some good day tripneighborhoods, Lisbon will always be there to come back to.
Porto’s wineries, galleries, gardens and museum mean that it goes one for one competing with Lisbon neighborhoods. Where to stay? Selina Porto, of course. Within easy distance, the serenading guitarists make it feel like a world away.
Forget Lisbon, where to stay in Ericeira should be the question for visitors looking to chase the waves. This town is only a short distance away and is famous for its beaches and surfing. Home to the fabled Pedra Blanca World Surf Reserve, it’s an incredible place where Sea caves beckon and stunning rock formations beg to be climbed.
Halfway between Lisbon and Faro, along Portugal’s Alentejo Coast, lies the town of Milfontes. Treks through national parks, meals that put fresh, local ingredients in the spotlight, wine tasting, paddle boarding, kayaking, and surfing are a few highlights.
The ultimate best place to stay in Lisbon
No matter the choice of stay or planned dates of arrival, booking early can help visitors get the desired room at a price that suits the budget. While average hotel prices vary from one type of lodging to the next, Cais do Sodre is where many agree on the best neighborhood to stay in the city of seven hills, Lisbon.
There’s enough history, art, and entertainment here to keep tourists occupied for weeks, and traveler-friendly accommodations welcome a diverse crowd including backpackers, surfers, scuba divers, and history buffs who long for the kind of adventures that only Lisbon can offer. For best in class accommodation to suit any budget, opt for Selina Secret Garden.
While other neighborhoods certainly hold a special appeal all their own, Cais do Sodre truly has it all.
If budget is the number one deciding factor, there are many excellent options available for well under $100. Groups and backpackers can save even more by opting for hostel-style lodgings that provide easy access to shared amenities while offering comfortable beds to suit even the most frugal of budgets.
What is there to do in Lisbon, Portugal?
When you’re done with where to stay in Lisbon, Portugal, planning itineraries is probably next on the list. Fortunately, there’s an almost never-ending list.
Lisbon offers castles, monasteries, river cruises and flea markets, to name but a few. While the traditional Faro music might not be your thing, on an evening, we suggest trying out the local alcoholic delicacy known as Ginjinga, before heading out to Bairro Alto.
What is the coolest neighborhood in Lisbon?
The trendiest district is Chiado, which is coincidentally also one of the best neighborhoods in Lisbon to live in. With hordes of independent shops and groovy trinkets to be found, Chiado is the up-and-coming, artsy district of Lisbon.
For ancient roman vibes, head to Alfama, where much of the original buildings and architecture remain intact. This is rare since Lisbon was hit by a huge earthquake in 1755 which destroyed much of the infrastructure in the city.
Is Lisbon a walkable city?
Looking at the Lisbon districts map might be intimidating, as the city looks huge.
In actual fact though, Portugal’s capital is incredibly walkable, if a little hilly. With a good pair of sports shoes, this is very doable for most. Plus, most of the inner city attractions are located very close to each other, so there’s not much of a commute between sightseeing stops.
And if walking becomes too much, however, there are plenty of trams to transport visitors around the Lisbon districts. Or, those preferring private transportation options can hail a taxi or opt for a shuttle during their tours.
What is the weather like in Lisbon?
After finding out where is the best to stay in Lisbon, it might be worth checking the weather forecast. Fortunately, the average year-round temperature is warm, at 70F.
In terms of rainfall, we’re also onto a winner, at an average rate of just 32inches per year. The coolest season is winter, between the months of December and February, where the temperature in Lisbon can drop to 46F.
How long should I stay in Lisbon Portugal?
With a city skyline and sandy coastline, Lisbon really does have it all. Many visitors decide to extend their stay in the city since there are just so many different things to see and do. We recommend planning at least one week in Lisbon to ensure you don’t miss the key sights and attractions.