Portugal is gaining popularity as a European destination, and with good reason! The weather is fabulous all year round, the food is simple and delicious, the nature is spectacular, the Portuguese are friendly and the culture is rich.
Lisbon has become a top European destination with its beautiful views, delicious cuisine and vibrant culture. Here are some must-sees for a first visit to the capital of Portugal.
Flying to Lisbon with points
It is possible to fly directly from Montreal to Lisbon using Aeroplan points. For example, a round trip in September 2023 will cost you approximately 82,600 points and $120 in fees and taxes with a preferred fare.
Here are some other tips to reduce the price of your flight to Lisbon:
- Watch for flight prices to nearby European destinations such as Porto and Madrid
- If you are short on points, you can transfer Membership Rewards points and Marriott Bonvoy points to the Aeroplan program
- You can also book a low cost flight (in points or cash) to a European destination, then combine it with a low cost flight to Lisbon
To help you earn the points you need to travel to Portugal, you can sign up for one of these Aeroplan credit cards:
Accommodation in Lisbon with points
With the annual Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card free night certificate, you can stay at several hotels in Lisbon such as the Moxy Lisbon City.
Please note that if you prefer another type of lodging, it is possible to use your points for reservations with Airbnb, or even to book accommodations with Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy.
For travelers on a budget, Lisbon is known as one of the cities with the best hostels in the world; take advantage of Booking.com’s Genius loyalty program to get the best prices.
What to do in Lisbon - Visit Belém and its surroundings
A visit to Belém is a classic for any first visit to Lisbon. Go to the Bélem Tower, then stop to taste the authentic pastel de nata of Belém, a real delicacy.
On your way to Belém, stop at two places: LX Factory and Village Underground.
LX Factory is a small industrial center of local stores and restaurants; the perfect place to find authentic souvenirs and admire the creations of Portuguese artists.
Village Underground is a unique platform that takes the form of structures made of buses and containers used as creative spaces. The place is both a work of art in itself, and a place where you can refuel.
What to do in Lisbon - Explore Alfama
The Alfama district is one of the oldest in Lisbon and its charm quickly makes up for its steep streets. Stroll through its narrow streets and you’ll probably come across one of the most beautiful views in Lisbon when you reach a Miradouro (panoramic terrace). Transport yourself back to medieval times with a visit to the São Jorge Castle, then hop on the iconic Tram 28 to admire the architecture of the neighborhood.
What to do in Lisbon - Take a trip to Sintra
Plan a day trip to visit Sintra, a village located 30 minutes by car from Lisbon that is also easily accessible by train from the Rossio station. Let yourself be enchanted by this magical place made up of palaces and castles such as the National Palace of Pena, Quinta da Regaleira and the Moorish Castle.
A day in Sintra gives the impression of walking in a fantastic universe like the ones we see in the movies that bathes in the surrounding nature and sometimes, is covered with a mist that adds its mystical aspect.
What to do in Lisbon - Taste the local cuisine and nightlife
You’ll find food for every taste in Lisbon, and Portuguese cuisine is definitely worth trying. Here are some personal suggestions:
- Bacalhau à bras, a comforting cod dish
- The excellent bifana sandwich from O Travo restaurant, as recommended by Anthony Bourdain
- Vinho verde, a nice alternative as refreshing as rosé, which tastes even better when enjoyed from a Miradouro with panoramic view
- The pastel de nata, you will find the best version in Pastéis de Belem or in Manteigaria (it’s up for debate)
- Fish and seafood are generally abundant and very well prepared in Lisbon
If you don’t know where to start your gastronomic adventure, the Time Out Market also known as Mercado da Ribeira is a good place to start. Lisbon is also full of delicious brunch restaurants and independent cafes.
Partygoers will also find plenty to do in the neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré. Since it is allowed to drink alcohol in the streets, they fill up quickly during the night.
What to do in Lisbon - Admire the most beautiful views
The city of Lisbon is full of breathtaking views. These are called Miradouro, and a simple Google search will take you to the most beautiful sights in the Portuguese capital. These are the perfect places to take a break after walking up countless streets. Save these in your Google Maps application:
- Santa Luiza
- São Pedro de Alcântara
- São Jorge Castle
- Porta do Sol
- Jardim do Torel
- Senhora do Monte
- Eduardo VII Park
- Santa Justa Elevator
Most of these places have terraces where you can have an aperitif, as well as street vendors that sell you snacks. That said, you can do as the locals do and bring your own drinks while enjoying some live music from local artists. During sunset, the atmosphere is often very festive.
What to do in Lisbon - Other ideas for activities
It certainly takes more than one visit to Lisbon to discover it in its entirety. Here are some suggestions for additional activities, depending on your interests:
- Take a walk along the waterfront promenade and visit the Praça do Comércio square
- Relax by the sea at Cascais beach, accessible by metro
- Experience the electrifying atmosphere of a soccer game and cheer on the home team at Benfica Stadium
- Take a day trip to Ericeira, a world surfing reserve, to watch the surfers or catch your own waves
- Visit the Lisbon Aquarium and take a ride on the cable car for a breathtaking view, located right next to the Moxy Lisboa Oriente
- Take a museum tour with the Museu do Azulejos, the Berardo Museum and the Calouste-Gulbenkian Museum
What to do in Lisbon - Tips and practical information
As in all major European cities, starting your visit with a free guided tour of Lisbon is a great way to not only see the most important attractions of the city, but also to identify places you want to explore further. Take this opportunity to ask your guide for some personalized suggestions (restaurants, parks, etc.) for the rest of your stay. You won’t regret it!
Civitatis offers a free guided tour of Lisbon in French that is highly rated. Book yours here.
Languages: Portuguese people are fluent in English, especially in Lisbon. Some of them also understand French. They will still appreciate an “Obrigado” as a thank you for their outstanding hospitality.
Transportation: It is very easy to get around by public transportation, whether it be the subway, bus, streetcar or commuter train. Uber is also available at very reasonable prices in Lisbon. Better yet, hop on a tuk-tuk for a unique experience.
Currency: Most places take credit cards, but it is always advisable to have euros on hand. Read our guide to getting the best exchange rate when traveling. For your payments in Lisbon, we recommend using a credit card with no conversion fees such as the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card to avoid paying a 2.5% fee on each transaction.
Network: While it won’t be difficult to get Wi-Fi in many establishments, it might be a good idea to purchase an eSim card for the duration of your stay via the Airalo app.
Finally, Lisbon is one of those cities where it is good to walk around without an itinerary, just to admire its architecture and hidden treasures. Having visited in January, October and during the summer, I can confirm that the climate is pleasant almost year round. In my opinion, it is a city that is best visited in the low season, if only to avoid the crowds.
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