Although Lisbon is quite a small city, it’s made up of lots of different neighbourhoods and each one has its own unique character.
Different neighbourhoods are good for different things. Some neighbourhoods, like Cais do Sodré and the Bairro Alto, are great for doing out in, but may not be the best neighbourhood to stay in or live in. Lots of people like to stay in Alfama when they visit Lisbon, but it may not be the best neighbourhood to stay in if you’re planning on living in Lisbon long term. And so on.
Regardless of what they’re best for, each neighbourhood has its own vibe and something to offer. This article gives a run down on some of Lisbon’s most popular and most interesting neighbourhoods.
Baixa is the most central neighbourhood in Lisbon, and you’ll end up here regardless of whether you plan to go here or not. The neighbourhood is extremely flat, with large, grand buildings and equally grand squares. The grandest of all the streets is Rua Augusta, a large pedestrian street that runs through central Baixa all the way to Praça do Comércio.
As well as Praça do Comércio, another popular attraction that you’ll find in Baixa is the Elevador Santa Justa. This elevator was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, a student of Gustave Eiffel who famously designed the Eiffel tower in Paris. If you take it the elevator, it’ll take you all the way up to Largo do Carmo and to where the ruins of the Carmo Convent are located.
Baixa is very touristic, and is mainly made up of over-priced restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels as well as a few banks. There are still a few gems, including some very nice cafes, but this is a good summary of the majority of Baixa.
It’s a very quiet area in the evening, as there are very few bars here, but it’s not a very residential area.
Avenida da Liberdade
Avenida da Liberdade is an equally grand part of Lisbon, if not grander, that connects Restauradores square in Baixa with Marques de Pombal. Built in 1879, it was modeled after the boulevards in Paris and it feels incredibly Parisian. The streets here are wide and lined with trees and quiosks where you can relax and grab a coffee or a glass of wine, and almost every shop here is designer. If you’re looking to spend a little money, this is where you’ll find brand names like Emporio Armani, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton.
Although Avenida da Liberdade is where you’ll find all the high-end brand names, Chiado is really Lisbon’s main shopping district. Here you’ll find everything from boutique clothing stores to household brand names, as well as several iconic stores including Livraria Bertrand: the world’s oldest bookstore.
Like Baixa and Avenida da Liberdade, the area is home to some incredibly grand buildings. During the 19th and early 20th century, Chiado attracted prominent Portuguese writers like Fernando Pessoa and Eça de Queiroz who used to write from some of the cafés here. Many of those cafés still exist, most famously Café A Brasileira, which has a statue of Pessoa outside.
Chiado connects several neighbourhoods together, like Baixa and Cais do Sodré, so it can be quite a busy neighbourhood with plenty of both tourists and locals. Because of this, it’s somewhere that you’ll more than likely end up walking through at least once.
Alfama is the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon, and one of the few neighbourhoods to survive the 1755 earthquake. Because of its age, the layout is almost a labyrinth of narrow streets that wind around the side of the hill below the São Jorge Castle. It’s known for its fado houses, and its incredibly traditional vibe, and is always a hit with visitors to Lisbon.
Alfama is one of the neighbourhoods that’s been most heavily impacted by Lisbon’s tourism boom. While the neighbourhood was traditionally very working-class, in recent years large numbers of its residents have moved out to make way for Airbnbs and other apartment rentals. Many businesses also moved, and have been replaced by souvenir shops and petiscos restaurants.
Although the neighbourhood is in danger of losing its soul, many of the older residents still remain and you can still get a sense of the neighbourhood’s unique feel. One of the best times to visit is in June, during the Santo António festival when the neighbourhood really comes alive. Otherwise, be sure to visit one of the many fado houses and experience this unique genre of Portuguese music.
Made up of boutique clothes shops and trendy restaurants, Príncipe Real is one of Lisbon’s most popular neighbourhoods – both to visit and to live in. Although it’s situated right next to the Bairro Alto, one of Lisbon’s most popular nightlife areas, Príncipe Real is much, much tamer.
With a beautiful park, miradouros with incredible views of the city, this is a beautiful neighbourhood to wander through and grab a cup of coffee or grab a bite to eat. It’s also one of the most desired neighbourhoods to live in, particularly with successful artists.
On Saturday mornings, there’s a farmers’ market with stalls selling organic, health-conscious, and eco-friendly products from producers in Lisbon and from right across Portugal.
Although Graça is located next to touristy neighbourhoods like Alfama and Castelo, the restaurants and pastelarias are still very traditional, very Portuguese, and very affordable.
It is quite popular with tourists, particularly for its beautiful Miradouro da Graça, but generally only with those that manage to get on Tram 28: Graça is on one of the highest points in the city, and walking up the hill can be pretty tough if you’re not used to it.
If you do make it to the top, though, it’s definitely worth it. Graça has some of the best views of the city.
The Bairro Alto is mainly associated with nightlife: the area is made up of hundreds of tiny bars, as well as restaurants and shops. It’s somewhere you go to grab a cheap beer or caipirinha, and then wander around outside chatting to whoever you bump into.
Although there are a few shops open during the day, including a few small independent boutiques, the neighbourhood is very quiet during the day. At night it’s the opposite, though, which is why it isn’t usually the best place to live in or even to visit.
That’s not to say everywhere here is noisy. There are plenty of apartments and small hotels that aren’t on the busy streets, or that have managed to soundproof themselves, and the reviews will definitely tell you if the accommodation falls into this category.
Cais do Sodré
Cais do Sodré is another area that’s popular at night, particularly around the “Pink Street,” although it’s only really become popular in the past few years. The Bairro Alto used to be the main area for nightlife but, as more and more bars and restaurants have opened up in Cais do Sodré, this area has quickly become one of the most popular neighbourhoods to go out in.
Unlike the Bairro Alto, Cais do Sodré gets quite a bit of foot traffic during the day as well. There are plenty of cafés, restaurants, and shops here, and it’s also home to the very popular Time Out food market.
Like the Bairro Alto, this area can be quite noisy. It really depends where your apartment or hotel is located, though, as there are plenty of side streets which are very quiet at night.
Belém is the last neighbourhood in Western Lisbon and, after that, you’re officially out of Lisbon. It’s home to several famous attractions and monuments including Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument). It’s also home to several museums and art galleries, including Museu Coleção Berardo and the MAAT.
Perhaps even more popular than all of those things is Pastéis de Belém, the original makers of the pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart). Every day, thousands of people queue up to try Portugal’s most famous dish and the queues usually extend far down the street.
Although this is quite a touristy neighbourhood, it’s fairly quiet at night. Although there are plenty of hotels and Airbnbs here, most tourists come for the day and go back to the city centre afterwards. Parts of Belém are actually quite residential, particularly where Belém begins to connect with neighbouring Restelo and Ajuda.
Campo de Ourique
Campo de Ourique is a residential and fairly upmarket neighbourhood that tends to attract young professionals and young families. It’s made up of lots of fashionable restaurants, coffee shops, and independent boutiques. It’s also home to the Mercado de Campo de Ourique, which is like a much smaller (and less well-known) version of the Time Out Market in Cais do Sodré.
Alcântara was traditionally a working-class neighbourhood but has become very popular in recent years. Most of this is because of the LX Factory, a complex of old factory builds that has been regenerated into an area with lots of hipster coffee shops, designers, restaurants, and co-working spaces.
Although Alcântara has definitely become more popular, the rest of the neighbourhood is still very traditional. There are plenty of great traditional restaurants and pastelarias, and the district still has a great community feel.
It’s located right next to the 25 de Abril Bridge, which not only means that you get beautiful views of it but also means it’s very easy to get to the other side of the water if you have a car.
Situated just outside of Lisbon’s core city centre lies the quiet, residential neighbourhood of Santos. Known for its design school, IADE, and its design shops, the area is popular with art lovers and art students.
The area is fairly quiet and non-touristic as it’s that little bit too far from the main hub. Restaurants and cafes are less crowded, and the neighbourhood has a very calm feel to it.
Mouraria is one of Lisbon’s multicultural neighbourhoods. It’s home to people from all over the world, but mainly from Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, and Mozambique.
The neighbourhood has actually been multicultural for a lot of Lisbon’s history. When D. Afonso Henriques took Lisbon back from the Moors in the 12th Century, he allowed the Moors to live in this neighbourhood. They continued to live there for another 300 years until they were expelled from the city along with the Jews.
Although the area is slowly becoming more and more gentrified, particularly around Martim Moniz Square, some people may still feel uneasy particularly at night. It is definitely one of Lisbon’s most interesting neighbourhoods culturally, especially if you want to eat something other than Portuguese food.
Parque das Nações
Parque das Nações is a part of Lisbon that was redeveloped when Lisbon was hosting Expo ’98, and has since become a very popular part of Lisbon to live in. It’s generally fairly quiet here except when there’s a concert or conference (e.g. Web Summit) taking place.
This part of Lisbon probably won’t appeal to a lot of tourists. It’s mainly made up of high-rise residential buildings and hotels, and most of the buzz is located around the Vasco da Gama shopping centre. Because most of the apartments are new, the houses are often much better quality than those in the centre of Lisbon. Although this does mean the apartments are nice to live in, the neighbourhood does lack the traditional neighbourhood feel that you get in most of the city centre.
Although it’s located quite far outside of Lisbon City Centre, Marvila (and nearby Beato) is one of Lisbon’s most up-and-coming neighbourhoods. In the past few years, it has quickly transformed from being a former industrial wasteland into one of the most desireable places to live. Abandoned warehouses have been converted into studios, craft beer breweries, and art galleries, and young Lisboetas have taken up residence in what was once cheaper accommodation.