From the riverside monuments in Belém to Alfama’s fado restaurants, Lisbon life is all about the neighborhoods—they vary as much as the hilly city’s rolling terrain. Whether you’re here for the culture, history, or energetic nightlife, it’s worth sampling at least a few districts. Here are our picks of the essential Lisbon neighborhoods.
Totally rebuilt after a major earthquake in the 18th century, Baixa is historically Lisbon’s commercial center. Cafés, shops, and monuments line the wide Avenida da Liberdade, and the spacious squares are popular meet-up points; check out Restauradores Square, Rossio Square, and Commerce Square. Of all the creative ways locals avoid walking up Lisbon’s steep streets, the Santa Justa Lift—a neo-Gothic elevator that originally ran on steam—might be the most fun, and it’s a key stop while visiting Baixa.
This historic district by the Tagus River claims both of Lisbon’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Tower of Belém and the Monastery of St. Jerome. Just as storied, the surrounding neighborhood is a must-see for history buffs. And there’s one other thing that tempts travelers to Belém—it’s one of the top places to taste pastéis de nata, a small, sweet custard tart that’s perfect as an afternoon snack.
Winding streets lined with traditional houses make Alfama one of Lisbon’s most romantic areas. What’s more, this is the spot to catch a fado performance, the haunting music that’s listed as UNESCO Intangible Heritage. Other highlights of this neighborhood include the Castelo de São Jorge and the Church of St. Anthony of Lisbon.
Outdoor cafés keep this creative neighborhood buzzing through the summer months, but Bairro Alto is an energetic destination any time of year. During the day it’s all about browsing boutiques, but after dark it comes into its own as home to one of the city’s wildest nightlife scenes.
Parque das Nações
The riverside neighborhood of Parque das Nações was transformed for the 1998 World Expo, and it has a bold, modern feel that’s a world away from the city center. The Lisbon Oceanarium is a favorite stop with families and animal lovers; other destinations include the Pavilion of Knowledge science center and the Pavilhão de Portugal, which was designed for the World Expo itself.