things to know before visiting lisbon

Living in Portugal for nearly a year, I learned a lot of things about the Portuguese capital.

There are a few things to know before visiting Lisbon that will make your travels a delight, especially if you are visiting for the first time.

The biggest secret is that this beautiful city, with its narrow streets, will become one of your favorite tourist spots.

So, what should you know before planning your trip? Let us find out.

More About Lisbon

Compared to other European cities, Lisbon is the second oldest capital city. The first rulers were Romans, Germans, and Arabs.

The Portuguese crusaders conquered the city in 1147, and the Lisbon Museum offers a fascinating history.

Here, you can see maps of Lisbon from before the big earthquake in 1755, which destroyed most of the city.

Still, one thing to know before visiting Lisbon is that it remained an economic, cultural, and political center and was not officially confirmed as the capital city. It happened by default.

Government & Constitution

Portuguese-Flag

Lisbon celebrates democracy and is committed to free speech, equality, and political tolerance. You can enjoy a warm welcome and a fantastic stay by respecting the customs and local laws.

Currency

The official currency is the Euro, and vendors accept all major credit cards. ATMs are widely available. If you travel by direct flight to Lisbon, you can exchange currency easily at the airport, hotel, or bank upon arrival.

Language

The official language is Portuguese, but the local population also speaks English in the city’s tourist-heavy spots and surroundings.

Hence, some Portuguese words that can help enhance your interaction and win respect are a few basic things to know before visiting Lisbon. Here are some basic Portuguese phrases:

  •  As a starting point, say Ola for Hello
  • Obrigado, thank you for the male speakers
  • For female speakers, say Obrigada
  • De Nada is you’re welcome after a transaction
  • Or say Por favor for please with a smile
  • If you need to say sorry, say Desculpa, especially when bumping into someone
  • When you leave, say Adeus goodbye using a friendly wave

Another notable thing is that you can order a multitude of coffee types. To avoid any confusion, you can request a Bica. For espresso, ask for Abatanado.

For a long black coffee, ask for Americano, and for a large coffee with milk, ask for Galão.

A milky coffee is Meia de leite, and decaf is Descafeinado and Cha if you fancy tea.

The Easy Lisbon Quiz

Ready to test your Lisbon knowledge?

I’ve made an easy Lisbon quiz with 5 questions. Let’s see if you can get them right. 🤞

Wi-Fi

You can get free Wi-Fi throughout Lisbon in public areas, bars, shopping centers, hotels, and restaurants. Still, I recommend contacting your mobile provider before your trip to learn about international data rates and roaming.

Electricity in Lisbon

Lisbon uses 220-240V, 50Hz, with the standard Europlug and Schuko plug sockets. You will need a transformer or adapter if you use another voltage appliance.

Time Zone

Lisbon is part of the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) zone, the same as London. It follows the same daylight saving time as most parts of the world.

So, the rule is that when summer starts in March on the last Sunday, add an hour and subtract an hour in October, in winter.

Lisbon Public Business Hours

Lisbon-Business-Hours

Knowing the business hours can help you decide whether to travel from the city center using public transport or head to a shop or bank.

The Subway

The metro operates from 6:30 AM to 1 AM daily. The MetroLisboa website provides the best information on times.

Trains

Lisbon trains run daily from 5 AM to 1 AM. To plan your trip, check out the CP Comboios website.

Buses

Lisbon-Bus

Lisbon buses travel daily from 5:30 AM to 12:30 AM, and a night bus service is also available from 12:30 AM to 5:30 AM.

Hot Tip🔥: Check out my available guide for more information on using the public Lison transport system.

Business Hours

  • The regular hours for banks are from Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 3 PM.
  • The Embassies that help citizens abroad during travel are open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 3 PM.
  • Lisbon pharmacies are throughout the city. Their typical hours are 9 AM to 7 PM during the week and 9 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays. Directions for 24-hour service are posted on the doors.
  • The shopping center is open daily from 10 AM to midnight, while restaurants serve lunch from 12 PM to 3 PM and dinner from 7 PM to 10 PM.

Hot Tip🔥: Read the complete guide for more details on public holidays.

Important Contact Numbers

  • Emergency Contact: Dial 112
  • International Calls: Dial00 + country area code
  • Police – Tourism Station at Praça dos Restauradores: (+351) 213 421 634 / (+351) 213 421 623
  • Portugal area code: +351
  • “Ask Me” Tourism Office – Airport: (+351) 218 450 660
  • Fire Service: (+351) 213 422 222
  • SOS Pharmacy (Farmácias de Serviço): [+351] 800 202 134 (For information on the nearest open pharmacy)
  • Lisbon Airport (Aeroporto de Lisboa Humberto Delgado): [+351] 218 413 500
  • Healthline (Saúde 24): [+351] 808 24 24 24 (Non-emergency medical advice)
  • Lisbon Buses (Carris): [+351] 213 613 000
  • Lisbon Metro (Metropolitano de Lisboa): [+351] 213 500 115
  • Train Information (CP – Comboios de Portugal): [+351] 707 210 220
  • Lisbon Tourist Information: [+351] 210 312 700 (General information, events, and directions)
  • Tourist Support Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras): [+351] 808 202 653 (For reporting issues related to foreign travel, including lost/stolen travel documents.)

Planning On Going To Lisbon?

I’ve created a trip planner where you enter the number of days you’re going and what activities you want to do.

Based on your input, you then get an entire vacation planned with ideas.

plan your trip to Lisbon

Book Accommodation In Advance

@Jupiter Lisboa Hotel

With Lisbon’s popularity, some of the best places get booked quickly, especially from June to August. Once your itinerary is in place, I recommend reserving your accommodation. From November to March, you have more flexibility to book a couple of nights and plan on the go.

Do Not Expect to See Everything in a Day Trip

Portugal is small and similar to Indiana but larger than Scotland. Many attractions exist, from this hilltop city to the remote UNESCO World Heritage sites –  beach towns with other tourist attractions and stunning views.

One big mistake is trying to see all the attractions during one visit. Even in a few weeks, you cannot explore everything. I recommend you pick one or two regions to plan your trip well in advance to see all the highlights.

Hot Tip🔥: I recommend checking out some of my day trips to plan your vacation accordingly.

Getting Around Lisbon

There are many ways to get around Lisbon, but I advise against using taxis. They have a terrible reputation for overcharging customers.

Many of them will take you on a longer road, and trust my experience as they do not come cheap.

Uber is highly recommended. The cars are secure, and all transactions are done digitally using the rideshare app. You can also map your route to keep track.

Furthermore, the majority of them speak English and provide reliable service. I also recommend avoiding using a car as it will cause you more headaches to find a parking spot in the city center.

Hot Tip🔥: If you plan to visit some beach towns for a few days, check out the best parking spots in Lisbon before traveling.

Still, I recommend renting a car once you plan your trip to explore the outer areas.

Here are the best things to do in Lisbon In June 2024

I’ll send you a list of the best things to do in May and every month moving forward from today.

It’ll be based on my personal experience of living and traveling around Lisbon. A lot of hidden gems.

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Tips for Visiting Lisbon’s Top Attractions

Belem Tower

Lisbon has plenty of options for attractions, from beautiful monasteries like Jeronimos Monastery to places like Belém Tower.

Still, while these are recognizable landmarks of the city, there is no need to go inside. Why? The interior is plain, and the tower’s exterior is free and gorgeous to explore.

You can get up close to see the details of the tower and enjoy the stunning views. If you happen to be there in peak months, you will end up in long lines.

So explore the main attractions of street art and viewpoints in Lisbon for free.

Buy Your Tickets in Advance For Attractions

Still, if you want to explore the popular Lisbon attractions like Jerónimos Monastery or places in Sintra like the Pena Palace,  I recommend booking your tickets in advance on GetYourGuide.

Still, other great options exist, including the Ajuda Palace and the National Pantheon. But remember to wear comfortable shoes when exploring Lisbon’s cobblestone streets.

Plan Your Trip Before Investing in a Lisbon Card

Buying the Lisbon Card is a popular option, but it has little to do with the attractions and is more about the public transportation system.

I recommend waiting to invest in the Lisbon Card until you reach the city. If you plan to use the transportation system a lot, including buses, yellow trams, trains, and the metro, then yes.

While there are Lisbon attractions included with the card, like Jerónimos Monastery, most of the others are not included.

I am not saying you should not buy one, but I recommend investing in the Navegante card instead.

Avoid Tourist Traps

Lisbon has a lot of places to explore, and many claim to be typical or authentic Portuguese. But with some common sense, you can easily spot the tourist traps, especially in downtown Baixa.

You may see places that look like old buildings. Many claim they came centuries ago but are remodeled to appeal to tourists. The same applies to the famous Portuguese custard tart.

Some will say it is the original pastel de nata in Baixa, but the original one is Pastéis de Belém, which you can find right in Belem. The same applies to traditional food: a tin of sardines costs €15. I suggest you think again.

Hot Tip🔥: You can also find many street sellers in touristy areas that will approach you and sell all sorts of stuff. You can ignore them, and they will respect you for ignoring them. 

Pay Extra Attention to Your Bill

One of the best travel tips is to watch your bill at the end of dinner, especially when the price is higher than expected. 

Ensure that the figures match what you ordered. In Portugal, starters (Entradas) like bread, olives, or goat cheese can be served.

So, the rule is if you do not touch them, you do not pay for them. The same applies to not paying extra for beverages.

Do Not Pay More For Beer

In cities like Copenhagen, Paris, and London, you usually expect to pay €5 or €8 for beer.

Still, Portuguese beer like Super bock or Sagres is as follows:

  • Imperial 0.33 ml €1,50
  • Caneca a pin size €3 to €4

You can expect to pay more unless you visit a fancy rooftop restaurant with imported craft beers.

Eating Out in Lisbon

lisbon-timeout-food-hall

Lisbon has some of the best budget-friendly restaurants you can visit. Many present you with flexibility, and some do not take bookings.

But I recommend booking a table in advance for popular venues. They always take cash when heading to the small Portuguese tascas in local neighborhoods.

Also, become an expert at tipping, as many restaurants do not tip and round it up when paying. You can expect to tip around 10% in the major tourist attraction areas.

Tipping is not expected in a bar or cafe, but in fancy places, you can plan to tip €1 for a specialty cocktail. Also, do not expect to eat your dinner early as restaurants open around 7:00 PM and only start to fill up after 8:00 PM.

One last tip on food is that bakeries offer great deals. You can also visit some great coffee cafes to start your day with a coffee.

Mistakes to Avoid

Like any other city, there are things to know before visiting Lisbon to avoid mistakes. I have made some blunders in Lisbon city myself and want you to learn from them:

  • Do not stick only to the touristy spots. It is a huge mistake. While they are must-sees, you can explore places like Alfama without following a tourist list.
  • Wearing the wrong shoes is a problem, especially when walking those seven hills. Forget about stylish shoes; wear comfortable, sturdy walking shoes.
  • Ensure enough cash, as not all places, especially small shops, cafes, and markets, accept cards.
  • Do not skip the local cuisine; you can find delicious cuisine from pastel de nata to bacalhau.
  • Also, check the festivals and events to find some great local celebrations.
  • Also, be mindful of petty crime. While Lisbon is safe, pickpocketing and bag-snatching do happen.

The Advanced Lisbon Quiz

You’re now at the advanced Lisbon quiz with more difficult questions. No one gets every question right, so don’t beat yourself up on it. Good luck.

Wrap-Up: Things to Know Before Visiting Lisbon

Lisbon is a captivating city with a rich history, vibrant culture, and friendly locals.

By familiarizing yourself with essential information such as currency, language, transportation, and emergency contacts, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit to this beautiful capital.

Whether you explore its ancient streets, savor its diverse culinary offerings, or immerse yourself in its lively atmosphere, Lisbon is bound to leave a lasting impression.

With the proper preparations and knowledge, your trip to Lisbon will surely be a memorable and fulfilling experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

It all depends on where you come from. If you are a citizen of one of the EU countries, you do not need a visa. However, it is recommended that you check the visa requirements before your trip.

Yes, the tap water is safe to drink, and you can fill up your water bottle multiple times.

Lisbon has many areas where you can stay, but Baixa-Chiado is central and close to most attractions. Another charming district is Alfama, while Bairro Alto has a vibrant nightlife.

Yes, English is spoken in Lisbon’s most popular tourist areas, but it would be appreciated if you learned some Portuguese phrases.

Yes, most places accept cards, but you must have cash for smaller cafes and markets.

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