A Solo Female Traveler’s Guide To Lisbon, Portugal

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A Solo Female Traveler’s Guide To Lisbon

Lisbon used to be a well-kept secret in Europe, but not anymore! The glittering capital of Portugal is now brimming with tourists and expats. The city inches up higher on travelers’ radars each year, and for good reason. 

Still, Lisbon has retained its old charm and is well worth visiting. With its iconic yellow trolleys, steep, picturesque streets, delicious cuisine, and friendly people, Lisbon has plenty to offer for solo travelers!

This guest post is a guide to experience Lisbon as a solo female traveler by location independent travel blogger Somto Seeks. Discover the best things to do, tips for planning the perfect solo trip to Lisbon, restaurant recommendations, day trip ideas, neighborhoods to explore, and much more from her experiences in this stunning city.

Quick disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!

Without further ado, let’s dive in to this comprehensive guide to Lisbon solo travel!


The Best Time To Visit Lisbon

The peak travel season in Lisbon is from June to August. If you can, avoid going during that time period. Instead, try to visit Lisbon during the months of April, May, September, and October.

The hordes of tourists have disappeared, hotel prices have plummeted, and the weather is still warm. You’ll have a much more pleasant experience without having to compete for space on trams with other tourists.

What To Pack for Lisbon

Lisbon has a Mediterranean climate, which means hot, dry summers and mild winters. During most of the year, you can wear loose clothing and sandals. That said, it would be a great idea to pack some comfortable running shoes for walking up Lisbon’s notoriously steep streets.

For your trip, I’d highly recommend the Tep Wireless Pocket WiFi device. I’ve been using the ‘Teppy’ device to access reliable 3G/4G WiFi around the world for more than a year. It worked great during my 3-week visit to Portugal in 2018. With pocket wifi, you can Yelp restaurants, use Google maps, call your mom, request an Uber, and have greater peace of mind during your travels.

Perhaps the greatest feature of the Teppy is Kitestring. It’s an SMS-based emergency service that checks in on you while you travel via text messages that you schedule. If you don’t reply to the text, Kitestring sends an alert to your emergency contact. This is perfect for solo female travelers looking for an additional way to stay safe.

Where To Stay in Lisbon

Lisbon is home to a variety of safe, historic neighborhoods that are great for solo female travelers. To be close to the popular attractions, it’s best to stay close to the city center in neighborhoods like Barrio Alto, Cais do Sodré, and Baixa Chiado. You’ll find an array of hostels and hotels in those neighborhoods.

How To Get Around Lisbon

Lisbon has a well-developed public transportation system consisting of metro, trams, buses, and taxis. Walking is also a good option, although the city is hilly in many areas. I’d recommend you buy a Viagem Card, which you can use all public transportation options except taxis. You’ll end up paying less than if you bought individual tickets.


Places To Explore in Lisbon

Praca do Comércio

Praça do Comércio is the largest square in Lisbon is a great place to begin your exploration. This grand square provides a beautiful backdrop for photos, with yellow and white walls and a magnificent arch. It’s where you can get your must-have ‘I went to Lisbon’ photo.

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The square is almost a popular venue for impromptu performances. You may see dancers, singers, and other performers set up in the middle of the square and start entertaining crowds.

Across from Praça do Comércio is the riverfront. It’s relaxing to sit by the river for a while and take in the scenery while people watching.

Alfama

As the oldest district in Lisbon, Alfama is home to medieval architecture and some of the city’s most famous viewpoints. This hilly neighborhood is also where Fado, a melancholic style of music normally performed at bars, was born. To get to Alfama, you can take the popular Tram 28 or walk. Buses and taxis can’t drive through the neighborhood because the streets are too narrow.

Note that the famous Tram 28, which costs $1.50 per ride, normally has a long line. This is especially true during the peak summer months. When I took the tram for the first time, I waited almost two hours in line. You can walk from the city center to Alfama in 30 minutes. Just something to consider when visiting Alfama.

Some of the best things about Alfama are the breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the Tagus River – the Miradouro de Portas do Sol and the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. These viewpoints are towards the entrance to the neighborhood, where you can also watch musical performances in the afternoon.

Looking for more?

Just a few minutes away from the viewpoints, you’ll find the 10th century Sao Jorge Castle, a Moorish castle that overlooks the city and the river. The epic views alone are worth the $10 admission ticket. In the central part of the castle, you’ll see peacocks roaming everywhere.

From there, you can climb up the stairs to the top of the castle and walk around the structure. A great optioning for visiting here is to do this Sao Jorge Castle guided tour. You get to skip the lines and learn about the Moorish occupation of Portugal from a live guide.

Another place of interest in the Alfama District is the Se Cathedral, one of the most important churches in Lisbon. For centuries, this cathedral has been the site of high profile marriages, baptisms, festivals, and more.

It’s a great example of both Baroque and Gothic architecture. Entrance to the cathedral is 2.50 EUR.

Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto is a neighborhood in central Lisbon that’s known to attract artists and writers as well as partiers. Here, you’ll find the best nightlife in Lisbon. Head to Rua do Norte and surrounding streets at night to go bar hopping or clubbing. At the bars, you can try a shot of Ginjinha or Ginja, a popular Portuguese cherry liquor. People go to Bairro Alto to have a good time, often while under the influence of alcohol and/or substances. Be aware that dealers may come up to you on the streets and offer you marijuana or shisha.

In Bairro Alto, you’ll also find a variety of live music venues, where both local and international musicians take the stage to play everything from jazz to rock. One of my favorites is Paginas Tanatas. The live music usually starts in the evening and goes until the early morning.

There are lots of things to do in Bairro Alto during the day time. One recommendation is to ride up and down the iconic Rua da Bica tram. The tram connects Bairro Alto to Cais do Sodre and costs about 3 EUR roundtrip. Once the tram stops, you can pose for an Insta-worthy photo. Lastly, don’t forget to make a stop at Miradouro de Santa Catarina to watch the sunset over a drink.

Belem

Belem is such a unique district of Lisbon, you need to spend at least a full day here. This iconic neighborhood is farther out from the city center to the southwest. To get there, you can take either tram 15 or tram 127. Note that the district isn’t connected to the Lisbon metro. The tram ride usually lasts 25-30 minutes.

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It was from Belem that the Portuguese explorers sailed to explore the New World. That’s why the Monument to the Discoveries was built in Belem to celebrate the Portuguese age of discovery.

You can climb to the top or take the elevator to view the monument from above for up to 45 minutes. From that vantage point, you can see the symbols and images on the ground around the monument.

Walk down the street for a couple of minutes and you’ll arrive at the iconic Belem Tower. When the tower was built in the 15th century, it’s purpose was to protect Lisbon from invaders. Now, it’s one of the symbols of the Belem District.

The Belem Tower was built in the Manueline architectural style, a distinct type of Gothic architecture which gained popularity in Portugal. You can climb to the top of the tower for stunning views of the harbor.

The magnificent Jeronimos Monastery, across the street from the Belem Tower, was also built in the Manueline style. This monastery is also where Vasco de Gama, the first Portuguese explorer to sail to India, is buried.

If you want to tour the monastery, be sure to purchase a ticket online ahead of time for 10 EUR. The lines at the entrance can get long.


Where To Eat in Lisbon

Pasteis de Belem

Pasteis de Belem is possibly the most famous bakery in all of Lisbon. Since 1837, this massive venue has been serving its signature pasteis de nata, or Portuguese-style egg tarts. It also serves a variety of other pastries and desserts. Be sure to try those as well.

Address: Rua de Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal

Petisqueira Estrela Da Baixa

A nail salon owner I met recommended this mom and pop seafood restaurant to me. I’m glad I followed her recommendation because the food was delicious! I ordered the arroz de marisco, seafood rice, which came in a large pot just for me.

Address: Rua da Conceição 11, 1100-500 Lisboa, Portugal

Royale Cafe

This Mediterranean restaurant has the best grilled octopus I’ve eaten in my life. That alone is enough reason to pay a visit. This place also has a cozy outdoor patio that’s perfect for lunch. It’s located in the heart of Bairro Alto.

Address: Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro 29 R/C, 1200-369 Lisboa, Portugal

Time Out Market

In the Cais do Sodre district, there’s a large indoor market called Mercado do Ribeira. Within it is the Time Out Market, a food court dozens of great restaurants specializing in Portuguese cuisine. I went here several times and loved the selections. The food here is a bit pricier than your average restaurant in Lisbon. But I think it is definitely worth a visit.

Address: Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisboa, Portugal

Fauna & Flora

This is a sort of hipster brunch spot in the Estrela/Santos area with amazing food. They serve pancakes, avocado toast, salads, acai bowls, and other typical items but with a local twist. This place is really popular so expect a waitlist unless you get there super early.

Address: Rua da Esperança 33, 1200-655 Lisboa, Portugal


Day Trips From Lisbon

Sintra

Sintra is the closest thing to a real-life fairytale kingdom. Visiting Sintra is a must when in Lisbon. This historic town is on the Portuguese Riviera, just a 45-minute train ride from the center of Lisbon. Surrounded by the majestic Sintra Mountains, Vila Sintra is the heart of the town.

There, you’ll find an array of extravagant castles, palaces, villas, gardens, and parks. The most notable ones are the Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra National Palace, and the Castle of the Moors.

How long should you spend in Sintra?

It’s best to do a day trip to Sintra because you’ll need at least a couple of hours to see the attractions. Of all the places to visit in Sintra, the one that I’d recommend the most is the Pena Palace. This multi-colored palace is the stuff of dreams!

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Built in the mid 19th century, the Pena Palace is an example of the Romanticist architecture that gained popularity in Portugal at the time. It was a summer home for the Portuguese royals. The palace is almost 1,800 feet above sea level and has an expanse of natural surroundings within the compound. There’s a massive forest with lakes and waterfalls known as Pena Park.

What is the best way to explore Sintra?

Because the Pena Palace is so high up, it can take up to 45 minutes to drive up the narrow roads to the entrance. To visit Sintra as a solo traveler, it’s best to join a group tour. I’d recommend Get Your Guide Tours.

I’ve been doing tours with Get Your Guide all around Europe and love how organized and engaging they are. I always end up learning so much history and inside knowledge about famous landmarks.

At Sintra, Get Your Guide offers tours such as a guided full-day tour of the Pena Palace and a 5-hour guided tour of the Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira. Through these small group tours, get picked up at your hotel, skip the notoriously long lines, and receive a tour of the landmarks from a live guide.

Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca is a town also on the Portuguese Rivera, just about 30 minutes away from Sintra. This postcard-worthy destination also happens to be the westernmost point of Europe.

What I remember the most about Cabo da Roca was the intense euphoria of standing at the edge of the world. There’s a powerfully liberating feeling that comes from being at this magnificent cape with a strong breeze blowing at you. It’s indescribable!

You can see both Sintra and Cabo da Roca in the same day through the Get Your Guide Sintra and Cabo da Roca Tour. Through this tour, you’ll get to experience both places with a small group and a live guide over the course of eight hours. They also serve you lunch, which is a nice bonus!

There you have it – your guide to planning the perfect solo trip to Lisbon.

Which of these activities are you most excited about? Leave a comment below and let us know!


Read more about solo travel:

About Our Guest Writer

Somto is the writer behind Somto Seeks, a travel blog focused on helping others achieve location independence as they explore the world. One of her life goals is to learn to swim and adopt two Corgis, and honestly…the Corgis sound more important to me.

Check out Somto’s work, free resource library and more!

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  • Meg
    April 15, 2019 at 3:34 AM

    I’ve heard of the legendary Pasteis de Nata at Belem! Will definitely have to
    visit one day. I haven’t made it to Lisbon yet but it looks wonderful.

  • Amy
    April 13, 2019 at 9:52 PM

    Lisbon looks so beautiful! I’ve been thinking about heading here on a solo trip so I’m glad to have found this post! It sounds like such a great city to visit solo so I might just have to book it!

  • Martha
    April 13, 2019 at 9:38 PM

    I love that you noted specific neighborhoods to explore in Lisbon. I think it’s important to explore outside the tourist landmarks and see and experience how the locals also live. Love Lisbon and your photos make me miss it immensely!

  • Jyoti
    April 13, 2019 at 7:54 PM

    I absolutely loved Lisbon, Sintra and Porto. Somto has done an awesome job at listing my favorite highlights.