Your Essential Guide to What NOT to Do in Lisbon
📅 14 July 2023 | Guides, Portugal | ⌛ 35 mins
What NOT to do in Lisbon?! Well, I know this might sound quite scary to first-timers, as you are usually hyped about visiting this new different world.
When planning your visit to the picturesque city of Lisbon, you’re likely to stumble upon numerous travel guides suggesting you things to do in Lisbon. But here’s a fresh perspective: rather than focusing solely on the places to visit, why not also consider what to avoid? This will not only save you time and money but also provide you with a more authentic Lisbon experience.
The allure of typical tourist spots can be hard to resist, especially when they’re touted by virtually every guidebook and travel blog you encounter. However, it’s essential to remember that tourist-friendly doesn’t always translate to must-see. Moreover, some popular attractions may not live up to their hype, be too crowded, or simply overpriced.
To help you navigate this, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of travel tips focusing on what NOT to do or places to reconsider visiting when in Lisbon. This handy guide aims to give you an inside look at avoiding the common tourist traps, overhyped sites, and other less advisable activities, so you can make the most out of your Lisbon adventure.
The Se Cathedral
While a trip to Lisbon would be incomplete without a deep dive into its rich history, this might lead you to think that every historical site in the city deserves your time. But one notable exception might be the Se Cathedral, also known as Santa Maria Major. Although, it might be put into the lists of top 10 things to do in Lisbon, the reality might be quite different…
One key concern for some travelers is the increasing commercialization of historic sites, and the Se Cathedral is no exception. The cathedral’s historical and cultural ambiance can sometimes be overshadowed by its tourist-centric approach, including entry fees and souvenir stalls.
While this Lisbon Cathedral boasts a mix of architectural styles due to multiple reconstructions, it lacks the unified aesthetic found in other European cathedrals. Its austere façade and relatively unadorned interior might not satisfy visitors seeking grand architectural displays.
Sé Catedral de Lisboa Working Hours & Tickets:
⏳ Working Hours:
Every day from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Cloister: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Sunday from 2 pm)
Treasury: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Closed on Sundays and holidays.
💸 Ticket Price: EUR 5
Compared to other iconic sites in Lisbon like the Belém Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, or even the impressive Basilica da Estrela, the Se Cathedral might appear less magnificent. If your time in Lisbon is limited, prioritizing these sites could provide a more rewarding experience.
Owing to its location in the popular Alfama district, the Se Cathedral often draws large crowds. This could result in a rushed visit that might not give you the serene and contemplative atmosphere traditionally associated with cathedrals.
I know it might sound harsh to you that the Se Cathedral is on the list of what not to do in Lisbon, but there is a reason for that. With many other noteworthy architectural marvels and historic sites vying for your attention in Lisbon, carefully curating your itinerary to match your preferences will ensure a more fulfilling trip. Remember, it’s all about finding what resonates with your personal interests and travel goals!
The Tram 28 Ride
Tram 28 is frequently spotlighted as a Lisbon must do attraction, promising a quaint journey through the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods. But is it always worth the ride? Let’s explore why you might want to reconsider including Tram 28 in your Lisbon itinerary.
There’s no denying that Tram 28 is often excessively crowded with tourists, and this popularity has led it to become something of a tourist trap. So you might need to be always on the lookout for pickpockets, as this is also what Tram 28 is famous for. This will not only detracts from the genuine Lisbon experience, but it also makes for an uncomfortable and crammed ride.
The tram’s reputation as a tourist magnet also makes it a prime target for pickpockets. Tourists are often so absorbed with capturing perfect snapshots that they inadvertently become easy targets. Hence, you might need to trade off your peace of mind while on Tram 28.
Now, you might be scared and think to yourself Is Lisbon dangerous?. No, Lisbon is not dangerous. It is considered to be a pretty safe city with a very low crime index, so you can sleep soundly.
Tram 28’s popularity means that there’s almost always a long line to board, particularly during peak hours. Spending valuable time in queues could be better used exploring Lisbon’s many other charming sites.
While the tram passes through several of Lisbon’s historic districts, there is no guided narration or explanation provided during the ride. It’s not an official tour, and those hoping to learn more about the city’s history may find it lacking.
Tram 28’s charm is undeniable, so that is why it might be surprising that it is on the list of what not to do in Lisbon. However, the overcrowded and tourist-centric experience might detract from your authentic Lisbon adventure. Instead, consider exploring the city through alternative means that allow you to enjoy Lisbon at your own pace, offering a more immersive experience.
The Pink Street
Did you know that decades ago, the Pink Street in Lisbon, has actually been its’ red light district. Probably, you had no clue! Nowadays, it has developed a reputation as an Instagrammable hotspot, a hot tourist attraction in Lisbon, a part of the what not to miss in Lisbon lists and a must see in Lisbon. That’s why you are probably wondering why it is put on the what not to do in Lisbon. Well, to be quite honest, The Pink Street is one of Lisbon tourist traps and many visitors are left disappointed.
Pink Street is most alive after sunset, when its bars and clubs light up. If you’re not a night owl or into the clubbing scene, your Pink Street experience might feel rather lackluster during the daytime.
With popularity comes crowds and noise, especially at night. If you’re seeking a quieter, more serene Lisbon experience, Pink Street’s bustling nightlife might not align with your travel preferences.
While Pink Street is generally safe, the crowds and festive atmosphere can attract pickpockets. Also, the late-night revelry can sometimes lead to disorderly conduct, requiring a cautious approach for visitors.
With its fame, Pink Street’s bars and restaurants often charge higher prices compared to other places in Lisbon. If you’re traveling on a budget or looking for a more local dining experience, this could be a downside.
Although Pink Street’s vibrant ambiance is worth a look, it might not be the highlight of your Lisbon journey. Remember, Lisbon offers countless charming spots and hidden gems that reflect its rich culture and local life far more genuinely. Don’t let the hue fool you; Lisbon’s true colors shine brighter in its less trodden paths! Plus, if you are wondering how to not look like a tourist in Lisbon – well, simply skip the tourist traps and walk the city like a local!
The Belem Tower
Belem Tower, or Torre de Belem, is one of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks. It is usually suggested as one of the things not to miss in Lisbon. However, there’s something you need to know before visiting it. While its exterior beauty is undoubtedly breathtaking, you might want to rethink entering the tower itself.
Though the tower’s architecture is impressive, the inside does not offer the same wow factor. The small windows limit the views of the surrounding area and the interior spaces lack interactive displays or significant historical artifacts.
Given its popularity, the Belem Tower often has long waiting lines for entry. With Lisbon offering an array of attractions, you might find your time better spent exploring other sites rather than waiting in line.
Belem Tower Working Hours & Tickets:
⏳ Working Hours:
From October to April: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
From May to September: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM
💸 Ticket Price: EUR 6
Apart from climbing the tower and viewing the surroundings, there are no additional activities inside the tower. If you’re looking for engaging, interactive experiences, you might find the Belem Tower lacking.
The Belem district offers numerous other engaging attractions. From exploring the maritime wonders at the Monument to the Discoveries, to indulging in the famous pastries at Pasteis de Belem, you have many enriching alternatives to choose from.
While the Belem Tower is a significant part of Lisbon’s history and a definite must-see, the actual magic might be in admiring it from the outside. That is why it is on this what not to do in Lisbon list.
Save some time, skip the queue, and embrace the tower’s beauty from the riverbank, where its complete grandeur can truly be appreciated.
The Santa Justa Lift
The Santa Justa Lift, or Elevador de Santa Justa, is considered to be one of the 5 best things to do in Lisbon. However, despite its historical charm, it might not be the ideal choice for your panoramic Lisbon views.
Being a popular tourist attraction, the Santa Justa Elevator often attracts lengthy queues. Waiting in line for a quick elevator ride could take up valuable time that could be spent exploring Lisbon’s other delights.
The viewing platform at the top of the lift is relatively small and can get crowded quickly, especially during peak tourist season. This can make the experience less enjoyable and more chaotic than you might hope.
Santa Justa Lift Working Hours & Tickets:
⏳ Working Hours:
From May to October: Everyday from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM
From November to April: Everyday from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM
💸 Ticket Price: EUR 5
Lisbon is known for its miradouros (viewpoints) that offer stunning views of the city for free. Some of these, like Miradouro da Senhora do Monte or Miradouro da Graça, are some of the best sights of Lisbon that provide wider panoramic vistas of Lisbon without the long waits or entrance fees. This is also one of the most relaxing things to do in Lisbon.
While not overly expensive, the lift does charge for a ride to the top. Considering the free alternatives with arguably better views, your euros might be better spent elsewhere.
The Santa Justa Lift, with its neo-Gothic charm, is undoubtedly worth seeing from the ground. However, for a broader, less crowded, and potentially more rewarding view of the city, seek out Lisbon’s miradouros. From these vantage points, Lisbon’s enchanting cityscape unfolds in all its glory, no queue necessary!
Skip Eating at Portas de Santo Antão Street
Portas de Santo Antão Street in Lisbon is a popular spot for tourists. Known for its line of restaurants, it’s typically busy and bustling. But before you decide to dine here, let’s consider a few reasons why you might want to skip eating on this street and explore other culinary corners of Lisbon.
Although some Portuguese food restaurants on Portas de Santo Antão Street may have enticing menus, the food quality often doesn’t match up. From subpar seafood to uninspiring traditional dishes, the culinary experience can be somewhat mediocre, especially when compared to other eateries around Lisbon that serve more authentic and flavorful Portuguese cuisine.
Being a tourist hotspot, restaurants on this street tend to inflate their prices. While dining out in a new city often involves paying a little more, the quality of the food and the overall dining experience at these places may not justify the higher price tags.
Portas de Santo Antão Street, especially during peak tourist season, can be overwhelmingly crowded. These restaurants cater heavily to the tourist crowd, which often means you miss out on the authentic, local dining experience that truly showcases the heart of Portuguese cuisine.
While Portas de Santo Antão Street is a vibrant part of Lisbon, it may not be the best choice for a true culinary exploration. Don’t let the tourist crowds sway you. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover a city full of culinary treasures offering a taste of the real, unadulterated Portugal at a more reasonable price.
Do Not Wear Flip Flops in Lisbon
As you plan your wardrobe for your exciting Lisbon adventure, one crucial detail not to overlook is your footwear. You might be tempted to pack your most stylish sandals or breezy flip flops, but here’s why you should reconsider.
One of Lisbon’s unique charms lies in its historic, cobblestone streets. While they are a sight to behold, navigating them in flip flops could be a bit of a challenge. The uneven surface can cause unexpected trips and falls, especially after rain when the stones can be slippery.
Lisbon is famous for its seven hills, each providing a breathtaking view of the city. But ascending these heights requires sturdy footwear. Flip flops lack the necessary support for these climbs, making your picturesque trek less comfortable and potentially risky.
While flip flops might be great for the beach, Lisbon’s urban and hilly terrain calls for more sturdy and supportive footwear. So, pack those comfortable sneakers or walking shoes and be ready to conquer the city in style and comfort. After all, in Lisbon, every step counts towards your unique travel story!
Skip Public Transportation (If You Can)
As you plot your Lisbon adventure, the question of transportation naturally arises. While Lisbon’s public transport is renowned for its efficiency, here’s why you might want to consider skipping it and instead embrace the city on foot.
While public transportation can efficiently whisk you from point A to point B, walking allows you to stumble upon hidden gems that are off the typical tourist trail. Lisbon is full of charming nooks, picturesque squares, and tiny cafes waiting to be discovered!
Walking through Lisbon gives you the opportunity to truly feel the city’s pulse. Absorb the buzz of street life, engage with the locals, and experience the unique rhythms of each neighborhood.
From the intricate tiles (azulejos) adorning the buildings, to the ornate designs of the calçada pavements, Lisbon’s beauty is in the details. Walking allows you to take the time to appreciate these smaller aspects that can be easily missed from a tram window.
While public transportation is convenient, embracing Lisbon on foot can provide a deeper, more intimate exploration of the city. Lace up your comfortable shoes and let the winding streets of Lisbon unfold their magic at every step you take!
Do NOT Rent a Car in Lisbon
As you map out your Lisbon adventure, the question of transportation is bound to arise. While renting a car offers a sense of independence, let’s explore why this might not be the ideal choice for your Lisbon journey.
Lisbon is famous for its picturesque narrow lanes, which while charming, are not the friendliest for unfamiliar drivers. Plus, with sudden turns, steep slopes, and unexpected stairs, driving a rental car might be more nerve-wracking than liberating.
Parking in Lisbon can be challenging and expensive. Public parking is limited, and private parking garages often charge premium rates. Finding a parking spot close to popular attractions can feel like a treasure hunt, and not the fun kind.
Many areas in Lisbon, especially in the historic center, are classified as “Zonas de Emissões Reduzidas” (Reduced Emission Zones), where only residents’ cars or vehicles with special permits are allowed. Unaware tourists might end up with unexpected fines.
While the idea of driving around Lisbon might seem appealing, the practical challenges suggest that renting a car is not the best choice for most visitors. Embrace the local modes of transport, enjoy the city’s rhythm, and remember, in Lisbon, the journey matters just as much as the destination!
Do NOT Visit Lisbon in the Summer
People would usually ask What to do in Lisbon in August? However, I would say – skip it!
When planning your Portuguese getaway, the allure of a Lisbon summer can be irresistible. But before you pack those sunglasses, let’s explore why you might want to reconsider visiting Lisbon in the summer months.
Summer is the peak tourist season in Lisbon, which means crowded streets, long queues at attractions, and less room to explore freely. If you prefer more space and less hustle, the off-peak seasons could be more appealing.
While sunny skies are an integral part of a summer vacation, Lisbon’s heat can sometimes be overwhelming. The high temperatures, coupled with the city’s seven hills, can make sightseeing a sweaty and exhausting affair.
Summer’s popularity also comes with increased prices. From airfare to accommodation to dining, you’re likely to face higher costs than you would during the less popular travel seasons.
The influx of tourists during summer can make it challenging to secure your preferred accommodation, especially in popular areas. Booking outside the summer season gives you more choices and a better chance to find the perfect place to stay.
With the city flooded with tourists, it’s harder to experience Lisbon’s local vibe during summer. Visiting in the shoulder or off-peak seasons offers a more authentic look at local life in Lisbon.
While a Lisbon summer has its charm, the city holds a unique allure in the quieter seasons. With milder weather, fewer crowds, and a more relaxed pace, your Lisbon adventure can bloom just as brightly in spring, fall, or even winter. After all, Lisbon’s magic is a year-round affair!
Skip a Day Trip to Algarve
I am pretty aware that the one day trips to Algarve might sound exciting to you, but I would suggest you either skip this or go to Algarve for a couple of days. A day trip to Algarve involves a lot of travel and as we know, not everyone is into such whirlwind excursions.
The Algarve is about a three-hour drive from Lisbon. That’s six hours of travel time in a single day. This long journey, coupled with the rush to see as much as possible in a short time, could leave you more exhausted than exhilarated.
The Algarve region is known for its stunning beaches, charming villages, and fantastic food. Trying to squeeze all this into a one-day trip might mean missing out on experiencing the Algarve in all its leisurely-paced, sun-soaked glory.
The Algarve is a popular tourist destination, especially in the summer. This can result in crowded beaches, busy restaurants, and a lack of that tranquil holiday vibe you might be seeking.
While the Algarve’s allure is undeniable, a day trip from Lisbon may not give you the full, enjoyable experience this region has to offer. Instead, consider allocating a few days to soak up the Algarve’s beauty or explore other equally beautiful but less crowded and closer destinations around Lisbon. Remember, travel is about quality, not just quantity!
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I hope that you have found this post about what not to do in Lisbon useful. Do you plan to visit any of the suggested places this Christmas season?
Which one is first on your list?