Home / Destinations / Lisbon: A Truly Underrated European City
Lisbon Bridge

Lisbon: A Truly Underrated European City

Straight to the point: Lisbon is an overlooked European travel destination. In 2015, over 3.5 million tourists descended on the city. However, far more visitors head south to the Algarve rather than the capital.

I recently had the privilege of visiting this European gem. Having never traveled to Portugal, I was excited to experience the country. The trip nearly started off with disaster: I left my iPhone in the taxi. Luckily, the friendly driver found my phone and remembered where he had dropped us off. A catastrophe was averted, but would my trip to Lisbon improve?

Lisbon: The Accommodations

No matter where I go in Europe, I have found that renting apartments rather than hotels to be the way to go. This means a trip over to Airbnb. Not only do you have plenty of space, but you can experience the city far more personally.

I was fortunate to have found a Lisbon apartment with a rooftop terrace. It made for a great place to spend mornings drinking coffee and eating pastries. Furthermore, it provided a great evening retreat to take in the city skyline, Atlantic breeze and local beer.

Lisbon Tram

Lisbon: Exploring the City

Being in an apartment right in the city center meant I was close to one of the city’s major tram lines. In fact, San Francisco based travelers will feel right at home being near cable cars, hills and a bridge that looks eerily familiar.

Lisbon Bridge

Keep in mind, Lisbon is hilly, so taking the trams to some of the best sites is a lot quicker than walking the hills. Especially, if you have children. Some good quality, comfortable running shoes are a must

As I prepared for my trip to Lisbon, every guide mentioned a visit to the amazing, and ultimately overrated, Castelo de Sao Jorge. After viewing gorgeous cathedrals and trekking up the hill, I was thoroughly disappointed. I was greeted by a long line of tourists waiting to get in and a steep admission price. Considerably more than the $0 I was quoted online. For me, the castle was something I could have done without, and I was more impressed with the nearby street-side bars which overlooked the Atlantic. Conversely, The Torre de Belem was a much better experience. But once again, a long line greeted me when visiting the historic tower. It looks just as good from the outside as the in, so you may be better served by saving your time and just viewing the exterior.

Lisbon Belem
Torre de Belem


Lisbon: Not to Miss

Along with many others, the primary reason I trekked to Lisbon in July was to visit one of the area’s renowned beaches. Interestingly, Lisbon doesn’t actually have its own. Travelers will need to travel just outside of the city to reach one of the glorious ribbons of sand.

With bars, cafes and full-service restaurants located just off the sandy shores, (near)Lisbon beaches have everything for a day out. The weather in the July can get quite hot, so sitting at one of the cafes after a few hours in the ocean sipping Sagres is brilliant.

Mercado Lisbon

Back in the city, Lisbon’s Mercado Ourique Lisboa is another can’t miss destination. It’s basically the world’s biggest food court. Furthermore, it’s pure Lisbon hipster, with its cool, trendy stalls. After 5pm, all beer is €1, so it is definitely a place to put on the radar…especially, if you are on a budget. The Mercado Ourique is also great to sample true Lisbon atmosphere, and you can try a variety of food in one place.

Lisbon may be overlooked but it’s far from second-rate. Those who’ve traveled the city have come to recognize and appreciate it’s charm. For those travelers, being a bit off the well-beaten European travel path is just fine.

Wherever and whenever you do make it across the Atlantic, just don’t forget to use a card that travels as well as you do. The Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve, Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige all offer a zero foreign transaction fee vacation. Furthermore, they all provide some level of trip insurance and the opportunity to earn more via travel related bonus categories.