Once overlooked in favour of Spanish or Italian cities, Lisbon is now a much-loved mainstay of the European city break circuit. As this captivating city has seduced more and more travellers with its easy-going charm, it has become trickier to find hidden gems in Lisbon – but luckily, we know of a few we think you might like. From lesser-known spots to take in the spectacular city views to our pick of places for a pastel de nata (the popular Portuguese custard tart), we’re here to help you plan an out-of-the-ordinary outing to Portugal’s capital.
- Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
- Mercado de Campo de Ourique
- Pastelaria Aloma
- Ler Devagar Bookshop
- Museu Nacional do Azulejo
- Riverside Cycling
The miradouros (viewpoints) of Lisbon are some of the city’s most popular spots. These lofty lookouts are scattered across the seven hills of Lisbon and offer unbeatable views of the city, the river and the countryside beyond. But while most visitors make a beeline for the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, we prefer the slightly-more-secret Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. It’s not the most hidden of hidden gems in Lisbon (you won’t be the only one here with your camera pointed at the view), but as this lookout sits on the highest peak in the city, the steep hike uphill to reach it can put many people off. Come at sunset to see Lisbon glow below you as the sun goes down. Then see if you can unearth the unassuming gate which leads down to Secret Garden LX, a hidden bar below the miradouro.
When it’s time to eat in Lisbon, the Time Out Market is top of the list for many tourists. This bustling food hall has become an icon of the city, however there’s an alternative arcade of eateries that locals love. The Mercado de Campo de Ourique has a mouth-watering selection of stalls to choose from, serving everything from local specialities to international cuisine. And although it’s still busy at mealtimes, you’re more likely to rub shoulders with local Lisboetas than your fellow travellers. For foodie souvenirs to take home, there are also shops selling gourmet products that can bring a Portuguese flavour to your kitchen larder.
On the subject of food, no trip to Lisbon (or indeed Portugal) is complete without sampling the crisp pastry and oozy custard filling of a pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart). Bakeries across the city sell these golden cups of delight, but if you want to track down the very best pastéis de nata in Lisbon, how do you know where to look? Google and the guidebooks might point you in the direction of Pastéis de Belém, the historic shop that has been serving this sugary speciality since 1837. However, we recommend Pastelaria Aloma, a three-time winner of O melhor pastéis de nata (the best pastéis de nata). Yes, that’s a real award. Although the bakery isn’t close to the city centre (which helps it remain relatively under the radar for tourists), it’s definitely worth the detour. In fact, it’s not far from Mercado de Campo de Ourique – so make sure you save room for something sweet after you’ve visited the food market. Our picks of the tastiest traditional food in Portugal.
Located in LX Factory (an uber-cool collection of shops, restaurants and bars housed in an old industrial complex), Ler Devagar bookshop has been praised as one of the prettiest in the world. The space used to be a print factory and has been beautifully restored to hold this bookshop-meets-record store-meets-bar. Browse the vast stacks of new and second-hand books (both Portuguese and English), seek out a vinyl soundtrack for your trip or explore one of the ever-changing exhibitions held in the store. ‘Ler Devagar’ means ‘read slowly’. And the shopping experience here encourages you to savour a slower pace; taking your time to decide on a book or record while enjoying a coffee (or something stronger) at the bar. It’s an oasis of calm and culture during a busy city break and one of our favourite hidden gems in Lisbon.
The colourful ceramic tiles that adorn many buildings in Lisbon are a much-loved feature of the city and a popular backdrop for a social media photoshoot. To see more of these handmade murals, we recommend a visit to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Museum of Tiles). Located in a former convent, the museum celebrates the pretty patterns of Portuguese azulejos, with intricate and impressive examples of tile artwork from the 15th century to the present day. The splendid Madre de Deus church is also located here, a Baroque beauty of carved wood, gilded paintings and yet more tiles.
Hilly Lisbon can be hard on the legs, so it might not seem like the best place to get on a bike. However, the ten-mile path that runs alongside the Tagus River is flat, easy to cycle (with dedicated bike lanes) and offers a great way to see a different side of the city. Start at the Parque das Nacões district, where there are several bike hire shops, then follow the river as it heads south. Pedal as far as you fancy; the path passes the impressive Praça do Comércio plaza, runs beneath the Ponte 25 de Abril (Lisbon’s famous suspension bridge) and finishes at the Belém Tower. This riverside route also reveals some of the waterfront hidden gems in Lisbon, which you can tick off with ease when exploring on two wheels.