I always somehow knew that Lisbon is not only one of the most beautiful cities in Europe but also a place where the alternative culture is doing really well. I don’t know where I got this impression but as it turned out during my last trip there I was right! The city has so much to offer and everyone will find something for themselves there.
I truly enjoyed visiting all the main attractions but even more, I loved discovering some alternative spots. I just wish I had more time for that as my itinerary in Lisbon was pretty busy and 2.5 days are definitely not enough there! But anyway, here’s my mini alternative Lisbon guide!
Table of contents
Lisbon Destination Hostel
It took me a while to admit it (as I’m always very careful with such statements) but this was the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in! (I don’t count Cieszyn here as it’s more like a home) Lisbon Destination Hostel is such a special and unique place!
First of all – it’s located at the train station, really! You should have seen my friend Agata’s face when she realized I wasn’t joking and we really went inside the Rossio train station to find out accommodation! For the railway geek like me, there couldn’t be a better place!
But the best was still to come. The interior was so beautiful! The common area was huge, bright and with lots of plants that gave the place much cozier look. There were lots of possibilities to kill the time in the hostel (including the table tennis that I really enjoyed playing) but my favorite must have been just lying on the bean bags and looking up to the sky – yes, there’s a glass ceiling in the hostel!
Rooms were pretty spacious too and with an amazing view over Rossio Square and Castelo Sao Jorge. I seriously loved everything about this hostel!
But Lisbon Destination was more than just the hostel, it’s an institution! Together with two sister hostels in Alfama (with another lovely view) and Sunset (at another train station – Cais do Sodre and with the swimming pool on top) they offer probably the best accommodation you can get in Lisbon.
The wristband you get at the check-in allows you to visit all the hostels anytime and they all are surely worth checking out, even if just for breakfast or a party. They also organize some pretty cool tours – I went to two: Sintra+Cabo da Roca and street art tour and enjoyed both full time!
An adorable neighborhood located on the hills opposite Castelo Sao Jorge and just above Lisbon Destination Hostel. While the center was packed with tourists, when I visited this area on Sunday afternoon it was empty and only a few local people were hanging around.
Bairro Alto was just the prettiest, with narrow pedestrian streets, where balconies of opposite buildings almost touch each other and with charming, picturesque corners. That’s exactly the type of place I enjoy!
The area was known in past as a dangerous place, with thieves and prostitutes occupying the streets but it is different now and Bairro Alto is home to designers and intellectuals.
I recommend visiting Bairro Alto with a guide to give you a local perspective on the place. There are couple of highly rated tours you might be interested in (click on each link to see details and availability!):
- Gourmet Walking Tour and Tastings
- Lisbon Essential Tour: History, Stories & Lifestyle
- Lisbon: Highlights and Hidden Gems Tour w/ a Local
Best vegetarian restaurant in Lisbon
In a quiet street of Bairro Alto an amazing vegetarian restaurant – Terra – can be found! It’s not the cheapest option (16€ for the buffet over the weekend, if I remember correctly) and it can be really busy but the food is definitely worth it! The choice is enormous and even if you don’t eat meat you can enjoy the Portuguese specialties here.
Everything was so good that I just kept going back to the buffet table to get some more things to try until finally I was literally just rolling, not walking down the street. If you’re looking for more meat-free dining options my friend Sam wrote a vegan guide to Lisbon, be sure to check it out!
Rua Nova do Carvalho, also known as “the Pink Street”, is the major nightlife hotspot in Lisbon, even if with a somehow dubious reputation. Like Bairro Alto, this place used to be known for questionable people hanging around and it’s still a little bit like that but Pink Street got a new life in recent years.
While most of the places around close earlier, nightlife spots in this small lane few steps away from Cais do Sodre station remain open until early morning hours. It’s always crowded here, even in the weekdays, but in the afternoon it looks like the calmest place ever!
Alfama flea market
Every Tuesday and Saturday from early morning till afternoon a famous Alfama flea market – Feira da Ladra – takes place in the heart of the district, at Campo de Santa Clara and surrounding streets. This kind of market is known to be part of Lisbon’s scenery since the 12th century but the name was used for the first time in the 17th century.
You can buy just about everything here, from second-hand things of all kind to fake bags and antiques. Just be careful, Feira da Ladra means Thief Fair and there’s, unfortunately, some truth in it.
Backstreets of Alfama
While this is one of the most touristic districts of Lisbon, crowds can be seen only following the route of the famous tram no 28. Once you step off this path you will be transformed back in time into a completely different world. This is the oldest of all Lisbon’s district, the one that wasn’t destroyed in the tragic earthquake in 1775 and therefore it is probably the most real one.
The maze of narrow lanes of all shapes, neighbors chatting, children running around and hardly any tourists around – that’s how Alfama really is. Best way to discover it is to climb up from Santa Apolonia station, without a map (you will get lost anyway), just wander around and enjoy the place, eventually, you will miraculously find your way out.
Alfama is another district that should be visited with the guide to tell you the story and background of the place. Here are some of the best Alfama tours (click on each link to see the details and availability!):
- Segway Tour of Alfama
- Fado and Alfama Tour
- Lisbon By Night and Fados with Vintage Tram Ride and Dinner
Lisbon is known as one of the best street art cities in Europe and it surely deserves its position. There’re numerous murals around, some made by the best artists in the world (like Blu, Vhils, Etam Cru or Mr. Chat).
I explored the local scene during the street art tour and it was a really great way to see lots of great works spread all over the city in a short time, and to hear more of the background stories! Click here for the details and availability of the tour!
Some of the best places to check are the underground passage and the nearby wall next to Alcantara-Mar train station, a wall surrounding the mental hospital and the other one around the prison, abandoned buildings along Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo and the parking lot at the footsteps of Castelo Sao Jorge.
I love the trend where the former factories are turned into creative spaces. And that’s also the story with LX Factory. Since 1846 the area halfway between the downtown and Belem has been home to threads and fabrics industry. In 2008, together with the start of LX Factory, this place got a new life.
Now it’s the Lisbon’s center of creativity with numerous galleries and all kinds of art, start-ups, hipster shops or trendy restaurants and everything is decorated with really good street art. You can easily spend the whole day there and still not experience everything LX Factory has to offer! Definitely my kind of place!
Next door from LX Factory, yet hidden a little bit in the public transport museum, another cool spot can be found. It’s Village Underground, a co-working space and a venue for cultural events. The installation is made of two old buses and 14 shipping containers and can host up to 60 people who want to work together in this creative environment.
The rent varies between 150-200€ per month but if you just stop by in Lisbon and look for a cool spot to work in you can also pay per hour. I actually secretly dream of working for a while in such a co-working space and Village Underground seems like a perfect opportunity for that! Oh well, next time!
Miraduoro de Santa Catarina
Probably least known lookout point in Lisbon yet still offering amazing views. Miraduoro de Santa Canatrina is located just a few steps away from the upper station of famous Bica tram yet not many tourists seem to get there.
The view over Tagus river, Bridge of 25th April and surrounding neighborhoods are pretty spectacular and this is a great spot to relax after exploring the nearby Bairro Alto.
I’ve used Spotted by Locals Lisbon to find most of these places recommended by locals in Lisbon. They publish (100% offline) apps & blogs with up-to-date tips by city loving locals in 57 cities. Here’s the map with all the spots of this alternative Lisbon guide:
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Disclaimer: I was a guest of Lisbon Destination Hostel but all of the opinions are my own, like always, and I totally recommend you the place, it’s really the best!
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