What does Lisbon have that makes it so special, and makes you want to come back as soon as you leave? If you ask fellow tourists they would obviously start by saying the weather is great and the food is very tasteful. But besides that many visitors of Lisbon spend much of their time visiting the “must-sees” like the beautiful architectural palaces, mosques and the great museums that Lisbon has to offer. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you will spend much of your time queuing with fellow tourists.
Ask our Spotters and they’ll say it’s the hidden old spots that you can find in this ever-changing city; it’s the city’s lovely hills; it’s the narrow streets and stairs that never get boring to explore; it’s the fact that the city makes you want to slow down, and look around you to see all the great spots it features; it’s the way the light hits the city, that you can’t seem to find anywhere else. Here are some of our picks for some of the most interesting hidden gems in Lisbon, in the words of our very own team of Spotters.
Songs of tradition
Fado is a traditional Portuguese song, originating from the streets of Lisbon. The songs convey emotions and feelings that can be despair, melancholy, but also happiness and pride. One of the best places to listen to fado in Lisbon is Tasca do Chico.
Enjoy a nice glass of red wine and a roasted sausage while immersing yourself in the sounds of the Portuguese fado. Tasca do Chico is a traditional bar (beloved by locals), but it also creates a space for new talents to show their abilities. The fado sessions happen on Mondays and Wednesdays and start at 21:00, make sure to get there early to ensure yourself of a seat and enjoy!
With or without Fado singing sessions, Tasca do Chico is worth the visit! — Raquel Dias
As soon as you enter Cortiço & Netos you can see, breathe and feel the history of Portugal. The place is filled with tiles from old Portuguese factories, not broken and stolen tiles that you can buy from souvenir shops.
This is the place to go if you want an authentic souvenir with a nice memory attached to it. Even if you don’t feel like buying anything, just browsing around is really nice. The place feels more like a hidden museum than a store.
Unfortunately some of these tile covered buildings are neglected or abandoned and the tiles are stolen to be sold as souvenirs in flea markets; that’s the sad part of this history — Alexandre Cotovio
At the Goethe Institut in Lisbon, there is a hidden gem just aching to be discovered. Not many people know this, but at the institute, there’s an adorable secret garden. Cultural events are hosted at the Goethe Cafe every year, a jazz festival for example. Sadly the garden is only opened when the weather is nice, and during summer.
The seating area of the garden is filled with tables and benches that aren’t the prettiest but don’t be deceived because the garden is lovely. If you can find the more hidden tables and chairs you know you’ve found the best spot. All of a sudden you feel like you’re not in a big city anymore.
I hope you appreciate this place and its uniqueness, and hopefully you’ll fall in love too! — Raquel Dias
Enter the ball pit
You’re never too old to act like a kid and enjoy a ball pit (I’m sorry it’s just true, don’t even try to deny it). At Hub New Lisbon you can find a ball pit that you’re free to enjoy, even when you’re not (technically) a child anymore. It’s much bigger than the kid versions, as it is meant for adults.
Hub New Lisbon is actually a hostel and features even more fun surprises. In the interior patio, they have some nice sofas and beds to chill, and the room also sports a foosball table. They also have a great terrace that has an amazing view over the city. But let’s be real, the ball pit is definitely their best feature.
Ohhh I almost forgot to say that if you find a rubber duck in the pool you will get a free drink… good luck! — Sandra Lopes
A garage you don’t want to miss
Regueirão dos Anjos is, well it’s a little bit of everything to be honest. Step inside this spot that’s located inside a garage and grab a beer! You can also find a cooperative restaurant here, you have to wash your own dishes at the end!
The place often has great live music, but not only that. They host all types of events. Think of workshops, debates and boxing. The cultural and social cooperative behind all of this is RDA69, who have several projects in different areas in Lisbon.
There was a girl singing and playing the banjo… And she sang really well! Ohhh! I’m in heaven!!! We stayed until the end of her concert and enjoyed a great night — Nuno Lopes de Paula
A tribute in graffiti
When walking around Lisbon’s little (steep) stairs you might stumble upon an amazing wall filled with street art. This piece, Escadinhas de São Cristóvão, was created by multiple artists to celebrate the neighborhood and its identity. Have a good look and you’ll discover old ladies having a chat at their doors, wine, the church of Säo Cristóvaõ’s priest, the river siren, the fado singers (fadistas) and much more.
The piece was curated by M.A.S.C., a local initiative of a group of friends that knew each other form the same street when they lived in São Cristóvão, including our Spotter! They gathered their funds by offering fado to the neighborhood, getting funds the Portuguese way.
We thought of the amazing historical and cultural value of this part of Lisbon and felt compelled to show it to everyone — Alexandre Cotovio
Cinema at its finest
You can find Cinemateca in a 19th-century building, built in Art Nouveau style. It’s great for movies, coffee or to enjoy their open-air terrace and museum. The museum has 3 spaces, within these spaces you can find relics of the history of cinema. From magic lanterns to Lumière projectors, it’s like stepping back in time.
This cozy cinema shows director’s tributes, but also retrospectives of the most acclaimed film directors and actors. This place is a true blessing for true cinema freaks, who would like to see something else than a blockbuster!
Fortunately, there are some cinemas in Lisbon where one can enjoy true cinema… like in here — Nuno Lopes de Paula
A walk in the jungle
As a writer and a wild person (as a Nature lover I mean), I often look for and need places to immerse myself in an environment that transports me into a different setting: a quirky hidden cafe, a big park or a viewpoint still uncolonised by tourism. But above all these, where I most love going, to abstract a bit, almost as if travelling to another continent or dimension, is Estufa Fria. The “Cold Greenhouse”.
Whether or not you’ve been inside a jungle, this place is like a tiny one –and I’ve been in the Amazon! In fact, the place is great to wander around in and observe all the juicy, colourful plants growing around the ponds and streams. Don’t worry, there are no (big) spiders! — Francesco Ercoli Serrão
The tiniest bookstore
If Livraria do Simão is not the smallest bookshop in Portugal, it definitely is the smallest one in Lisbon. The place is so incredibly tiny that it is not possible for the owner and a customer to be inside of it at the same time.
Now in a such a tiny bookshop you would expect there to be very little books, however there are around 4000 books available! The store sells used books, and not only in Portuguese.
A gathering of some preciosities concentrated in 4m2, with prices starting from a few coins to a pile of bills — Alexandre Cotovio
Parking in art
No one likes finding a spot in a parking silo, it’s stressful and boring. However, the parking silo where you can find Chão de Loureiro is a feast for your eyes. A project involving art in a place where you wouldn’t expect it is always a welcome surprise.
Chão de Loureiro doubles as a free art gallery, just stroll around and admire the graffiti. Here you can find some of the most recognized Portuguese graffiti artists’ works. On every floor (there are 5 in total) you can find multiple decorated walls, and because they’re made by different artists they’re all in different styles.
This building also offers a panoramic elevator and a terrace with a view of Lisbon’s rooftops — Alexandre Cotovio
Green in the city
Lisbon is not known for having the best parks nature wise. Usually you’ll find a stone square, with some trees and flowers here and there, and of course a handful of old men playing dominoes.
However in the 50s Lisbon grew and a new residential neighborhood was added, including a modern green park. This park, Gulbenkian Garden, was created in 1969 by landscape architect Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles. In the garden you can find two lakes and a nice coffee shop. Not only that, the park also includes an open-air amphitheater (check their schedule!).
Every year during the first two weeks of August there’s a Jazz festival held in the gardens! — Nuno Lopes de Paula
I have been to the gorgeous luminous fountain in Barcelona, and the beautiful and crowded Fontana di Trevi in Rome. Well, Lisbon’s luminous fountain is a merge of the two, with the difference that it’s often far from being crowded and surely you will be able to claim this fountain all to yourself for quite some time.
There are normally just locals, children playing along the grass, people walking their dogs, couples dating, since it’s a very romantic spot, and all that just adds to the atmosphere. All different point of views and wonderful spots to enjoy the play of lights and water, and also a view of the city from above. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this also a great viewpoint. There is the possibility of visiting the interior, on Saturdays, from 15:00 to 17:00. — Claudio Careiro