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There’s no doubt that Lisbon is one of Europe’s most beguiling cities. In recent years, Portugal has made headlines across the world again and again as one of the most welcoming countries in Europe for digital nomads and location-independent workers.
But you don’t need to be starting a new life to appreciate what the Portuguese capital has to offer. Enchanting historic buildings, beautiful scenery, and fascinating culture are all there to be discovered in Lisbon.
But sometimes, knowing what not to do in a city is just as important as knowing what you should do.
First and foremost, you don’t want to carry heavy bags through this famously hilly city. Drop off your bags at a Lisbon luggage storage, and you’ll be better equipped to enjoy all it offers.
Here are some things in Lisbon you can probably skip – and some alternative ideas about how to enjoy your time in the city.
Santa Justa Elevator
This historic outdoor elevator is an icon of the city. Connecting Carmo Square with the Baixa, the lift dates back to 1902 and is one of the last remaining of the city’s old public elevators. Its Art Nouveau architecture has made it the star of millions of tourist photographs of the city, and it is admittedly an unusual place to visit.
However, the popularity of the elevator is part of the problem. During the busy summer season, you can line up for more than an hour to take a ride on this cramped elevator. And when you do, you may well find yourself underwhelmed. As pretty and unusual as it may be, ultimately, it’s just an elevator.
The viewpoint at the top is why many people spend the money and take the time to ride the elevator. However, just around the corner, you’ll find the much more practical Rua do Carmo elevator, which will take you to the same place for free and without the line.
In most European cities, the Cathedral is always worth a visit. As the spiritual heart of the city, European cathedrals tend to be a highlight and one of the most architecturally splendid buildings in any major city.
Unfortunately, Lisbon’s cathedral, the Sé, is not the most impressive ancient church to visit. Although it’s historically important, the interior is not all that impressive. You may well find yourself underwhelmed by the relatively sparse decoration of the church.
Instead, visit Igreja de São Roque to see one of the most beautiful churches in all of Portugal. Located in the Bairro Alto, this is one of the first Jesuit churches ever built, making it historically important, and the elaborate Baroque decoration and architecture will leave you breathless.
The Pink Street
In the last few years, Rua Nova do Carvalho – better known as The Pink Street – has become one of Lisbon’s most popular tourist attractions. This narrow, picturesque street is lined with trendy bars and clubs, and it’s perfect for a night out.
But if you’re looking for a truly authentic Lisbon experience, you’ll want to avoid The Pink Street. It’s become so popular with tourists that it often feels more like a theme park than an actual street in Lisbon. You’ll find better bars and clubs elsewhere in the city – places where locals actually hang out. Ultimately, although it’s attractive and a great place for those all-important Instagram selfies, the Pink Street is just a street. And like so many tourist hotspots, it’s become a victim of its own popularity.
You can have a far better and far more authentic experience on a street like Rua das Tapias. This lively street is full of cool bars and restaurants where you are far more likely to encounter Lisbon locals than international tourists.
Ribeira das Naus
The Ribeira das Naus is one of the most iconic spots in Lisbon. Located on the banks of the River Tagus, this is the perfect place to take in the river views and watch the boats go by.
But, as pretty as it is, the Ribeira das Naus is often crowded with tourists. It can be hard to find a spot to relax, and the constant stream of people passing through can make it feel more like a tourist trap than a tranquil oasis.
Instead, try heading to one of Lisbon’s many miradouros – or viewpoints. These are scattered throughout the city and offer stunning panoramic views over Lisbon. The best part is that they are usually far less crowded than spots like the Ribeira das Naus. One of our favorites is Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. This viewpoint is located in the Santa Cruz neighborhood and offers sweeping views over Lisbon’s rooftops.
This historic tram is another icon of the city, and to be fair, it’s justifiably so. The trail winds its way through some of Lisbon’s most interesting neighborhoods, and the old-fashioned trams can feel almost like a time machine that let you explore the city the way its residents have been for generations.
The trouble is, Tram 28 is not a tourist attraction. Instead, it’s an integral part of the city’s public transport infrastructure. These days, the tram is overrun by tourists, which is a real nuisance for locals who use it to get to work, run errands, and live their everyday lives. It’s important while traveling to try and respect the people who live in the cities you visit, and staying clear of Tram 28 is one way to do that on your Lisbon adventure.
Plus, the tram is well known for being popular with tourists, and that inevitably attracts pickpockets. Instead, you could take a tram tour which will give you a similar experience but keep you out of the way of Lisbon natives just trying to live their lives.
Avoiding Lisbon Tourist Traps
Like any popular city, Lisbon has its share of tourist traps and destinations to avoid. That doesn’t make the city any less fascinating to visit. It just means you should be careful when choosing what to see, especially if you’re pressed for time.
By avoiding some of these well-known locations, you can get a richer and more authentic experience of the Portuguese capital. Leave your suitcases behind at a Lisbon baggage storage and see the less touristed parts of the city, and you’ll come away with a far better experience of everything this great city has to offer.