When traveling solo, I prefer to do things differently than when I travel with my husband, family or friends. There are no time constraints for my daily agenda and I don’t have to worry about whether someone I’m with has a different plan in mind.
I absolutely love shopping when I travel. Likewise, I enjoy exploring different cultures-- the food, the music, the fashion and the street life. Put simply, I love just being wherever I am, in the moment and exploring each place with its unique flavor and flow.
On my recent Around the World solo trip, I headed to Lisbon for my first stop. I’ve recapped my top 15 suggestions for what to do in the city as a solo traveler.
1. Stroll down the Rua Augusta
Rue Augusta is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare that starts a Rossio Square and ends at Commerce Square next to the Tagus River. The street is full of life with its many outdoor cafes, specialty shops, street performers and the Museu de Moda.
2. Ride the Lisbon Trolley
One of the reasons Lisbon is a wonderful city for solo travelers is it's walkable, but be forewarned there are many steep hills. If you’re not used to walking up and down hills, this could be a problem but the solution is the Lisbon trolley.
3. Visit the Lisbon Flea Market
The Lisbon flea market is full of interesting vendors, creative entrepreneurs, and shoppers looking for cool things at affordable prices. I spent an entire afternoon there and came away with some inexpensive, chic finds.
4. Tour the Lisbon Tile Museum
Azulejo tile is a signature element in Portuguese interior and exterior design and can be seen everywhere in Lisbon from the churches, palaces, ordinary homes, restaurants, and even at the public transportation stations. Spending a morning at the museum will give you a peek into the history, the different styles, its practical functions, and why Azulejo is beloved by the Portuguese.
5. Enjoy an evening at the Clube de Fado
A night listening to the soulful, melancholic Portuguese music known as fado is a" must do" when visiting Lisbon. Clube de Fado was highly recommended by my hotel’s concierge as being the best fado club in Lisbon and an enjoyable evening venue for the solo traveler.
6. Shop for Portuguese gifts at Silva e Feijo
One of the oldest and best shops to find authentic Portuguese goods is Silva e Feijo, which is located at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 117 close to Rua Augusta. You will find an extensive selection of the highest quality goods from Claus Porto luxury soaps, fine Portuguese wines, port, cheeses and olive oil, filigree designed jewelry, cork accessories, and ceramics. Silva and Feijoo is truly a one-stop shop.
7. Have a late afternoon snack and people watch at the Cafe A Brasileira at Baixa Chiado Square
A famous meeting point for writers, artists, intellectuals and freethinkers, Cafe A Brasileira is the Lisbon coffee shop to have a wonderful cup of Brazilian coffee and a mini custard filled dessert pie, a Portuguese specialty.
8. Visit the churches of Lisbon
The Catholic church had a strong influence on the Portuguese character and culture throughout the centuries. Because of its strong presence, Lisbon has many beautiful and distinctive churches to visit which are filled with noteworthy religious art and artifacts. One of my favorite things to do as a solo traveler is to say prayers, light candles or give offerings for my loved ones and myself in churches and temples all over the world. Sacred places have a special feel and thus, I’m am always drawn to them.
9. Enjoy an evening meal outside at the Cafe Nicola
Day or night, Rossio Square is one of the city's most beautiful and lively places. Since 1929, the art deco Cafe Nicola has been a popular eating spot for tourists and locals alike. I enjoyed a delicious sea-bass entree and Portuguese wine, the waiter was attentive and the atmosphere was relaxed all making for a memorable solo dining experience.
10. Experience a Lisbon sunset on the Tagus River
Photographing sunrises and sunsets around the world is an interesting exercise for newcomers to photography. Trying to catch nature during the “magic hour” has become a personal challenge. I shot one of my best sunsets to date in Lisbon at the foot of Commerce Square on the banks of the Tagus River. For those of you who take a lot of travel photos, I highly recommend this spot but a "heads up," this area is very crowded with like-minded people at these times.
11. Spend a day in Belem
Belem is located on the outskirts of Lisbon. Because it's a thirty minute trolley ride to get there, I almost skipped Belem. Had I not made the trip, I would have missed some of the city's most iconic and historic buildings plus one of the best contemporary museums I have visited anywhere in the world. The Discovery Monument, the Tower of Belem, the Saint Jerome Monastery and the contemporary museum, Museu Colecao Berardo, are all in the area. Strolling along the Tagus River and lingering in the Jardim Botanico Tropical, Belem’s lovely botanical garden, were some of the highlights to this wonderful section of Lisbon.
12. Sample grilled sardines at a taberna
One of the most sought after Portuguese dishes is grilled sardines. During the entire trip I had looked to order this dish but didn’t find it on the menu until my last meal at the Restaurante Adega de Sao Roque which turned out to be my most delicious meal in Lisbon.
13. Savor Portuguese wine and port at the Wines of Portugal Restaurant
I had been looking for a good spot to sample a variety of the famed Portuguese wines and port throughout my entire time in Lisbon. Serendipity stepped in and I found the perfect spot to indulge in this activity. The newly opened Wines of Portugal Restaurant located on Commerce Square offers many wine tasting options as well as light small plates and live entertainment.
14. Visit the Museum of Decorative Arts
Seeing distinctive, beautiful interior design has been something I love to do when traveling. Whether it’s in castles, manors, mansions, or modest village homes, if it’s well-done and interesting I want to experience it. A byproduct of this indulgence is I've incorporated many of the interior design ideas I’ve seen on my travels in my personal home which I cherish. If this is something that interests you, don’t miss Lisbon’s Museum of Decorative Arts. It’s worth your time and then after enjoy a drink or meal on the nearby hill overlooking the Tejo River, one of the city's most picturesque spots.
15. Eat lunch at a family owned cantinho
A cantinho is a family owned food mainstay in Lisbon that, typically, has only a few tables. These simple, quaint eating establishments are where you can experience a delicious, inexpensive home cooked meal. I had eaten a fairly large breakfast that day, so stopping in a cantinho for a light lunch ended up being a great option for the afternoon meal. It was a beautiful day when I decided to visit the Esplanada do Cantinho in Alfama, not too hot or too cold, so I settled on a bowl of leek soup and full-bodied cup of cappuccino to round off a satisfying meal.
If you’re taking a trip to Lisbon and looking for an affordable luxury place to stay, check out this post on the wonderful Hotel Avenida Palace!
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Author: Astrid Clements
Astrid Solo Travel Advisor CEO and founder, Astrid, has spent over 40 years traveling around the world. She is passionate about embracing the world’s diverse cultures and sharing with others the global need and personal benefit of cultural literacy. Her focus is on affordable luxury travel that is both substantive and fun! To read more about her and each one of our Solo Travel Advisors, head over to the About page!