Five Things NOT to do in Lisbon

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Cátia, one of our longest-standing guides in Lisbon, has delivered over 130 private tours to ToursByLocals travelers. She knows the Portuguese capital inside and out and can spot a tourist trap a mile away. Today she’s sharing her local expertise by telling us five things NOT to do with your time in Lisbon.

Lisbon is a city with plenty of charm, history, great food and amazing attractions. But like any other city, it has its tourist traps. Avoid them and make the most out of your time in Lisbon.

1. Feel like a sardine in a can, inside Tram nº 28. This tram line was originally designed to provide public transportation for those who live in the historical neighborhoods, but got so popular among tourists that only few locals dare to get on-board. Fighting for a place inside this tram might be worthy, but only if you can get a seat. If you’re standing, you’ll only be able to see other tourist’s armpits and the chances of being pick-pocketed are quite high.

2. Wait 1 hour in line for Santa Justa Elevator. Historical elevators make up a big part of this city, especially long ago, before cars became part of the daily life. Santa Justa is a true gem of architecture but after you’ve taken a couple pictures from the outside, walk along Rua do Carmo and feel the atmosphere of this hipster neighborhood. Listen to Fado from an old-fashioned car that sells Fado CDs, do a little shopping and finally turn right at Calçada do Sacramento to reach the top of the elevator and be amazed by the views.

3. Go to Belem in the morning, especially on a Sunday. St Jerome monastery is a world heritage site and a definite MUST if you’re visiting Lisbon. But it still is an active church with masses on Sunday morning, during which time you can’t visit the church. It’s hard to explain the limited visiting times or the chaos around those times. Skip all this and if Sunday is your only day available, go there after 2pm. It will be completely different.

4. Eat or have coffee at any international food chain. I know it works for everywhere in the world, but in Lisbon this is an especially big mistake. Coffee and food definitely make up a significant part of our culture and not only will you be losing the opportunity to try our exquisite pastries and excellent coffee, but also spending more money.

5. Have dinner before 8.30pm or sit for a meal in Rua Augusta. In Portugal we don’t have dinner before 8.30, sometimes 9pm. If you do find a restaurant with their doors open before 8pm, it will certainly be a touristy restaurant. Just like the restaurants always open in Rua Augusta, they may be OK or within your budget, but they may also serve you something different than authentic Portuguese food.

Thanks for the great advice, Cátia! Any travelers planning on visiting Lisbon this fall or in 2015 should consider getting in touch with Cátia to plan a few hours of customized exploring around her fabulous city. You can reach her through her guide profile, here: Cátia’s tours.
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