Straddling seven hills above the Tagus estuary, Portugal’s fun-loving capital remains one of the top city break destinations on the continent. It’s easy to see why. There’s fantastic seafood straight from the Atlantic. There are enchanting medieval sights like the Moorish São Jorge Castle. There are neighbourhoods of winding lanes and sardine-sizzling cantinas. Topping it off is a vibrant nightlife scene that involves sunset beers on the beach and wild dive bars in the Bairro Alto. And then there are the day trips out to the surf spots of Peniche and Cascais – super fun!
These days, a whole load of travelers heading Lisbon way choose an Airbnb rental over a traditional hotel. Why? For starters, there’s myriad options across the capital, from stylish penthouses in the midst of the old Alfama neighbourhood to cheap and cheerful flats in outer suburbs. They’re also easy to book; all online and remote. And you can score some hefty discounts if you’re willing to hang around for a week or more. Tempted? Read on…
It sure is. Airbnb is totally legal and operates as normal across the Portuguese capital. There have been some restrictions on allowing new short-term rentals in particularly popular districts, but that’s only because there’s already an overload of choice in those areas. You’ll also find that hosts need to display their registration number on their Airbnb page. As a traveler, you’re free to browse, book, and travel using the service in Lisbon to your heart’s content. So, will it be a surf shack in Cascais or a riverside boathouse down on the Tagus?
Where should I stay in Lisbon Airbnb?
Lisbon is a city of many facets. At just the switch of a street, it’s possible to move from an atmospheric Moorish castle in the Alfama (1) to the vintage coffeeshops of Baixa (2) or the raucous evening bars of the Bairro Alto (3). Hiding between those are areas like spice-scented Mouraria (4) (great if you love Indian food) and LGBTQ-friendly Príncipe Real (5). Escaping beyond the core is also a possibility, thanks to the proximity of the beaches and casinos of cool Cascais.
Loads of authentic atmosphere
Close to the main historic sights
Can be pretty expensive
Not many spacious properties
The Alfama gets super busy in summer
Rolling down a steep hillside between the ancient Moorish castle and the banks of the Tagus, Alfama is the oldest corner of the capital. It shows, too, what with wiggling, winding alleys running this way and that, zigzagging up and down, through staircases, archways, and tiny plazas. The whole area is awash with tile-fronted houses that lean over the streets. Sardine kitchens and cafés are stuffed into virtually every corner, so there’s always somewhere to tickle the taste buds. Airbnbs here tend to be compact, but offer a stay in arguably the town’s most atmospheric spot.
If you’re looking for nightlife, endless bars, and some of the best eating in the city, the Bairro Alto is for you. Laid out on a medieval grid plan, it’s a maze of crisscrossing streets that slope upwards. The buildings are largely built in the Romantic style, with filigreed balconies, frescoed tile frontages and glowing yellow and pink colour schemes. But it’s the gastronomy and hedonism that Bairro is really known for. Everything from Irish pubs to elegant cocktail bars come packed between the blocks.
Baixa is the modern heart of Lisbon. It’s anchored on the stunning Praça do Comércio, where mighty equestrian statues but up to Baroque triumphal arches and the sloshing waters of the Tagus. Behind that is a mix of wide boulevards, which together host perhaps the best array of high-street shopping in the city. Other highlights of the Baixa include the gorgeous and vintage bookshop at Livraria Bertrand and the always-bustling square of Praça Dom Pedro IV.
There’s a certain grit and exoticism to Mouraria that helps it stand out from the crowd. Famed as Lisbon’s Little India, the first thing you might notice when climbing the steep streets of this energetic district is the smell of tikka spice and ginger in the air – there are some fantastic curry houses. On top of that, Benformoso street is alive with minimarkets selling goods from Asia and the subcontinent, while a series of Miradouro lookout points await those willing to make the climb.
Hugging the heart of Lisbon just a little to the north, spacious and leafy Príncipe Real is hailed for its chic and upscale vibe. You’ll encounter beautiful mansions that date to the 1800s lining the streets, with audacious gatehouses and driveways. The scented cedar groves at the Príncipe Real Garden unfold near to those, offering prime book-reading and sunbathing spots with al fresco cafes. The more built-up corners of the district are all about independent art galleries and fun LGBTQ bars.
Technically speaking, Cascais isn’t Lisbon at all. However, being just a short jaunt on the Linha de Cascais railway line from the edge of the Tagus, it’s hardly a surprise that the salt-washed town is a favourite summer escape for city slickers. It’s your chance to fuse sightseeing in Lisbon with a taste of Portugal’s famous sun, sand, and sea. There are a series of wonderful golden beaches stringing along the Estoril Coast there, good for surfing and for chilling. You’ll also discover a lively nightlife in the summer, taking place in elegant James Bond casinos and sunset cocktail bars down by the shore.
Architect-Designed Loft in a Historic Hilltop Neighborhood
Between Príncipe Real and the Bairro Alto, this elegant loft space has enough square metreage to really spread out and enjoy a pad above the red-tiled roofs of Lisbon. It’s garnered an Airbnb Plus badge for its unique interior design, which mingles glossy wood beams with cool Scandi furnishings. There’s also parking below ground.
Soak up the Colorful, Quirky Vibes at a Rustic City Nest
Hidden away on the western edge of the town is this cute bungalow with its own gravel garden. Simple but comfy, it’s another Plus rental with minimalist interior design and beautiful finishes that channel a touch of authentic Portuguese culture – check out the blue tiles in the shower area!
Sitting just below the brick towers of São Jorge Castle in the heart of Lisbon’s main historic quarter, Maria Terrace is a surprising enclave of relaxation. It flaunts a sun-splashed garden with a beautiful patio and even a bubbling hot tub. Closeness to the vintage tram lines, along with sleeping space for as many as eight guests, are the highlights.
A whopping seven individual bedrooms, an oversized living-dining area, a big self-catering kitchen, and a trio of bathrooms all combine in this spacious townhouse on the border between Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real. You can hang out in the breezy, bright lounge all together, or head for a touch of privacy on the balcony overlooking the downtown.
Because there’s such a wide array of Airbnbs on the menu in Lisbon, you might just find that prices on the service trump your traditional hotel. An Airbnb Plus rental is usually going to be more, but even then you can divide up the cost of the stay with everyone in your group, not to mention make the most of pretty generous monthly or weekly discounts to the tune of 50% off or even more!
The one downside of picking an Airbnb instead of a hotel is that you will lose those extra frills that come with a managed stay. Breakfast buffets, housekeeping, room service, private concierge – these are the sorts of things you might want to pay a little more for. The four-star Browns Central Hotel is perfect if you’re after all that. It’s got a grand Art Deco feel, with noir lobby bars and artsy suites.
Lisbon is sure to capture the imagination. That’s not just because of all that Moorish history, the seafaring museums, the grand Baroque sights and lookout points. It’s also for the amazing array of Airbnb rentals that pepper the town, from the historic flats of Alfama to the seaside pads of Cascais.