Almost every part of Lisbon offers a great range of comfortable accommodation, however if you’re looking for modern but affordable comforts you may need to avoid the central Baixa zone. You can find three types of accommodation in Lisbon: pensions (pensões; singular pensão), guesthouses (residenciais; singular residencial) and hotels. The only difference between pensões and residenciais is that the pensions generally serve meals, whereas residenciais do not.
Pensions and guesthouses are officially graded from one to three stars; while the basic ones have just a sink in the room, the more sophisticated three-star places may include bathroom facilities and a TV in the bedroom. One-star hotels are somehow equivalent to three-star pensions, but hotels with two stars are significantly better. The three-star (and above) hotels in Lisbon include air conditioning and mini-bars as standard. In the cheaper hotels you will likely find Portuguese TV channels only. However, most foreign TV programs and shows are not dubbed and broadcasted with Portuguese subtitles. It is also important to note that many three-star (and above) hotels can be counted on to have at least a few satellite or cable channels and even some in-house video channels. Most Lisbon accommodation include breakfast, consisting of bread, jam and coffee, a generous spread of rolls, cereals, croissants, cold meat, cheese and fruit, but, of course, if you decide for a cheaper room, be sure to check if breakfast is included.
There is a wide choice of small, inexpensive pensions and guesthouses situated in buildings in the central parts of the city, sometimes each building containing more than one pension or guesthouse. The most obvious - but also noisiest lodgings area in Lisbon is at the northern end of the Baixa, around Rossio, Praça dos Restauradores and Praça da Figueira. North of here, the streets parallel to Avenida da Liberdade (particularly Rua Portas de Santo Antão and the more seedy Rua da Glória) are where you’re most likely to find cheap hotels at busy times of the year, while the Avenida itself has some of the city’s more luxurious hotels. The central Baixa has a fair selection of places, too, and there are a couple of more upmarket choices in the Chiado area. Bairro Alto is one of the more interesting parts of Lisbon, in which to find lodgings, although rooms in its few pensions can be hard to come by and the noisy nightlife goes on until sunrise. For atmosphere, it is hard to beat the few attractive places on the periphery of Alfama, and up towards the castle. More upmarked hotels are located a bit further away from the Lisbon city centre, either in the prosperous suburb of Lapa, around Parque Eduardo VII, or in the business area of Saldanha, and near the Gulbenkian Foundation. Wherever you stay in the city of Lisbon, you’re never much more than twenty or thirty minutes from the airport, so early flights shouldn’t be a problem.
There are four youth hostels (pousadas da juventude) in and around Lisbon, including one in the city centre, near Rotunda Marquês de Pombal, and another out in Sintra. The city’s main campsite is in the Parque Florestal de Monsanto, 6km out of the centre, and there are also some either near the Atlantic beaches of Costa da Caparica, Guincho and Praia Grande, or near beaches south of the Tejo.
There are also many timeshare resorts located in Southern coastal towns such as Albufeira and Vilamoura (Loulé) within only two and a half hours distance from Lisbon by car. These towns offer a good choice of inexpensive timeshare resales and rentals. If you would like to experience Lisbon by day but avoid the sometimes rowdy party scene by night, the best way to travel to Lisbon from Albufeira or Vilamoura is to rent a car. Alternatively, both towns have train stations which offer frequent high-speed train connections directly to Entrecampos and Oriente trains stations in the center of Lisbon.
The main tourist offices can provide you a list of accommodation in Lisbon, but they won’t reserve rooms for you. In the summer months in particular, email, fax or telephone a reservation at least a week in advance, or use our online reservation service below as it may be difficult to arrange a reservation upon arrival.
Language is not a problem in Lisbon. Most hotel staff understand English, French and Spanish. If you take care of your reservation directly is also advisable to reconfirm any booking a day or two in advance, and, ideally, to get written confirmation, as some places have been known to deny all knowledge of verbal reservations during busy times. So, be aware! At Easter and in the summer, room availability is often limited, with prices artificially inflated (thought in August is often considered mid-season, as most locals clear out of the city). At these times you should be prepared to take anything vacant and, if need be, look around the next day for somewhere better or cheaper.
As in many other places, the best way to get room in Lisbon is to get a reservation before arriving to the city, so that instead of loosing your time dealing with hotel managers and walking through the city in search of accommodation, you just enjoy your precious time in the city.
If however you decide to find it by yourself, on the spot, be warned that pensions tend to occupy upper stores of tall buildings - and so, leaving one person downstairs with all the bags is a good idea if your’re with a company. Also, memorize that addresses are written in the form “Rua do Crucifixo 50, 4º”, which means the fourth floor of no. 50, Rua do Crucifixo. The addition of “e”, “d” or “r/c” at the end means the entrance is on the left (esquerda), right (direita) or on the ground floor (rés-do-chão). Don’t be unduly put off by some insalubrious staircases, but do be aware that rooms facing onto the street can often be terribly noisy.