It’s Web Summit time again here in Lisboa (Lisbon) and our growing tech community is excited. Since 2016 Europe’s biggest web conference has found a home in my backyard here in Lisbon.
As you know I have been coming to Portugal for years and recently made it my home. Since coming, this place (Lisbon in particular) has become the “New Berlin” of the European tech scene. Every young person I meet either has a startup does tech marketing or is some sort of tech guru. It’s great (and not so great)
I wanted to help out my fellow Web Summiters with a quick piece on how to get around Lisbon during the conference. Last year was the first edition and I am hoping that this year they have worked out some of the kinks, but just in case they didn’t, these tips will come in super helpful.
Tools You Will Need During Web Summit
Before we get started here is a list of items I would suggest you procure before the whole Web Summit experience begins:
This is needed to enter the metros (subway), trams, and buses. You can get one at any station but easiest one is to get it from the Airport station before you grab your metro to your hotel or Airbnb. Here are a few tips to help your Lisbon Metro rides easier:
- Make sure that you scan in and out of the metro to enter and exit.
- You cannot share a metro card – it is one per person.
- To get to Web Summit at the Altice Arena, take the red line and get off at Oriente. Walk through the mall and outside, make a left and you’ll get to the entrance.
- The metro card itself costs 1 euro plus money for the fares you use.
PRO TIP: There is a metro strike set for the 1st day of the Web Summit this year (November 6). In 2017, there were over 500 thousand people a day using the metro’s red line. Plan ahead. There will be Lime scooters, Ubers and taxis, so read up on these sytems and be prepared for alternate transportation on day 1.
You can get a $20 5gb SIM at the Vodafone in the Airport. Just look for the store on the right once you get your bags and are out in the main part of the airport. A €10 SIM should be enough for the entire event.
Lisbon is not an easy city to figure out, especially the older neighborhoods like the Alfama and Bairro Alto. This will save you tons of time and aggravation.
Lots of the buildings in Lisbon are old so you will not get reception. During Web Summit everyone at the conference site is on the cell towers so reception drops considerably. It’s easier just to get an offline map so you can save yourself time and effort.
Most places will not accept American credit cards. By this I don’t just mean American Express, I mean American credit cards. Keep about 60 euros with you for your day to day small spends.
Anytime you go to a conference, you need comfortable shoes. At Web Summit, this is not enough. Portuguese pavements are made of basalt and limestone. They are hand cut and held together by sand. This means that streets are uneven and incredibly slippery when wet. Skip the leather bottom shoes and heels with stilettos. This is one time when you need to be practical. The link above is for one of my faves – Cole Haan’s Grand Evolution. They come in all types of styles, both in men’s and women’s AND because they use Nike tech, they feel like sneakers 😉
Where is the Web Summit?
The Web Summit is held in the conference center in the Parque das Nacoes neighborhood in the northeast of Lisbon. It’s a modern area wich houses Oriente Mall (it’s a big mall – if you need something, you can probably find it there) and Gare do Oriente (Oriente Train Station). It is on the Tagus River (Rio Tejo) and has amazing views of the Vasco da Gama Bridge in the distance.
Normally, the area is pretty dead, but during the conference, it will be jam-packed with people. Last year there was a food truck area at the Web Summit, but the lines were long and finding a place to eat was difficult. Instead of eating there, hit up one of the restaurants on the boardwalk or at the Mall. Make reservations if you are going to do the restaurants because people will swarm them by noon time. Mr. Lee and The Old House have fantastic Chinese food.
Getting to the Web Summit
This is the best way to get to the Web Summit. Normally, we’d recommend taking Ubers, but because of the influx of tech-savvy people – the metro will probably be your best option (because of traffic and availability of cars).
To get to the summit from the airport you would take the red line from the airport (Aeroporto) 3 stops. The Metro only has 4 lines (blue, yellow, green and red). So it’s pretty hard to get lost.
Once you get out at the Oriente stop (Oriente Station) you will be in the Oriente Mall. Just walk east (forward after escalator) or into the mall and when you finally walk out (about 250 meters) you will be staring at the conference center. So kind of hard to miss.
Use the Viva Viagem card which costs you 1.45 euro per ride. One note; to buy the card it will cost you an extra .50. You can pick one up at any Metro station’s automated machines. They have an English option when using the machine.
If you are coming from another part of the city, just look for the trains that connect to the Red line at either Sao Sebastiao, Saldanha or Alameda. From there go towards the airport.
You really can’t get lost, like I said there are only 4 lines.
PRO TIP “You need one card per person because you need the card to swipe in and out of the Metro in Lisbon.
Just tell the driver to bring you to Web Summit. They will know. Depending on where you are in the city it should cost between 7 and 15 Euros.
Use the app. It’s normally the best land-based way to travel, but with all the tech people here, surge pricing is sure to kick in. Even so, Uber will still be an affordable option.
The Bus system in Lisbon is pretty decent. You can use the same Viva Viagem Card to hop on all the buses, trams and metros. The buses serving Web Summit and Oriente Station would be:
- 708 from Martim Moniz
- 750 from Cais do Sodré
- 759 from Restauradores
- 782 from the waterfront at Cais do Sodré
- 794 from Terreiro do Paço.
Each can take about 30 minutes to get to the Convention Center, but they may take longer because of traffic – so plan accordingly.
Don’t rent a car in Lisbon. Especially if you do not know how to drive stick. Lisbon is a city with hills, crazy Portuguese drivers, and you’re driving in a different language in an unknown rental car.
If you are brave and crazy and decide to rent a car, there are loads of parking lots in the area. Be prepared to pay 20 euros a day or have your car towed.
Unlike the rest of Lisbon, Parque das Nacoes is not hilly, but you’re still dealing with slippery stone streets. The neighborhood is also pretty far from the center of Lisbon, so this is one of the few times I don’t recommend you go somewhere on foot. During the Web Summit, just take the Metro. Once you’re in the center of the city for night events, feel free to walk the city, just make sure to bring rubber soled shoes and possibly an umbrella.
Nightlife in Lisbon
No good conference is without an amazing nightlife. Here in Lisbon, especially during Web Summit, finding parties is an easy task. Most of the real events happen outside of the Conference area after dark. So be prepared to travel into the real part of town (sorry Parque das Nacoes). These are a few of the neighborhoods where your likelihood of fun is optimal.
Baixa & Chiado
This is the shopping & dining area of Lisbon. There are boutique shops, luxury stores, and restaurants at every price point. Lots of meetups tend to happen at Praça Luís de Camões, a small square below Bairro Alto and Principe Real neighborhood.
A must see in the area is Chiado Square near the Rossio train station. There usually are events that go on in the square and there are a bunch of restaurants.
To get here take the Green or Blue Metro to Baixa-Chiado.
This is the nightlife center of the city. It’s near Chiado area and the streets at night are lined with bars, restaurants, small head shops. It gets a bit wild there, especially so during Web Summit.
To get here take the Green or Blue Metro to Baixa-Chiado. Make sure to get out on the exit with the large escalator. If not you will be walking up a pretty steep hill.
Time Out Market
Mercado Riberia as the locals call it is a massive food hall with over 20 restaurants featuring varieties of Portuguese and International cuisine. The communal seating creates a lively environment for neighbors to discuss politics, tech, and state of Portuguese futbol. In recent years it’s become a place foreigners go for dinner or drinks. It gets crowded – very crowded. When you get there have one person in your group find and defend a table. Then everyone can take turns getting food.
To get here take the Green Metro to Cais do Sodre and then cross the small highway.
Is a small street north of the Time Out Market. It is home to various bars and a few small burlesque clubs. Usually, the Night Summit bounces around there along with other side Summits and Meetups. People will be out drinking imperiais (beers) out in the street. It will feel like a small festival. To me, this is way better experience then Bairro Alto since people don’t get as drunk. Also in the nearby park, there is usually are live musicians and a supermarket to restock on your libations if you run out.
This is an old quarter on the east side of the Castelo Sao Jorge. It is home of the Fado, some amazing views, and small streets. You can find small restaurants and a few over priced ones popping up. The views and vibe of the area are a worthwile trip just to see what Lisbon use to be like. In the past few years, properties have been gobbled up and lots of the old charm has left.
To get to Alfama take a taxi or Uber to the Church of São Vicente of Fora. It is a good starting point to walk down to Rua São Tomé. This downhill but windy walk will give you some great views of Lisbon and get to see the Alfama.
A town just on the other side of the 25 de Abril Bridge (think above LX Factory), this history area houses the Belem Palace, Jerónimos Monastery, the Discovery Monument and the Torre de Belem. Must see sites if you have half a day free when at Web Summit.
To get there take the To get to Belem from Lisbon, you will need to take either tram 1275 or 15 tram from the Praça da Figueira (Figueira Square) or Praça do Comércio and get off at the Jeronimos Monastery. Both Taxis and Ubers all go to Belem and are a plenty. Just look for a Taxi queue (usually old guys sitting in green/black/beige cars with a sign that says Taxi).
With great infrastructure, Lisbon meets the challenge of a city that can not only hosts Europe’s largest tech conference but still keep the small city vibe. It will take you between 15-45 minutes to visit almost every part of Lisbon. Try to enjoy the city, spend some money to help the local economy and get the most out of the Web Summit.