Portugal’s magical capital Lisbon is the perfect place for a city break. It’s the ideal combination of beautiful historical landmarks, great food, and epic nightlife.
In this post, we’ll help you plan out how to spend a day in Lisbon. You probably would be ambitious to fit in everything from the list, but pick a few of your favourites or try and extend them over a weekend. You won’t regret it!
People watch in one of the squares
Lisbon is a hilly city, but it might be best to start off at ground level. That’s not a bad thing though, as some of the city’s best shopping, eating, and drinking are right in the city centre, also known as Baixa. One of the places that you can spend some time to get to know the city and see what the locals get up to is Rossio Square. In the past, the square was used for bullfights and public executions, so there’s plenty of history to get to know too.
Take a ride on Tram 28
If you want to condense some of the most important landmarks in Lisbon into one trip, then you’ll want to take Tram 28. The city has several yellow trams, but 28 takes the most scenic route. Take the rattling journey up Lisbon’s hills (that the newer trams can’t do, by the way), through Estrela, Sao Bento, Alfama, and Graça. The attractions on the way include the Portas do Sol viewpoint, Sé (Cathedral) and it ends close to the Castelo de Sao Jorge. The best place to board the tram if you want a seat is at Martim Moniz station.
Ride the funiculars
As we’ve already said, Lisbon is a hilly city. It was built on seven of them – just like Rome. However, that doesn’t mean you have exert yourself any more than usual! The hills are criss crossed by funiculars, some which date back to the 19th century. They’re like the yellow trams, but with a much shorter journey! As well as the funiculars, try the lifts – the Santa Justa Elevator is arguably the most impressive.
Wander through the streets of Alfama
Feel that Lisbon’s centre is missing a historic area? You just haven’t found it yet in Baixa. The charming narrow streets of Alfama are a favourite among travellers and tourists – dating back to when the Moors of Africa ruled the Iberian Peninsula. You can spend hours wandering through the streets and stopping in squares and at cafes while listening out for the sound of fado music.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Standing above the Alfama District you have the iconic landmarks of St George’s Castle. You can see it from pretty much anywhere in Central Lisbon, but it’s well worth making the trip up there. The citadel dates back to more than 2,000 years ago, when the Romans conquered Lisbon. Since then, it has been used by a plethora of rulers, and nowadays it’s a great place to learn about Portuguese history. There are guided tours available in Portuguese, Spanish, and English.
One of the most symbolic attractions in Lisbon, Belém Tower is a little way from Baixa and Alfama. It’ll take you around half an hour on public transport actually – but it’s well worth the journey to reach this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Torre de Belém dates back to the 16th century and stands at the mouth of the Tagus River. Architecturally, it’s stunning, with influences ranging from Mudejar, to Gothic, to Romanesque. It’s one of three must-see activities in Belém.
Built to mark Portugal’s ‘Age of Exploration’ the Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most imposing and incredible monuments you’ll find anywhere in Europe. It’s another of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lisbon and the money used to build it came from international trade from the country’s imports of exotic spices. The monatery was built at the beginning of the 16th century and houses the tomb of legendary explorer Vasco da Gama.
Pastéis de Belém
All of this exploring will have worked up an appetite, so what better food to stop for than a national treasure: pastéis de Belem! These little pastries are similar to pastéis de nata – made with egg and cinnamon but are not quite the same. They’re made with a secret recipe that only a handful of people in the world know. Locals and tourists alike love pastéis do Belem and on a regular day, they’ll sell around 20,000 delicious custard tarts – although the number can be double that on a busy weekend or holiday.
Be seduced by magical Sintra on a day trip
If you’re staying in Lisbon for the whole weekend and have time for a day trip, then there’s one nearby that you can’t miss. Sintra is half an hour away on the train from Rossio Station, and you’ll have to get up early to beat the queues to get to another UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are colourful palaces and castles formerly the homes of Portuguese royalty. It’s truly breath-taking!
End the day in the Bairro Alto
Whether you’re staying for a day or the weekend, there’s only one place to end the day in Lisbon. The Bairro Alto! This district is just a funicular ride from Baixa and Chiado, and it’s home to some of the best restaurants, bars, and nightlife in the Portuguese capital. Whether you want a cellar bar, a rooftop with a view over Lisbon, or a gourmet restaurant, you’ll find it in Bairro Alto.
So, now that you know how to spend a day in Lisbon…
It’s time to think about booking your trip. For those who don’t speak Portuguese or would like a bit of help and support planning their vacation, why not check out Lisbon Destination Tours. Local experts can show you the best of the city and further afield in Portugal, should you wish. There are a number of tours tailored specifically to a range of interests and budgets. So, check them out!