Hilly streets, persimmon coloured rooftops, and buildings covered in blue azulejos. Those were the images I had in my mind prior to visiting Lisbon, and reality did not disappoint.
Lisbon often gets left out by travellers passing through Europe. Its position on the Atlantic Ocean means that it’s a bit of a detour from the Euro Trip loop, however, I’m of the opinion that this is a city worth travelling the extra distance for. This 48 hour itinerary will hopefully give you a few ideas of what to do in Lisbon:
Have breakfast at your hotel, slap on some sunscreen, and grab a map of the city from the reception desk. You have an action packed day ahead!
For locals, Tram 28 is just another route that gets them where they need to go, but for tourists this has become a popular loop that showcases some of Lisbon’s best sights. The yellow tram winds through many districts including Baixa, Graça, Alfama and Estrela and it is commonly used to reach São Jorge Castle the scenic way. Be sure to hop off at Miradouro de Santa Luzia for some of the best views of the Alfama disrict. From here it’s just a short five minute walk to reach the castle’s entrance.
Next up is a visit to São Jorge Castle, an 11th century Moorish construction that was built to house military troops. The grounds are beautifully preserved and peacocks roam freely adding to the charm of the place. While here, don’t forget to visit the camera obscura, an optical system that uses lenses and mirrors to provide 360 degree views of the city.
You’ll likely be hungry after all that sightseeing, so it’s time to find some lunch. Most restaurants offer set lunch menus at great value, so peruse the daily offerings until you find something you like. This being Lisbon, seafood is almost always on the menu. If you get the chance, try the bacalhau, a dry, salted cod which also happens to be Portugal’s national dish.
Swing by Lisbon Cathedral for a quick visit. This is the oldest church in the city and from the exterior it almost resembles a medieval fortress.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Lisbon is that many of the city’s buildings are covered in elaborate blue tiles. If you’re curious to learn more about these azulejos, then you’ll want to visit the National Tile Museum. The museum’s permanent collection covers the various styles and designs from 16th century to contemporary times. The museum is housed in the former Convent of Madre Deus.
Head back to your hotel for a little siesta. You’ve had a busy day of sightseeing and nights in Lisbon tend to run late.
For a unique dining experience, make your way to Time Out Mercado da Ribeira in Cais do Sodré. Mercado da Ribeira is a giant food hall where you can enjoy a casual dining experience. The market holds 35 kiosks that serve up regional specialties and really highlight the best of Portuguese cuisine. The market is open daily from 10 a.m. till midnight, except Thursdays to Saturdays when they stay open until 2:00 a.m. – perfect for a late night bite!
After grabbing breakfast, make your way to the Jerónimos Monastery, which is one of the best examples of Manueline architecture found in Lisbon. The monastery was occupied by the Hieronymite order of monks, whose job it was to pray for the king and to provide spiritual guidance to the navigators and sailors embarking on voyages.
Next, head over to Belem Tower, a stone fortress that sits on the shores of the River Tagus. The tower was built as a defence system as well as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. From here it’s just a short walk over to Padrão dos Descobrimentos, another important monument which celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery that took place during the 15th and 16th centuries. Alternatively, you can enjoy the sights by taking a leisurely river cruise down the Tagus.
For today’s lunch, consider sampling yet another traditional Portuguese dish, carne de porco à Alentejana. This dish comes from the Alentejo region, and it is a pork and clam stew that’s usually served up with potatoes.
Walk through the Rua Augusta Arch which leads to Lisbon’s pedestrian street. Flanked by Commerce Square on its south end and Rossio Square on its north end, this thoroughfare is lined with all manner of boutiques, cafes, and street performers. If you’re feeling a little peckish, grab a seat at a cafe and order yourself a pastel de nata, an egg tart pastry that’s wildly popular in the city.
Then continue until you reach Rua de Santa Justa and then turn to your left to see the Santa Justa Lift, a neo-Gothic elevator that connects Baixa with Bairro Alto. If the wrought-iron reminds you of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it’s because this elevator was designed by Raoul Mésnier du Ponsard who was an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel.
Take the rest of the afternoon to visit the ruins of Igreja do Carmo; the remains of this church are some of the most poignant in the city. On the morning of November 1, 1755, an earthquake struck Lisbon during the celebration of All Saints’ Day and much of the masonry collapsed over devout worshippers. The church was never rebuilt, but what remains today are the wall and pointed arches which gaze up towards the sky. The former church and convent is now also the home of the Carmo Archaeological Museum.
Treat yourself to dinner followed by a fado show.
For one last night out on the town, make your way to Bairro Alto. This is where the sangria flows, the music rolls, and the streets turn into dance floors. What better way to finish off your stay in this wonderful city?
What would you do with 48 hours in Lisbon?