In this part of our “One Day” series, we’re looking how to spend one day in Lisbon, Portugal. Lisbon is one of our all-time favorite destinations. With its seven hills, quaint old neighborhoods, great museums, a fantastic culinary scene, and a lively but laid-back atmosphere, there’s a lot to love about this city.
While one day in Lisbon is not enough to explore everything the city has to offer, you will still have some time to see and experience some of the best things to do in Lisbon. So off you go!
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How to Get Around Lisbon
Being a large city, the tourist sights in Lisbon are quite spread apart. Even though it is possible to walk between some of the sights it would be optimum if you used public transport to get around in order to make most of your 24 hours in Lisbon.
A day ticket for public transport is fairly cheap at just over 6 EUR per person. For this, you’ll have to purchase the Viva Viagem card and top it up at the ticket machines around the metro stations according to your needs. You can find more information about the Viva Viagem card here.
Taxis are also another alternative as they offer the swiftest way to get around. The initial charge is 3.25 EUR and increases at around 50 cents a kilometer. Always insist on the taximeter as it is required by law. Be careful not to get ripped off as tourists are a frequent target of scams.
Uber is another option to get around Lisbon as it commands a significant presence all over the city.
Your One Day in Lisbon Itinerary
This itinerary covers many of the important sights in Lisbon. We’ve included a free map which highlights the best places to visit in Lisbon in one day.
We understand that everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace. If you are traveling in the summer, make sure to carry some water with you as the hot weather can be rather demanding. With this itinerary you will see:
- Pasteis de Belem
- Jeronimos Monastery
- Monument to the Discoveries
- Belem Tower
- Time Out Market
- Rossio Square
- Rua Augusta
- Commerce Square
- Alfama District
- Castle of St. George
- Ride on Tram 28
- Traditional Portuguese dinner
1. Pastéis de Belém
Start your day early by treating yourself to Portugal’s favorite sugar rush, the pastel de nata, a creamy, flaky egg tart custard pastry that is sprinkled with cinnamon. These are staples omnipresent throughout bakeries and cafes in Lisbon. Supposedly the best ones though are found in the renowned Pastéis de Belém bakery, where they are baked according to a top secret recipe originating over 200 years ago.
There’s always a long queue at the famous establishment to get in. It’s well worth the wait though because the pastel de nata is mouthwateringly scrumptious! The bakery itself is beautiful from inside with its the blue-white azulejos. Pastéis de Belém is open daily between 08:00-23:00.
2. Jerónimos Monastery
Jerónimos Monastery (or Hieronymites Monastery) is a former monastery built in 1502 that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Being fans of classic architecture, Jacky and I really loved the amalgam of architectural styles such as Gothic, Manueline, and Renaissance with Moorish influences.
It was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s epic 1498 journey to India and showcases Portugal’s wealth and power at the time. Jerónimos is the resting place of many notable Portuguese statesmen including Vasco da Gama himself. During this time it was a symbol of wealth and power and it is sure to leave you impressed even today.
Entrance to the monastery costs 10 EUR. Opening hours are Tue-Sun, 10:00-17:00 (Oct-Apr), 10:00-18:00 (May-Sep).
3. Monument to the Discoveries
As long as you’re in the Belem district you should also see the Monument to the Discoveries that is situated just across the street from Jerónimos Monastery. This landmark was built in 1960 to honor the 500th death anniversary of Henry the Navigator.
A lovely frieze of 33 historical figures – explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists, and missionaries is set along both sides of the monument. The setting of the monument next to river Tagus is ideal for great pictures.
You can just admire the monument from the outside and skip going inside.
4. Belem Tower
Make your way further down the road for about a kilometer to the magnificent Belem Tower. Just like the Jerónimos Monastery, it is also a great symbol of Portugal’s amazing Age Of Discovery during the 16th century. It was initially built in 1515 as a ceremonial gateway in honor of Vasco da Gama’s voyages of discovery and also doubled as a fortress which guarded the entrance to Lisbon harbor.
Make sure to look out for the ornate façade which is embellished with fanciful maritime and floral motifs. The Belem Tower has rightly landed itself on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list.
For 6 EUR you can see the interior of the Belem Tower. Opening hours are Tue-Sun, 10:00-17:30 (Oct-Apr), 10:00-18:30 (May-Sep).
5. Lunch at Time Out Market
Take a well-deserved lunch break at Time Out Market. This wonderful venue is a food lover’s paradise and one of the must-see attractions in Lisbon. An independent panel of city experts is in charge of overseeing the food stalls ensuring a high quality of food.
Food from 40 stalls run by top chefs selected by industry experts are at your dispense making everything from Portuguese cuisine as well as more international options. You can get everything here from seafood to steak sandwiches, sushi to chocolate and desserts. There is also a nice selection of wine and beer.
Time Out Market is open daily. Opening hours are Sun-Wed, 10:00-24:00 and Thu-Sat, 10:00-02:00.
6. Rossio Square
Your next stop will be the bustling Rossio Square that is one of the most important squares in Lisbon and a popular meeting point among the locals. The unusual wave-like mosaic pavement, which alternates between lighter and darker stone, left me dizzying with appreciation.
In the center of the square stands a statue of Dom Pedro IV, a former Portuguese king and the first emperor of Brazil. There’s a slew of catering establishments and shops in the buildings surrounding the square giving it a lively appearance. Rossio Square is just fantastic for people watching while sipping a cup of coffee or some chilled suds.
7. Rua Augusta
Make your way down on Rua Augusta street that leads directly to Commerce Square. Rua Augusta is one of the best-known streets in Lisbon and is home to a number of large international stores and catering joints. It is usually packed with tourists due to its central location. At the end of Rua Augusta is the beautiful Arco da Rua Augusta arch that was built in memory of the 1755 earthquake. Since it is closed to traffic, Rua Augusta is abuzz with restaurant terraces, street artists and music.
8. Commerce Square
The Commerce Square is the largest and most famous square in Lisbon. Before the big earthquake in 1755, a large palace could be found on the site of the square. It was decided not to rebuild the palace and instead a large statue of the then King Jose I on horseback was placed on the square.
Get out your camera here as the sprawling square offers awesome photo opportunities. Similar to Rossio Square, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants surrounding the square.
9. Roam the Alfama District
Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and therefore also forms a large part of the historic center of the city. The Alfama has a storied history since it was first occupied by the Romans and Visigoths in the early 4th century and then by the Moors in the 8th century before the Portuguese took back control. It was the only part of Lisbon that was left unscathed due to the 1755 earthquake and as such is very well preserved.
The cozy winding streets of the Alfama are filled with tourists all year round who flock here to see the many attractions. The Alfama is famous for its many houses with beautiful Portuguese tiles (azulejos) and for its fado clubs. The Alfama district is Lisbon at its finest and was undoubtedly our favorite part of the city.
10. Castle of St. George
The Castle of St. George can be found on the highest hill of the city in the Alfama district. The castle is one of the most well-known and most visited sights of Lisbon. From the walls and the terrain around the castle, you will have postcard perfect views of Lisbon and the Tagus river.
The oldest remains of the castle date can be traced back to the 6th century and this is where the history of Lisbon began. The castle played an important role during the siege of Lisbon in the 12th century and as a result, the history of Lisbon is interwoven with the castle. Take a stroll around this medieval fortress and its 18 towers and step back in time to witness the history of Lisbon.
The castle is open daily from 09:00-21:00 (March-October) and 09:00-18:00 (November-February). Entrance is 8.50 EUR.
11. Hop Aboard the Iconic Tram 28
No visit to Lisbon would be complete without a ride on the famous Tram 28. This is one of the three creaking yellow vintage tram routes that still operate in the city. Tram 28 makes its undulating route through the old districts such as Graca, Alfama, and Baixa as it trundles past several fabled sights, ensuring there are chronic photo opportunities along the way. We absolutely loved every minute of the tram ride!
Tram 28 is very popular with tourists and locals so it is usually jam-packed. To ensure you get a seat board at the starting point in the Martim Moniz square. There are daily departures every 11 minutes and the full ride lasts 45-60 minutes.
There is no shortage of great eating establishments in Lisbon for all tastes. But since you’re in Lisbon, it would be a sin not to seize on the opportunity to eat some mouth-watering seafood. Salted cod (bacalhau) is a Portuguese specialty so you might want to give it a shot. For a fantastic meal go to Sacramento do Chiado or Da Prata 52, both of which are in the downtown area. A meal at either of these places is sure to leave you very content indeed!
Extending Your Stay
If you have any more time to spare than 24 hours in Lisbon, we strongly recommend that you stay for a little longer. It will give you a chance to check out some of the city’s beautiful viewpoints, excellent museums, and funky art scene. Plus, a day trip to Sintra is really a must 🙂
It’s handy to stay in the downtown districts of Bairro Alto, Baixa or the Alfama as they are a good base for sightseeing. There are plenty of good options here for all budgets.
Hostel: Home Lisbon Hostel, a great choice right in the heart of downtown.
Budget: Hotel Gat Rossio, solid option near Rossio train station.
Mid-range: LX Boutique Hotel, within 2 minutes of the Cais do Sodre train station.
Splurge: Santiago de Alfama – Boutique Hotel, sumptuous top-choice pick in the Alfama district.
Now, what do you think? Is Lisbon on your bucket list? Or is there anything else that shouldn’t be missed during one day in Lisbon? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!