It was my second time in Europe was when I got to visit the sunny Lisbon. After spending months in Europe’s colder countries, Lisbon felt like a much needed summer breeze that instantly made me happy.
Oh my god, the city is colorful – was one of my first thoughts. Wow, Portuguese people are so friendly and happy – was the second one.
We arrived in Lisbon from Zagreb (Croatia), met the world’s happiest immigration officer, took an old school metro to the city centre and got lost on the streets. Wow, are the trams really yellow? Yes, apparently that’s now an iconic Lisbon-ish image thanks to Instagram.
You know what makes Lisbon even more special? It stands on seven hills, as a result there are several slanted roads and multiple viewpoint possibilities. The city is jeweled by incredible palaces and churches. Needless to say, we instantly fell in love with Lisbon. Yes, Lisbon is one of the most dazzling cities in the entire World.
With its incredible views over its famous collection of terraces known as Miradouros, streets covered with pink, mint, and indigo tiles, and its gorgeous coast of Atlantic Ocean, you will never want to leave here.
If you are planning a short visit, I have created a detailed Lisbon itinerary for you to enjoy this city. Of course it includes a lot of walking but you can take a metro or tram too and I will mention the options to do that. I normally love visiting a city’s famous scenic spots, old buildings but I also try to find out about some arty or offbeat spots. This two-day itinerary for Lisbon contains a bit of both.
Day 1: Typical Lisbon
Get ready to enjoy one of the most epic sceneries and monuments of Lisbon. On your first day, you get to see the classic side of Lisbon, which creates the perfect opportunity to get to know the city better. And don’t forget to wear your most comfortable shoes, because there are lots of incredible places to explore! Keep in mind that Lisbon’s cobbled streets can sometimes be slippery when you’re wearing the wrong kind of shoes.
Walk to Praça do Comércio (and Explore)
The most rewarding way to explore Lisbon is by walking. For any kind of a self walking tour, the best way to start exploring Lisbon is from Praça do Comércio, which is also known as the Palace Square.
Having one of the best locations, this square was once where the glorious Ribeira Palace used to stand. Sadly, due to a massive earthquake, which was followed by a devastating tsunami and a fire that happened in 1755, most of the spectacular buildings of Lisbon were destroyed. But today, thanks to King Jose I, Praça do Comércio is one of the most beautiful places in Lisbon.
Meaning the Trading Square in English, Praça do Comércio initially has government offices in charge of customs and the affairs of the port of Lisbon. In the center of the square, you will see the grand bronze monument of King Jose I, which was built in 1775 by one of the most famous architects of that era, Joachim Machado de Castro. A little further, you can check out the magnificent 30-meter triumphal arch, which is called Arco da Rua Augusta. In the center of the arch, you will see the composition of Glory, which crowns with laurel wreaths Valor and Genius. On the other hand, this arch has famous historical figures, such as; Marquis Pombal, Vasco da Gama, Nuno Alvarez Pereira, and Viriat!
The square generally features characteristic of the Enlightenment era. It is known that King Jose I preferred not to restore the Ribeira palace because he wanted to focus on the clarity of geometry of the square. You can also admire this geometry from the bird view photos of this area! Another great part of the Praça do Comércio is that this square has the oldest cafe in Lisbon, which is called Café-Restaurante Martinho da Arcada!
Breakfast in a local cafe – Pastéis de Nata with Coffee
After a little sightseeing, it is time for breakfast! If you have a sweet tooth and love eating sweet pastries for breakfast, you will love the famous Portuguese Custard Tart aka Pastéis de Nata!
This Portuguese egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon was originally created as a laundry product in the 18th century by catholic monks! At that time, due to religious habits, monasteries tend to use large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, and the leftover egg yolks were used to make cakes and pastries. But during the Liberal Revolution of 1820, which prohibited religious orders, monks wanted to find alternative income sources. That’s why they started to sell Pastéis de Nata at a nearby sugar refinery.
After a couple of years, the monastery was closed in 1834, and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém! And today, you can still buy one of the best Pastéis de Nata in the entire Lisbon! There are only three family members know the original secret recipe, but luckily you can buy this delicious tart in most bakeries across the country. And the best way to enjoy Pastéis de Nata is by drinking a hot shot of Bica on the side! Bica is Lisbon’s delicious espresso, which is another thing you should definitely try!
Take Tram 28 (If you’re lucky) to Alfama
One of the best ways to explore the historic parts of the city is definitely by using the tram. Lisbon’s trams were developed in 1914 to make it possible for residents to go from the central Baixa district to neighborhoods like Graca and Estrela.
The city used to have a lot of tram lines but they disappeared over the years due to an extended underground metro system. And today, there are currently only five tramlines left across the city.
If you want to use the tram, it is good to know that there are two types of trams; the historic Remodelado ones, and the modern Articulado trams. The Remodelado trams are the yellow-colored trams that go through the narrow streets of Lisbon. And of course, the most iconic one is the tram 28, which crosses the Alfama district.
Due to this trams’ incredible route that goes past so many important sights and charming neighborhoods, it’s now used by tourists as a way to explore the city. As in an ideal world, you can tour the city for just €2.90, if you buy a ticket onboard or €1.45 with a prepaid transport card. But since it is a very popular thing to do in Lisbon, you might have to wait up to an hour to take a ride! Honestly, I couldn’t bother waiting but if you have more patience than I do, then you should.
The tram usually comes around every 10 minutes and can only seat about 20 people, which means that even you catch the tram, you will probably have an uncomfortable 7 km ride, squeezed with lots of people. But if it is something that you want to experience, it is well worth it, because you will get to see all the incredible historical spots which are also highly photogenic.
On the other hand, if you want to burn the calories of Pastéis de Nata, you can walk the tram 28 route and enjoy the sights better by taking your time. And by the end of the route, you will reach the gorgeous district of Alfama!
Walk around in Alfama
Alfama is an adorable small district, which is located on one of the seven hills of Lisbon. Being the oldest and safest neighborhood of Lisbon, Alfama is still very lively. Surrounded by a rich history and culture, you will not want to leave here. The locals are also the most helpful people in the entire World. In here, you can also sit and enjoy the neighborhood from plenty of local bars and restaurants, while tasting delicious and traditional Portuguese food!
Alfama can be explored easily by foot through its narrow alleys and a lot of staircases. It seems like you can easily get lost, but don’t worry because it is almost impossible as long as you walk down the district of Alfama.
The best way to start exploring is from the Castelo São Jorge, which is a very well preserved castle. Also known as the St George’s Castle, the castle stands on the highest hill of Lisbon, and it offers one of the greatest views over the city (that’s our next point)! After gazing through an incredible view, you can walk down the neighborhood, and eventually, you will get out at the bottom. But first, it is time to check out the Castelo de São Jorge!
Enjoy the View from Castelo de São Jorge aka St. George’s Castle
If you want to get to know more about Lisbon’s heritage and history, Castelo de São Jorge is one of the best places to start with. Open 7 days a week, this castle witnessed many epic historical moments.
Having a permanent exhibition about the city’s history as well as guided tours, you can explore the castle and grasp the history in one and a half hours. The guided tour includes exploring the castle’s battlements, a camera obscura, the museum, and the numerous hidden paths. For visitors, the Castelo de São Jorge is a great attraction point because even though the castle initially built the 1st century BC, due to a major restoration performed in the 1940s, it is one of the best-preserved castles in the country. And of course, due to its exceptional location, you can rest while gazing at the castle’s unique and majestic sight.
In order to reach the top, you will have to climb a lot of steps but the view is totally worth it.
Sunset View from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
If you want to watch the sunset from Lisbon’s highest lookout point, then head to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte! This great terrace looks out over Lisbon, and it offers an uninterrupted 250-degree incredible panoramic view. Also known as Our Lady of the Hill, you can take some breathtaking photos over there.
Honestly, we just happened to reach here by chance and clicked some photos. It was only later we realised that this is one of the famous viewpoints in Lisbon.
Miradouro da Graça
Want to have a drink while looking at a view of the old neighborhoods like Mouraria, Alfama, Downtown, and 25th April Bridge? Then visit the hill of Santo André and check out the terrace of Graça, aka Miradouro da Graça! Here, you can find an open-air café where you can hang out with young locals, and relax a bit after traveling all day.
Dinner in Lisbon
Finally its dinner time! In Lisbon, you can find both local and international chefs, which create a unique and modern Portuguese cuisine. You can basically have incredible meals anywhere in Lisbon, however, if you want a traditional meal, then there are some dishes that you should try out. One of them is Portugal’s beloved bacalhau, which is dried and salted codfish. If you feel fancy, you can order bacalhau à Brás, which is a shredded cod with onions, eggs, and potatoes! Here, you can have lots of fresh seafood like octopus, tuna, monkfish, shrimp, sardines, and clams as well. But if you want to eat red meat, don’t forget to try the Alentejan beef with a side of Douro wines.
Come Back to Your Hotel
After a delicious meal, you can come back to your hotel and rest, or get ready for an epic night out! If you still have some energy left, it is time to visit the Bairro Alto!
Get to Bairro Alto for Lisbon’s Nightlife (Optional)
Having the highest concentration of bars and clubs, Bairro Alto is the place to visit if you want a great night out. Whether you like clubs or bars, you can find something for everyone. The neighborhood is quite unique too, in here you will see many car-free, picturesque narrow streets full of amazing restaurants and bars. Listening to the live music that pours from the clubs, you can either join one of the super fun pub crawls to meet new people, or dance till morning in Bairro Altos many nightclubs!
Day 2: Peaceful and Arty Lisbon
On your second day, you can check out the artsy side of Lisbon! After a quick breakfast, your first stop should be the Carmo Archaeological Museum.
Carmo Archaeological Museum,
In 1864, the royal architect Joaquim Passidónio da Silva created this space as a storage and display of important sculptures from old ruined buildings. But during the 19th and 20th centuries, the museum incorporated a series of pieces of historical, archaeological and artistic works from many different chronological ages, which date from Pre-History to the present day! And today, you can find the ruins of a gothic church, the main altar, an eclectic collection of tombs, statuary, ceramics, and beautiful mosaics. Other interesting pieces to check out are the shrunken heads, South American mummies, a jasper sculpture of the Virgin Mary, Visigothic artifacts, and coins dating back to the 13th century.
Lunch in Mercado da Ribera
If you are not sure what to eat, you have to head to the Mercado da Ribeira, which is an epic culinary market curation. The gourmet food hall of this market has 40 kiosks, which offer delicious meals from Michelin-star chefs for food court prices! Since it is a great place for food, sometimes it is hard to find a seat. Here, you will find three levels, with plenty of fresh products as well. The ground floor is for the fish market, the first floor has meat products, and fruits and vegetables are on the second floor.
After the delicious lunch, the next stop is Cristo Rei! Resembling the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, Cristo Rei is the statue of Christ with raised arms that bless the city. The monument was constructed in the 1950s to reverence for Portugal avoiding the Second World War.
Here, you can visit the Cristo Rei’s 80-meter high viewing platform to check out the splendid panoramic views over Lisbon and enjoy many religious gardens and pilgrimage buildings as well. Keep in mind that the entry to the viewing deck closes at 6 PM. But don’t worry, there are plenty of viewpoints all around the statue.
LX Factory – Enjoy Lisbon’s Arty Side with Drinks and Dinner
And last but not least, you have to check out the LX Factory, which is an abandoned industrial site that was turned into a creative and gastronomic area! With its trendy shops and delicious food places, here is a must-visit place.
Located under the 25 de Abril Bridge, the LX Factory can be reached by trams or buses heading west from Cais do Sodre. After checking out the hipster shops, you can choose your dinner from many Japanese, Italian and Portuguese restaurants. And also, don’t forget to check out its incredible rooftop bar for a drink and an another epic view.
How to Get Around Lisbon
When you arrive at Lisbon airport, you can simply take the metro to reach anywhere. Being very accessible, the metro is the main transportation system in Lisbon. You can also find many useful information and maps in English as well. Make sure to buy a Viva Lisboa card, which will allow you to have unlimited use of the metro, bus, tram, and elevators in the city center.
Once you reach the city center, you can use trams as well. The taxis and buses, on the other hand, is pretty affordable and fast, but public transportation in Lisbon sometimes has strikes. That’s why it is better to plan your transfer to the airport if you are in a hurry.
We also traveled on a ferry when we visited Christo Rei and it was a memorable experience. Keep your mind open to using different modes of public transportation while you’re in Lisbon.
We often travel within Europe on our camper van but we avoid taking our ban inside big cities like Lisbon because of parking situation. If you’re road tripping in Europe then you may want to find a camping place or a parking place outside Lisbon so that you can explore the city using it’s easy public transportation.
Where to Stay in Lisbon?
Even though this place is a hostel, we booked a private room in Lisbon Gambori and loved it. It was close to everything – St George’s Castle, Alfama, and Praça do Comércio. We could just walk everywhere from here.