Lisbon, the capital city and largest city in Portugal. A beautiful and historical city that truly lives up to being the quintessential magical European city. Being from Canada, where our history doesn’t date back that far, I love exploring cities that are dripping with history and gorgeous architecture around every corner. Lisbon also has so much to offer in terms of food, culture and things to do for literally anyone of any age and interest.
From my recent travels there I put together this two day guide on how to spend your time. Remember, this is based off my interests so there might be things you want to move around to suit yours!
Wake up early and grab breakfast in your hostel or hotel before heading out for a day of exploration. When I was in Lisbon I stayed at both The Independente Hostel & Suites and Home Hostel, both gorgeous budget-friendly accommodations centrally located.
As you head out for the day, remember that you’re going to be doing a ton of walking and since Lisbon is built on seven hills, expect to get your workout in and wear good shoes! Otherwise, Lisbon’s public transit system is pretty cheap and simple to use if you’re not up for a trek.
To start off your day and get your bearings, join a free walking tour with either Discover Lisbon or Chill Out Tours. Both companies operate on tips, so don’t expect to pay €0, however for a 2-3 hour tour you’ll pay around €10 which is still very reasonable to have a local show you around. Each company runs different tours so you can pick one that interests you the most. For me, I did the Alfama tour with Discover Lisbon, the oldest neighbourhood in the city.
These tours will likely take you until lunch and if you’re lucky, your guide will take you or recommend to you, their favourite spots. Our guide, Katrina, took us to A Moderna where I had their grilled cod (a Portuguese favourite). However, some other recommendations I got from different guides and hotels were:
Spend the afternoon exploring one of the other famous neighbourhoods in Lisbon, Bairro Alto and Chiado, a central district in the city. This area is known to have the best nightlife in Lisbon, however, it’s still worth a bit of exploration and wandering during the day. There are some sights to see in the area like the elevador de Gloria and Bica which have been in operation since the 1890s, and the viewpoint of the Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara. Fun fact! Rua de Bica is actually known to be one of the most beautiful streets in the world!
If you have time and want to continue exploring, the famous Tram 28 in Lisbon is a must-do. However, I didn’t really have a chance to do it myself. The tram dates back to 1930 and is the most iconic route in the city as it’ll take you through the most popular districts. However, keep in mind that this is a busy/popular thing to do, so be prepared to wait and watch out for pickpockets during high season. The tram runs from 7am-11pm, with first thing in the morning being the best time to do it.
End your day with watching the sunset over the city at one of the top places to watch the sunset. Since Lisbon is built on hills, you can imagine there are quite a ton of places that offer a fantastic view. One of the most popular is Park Bar which actually is located on top of a car park. However, my guide Katrina from Discover Lisbon also mentioned a hidden secret, Teatro da Garagem which serves up a great wine and cheese platter with the view.
For dinner, if you’re hungry, head to one of the above suggested restaurants for some local eats. Alternatively, walk along the street and pop into a restaurant that tickles your fancy. There are legit so many restaurants and the beautiful thing about Europe is you don’t really need to worry about them being safe to eat at like in other continents and countries.
Wake up to another beautiful day in Lisbon. Your calf muscles are probably aching from all the walking you did yesterday uphill, but it’s time to do some stretches and keep exploring for another full day in Lisbon.
Start your day exploring a new neighbourhood in the city. If you didn’t visit the Alfama district on your walking tour the day before, you might want to consider exploring there. Here is a great discovery walk that can take you to some of the key points.
After exploring Alfama, head out to Belem. Belem is located in the west end of Lisbon and is one of the city’s most iconic areas. Hop on the local bus and head over. You may want to consider a lunch stop on route at Time Out Market. This market is absolutely incredible. It’s a modern food hall opened in 2014 loaded with gourmet food vendors. It’s the perfect spot to try some traditional local food all in one sitting!
Once you finish lunch and arrive in Belem, some of the things you need to do once you get there are:
- See the panoramic view from the Padrao dos Descobrimentos monument
- Eat a Pasteis de Nata (the traditional Portuguese custard tart) from the original home, Pasteis de Belem (note that if the line is to long outside, it’s usually shorter to go in and sit down/get table service)
- Visit the beautiful Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem Tower
*Here is a full list of the top ten things to do in the area.
Belem is a great half day trip, so likely you’re already approaching the end of the day. For the evening, I suggest joining a local food or cultural tour with Discover Lisbon. Now let me preface this by saying I’m not a huge tour person, I usually like exploring on my own, however, tours can often show you parts and places of a city that you’d never find without a local.
I did the History & Flavours tour with them which brought me to three local restaurants and walked us through the foods from the North and South of Portugal, paired with wine. The tour cost around €20, however, you don’t get a TON of food so if you’re a big eater, eat something before you join. This was a fantastic way to explore and learn about different traditional foods of the country.
I also heard great things about Discover Lisbon’s fado (the traditional Portuguese music) tour. All their tours are reasonably priced and they have quite a few options for whatever you may be interested in.
I fell in love with Lisbon and to be honest, I’m not a huge city person when I travel, I usually love the smaller towns more. However, I really did love this city. It had a lot to offer, it was easy to navigate and I could’ve really stayed there for longer than two days to see even more of it. However, time isn’t always of the essence so I had to move on from here.
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