The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is an ideal destination for a weekend city break, as it provides varied tourist attractions, buzzing nightlife and exceptional value for money. There is a lot to see within Lisbon, and it is generally regarded that it takes three days to fully discover the city, perfect for a weekend away!
The battlements of Lisbon castle high above the capital
Lisbon is fantastic as a last minute city break as it is significantly cheaper than many other European cities, with sensibly priced accommodation, inexpensive food (and drink) and is connected to Europe by all of the low-cost airlines.
This guide will provide a suggested itinerary for a weekend city break to Lisbon but the trip could be easily be extended to a week to include all of the enjoyable day trips or, during the summer, to visit the pristine beaches. For details of where to stay, when to go, and other practicalities please see our “Lisbon introduction” article,
The remainder of this article will explain in detail our suggested weekend itinerary for a city break to Lisbon and below is a quick overview of the suggested tour route:
• Friday Night - Arrive in Lisbon with meal and drinks in the Baixa district.
• Saturday – Discover the Alfama and Baixa districts
• Saturday Night - Big night out in the Bairro Alto district
• Sunday – Explore the Belem district
• Monday morning – Parque das Nações and the modern side of Lisbon
• Monday Afternoon – Depending when return flight is; Avenida da Liberdade and Parque Eduardo VII Park
Lisbon airport is within the city limits, and this means hotel transfers are extremely easy and quick. The best method is to travel by metro which serves all areas of the city and continues late into the night, for a guide to Lisbon airport please click here. It is suggested that most visitors should book accommodation within 1.5km of the downtown area of the city (Baixa) or at least close to a metro station. Once checked into your accommodation head straight out, as Lisbon is a city that starts late and parties well into the night..
TAP Air is the national carrier of Portugal
The First Night In Lisbon
Depending on your style of holiday you are on, either head to the lively Bairro Alto district to party all night long (see details for Saturday night) or to Rossio square for a romantic meal at one of the many excellent restaurants. Lisbon’s cuisine often is based upon freshly caught fish or bacalhau (dried cod), which can supposedly be cooked in 365 different ways. The meal should be accompanied by a bottle of locally produced wine.
The first day of the city break should be spent discovering the historic districts of Alfama and Baixa. Alfama is the oldest section of the city, which was historically the toughest and deprived area of Lisbon but today has been transformed into a trendy and fashionable area of Lisbon. Alfama is a maze of narrow streets and ancient houses that stretch from the River Tagus up to the castle, while exploring Alfama expect to climb some very steep hills.
The pretty and colourful Alfama district
Located in Alfama are some of Lisbon’s most important historical sights including the fortified Se Cathedral, Lisbon Castle and the church of Saint Anthony, who is the patron saint of Lisbon. Crossing through the heart of the district is the quaint yellow tram, the only form of public transport able to navigate the tight bends and steep inclines of Alfama. Held every Saturday in Alfama is the Feira da Ladra, a huge flea market selling from junk to antiques. Alfama is best explored by simply getting lost in the narrow streets and for a guide to Alfama please click here.
The Baixa district of Lisbon as viewed from the Elevador Santa Justa
The Baixa district is the opposite to Alfama, historically it commanded the wealth of the capital and comprises of grand avenues connecting magnificent squares. Baixa was completely rebuilt after the devastating 1755 earthquake, under the guidance of the Marquis de Pombal who devised the world’s first grid plan layout. Baixa is the heart and soul of Lisbon with great restaurants, open air cafes and unique shopping. For a guide to Baixa, please click here.
There is very high demand for accommodation during the peak season, we advise to book your hotel rooms now before they sell out. To check current prices and availability enter your holiday dates in the search box below:
The most unique attraction of Baixa is the elevator of Saint Justa, an elaborate industrial age marvel that whisks visitors up the steepest hill of Lisbon. The Rossio and Praça do Comércio square the true heart of Lisbon and the Rua Augusta a pleasant pedestrian street with cafes.
Saturday Night - Big night out to Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is the nightlife hub of Lisbon and is a fun, social and liberal area district of narrow streets filled with trendy underground bars, late night restaurants and Fado music venues. At the weekend the party spills out onto the narrow cobbled streets, where there is a fun and sociable atmosphere, which continues late into the night. If your city break is during the mid-week expect it to be significantly less busy, with a better buzz closer to the weekend.
The small bars of Bairro Alto spill and socializing on the streets
The recommendation for the second day (or Sunday if visiting over the weekend) is to visit the Belem district, which is situated to the west of Lisbon and is connected by tram. Belem is positioned along the banks of the River Tejo and was where the 14th-century “Voyages of Discovery” departed from.
The Torre de Belem
Belem is an open area of parks, carefully maintain gardens and wealthy residences, and is regarded as Lisbon’s most tourist friendly area. The stand out monument is the Jeronimos Monastery, a vastly extravagant religious complex that was funded by an import trade tax from Portugal’s colonies.
Standing on the edge of the estuary banks is the delightful Torre de Belem that once protect Lisbon from coastal attack while slightly further downstream is the imposing Discoveries monument. Housed in the bland CCB is Lisbon’s best museum the Museu Berardo and across the road from this is the traditional home of the Pastel Nata, a delicious custard tart. There are so many things to see in Belem that a whole day could be spent visiting the area. For a guide to Belem, please click here.
Sunday Evening In Lisbon
The evening and night should be spent in the Docas de Santo Amaro, an area of converted dock warehouses that stands beneath Lisbon suspension bridge with vies over the Tejo estuary. This area offers fine restaurants, great bars and nightclubs that carry on well into the night. This area will appeal to both younger and more mature visitors as it provides a mixture of night time entertained able to cater for all tastes and styles.
The third day is divided into three sections so that the day can accommodate the flight home. If flying with the low-cost airlines be aware that they may depart from terminal 2 and not the main terminal building, and this requires an extra short bus journey. For Monday it is suggested to visit Expo Park (Parque das Nações), take a stroll along the Avenue de Liberdade and, for those visitors with a later flight could visit Lisbon Bullring and the Campo Pequeno district.
The cable car in the Parque das Nações
The Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) was originally the setting for Expo ’98 and has been transformed from a wasteland into Lisbon’s ultra-modern and fashionable district. From the entrance to the Parque das Nações is an assortment of futuristic and angular structures, exhibits, buildings that centre around a theme of water, as the emphasis for Expo 98 were the world’s oceans. The park is ideally situated for this theme with the entire eastern side opening on the widest part of the Tejo estuary.
A cable car runs the length of the park and provides wonderful views over the Vasco Da Gama bridge, Europe’s longest bridge spanning water. To the south of the park is the fantastic aquarium and this is regarded as one of Europe’s finest examples and is centred around four huge tanks that represent the four oceanic aquatic conditions. Other sights in Parque das Nações include Lisbon’s tallest structure, the Vasco da Gama Tower, Lisbon casino and a plethora of water features. Expo Park is a great location for families.
For those visitors with more time may wish to visit the North African inspired bullring, at Campo Pequeno. Bullfighting may not be your thing but the home of Portuguese bullfighting is housed in a magnificent complex, constructed of deep orange bricks and towers topped with giant domes that eke from ancient Arabic architecture. The bullring is a truly unique building of Lisbon and is located on one of the most important avenues of Lisbon, the Avenida da Republica.
The Campo Pequeno in Lisbon
The suggested activity for the afternoon is a leisurely walk through the Parque Eduardo VII Park and along the grand Avenida da Liberdade into Northern Baixa. From the top of the Parque Eduardo there are pleasant views over central Lisbon, while the grounds contain carefully maintained box hedges. At the junction of the park to the Avenida da Liberdade is the Marquis de Pombal square with the magnificent statue dedicated to the man who was credited for rebuilding Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake.
Looking down to the Praça Marques Pombal in Lisbon
The Avenida da Liberdade is a charming 90 m wide boulevard of formal gardens, decorative stone patterns and 10 lanes of roads that leads into the Praça dos Restauradores and Baixa. The Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s exclusive shopping street with many designer boutiques and upmarket retailers selling from classical 19-20th-century buildings. The afternoon stroll ends in the Praça dos Restauradores, Lisbon’s pink square and the location for the beautiful art deco Edan Theatre and the quaint Gloria funicular.
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