The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is a charismatic and vibrant city, and is one of the finest capitals in Europe. The city combines a rich history, fascinating tourist attractions and progressive attitudes, to create a wonderful tourist destination, suitable for all ages.
Generally, we recommend three days to fully discover Lisbon, or a week to explore the surrounding region, but we have compressed the highlights to create two different two-day (48 hour) tours for this article.
The first tour spends two days discovering the major sights of Lisbon, while the second tour combines Lisbon with a day trip to Sintra on the second day.
Related articles: 3 days in Lisbon – 1-week Lisbon – 24 hours in Lisbon
When friends or family visit Lisbon fort the first time we suggest the following itineraries. The first tour (“48 hours in Lisbon”) is ideal if this is your first time to Lisbon or is part of a touring holiday of Portugal. The second tour (Lisbon and Sintra) is better if this is your only foreseeable trip to Portugal (such as you are visiting from outside of Europe), and attempts to cram in as much as possible.
Note: A rental car is not needed for either of these tours
The interactive map below shows the suggested tour for the two days in Lisbon. The first day exploring Alfama and Baixa is marked in green, the second day in in yellow (Belem along with Parque da Nations or Principal Real).
Note: Zoom in or out to see more details.
Major sights in day 1: 1) Praca do Comercio 2) Alfama 3) Sé de Lisboa 4) Castelo de Sao Jorge 5) Rossio 6) Elevador de Santa Justa7) Igreja de São Roque 8) Praça Luís de Camões 9) Pink Street
Major sights in day day 2: 1) Mosteiro dos Jerónimos 2) Padrão dos Descobrimentos 3) Torre de Belem 4) Belem Cultural centre 5) Museu Nacional dos Coches 6) Pastéis de Belém 7) Oceanário de Lisboa 8) Torre Vasco da Gama 9) Jardim do Príncipe Real 10) Marquês de Pombal 11) Avandia da Liberdade
If you only have a maximum of two days to discover the Lisbon region (and maybe is your only chance to visit Portugal), do consider joining an organised tour for the second day.
These tours commonly combine Sintra and the pretty fishing village of Cascais in a single day, and the general standard of organised tours in Portugal is very high. The best tours of Sintra from Getyourguide included:
The following section details the “48 hours in Lisbon tour” in greater depth and provides links to useful information.
The Alfama district is a labyrinth of narrow streets, which extend from the banks of the Rio Tejo up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge. This is the oldest district of Lisbon, with many of the alleys following the medieval layout of the city.
Alfama can only be explored on foot and getting lost within the maze of passageways is an almost certain. While wandering you may stumble across the Se Cathedral, the castle, scenic viewpoints and authentic Portuguese restaurants. Crossing through the centre of the Alfama district is the number 28 tram, and somehow this quaint yellow tram manages to negotiate the steep hills and tight turns of the district.
Alfama is traditional and characterful, and the best district to begin your discovery of Lisbon.
Highlights: Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint, Se Cathedral, Castelo de Sao Jorge, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen viewpoint.
Inside tip: The haunting music of Fado originated from Alfama, and a performance is a must for a cultural trip to Lisbon.
Related articles: Alfama guide – Tram 28 guide – Lisbon’s best viewpoints
The Baixa district is the magnificent centre of Lisbon, comprising of wide avenues, grand plazas and elegant Baroque architecture. The district was one of the first examples of a grid plan urban layout, having been completely rebuilt after the devasting earthquake of 1755.
Within Baixa there are contemporary restaurants, designer hotels and independent shops, and the district is popular with tourists.
Highlights: Praça do Comércio, Arco da Rua Augusta, Elevador de Santa Justa, and a glass of Ginjinha (a cherry liqueur).
Related articles: Baixa guide - Ginjinha
To the west of Baixa are the districts of Chiado and Bairro Alto, which can be included in the afternoon. Chiado is the theatre and shopping district of Lisbon, while Bairro Alto is the nightlife hub of the capital, filled with small and trendy bars. An enjoyable activity for the late afternoon is the walk along the banks of the Tejo estuary (the Ribeira das Naus Waterfront Promenade) to the Cais do Sodré district.
Highlights: The São Roque church, the Largo do Carmo, the Bica funicular
Insider tip: The Timeout Food Market is a fantastic location for lunch.
For the first evening, it is suggested to have a night in the restaurants and bars in the Baixa district, close to the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão. For a more artisan vibe, visit the LxFactory area (GPS: 38.701872, -9.178208) or for a night of partying and drinking head to Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré districts.
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:
For the second day, we would recommend exploring Lisbon further, but if you wish to visit Sintra, please read this guide; a day trip to Sintra.
Belem is the most scenic district of Lisbon, and extends along the Tejo estuary, to the west of Lisbon. This district has a rich seafaring history, originally being the dockyards of Lisbon, and today the area is filled with ornamental parks and pleasant open spaces.
Belem contains some of the most iconic monuments of Lisbon, including the charming Torre de Belem, the distinctive Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument and the magnificent Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Belem has so much to see; it is very easy to spend the entire day in the district.
Insider tip: Pasteis de Belém (GPS: 38.697564, -9.203062) is the traditional home of the delicious Pastel de Nata custard tart.
Advice: The number 15 tram connects Baixa to the Belem district.
Related articles: The Belem district – The number 15 tram
The Parque da Nations is the ultra-modern side of traditional Lisbon and was constructed to host Expo’98. Since then, the district has been transformed into the business centre of Portugal, a hub for commerce, technology and corporate-conventions.
For tourists, the district boasts striking architecture and the unique water-themed exhibits and gardens from the original Expo showground. Notable attractions in the Parque da Nations, include the outstanding Oceanário de Lisboa, the Ciência Viva (a wonderful science museum for children) and the Casino Lisboa.
Related articles: Parque da Nations guide – Lisbon for families
If the ultra-modernism of the Parque da Nation does not appeal to you, consider visiting the Principal Real district and Avenida da Liberdade. Principal Real is an affluent district while the Avenida da Liberdade is the principal shopping street of Lisbon. Continued within this area are sumptuous mansions, boutique shopping, and gourmet restaurants.
A pleasant walking route goes along the Rua da Escola Politécnica (38.716608, -9.148281), the Rua Braamcamp (GPS 38.722452, -9.151753) and then down the length of Avenida da Liberdade (GPS: 38.724085, -9.148987).
Related articles: The Principal Real district
For the last night in Lisbon, it is suggested to have a big night out in Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre. Bairro Alto comprises of small trendy bars, and at the weekends the partying spills into the streets. Cais do Sodre is a former seedy red-light district, which has been transformed into the late-night clubbing area of Lisbon.
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