The original, independent guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is a wonderful destination during a cruise, and the city will be a highlight of any voyage. Lisbon lines the banks of Tejo Estuary and is brimming with sights, history and culture, and there is simply too much to see in one short trip. The cruise companies offer convenient but overpriced coach tours, and it is often better to explore Lisbon independently.
This guide will provide an introduction of Lisbon for cruise ship passengers and will detail suitable 1-day itineraries along with tourist advice.
The grand entrance to Lisbon, passing beneath the suspension bridge
Taking an organised tour provided by the cruise ship is often the simplest option, but there are benefits of exploring Lisbon independently:
• Lisbon is easy to explore; the city is very safe, and English is widely spoken by all.
• The ferry terminals are close to the historic areas of Lisbon; the Santa Apolónia ferry terminals are on the edge of the Alfama district, while the older Alcântara docks are just a short tram ride from the centre.
• Lisbon is an inexpensive destination; taxis, public transport and food will be much cheaper than the overpriced cruise ship tours.
• Lisbon has a compact historic centre and the Baixa, Alfama and Belem districts can be easily explored on foot.
• Visiting independently can avoid the crowds of coach tourists, who just stick to the same routes.
• A taxi ride, tuk-tuk tour, or restaurant meal, befits the local economy, and not the multi-national cruise companies who earn huge commissions for their tours.
A cruise ship moored close to Alfama
The following are suggested 1-day itineraries for Lisbon and the surrounding region. These are ideal for cruise ship passengers, who wish to explore Lisbon independently from an organised tour. These tour routes are also suitable for passengers who have longer airport stop-overs.
Please note: these tours are provided for guidance only, and were correct at the time of writing. For the routes which travel a distance from the cruise ship terminal, always allow sufficient time to travel back, as Lisbon traffic can be horrendous.
The Disney Magic with the Praca Commercial and Alfama district in the background
There are two main cruise ship hubs; Alcântara and Santa Apolónia. Each cruise ship hub has multiple docks. The Alcântara docks are:
• Terminal de Cruzeiros Alcântara (TPA)
• Cais da Rocha Conde de Obidos (TPR)
The Santa Apolónia docks are:
• Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolónia (TPSA),
• Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolónia Montante (TPSAM),
• Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolónia Jusante (TPSAJ)
• Cais do Jardim do Tabaco (JTab)
Alcântara is to the west of central Lisbon and is under the shadow of the Lisbon suspension bridge; the GPS coordinated are 38.70126, -9.16175. Santa Apolónia is on the edge of the Alfama district and is a better location for exploring Lisbon; its GPS coordinates are 38.712574, -9.122639.
The newly opened terminal is next to the Santa Apolónia docks, and is where the majority of cruise liners will moor. This is a state of the art terminal, boasting outstanding facilities and a panoramic viewing terrace. The GPS coordinates of the new terminal are 38.70940, -9.12644, and should be considered the same as being moored at Santa Apolónia.
This should be provided by your cruise company, but LCT (Lisbon Cruise Terminals) provides details of upcoming arrivals on their website:
(link opens new tab)
Porto de Lisboa (Lisbon port authority) also provide a list of all ships expected within the docks:
http://www.portodelisboa.pt/portal/page/portal/PORTAL_PORTO_LISBOA_ING/SHIPS_PILOTAGE/ARRIVALS Details of all boats currently moored can be found here:
(link opens new tab)
Santa Apolónia: This terminal is next to the Santa Apolónia metro station, which is on the blue metro line. The location of the terminal is close to Alfama, one of the most interesting districts of Lisbon and is best to just walk to. To explore Belem from Santa Apolónia, catch the number 728 bus heading to Restelo, from the Mercadorias bus stop (GPS 38.70958, -9.12903) or the Alfândega bus stop (GPS: 38.71671, -9.11913)
Alcântara: Alcântara cruise terminal is further from the historic centre of Lisbon, but is easy to reach via public transport. To head to Baixa/Alfama catch the 728 bus heading to Avenida dos Descobrimentos from the Alcântara Mar bus stop (GPS: 38.70283, -9.17327). For the Belem district cross the road and catch the 728 heading to Restelo. There is a minor train station at Alcantara-Mar, but with only a couple of departures per hour, it is better to catch the bus.
Alcântara is close to LxFactory, the artisan centre of Lisbon, filled with independent galleries, local artists and trendy eateries.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of gimmicky tours, and the main culprit are the tuk-tuks. These three-wheeled motorised contraptions can navigate the narrow streets of Lisbon and weave through the heavy traffic. Tourists love them, locals despise them, due to the noise, pollution and erratic driving.
There's so many new gimmicky ways to explore Lisbon.....
Tuk-Tuk typical cost €50 per hour for up to three passengers, and a short 1 hour tours visits Alfama and Baixa, while the 2-hour tours travel out to Belem. Larger Tuk-Tuks will charge more, and there are no set prices so be prepared to haggle. A Tuk-Tuk hired from the cruise ship terminal will always charge more. The tuk-tuks are an expensive way to see the city, but are great fun. Also, expect to pay a decent tip at the end.
Lisbon is famed for its yellow trams, and the number 28 is the best route, which passes through Alfama and Baixa. Unfortunately, they are always crowded and plagued by pickpockets, for a guide please click here.
A better option for visitors limited by time, is to join the tourist trams, which depart from the Praça do Comércio. There are two separate tourist tram routes and hop-on/hop-off tickets start from €12 per person. The tourist tram can be combined with a river tour and these tickets are from 30 per person.
Open Air Tour buses
The Hop-on/Hop-off buses provide the best value to explore Lisbon, but the on-board commentaries are very basic. There are three tour bus companies; Carristur (Yellow Bus), Lisbon Sightseeing (red bus) and City Sightseeing (red bus) and all three offer similar routes, standards and prices (around €16 per person for two routes). For a guide to the tour buses please click here.
There are many additional upsells for the tour buses (ferry rides, tram rides, even trips to Sintra) but only purchase what can be realistically fitted into the available time. Each of the bus routes is around 90 minutes and we suggested going around the entire route and then hopping off at the better stages (Baixa, Alfama or Belem). Generally, the routes to the west of Lisbon have more to see than the routes to east and north.
The following section explains, in detail the Full Tour of Lisbon
The first section of the Lisbon 1 day itinerary begins in the Baixa district and walks to the Alfama district. Baixa was completely re-built after the devastating 1755 earthquake and was the first example of a grid layout. Baixa has broad avenues connecting grand plazas.
The magnificent Praça do Comércio in Baixa
Alfama is the oldest section of Lisbon, with narrow streets leading from the Rio Tejo up the hill to the castle. Alfama was traditional the poorest neighbourhood, home to sailors and dock workers and this poverty was the inspiration for Fado music, which is sung in many bars in the area. Sight of Baixa:
Rossio the central plaza of Lisbon.
Elevador de Santa Justa transports visitors up a steep hill and is a charming iron structure designed by Eiffel apprentice.
A glass of Ginjinha, a sweet alcoholic drink.
Praça do Comércio is the grandest of Lisbon's plazas, it was here that cargo from foreign colonies was traded.
The view over Lisbon from the castle
Sights of Alfama include:
Lisbon castle has an important history for early Portugal and the battlements offer panoramic views over central Lisbon.
The Se Cathedral is the mighty and imposing cathedral of Lisbon.
Igreja Santo Antonio was constructed on the birth place of saint Anthony.
The delightful tram 28 that travels through Baixa and Alfama and is a pleasant way to view the districts.
Saint Luzia View point has great views over Alfama and is a good place to drink a coffee.
The afternoon of the Lisbon 1 day itinerary is spent in the Belem district, which is situated to the west of Lisbon. Belem is a pretty district of open grand monuments and carefully maintain parks that sits along the banks of the Rio Tejo.
Lisbon suspension bridge close to Belem
The region is historically important to Portugal as it was from the ancient harbours of Belem that the 14th century voyages of discovery departed from. Later, during the 15th and 16th century the taxes from colonial trade funded the construction of many of the extravagant buildings found in the district, which include the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belem
Visitors travel to Belem using the number 15 tram which departs from Praça do Comércio. Sights of Belem
The Torre de Belem is a little fort which once guarded the entrance to the Rio Tejo.
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is a grand monastery that was funded by taxes levied on Portuguese trade.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos was the centre piece for the 1940 world exposition.
The CCB house the best free museum in Lisbon, the Berardo Museum.
No visit to Belem is complete without eating a Pastel de Nata in the Casa Pasteis De Belem, the original home of the cake.
Belem lies on the banks of the River Tagus
This 1 day holiday tour of Lisbon covers many of the major tourist sights and areas of the capital but there is much more to see. Lisbon has great nightlife which can not be experienced by such a short visit. It is our suggestion that most visits are 3 days and this can be easily expended to 5 days with day trips to Sintra and Cascais.