Lisbon in a Day – A perfect itinerary to explore the Portuguese capital

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Good weather, a rich history, scenic hills, incredibly delicious food are just a few of the things that make Lisbon such a great city to visit. You could easily spend a week exploring all the treasures of the capital of Portugal and never get bored. But what if you have one day in Lisbon? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of things to see in Lisbon in a day. Follow this one day itinerary to have a perfect day in Lisbon.

Lisbon in a day - Rossio square

Start your day with a delicious breakfast in the neighborhood of Alfama, Lisbon

If you have one full day in Lisbon, take your time to enjoy a relaxing breakfast in the Alfama disctrict. Head to Pastelaria Alfama Doce and spoil yourself with a delicious coffee and some Pastéis de Nata, the most famous pastry of Lisbon and the Portuguese speaking world. Pastéis are small creamy custard pastries that you can find all over Lisbon. They are best consumed fresh from the oven with icing sugar and a hint of cinnamon.

Lisbon in a day - pasteis de nata in the alfama district
It’s hard to describe the taste of these tiny pieces from heaven – just incredible. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Interested in more food stuff? Check out our guide on the best affordable tapas restaurants in Barcelona

Visit the Alfama neighborhood

After breakfast, it is time to explore the picturesque Alfama neighborhood. Back in the old days, this part of town used to be the part of town where the poorer dock workers used to live. But over the last decades, Alfama has evolved into a modern and beautiful part of town. Take some time to wander around the beautiful houses and get lost in the narrow cobbled streets.

If you are into photography and want to explore the city, you may consider taking a photography tour through Lisbon.

Lisbon in a day - Alfama disctrict seen from above

On your way through Alfama, make sure to stop by Lisbon Cathedral. Construction for this impressive church has begun in the year 1147 – nearly 900 years ago.

Tip: If you have more time in Portugal, check out this itinerary for a roadtrip from Lisbon to the beautiful city of Porto.

São Jorge Castle

The monumental São Jorge Castle on top of the hill can be seen from many parts of the city. From many places in Alfama, it is just a short walking distance away and the perfect next stop on your Lisbon itinerary.

Lisbon in a day - sao jorge castle
The impressive castle overlooks large parts of the city. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Depending on the time of the day, you may choose to enter the castle or just take a walk around it. The entrance fee is €10 and sometimes, the queues tend to get very long. If you only have time to visit Lisbon in one day, I would recommend you to just enjoy the castle atmosphere from the outside and then move on. If you have more than one day in Lisbon, I would definitely recommend you to enter the castle, especially if you are interested in history. Also, the views from the castle are some of the best you can get in Lisbon.

Getting to São Jorge Castle

In case you don’t find yourself close to the castle before wanting to visit, there are several ways to make your way up to São Jorge Castle:

  • Many tourists take a ride on the famous Tram 28. Single tickets cost €2.9 and you can buy them onboard the tram. But due to the incredible popularity of the tram, you may have to wait in line for over an hour. If you decide to take the tram, beware of pickpockets.
  • The fastest and most comfortable option is to take a taxi up the hill. A standard fare will be between €4-7 from anywhere in Alfama or Rossio metro station
  • You can hire electronic rickshaws for around €40-50 per hour. In addition to the transport, they also come with an English speaking guide. So if you are in a real hurry or if you only have a half day in Lisbon, this may be a good option.
  • The cheapest and most scenic way to get us the hill is by walking. It only takes about 20 minutes to get from Rossio station to São Jorge Castle at the top of the hill. The way up leads through narrow streets and offers some beautiful views over the city. If you are already in the slopes of Alfama, you can make it there in even less time.

    Lisbon in a day - Tram 28 Alfama
    The famous Tram 28 riding through the narrow streets of Lisbon

Ready for Lunch?

Depending on how many pasteis de nata you have had for breakfast, now may be the time when you get hungry. There are plenty of good restaurants close to the Castle and in Alfama. You can just stroll around and choose any. We enjoyed some delicious lunch in Claras em Castelo, a cozy and small restaurant very close to the castle. Claras em Castelo is located in Rua Bartolomeu de Gusmão 31. Not sure what to order? You can find an overview of the best traditional Portuguese dishes here.

Torre de Belém

Even though Lisbon is a very walkable city, it is now time to jump into a taxi (or take some public transport). Time to drive to the other side of town: to the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower). Which is one of the most famous landmarks of Lisbon and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A taxi ride from Alfama will set you back around €15. The Torre de Belém is a defense tower built in the 16th century to protect Lisbon from attacks from the sea.

Lisbon in a day - Torre de Belém

It is also possible to enter to tower (admission €6). But if you want to see Lisbon in a day, I would recommend you to simply enjoy the views of the tower and the Tejo River from the outside.

Also take some time to walk along the river front towards the 25 de Abril Suspension Bridge which looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Tipp: If you have more than one day in Lisbon, consider a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sintra – a perfect day trip from Lisbon.

Next Stop: Baixa District

Baixa is the central district of Lisbon and home to many of the city’s most famous squares and shopping areas. Rossio Square is right in the center of it all. From here, other sights like the Elevador Santa Justa and the Carmo Convent are just a short walk away. The Carmo Convent is a former convent that was destroyed in the devastating earthquake in 1755 which left the entire city of Lisbon in ruins.

Lisbon in a day - Rossio Square
This photo was taken on Rossio Square – the Carmo Convent can be seen in the background.

Lisbon in a Day – Time for some drinks in Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto is one of the central districts that the one day Lisbon itinerary hasn’t touched so far. And for good reason. During the daytime, there is not much going on here but as soon as the sun starts to set, this district comes to life. There are numerous bars, pubs and restaurants for you to choose from. Bairro Alto is also the ideal place in Lisbon to watch a Fado performance – a music genre with its origins in Lisbon. If you still have some energy after this long day, you can party all night long in Bairro Alto.

I hope you liked our Lisbon in a day itinerary. Have you been to the Portuguese capital yourself or do you plan to visit Lisbon one day? Let me know in the comment section. I would love to hear your experiences. If you are looking for an add on to your trip to Lisbon, I would recommend a side trip to the UNESCO site Sintra just outside the city limits of Lisbon.

Other interesting itineraries on the Iberia Peninsula:

Bilbao, Spain – Two Day Itinerary

Seville, Spain – Travel Inspiration

Two Days in Granada, Spain and How to Buy Last Minute Alhambra Tickets

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Lisbon in a Day – A perfect itinerary to explore the Portuguese capital

31 thoughts on “Lisbon in a Day – A perfect itinerary to explore the Portuguese capital

  1. I have only been to Lisbon once, and it was for work. 🙁 Besides dinner one evening, I had about half a day to see Lisbon. Based upon these great tips, I think I did a good job seeing what I did with the time I had!

  2. You have put together a perfect itinerary. The architecture looks so pretty here. I would also love to take a ride on one of those trams. Thanks for putting this guide together.

  3. Lisbon looks like a dream – I haven’t been to Portugal yet but when I do Lisbon will definitely be one of my first points of call! We have a few shops that sell Pasteis de Nata here in Cardiff and they are AMAZING! So I can’t imagine how delicious they must be actually IN Portugal.
    Did the Torre de Bélem feature in Game of Thrones? Because if it didn’t, it definitely should have! I really enjoyed reading this post and now all I want to do is get online and book flights to Portugal.

  4. I think I can have Pasteis de Nata for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner. Haha… I tried some when I was in Indonesia and I like it a lot. Torre de Belem looks interesting, but I agree with you. If you only have a day to spend in Lisbon, it’s better to just enjoy it from outside. Look at the wait line!

  5. I love Lisbon, and could see myself living there one day. Those pasteis de nata are delicious, it’s a good thing you can walk it off in the city! My favourite thing about Lisbon is the markets, especially the food ones. Everything looks so good, and it’s reasonable too.

  6. Your blog post reminds me of my trip to Macau. Most especially when I see the pastry. I know it is really a mouth watering food and if I go to Macau or to Lisbon, I will surely search for that pastry. I love all your travel photos in Lisbon. You already captured my interest to include Lisbon on my future travels.

  7. I’m going to Lisbon for a month in July hopefully! Hope there’s more to do that can fill up more than just a day 😉

    1. Lucky you! Yes, there is definitely much more to do than just a one day program 🙂 But since we missed our flight connection to Dakar in Lisbon two weeks ago we ended up having an unvoluntary 24 hours in Lisbon. You could spend so much more time in this beautiful city but it was also great for just one day.

  8. These are amazing photos. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve always wanted to visit Lisbon. Seems like such a historic place. I’m in love with the architecture.

  9. Great post! Lisbon is one of my favourtie cities in Europe and the world! There’s something so magical and enchanting about Portugal, and it’s not just the Pastéis de Nata! These are excellent tips and you’re photos have really inspired me to get back to Lisbon sooner than later 🙂

  10. Thanks for this. I have been wanting to visit Portugal for a long time now and it helps to know all the major stops to visit in Lisbon. The custard pastries look absolutely stunning and the Tram 28 would make a great place to take some amazing photos.

  11. I’ve always wanted to visit Lisbon, it looks like such a beautiful city. The narrow streets look great for exploring and finding new and exciting places.

  12. I am sure this is the best way to make the most of this capital city. Love the photo that you have taken on Rossio Square. With so much history, I would love to go inside and explore the Belém Tower as well.

  13. I just visited Lisbon in December, and this post is definitely spot on! Very detailed, and will be such great help to anyone planning their own trip to this beautiful city.

  14. Haven’t been to Lisbon yet, but the place looks amazing and you have highlighted the best of the lot that can be done in one day, and its amazing. If one can do so much in one day, imagine how much he can do in 2 days.

  15. What a perfect itinerary to explore Lisbon in a day! The Belém Tower looks stunning, I would definitely make a point to take a tour of the tower. The view from the top would he incredible I’m sure.

  16. Cool article! Very detailed! I was in Lisbon recently and I didn’t think I would love it so much! I really enjoyed the food in Bairro Alto and because I was there before the peak season, it wasn’t overflowing with tourists yet.

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