48 Hours In Lisbon
I first visited Lisbon back in 2019 with a guy I had recently started talking to, it was a gamble that’s for sure but one I’m glad I took! Nearly four years later we are still together, bought our first home, and adopted a gorgeous whippet called Whiskey. I don’t want to big up a single city too much but I definitely think our mutual love of Lisbon helped solidify our relationship. Since 2019 we have been back to visit this fantastic city each year, falling more and more in love with it. Between the historical landmarks, majestic townscape and rich food culture, it’s possible to spend months in Lisbon and discover something new every day. However, if you only have a weekend, you can still walk away with a lasting impression of the city. Here’s how to best explore Portugal’s capital in 48 hours.
Head to Manteigaria for a bica (espresso) and a classic pastel de nata (custard tart), here you can watch how these delicious Portuguese sweets are made while tucking into your own flakey delight! Don’t forget to sprinkle cinnamon and icing sugar over them for a truly authentic experience, there really is no better way to start the day, and will only set you back a few euros. Success!
Next up hop on the iconic bright yellow 28 tram, this is one of the must-do experiences when in Lisbon. Catching one early in the morning will avoid the tourist and commuter crowds making it a lot more enjoyable. These trams are operational antiques, carrying people up and down Lisbon’s hilly streets since the 1930s. Catch the tram at Praça da Figueira and bounce between Lisbon’s coolest neighbourhoods. Passing more landmarks in one swoop than any other line, the 28 will take you past Lisbon’s oldest church, the Sé Cathedral, and the Estrela Basilica, a convent constructed on the orders of Portugal’s Queen Mary I. This ride takes around 40 minutes, leaving you plenty of time left in your morning to explore.
Go in search of ‘trash art’, found dotted around the city. Lisbon’s favourite sculptor, Bordalo II creates these incredible pieces out of street rubbish to help highlight people about pollution and all types of endangered species. The animals present in Bordalo II’s installations are species that are directly affected by this pollution and that could possibly perish to the effects of such waste present in their natural habitat.
Make your way up to the 11th-century Castelo de São Jorge, built to protect the city from invaders. The castle sits atop Lisbon’s highest hill, but those who don’t fancy walking up hill can catch the bus leaving from Praça da Figueira, which goes directly to the castle entrance. From the castle walls, take in the breathtaking panoramic views over Martim Moniz, Baixa, and the Tagus River! Keep a look out for the many peacocks that reside here, they can be fiesty, the one above was blocking the door to a cafe and wouldn’t allow anyone to enter or leave!
After leaving the castle, walk down to A Ginjinha, a hole-in-the-wall bar serving traditional ginja shots, a delicious cherry liqueur. This quirky bar is one of the oldest dispensers of cherry liqueur shots in Portugal – And at €1.45 for a shot, there’s no excuse not to try!
From A Ginjinha head down towards Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s market square. Here you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants that are housed in the arcaded buildings of the square. Marvel at the impressive Arco da Rua Augusta before heading up in the elevator to check out the views from above. The square’s triumphal arch was meant to welcome those arriving in the city by boat, and is topped by sculptures representing Glory holding wreaths over Genius and Bravery. Below them are historical figures, including explorer Vasco da Gama and the Marquis of Pombal, the prime minister who oversaw downtown Lisbon’s 18th-century reconstruction.
Arguably the most character-filled neighbourhood, Alfama is home to Lisbon’s oldest buildings such as Se Cathedral and Lisbon Castle. Here you can explore its small, narrow streets and squares, walk up winding steps, and look out for old colourful buildings adorned with decorative tiles. check out the ancient Lisbon Cathedral as well as the square that boasts the birthplace of Fado, make sure you catch a live show as no trip to Lisbon is complete without watching Fado. As the sun begins to set, head to miradouro portas do sol for a postcard-perfect panorama of the city and hopefully witness the dreamiest pink skies.
Have dinner at A Cevicheria, this chic and cosy restaurant offers unforgettable seafood dishes with a Peruvian twist, not to mention the photo-worthy octopus sculpture that hangs above the bar adds a uber cool vibe to the place. Go for the Tuna Loin Tartare and Tobiko Taco and the Portuguese ceviche, all washed down with zesty pisco sours, a Peruvian staple that has a sweet yet sharp tang to it.
Head over to the buzzing Bairro Alto neighbourhood, the narrow cobbled lanes come alive in the evening, turning the sleepy streets into a buzzing nightlife. With live music, restaurants, and fun bars, you’re never short of something to do. Stop in Majong, a snug nightspot offering wine & cocktails in a boho-chic space with cabbage-shaped lights overhead. Each time I’ve visited Lisbon I’ve opted to stay in the vibrant Bairro Alto neighbourhood, it’s a great location to stay in as you can roll out of a bar and straight into bed!
Hop on the tram or bus from Cais do Sodré, and head to the historic district of Belém to experience a few of Lisbon’s most iconic sights, the 16th-century Tower of Belém, the Discoveries Monument (with its impressive sail shape) and the vast Gothic beauty that is the Jerónimos Monastery. Close by you can find the iconic Pastéis de Belem patisserie, which shares more than proximity with the monastery. It is from within their halls that the closely-guarded recipe of the pastéis de Belem originates – one that is still used (and kept secret) to this day. While I prefer my pastel de Nata’s from Manteigaria, no trip to Belém is complete without trying one of theirs!
On your way back from Belem, make a stop at LX Factory, an artistic hub of installations, cafes, independent shops, and an incredibly cool book store! Shop around for souvenirs and definitely visit the Sardine shop, where you can buy traditional Portuguese sardines in bright, colourful cans, the interior looks like something out of Willy Wonka! If you’re feeling peckish, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with the endless array of restaurants, bars, and cafes. I recommend ordering traditional sardines on toast and my favourite, Portuguese croquettes!
We strumbled upon Rua da Silva, otherwise known as the ‘Green Street’ on our last visit and i’m so happy we did! This quiant little street is lined with an abundance of green plants and decorative lanterns giving it an earthy, boho vibe which I love. We visited during the day while it was quiet but I’ve heard this place becomes super lively at nighttime. A Obra is a cute wine bar / restaurant offering an array of natural wines and delicious small and large plates. If you aren’t too full from your time at LX Factory I definitely recommened going for the bread with pumpkin jam and the orange wine!
Following the trend of colourful streets, walk on over to Lisbon’s very own pink street! Rua Nova do Carvalho is the official name of Lisbon’s Pink Street. It lies in the now popular neighborhood Cais do Sodre and was once the Red Light district, home to brothels, shady bars and gambling houses! If you want to get that instagram worthy photo without the crowds I recommend heading here early morning but if you want to truly experience the magic of this vibrant street, get there late afternoon / evening when all the bars and clubs open up.
Finish off your trip to Lisbon by dining at the incredible Prado restaurant. The restaurants describes itself as ‘Farm-to-table modern Portuguese cuisine’ with the name Prado translating to “meadow”. The restaurant applies a local focus on everything they serve thanks to partnerships with local farmers, fishermen and wine producers. This means their menu is proudly 100 per cent Portuguese and features dishes such as pumpkin with whey and toasted butter, fish with lobster emulsion and brioche with white port and chocolate.
Within these two days, you’ll be able to visit some of the top tourist attractions, sample delicious food, and experience its vibrant nightlife. This city will leave you with a lasting impression and a hungry to explore more, are you ready to fall in love with Lisbon?
Written by Lucy Kaufmann