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The Works

By Britton Perelman

 

How To Spend A Day In Lisbon

Originally published on PassionPassport.com

Lisbon — the gorgeous coastal city on the Tagus Estuary — has attracted visitors to its colorful streets for centuries. Whether you only have 24 hours in the Portuguese capital or are just searching for a perfectly planned day, look no further. Take advantage of this full-day itinerary — follow it exactly, or adjust accordingly.

Start your day with one of the prettiest views in Lisbon — the sight of Alfama at sunrise from the Miradouro de las Portas do Sol viewpoint. This observation point provides a spectacular view no matter the time of day, but is particularly enchanting in the early morning light. The soft rays of sun illuminate the red rooftops and pastel buildings in Alfama in a way that will make it hard to tear yourself away.

When your stomach starts to grumble enough to warrant breakfast, head to Pastelaria Alfama Doce for your first meal of the day. This cozy cafe is perfect for coffee and a croissant (or other tasty pastry) before spending the rest of the morning exploring. 

If you happen to be visiting on a Tuesday or Saturday, pay the check and head to Fiera de Ladra — the neighborhood’s most well-known flea market. It’s easy to spend several hours wandering through the rows of vendors selling everything from handmade porcelain and azulejos to vintage clothes, furniture, and household objects.

If it’s any of the other five days of the week, set out to get lost while exploring the neighborhood. Alfama’s winding streets are full of colorful facades, a winding historic tram route, small shops, and plenty of churches. The Lisbon Cathedral and the Monastery of SãoVicente de Fora are particularly interesting spots. The former is the oldest church in the city, and has been destroyed during various earthquakes, then reconstructed in a slew of architectural styles. The latter is one of the most important monasteries in the country, and its Mannerist architectural style is impressive even if you don’t know a thing about architecture. 

And, if you’re not feeling up to the hill-heavy walk required to explore Alfama, take a tuk tuk tour. Tuk tuk drivers usually wait for customers in several places around the neighborhood (including near the Miradouro de las Portas do Sol and outside the Lisbon Cathedral). The knowledgeable drivers will teach you about the city’s history while transporting you to various locations up and down the hills.

After a morning of exploration, grab a table at Cruzes Credo Cafe in the shadow of the Lisbon Cathedral. With hefty offerings like hamburgers or blood sausage, lunchtime classics like salads and toasties(sandwiches), and a delicious chocolate cake for dessert, you can’t go wrong at this atmospheric spot. 

Next, make your way to Commerce Square and the Rua Augusta Arch. Located in the Beira Alta district, the Arch was built to commemorate Lisbon’s resilience in the wake of the disastrous earthquake of 1755. Hand over a few euro and climb to the top of the arch to capture some incredible shots of the surrounding cityscape. Then, with your feet back on solid ground, wander around the Praça do Comércio. The square just outside the Rua Augusta is delightful — adorned with a huge statue of King José I and always buzzing with tourists, locals, and street cars.

When you’ve had your fill of Commerce Square, head across town to Ler Devagar Bookstore. The former-printing-factory-turned-bookshop couldn’t be any more lovely, and it’s the perfect way to break up your afternoon activities. Wander inside to marvel at the colorful books, antique printing machines, intersecting staircases, and creative decorations. There’s also a cafe if you’re in need of a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

And while you should “read slowly” at Ler Devagar, like the name directs, remember to leave enough time to make your way to Belém Tower, the dramatic Manueline Tower that sits on the Tagus River in the Belém district. 

This 16th-century structure is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was once an important site during the Age of Exploration, acting as the ceremonial gateway into the city. Belém Tower is full of distinct architectural features, making it a treat for anyone interested in architecture, history, or photography. Take your time admiring it from the outside, then head inside for more exploration.

After the sun goes down, head to Gosta do Castelo in Alfama for dinner. Relax in the warm atmosphere of this locally owned restaurant while enjoying contemporary Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine and a glass of wine from a nearby farm.

Or, if you’re looking to take in Portugal’s own fado music, reserve a table at one of the many restaurants around town that offer live shows. Fado is characterized by its melancholy sound, and is typically performed by both a vocalist and guitarist. There’s nothing else like it in the world, which is why UNESCO added it to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. 

If you’re not exhausted and want to continue the evening’s festivities, head to the Cais do Sodré neighborhood. Though formerly known as Lisbon’s red-light district, the area around Rua Nova do Carvalho has now transitioned into a trendy nightlife scene. Finish your long day in Lisbon in some of the music-filled bars along the famous “Pink Street.” 

Then it’s back to your hotel or Airbnb apartment for a good night’s sleep. Boa noite!

Britton Perelman