Two Days in Lisbon
Discover the capital’s charming streets and Old World history from the Tower of Belem to the city’s sea views. Check out our guide of what to do with two days in Lisbon.
This Portuguese capital is full of beautiful historic gems amongst its friendly streets. Wonder the dizzy heights of the old town and stroll across the port, getting lost in the hilly streets.
Day 1: The old town and port
Lisbon is a good looking city and the first thing to do is wander through the hilly streets checking out the beautiful views of the sea and the rooftops of the city below from the top in the Bairro Alto to sea level at the Baixa. Start at Chiado and take a stroll down the winding streets admiring the views. There are lots of famous cafes and patisseries here so you may want to grab a coffee at the famous 18th century Cafe Martinho da Arcada or Brasileira which is probably the city’s most famous cafe from 1905. These are famous haunts for Lisbon’s poets and intellectuals.
Down on the seafront, known as Baixa, lies a host of historical monuments including Rossio Square, the lovely Rua Augusta which is pedestrianised and ideal to stroll down and the Avernida de Liberdade. The old Palace Square; the Comercio Square, also known as Terreiro do Paço, where the palace was prior to the famous Great Earthquake in 1755 completely destroyed it, as with much of pre 18th century Lisbon. The square itself is still impressive and known as a port of entry for Lisbon. It’s a great place to stop and relax, with lots of cafes to enjoy the view from and the triumphant arch. One of the famous cafes is the 18th C Café Martinho da Arcada.
The Tower of Belém is a symbol famously associated with Lisbon and the 16th century Age of Discovery as ships set sail for the New World. One of the highlights is looking back at the views of Lisbon rather than out to sea, as it’s a great place to look up at the city.
When you have finished exploring the Baixa, or lower town, you can head back up to the top again to see the castle. A great way to do this is to take the little old yellow trams that wind around the city and take you up the steep slopes. The best way to get to the Castle is to take the tram no. 28 from the main square and weave all the way up, admiring views on the way.
This historical 6th century Castelo Sao Jorge (Lisbon castle) can be seen from all over Lisbon, perched on the top of the hill and looking down on the city. It’s a great place to enjoy the view but also has lovely gardens to stroll in with peacocks. You can walk along the 18 towers but most of the rest of the castle was destroyed in the famous earthquake of 1755.
At sunset you can catch great views of Lisbon from one of the many viewpoints. Some of the best places to look out to sea and enjoy a drink are the Mirador de San Pedro de Alcantara and the Portas do Sol below the castle in Alfama. Walking down from here you can grab dinner at Chapito, the performance school and restaurant. It has amazing views, good food and is completely unique.
Evening in the Bairro Alto
For the evening you will want to check out the Bairro Alto. This is a lively quarter, famous for its buzzing atmosphere as the locals gather to hang out the many bars and cafes here. Make like the locals do and try the famous Portas Largas or Maria Caxuxa or for something different the Club da Esquina or the interesting Pavilhao Chines.
Day 2, Belem, custard tarts and Fado
Today enjoy beautiful Belem, home to the famous Jeronimos Monastery and the best custard tarts.
The Jeronimos Monastery in Belem
This 16th century monastery is an extraordinary building worth visiting, with ornate and grandiose architecture and the adorning calm cloisters. It’s a UNESCO site which hosts exhibitions and concerts in the church. It’s a great example of Portugal’s power and wealth in the 16th century and has lots of information for visitors on the Age of Discovery and Belem’s importance at that time. It’s closed Mondays.
Inside the Belem Cultural Centre there’s the Berardo museum; an impressive collection of modern art. This is a great place to enjoy famous modern artists including Dali, Warhol, Picasso and Miró, and it’s free! They hold lots of temporary exhibitions that are worth seeing also, you can find out what’s on here.
For the famous Pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belém – the delicious ubiquitous custard tarts of Portugal – the best place to try them is officially Pasteis de Belem next to the monastery where they proudly churn out 16,000 a day, or at the Confiteria Nacional. These delicious cakes can of course be found all over town so you should a selection to find our own favourite!
If you have plenty of energy left you can take the metro to the 1998 World Expo site of the Parque das Nações and visit the Oceanarium. There is some great modern architecture there and interesting sights along the waterfront. From here there’s a great view of the iconographic Vasco da Gama Bridge – Europe’s longest at 17km.
For the evening visit the neighbourhood of Alfama, an old medieval neighbourhood and the home of Fado music in Lisbon. Fado is a soulful and melancholy song that is now synonymous as the sound of Portugal. This barrio is famous for having lots of bars where you can take a drink and watch the performances from well known locals. If you want to be entranced by the music, try the famous O Faia or Cafe Luso. Some places offer dinner with a show so check out the times at different places on the main street. If you want to up the pace after this and do some dancing head to the very cool “Lux” in Santa Apolonia.
Located in the centre of Lisbon in an historic 19th century palace, Equity Point hostel is a great place to stay and enjoy Lisbon. We’re just a short walk from the Mirador de San Pedro de Alcantara, one of the best views of the city, and the heart of the old town. Book your bed in Equity Point Lisbon here