Do you believe in love at first sight? Because you’ll find it in Portugal!
This week we’re venturing into the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, for a 48-hour speedy tour around the city of light. So get ready to fall in love with Lisbon, after watching the sunrise on one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the capital. And that’s just the beginning because, in the next two days, you’ll be able to explore a huge number of the city’s top sights.
We’ll take you to the obligatory spots and well-kept secrets, the fashionable restaurants and the most authentic taverns, the highest points and the waterfront. Let’s discover the best of the city for a weekend.
Day one: 06.44am sunrise at the Mirador da Senhora do Monte
Yes, we know it should be illegal to get up so early, but we promise the views are worth it. The reward you’ll get from crawling out of bed is unlike any other when you’re waking up in Lisbon. And if you want to see some spectacular views, there’s nowhere better than to do it than from one of the highest (and most incredible) points of the city: the Mirador da Senhora do Monte, in Graça. The views are breathtaking, with the castle and the historic center in the foreground and the Tagus horizon.
At this hour, and with a little luck, there’s a chance you’ll have the viewpoint entirely to yourself.
Morning: 08:00 From Feira da Ladra to Alfama
Two steps away from Miradouro da Senhora da Graça, in Campo de Santa Clara, you’ll find one of the most famous markets in Lisbon: the Feira da Ladra. If you’re on the hunt for some unique gifts without paying above and beyond, make sure you take a visit there and, now, take advantage of two monuments of this area: the National Pantheon and the Monastery of São Vicente.
But don’t admire the sights for too long, because we want to spend much of the morning in Alfama, one of Lisbon’s oldest and most traditional districts, made up of narrow streets, fadista and bohemian nooks, flowered windows and residents who (still) resist the gentrification of the city. For as long as they manage to do this, it’ll remain a small village in the middle of Lisbon, where time just seems to run slower.
Lunch in the Triangle of Ribeira
After so much walking, you must be pretty hungry, right? You’ll have to walk to our favourite spot, but it’s only half an hour on foot. If you’re feeling tired, you could even go by bus, but the walk to Cais do Sodré is well worth it, not least because you’ll pass through the city’s main living room – the Commerce Square – and one of the nicest roads in the city: the Ribeira das Naus.
In Cais do Sodré, we’ll pass by the famous Time Out Market (the modern version of the traditional Ribeira Market) but we prefer to take you to a tavern of the old times, where you can eat at one of the best bifanas of the city: the Ribeira Triangle. At first glance, it’s just a crowded, crowded hallway (you’ll have to juggle eating and drinking while standing at busy times), but once you’ve tasted the specialty of the house, you’ll want to come back whenever you pass by.
Afternoon: Boardwalk and visit to the MAAT
Loaded with energy (and carbs), it’s time to follow the path, but this time we’ll let you off from walking. Instead, we’ll visit the riverside area that connects the Cais do Sodré to Belém. It’s almost eight kilometers along the Tagus River, with a mandatory stop at the Alcântara docks (next to the 25 de Abril Bridge) in the MAAT, one of the newest museums of the city. The modern and surrounding architecture are sights to behold.
Inside, you’ll find numerous exhibitions related to art, architecture and technology, but also a vast program of events and activities for the whole family. In addition to the new building, with almost three thousand square metres, the museum also integrates the former Thermoelectric Power Plant of Lisbon, one of the most important national examples of industrial architecture of the first half of the twentieth century.
Early evening: Belém Monumental and more food
Going to Belém and not going through the famous Belém Tower is like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope. At this time of day you can’t enter (visiting time ends at 5:00 p.m.), but don’t miss admiring the architectural beauty of one of the most iconic monuments in the country, which was once even a prison. In the meantime, also keep an eye out for the Monument to the Discoveries and the Champalimaud Foundation.
On the other side of the railway line, there are two more symbols of the city: The Cultural Center of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery. In fact, three, because the Pasteis de Belém is also an authentic Lisbon institution. Since 1837 this house has delighted locals and tourists thanks to an old (and secret) recipe from the neighboring monastery. Don’t be intimidated by the queues: buy one (or maybe a box – we won’t judge) because these are seriously delicious.
Dinner (and sleep) in the skies of Lisbon
After squeezing in lunch (both physically and metaphorically) at Triângulo da Ribeira, you now deserve a luxury dinner in a unique place. You’ll find a range of fancy restaurants in Lisbon (and even a few with Michelin stars) but Fifty Seconds holds the title of the highest building in the city, at the Vasco da Gama Tower, in the heart of Parque das Nações. While you’re still in Belém, you’ll have to cross the city from one end to the other, but hop on the bus 728 (Carris) to get there in less than 45 minutes.
With an altitude of 120 metres, with unique views of the Tagus and the city, this is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Lisbon, signed by the famous Spanish chef Martin Berasategui. What’s more, it’s part of the luxury hotel Miryad by Sana, so book in advance and reserve a room now. Together, the meal and overnight stay will set you back around €350, but believe us that it promises to be an unforgettable experience.
Evening: From Bairro Alto to Rua Cor de Rosa
We hope you left your bags at the hotel because it’s now time to discover Lisbon by night. After dinner, head to Bairro Alto, where there are plenty of bars for all tastes, like Portas Largas or Majong. There are also some of the most famous fado (traditional Portuguese singing) houses in the city – go to Luso or Adega Machado.
Before you call it a night, go down to Cor de Rosa Street, next to Cais do Sodré. It’s one of the most lively areas of the city, and the New York Times placed this road on its list of twelve favourite streets in Europe. Here there are bars, restaurants and nightclubs that bring together the most diverse tribes of the city. You might be tempted to stay out late, but remember that you’ve got another day of exploring ahead of you!
10am: Lisbon Oceanarium
We don’t know how long you stayed out, so we’ve let you sleep a little bit longer than yesterday. But at 10:00 on the dot we want you at the Oceanarium door to kick off day two. From the hotel Myriad it’s only five minutes on foot, in a pleasant route that follows the river. Inside this amazing aquarium, one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe, you’ll find 8,000 organisms of 500 different species, such as sharks, penguins, otters, rays, tropical fish and many, many more.
Besides the permanent exhibition, which brings together all the seas in one, there’s also the beautiful exhibition “Submerged Forests by Takashi Amano”, which represents the tropical forests.
Lunch at Ramiro
At lunch time, we could take you to one of Lisbon’s many brunches, but we decided to stick with a classic: Ramiro. This Intendente area restaurant / brewery was (and is still) most famous when Anthony Bourdain went there for No Reservations.
For more than 50 years, this house has been a top pick for seafood lovers (it’s always fresh and delicious) and the cost for indulging is the inevitable queue at the door. But, believe us, the wait is well worth it.
Afternoon: Ride on the electric 28
It’s a scenic route from Ramiro to the starting point of Elétrico 28 in Martim Moniz, so don’t forget to take a trip through this icon of the city. In total, the route is about 7 kilometres, passing by Graça and Alfama, the elegant Chiado and the serene Estrela, before reaching the final destination: the Cemetery of Prazeres in Campo de Ourique.
More than a century after going into operation (1914), the 28 has become more crowded than ever (with some pickpockets added to the mix), but continues to offer a unique, genuinely Lisbon experience. Be sure to get on board.
Late afternoon: Overview of Monsanto
Your stay is almost over, but we still have time to take you to one of the most surprising and mysterious places in Lisbon: the Panoramic of Monsanto, located in the largest forest park in the city. To get there, it’s best to take a taxi (it’s far from downtown and not so easy to find), but believe us, it’s well worth the money you’ll spend.
We’re talking about an abandoned building with incredible views that, in the past, was a luxury restaurant, bingo, disco and warehouse, before being officially changed to be open to all. Outside, the scenery stretches far around Lisbon (and beyond), while the interior is covered in graffiti. You’ll spot one of the most famous Portuguese street artists here, Vhils.
Evening: Dinner in Cacilhas
After two days of walks and discoveries in the heart of Lisbon, there’s nothing better than to bid farewell to the city from a more distant perspective: on the other side of the Tagus River, in Cacilhas, already in the municipality of Almada. In a moment, or rather, a short boat trip (10 minutes from Cais do Sodré) you get one of the best views of the capital, almost from one end to the other.
There are amazing restaurants here, especially if you fancy fish, but we’d suggest going to Ponto Final, at Cais do Ginjal. It’s not only great for food but also for the views: imagine yourself dining on an esplanade right on the river, with the lights of Lisbon in the distance and the waters of the Tagus hitting the pontoon, serving as a soundtrack to the meal. Unforgettable.
You haven’t even left yet but we can guarantee you want to stay in Lisbon for longer! Next time, make sure you visit for longer. For more best tips about Lisbon, check out Lisboa Secreta.
Also published on Medium.