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How To Have An Awesome Time In Just 2 Days In Lisbon

This whimsical city houses ornate palaces, gargantuan monasteries, and a patchwork of pastel hues in its cobbled streets, alleys and boulevards. Lemon, peach and pink renovated grand buildings sit side by side with crumbling hulks of dilapidated aristocratic housing. Trees and bushes sprout from decaying rooftops and modern boulevards intersect with uneven weathered cobbles. Frankly, 2 days in Lisbon will never be enough to see all this gorgeous city has to offer!

Trams in Lisbon
Lisbon grams are a frequent site

Only 2 days in Lisbon?

If that’s all you have, however, here are my top picks for a picture perfect weekend. Pack your trainers and a bottle of water and prepare to be wowed!

Saturday morning

Jump on a hop on hop off bus for the chance to get your bearings and save your foot leather! There’s a selection of companies to choose from and each offers a number of routes so pick the one that best meets your needs. We took the Grey Line option and did the green line (historical) and the red line (Belém).

Tower of Belém
Jason and I at the tower in Belém

Belém

Start with the red line and jump off in Belém. First gaze in awe at the stunning UNESCO world heritage edifice of the Jerónimos Monastery (you can book a fast-track ticket if you want to jump the queues). The monastery was built in 1498 to celebrate Vasco Da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India.

Previously it housed monks whose role was to comfort sailors and pray for the king. What a job! In more recent years it has served as both an orphanage and school. The exterior is utterly exquisite with towers of gleaming white stone and fairytale turrets.

Jeronimos Monastery
Jeronimos Monastery

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Take the underpass or bridge over to the riverside and walk to the Discoveries Monument. This is another magnificent architectural display with 29 carvings of famous Portuguese explorers. The detailed stonework brings to life notorious characters such as Vasco Da Gama and Henry The Navigator.

After you have marvelled at the stunning monument, continue your walk along the riverside to the Tower of Belém.

Monument of Discoveres, Lisbon
Monument of Discoverers, Lisbon
Monument of Discoveres
Monument of Discoverers

Torres De Belém

The tower of Belém is another elaborate building with a touch of the fantastical. Perched on a stone promontory metres from shore, waves lap at its base. Children paddle in the shallow waters of the adjoining beach and adults can indulge in ‘wine with a view’. You can also book a fast-track ticket to this monument if you want to jump the queue.

From here jump back on the red line bus and head back into town. Jump off at Praça do Comércio. All that walking will surely have built up an appetite!

Torres de Belém, Lisbon
Torres de Belém, Lisbon

Saturday lunch – Praça do Comércio

A beautiful 18th-century arcade circles the rim of this grand riverfront square. Glistening white cobble tiles and lemon buildings make for the perfect lunch venue. Select from one of the many cafes lining the square, all reasonably priced considering the location.

There you can contemplate the square’s history. It witnessed the fall of the monarchy in 1908 when Dom Carlos I and his son were assassinated. These days it throngs with tourists jostling for a picture of the Arch of Rua Augusta. Enjoy people watching over lunch as rattling trams trundle through the square disgorging tourists.

Cafes in a lisbon square
Enjoy lunch at one of the cafes on the main square

Our recommendations:

We ate at Cantina, Ministerium and Nosola Italia. The service was shocking at the latter but all were reasonably priced. I had a particularly lush octopus salad and cod fishballs (see below) at Ministerium.

Beer museum, Lisbon
Beer museum, Lisbon

If you are a beer aficionado, head to the Museu De Cerveja. You can take your pick from a vast array of drinks delivered in a special beer glass. Note you definitely pay a premium for drinks and snacks at this establishment but it is so worth it.

Octopus salad at Ministerium
Octopus salad at Ministerium
Fish cakes at Ministerium
Fish cakes at Ministerium

Saturday afternoon

Convento Do Carmo

From Praça do Comércio head up Rue De Aurea to the Convento Do Carmo. This skeletal structure would not be out of place in a horror movie with its large roofless arch looming above. It’s best seen from the Jardim Da Cerca Da Graça on the opposite hillside to appreciate how the very soul of the church was ripped out in the huge earthquake of 1755.

Anyone visiting Lisbon for more than a day will quickly realise the devastation this earthquake wrought on the city. 9.1 on the Richter scale, barely a building remained untouched by its devastation. Lisbon’s population was decimated with an estimated third of its inhabitants killed in the earthquakes and ensuing tsunamis.

Carmo Convent
Carmo Convent

To see the ruins, you can take the elevator from Rua De Santa Justa for a whopping €5.15 or slowly amble up the hillside as I did. The Bella Lisa restaurant next door is a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner with breathtaking views of the city and the Convento Do Carmo. Don’t miss a trip to the miradoura (viewing platform) on top of the lift. For €1.50 each you will see the city in all its glory.

Rossio Station

Next head towards Rossio to gaze in awe at the intricate decoration on the station (I think) on the left as you head to Restauradores. This elaborate building now houses a Starbucks! Pretty impressive right?

Rossio
Rossio

Green line historical tour

On Restauradores you will find a stop for the green line. It’s over on the right by the fabulous Fabrica Da Nata (don’t miss a pastel De Nata and wine combo here!) and just below Hard Rock Café. If we had one complaint with these tour companies, it is that the signposts are not always very clearly marked so we struggled to find some stops.

Pastel de nata at Fabricia de Nata
Pastel de nata at Fabricia de Nata

Sit back, relax and let your lunch settle as you enjoy the sights of the city on this tour route.

Once you’ve finished that, it must be time for a sundowner! We recommend heading to the little square beneath the station (show map) to enjoy a drink at the Irish Pub (happy hour 6pm to 8pm) Wine & Pisco or one of the many little bars on the cobbled alleyway leading to the Barrio Alto.

Saturday Evening

Head to Barrio Alto for tapas, dinner or drinks. We highly recommend O Adriano which is just above the square. It looks underwhelming from the outside but our meal there was exquisite and ridiculously good value. We both had huge salmon steaks for €11. Even including a bottle of local wine, the bill was no more than £40?

Sunday morning

The Alfama

Work off any hangovers by jumping on the green line (tickets are valid for 48 hours) and hopping off in Alfama. A good place to exit is by the Castle. There are fabulous views from this stop of the Alfama district and sea.

Alfama tram line
Alfama tram line

The labyrinth of the Alfama has picture perfect views on every corner. You can take tram number 28 which rumbles through weathered cobblestones carrying camera-laden tourists around the hilly streets of the city. Alternatively, simply wander the streets enjoying views of colourful houses and glimpses of the sea. Listen out for the tram to capture scintillating photos for your album.

Alfama, Lisbon
Alfama, Lisbon

Lisbon is a city that urges you to linger, to wander its picturesque streets and watch the world go by at one of its many street cafes. In Alfama, there’s no shortage of little bistros, cafes and bars to encourage you to part with your cash.

Sunday afternoon

If you have had your fill of the old town and Alfama (which I seriously doubt) jump on the metro to Oriente. This is on the red line heading towards the airport and is a modern shopping centre and riverside complex with pleasant walks out to the Vasco Da Gama bridge.

Take note if you still feel drawn to the old town, spend your time there. Oriente is lovely but does not have the character or beauty of other areas in the city.

It does, however, have copious shopping, bars, restaurants and a cable car along the seafront and makes a pleasant stop if you are out of other options.

Lisbon weekend tips

If you only have a short weekend in Lisbon then time is the essence. You don’t want to spend ages figuring things out so here are some key tips to help you on your weekend away.

Monastery in Belém
Monastery in Belém

Getting from the airport

Take the metro from the airport. It’s quick and super inexpensive but be sure to book a hotel near a metro stop as Lisbon is incredibly hilly and the pavements are often cobbled and treacherous to navigate

The metro cards are flimsy but despite appearances, you can reload them. Each card costs €0.50 so it pays to remember this. Thereafter, each journey is €1.45 which is pretty remarkable for a capital city. Even the journey to the airport costs this same low fare although you may have to cart your bags up and down a few flights of stairs.

Lisbon sights
Lisbon sights

For a vast range of other incredible tips from a Portuguese resident, read this post on how to visit Lisbon for Less.

Our map

Readers tips

I’m sure a bunch of my lovely readers have already had the pleasure of visiting Lisbon. If so I’d love to hear any other tips you may have for first-time visitors.

This post may contain affiliate links which pay me a small commission should you click on them and make a purchase. These help towards the cost of running the site, and the occasional glass of wine, but you are under no obligation to use them.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

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8 comments

  1. I put Belem in the category of go/see/leave. We took tram 15 there, tram 127 back, got on at Comercio Square. Buy a Metro card at the underground Metro station at Comercio Square. Station is on water side of square, signage could be a bit better. Cost for r/t tram was 3.40 euro, and that included .50 euro to get the reusable Metro card. We did a quick walk/look at Discoveries Monument- there’s an underground tunnel to cross the street. Then back under road to see Jeronimos Monastery – we didn’t feel like paying to go inside plus there was a line to get in. You can peek at side chapels for free. We glanced at Belem Tower, then on to Pastéis de Belém. Tram 15/127 is almost across the street from the bakery. If you really wanted to be lazy you could look at the sites from the tram, get off, have a tart or two, then take tram back.

    • Oh I loved Belem. That monastery seriously wowed me as did the monument. The tower was slightly underwhelming but it all makes a nice walk too

  2. This is a must when in Belem: Have a pastel de nata at Pastéis de Belém (a crazy delicious custard tart) – only one place to get the original in the world, 2 minute walk from Jeronimos Monastery (if you’re facing the front of the Monastery Pastéis de Belém is to the left). You’ll see a huge line by the right front door side for take-out but enter the left front door – that’s the sit down area.

    Worth the visit – 100% to skip the line for take-away, walk to the back and wait for a table to sit down (they have 200+ seats) and enjoy one (or two or three). Was there last week and 4 of us had coffee and a Pastel de nada each, bill was 9.8 euro. And you can order some to go, waiter will bring them wrapped nicely. Make sure you take a peek at the kitchen (towards back of restaurant) they have a wall of glass so you can watch the bakers do their thing.

    • Thanks for sharing that fabulous tip. We walked up to the store, saw the long queue and decided against it. I wonder if people are aware of what you mentioned?

      Do they really taste that different to the ones in other places in Lisbon though?

      • Yes, huge difference. Huge. We did a taste test and the 4 of us were in 100% agreement that Pastéis de Belém’s pastel de nata leaves the others in the dust. There’s a reason why they sell 20k a day! I’m not kidding, they sell over 20,000 each day!
        CORRECTION: Pastéis de Belém’s bakery is on the RIGHT if you’re facing the Monastery.

        • Oh god now I wish I queued. I couldn’t understand the fuss at all about those little custard tarts until we tried one and then it became a daily habit. I loved the little tart deals with port too.

          • Never a long wait for a table, we waited 2 minutes b/c we wanted a table with a view. It’s the kind of place where customers are in and out in 15-20 minutes (the table next to us sat down, ordered, ate, got a slew to go, paid, and were gone in under 10 minutes!).

          • Well I will put it top of my list of places to visit when I return. That’s great to know and Lisbon is so gorgeous why would anyone not want to return?

            Did you go anywhere else in the area?

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