Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city and the largest city in the country. Despite being a big city, it still holds a lot of character and has many different areas for you to explore. This is a guide to how to spend two days in Portugal.
How to spend your time
- There are 4 main areas to Lisbon: Alfama, Bairro Alto, Baixa, and Belem.
- Lisbon is very hilly, so always get a ride to the top and walk down. Unless you are looking to get some good exercise, but you will be doing plenty of walking in this city.
- I recommend one day getting up early and doing the tram 28 and then going over to the Belem tower to check out the Belem area. After that, check out the Baixa area.
- The other day, I recommend going to the Sao Jorge Castle and Alfama in the morning and spending the afternoon in the Bairro Alto area.
- If you want a guide of everything you need to know before you go, check out this guide.
Sao Jorge Castle
Probably on the top of everyone’s list already is seeing the castle. The castle dates back to the 11th century and was initially built by the Moors. The castle is at the top of the hill, I recommend getting a taxi to the top, exploring and then walking down in the Alfama district.
Make sure to check out the Miradouro de Sao Jorge viewpoint while you are there.
Miradouro das Portas da sol and Miradouro de Santa Luzia
These two Miradouros are right next to each other and offer some of the best views of Lisbon. Lisbon has many designated parks with amazing views throughout the city. Make sure to check some of them out.
Photo tip: To get the best photos to show the entire view, its best to have a 16-35mm lens. Try creating a panorama with your iPhone as well.
Check out the Alfama district
The Alfama district sits right below the Castle and during the Moorish period was built as a maze to frustrate invaders trying to get to the castle. Over time, has been where most of the fisherman and mariners have stayed. You need to spend some time exploring all these little streets.
Construction began in 1150 and it was the first place of worship for Christians after Lisbon was taken back from the Moors. This buildings exterior actually survived the earthquake.
Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
One of the best places to view Sao Jorge Castle.
Ascensor da Gloria
Short funicular that takes you up and down the hill. Has been in operation since 1885. Makes it easy to get up to Bairro Alto and makes for a great photo opportunity.
This is a must see for anyone visiting Lisbon. The exterior building survived the earthquake of 1755, but the roof was demolished by the earthquake. They never restored the roof and left it as a monument of the earthquake.
Photo tip: use a 16-35 mm lens to be able to get the entire building with the lack of roof in the shot.
Elevador de Santa Justa
Built back in 1902, this 150 foot tall elevator is now a national monument. It was designed by an architect who studied under Gustav Eiffel, of the Eiffel Tower. The lines can be really long and it moves slow. I recommend going up at night when the lines will be shorter and you can see Lisbon at night.
This is one of the main squares in Portugal. The whole square is paved with the typical Portuguese cobblestone pavement. In the center is a column that honors Pedro IV, King of Portugal.
This is the main tourist tram that takes you by all the tourist sights. We went first thing in the morning (before 9) and had no problem getting a seat. It was mostly locals riding with us heading off to work. Later in the day, you will see people squished and standing room only. If you don’t want to get up early, but still want to do this tour; check into one of the designated tram tours that are typically less packed, but more expensive.
Praca do Comercio
The other main square in Portugal. Today it is lined with shops and restaurants, in the past this was the sight of the royal palace that was destroyed in the earthquake. Make sure to see the Rua Augusta Arch as well as walk down to the river for some great views.
Belem is a good 15 minute taxi ride from the other main sights of Lisbon. You can also get there from taking the trolley that you get at Praca do Comercio, but takes a little longer.
Built in the 16th century to protect the capital and played important role during the time of Portuguese Discoveries. There is often a long line to get in, but if you go early typically not that bad. Hint: if you have the Lisboa card, make sure to stick to the right as there is a shorter line for card holders.
You can climb all the way to the top for a great view. They limit how many people can go up at one time. The main reason for that, is there is only one staircase and it is not wide enough for people to go up and down at the same time. Make sure to look at the light above all the entries with whether people are going up or down at that time. Several people were not aware that it was only one way at a time and had to go back down after climbing the stairs when they met people coming down. They do have lots of floors you can stop at along the way so you don’t have to do the entire climb at once.
Monument to the Discoverers (Padrao dos descobrimentos)
This was built to celebrate the Portuguese Discoverers. The location is where ships used to depart several years ago. From the back, it is shaped like a Christian Cross. From the side, it is shaped like the prow of a ship. Over 30 Portuguese who were instrumental in Portugal’s Age of Discoveries are featured. Make sure to check out the huge map on the marble floor that shows everywhere the Portuguese went.
25th of April Bridge
After finishing up at the Monument to the Discoverers, you will have a good view of the 25th of April Bridge. It resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
Jeronimos Monastery and Church
Today is a symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth in the age of discovery. It was built to remember Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. Originally was planned to be smaller, but as the wealth of Portugal increased during the Age of Discoveries, they kept expanding it.
Casa Pasteis de Belem
A must do while in Portugal, is to have a Pastel de Nata. Pasteis de Belem is said to be the birthplace of the Pastel de Nata. Hint: there is often a long line in front of the restaurant. Walk to the back and they have a cafe that typically has plenty of open seating and you can enjoy them warm. We had no wait. Sprinkle a little powder sugar and cinnamon on them.
National Coach Museum
This museum holds all the old coaches of the royal families. There are over 70 coaches. There are actually 2 buildings, the main one is in the concrete building that holds most of the coaches. The Royal riding school has only a few coaches, but has a cool interior.