How to See Charming Lisbon in One Day

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Overview

Lisbon is one of the most picturesque cities in all of Europe. With stunning architecture from numerous time periods, lively cobbled streets, and a setting right on the Rio Tejo, Lisbon is a dream destination and the star of Portugal. There are numerous things to see and do in the city and you’ll be able to cover many of the main highlights with our one day in Lisbon itinerary and travel guide.

When

Lisbon is a city that can be visited year-round, however, some months are better than others. 

Winter (November – February) – Unlike other northern hemisphere destinations, Lisbon doesn’t see freezing cold temperatures in the winter. While it may be sunny (but chilly) for your day out in Lisbon, there are equal amounts of cloudy, wet days as well. In the winter, you can expect the weather to be damp and cool, which makes it the least desirable time to visit Lisbon. Pros: discounted prices and fewer tourists. Cons: damp, cool weather, and a quiet atmosphere. 

Spring (March – May) – This is one of two ideal times to visit Lisbon. During the spring, the weather is warm but not unbearably hot. The tourist season hasn’t fully picked up during the spring, and there are many festivals and events taking place. Pros: good weather and fewer tourists than the high season. Cons: weather can still be unpredictable during these months with downpours possible. 

Summer (June – August) – The summer is the peak Lisbon tourism season. The weather is great, there’s a buzz in the air, and dining outside is enjoyable. Pros: lots of events and things going on, great weather and you can visit the nearby beaches or lounge by your hotel pool. Cons: lots of tourists, higher prices, and you’ll need to book ahead of time or accommodation options won’t be available. 

Fall (September – October) – Another great time to be in Lisbon is during these two autumn months. The sky is blue, the weather is great and the tourists have thinned out by this point. Pros: fewer people at popular sites and prices start to reduce. Cons: not as warm as the summer.

Are you traveling to Portugal for the first time? 

Get the low-down on visiting Portugal, with tips about packing, travel, money, staying safe and lots of great city itineraries for your trip.

Travel

Lisbon Airport, also known as Humberto Delgado Airport, and sometimes Portela Airport (why does an airport need three names?) is an international airport located 7km northeast of the city center of Lisbon. The airport is the main international gateway to Portugal.

You have several options to get into downtown Lisbon from the airport;
  • Transfer – the quickest and most convenient option, you can book in advance with Intui Travel.
  • Taxi – grab a cab which will cost around €15 – €20 and take about 20 minutes. Make sure the meter is running before you set off.
  • Bus – the Aurobus departs every 20 minutes for the 40 minute journey to Cais do Sodre in the centre of the city. Tickets cost €4 for a one way journey.
  • Metro – take the subway, which has a direct line from the airport into the city, and connects with the other three metro lines, taking you pretty much anywhere you want to go. You must buy a Viva Viagem card for €0.50 before your first tip, which can then be topped up as needed. A single trip costs €1.50. For great value, buy a 24 hour transport pass for €6.40 which allows you to travel on all of Lisbon’s metros, trams and buses, as well as some of Lisbon’s iconic elevators.

in this post

Lisbon itinerary 1 day
1 day in Lisbon
Lisbon 1 day itinerary

Stay

For sheer glamour and a superb location, stay at the Altis Avenida Hotel, in the heart of 19th century Baixa Lisbon and on the grandest street of all, Avenida da Liberdade. With elegant rooms, marbled bathrooms and a rooftop bar and restaurant with killer views, plus efficient and welcoming service, this is a top spot in which to stay after a day in Lisbon.

Another great location, close to vibrant Rossio Square and perfect for exploring, is The One Palacio da Anunciada, a charmingly restored 16th century palace right in the centre of town. With beautiful outdoor spaces, a pool and simple decor that allows the history to shine, this is a wonderful place to enjoy a one day Lisbon itinerary from.  Oh, and the breakfast is pretty special too!

See & Do

Seeing the best of Lisbon in a day is very achievable on foot, thanks to the walkable nature of the city, and its’ well-placed lifts, elevators and trams to help with longer distances and hills. Our Lisbon one day itinerary will take you on an easy stroll through this wonderful city, and show you what to do in Lisbon for a day.

Morning

Visit Livraria Bertrand

In the Chiado neighbourhood, you’ll find Livraria Bertrand Chiado – which is the oldest bookshop in the world. The bookshop opened its doors in 1732 and is still running today. Not only is Livraria Bertrand old, it is also deceptively large, with rooms named after authors. There is a long corridor through the bookstore, up to writer Fernando Pessoa’s room, where you’ll also find the Livraria Bertrand Cafe. Spend some time browsing the books, or reading in one of the little nooks.

Ride the Elevador de Santa Justa

This 19th-century, wrought-iron elevator was once a practical mode of transportation, but these days it’s more of a tourist attraction and one of the top things to do in Lisbon in one day. The views from the top are gorgeous, and in order to avoid the lineups, make sure to visit before 10am or after 3pm.

Top Tip
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If you have a 24 hour public transport pass, this ride will be included in that. Which is a good thing as the elevator is overpriced at €5.30, whereas the transport pass is just €6.40.

What to do in Lisbon in one day? Ride the 19th century Santa Justa elevator
Santa Justa lift | Photo by Helen Ross

Enter Through the Rua Agusta Arch

Enter into the enormous Praca do Comercio plaza through the Rua Agusta Arch, which was built in 1875 to commemorate the reconstruction of Lisbon after the devastating earthquake in 1755. The arch has six columns and is quite ornate. If you have time, head up to the top of the arch for an awesome viewpoint

Beautiful arch in lisbon with colourful painted houses either side
Rua Augusta Arch | Photo by Tomas Sereda for Getty Images

Visit The Praça do Comércio

Continuing along the gorgeous calcada portuguesa (Portuguese pavement) with its pretty mosaics, once you pass through the arch, you enter into the Praca do Comercio. Wander around the plaza while taking in the amazing architecture and the statue of King Joseph I. 

Top Tip
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If you prefer to be organised, or like to get a feel for a new city, learn some history, and get a lay of the land, then join a walking tour which takes in all of the sights mentioned above and more. Our pick is this top rated private tour with an English speaking local guide.

The Praca do Comerial from above with sea in the background
The huge Praca do Comercio square from above | Photo by fotoVoyager

Afternoon

Ride the Elevador Castelo

From the grand Praca do Comercio, make your way to the Elevador Castelo, which is a somewhat hidden elevator that helps you avoid walking up the steep hills of Lisbon! The building itself is an attraction, and the views from the elevator are great as well.

Explore the São Jorge Castle

Once you get off the elevator, you can take a second one which brings you even higher up the hills before arriving at the historic Castelo de Sao Jorge . This is one of Lisbon’s most popular monuments, for good reason. Some of the remains found here date all the way back to the 6th century BC. These days, the fort has been restored and is a great place to wander around, while taking in the museum and the stunning views of the Tagus River and the city of Lisbon below. Dominating the city, and at just €10 to enter, this is worth a visit.
Our 1-day Lisbon itinerary will take you to Sao Jorge castle
The castle of Sao Jorge across the roofs of Lisbon | Photo by photocluster

Take in a Sunset View

Because Lisbon is such a hilly city, there are numerous miradors (Miradouros) offering fantastic views. The best time to visit is in the early evening, when the sun is low enough in the sky that it’s not too hot! Many people bring drinks to the viewpoints (grab your favourite bottle of wine!), some speakers for music, or even an acoustic guitar for a jam session. Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Miradouro das Portas do Sol and Miradouro da Graça are all good options – just take your pick and enjoy.

The bridge of Lisbon at sunset
Lisbon Cathedral and the Ponte 25 de Abril at sunset | Photo by Studio of 22 by Ricard Rocha

Evening

Visit the Time Out Market

The Time Out Market is a bit of an institution on the Lisbon map. Basically, this is a huge food hall with numerous restaurants and bars all under one roof. You’ll find restaurants by famous chefs as well. This food hall is a good place to visit for a pre-dinner snack or a full-on meal. Often, you’ll even find events being held here.
Food market and hall with lots of people
Time Out Market

Ride the Trams

Riding the elevator is one thing, but Lisbon is known for its cute trams that clamber up and down the hilly streets. Tram 28 is the most popular one for tourists and connects Martim Moniz with Campo Ourique, passing through the popular Graca, Baixa, Estrela and Alfama districts.

Top Tip
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If you just want to experience a quick tram journey, have a look at the Bica Tram, otherwise known as the Elevador da Bica (yep, the same word for lifts) which connects Largo do Calharizon, on the southern edge of the Bairro Alto, to Rua de São Paulo, via a few hundred beautifully photogenic metres.

Yellow tram going uphill in Lisbon
Tram on line 28 | Photo by Sean3810 for Getty Images

Listen to Fado

The traditional music of Portugal, Fado’s roots can be traced back to 1820’s Lisbon, when Portugal was in the midst of the Liberal Revolution. The Portuguese word saudade, meaning longing, is used to describe the melancholy and mournful lyrics and tunes. Fado has been on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List since 2011, and is a must-do activity when you have just one evening in Lisbon.

Eat

Manteigaria

Inside the Time Out food market, Manteigaria is the best place to try Pastel de Nata in the city of Lisbon, and only a few minutes walk from Livraria Bertrand. Pastel de Nata are the traditional egg custard tarts of Portugal, and are a must-have any time of the day, you have to try one if this is your first day in Lisbon! But wait! There’s a debate if Pastel de Nata is the best custard tart, or if Pastéis de Belém is better. The latter is made to a recipe developed by the monks of Jerónimos Monastery in 1837, the ingredients of which remain a secret today. Why not try both to see if you can tell the difference?
Top Tip
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Pastel de Nata are best eaten warm from the oven, when the pastry is crisp and the custard is heavy with caramelisation. Ask for it warm when you order.

Taberna Portuguesa

This is a small restaurant serving up traditional Portuguese food. With strong ties to the ocean, it’s no surprise that fishing in Portugal is quite popular, and with that, dining on fish is popular as well. At Taberna Portuguesa, you can find tasty bacalao (salted and dried cod, a speciality in Portugal) and sardine meals as well as other traditional dishes. With just a few tables, you’ll want to make a reservation here. The staff are excellent at suggesting dishes for you to try, and which food goes best with which wine.

Top Five Lisbon Travel Tips

  1. Skip the Lisboa Card. If you follow our itinerary many of our Lisbon sightseeing suggestions are free. You need to spend at least 2 days in Lisbon to get value for money from the card.
  2. Don’t eat the ‘free’ food. Many people sit down to enjoy a meal and are impressed to see complimentary bread, cheese, and olives arrive just moments after. These are not free, and if you don’t want them, just tell the waiter right away. Otherwise, you’ll find charges on your bill at the end of the meal. 
  3. Watch your pockets. Lisbon in general is a very safe city. But at the popular tourist sites and on crowded trams, pickpockets have been known to roam.
  4. Dine away from the tourist areas. Food and drinks are much more expensive around the main plaza than other places in Lisbon. Avoid eating in that area to save on food costs. 
  5. Wear good shoes. One of the best things about Lisbon is that while it’s a trendy, hip place, it’s ok to dress casually (unlike other cities in Europe). Wearing sneakers with your dress is common here ladies! Don’t try to wear heels on Lisbon’s hilly streets.

Do you have just a little longer to spend in Lisbon?

Do you have just half a day more in Lisbon, or perhaps you can extend your trip and see Lisbon in one weekend? Add these attractions and day trips from Lisbon to your itinerary;

  • Visit Belém Tower – Take a stroll west along the river to the Torre de Belem, officially the Tower of Saint Vincent. A 16th century fortification, Portuguese explorers once embarked on their adventures to discover new lands from here. Now a symbol of Portugal’s great Age of Discovery, the Belem Tower stands proud in the Targus river.
  • Climb the Sanctuary of Christ the King – Cross the river to the other side and see the 20th century statue of The Sanctuary of Christ the King, modelled on Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, which stands over the river and provides spectacular views of Lisbon from the top.
  • Chill at the Lisbon Greenhouses – Visit the often overlooked Estufa Fria, or Greenhouses, a haven of lush tropical and exotic plants and water features. The plants are housed in three magical greenhouses with slatted bamboo roofs, in the northwestern corner of Parque Eduardo VII.
  • Be amazed by Sintra – Take a day trip to one of Portugal’s favourite national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the city of Sintra, once the home of Portuguese royalty. Home to colourful Pena Palace and Quinta Da Regaleira, where the mysterious Initiation Well is a top Instagram draw, Sintra is like nowhere else in Europe. On our recommended and very well reviewed Sintra day trip you’ll also see Capo de Roca, mainland Europe’s most westerly point, some of the best beaches in Portugal and the lively town of Cascais, one of Portugal’s top coastal resorts.
  • Visit Porto – Take a high speed train from Lisbon to Porto      
Lisbon Greenhouse | Photo by The Gap Decaders

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