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Lisbon: Top 10 & Day-Trip in One Weekend

Elevador da Bica, Lisbon, Portugal
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Lisbon has so many more points of interest and you could easily spend many days exploring the city and its surroundings. But in the spirit of short trips, here’s how you can experience the Top 10 attractions in one day. That leaves the second for a day-trip to Sintra or Cascais/Estoril.

Follow this guide and enjoy one weekend in Lisbon and beyond:

Day 1

Start your day at Castelo de São Jorge. Due to its location on top of a hill, you should consider how you want to reach the Castle:

  • walking: yes, you can just walk up, but beware that you can catch two free elevadores (lifts) from the city center and reach the top with little uphill walking. Take the Elevador Baixa (Rua dos Fanqueiros 176) up to Rua da Madalena. Walk a bit to your left, until the supermarket Pingo Doce at Largo Chão do Loureiro, where you’ll find another elevator, Elevador Castelo.
  • bus 737, usually super full, but it’s the public transport which will take you closer to the Castle ticket office.
  • tram 12E or 28E, get off at Lg. Portas Sol stop. From there, it’s a 350m walk to the Castle ticket office.

#1 Castelo de São Jorge (St. George’s Castle)

Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon, Portugal

Castelo de São Jorge is a fortification built by the Moors during the 11th century. After Lisbon’s conquest by Dom Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, it became the center of court life. By the 13th century, it had become a royal palace, holding festivities and coronations until the 16th century. Later it assumed a more military role, but the 1755 Lisbon earthquake heavily damaged the fortification. Substantial renovations, archeological discoveries and restoration works took place before the castle was opened to the public.

Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon, Portugal
Terrace of Restaurante Casa do Leão @ São Jorge Castle

Do not miss the viewpoint overlooking the entire city and the river Tagus and the ruins of the Citadel’s former Royal Palace. After walking the grounds, get some drinks to recharge while admiring the view.

Take note:

  • Opening times: 09:00-21:00 (mar-oct) / 09:00-18:00 (nov-feb).
  • Closed Jan 1st, May 1st, Dec 24th, 25th and 31st.
  • Ticket prices here.
  • Discounts for young people aged 13-25 and seniors older than 65.
  • Free admission to children under 12.

#2 Miradouros (Viewpoints)

Also known as the City of Seven Hills, Lisbon has many viewpoints around the city, but for continuity within this itinerary, I suggest a stop at Miradouro das Portas do Sol, with a view worthy of postcards.

View onto Alfama District from Miradouro Portas do Sol

If you took the tram 12E or 28E, you already passed here on your way up to São Jorge Castle, as the Lg. Portas Sol stop is next to it.

#3 Alfama District

Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal

Alfama, derived from the Arabic Al-hamma, is the oldest district in Lisbon, full of historic landmarks, bars, and restaurants. A visit to Lisbon is not complete without wandering aimlessly through its labyrinth of small streets and squares.

A curious feature in this area is the mural depicting Lisbon’s History since the 5th century BC until modern times. From Miradouro Portas do Sol, looking to the sea, to your right, there are some stairs going down into the neighborhood. Halfway down, you’ll find a short tunnel with the mural.

First half of the mural depicting Lisbon’s History

#4 Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square)

Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal

Also known locally as Terreiro do Paço, Praça do Comércio is located between the commercial area of the city and the river Tagus. It is a huge symmetrical square featuring a triumph arch linking it to Rua Augusta, one of the city’s main streets. The current square was completely rebuilt after the previous one was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake.

#5 Elevador da Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift)

Elevador da Santa Justa, Lisbon, Portugal

Due to the aforementioned hilly geography, Lisbon is full of elevators to assist the population and visitors while out and about. It connects the lower streets of Baixa to the higher Largo do Carmo, which is why it is also known as Elevador do Carmo.

But more than just useful, the Elevador da Santa Justa is a landmark on itself. Completed in 1902 in neo-gothic style, this is the last surviving vertical elevator of its time, since others still in public use are actually funiculars.

In addition to the elevator, there is a viewpoint here as well, the Miradouro de Santa Justa. The lift ticket includes access to it, but it’s possible to visit it as a standalone as well.

Take note:

  • Elevator opening times: 07:00-23:00 (mar-oct) / 07:00-21:00 (nov-feb)
  • Viewpoint opening times: 09:00-23:00 (mar-oct) / 09:00-21:00 (nov-feb)
  • Tickets: since this is operated by Carris, you can use your regular transport ticket to pay here too. This is included, for instance, in the 24h ticket (see Lisbon 101). Otherwise, you can acquire them on-board at a big mark-up for 2.80€.

#6 Chiado District

Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal
Praça Luís de Camões

Combining traditional shops with modern establishments, history and beautiful views, Chiado is a fundamental part of Lisbon’s commercial zone. The café A Brasileira is famous for having had Fernando Pessoa (one of the greatest Portuguese poets) as a customer, as well as historical landmarks like Convento do Carmo.

#7 Ascensor da Bica (Bica Lift)

Elevador da Bica, Lisbon, Portugal

Although widely known as Bica Lift, it is actually the Bica Funicular. The combination of the traditional yellow funiculars, colorful houses and view to the Tagus in the background has made Rua da Bica de Duarte Melo famous. It was even voted the most beautiful street in the world. So if you are in the city, it’s totally unmissable.

To continue the rest of the itinerary, I suggest catching an Uber (more details below). If you fancy a quick snack before, Mercado da Ribeira (a landmark in its own right, but to be featured on the Eating in Lisbon post) is nearby.

#8 Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)

Torre de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

As pointed above, to reach Torre de Belém, I highly suggest taking an Uber. The main reason is to save time and legs: it is located 7km away from Cais do Sodré and public transport will take 30min (sans waiting time) and very likely to be full. Instead, Uber is cheap and aplenty, meaning it will take you 10-15min total to take you “door-to-door”.

With that out of the way: the Belém Tower. It was built between 1515-1519 to strenghen its defense system as well as being a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Over the centuries, expansions and various uses kept it active. Nowadays it is open for public visitation.

Take note:

  • Opening times: 10:00-18:30 (apr-sep) / 10:00-17:30 (out-mar).
  • Closed Jan 1st, Easter Monday, May 1st, Jun 13th, Dec 24th and 25th.
  • Ticket prices here.
  • Discounts for students and seniors older than 65.
  • Free admission to children under 12.

#9 Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries)

Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon, Portugal

Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a celebration to the 15-16th century Age of Discovery, which saw Portuguese explorers departing from this point to trade in India and the Orient, as well as “discovering” Brazil.

On the open area in front of the monument, you’ll find a huge multi-colored-marbled Compass Rose showing the oceanic routes taken by the explorers. Once inside, there’s a terrace with panoramic views, as well as exhibitions focused on topics related to the Discoveries.

Take note:

  • Opening times: every day 10:00-19:00 (mar-sep) / tue-sun 10:00-18:30 (oct-feb).
  • Closed Jan 1st, May 1st, Dec 25th.
  • Ticket prices here.
  • Discounts for students and seniors older than 65.
  • Free admission to children under 12.

#10 Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery)

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Lisbon, Portugal

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is a former monastery and one of the finest examples of Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style. Building took place over 100 years and completed in 1601.

To celebrate the 400 years anniversary of Vasco da Gama arriving in India, his tomb was restored and is one of the highlights of the visit to the chapel. The same occasion saw the restoration of the tomb of Luís de Camões, the greatest poet of the Portuguese language and chronicler of the Age of Discoveries.

The interior of the complex is even more impressive than the exterior: exquisitly decorated cloister arches, the impressive Church of Santa Maria and the tiled refectory make this a worthy visit.

Take note:

  • Opening times: tue-sun 10:00-18:30 (may-sep) / tue-sun 10:00-17:30 (oct-may).
  • Closed Jan 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, Jun 13th and Dec 25th.
  • Ticket prices here.
  • Discounts for students and seniors older than 65.
  • Free admission to children up to 12.

Bonus: stop by Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, the most traditional and absolute best place to feast on freshly-baked pastéis de belém.

Last thoughts…

This is surely packed but it covers the most essential spots in Lisbon in one day. Now you are free to take the second for a day-trip. Relaxing by seaside resort towns or exploring castles and palaces in Sintra, it all depends on your stamina. Coming soon!

See also:

Lisbon 101: Arriving & Getting Around

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