You’re strolling down a winding alley surrounded by bright-colored houses dancing atop each other in the most playful of ways. The oranges and yellows of the buildings frame the brilliant blue ocean calling up to you from the end of the street and the waft of mouthwatering smells and sweet desserts entice you into every door.
This is a typical moment in Lisbon, Portugal’s eternally sunny and eclectically interesting capital. In your two days here you’ll experience this and so many more unique moments. In this guide, we will mostly be talking about using public transport, however, we also recommend getting Uber or ridesharing apps, most rides within Lisbon never cost more than 10 euros.
Ride a tram (you have two options):
The best way to start a trip in any new city is to wander around getting the general feel and vibe of the place. Lisbon offers its visitors a unique way to do this; the famous tram system. Formed in 1873, the Lisbon tramway runs through most of the city and I’d suggest one of two options for seeing the sights this way.
Option 1: The Tourist Tram
The first is the Tourist Tram, which is more expensive, but far more information-rich. It circles some of the major sights of Lisbon and is coupled with both a personal guide on each tram, as well as pre-recorded information on every stop. The benefit of taking the tourist tram is that you will get a seat, and unlike tram number 28, you are often packed in like sardines.
Tickets can be booked on the link above, and for an adult, the price is €22.
Option 2: Tram Number 28
With that being said, if, like me, you like to keep a strong budget but don’t want to miss out on all the tram action, the famous tram number 28 will be your best friend. This is a local public tram that travels right through some of the major districts of Lisbon for only a few euros.
It doesn’t give any information, but you can be armed with a guidebook or your phone to research anything that looks interesting to you on the way. Remember to start early in the morning on the 28 as it fills up fast! We recommend around 8 am or 9 am.
Jump on at your closest stop and ride the whole way keeping your eyes glued to the window. You can find out the route and stops here.
Pro tip: (You can buy a day pass valid for all busses, trains, trams, and elevators in the city in order to help save your legs from the treacherous hills. The pass also includes tram number 28, a local hack to seeing all the major sights for free)
Get some lunch:
Now you’ve had a look at the surface of some of the city’s coolest neighborhoods it’s time to jump off the tram and really experience what Lisbon has to offer. Take the 28 back to Praça da Figueira, a large square in the centre of the city perfect for stretching your legs after the cramped tram.
Here you can try a local favorite, a bifana. Casa das Bifanas offers some of the best in the city and you’ll be salivating over it for weeks. If eating meat isn’t your thing then never worry, Praça da Figueira is full of cafes and restaurants to enjoy. The surrounding area is also great for cheap street food where you can simply stroll and let your nose be the guide.
Get lost by foot:
Now your stomach is full and you are well rested from the morning’s tram session, it’s time to take to the streets and burn off Portugal’s calorie-rich food.
Start by wandering the streets of Baixa, the historic center and commercial area of Lisbon. Here you can get a chance to see the bustling life that modern Lisbon offers. In Baixa, you can also find ancient Roman ruins, fantastic coffee, and even Lisbon’s oldest bookstore.
As you explore, aim your maps for Alfama, the next district over. As you walk you will see the grand neoclassical architecture slowly transform into tiny winding backstreets and smiling faces from cute stores and cafes. Although sometimes steep, it’s certainly worth the climb to feel a more slow-paced, traditional side of Lisbon’s many personalities. Feel free to wander here and allow yourself to get a little lost, that’s how the real gems are found.
If you’re feeling brave you can wander up to Castelo de S. Jorge for spectacular views of the city. But If you’re too weighed down by food at this point then no problem, this is also accessible by bus. Although many tourists visit the castle, it’s not the best for views of the city, check out the plan for tomorrow…
To finish off the day and to experience Lisbon’s world-famous nightlife, jump back on our old friend tram no 28 and depart at Barrio Alto. This is a district packed full of fantastic restaurants and vibing bars to dance the night away.
Head to the best viewpoint in the city:
If you didn’t party too hard the night before and like the peace and tranquility of a Lisbon morning, then head up to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, one of the highest spots in the city. It’s a big hill, so why not stop for an espresso on the way? There are few things more spectacular than watching the sun bounce off of the colorful buildings of Lisbon. And a bonus of starting your day in one of the highest areas of the city? It’s all downhill from here.
Take advantage of the location by exploring the district of Graca. Graca is well-known for its sensational street art combining modern and traditional art styles. From the new street art to the old grand structures we’re going to jump back onto public transport and head out of the city into the district of Belém, a relaxed area hosting a couple of not to be missed spots.
The sights of Belém:
The first is the famous Belém Tower a beautiful tower boasting a history of being the point of embarkment for Portuguese explorers since the 16th century. From here it’s a short walk to Jerónimos Monastery. Here is a vast area full of beautiful architecture, pristine lawns, and open hallways.
Try a traditional Portuguese custard tart:
While in the area you’d be a fool to miss Pastéis de Belém, home of the creamiest pasteis de nata you can buy. Always served warm and fresh! I always eat at least two so make sure you’re ready to fill up. Their secret recipe originates in the Monastery you were just in!
Head to the LX Factory:
By either taking a 30-40 minute stroll along the waterfront or utilizing the day pass you bought earlier, head to the LX Factory. This is one of the coolest hangout areas of the city situated in a refurbished but rustic factory building boasting ample restaurants and shops with eye-catching fusions of Portuguese foods and worldwide pallets.
Enjoy a fado show:
Finally, walk or public transport your way back to the center of the city where you can find a nice bar along the waterfront, or the more inland where you can unwind with a glass of wine enjoying a Fado show; a style of music born in the poor but bohemian streets of Lisbon. Many shows are offered around the city, some for free and some at a cost. I can recommend O Povo for a great free show and enjoyable atmosphere.
So there we have it, your time in Lisbon is over and you’re ready to board the plane home. But don’t you worry, when you return to Lisbon there are still so many new things to explore and to build on to your already growing love of this vibrant and welcoming city.