Having shot to the top of travel wish lists as one of the trending destinations of 2017, Lisbon is enjoying its moment in the spotlight. The multi-coloured city’s vibrancy, whether it be the culture, people or architecture old and new, draws you in before you even realise it.
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No matter if you’re planning a trip to visit this beautiful city or just want to know what it offers at a quick glance, this short guide to Lisbon will surely ignite your wanderlust. Find out what the key things to see and do in Portugal‘s capital are.
Day 1 — Afternoon
Welcome to Lisbon! Ready to loosen your limbs after your journey and enjoy what is possibly the best view of the city? Start your trip to the lookout point, Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte. Though the 20-minute walk uphill can be gruelling at times, the incredible panoramas of the orange-roofed city set against the wide sea with a castle visible in the distance make the effort all worth it. The stunning sight will also set the mood right for the exploration to come in the next few days.
Day 1 — Evening
After you’ve soaked in the beauty of the Portuguese capital from the lookout point, make your way over to the Lisbon Oceanarium. More than just a typical aquarium, the complex reportedly houses over 16,000 sea creatures, including penguins, otters and sharks. As one of Europe’s largest indoor aquariums, the Oceanarium is extremely popular amongst visitors. A private tour of the underwater world is the perfect way to avoid the maddening crowds and take in the sights at a comfortable pace. Your exclusive experience doesn’t end there — today, you’ll have the opportunity to literally sleep amongst the fishes with an overnight stay at the aquarium.
Day 2 — Morning
The Mercado da Riberia has been one of the city’s hotspots since it opened in 1892. Now known as the Time Out Market, the food hall boasts an array of fresh produce and cooked meals ready for all to happily pick from and devour. Trundle down for breakfast to sample more affordable dishes invented by Portugal’s Michelin-starred chefs or to take bites of some of the destination’s popular seafood dishes or pastries. The wide selection available will no doubt satisfy everyone in the group. Plus, roaming around the market itself is plenty fun to begin with! End your meal with a big scoop of ice cream from one of the city’s favourite companies, Santini, for a sweet start to your day.
After fuelling up with a hearty meal, it’s time to explore the Alfama district. The oldest district in Lisbon captivates with its traditional charm; walk on cobblestoned streets past orange-roofed buildings to explore some of the historic monuments in the area. The Se Cathedral, a 900-year-old landmark, and the Castelo de Sao Jorge are both key sights. At the former, admire the building’s amalgamation of architectural styles from different periods, while at the later, which stands atop the city’s highest hill, roam amongst castle ruins and take in a breathtaking vantage view of Lisbon. If you’re keen, drop by the Panteao Nacional for further exploration. The white-domed church is where many of Portugal’s key historical figures are buried and a terrace on the dome level leads out to yet another lookout point, this time over Alfama and the River Tejo.
Day 2 — Afternoon
Belcanto, the first and only two-star Michelin restaurant in Lisbon, is perfect for indulging in a delectable lunch. Standing at the forefront of the capital’s food scene, the establishment specialises in serving inventive dishes that are often a modern take on traditional Portuguese food. With menus designed to tell both the restaurant’s and the country’s story, you know you’re in for a gastronomical journey. Available dishes include “The garden of the goose that laid the golden eggs” or egg, crunchy bread and mushrooms, and “Dip in the sea” or sea bass with seaweed and bivalves.
While you’re in the neighbourhood, take a relaxing stroll after lunch around the eclectic Bairro Alto. Lisbon’s most central district is hip beyond measure; the colourful streets are peppered with quirky street art that brings the city to life and speciality bars can be found on most corners. If you’re keen on grabbing a mid-afternoon tipple, this is the place to do it. Fun fact: Bairro Alto is also where the Ascensor da Bica, regarded as the city’s most attractive lift, can be found. Hop aboard for a ride or snap a picture of the vehicle for a keepsake.
Day 2 — Evening
What is Portugal without its own brand of music? In the night, transfer to a famed fado performer’s abode for a private dinner and exclusive performance. The soulful singer will captivate you with his dulcet, melancholic tones as he sings folk songs. Feel your heartstrings twang along to the moving music as you appreciate this part of the local culture. The curtains draw on your second day with this beautiful performance.
Day 3 — Morning
Rise and shine! You definitely can’t leave Lisbon without having tried the famous Portuguese custard tarts. Head to Pasteis de Belem, an old-school bakery set up in 1837 where the famous eponymously named tarts were first invented, to pick up still-warm creations for breakfast. The queue at the store can be unceasing but once you pop a custard tart into your mouth, you’ll feel as if the wait was well worth it. Tip: get enough tarts the first time around so you don’t have to queue again for seconds.
After your meal, it’s time to delve into Belem’s streets on a private walking tour. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites, Torre de Belem and Jerónimos Monastery, amongst other places. Your friendly and knowledgeable guide will give you the backstory behind these picturesque spots, which are also some of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks, for you to better understand the city’s history.
As you bid farewell to Lisbon, know that a revisit is never out of the question. But for now, there are other destinations to discover.