48 Hours in Lisbon: 2 Days Highlights Itinerary
Portugal is a country gaining in popularity with tourists due to its lively cities, wonderful culture, spectacular beaches, and low cost relative to the rest of Western Europe. The capital city of Lisbon is the most heavily touristed city in the country and there is a lot to do there. It’s a fun challenge to see the highlights in only 48 hours in Lisbon, and here’s how you can do it.
48 Hours in Lisbon: Day 1
Portugal is known for its pastries, so you know it’s a great way to start your first of 2 days in Lisbon. Grab your breakfast drink of choice with a savory or sweet pastry, and head out to explore Lisbon. It is called the city of seven hills for a reason, so be prepared for a workout as you explore!
Carmo Square (Largo do Carmo)
Carmo Square is beautiful and very important historically as it saw the fall of a dictator. António de Oliveira Salazar was the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. He was responsible for the Estado Novo and ruled the country as a dictator. He was replaced by Marcelo Caetano upon his death.
Caetano was overthrown on April 25, 1974, and surrendered in Carmo Square. The Carnation Revolution, as it was called, was a military coup joined by a peaceful civilian protest. Though people were asked to stay home, they filled the streets to witness the event, holding red carnations in their hands.
The bridge that crosses the Tagus River and looks like the Golden Gate Bridge is called the 25 de Abril Bridge, commemorating this important event for the Portuguese people. (It was formerly known as Salazar Bridge.) If you have the time and interest, you can visit Carmo Convent ruins during your 48 hours in Lisbon.
Take the Santa Justa Lift
You’ll see a number of “lifts” to help take the sting out of the hills if you’re so inclined. Though these are intended for transportation, some of them are a destination as well. The most famous of them is the Santa Justa Lift, which leads you halfway up the hill to Graça, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and the highest area in Lisbon.
From the front, it looks like the only way to the higher areas is by taking the lift. However, you can walk there as well. If you go around to the back of the lift, you can actually take in the incredible views from this vantage point.
St. Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge)
Take the lift, or walk the hill to Graça and visit St. Jorje Castle, overlooking the city. A must for anyone’s two days in Lisbon. First, enjoy the stunning views of the city from this vantage point as you’re overlooking a sea of beautiful rust-colored tile rooftops.
San Jorge Castle is located on the summit of the highest of Lisbon’s hills. When you think of a castle, this is what you imagine with its thick walls and battlements. The silhouette of the castle looks over the city by day and night, and it’s illuminated at night. The original fortress was built in the fifth century, and it was enlarged and altered until the thirteenth century.
The castle is a popular tourist attraction and it can get quite busy around the middle of the day. Get there early and take some time to wander the beautiful neighborhood around it.
Start to climb down the hill to the neighborhood of Alfama, one of the oldest in Lisbon. In 1755, there was a major earthquake on All Saints Day that nearly leveled the city. The resulting fires and flooding from the Tagus River destroyed much of what remained, except for Alfama. This is ironic, as Alfama at that time was known as the “sinner’s neighborhood” where the “people of ill repute” lived.
Now it’s a quaint and beautiful historic neighborhood and no 48 hours in Lisbon is complete without spending some time in this beautiful area. Wander the streets to take in the sights, the things to do and see how the locals live. There are a number of great viewpoints (miradouros) to see the city in this neighborhood. Two of the most popular are Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, and Miradouro das Portas do Sol.
Alfama is a great place to stop for a late lunch while you’re exploring the neighborhood. If your 2 days in Lisbon fall on a Tuesday or Saturday, check out the Feira da Ladra, or “Thieves Market.”
Alfama is also a top place to stay with heaps of nice apartments to rent.
Commerce Square (Praça do Comércio)
The last stop for sightseeing on your first of two days in Lisbon is a visit to Commerce Square, and it’s impressive. It was created as part of the rebuilding effort following the 1755 earthquake. The primary entrance to the square is the stunning Rua Augusta Arch, featuring figures from Greek mythology. In the center of the square is a large statue of King Joseph I, king at the time of the rebuild.
If you have time before dinner, Rua Augusta (through the arch) is the main shopping area of Lisbon. You’ll see a lot of shops with familiar names as well as some local places.
First Night in Lisbon – Cacilhas
For dinner, take the ferry over to Cacilhas, across the Tagus River from Lisbon. Head to the right along the river and you’ll see a number of restaurants. Atira-te ao Rio or Ponto Final are both very popular and crowded, and reservations are recommended.
Lisbon is known for its fresh seafood, so if you like fish, you’re in for a real treat. And try a vinho verde with dinner. This “green” wine is actually a young and slightly bubbly white wine that hails from the Duoro Valley in northern Portugal. The Portuguese red wines are fabulous, too.
When you crossed the river, in the distance past the 25 de Abril Bridge, you’ll see the giant Christ the King statue high on a hill looking over the city of Lisbon. If you think it looks like the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it does. This statue inspired it.
48 Hours in Lisbon: Day 2
Your first day in Lisbon had a lot of steep climbing to see the sights, but they were well worth it. Day 2 is more level in areas so it’s an easier day navigating the city, but a fun and late night is ahead!
Belém is a popular tourist destination, located on the outskirts of Lisbon. It’s easily reachable by train or tram but go early to miss the heaviest crowds. During the Age of Discovery in the 15th century, famed explorers like Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan set off on their journeys from Belém.
Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower are UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their historic and cultural importance. The Monastery is an architectural marvel and stunning both inside and outside. A fascinating museum is also within the monastery with many Roman and Egyptian artifacts.
Then head towards the Tagus River to the Monument to the Discoveries, a large statue honoring the explorers and celebrating the Portuguese Age of Discovery. You’ll see the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Christ the King statue across the river.
Last, visit Belém Tower. It was originally built for defense along the river however, it’s a stunning building. Admire the architecture and climb to the top for some great river views. It has a narrow one-way staircase with a system in place to allow for two-way traffic.
Belém will easily be a half-day visit or more so factor this when planning your 48 hour in Lisbon. Before you head out, stop by the premier of all Portuguese pastries, Pastéis de Belém. This shop is the only place in the world that offers the egg-custard tart by the same name. It’s the pride of Portugal and something you shouldn’t miss,
It’s on the main road heading back towards Lisbon (and where you will pick up your transportation back to the city). The line is long but it moves fast and sometimes it can be faster to get a table inside, so check it out.
Moorish Quarter (Mouraria)
If you can hold out for lunch and want an interesting, only in Lisbon experience, head to Mouraria and find a Chinês Clandestino, or underground Chinese restaurant. These are found hidden in a residential and non-touristy area in Mouraria. You won’t see any signs by the door as they are operated out of people’s homes. Look for red lanterns above the door and that exquisite smell.
Wander the neighborhood then see the photography exhibit by Camilla Watson on Beco das Farinhas. It showcases the elderly people who lived there around ten years ago. You can see their pictures proudly displayed on the walls outside their homes.
Next, head to Chiado, in the heart of Lisbon. You’re back where you started yesterday, near the Santa Justa Lift. This time, you’ll stop to visit some other places. Bertrand is in this neighborhood and it’s the oldest bookstore in the world, dating back to 1732.
Not far from Bertrand is Café A Brasileira, one of the oldest and most famous cafes in Lisbon. It was once known as the meeting place for artists, writers, and free-thinkers and you can see a statue of Fernando Pessoa, a famous Portuguese poet, right outside. It’s a great place to stop for a drink or a snack and think about those who visited before you.
Second Night in Lisbon – Fado in Bairro Alto
Your last stop is in Bairro Alto for Fado, so go back to your hotel to rest if you need or wander the streets to take in more of the sights. Bairro Alto is the neighborhood known for its nightlife and there are a lot of small restaurants and bars to spend the last of your 48 hours in Lisbon.
Tasco do Chico is popular for Fado, a Portuguese style of music believed to have been created by women awaiting their husbands coming home from the sea. It’s passionate, expressive, and a tad melancholic but so beautiful.
Fado usually starts at nine or ten in the evening and can go for several hours, depending who is there to sing. So, plan for a late evening that you’ll enjoy immensely.
Bonus: Day Trip to Sintra from Lisbon
If you’re lucky enough to have another day on top of your 48 hours in Lisbon, consider a day trip to Sintra. This fairytale city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring an iconic castle with sweeping views, a property steeped in symbolism and mysticism, and a charming town center just waiting for you to visit. It’s so easy to get to by train from Lisbon, and it’s the most popular of all the day trips from Lisbon so is well worth going.
Lisbon is a city easily seen by foot—thank goodness for their amazing pastries to keep you fueled for the climbs! While 48 hours in Lisbon isn’t nearly enough to see everything, you can see the top tourist attractions and get a feel for the rich culture of this magnificent city. It will certainly leave you wanting more and planning a return visit.
About the Author:
Sam is a travel-obsessed animal lover with big plans to travel the world with her dog. When she’s not blogging about her travel adventures at My Flying Leap, you can find her volunteering with her pet-therapy cat and dog, on the top of a mountain, or enjoying a glass of bold red wine planning for her next trip.
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