How to Spend a Day in Lisbon: The 12 Best Locations

If you only have one day to explore Lisbon, Portugal’s vibrant capital, you want to make sure you hit all the must-see spots. Lisbon is a city with a unique blend of traditional charm and modern flair, with historic neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, and lively markets. This comprehensive guide to visiting Lisbon in one day will take you through the 12 best things to see, along with practical tips and recommendations to make the most of your time.

Planning Your Day in Lisbon: Essential Tips

Before diving into the itinerary, let’s cover some essential tips to help you navigate Lisbon effectively.

Getting Around Lisbon

Lisbon’s public transportation system is efficient and convenient. To maximize your time, consider purchasing a Viva Viagem card, which offers unlimited travel on trams, buses, and the metro. If you’re looking for a more relaxed way to explore, try the Hop-on Hop-off bus, which allows you to get on and off at key attractions.

The Lisbon Card

The Lisbon Card is a smart choice for a one-day visit. It provides free access to many museums and attractions, as well as unlimited travel on public transport. This card can save you both time and money, especially if you plan to visit several paid sites during your trip.

Where to Stay in Lisbon

Choosing the right accommodation can make your visit more enjoyable. If you’re planning to stay overnight or longer, opt for a central location to minimize travel time. Here are some recommended hotels in different parts of the city:

  • Chiado Hall: Located in the heart of Chiado, this hotel offers easy access to Lisbon’s shopping and dining scenes.
  • Pensao Praca Da Figueira: A budget-friendly option near Praça dos Restauradores, offering comfortable rooms and a central location.
  • Oliveirinha: A charming guesthouse in the Alfama district, perfect for experiencing traditional Lisbon.

What to Bring to Lisbon

Pack comfortable walking shoes, as Lisbon’s cobblestone streets and steep hills require sturdy footwear. Depending on the season, you may need a light jacket or sweater for the evenings. If you’re visiting in summer, bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect against the strong sun.

Lisbon in 1 Day: A Detailed Itinerary

With just one day in Lisbon, it’s crucial to make the most of your time. This itinerary covers a mix of historical sites, cultural landmarks, and scenic viewpoints, providing a comprehensive experience of the city.

1. Praça dos Restauradores

Start your day at Praça dos Restauradores, a bustling square in the heart of Lisbon. This square commemorates Portugal’s independence from Spain and features an impressive obelisk as its centerpiece. The surrounding buildings, such as the Palácio Foz and the Teatro Éden, add to the square’s charm. It’s a great starting point, as it connects to various transportation options, including the metro and buses.

From Praça dos Restauradores, you can access other key locations, such as Rossio Train Station and Praça do Rossio, both of which are just a short walk away. This area is ideal for taking a free walking tour, which covers the major highlights of Lisbon and gives you a deeper understanding of the city’s history.

2. Rossio Train Station

Just a few steps from Praça dos Restauradores, you’ll find Rossio Train Station, one of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks. The station’s facade is a stunning example of Manueline architecture, with its twin horseshoe-shaped arches and intricate stonework. If you have time, venture inside to explore the station’s interior, which has a grand and timeless feel.

Rossio Train Station is also a gateway to other parts of Portugal, including Sintra, a popular day-trip destination. If you plan to visit Sintra, this is where you’ll catch the train.

3. Church of Santo Domingo

Continuing from Rossio Train Station, make your way to the Church of Santo Domingo (São Domingos), one of Lisbon’s oldest churches. Despite being partially destroyed by fire in 1959, the church has been partially restored, retaining its dramatic and haunting appearance. The charred walls and twisted metal give the church a unique character, and it’s a reminder of Lisbon’s turbulent history.

Just outside the church, you’ll find the Monument to the Jewish Massacre, which commemorates the tragic events of the early 16th century when thousands of Jews were killed. The monument features a large olive tree and a marble plaque with a message of reconciliation.

4. A Ginjinha

No visit to Lisbon is complete without trying ginja, a traditional Portuguese cherry liqueur. A Ginjinha, a tiny tavern near Praça dos Restauradores, has been serving this unique drink since 1840. The atmosphere inside is lively, with locals and tourists enjoying shots of ginja. It’s a must-visit spot to experience Lisbon’s culture and taste this sweet and potent liqueur.

5. Santa Justa Elevator

Next on the itinerary is the Santa Justa Elevator, an iconic vertical lift that connects the Baixa and Chiado districts. Designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a student of Gustave Eiffel, this 45-meter elevator provides a quick way to traverse Lisbon’s steep hills. The observation deck at the top offers stunning views of the city and the Tagus River.

The Santa Justa Elevator can get crowded, especially during peak hours. To avoid long lines, you can access the upper levels via Rua do Carmo and Rua Garret, where stairs lead to the top without using the elevator.

6. Tram 28

Tram 28 is an iconic symbol of Lisbon, known for its historic trams and scenic routes. This tram line winds through some of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods, including Alfama, Baixa, and Bairro Alto. It’s a great way to explore Lisbon’s narrow streets and experience the city’s unique charm. If you’re lucky, you might get a seat by the window to enjoy the views.

7. Praça do Comércio

Praça do Comércio, also known as Terreiro do Paço, is one of Lisbon’s grandest squares, located along the Tagus River. The square is surrounded by elegant arcades and features the Rua Augusta Arch, which you can climb for panoramic views of Lisbon. It’s a perfect spot to relax, enjoy the riverfront, and take in the bustling atmosphere.

8. Casa dos Bicos

A short walk from Praça do Comércio, you’ll find Casa dos Bicos, or the House of Spikes. This unique building, with its facade covered in diamond-shaped stones, is a blend of Renaissance and Manueline architecture. It houses the José Saramago Foundation, dedicated to the works of the Nobel Prize-winning author. Inside, you can explore exhibitions and learn about Saramago’s life and literary contributions.

9. Alfama Neighborhood

Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, known for its narrow streets, traditional houses, and vibrant atmosphere. Strolling through Alfama is like stepping back in time, with Fado music echoing from local taverns and colorful laundry hanging from balconies. The neighborhood has several points of interest, including:

  • Miradouro de Santa Luzia: A picturesque viewpoint offering stunning views of the city and the river.
  • Lisbon Cathedral: The city’s Romanesque cathedral, known as Sé de Lisboa, with a rich history dating back to the 12th century.
  • Miradouro das Portas do Sol: Another popular viewpoint in Alfama, perfect for capturing panoramic photos of Lisbon.

10. Santa Lucía Viewpoint

The Santa Lucía Viewpoint, located in Alfama, is one of the best places to enjoy a panoramic view of Lisbon. From here, you can see the city’s red-tiled roofs, the Tagus River, and the 25 de Abril Bridge in the distance. It’s a popular spot for photographers and couples, especially at sunset when the city is bathed in golden light.

11. Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa)

Lisbon Cathedral, or Sé de Lisboa, is a Romanesque cathedral with a long and storied history. Its sturdy walls and imposing facade have withstood numerous earthquakes and fires. Inside, you can explore the cloister and discover archaeological remains that reveal the site’s past. If you have time, consider taking a guided tour to learn more about the cathedral’s history and architecture.

12. Bairro Alto

End your day in Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s vibrant nightlife district. During the day, this neighborhood is filled with trendy shops and cafes, while at night, it comes alive with Fado music and bustling bars. Visit the Mirador de Santa Catarina for stunning views of Lisbon at night. This neighborhood is also home to the Elevador da Bica, a historic funicular that provides a unique way to explore the area.

Additional Recommendations

  • Traditional Portuguese Cuisine: For a taste of traditional Portuguese cuisine, visit a Fado restaurant in Alfama or Bairro Alto. These venues offer live Fado music and classic Portuguese dishes.
  • Explore the Nightlife: Lisbon’s nightlife scene is vibrant and diverse, with rooftop bars and nightclubs in Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré. If you’re up for a night out, this is the place to be.
  • Visit a Hammam: If you have time, consider visiting a traditional Moroccan hammam in Lisbon for a relaxing experience.

Final Thoughts

Lisbon is a city with a rich history and a unique charm. While visiting in one day may seem challenging, this comprehensive itinerary will help you make the most of your time in the city. From historical landmarks to scenic viewpoints, Lisbon offers a diverse range of experiences that will leave you with lasting memories. Enjoy your visit to Lisbon, and we hope this guide helps you create an unforgettable day in the Portuguese capital.

Leave a Comment