Lisbon in 24 Hours: A Whistlestop Tour of Portugal’s Capital

It might seem impossible to cover Lisbon in just 24 hours. But with a bit of planning, you can do it: we’ll show you how!

It’s no secret that we at Devour love Lisbon. You could happily spend weeks exploring its back-alleys and rich culture. But we know that that’s not always possible. Whether you’re making a cruise pitstop or traveling Europe, here’s our guide on how to fall in love with Lisbon in 24 hours.

If you're only in Lisbon for 24 hours, you need to make the most of your time. Here's what you can't miss.

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Text Overlay: Devour Lisbon Food Tours

9 am–2 pm: Take a Ride into History

Forget the open-top sightseeing buses. Lisbon’s narrow streets mean that the best way to see the old city is by tram. Whilst for years many in-the-know explorers took the city’s Tram 28, in the past few years the line has become somewhat overwhelmed by tourists. As a result, it’s become something of an object for pickpockets, with the crowds making life difficult for Lisbon locals. For a calmer experience, try a hop-on, hop-off tram tour. You’ll cover many of the same sights, whilst contributing to a more sustainable form of tourism.

After winding past the sights of the city centre, you’ll arrive in the historic Alfama district. This is the heart of Lisbon’s old city. Look out for the Sé Cathedral, before getting off at Portas do Sol. Being one of the city’s best viewpoints, make sure to grab a coffee at the kiosko whilst looking out over Alfama and the Tejo.

A ride on the 28 tram can help you explore Lisbon in 24 hours.
The remodelado 28 trams are an iconic sight of Lisbon.

Once you’ve caught your breath, it’s walking time. A ten-minute uphill climb takes you to Castelo de São Jorge. The birthplace of the city, it’s one of the few relics of Moorish Lisbon. Take in the fantastic views before wandering through the surrounding Castelo neighborhood and down to Martim Moniz square.

You’ll probably have worked up an appetite with all this walking. Grab a traditional lunch at Bonjardim for the best peri-peri chicken in town or O Solar dos Presuntos, for great seafood.

2 pm–8 pm: It’s Culture Time

On a short visit, there’s no time to waste. Now’s the time to take a stroll through the Baixa. Built after the 1755 earthquake that destroyed much of the city, it was one of the first logically-planned city districts anywhere in the world.

At its heart is the Praça do Comércio. A huge open square, this is where the city meets the Tajo estuary. Cross it and head to Cais do Sodré railway station to catch the train to Belém. West of the city center, this area is home to many of Lisbon’s landmarks, both ancient and modern. Whilst on the train, look out for the 25 de Abril Bridge, one of the icons of the city.

The Praça do Comércio is a great base to explore Lisbon in 24 hours.
The Praça do Comércio is the heart of the Baixa district. Photo Credit: Bert Kaufmann

Once you get to Belém, you’re spoiled for riches. In fact, there’s so much to do here that you’ll probably have to choose just a couple. The Belém Tower is a former military outpost that was famously the last sight of explorers heading out to the new world. Consequently, many of the sights in this part of town are connected to Portugal’s seafaring past. The Monument to the Discoveries is a striking concrete monument to the country’s explorers. Most magnificent of all is the Jerónimos Monastery. Again, there’s an imperial connection: its construction was funded with the tax income from Portugal’s colonial trade.

Nearby you’ll find not one but two fantastic art museums. The Berardo Collection Museum is an excellent private collection of modern and contemporary art. The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology is the new kid on the block. This exhibition space opened in 2016 and has quickly become one of the architectural marvels of the city.

The MAAT's stunning architecture makes it a highlight of Lisbon in 24 hours
The MAAT is a modern icon of Lisbon architecture. Photo credit: Susanne Nilsson

Finally, you can’t leave Belém without trying one of its famous namesake pastéis de Belém. This is the ultimate Lisbon sweet treat, with caramelized custard inside a flaky pastry crust.  Originally made by monks in the monastery, these days they’re sold from a cafeteria just next door.

Insider tip: Queues for tables at Pastéis de Belém can be intense. With no time to waste, you might want to pick some up to go and eat on the beautiful square outside the monastery.

8 pm–Late: Dive into the Bairro Alto

By this point, you’ll have covered a lot of ground, but you’re just getting started. That’s because Lisbon comes to life at night, and no visit would be complete without sampling the legendary Lisbon nightlife.

Start in traditional fashion with the traditional mournful Portuguese fado music. A Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto draws a buzzing mix of locals and tourists and serves local cured meats alongside the performances. Then, handily, you’re just around the corner from one of the city’s main nightlife districts: Bairro Alto. Be careful, though: in Lisbon, a quick post-fado drink can turn into a long night before you know it!

Read More: If that “one last drink” turns into a night out, you’ll need our Ultimate Guide to Bairro Alto.

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