Lisbon’s rich cultural heritage is cradled within a picturesque collection of cobbled lanes, colourful facades and medieval castles. An endless adventure for the senses, the Iberian nation has been shaped by a variety of influences and is now one of Europe’s best-loved destinations. Impressive architecture and well-preserved relics reflect the city’s history as a great maritime power during the ‘Age of Discovery’, while the country’s stunning topography has been crafted over the years by natural forces, including the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. This multi-faceted identity is woven through the Portuguese capital; it’s certainly a challenge to condense it all into one day, but if you only have 24 hours in Lisbon then read on to find out how we recommend spending them…
Lisbon’s café scene is one of the best in Europe, so what better way to start your day than with coffee and pastries at Café Janis or Fábrica Coffee Roasters? If you’re after a heartier breakfast to fuel your morning, The Mill in Chiado is a popular Australian-Portuguese spot, serving perfectly cooked eggs atop toasted sourdough bread. Lisbon’s extensive transport system is easy to navigate, and its traditional trams are a delightful way to traverse the timeless thoroughfares. Take Tram 28 towards your first sight-seeing stop, Castelo de São Jorge, an emblematic landmark with fortifications dating back to the first century BC.
The steep streets have earned Lisbon the moniker of ‘The City of Seven Hills’ and Alfama – one of the oldest districts – is the place to go for postcard-perfect vistas of the pastel-hued houses and winding walkways. Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Miradouro do Chão do Loureiro are two of the city’s best viewpoints. Nearby Chiado is one of Lisbon’s most iconic neighbourhoods and a hub of shopping and theatre. Here you’ll find Livraria Bertrand, the world’s oldest bookstore which is still in operation. Founded in 1732, the iconic institution is a must-visit for literary lovers and wordsmiths.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Time Out Market promises to sate every possible craving. Inside the historic Mercado da Ribeira (dating back to the 1890s), you’ll find a lively atmosphere and an array of local and international food stalls. Some of Portugal’s top chefs run stalls here so you can’t go wrong with any of the offerings. Sample salted bacalhau à Brás from Miguel Castro e Silva and be prepared to queue at Croqueteria for Portuguese croquettes which are worth the wait. The crispy outer casings house various melt-in-your-mouth fillings, from the croquete tradicional de carne (beef and pork), to the more creative choco com tinta (cuttlefish with ink). For something sweet, try L’Éclair’s stunning selection of artisanal eclairs; although not a traditional Portuguese creation, the intricately decorated choux pastries are tiny works of art.
Hop aboard Tram 15 towards Torre de Belém, a 16th-century fortification which once served as the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, a guided tour of the striking monument will teach you about the city’s fascinating history as the point of embarkation for historic explorers during the Age of Discovery. Your 24 hours in Lisbon wouldn’t be complete without sampling some traditional Portuguese pastéis de nata. Indulge in these pillowy, creamy custard tarts at the famous patisserie Casa Pastéis de Belém, which sells over 35,000 per day and is said to own the original recipe.
As the sun sinks beneath the horizon, the bohemian neighbourhood of Bairro Alto comes alive with authentic Fado music (a form of Portuguese singing, which takes pride of place on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list). Sample a fusion of Lisboan and Peruvian cuisine at A Cevicheria or tuck into both modern and authentic Portuguese fare at 100 Maneiras and Zé Verunca. For a post-dinner nightcap, try Lost in Esplanada, which boasts panoramic city views, or By the Wine, where the vinho verde (young wine) is certain to impress every oenophile (wine-lover).
If you have 48 hours…
24 hours in Lisbon isn’t enough to cover everything that this wonderful city has to offer, so if you’re able to extend your excursion for an extra day, we recommend taking a day trip to the charming coastal fishing town of Cascais (a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon). Stroll along the sun-dappled seafront and mooch around the pedestrianised old town, peppered with trendy boutiques and al fresco restaurants.