A perfect day in… Lisbon, Portugal
This colorful riverside city offers an enticing mix of winding lanes, historic buildings and bustling squares, with a vibrant food scene and buzzing nightlife that will happily fill a day’s wandering.
What to see in Lisbon
For a deep-dive into the Portuguese capital’s atmospheric core, head to the Alfama, a maze of medieval cobbled streets winding their way up to the butterscotch turrets of Castelo de São Jorge. This Moorish castle, dating from the 8th century, has a series of walkways, viewpoints and hidden gardens. Nearby is the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, showcasing the beautiful, hand-painted blue tiles that Lisbon is famous for.
Over in the district of Belém, you can’t miss the 16th-century Belém Tower, built to protect the mouth of the Tagus river. The Jerónimos Monastery, close by, dates back to the 16th century, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to an ornate church, picturesque cloisters and the tomb of explorer Vasco de Gama. For a cultural fix, the nearby Berardo Collection hosts contemporary art exhibitions, or head over to Museu Gulbenkian, a private collection of international fine art.
Lisbon’s Oceanário, regularly voted the world’s best aquarium, is home to over 8,000 marine species, with living reefs and displays including rays, sharks and sea otters.
What to do in Lisbon
Ride one of Lisbon’s characterful, yellow-hued trams. Number 28 is the most popular, winding its way through the Alfama district to the cathedral. Time your visit with sunset and hop off at Miradouro da Graça, a terrace with gorgeous city views, where you can buy a drink at one of the kiosks and take in the sunset from a table set under pine trees.
The narrow streets and pretty squares of the Bairro Alto is the place to head in the evening, home to bars, restaurants and traditional fado houses, showcasing Lisbon’s melancholic live music. During the daytime, take a stroll around the lushly verdant Botanical Garden, dating back to 1768 and planted with over 5,000 species of plants.
For the best upmarket shops in Lisbon, drop by the Chiado district. Foodies, meanwhile, should make a beeline for the bustling Mercado da Ribeira, in the riverfront Cais do Sodré district, selling fresh, local produce and snacks. The warehouses in this area have been taken over by trendy restaurants and bars, and well worth a stroll.
What to eat in Lisbon
From Michelin-starred fine dining to a simple plate of freshly-grilled sardines, Lisbon’s reputation as a world food capital is well deserved. The city is known for its traditional tascas — family-run restaurants serving homely dishes such as açorda (bread and shellfish stew) and bacalhau (salt cod), the national dish.
Locals love their coffee, so don’t miss the strong, small cups known as bica, best enjoyed with the city’s most famous pastry, a pastel de nata. For a delicious introduction to these flaky, cinnamon-dusted custard tarts, go to Pasteis De Belém, a blue-tiled café a few steps from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which has been using the same secret recipe since 1837.
For more information, go to visitlisboa.com.