It’s one of the oldest cities in Europe and predates London, Rome and Paris.
Let me share a brief insight into one of my favourite cities. It’s much less known than its more glitzy and expensive peers.
Lisbon, hugging both the Atlantic Ocean and River Tagus, boasts a Mediterranean climate and is home to a wealth of maritime history.
Unlike its close neighbour, Madrid, you don’t need days to explore it.
Side Note: Madrid is easily my favourite European city.
With a winning combination of culture, history and cuisine, Lisbon has much to offer for a short European city break.
So what can you tick-off if you only have twenty-four hours?
If you’re a first-timer to Lisbon, here are three suggestions for an ideal day out in Lisbon.
A Morning of History In Belém
Roll back six hundred years and uncover Lisbon’s nautical past in the delightful Belém neighbourhood.
Start your day like a local with a coffee and a box of Pastel de Nata, crispy pastries filled with creamy custard and coated with cinnamon.
Belém is a laid-back district on the banks of the Tagus River. Strolling around historical landmarks, celebrating Portugal’s maritime history, is a great way to spend a morning.
Competing with lush green parkland, Belem boasts the sail-shaped Monument to the Discoveries, 16th century Belém Tower, and the gothic Jerónimos Monastery:
> Completed in 1520 after six years’ construction, Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), a UNESCO World Heritage site, was originally built to defend the city’s inhabitants. If you have the stamina to navigate up five floors to the rooftop, you’ll rewarded with majestic views. Entry is €10.
> A brief walk from Belém Tower, lies the limestone-clad Jéronimos Monastery (entry €10), another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tranquil masterpiece occupies the site of an old church that Vasco da Gama slept in. He must have slept well. The the following day he set sail and later became the first European to discover a sea route to India.
> Offering great views of Jéronimos Monastery and Belém Tower, the stunning Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) commemorates Portugal’s rich nautical history. Entry is €10.
> Belém Palace, Portugal’s’ President’s official residence, is only open to the public on Saturdays. There’s a museum (entry is €2.50) within the Palace’s grounds which is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00, except on Mondays.
> Admission to Belem Palace Museum is free on Sundays and Public Holidays until 13:00.
AFTERNOON NOSTALGIA ABOARD TRAM 28
Tick off more Lisbon’s attractions aboard Tram 28.
Departing from Martim Moniz, the iconic Tram 28, screeches and snakes its way through Lisbon’s narrow streets and popular tourist districts.
It looks like it belongs in the local museum. Tram 28, a vintage streetcar decked out in wood and painted yellow, is a nostalgic throwback to another era.
It reminds me of the trips I used to take aboard the old wooden train connecting central Palma and Sóller, a mountain-town in Majorca, Spain.
Negotiating its way through Graça, Alfama, Baixa, and Chiado’s winding streets, Tram 28 offers a charming way to see many of Lisbon’s landmarks.
Sit back and admire Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George’s Castle), perched high upon Lisbon’s highest hill. Later a brief stop outside the Basílica da Estrela presents an opportunity to photograph its elaborate Baroque façade and domed roof.
Other sights that can be seen along the route include the Sé Cathedral, Saint Anthony Church, and Portugal’s Parliament Buildings.
> Plan your journey. Unless you depart from Martim Moniz or Campo Ourique, it’ll be standing room only between 10:00 AND 18:00.
> Buy a 24-hour public transport ticket from any metro station. It covers the tram, metro and bus services.
> Watch out for pickpockets who target Tram 28’s busy route. Unfortunately for Lisbon’s reputation, most pickpockets are alleged Eastern European gangs.
DINNER WITH A SUNSET
After a hectic day’s sightseeing, the PARK’s rooftop bar is the perfect place to unwind.
Sip a classic cocktail, or two, as you capture a breathtaking sunset and stunning 180°views of the city and the Tagus River.
Revelling in its novelty of being on the sixth floor of a car park, it remains a trendy rooftop bar and nightspot. Its designers have cleverly introduced landscaping and wooden patio furniture to create a natural and comfortable garden-like ambience suspended high above the city.
Location: Calçada do Combro, 58, Bairro Alto, Lisbon
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 13:00 to 02:00 and Sunday 13:00 to 20:00.
WHEN TO VISIT
Lisbon enjoys long hot summers (June to August), pleasant warm springs and autumns, and mild winters (November to February).
My favourite time is late spring or early autumn. The weather is still warm, accommodation is cheaper and it’s less crowded.
Lisbon is a an enchanting, vibrant and truly captivating city. If you choose to stay longer than twenty-fours, I wouldn’t blame you!