One of the best things to do in Lisbon is eat, so why wait? If you arrive in the city during the early morning hours, beeline to one of the many cafés in the historical center for a signature (and simple) Portuguese breakfast of toast, butter, cheese, and jam with a coffee and view of centuries-old architecture. Many cafés offer terrace seating to enjoy Lisbon’s wonderful, sunny weather.
Since 24 hours isn’t enough time to explore the sights on foot, hop on/hop off city tour buses provide an abridged visit—in addition to cruising by most of the major landmarks through Lisbon and Belém, a bus allows a convenient alternative to hiking up and down the city’s unavoidable hills.
Yellow Bus, Lisbon’s official sightseeing company, provides a Yellow Boat tour (a cruise across the Tagus River), a Castle Tramcar tour, as well as all-in-one tickets for longer visits. For tourists cramming everything into one day, the best option may be the Tagus Tour, which cruises past 20 landmarks—from the historic downtown Lisbon to Belém—within 1 hour and 40 minutes for €16(£14/$17).
Stretch out your legs and head first to Chiado, where the streets are lined with cafés, stores, and restaurants. This is a nice time to buy a souvenir or grab a light lunch. Then head uphill to Bairro Alto (“Upper District”) one of Lisbon’s must-see neighborhoods, especially for anyone into the art scene and bohemian vibe. Find more terraced seating for a snack, or sit and enjoy the view of the Castelo de São Jorge (Castleof St. George) from the garden terrace at the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.
The façade of the Church of São Roque does nothing to prepare visitors for what they will find inside. Although it was built in the 16th century and survived the 1755 earthquake, the interior décor was constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Baroque and Mannerism influences are seen in the captivating ceilings, walls, and altar as well as in the carving work, upholstery, paintings, and side chapels.
Church of São Roque, Largo Trindade Coelho, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 346 0361
The witching hour begins after dinnertime, so pass the time while enjoying a fantastic dinner at one of Bairro Alto’s quaint and traditional restaurants. It’s quite the experience to witness the quiet daytime streets become an outdoor party, and it’s common for the many bars‘ patrons to stream (and eventually flood) outside to socialize.
While Bairro Alto is brimming with young and vibrant energy, Alfama—Lisbon’s oldest, charming neighborhood—is where time appears to stand still. If tradition, soul food, and soul music is more your style, opt for dinner and drinks in Alfama instead. Besides, listening to fado is a rite of passage while visiting Lisbon, and very few (if any) locations offer as many opportunities for a night of fado than Alfama.