One of the most memorable Lisbon experiences is riding in the bright yellow (often covered in graffiti) 28 tram, so go early since many other visitors will have the same idea. These trams are operational antiques and have been carrying people up and down Lisbon’s hilly streets since the 1930s. Buy a weekend travel pass, catch the tram at Praça da Figueira, and bounce between Lisbon’s coolest neighborhoods. Passing more landmarks in one swoop than any other tram, the 28 passes the Sé Cathedral—Lisbon’s oldest church, established in the mid-1100s—and the Estrela Basilica—a convent constructed on the orders of Portugal’s Queen Mary I in the late 18th century. This is only a 40-minute ride, so there is plenty of time in the morning to scratch other items off your “to-do” list.
The tram’s scenic route means a few points may become recognizable, at least enough to get comfortably lost. Head back towards Praça da Figueira first. Plenty of cafés have outdoor seating, so this is a good place for a breather and caffeine reboot (and drinking coffee outside is truly Portuguese).
Then, visit Lisbon’s multicultural neighborhoods, Martim Moniz and Mouraria, to see a side of the city that strays from the traditional. The green square at Martim Moniz is worth a browse for its occasional open air vendors selling items, from food to jewelry, and live music. Then stroll through Mouraria, where the streets date to medieval times, and take a moment to look at the fado-inspired street art. Fado, a traditional style of music in Portugal, first became popular in Mouraria.
Make your way up to the 12th-century Castelo de São Jorge. Built to protect the city, the castle sits atop Lisbon’s highest hill, so walking can be a bit of a hike, but there is also a bus leaving from Praça da Figueira that goes directly to the castle entrance. The entrance fee is €8.50 ($7.15/£7.35) for adults, €5 ($5.35/£4.35) for children, and family fares are offered as well. From the castle walls, take in the magnificent views over Martim Moniz, Baixa, and the Tagus River (Rio Tejo). After leaving the castle, walk down to Miradouro da Graça or Portas do Sol for a drink.
Castelo de São Jorge, R de Santa Cruz do Castelo, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 880 0620
Miradouro da Graça, Calçada da Graça, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 91 522 5592
Portas do Sol, R São Tomé 84A, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 885 1299
Visit Alfama for shopping or dinner and a show. Lisbon’s oldest and most traditional neighborhood is full of lovely souvenir shops where anyone interested can purchase products made of cork (one of Portugal’s largest exports), azulejo tiles, fabric fish (symbolizing the city’s nautical history), clay dishes, among other items.
The tiny streets that look more like alleyways are lined with restaurants decorated in traditional Portuguese style. Men and women try to entice passersby into their venues at doorways and in the streets for an authentic meal and traditional fado music—a visit to Lisbon isn’t complete without listening to at least one song.
It’s safe to say that Lisbon has more cafés that anything else, so finding the perfect place depends on the environment. Two spots downtown attract a lot of attention due to their decorative styles and histories: Café Nicola and Confeitaria Café. Café Nicola (opened in 1929) and once attracted Lisbon’s scholars for drinks and conversation, and Confeitaria Café (opened in the early 1800s) and was once one of the most beautiful cafés in the city and is still a splendid sight to see. Or follow the locals’ lead and visit the Padaria Portuguesa, a French-style chain with stores practically in every neighborhood, and order a coffee and a moist, coconut-covered Pão de Deus (God’s bread).
Café Nicola, Praça Dom Pedro IV 24–25, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 346 0579
Confeitaria Café, Praça da Figueira 18B, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 342 4470
Hop on the tram or bus from Cais do Sodré and head to Belém to experience a few of Lisbon’s most popular landmarks., Visit the grand Jerónimos Monastery first. The monastery, remarkable inside and out, has played important roles throughout Portugal’s history as the place where explorers (including Vasco da Gama) stayed before voyages, several prominent figures (like author Fernando Pessoa) are buried, and the famous recipe for Pasteis de Belém was developed.
Jerónimos Monastery, Praça do Império, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 362 0034
The famous Pasteis de Belém shop is a short five-minute walk from the monastery. Order a few to go or wait for a seat (which may take a long time). These amazing egg-cream custards topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar are the best pasteis in the city.
Pasteis de Belém, R Belém 84–92, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 363 7423
Take a stroll along the riverbank to see the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), a Manueline (late Gothic style) fort built in the 16th century, and the nearby Padrão dos Descobrimentos sit—both monuments symbolize the Portugal’s role in the Age of Discoveries.
Belém Tower, Av Brasília, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 362 0034
Tone things down a bit after a busy morning, and return to Baixa for a closer look at Lisbon’s trendiest historical neighborhood. Baixa has plenty of shops, cafés, and restaurants to explore, but history buffs will enjoy browsing the Livraria Bertrand (the oldest continuously running bookshop in the world), the Café A Brasileira (a beautiful Art Deco-styled café running since 1905), and the wrought-iron Elevador de Santa Justa (which has been giving people a lift since 1902).
Livraria Bertrand, Praça Império, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 364 5637
Café A Brasileira, R Garrett 120, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 346 9541
Elevador de Santa Justa, R do Ouro, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 413 8679
Are you a wine aficionado? The BA Wine Bar in Bairro Alto has around 200 different types ranging in price and flavor as well as traditional appetizers for pairing. Wind down with a relaxing drink, good food, and more gorgeous views from one of the rooftop restaurants.
BA Wine Bar, R da Rosa 107, Lisbon, Portugal, +351 21 346 1182