24 hours in lisbon

Looking to spend 24 hours in Lisbon but not sure what to do? Lisbon is a colorful Mediterranean city and the capital of Portugal. This travel hot spot attracts visitors with its pastel buildings and funky cable cars.

I’ve spent several days in Lisbon, so I put together a guide to help newcomers plan their day. If you find yourself with only 24 hours in Lisbon, learn how to maximize your time to see most of the popular attractions and eateries.

24 Hours in Lisbon, the City of Seven Hills

24 hours in lisbon cable car

Lisbon, aka Lisboa, is a sunny city located in southern Portugal. The red Mediterranean roofs perfectly complement the endless blue skies. The colorful buildings and delicate tilework leave you mesmerized.

Perched high up in the hills, Lisbon boasts panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. I first visited this city in 2019 and fell in love with the architecture, delicious pastries (more on these delectable treats soon), and fantastic weather.

Lisbon History

During the Middle Ages, Lisbon was under Moorish Islamic rule, and traces of their culture still remain today. Eventually, the Christians recaptured the city, and it grew into the modern metropolis we now love.

Due to its coastal location, Lisbon was a prime trading port that started to flourish in the 1500s. Money from trading and maritime adventures attracted even more wealthy families to the city.

Lisbon expanded and thrived until it was almost destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1755. Sebastião José de Carvalh rebuilt the city with money made from mining in Brazil. This is why the buildings look so new for such an ancient city.

Lisbon Weather 

sunny lisbon day

Lisbon is known for its mild climate and endless sunny skies. It actually boasts some of the best weather in Europe thanks to its location in the Gulf Stream. The summers might be hot and humid, but an ocean breeze keeps the city bearable.

Spring and autumn are the best time to visit, with pleasant temperatures all day long. Winter is also mild and short, so there really is no wrong time to visit this Mediterranean haven.

While the average temperature in Lisbon is almost perfect, walking around the city is a little more challenging. Lisbon was built on 7 hills, like Rome, and each hill represents different neighborhoods and cultures.

Each hill overlooks the city, where you see endless red rooftops and sparkling turquoise ocean. The hills are steep though, and make walking around the city challenging. Luckily, Lisbon has a reliable tram system, and residents use cable cars to more easily get around town.

Getting to Lisbon 

Airport and Public Transportation

Since Lisbon is a metropolitan city, it is easy to fly here from other parts of Europe and the US. TAP Portugal also flies to several cities in Brazil. TAP’s US destinations include New York, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Washington, and Chicago.

I flew TAP Portugal from Madrid to Lisbon and found their check-in and boarding process easy. It was not the most luxurious airline I have traveled on, but we were on time. I think the airline served its purpose.

All mainline US airlines fly to Lisbon, and most European budget airlines, like EasyJet and Ryanair fly here too. Portugal is the most western country in Europe, so you can only (easily) take the train from other parts of Portugal and Spain.

Best Way Into Lisbon From the Airport

Metro Line

Lisbon Metro Lines and Stops

There are several ways to get to the Lisbon city center from the airport. One of the easiest ways is to take the Metro (subway). The red line runs from the airport to a central location in Lisbon; however, you will most likely need to change lines to get to your hotel if you are staying in downtown Lisbon.

Depending on the location, you will most likely need to change to the green or blue line. A one-way ticket costs €1.65, and a 24-hour ticket costs €6.60. I definitely recommend the 24-hour ticket because it also includes trams and buses.

Purchase a ticket with a Viva Viagem Card or with a Lisboa Card. A Viva Viagem card is used for all public transportation in Lisbon, including the metro, ferries, trams, and trains. The Lisboa Card is used to enter some of the most famous attractions and museums in Lisbon.

Study the map above to familiarize yourself with the metro line.

Aerobus

The Aerobus is also a good method of transportation from the airport. Purchase a ticket at a kiosk outside the bus stop or pre-purchase it online. It is not included with the Viva Viagem Card or the Lisboa Card.

Bus tickets cost €4. Walk outside of baggage claim, and you will see signs for the bus stop.

There are 3 different buses, and they stop at different parts of the city. Each bus has free wifi, USB connections, and luggage space.

Aerobus #1 is green and stops at Rossio Square in downtown Lisbon. It departs every 20 minutes from 8 am to 9 pm, and the ride to Rossio is approximately 30 minutes.

Aerobus #2 is red and stops at Rossio and Praça do Comercio. It also departs every 20 minutes from 8:10 am to 9:10 pm, and the ride to Rossio is approximately 30 minutes.

Aerobus #3 is blue and connects to the Sete Rios bus and train station. It departs from the airport once every hour, from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM.

Ubers and Taxis

Ubers are affordable and usually cheaper than taxis; however, I had trouble finding the designated Uber pick-up and drop-off area outside of this airport. It is not directly outside of the baggage area and is a few minutes walk.

The app gives you directions, but it is still quite confusing. Wait to book a ride until you find the pick-up and drop-off area, and ask an airport employee for directions if needed.

Taxis queue directly outside of the baggage and arrivals area. The taxis in Lisbon are metered, so you cannot haggle or ask for a set price. It is one of the most expensive options to get to your hotel but relatively easy to use.

Private Transportation

If you want peace of mind booking with a private transfer, browse several companies and pick one to book. The drivers will wait for you in the arrivals area and help you carry your luggage to your car.

I haven’t used private transportation in Lisbon, but read through reviews to find a company you trust. It is definitely the easiest option to make it downtown.

24 Hours in Lisbon- Boutique Hotel Options

Lisbon is a hub for artists and creatives, and there are several boutique hotel options that capture its spirit and beauty. I’ve listed several below in case you still need to book a hotel for your upcoming trip.

All hotels are centrally located and offer free wifi and air conditioning. They also offer a free airport shuttle, so you don’t have to stress about transportation.

1. Residentas Apostolos

The Residentas Apostolos is essentially a mini Portuguese palace come to life. The pink kitchenettes, french double doors, and romantic vintage mirrors transport you back in time to the Renaissance era. Each room is basically an apartment with a kitchenette, sofa, and patio.

Depending on the type of room booked, you will have a balcony, living room, or cobblestone patio. It is located in the Chiado district, and Bairro Alto is only a 3-minute walk away. Did I mention the rooms are pink?

2. Lisboa Carmo Hotel

The Lisboa Carmo Hotel is a chic boutique hotel located in the heart of Bairro Alto. It is not nearly as spacious as the Residentas Apostolos, but the rooms are recently renovated with little balconies overlooking the neighborhood. The outside anterior of this hotel is turquoise blue and is a quintessential Portuguese building.

3. EPIC SANA Marquês Hotel

The EPIC Hotel does not have the old town charm like the first two hotels, but it’s a stunning 5-star property with panoramic views of downtown Lisbon. Relax on the rooftop heated pool after a long day of sightseeing and enjoy dinner and drinks at their various restaurants and bars.

Browse more boutique hotel options here.

24 Hours in Lisbon Itinerary

colorful Lisbon houses

24 hours in Lisbon is enough time to see the most famous attractions; however, it will be a busy day with a lot of walking. Some of the most popular sites are also located in Belém, which requires a train or tram ride.

Due to the steep hills in the city, you will also need to take a cable car to get to the famous castle and various lookout points. The metro is not convenient in this city, so plan on utilizing other modes of transportation like buses or cable cars.

Also, consider purchasing a Lisboa card in advance. It is a card for tourists that includes free public transportation and entrance to some of the most popular attractions and museums.

Purchase a card for 24, 48, or 72-hour access. It costs $24 for 24-hour access. I will note which items on this itinerary are free with the card or if it provides a discount.

1. Alfama District- Beginning of 24 Hours in Lisbon

Photo by Clifford on Unsplash

Start the day by strolling through one of the most traditional neighborhoods in Lisbon- Alfama. It was home to fishermen and the birthplace of fado. Fado, traditional Portuguese music, started in the 1820s and weaves poetic songs about Portugal and the sea.

Fado is still popular in Alfama and is played at various restaurants and cafes. Walk along the narrow winding alleyways, and you might see advertisements about live fado shows.

The Alfama district in Lisbon is fairly quiet and filled with ancient houses and ornate balconies. It also leads up to the Castelo de S. Jorge and other historical sites in the city.

If you’re hungry for breakfast, I recommend Antù Alfama. It is a cute café located close to the waterfront and open from 9 am to 11 pm. They serve popular and healthy breakfast items, as well as coffee and espresso.

With more time, wander the cobblestone streets, and visit the trendy cafes and stores. A fleamarket, ‘Feira da Ladra’ is held every Tuesday and Saturday.

Weave along the alleyways and head north to one of the most beautiful lookouts in the city, Miradouro de Santa Luzia. I think it’s beautiful because of its intricate tilework and view of the ocean.

After taking a rest, walk five more minutes north to reach the Arco do Castelo, the entrance to one of the most popular attractions in Lisbon- Castelo de São Jorge.

2. Sāo Jorge Castle

Castelo de S. Jorge is famous because of its history and views of Lisbon. It dates back to the 11th century, during the Moorish period. The castle sits atop a hill, overlooking the city.

The purpose of this castle was to house military troops and alert the elite of any potential sieges. Unlike most of the European castles, this one was not built for residence. It has 11 towers, and you can find ruins of old structures around the courtyard.

Purchase tickets online or at the entrance. An adult ticket costs 15 euros but is 20% off with the Lisboa card. Spend about an hour here walking around and taking pictures and then prepare to head out for more sightseeing.

3. Tram 28

The best way to get to downtown Lisbon is by taking one of the famous cable cars. Tram 28 is the most iconic tram in Lisbon and stops near the castle and downtown. Walk back down the hill towards Miradouro das Portas do Sol to find the nearest stop, Lg. Portas Sol. Ride it until you reach the R. Conceiçāo stop.

Take a break from a busy morning and enjoy the ride, weaving through narrow streets and gliding down steep Lisbon hills. Transport back in time, as these vintage cable cars were built in the early 1900s.

They are still the best mode of transportation today and a popular tourist attraction. Listen out for the buzzing along the tram tracks and look for the queue of people to know you’re in the right location. A ride costs 3 euros; however, tram rides are included with the Lisboa card.

Tourists and locals pack into the trams, so don’t be shy about getting close to your neighbor. Trams run consistently throughout the day, but somehow still usually crowded.

4. Praça do Comércio & Rua Augusta Arch

The R. Conceiçāo stop is located close to the waterfront and to one of the most popular squares, Praça do Comércio. The Rua Augusta arch frames the entrance, and the square is surrounded by a bright yellow building.

This building was actually built in the mid-1770s after an earthquake and tsunami hit Lisbon, destroying much of the city. The old Royal Palace was originally built here but was destroyed in the earthquake.

The square was named Praça de Comércio to indicate its new function in the Portuguese economy. For decades this was Lisbon’s main port and crucial for maritime trade.

Bask in the sun and the views of the ocean and check out the statue of King José 1. This was the first statue dedicated to a king and depicts King José riding his horse Gentil.

5. Santa Justa Lift

santa justa lift

Walk north along Rua Augusta Street and check out all the various shops and restaurants. This would be the perfect time to relax and grab lunch. Veer left from R. Augusta to find the most famous elevator in Lisbon, the Santa Justo lift.

It is a gothic-style elevator that connects the Baixo and Barro Alto districts. The lift is seven stories high and overlooks a stunning part of Lisbon.

A student of Gustav Eiffel completed the Santa Justo lift in 1902. (Yes, that Eiffel.) Since Lisbon is so hilly, it was built to easily move residents from the lower streets up to the beautiful elevations of Carmo Square.

Be prepared to wait in line for a rather short ride. It costs $7 for the lift and viewpoint and is included with the Lisboa card.

6. Rossio Square

rossio square lisbon
Photo by Vita Marija Murenaite on Unsplash

The Rossio Square is located northeast of the Santa Justa Lift and is another area of Lisbon filled with shops and markets. King Pedro IV statue sits in the middle of the square, and the wavy Portuguese pavement catches the eye.

It used to be the setting of revolts and celebrations but now is just a gathering place for tourists and locals. The Prača da Figuera is near Rossio Square, and you need to take tram 15 from this station to reach the town of Belém.

7. Pasteis De Belém

pasteis de belem bakery

Belém is approximately 25 minutes from Lisbon by tram. Take the tram ride through town and get off at the Mosteiro Jerónimos stop.

It is time to stop for one of my all-time favorite snacks, pastéis de nata. Pastéis de nata are a Portuguese treat that resemble custard egg tarts. The thick flaky exterior perfectly compliments the creamy yellow custard. If you love custard, you will absolutely love these pastries!

One of the best pastéis de nata bakeries are located in Belém, and it is conveniently named Pastéis De Belém. It is located next to the Mosteiro Jerónimos tram stop, so it is a short walk over.

This bakery is famous, so expect to wait in line. You can order several pastries at once and bag them to go. The interior looks like a typical Portuguese bakery, with blue and white tilework. Sit at any number of tables to enjoy your pastry and indulge your tastebuds with this treat.

8. Belém Tower (Torre de Belém)

magnificent belem tower

The Belém Tower is a small but mighty fortress located on the water and is a 15-minute walk from the bakery. Walk off your treat and enjoy the sunset at this UNESCO World Heritage site. Tickets cost 6 euro (included with the Lisboa Card).

It dates back to the 15th century and was designed by a well-known Portuguese architect. It was built to defend Lisbon from enemy ships and marked the beginning of voyages for sailers.

Belém Tower is usually bustling with tourists, so I included it towards the end of this itinerary. It’s usually not as crowded later in the evening.

Explore this ancient fortress and possibly experience the sunset by the coast here. Walk along the sand to take beautiful pictures in front of the tower.

9. Time Out Market Lisboa

timeout market in lisbon

Once you finish exploring Belém Tower, walk back to the main street and take a tram from Lg. Princesa to Cais Sodré. Right across the street is the Time Out Market, a popular food hall open until midnight.

The Time Out Market is a spacious marketplace, offering several types of cuisine. It’s perfect whether you are alone or in a group because it has communal seating.

I recommend trying the seafood and cod, as seafood is a staple in Portugal. A popular dish to try is bacalhau, a dried, salted cod. Apparently, there are hundreds of ways to prepare it.

10. Bairro Alto- End of 24 Hours in Lisbon

Looking for a nightcap? Stroll through the bohemian neighborhood of Bairro Alto. It’s full of diverse and hip bars, and fado music softly echoes through the streets. There are three bars, in particular, you might enjoy.

First off, wine enthusiasts love The Old Pharmacy Wine Inn. It’s an old pharmacy that’s been converted into a wine bar. The old shelving units display various wines from all over Portugal. The interior is rather cozy, and the lights shift colors throughout the evening.

Second, the Cinco Lounge was created by a master mixologist and is a sleek club known for its off-the-wall drinks. Drink names like “Black Pepper and Basil” and “Hugo A Go-Go” will definitely make for an interesting night.

Finally, if you’re looking for a really unique experience, visit Pavilhão Chinês. This “Chinese Pavilion” looks like a museum, with various collectibles, artifacts, and nick-nacks. Grab a drink, walk around, and see if anything here catches your eye.

If You Have More than 24 Hours in Lisbon

sunny day in lisbon

In this blog, I’ve strategically outlined a detailed itinerary for 24 hours in Lisbon, but if you happen to have more time here, make sure to visit these other fascinating attractions:

  • Jerónimos Monastery: A former monastery located in Belém known for its Manueline architectural style. Visit a UNESCO world heritage site alongside Belém Tower. Free admission with the Lisboa Card.
  • MAAT: Known as the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology. It is also located in Belém and is a unique experience. Receive a 15% discount with the Lisboa card.
  • Pink Street: Also known as Rua Nova do Carvalho. A famous street in Lisbon because of its…pink street. Located in the Cais do Sodre neighborhood and is popular for its nightlife.
  • Lisbon Cathedral: Also known as the Sé. The oldest cathedral in Lisbon, dating back to the 12th century. It is located between Alfama and Prača do Comércial.
  • Fado Museum: Fado is the traditional music of Portugal. Tt is more than just music but a way of life. Cafes in the older neighborhoods in Lisbon still play this music at night. This museum showcases famous paintings and instruments about fado and is located in Alfama. Receive a 20% discount with the Lisboa card.
  • National Tile Museum: A museum showcasing Portugal’s tilework from the 1500s to the present day. I love the tilework in Portugal and find the history fascinating. Free admission with the Lisboa Card.
  • Miradouro Lookout Points: Take the time to venture up Lisbon’s steep hills and look out over the city from a miradouro. They are especially nice at sunset.

Enjoy Your 24 Hours in Lisbon

portuguese tilework

In this guide, I’ve shared everything I know about Lisbon and how to plan a productive travel day. Unlike Amsterdam, 24 hours in Lisbon is not enough time to see every site, but it is enough time to explore the biggest attractions and tour traditional neighborhoods.

If you have more time to spend here, I absolutely recommend visiting Pena Palace and exploring various beaches around Sintra. Sintra is the moody little brother to Lisbon and even home to the Knights of the Templar at one point in time.

Finally, enjoy your 24 hours in Lisbon, and revel in the history of such an ancient city. Lisbon is a great introduction to Portugal, and its old-world charm awaits you.


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