24 hours in Lisbon - a sightseeing guide for day trippers

24 hours in Lisbon - a sightseeing guide for day trippers

Lisbon is a place that captures your heart from the air flying in - looking over the seven hills on which the city is built and the sweeping bridges that feature throughout. The instant feeling is you need to get in it, explore it, live it. But if you're there for business, are just having a stop over before heading somewhere else or you're just there for the weekend it can be bamboozling to fit in a good exploration of this incredible city in a short space of time. 

I'm getting very used to whistle stop tours in cities - I often travel for work . So I'm hoping these 24 hour guides help you to see a city in the time you have. Of course if you are there for longer you can spread it out and see each bit and give it more time. But during my 24 hours in Lisbon I saw a lot, felt a lot and came back super inspired. 

Lisbon overview

Lisbon has had turbulent times but recently this colourful city has become the coolest go to place - it was voted one of the most popular city destinations in 2017. Because of it's structure over the hills, light bounces everywhere and makes the most of the pink, yellow and stone buildings. There's much history here and also lots of parks and green spaces to relax. 

Lisbon mixes creativity with industrial charm perfectly. There is lots to see and do and if you like meat and seafood you'll be in food heaven as its reasonably priced and generally well served.

For those that are staying for a length of time it offers much to entertain you but if you are stopping by on the way to the beautiful coast it can provide you with a condensed amount of inspiration in a short time.

Colourful murals are present in most of the narrow, cobbled streets and the cheerful tiles that we would all love in our kitchens line the streets and depilated houses. 

It's a place to wander and see. 

 The Lisbon streets are littered with beautifully colourful Portugese tiles

Where to stay

First things first, you need a base, whether you're there for one night or a long weekend having somewhere comfortable to go back to matters. While in Lisbon for work I was in a hotel but as I stayed on an extra few days to what is deemed as a fair work expense I sourced an AirBNB for the rest of my weekend. I wasn't overly enamoured by the hotel I was in but a girl on the team was staying in The Vintage Hotel up the road which I went to and thought was lovely. 

Moving from a hotel to an AirBNB though, I got a real sense of moving from tourist to feeling more at home and I LOVED my AirBNB. My host was great and the apartment was in Mouraria - a creative neighbourhood where I really felt I was living more like a local. Mouraria is in easy reach to some great viewpoints, cafes and the main drag. If you stay in this area, get an UBER or cab up, take it from someone who didn't - it is not fun carrying cases up a whole load of steps and narrow, steep cobbled streets! 

 A beautiful AirBNB apartment in the Mouraria district of Lisbon
 A beautiful AirBNB apartment in the Mouraria district of Lisbon

Starting off

So our starting point is making our way up to Miradouro da Graça - this is going to be the most arduous part of your day but see it as working up an appetite for breakfast! You climb stairways of Mouraria that are decorated with graffiti and street art and each climb rewards as the view gets more breathtaking (literally!). 

 The beautiful streets of Mouraria, Lisbon
 Murals and street art in Mouraria, Lisbon

This view point is known to locals as Viewpoint Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen - Sophia was a local poet (died in 2004) who would sit on the terrace and write. The viewpoint provides a vista across the city, right over to the famous bridge that crosses the vast river. 

 The view from Viewpoint Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen also known as Miradoura da Graca, LIsbon

Having spent some time drinking the view and air you'll be ready for breakfast. Head on over the square to Graça 77 - this is a great spot for brunch, it's a veggie restaurant that was once a water reservoir and while I just had a spot of toast with homemade jams, there is a great brunch menu with lots of eggs and other delights. The decor at Graça 77 is traditional and welcoming, as are the staff. 

 A brilliant vegetarian restaurant in Mouraria, Lisbon by Viewpoint Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Alfama

Having been nourished and caffeine-d you'll be ready to tackle the madness that are the winding streets of Alfama. Head down Tv. São Vicente and you'll know you've got to Alfama when you hit some tram tracks that head downhill. You can't really go wrong following them through this old fishing district taking in the maze of cobbled streets and ancient houses. 

 The streets of the famous Alfama district, Lisbon

Alfama has a big history - originally it was outside the city walls and was associated with poverty and squalor. This reputation stuck fast while Lisbon grew as a port city and fishermen and dock workers moved in. In recent years, Alfama has evolved into a fashionable and arts district but it retains it's history and charm. 

 Trams in the streets of Alfama, Lisbon

There should be no plan in Alfama, just get lost, spend some time in a few of the many gift shops and have a coffee at The Copenhagen Coffee Lab

 The Copenhagen Coffee Lab, a great coffee place in the Alfama district of Lisbon

You'll soon come to the Se Cathedral where you see people ducking in and out of the little doors silently - inside I found prayers going on among the amazing architecture. Around this area things get kinda busy - tourists are rife as are street sellers with time refined tricks to sell you bracelets and other souvenirs! Around this area are some beautiful viewpoints. 

 Views from the Alfama district of Lisbon

Central Lisbon

If you've just carried on downhill following the tram tracks you'll soon find yourself in Lisbon's main drag and we're heading to Comur 1942 which is a shop showcasing an array of tinned fish which is an important part of Portugal's food heritage. It was an industry that was dying but was resurrected with a clever use of branding and design. There are tastings and I challenge you to come out without at least a few tins! 

 A tinned fish shop in Lisbon

Head on over to Comércio Plaza, stopping for a cheeky port from the kiosk if you fancy it, and take in the sights before heading to the river. You can take some time to walk along here until you reach Gelataria Fiora (where I stopped for a delicious salted caramel and look over the river!). Make your way to the front of Cais do Sodré - the train station on Av 24 de Julho (which is beautiful in its own right) where you're going to pick up a tram to LX Factory

 A kiosk selling ruby and tawny port in Comercio plaza, Lisbon Portugal
 Comercio Plaza, Lisbon

LX Factory

Most of the trams that go towards the bridge will take you there - LX Factory sits directly under the bridge so following your nose will get you there but follow the map here if you have any troubles. 

 The LX Factory is a cultural centre under the Ponte 25 bridge, Lisbon offering creative arts, restaurants, cafes and boutique shopping

LX Factory was originally a strip of industrial fabric factories that opened in 1846 and was considered a major part in Lisbon's industrialisation. But everything has its heyday and the area stood abandoned for many years until some creative folk with a vision reinvented it in 2008 and created an amazing space packed full of artists, shops, cafés, restaurants, bars, workshops and galleries.

I highly recommend some lunch (you must be pretty hungry by now!) at Cantina before heading out to explore everything LX Factory has to offer. Try also taking the elevator up to the bar with views across the bridge and old industrial area while supping a drink. 

 Drinks with a view at the LX Factory, Lisbon
 The LX Factory is a cultural centre under the Ponte 25 bridge, Lisbon offering creative arts, restaurants, cafes and boutique shopping
 The LX Factory is a cultural centre under the Ponte 25 bridge, Lisbon offering creative arts, restaurants, cafes and boutique shopping

The bookshop is well worth a visit and there's also a great wine shop. There's an array of interiors shops where you're bound to come away with a few gifts. Try also the vintage clothes shops, a breath of fresh air if you're used to the vintage shops we have in the UK. 

 The LX Factory is a cultural centre under the Ponte 25 bridge, Lisbon offering creative arts, restaurants, cafes and boutique shopping

Afternoon ambles

After taking in LX Factory, you're going to retrace your tram ride back to the main drag where you can hop off and head up to the main shopping area of Lisbon around the Rue da Praia area. Make your way through this shopping district and on up to the Elevator de Santa Justa. 

 Lisbon is a colourful city that bounces light - leaving it illuminating whatever the weather
 The Elevator de Santa Justa, Lisbon

The Elevator de Santa Justa

Whilst one of Lisbon's most obvious sightseeing attractions, it does provide amazing views and worth a visit. Pay 1.50€ to simply go on the viewing platform but if you bought a day trip ticket for the tram this will cover your ride in the elevator and access to the platform. From the platform you'll see the streets below and right across the city for a different view to the one you had earlier in Mouraria. 

The elevator is a 19th century lift (construction began in 1900) that originally served a purpose to transport people up the steep hill from Baixa (shopping district) to Largo de Carmo. You'll also find the beautiful ruins of the Carmo church. Personally I preferred to walk up (not being a huge fan of lifts), taking in the vintage shops and walking round the ruins. 

  The view from The Elevator de Santa Justa, Lisbon

The nearby TOPO bar is a nice place to sit and have a drink and rest but be warned, don't be tempted to order food - we had a shocking meal here. My nearby recommendation for dinner would be Pinóqio - recommended by a local it was a delight - fresh seafood served well with the most delicious buttered bread to whet your appetite. 

 Pinoqio in Lisbon offers fresh seafood with large portions and is the main drag of town while retaining it's traditional values.

Bairro Alto

In close vicinity to where you find yourself is Bairro Alto - the bohemian district of Lisbon that provides lots of amazing terrace cafes, restaurants, views and shopping. It's a perfect spot to spend an early evening in Lisbon for dinner and views. You can check out water museums, trendy interior shops and really soak up the atmosphere. Highlights are the Miradoura de Santa Catarina and the Carmo Convent . There's also the National Museum of Contemporary Art if you're not already spent. I found myself in Bairro Alto around 8pm and after dinner I was ready for a night cap and some well deserved rest. 

 The Bairro Alto district of Lisbon provides cool shopping and beautiful views
 The Bairro Alto district of Lisbon provides cool shopping and beautiful views
 A water museum in Bairro Alto, Lisbon

The Red Frog

A short walk from wherever you are in Bairro Alto is the speakeasy bar The Red Frog. Push the button and the bartenders will let you in for some of the best cocktails I've had. Lookout for the secret room as it gets busier. It couldn't be a more fitting end to a day exploring Lisbon. 

 The Red Frog is an excellent speakeasy cocktail bar in Lisbon, Portugal

So there it is, a whistle stop tour packing a lot in. Let me know if you're in Lisbon and using some or all of this guide with #retreattravels or tagging me in @retreatblog

Do you have any must do Lisbon tips? The comment box is below...

Formally Emma Gutteridge