Where to go and what to see in Lisbon in a day? Find the best places to visit in Lisbon in one day, with the best views and viewpoints (miradouros) in Lisbon and comprehensive description of magical Alfama district.
Is it worth driving long hours and many kilometers through the whole of Portugal to visit Lisbon? Oh, hell yeah.
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Lisbon – the capital city of Portugal, amazed me from the first sight. Narrow cobbled streets, orange roofs, tiled houses and winding steps leading to the hills overlooking the city. A city of light is located on the elevation and opened to the estuary of the river Tejo reflecting the sunshine. Buildings are painted white or yellow, with joyful orange roofs and big windows. Pleasant weather and winds clearing up the sky from the clouds make a nice change from a bit gloomy and gray cities of Scotland.
It’s a city, that has a lot to offer, visiting Lisbon in a day might be a challenge. Therefore, it’s important to plan your visit well. Make sure you don’t miss any of the places, that you would like to see – this guide can help you to plan the best holidays, and below you will find some other useful suggestions.
Remember to take plenty of breaks to enjoy delicious Portuguese food with the scenic Lisbon views, feel the real rhythm of the city and let yourself drift through the streets of the Portuguese capital.
Let’s discover what places to visit in Lisbon in one day (and more, if you have time).
Table of content:
1. How to get to Lisbon
2. Where to stay in Lisbon?
3. Places to visit – Lisbon in a day
4. Food in Lisbon
5. Alfama district – the place to be
5.1. Fado in Alfama
5.2. Alfama’s cherries & alcohol
5.4. How to visit Alfama?
6. Miradouros – catching the best views in Lisbon
6.1. Miradouro das Portas do Sol
6.2. Miradouro de Santa Luzia
6.3. Miradouro da Graça
7. Baixa – the heart of the city
8. Bairro Alto – fancy a drink?
How to get to Lisbon?
Lisbon is accessible from any direction by literally any means of transport. You can come by train, bus, plane or rent a car.
Many European destinations are easily connected by air with Lisbon. Find the latest flight deals to Portugal
If you come from another Portuguese city and plan to see a lot on the way, it’s worth to rent a car, which can be done quite cheaply. That’s how we visited south Portugal in 4 days and thanks to that we managed to see a lot. I often use Rentalcars to compare the prices and find the cheapest.
You can easily get to Lisbon by train and travel across Portugal.
- For non-European citizens: for trips inside the country get an Eurail Portugal Pass, allowing you to rail travel in Portugal during a specific amount of time – check prices here.
You can also combine Portugal with other European countries and by selecting Eurail Select Pass or Eurail Global Pass.
- For European citizens: for trips inside one country get Interrail One Country Pass – check prices here. For more countries get Interrail Global Pass.
Where to stay in Lisbon?
As with any big city, you will find several options for accommodation in Lisbon. The ones in the city center tend to be pricey, so if you don’t mind commuting (there are trams, buses, and metro, so it’s easy), then staying a bit further away can save you a few euros. There are plenty of traditional Portuguese hotels, for different budgets. Here are some suggestions:
The Independente Hostel & Suites – great central location, close to great viewing point Miradouro De São Pedro De Alcântara – check the latest prices and availability.
New Lisbon Concept Hostel – with cool design and located within walking distance to the city center, Praça do Comércio and Bairro Alto – check the latest prices and availability.
- Mid Range:
Alfama by Lisbon Inside Out – very nice and clean, located in the heart of the most picturesque historic Alfama district of Lisbon – check the latest prices and availability.
Dream Chiado Apartments – located bang in the city center, fully equipped with boutique style design – check the latest prices and availability.
- Mid Range plus:
Casas da Baixa Lighthouse Apartments – beautiful apartments in Baixa, located directly in the city center, great for old town walks and strolling by the Tagus river – check the latest prices and availability.
Do you like colorful towns? Check this Portugal hidden gem – Porto Covo
Places to visit – Lisbon in a day
Lisbon is a big city with many tourist attractions. We arrived there in the evening and had only time until the next midday, so we needed to choose what to focus on. We walked through Alfama, Baixa and Graça districts, but the first one intrigued me so much, that I wanted to come back there the next day. That’s why we mostly spent our time in the Portuguese capital, leisurely strolling the sunny streets of Alfama and exploring its every corner. It was a very good decision.
Food in Lisbon
I’ve already told you how much I loved Portuguese food. Trying some of the typical cuisines in Lisbon is a must. Lisbon is a great place to taste some of the best traditional Portuguese dishes such as famous pastel de nata (egg tart), delicious polvo à lagareiro (grilled octopus in olive oil), or fluffy Molotov (egg whites flan).
For a bit different food experience, try the traditional Portuguese cooking class. You can learn about the history of Portuguese cuisine, cook your own 3-course dinner from local ingredients with an experienced chef, and then eat that all, washing it down with delicious Portuguese wine. Yummy!
Read more: The best beaches and fun things to do in Algarve in Portugal
Alfama district – the place to be
Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, that wasn’t destroyed during the earthquake which hit the city in 1755. It’s a picturesque labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets with small squares and terraces where you can drink coffee, eat pastel de nata and look at the city rooftops below. It covers the area from the river estuary, climbing up to the São Jorge Castle. Colorful houses are glued to the sides of the streets, pretty flowers dance in the pots with every wind blow, laundry is freely hanging on the strings and artists are showing their work in the ateliers.
#Fado in Alfama
In the evenings, the district is full of Fado. This traditional Portuguese music dating back to 1820, filled with melancholic and longing tunes and poetic lyrics, can be heard in every corner.
It is usually played in restaurants, where people can eat and enjoy wine or port while listening to live performers. In more popular places you need to pay for it or book it in advance, however, you will find many others that will be inviting you to join them from the street. That’s what we did and it was very good – both the food and the music! I even got a flower as a bonus, hah.
#Alfama’s cherries & alcohol – what is Ginjinha?
Ginjinha (or Ginja), a famous Portuguese cherry liqueur, is a typical drink in Lisbon. It’s made from ginja berries (sour cherries) soaked in alcohol with the addition of sugar and some other ingredients. It’s typically served in shots, that cost from €1-2,5, depending on where.
Have a break in the sightseeing and refresh yourself with a sip of that sweet beverage bought from the hole-in-the-wall bar, that you can find many in Alfama district.
The most famous tram in Lisbon – a classic yellow model originating from 1930, containing only one carriage is full of traditional charm, with original levers and polished wooden benches. The tram can climb steep hills and make sharp turns on the tracks. It travels through the longest route in Lisbon, covering Baixa, Graça and Alfama districts, finishing in Estrela and Campo de Ourique, stopping by many touristic attractions.
However – the ride on the tram used to be much better. Now, the carriage is packed with people and you need to wait in a long queue to get in. We didn’t have time for that, so we chose to use the power of our own legs and to admire from the outside the yellow boxes passing by.
#How to visit Alfama district in one day?
This maze of cobbled streets is the best to be seen on foot. You can follow the walking route from Baixa to Miradouro de Santa Luzia or start from the Santa Apolonia metro station and climb uphill the castle.
If you want to know the local stories behind the historic buildings, an interesting short Alfama walking tour with the knowledgeable local guide would be a great idea for you. When I travel, I usually try to find a local person to show me around – I think, that you can get to know the city much better with the insights into the city’s life.
Then, you can just get lost in the colorful labyrinth, feel the pulse of Lisbon and explore its hidden treasures.
Miradouros – catching the best views in Lisbon
If you, like me, love watching the cities from above, you will enjoy the stunning viewpoints that offer the best views in Lisbon. Many of the miradouros – terraces located on the top of the hills, are in Alfama district and are really worth a climb.
Take time to relax and contemplate Lisbon’s beauty and scenic views on some of the best ones.
Miradouros, that I can recommend are:
#1 Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Big terrace overlooking the river, with the views to Alfama rooftops and many of the Lisbon’s churches.
#2 Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Providing scenic views to Lisbon’s Alfama district, Tajo river estuary and the National Pantheon, all framed in the pretty picture by the grapevine surrounded pillars.
#3 Miradouro da Graça
Its official name is Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen – it’s a romantic pine shaded terrace with the 18th century church Igreja da Graça located directly behind it and providing great views to the castle.
You can find plenty more here and each one of them offers something different!
Baixa – the heart of the city
Baixa is a Lisbon’s downtown, with big plazas, wide streets, and shopping avenues. It’s full of restaurants and hotels, vibrant and lively. If you still have some time left in Lisbon, check some of the things to do in Baixa below.
- The Praça do Comércio – it’s a big square in Baixa district in Lisbon, situated just next to the Tajo river. It’s also known as Terreiro do Paço, as it used to be the location of the Royal Palace – Paços da Ribeira before the big earthquake destroyed it in 1755. On the square, you can see the statue of King José I on a horse, who was the Portuguese ruler at the time of the Lisbon reconstruction. In the back of the square, you will find the impressive arch – Arco da Rua Augusta, marking the entrance to the Rua Augusta street.
- The Santa Justa Lift (also called Carmo Lift or Elevador de Santa Justa ) – is located in the historical part of Lisbon – Santa Justa and connects lower streets of Baixa district with the higher Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). It’s the only vertical lift in the city, offering great panoramic views from the top floor and it’s very popular with tourists.
Open everyday from 7:00 – 23:00, might get very busy in the summer months. Single ticket costs
€2.80 and can be bought in the ticket office at the bottom of the lift. However, since the elevator is a part of the public transport network in Lisbon, the metro/bus passes are also valid there (which makes it cheaper) – you can combine a ride on the Santa Justa Lift with an extended tram trip. We didn’t have a chance to try it, so let me know if you did.
Bairro Alto – fancy a drink?
After dinner (with Fado), you can head to the district with the best nightlife in Lisbon– Bairro Alto, for a drink (or two).
Even when we were there on Monday evening, it was full of people with young crowd covering narrow streets and sipping beer. You can find different types of bars and restaurants in Bairro Alto. From sophisticated places serving top class cocktails, through jazz and blues pubs to Wine Inn or holiday Bali Bar with hammocks and palm trees.
Most of them have cheap (and strong) drinks offers, and in some, you can even get a shot for a bra exchange (as you can see below – many did ;)).
If you are not familiar with the area or traveling alone and you want to meet some people, while getting to know the Lisbon nightlife from the best side – the Lisbon Pub Crawl is a great place to start.
On the way we also passed another Lisbon’s lift – the Glória Funicular (Elevador da Glória), which connects the Pombaline downtown with the Bairro Alto. At night, it wasn’t working anymore, but it must be funny to use one carriage just to go up and down the street 😉
Would you like to visit Lisbon and would you go to Alfama? Or have you already been? Let me know in the comments!
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16 thoughts on “Lisbon in a day – must visit places, best views in Lisbon & magical Alfama district”
Thanks for all the practical information, Aga! I’ve seen so many photos of these stunning views, but you hardly read about EXACTLY where they are or how to get there. I’m going this weekend and am so excited to explore the streets of Lisbon. Beautiful photos as well 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Scarlett! I’m sure you’ll love Lisbon, if you’re going for longer there are much more things to see but walk in Alfama and dinner with Fado is a must 🙂 enjoy!
Lisbon is at the top of my bucket list! And after seeing your post and pictures I want to visit even more! I love how colorful those buildings are.
I couldn’t believe how long it took me to get there, since I left it as one of the last capital cities in Europe that I visited ? But I’m so glad that I went! 🙂
I’ve always heard amazing things about Lisbon, and I can see why 🙂 What a gorgeous place, it must have been an awesome visit! May I just say I love your skirt in the Praça do Comércio shot? 🙂
Thank you, Silvia for your comment. Yes, it was really great visit! Haha thanks, I don’t wear that skirt very often (it’s usually too cold for that in Scotland), but now I associate it with Portugal, so it brings nice memories 😀
Alfama is so beautiful. I like the view from top of those orange n brown roofs.
It really is! Thank you 🙂
Those streets and roofs are so beautiful! *Swoon*
I like them, too! Have you ever been?:)
Thanks for sharing all these great experiences!! And I love your photos! I never had the chance to go to Lisbon but it’s on top of my bucket list 🙂
Thanks, Marine! If you ever have a chance – do go! 🙂
We are going to Portugal for two weeks the last week of Sept. Staying for five nights in Alfama,then flying to Porto for five nights,two days on the Douro River and then another Two nights back in Lisbon.We can hardly wait.Going to Sintra for the day as well.I loved your pictures and explations for Alfama.Thank You
That sounds great! I’m sure you will have amazing time. Enjoy!
Omg that postcard of the tram 28 (is it?) where did you find that!??
It was next to the castle in the shop 🙂