A weekend guide to Lisbon, Portugal – Part 1

Posted In: City breaks | Escapes

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (which you should do!), you’ll know that I went to Lisbon, Portugal last weekend. I love long weekends away and especially when it includes fantastic sights and great food. Lisbon did not disappoint! I’ve had lots of great feedback on Instagram so I thought I’d share with you an itinerary of what to do if you happen to go there for a long weekend. It’s an adapted version of what Rich and I did. It’s too long for it to fit all in one post so I’ve divided it in 2. This is part 1. I’ve tried to include as many details as possible but if you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment!

Friday evening

7pm No time to waste! At Lisbon airport, hop in a taxi. There’s a rank just outside the arrivals exit. The ride costs around €15 to go to the city centre with a small surcharge for luggages. 

7:30pm At the heart of the very lively and central Baixa area are the Lisbon Serviced Apartments. There are 13 of them in the building rua da Assuncao. They’re spacious, clean, fully equipped and very stylish. Expect modern interiors with high ceilings, huge windows and gorgeous Portugese tiles. You’ll want to book ahead of time of course; the code to access the building and your apartment will be texted to you a couple of days prior to arrival. Drop your bags, freshen-up and head out for a gentle introduction to Lisbon’s renowned nightlife! 

8pm Bairro Alto is the party neighbourhood of the city. Your first stop should be at the cupboard-sized Ginginha do Carmo for a traditional Ginjinha, which is a shot of cherry liqueur. Although, it’s served in a shot glass, make sure you don’t down it all at once; you’re meant to take your time to drink it. You can do so at the counter or at one of the tables outside. 

8:30pm You’ll then want to grab a table at Grapes & Bites before it gets too crowded. This is the place to go if you want to try different Portuguese wines over some great local tapas. Order the sausage and cheese sharing board to sample 4 different types of sausages and 4 cheeses from the country. The staff is really knowledgable about local food and wine so don’t hesitate to ask them for advice. They’ll ask you what kind of wines you like and help you make a decision based on your answer. You can buy by the glass, which is great as you can taste as many wines as you’d like without having to splurge on a whole bottle. 

10pm Head uphill for marvellous views of the castle and to toast to your arrival to this beautiful city. The Lisbonites are all out and tend to go to different bars throughout the evening so let yourself have a wander around, soak up the buzzing atmosphere and try a few bars.

Saturday

8:00am Wake up early to go and see the sun rise over the city. Guide books often recommend to take the Elevador de Santa Justa, which is just around the corner from the apartment, but a free alternative is to walk uphill to the entrance on Largo do Carmo (5 minutes walk). You’ll get the same for free in exchange for a (little) steep walk. 

8:45am Now that you’ve had time to soak in the view and get excited about the day ahead, walk back down to get yourself a much deserved breakfast. Of course, you absolutely must try some Pastel de Nata (the famous custard tarts!) and enjoy an espresso. A great place is Confeitaria Nacional, which has been around since 1829. Order at the front and take a seat at the back while you watch the locals popping in through the side entrance to stock up on cakes and pastries. 

9:15am Board Tram 28 from Praça Martim Moniz towards the Alfama district. It’s the first stop on the line so that’s your best bet if you want to be able to get a seat and snap the streets during the journey (which believe me, you will want to do). Be prepared to queue before you can finally get in a tram. A single ticket costs €2.85. The drivers don’t like notes very much so make sure you have the exact amount.

10:00am Hop off the tram at Largo das Portas do Sol for some gorgeous views over the Alfama and Graça districts. From there, wander up to Castle of São Jorge, peeking through the small lanes around to look at the beautiful facades and check out the tiny boutiques. The best way to explore the Alfama is really to just get lost in the backstreets. There is a very particular atmosphere in this part of the city that you can only appreciate if you allow yourself to just be there in the moment, without looking at a map. Envision a labyrinth of narrow cobbled lanes with pastel-coloured facades, azulejos, locals mingling around and fado songs resonating through the streets. 

1:00pm By then, you might need fuelling up. Head over to Portas do Sol next to Largo das Portas do Sol where you were earlier for a mediterranean-style salad, refreshing drinks and gorgeous views of the sea and district. Service is slow but the food is great, price is reasonable and you really can’t beat the view.

2:30pm Hop on the tram again. Hop off at Praça Martim Moniz and make your way towards the river. The two main streets down (rua Áurea and rua da Prata) are great for shopping. You’ll find the usual chains there along with a few designers. Make sure to walk through some of the parallel streets like rua Augusta and rua da Madalena, as this is where you’ll find more local shops and plenty of great places for gift and souvenir shopping.

4:pm The stroll will lead you to Praça do Comércio, which is this gorgeous square in front of the river, bordered with yellow facades and grand arcades. Make sure to walk by the riverfront. You will see towards the right the Ponte 25 de Abril, which isn’t without reminding of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge due to its red colour. 

5:30pm On your way back, make sure to stop by Santini for one of their delicious ice-creams! The inside is really cool – all white and red – and perfect for a sit-down while you recuperate but you can also order to take away if you want to. 

6:00pm Take a 10-minutes walk to the Miradouro de Santa Catarina. It’s the perfect spot to go and watch the world go by. Late afternoon/early evening is the best time to go. The golden light makes the city look even more stunning.
7:30pm Head out for an evening of candle-lit fado music and portuguese tapas! A great place is to the popular Povo in nearby Cais de Sodre. There are lots of bars in the area should you want to go for some more drinks afterwards.
  • miho
    1st November 2014

    such a great, comprehensive guide! looks and sounds like a wonderful weekend. I've only had a very short time in Lisbon so I need to visit again properly x

    Miho @ Wander to Wonder

  • sha pete
    2nd November 2014

    beautiful photos as always, such happy colors <3

  • Valerie
    2nd November 2014

    Oh thanks, I'm so glad you like it 🙂 I can't recommend Lisbon enough for a long weekend or a week holiday. There's so much to do and see xx

  • Valerie
    2nd November 2014

    Lisbon is such a gorgeous colourful and picturesque city. It's probably impossible to take a "bad" photo of it 😉 xx

  • M
    3rd November 2014

    OMG I LOVE PORTUGAL SO MUCH!!
    love your blog! honored you came to mine! wow! very cool! i love to travel so much!
    do you ever come to NYC?!
    Hope to see you at my blog again soon! and maybe meet some day!

    xx.M
    http://www.bellesandrebelles.blogspot.com

  • Dale
    3rd November 2014

    Wow, I just found your site and Portugal looks so beautiful. For a second I thought that was the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. I'd love to visit one day and the pics of the food and the city are breathtaking. Great shots and blog!

    xo from Switzerland
    ~Dale
    http://www.savvyspice.com

  • The slow pace
    3rd November 2014

    Now that my city is connected to Lisbon with a direct flight I guess it's about time to come back to Lisbon! Great guide!
    xx,
    E.
    http://www.theslowpace.com

  • Chrystin Gloria
    3rd November 2014

    Amazing pics! I actually have a very similar one from the top of the castle looking over the colorful houses, and the blue sky & water! Lisbon is such a beautiful city, with beautiful people—by far one of my favorite vacations ever!

    http://amateandarottweiler.blogspot.com.ar/

    http://amateandarottweiler.blogspot.com.ar/

  • Valerie
    3rd November 2014

    Oh I know, me too! And it really took me by surprise. It's now in my top 5 favourite cities in Europe. xx

  • Valerie
    3rd November 2014

    haha I think that's a sign, yes! xx

  • Valerie
    3rd November 2014

    Thanks so much Dale xx

  • Valerie
    3rd November 2014

    I was there earlier this year! I'd love to go back. NY is magical <3 xx

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A weekend guide to Lisbon, Portugal – Part 2