Portugal! The name sounds exciting, exotic and eclectic. It sounds like a place an international spy would sneak into to catch a diabolic criminal and bring him to justice. Well, you may not be Lashana Lynch, the latest 007 agent, but don't let that stop you from going on your own Portuguese adventure. Lisbon, Portugal is the perfect place to conquer. This thriving Portuguese capital city is known for its culture, cuisine, beaches and architecture. It’s also home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites. Short on time? No worries, I have the intel on how to maneuver through Lisbon in less than 12 hours.
Lisbon is a beautiful European city located on the western seaboard of Portugal off the Atlantic Ocean. For those of you who read my article, “Top 10 Sites to See in Barcelona,” and was inspired to travel to Spain, you should know a roundtrip flight from Barcelona to Lisbon is usually around $78. Once you land in Lisbon, public transportation is easy to figure out. The first thing you’ll want to do is purchase a Viva card. It’s reusable and rechargeable and it can be used in all transports in Lisbon. The card itself is only 0.50 euros. It’s best to charge it with a travel pass for the entire day (6.3 euros), which is valid for metro and rail networks.
You can take a taxi, the metro (subway), or a bus from the airport to almost anywhere in the city. The metro is, in my opinion, the most convenient form of transportation from the airport because it has a direct line to the center of the city. It’s also fast and inexpensive. The Aeroporto-Saldanha line takes you to downtown Lisbon in 20 minutes. With very little time, it’s wise to choose a location for sightseeing that is (a) easy to get back to the airport from, (b) has lots to see in that area or within walking distance and (c) is a short distance from another popular area. That’s why central Lisbon is a good starting point for your one-day adventure.
Taking in the Sights
The Baixa District
The Briaxa District is considered the liveliest neighborhood in Lisbon. You’ll see why/how this district earned this title when visiting the five sites listed below.
Avenida de Liberdade is a beautiful avenue the stretches nearly three-quarters of a mile. The mosaic-covered pavement will have you mesmerized while the cafes with covered terraces will entice you.
Placa do Rossio, also known as the Pedro IV Square, has been nicknamed the liveliest square in Lisbon. It’s a centrally-located spot for locals and visitors alike to meet up with others.
Praca da Figueira houses classical buildings as well as a grand statue of King John I.
Praca do Comercio is a short walk from Praca de Figueira and has all the charm you’d imagine a European square would. It’s currently lined with shops and cafes, but that wasn’t always the case. It was once the home to the Royal Palace.
The Santa Justa Lift, also called the Carmo Lift, is an elevator that connects the lower streets of Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo. It was built in 1902 and is still one of the most marveled sites in Lisbon. You can also use your Viva card to pay for your ride up.
The number 15 tram is the most popular one in the city. It’s also the most useful for tourists because it connects central Lisbon to the Belem district. This district contains many of the city’s most iconic sites. That’s why it’s the next stop on our one-day adventure.
The Belem District
The Belem District is considered to be charming and laid-back. The three sites listed below are a must-see/do when visiting Lisbon.
The Belem Tower, officially the Tower of Saint Vincent, is a landmark medieval defense tower. It’s also one of the most photographed landmarks in Lisbon.
The Padrao dos Descobrimentos is a concrete monument to maritime explorers that’s located on the northern bank of the Tagus River estuary. There’s a boardwalk that connects the Belem Tower to the Padrao dos Descobrimentos.
Pasteis de Belem is hands-down the most popular place to buy Pasteis de nata custard tart, a custard tart that is still baked according to a centuries-old recipe created by monks. Pasteis de Belem is walking distance from the Padrao dos Descobrimentos.
The Jerónimos Monastery is a world heritage listed gothic monastery that’s located across the street from Pasteis de Belem.
As you can see, you’ll get the most out of this itinerary. If you’re counting, that’s nine sites in two districts. If you find yourself good on time, you can add a tenth site to the list, Casa Portuguesa (located in the Baixa District). The restaurant has been proven to have the best cod croquettes in Lisbon. You’ll receive one croquette with a splash of wine to wash it down. It’s the perfect midday snack for any traveler.
There you have it. You don’t have to be a 007 agent on a secret mission to conquer one of Europe’s most renowned cities. All you need is a dozen hours, a Viva card, and a fully charged smartphone to capture the best selfies to post on Instagram.