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The best to do in Lisbon in just 24 hours
Imagine you have but a few hours to spare in Lisbon. Wouldn't you like to have a mini-guide to help you know the best of Lisbon in the short time you have? That's why we're here. Although it is very difficult to choose only one of the many options that Lisbon has to offer, we are sure that our selection you will not let you down and that you will experience the best of Lisbon in a day.
Lisbon quick tour
It's 8 am and your flight has just landed in Lisbon. You only have 24 hours to visit the Portuguese capital because you have a business trip the very next day, also leaving at 8 am. Don't waste any of your precious time deciding where to go and what to visit. Check our advice on what to do in Lisbon in a day.
Forget about taking a cab. If you do, you risk getting stuck in traffic for hours as the airport is just outside the city, so every commuter drives by there. There's a bright side to it, though, you're a 20-minute subway ride away from the city center. We suggest buying a daily ticket for 6,30€ that will give you the opportunity to travel on every bus, tram and subway line for 24h.
All you need to do is head on down to the subway, buy a trip card in one of the kiosks and off you go. You'll be on the red line, towards São Sebastião but you'll want to get off at Alameda.
Although Alameda isn't the most visited landmark, it sure is worth a visit. It should be around 9 am by the time you get there so if it is sunny you will probably see much of a typical day in a residential Lisbon neighborhood.
Alameda is located in between two hills, and there is a big turfed park that spreads up both sides of the slopes. On the one side, at the top, there's IST, a university campus composed of a very traditional building in between two very modern towers.
On the other side, there's a monumental fountain on top of which there's a viewpoint worth climbing onto. After you've taken in the view, its time to take the 735 bus in direction to Cais do Sodré.
It might take a little longer than the subway but the 735 bus route will take you close to the Graça district. Get off at Sapadores and then just walk for 5 minutes until you find yourself admiring downtown Lisbon from the best miradouro in town. Have breakfast in the area, take in all you can, make sure you visit Vila Berta and then hop onto the next 735.
You could take the famous 28 tram from here, it's true, but you'd most likely be smashed against the window or worse, someone else.
This bus route will now take you closer to the river, where you'll be able to see Santa Apolónia train station, built in the late XIX century, and the Military Museum right opposite it and from there to Campo das Cebolas, a newly done up, colorful little square right before the iconic Praça do Comércio.
Get off there and you'll find yourself in the very heart of Lisbon. Go under Rua Augusta's Triumphal Arch and get lost in the symmetrical streets of the old Baixa district, completely rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. We don't particularly recommend you have lunch at one of those touristy restaurants, but if you're on a budget and are also looking for something fast and healthy, Madpizza in Rua de Santa Justa is a great option.
After lunch, head on back to Praça do Comércio (aka Terreiro do Paço), have an espresso on a terrace and admire the beautiful yellow square that once served as a royal palace. From there, walk along the river to Cais do Sodré and take the 15E tram from there towards Algés.
This tram will take you directly to Belém, where you'll find a conglomerate of Lisbon's most iconic sights and monuments. Grab a box of the famous pastéis de Belém to get you through the afternoon and try to visit Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Belém Tower. If you're in a hurry, we'd say Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is the one you should go into.
After you're done exploring the area, it's time to go back to the city center. Take the 727 right in front of the pastéis de Belém pastry shop and try to relax for a bit. This bus will take you right through Bairro das Janelas Verdes (where Madonna lived, by the way), which has been considered by many as Lisbon's most beautiful neighbourhood and from there to Santos square.
If you're visiting around summertime, you'll probably be lucky enough to see the blossoming jacarandás decorating each side of the Avenida Dom Carlos I. Right at the end of the avenue sits the Palace of São Bento, where Parliament sessions are held. It's a beautiful palace built in a marvelous white and resting on a small hill.
From there you'll be taken to Marquês de Pombal, the gigantic roundabout, the core of Lisbon traffic. Worry not, though, as we recommend you get off the bus there and walk down Avenida da Liberdade, the Portuguese equivalent to the 5th Avenue, so to speak.
Take a moment to notice the carefully ornamented shop-windows and the architecture of the buildings in which they're located. Many of them won important architecture prizes in the past.
If you continue walking down you'll find yourself in Restauradores Square, first, and then in Rossio. Linger as much as you can and look up once you're in Rossio. The light is beautiful there at the end of the day. Also, be sure not to miss Rossio train station.
You're 5 minutes away from the famous Chiado district, which is well worth mounting Rua do Carmo for. If you're traveling anytime around Christmas, the streets of Chiado are a sight you just can't miss.
If you did all of this in record-breaking time, then you might want to do some shopping around the area. Of course, you'll be tired but remember, you're trying to visit Lisbon in a day. There a lot of little pop-up and design stores around, where you can findincredible Portuguese creations to make up for all the effort.
If you're in the mood for party stay right there because the bohemian, sometimes decadent but always joyful Bairro Alto is a few steps away.
If you're more into having a nice dinner in a quiet place before heading to the hotel then we recommend taking the 28E tram and getting off close to the Cathedral. There you'll find plenty of restaurants, ranging from the typical tascas to the fancy Italian ones. Just make sure you order a well-deserved bottle of Portuguese wine.