UPDATED IN SEPTEMBER 2023
With over 28.2 million passengers passing through the city’s airport in 2022, tourism in the Portuguese capital is booming. Regardless of its up-and-coming status there is something about the getting lost in the cobbled streets here that makes you feel like you are discovering Lisbon for the very first time. When I first moved to Algarve in 2016 I loved my regular trips to the city. Now that I live in Cascais I’m in Lisbon 3 or 4 times a week. Even though I spend so much time in Portugal’s capital I’m always surprised by how many new restaurants, cafes, activities and experiences that pop up.
I set out to create a travel guide that is focused on local experiences rather than Lisbon’s ‘top attractions’ so haven’t included sites such as Castelo de São George, Torre de Bélem and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos . A quick Google will give you all the info you need on these. Instead I’ve created an easy-going itinerary that reveals some hidden gems and encourages you to find some treasures of your own.
Lisbon’s international airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 caters for all incoming flights and links directly to the metro system. Terminal 2 deals with some departures (mainly budget airlines) and can only be accessed by a free shuttle from terminal 1. Shuttles are every 10minutes and take about 5 minutes. Always check your ticket before departure to ensure you have the right terminal.
Lisbon’s public transport is excellent. Hop off your flight straight onto a metro and you’ll be in the city centre in less than half an hour. Take the red line to Almada then switch to the Green Line to Cais do Sodré for central Lisbon. If the idea of lugging your bags around the metro system sends sweaty shivers down your spine or you’re traveling in a group book an Uber on arrival.
You don’t need a car in Lisbon. In fact having a car can be a bit of a pain because of parking. However if you’re using Lisbon as a base for exploring or as a starting point to trip then you’ll want a hire car. I recommend Zest.
WHERE TO STAY
If you only have a short time in Lisbon I recommend staying in one of the central neighbourhoods with easy metro access. This means getting around is quick and stress free. When booking your accommodation look for places to stay in Bairro Alto or Chiado and you’ll have the heart of Lisbon on your doorstep. If you want to stay a little further away from the bustle but remain central try Alfama.Booking.com
The Lumiares Hotel & Spa In the heart of one of Lisbon’s most colourful neighbourhoods – Bairro Alto. You are also close to the hip Principe Real district full of great bars and restaurants. It also has one of the best rooftop bars in Lisbon.
Palácio Camões Serviced Apartments – modern apartments with views over Lisbon’s red roofs and the river Tagus. Walking distance to some of Lisbon’s best restaurants and nightlife.
Palácio Ludovice Wine Experience Hotel 5 star hotel with beautiful details. Great location in Bairro Alto and close to Principe Real.
Upon Angels Studio with the funkiest decor! Great value too.
The Vintage Hotel & Spa 5 star located in Avenida da Liberdade with a rooftop bar and spa.
Alecrim ao Chiado Small boutique hotel, very central.
Lost Lisbon Chiado House – clean and comfortable private rooms with quirky themes. Close to both nightlife and shopping.
Santa Justa Prime Guesthouse – located close to Rossio metro in the shopping district. Rooms have original tile details and views towards the Santa Justa lift.
Ok thats your stay sorted. Now to gather some ideas for your quick trip to Lisbon.
HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN LISBON
FADO IN LISBON
If you’re coming to Lisbon you’ve probably already heard of Fado and you may have. itadded to your itinerary. The trouble is finding an authentic fado show can be difficult. Often you have to pay for an expensive and underwhelming meal to watch a show that isn’t guaranteed to be good.
My first advice is to head to Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto where if you are lucky you can watch live fado music for free. This unassuming little bar gets packed to the rafters but don’t rush off if you can’t get in straight away. Grab a beer from the bar until you can squeeze in for a show. It’s worth it! Feeling suitably cultural? Ask for a shot of the local spirit/ fire water Medronho before you call it a night.
BOOK A FADO + FOOD TOUR WITH DEVOUR
My next tip would be to book a tour with a local. Devour work with Lisbon locals and have created a fantastic food and fado tour in the oldest neighbourhoods in Lisbon.
WHAT IS FADO?
Fado is a melancholic genre of music that originated in Lisbon during the 1820’s. The Alfama district is the true home of Fado in Lisbon so head there for the full experience. Look out for smaller restaurants popular with locals to get the real deal. Listen to rainha do Fado (queen of Fado) Amália Rodrigues who remains the best-selling Portuguese artist in history.
EARLY BIRD EXPLORING
My number one travel tip wherever you are in the world is to get up and out exploring early. While the city is never empty you’ll be able to experience the beauty of it without the big crowds if you head out before 10 am – the earlier the better! . Praça do Comércio looks particularly beautiful early morning as does the river Tagus.
PASTEL DE NATA OR 5
Anytime is pastel de nata time but I do love one with my morning coffee. Portugal’s pastéis de nata are famously addictive and Lisbon is home to the best ones in the country. I’m a regular customer at Mantegaria but any pastelaria that makes them fresh daily will do a good job. The most famous Pastéis de nata in Lisbon are in Bélem but be prepared to queue.
MIRADOUROS ALL DAY
Miradouros are ‘view points’ and Lisbon has many spectacular ones. They offer unique vantage points of the city and they are usually a great place for photography. So what are the best Miradouro;s in Lisbon? After 7 years here are my picks…
- Miradouro de Santa Luzia
- Miradouro da Graça
- Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
- Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
GET LOST IN ALFAMA + MOURAIRIA
Use the afternoon to explore the city. Whether you take the famous tram 28 or set off on foot make sure you spend some time getting to know the real Lisbon. If you get a chance go get lost in Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood Alfama. Alfama’s narrow streets have been home to fisherman throughout history and local life still thrives there today. Despite its popularity the neighbourhood remains unspoilt and you really can catch a glimpse of real Portugal amongst local life you can expect to see decorative tiles, ice cream coloured houses, quaint restaurants and pottery shops.
EAT + DRINK
Without 48 hours you don’t have long to enjoy all of the amazing foodie options Lisbon has to offer so i sugegst you don’t stop eating and drinking until you are back in the airport.
Traditional food to try in Lisbon
Bifana Pork sandwich cooked in garlic and wine. Cheap and delicious snack.
Polvo à Lagareiro Octopus
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato Clams with garlic, wine and herbs
Porco Preto Black pork. Typical dish from Alentejo.
Francesinha Multiple meat sandwich with a spicy gravy
Dourada/ Robalo Grelhada Grilled Sea Bream/ Sea Bass
Pastel de bacalhau Codfish fritter
Pastel de nata Custard tart
Bola de Belém Custard doughnut
My long term favourite restaurant in Lisbon is Taberna Rua das Flores. A cosy space with an ever changing tapas menu. You cannot book in advance here. Turn up at 5pm and book your table for that evening. Next up Estrela da Bica an atmospheric tapas restaurant next to the famous Bica tram. I love O Corvo for a lunch in Alfama.
Another restaurant to try is Cantinho da Avillez Contemporary Portuguese cuisine by chef José Avillez. If you’re looking for a Michelin experience book a table at Alma (often booked up weeks in advance).If you’re here for the seafood you’re going to want to visit Cervejaria Ramiro Lisbon’s most famous seafood restaurant, born in the 1950’s.
For more restaurant ideas see our Lisbon Eats Guide.
BÉLEM BY BIKE
Time to explore the outskirts of Lisbon. And what better way to do it than on a personal electric bike or scooter. Lisbon has hundreds of these dotted around and you usually only have to stroll a couple of minutes to find one. Choose your transport of choice and download the Gira electric bike app to get started. This is such a fun way to get around and the experience makes for great memories. These are best used along the water where there is smooth tarmac and plenty of space. Cycle under the Abril 25th Bridge, along the river to Bélem. On your journey you’ll enjoy waterfront cafes, street performers and the wind in your hair.
Had enough of city life? Then it’s time to head to the beach for the morning. Yes, Lisbon has some stunning stretches of sand just 40minutes away by train. Make your way to Cais do Sodré train station and grab a €5 return ticket to Cascais. To do this you’ll need to buy and load a Viva Viagem card (€0.50) at the ticket machine. Trains to Cascais are approximately every 30 minutes.
The train station level ticket machines gets extremely busy. Use one of the escalators to the metro station below and buy your ticket there instead.
TILE SPOTTING AND SOUVENIR SHOPPING
You’ve done some solid exploring by now and hopefully you’ve relaxed into Lisbon. Spend the afternoon revisiting your favourite spot or find a new area to explore. Embark on a journey through Lisbon’s hidden streets in search of colourful tiles and ceramic shops or sniff out a new wine bar with a view.
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Don’t forget to book your stay in advance for the best choice of rooms in Lisbon.
Money in Europe
The majority of hotels, shops and restaurants in the bigger cities accept card but some smaller places only accept cash or non-foreign cards. Always carry some cash with you. ATM’s are easy to find all over the town. Unless you already have a Euro currency bank account I highly recommend getting a Wise Card. This will allow you to hold and exchange multiple currencies at the best possible rate. There is no charge for withdrawing or using your card to pay. I’ve been living in Portugal since 2016 and I use Wise as my primary bank card here despite also having a Portuguese bank account. I’ve also used Wise to pay and withdraw money in Spain and Italy.
Top tip: Avoid Multi Currency machines such as ‘Euronet’ (usually set up outside souvenir shops etc) as they charge you 3 or 4 euro to withdraw. Look for ‘Multibanco’ machines to withdraw money. More info here…
A few Portuguese phrases for you…
Do you speak English?
I speak a little Portuguese
Eu falo/a um pouco de Português
*Some links included in this guide are affiliate links. This means if you book through this link I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only include links for products and services I love and use regularly. Using these links helps me to build my small business and maintain this travel blog.
If you enjoyed our Lisbon 48 hour guide or you are looking for some more restaurant ideas while in the Portuguese capital you’ll love our Lisbon Eats Guide.
Since moving to Portugal in 2016 I’ve been writing travel guides. Head over to my page for more inspiration