One day in Lisbon is enough to scratch the surface and see the main sights, but it will leave you wanting more. If you only have a few days to spend in Portugal, it’s worth taking the time to plan thoroughly so that you manage to see all the popular attractions in Lisbon.
I have shared tips on how to spend 3 days in Lisbon but for those that are tight on time this one day Lisbon itinerary will take you through all the things not to miss in Lisbon. To save time on travelling get a Viva Viagem card, which I mentioned in the Getting Around Lisbon post as it gives you access to all of the buses, trams, and metro lines and makes it quick and easy to whizz around.
You can even try the tuk-tuks which are plentiful and offer tours to popular attractions, they can be expensive, but they’re open to haggling and they’re quick to zip in and out of traffic. If you are limited on time I would suggest getting the Lisboa Card instead, as that includes free transportation in addition to free entrance to all the cool places to visit in Lisbon in one day mentioned below. Get the Viva Viagem card if you are in Lisbon longer.
- 1 One Day Lisbon Itinerary – Things To Do In Lisbon In One Day
- 2 Have More Than A Day In Lisbon?
One Day Lisbon Itinerary – Things To Do In Lisbon In One Day
Start your day early as you only have one day to explore Lisbon. Grab breakfast at any of the cool cafes in Lisbon I have previously shared. Or if you are in the mood for a hearty breakfast, check out my post on the best breakfast places in Lisbon and then head out to your first stop in Lisbon.
Pro Tip! Buy your Lisboa card in advance for your one day tour of Lisbon as it offers the following:
- Free transportation on the Lisbon Metro subway and buses, trams, lifts of CARRIS lines, CP Train Lisboa -Sintra, Lisboa – Cais do Sodré, Lisboa – Azambuja, Fertagus Lisboa – Setúbal.
- Free pass in 35 museums, monuments and places of interest.
- 10% to 50% discount on local services and cultural and tourist interest. 5% to 10% discount in participating stores for wide range of genuinely Portuguese articles.
If you’re staying in the centre of Lisbon, the best tactic is to start on the outskirts and work your way back to the main town. Hop on the number 15 tram at Praça do Comercio and go out to Belem on the west side of the city to start your day. Avoid the coach tours and the general hordes by arriving early, if you can be up and out of the hotel early to be in Belem before 10 am, and then you’ll beat the crowds. For additional tips on all the places to visit in Belem check out my guide.
Hit Pasteis de Belem for the famous original custard tart as early as possible, there is an inside cafe where you can have an espresso and a pastry, or you can buy a pack of six pasteis to take away and enjoy by the fountain in the nearby monastery gardens. These are the only tarts that can be called Pasteis de Belem as they are made right here in the area, elsewhere in Lisbon and Portugal (and the rest of the world) they must be called Pasteis de Nata. Each bakery has its own secret recipe for their custard tarts, but these were the originals and were originally baked by the nuns as a way of using up the egg yolks that were left over after the whites were used in wine production and the convent laundries.
Your one full day trip in Lisbon a visit to this place is a much. The vast building overlooks the wide Tejo river flowing out to the ocean, and in the Age of Discoveries, the church on the site was the final place for sailors to pray before they set out for the New World. The current monastery commenced construction in 1501 and was completed 100 years later in 1601.
If you go inside the monastery and church, you are still able to walk around the cloisters and admire the architectural details inspired by the monastery’s position next to the water, and the treasure trove from the New World. You have to buy your tickets in the main building, then go to the monastery entrance, in the summertime, there are long queues with no shade so buy your tickets in advance if you can. Free entrance with the Lisboa card.
Monument to the Discoveries
Walk through the gardens in front of the monastery and through the underpass that leads to the river, and you will emerge right under the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. The monument faces out to sea and has Prince Henry the Navigator, so-called because he had the vision to fund the voyages to the new world, at the prow of his ship. You can also see 32 other figures ranged behind him, all carrying symbols such as compasses, swords, or crosses that help you guess the part they played in conquering the New World.
The tiled map in front of the monuments which shows all the Portuguese sea routes and the lands that were part of the empire.
As far as what to do in Lisbon in one day, you cannot miss a visit to Belem Tower. You can walk downriver to the Belem Tower in about ten minutes after visiting the Discoveries Monument, and it’s a pleasant stroll along a riverside promenade. You’ll be wowed by the 16th century Belem Tower. A famous Lisbon landmark this mini-castle is the point from which the explorers set sail for the new world.
See if you can find the rhino sculpted on the outer wall of the tower! Free entrance with the Lisboa card.
Time Out Market – Things Not To Miss In Lisbon!
Head back to the city via train from Belem to Cais do Sodré, tram from opposite the monastery, or uber to the Time Out Market. No 1 day Libon itinerary would be complete without food. The market is a great place to try some authentic Portuguese dishes for lunch, and you can finish your meal with an ice cream for the Santini’s kiosk. This traditional gelato -maker started with a shop in Estoril just outside Lisbon and has a wide variety of flavours, including vinho verde!
Praça do Comércio
You can head back to the river from the Time Out Market, then walk along towards the main square of Praça do Comercio. This vast square has always been the main market square in Lisbon and was decimated, along with much of Lisbon in the Earthquake of 1755. The houses around the square were rebuilt quickly, and Lisbon is the city with the oldest street grid system in Europe due to this need to build rapidly.
The architecture is known as ‘Pombalina’ after the Marques de Pombal, who was instrumental in the reconstruction of the city in the 18th century.
With your back to the Tejo river head right up into the winding streets of the Alfama and head up to the Castelo Sao Jorge, via the Sé de Lisboa and the Mirador Santa Luzia.
Explore Alfama Neighbourhood
Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon and is a warren of houses and streets which climb towards the castle. The Se, Lisbon’s cathedral, sits on the edge of the district, and parts of it date back to the 13th century, but it too fell victim to the famous earthquake, and it has been partially reconstructed and renovated to what you see today. This is an unmissable neighbourhood on your Lisbon itinerary whether you have one day, 2 days or 3.
Continue past the cathedral square up the hill until you get to the mirador Santa Luzia, from here you have a fantastic view over the city to the Christ Redeemer statue on the other bank of the river. Check out the detailed tiled mural depicting the soldier who ended the four-month siege of Lisbon in 1147.
The story goes that the knight Martim Moniz discovered a side gate of the castle open at a time when the moors had decamped inside the walls to protect themselves from the Christians who wanted to reconquer Lisbon. The small gate was open, and Martim alerted his comrades who raced around to gain access to the castle, the Moorish guards noticed that the Christian knights were trying to enter but as they closed the gate, the brave Martim wedged his body in the gap, thus holding it open. He was crushed to death, but his name has been legend ever since. The famous Martim Moniz gate is to the north of the castle and overlooks a square that also bears his name.
As your time is limited, it’s better to admire the Sao Jorge Castle from the outside; the inside is pleasant, but it was reconstructed during the time of the Salazar dictatorship rather than being an original fortification.
Among the cool sights to see in Lisbon this part of town. Head down the hill into Chiado at the end of the day for coffee and a little shopping. You can ride the Santa Justa Lift(see third image in the post), an iron elevator built in 1902 from river level to the streets above for a few euros, or you can walk up the steps built into the sides of the roads. This district has plenty of boutiques and bars to explore, so give your legs a rest before you head up to Rossio square.
In the centre of Rossio Square stands a statue of King Pedro VI atop a tall column. He is cast in bronze and shown in his general’s uniform and royal cloak with a crown of laurel atop his head, and a representation of the Constitutional Charter of 1826 in his right hand. Ranged around the base of the corinthian column are the allegorical figures of Wisdom, Strength, Justice, and Moderation, all qualities attributed to the 4th king of Portugal and 1st Emperor of Brazil.
Local legend has it that the statue itself was initially designed for Emperor Maximillian I of Mexico and was on its way to the New World on a ship via Lisbon when the news came in 1867 that he had been shot. According to the stories the statue was offloaded into a Lisbon warehouse where it languished until someone had the bright idea to repurpose it for Rossio square. People say that Maximillian’s head was struck off and a replacement likeness of King Pedro IV was cast and attached in time for the statue to be erected in 1870, and this is the reason that the column is so tall.
Local historians have since proved this story fake by pointing out the details that clearly mark the statues as representing a Portuguese figure, such as the Portuguese Coat of Arms on the buttons and the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword collar. It’s still a fun story and one which you are likely to hear tour guides tell their groups in Rossio Square.
This one-day whistle-stop tour of Lisbon gives you enough to see the main attractions. But there are lots of hidden treasures tucked away for you to save until next time you visit too.
Have More Than A Day In Lisbon?
If you have more than a day in Lisbon I would highly recommend a quick day trip to Sintra which is easily accessible via train from Rossio. Tickets are less than 3 Euros and the journey is about 45 minutes. I have covered places to visit in Sintra in a separate post that I have also linked.
There you have it, what you see in Lisbon in one day. Have you been to Portugal? Are you planning your first visit to Lisbon? What else do you think should be added to this 1 day Lisbon itinerary?
Considering taking a guide book as you explore the city:
Want More Travel Tips On Lisbon? Also Read:
- Why You Cannot Miss Out On Carmo Convent In Lisbon
- Where To Stay In Lisbon
- The Best Restaurants On Pink Street
- Exploring Quinta da Regaleira In Sintra
- Tips For Visiting Pena Palace In Sintra
- The Unmissable Pink Street In Lisbon
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