How to see the best of one of Europe’s sun­ni­est cities in 24 hours (or slightly more)


You’ve seen Rome, you’ve seen Paris, what now? Lis­bon. While not as well known on the tourist route as its glam­orous coun­ter­parts, Lis­bon is one of western Europe’s sun­ni­est and pret­ti­est cities, and home to great sites of his­tory.

How­ever, un­like Paris, you don’t need a full week to get a sense of what is at the heart of this city. All you need is a day, two at most, to ex­pe­ri­ence fas­ci­nat­ing mu­se­ums, beau­ti­ful churches, tasty food, and sites that were just made for In­sta­gram.

In fact, Lis­bon seems as if it was made for so­cial me­dia. On the Ibe­rian Coast, Lis­bon ex­pe­ri­ences Mediter­ranean weather, soak­ing its colour­ful light. It can get quite warm in sum­mer, so pack a hat and slather on the sun­screen.

An­other thing to take is some ba­sic Por­tuguese. It can be easy to get the Span­ish and Por­tuguese lan­guages con­fused – they sound quite sim­i­lar – but the Por­tuguese do not like to be con­fused with the Span­ish. Brush up on a cou­ple of nec­es­sary words and phrases and don’t get them mixed up with Span­ish or you may be gifted with some side-eye.

Many streets are on a rather steep an­gle, mak­ing Lis­bon one of the hilli­est cities to walk around in Europe. If you’re not ter­ri­bly fit, plan breaks dur­ing the day to make it eas­ier.

Here are some of the best, must-see at­trac­tions that you can tick off your to-do list in less than 24 hours. And thanks to Lis­bon’s re­spectable public trans­port sys­tem, es­pe­cially its trams, it’s straight­for­ward to get around.


One site you won’t of­ten find on a tourist map is the world’s old­est book­shop. Out­side The Ber­trand Book­store is a plaque that ac­knowl­edges that it’s been open since 1732 but in­side, the book­shop is sur­pris­ingly mod­ern and filled with a high­brow col­lec­tion of books from ar­chi­tec­ture to zoos. Ber­trand Book­store has since be­come a chain, with about 50 other stores in Por­tu­gal, but this is the one to visit, es­pe­cially if you’re walk­ing around the city cen­tral. It’s close to cafes and other shops, so even if buy­ing books isn’t on your to-do list, it’s worth stop­ping by.


Chi­ado is a chic part of Lis­bon that’s equal parts his­toric and con­ve­nient. It’s full of ev­ery­thing you want in one snug square, in­clud­ing fash­ion­able shops, the­atres, el­e­gant cafes and his­toric spots. It’s also the spot to buy au­then­tic sou­venirs; the fine porce­lain store, Vista Ale­gre, is a pop­u­lar choice for its colour­ful wares.

Chi­ado has a great, friendly vibe and, sur­pris­ingly, one of its most fa­mous spots is a cafe: A Brasileira, which has made its mark be­cause famed poet Fer­nando Pes­soa was once a reg­u­lar pa­tron. Given its con­nec­tion, there’s al­most al­ways a queue want­ing a ta­ble, al­though nearby cafes are just as good, if not bet­ter, and there are no queues.

Chi­ado is all about en­joy­ing the finer things in life, and it’s easy to spend a cou­ple of hours or even a full day en­joy­ing its sites.

In the cen­tre of Chi­ado Square is a statue of (an­other) poet, An­to­nio Ribeiro, which is a great spot to catch one of the city’s free walk­ing tours.


Por­tu­gal has contributed much to the world but its most fa­mous – and pop­u­lar – ex­port is the Por­tuguese tart: a crispy, flaky pas­try filled with a creamy cus­tard that’s topped with cin­na­mon. To­day, thou­sands of cafes and bak­eries across the world make their own ver­sions of the tart, but the orig­i­nal home is still go­ing strong, Pasteis de Belem. The bak­ery’s 170year-old recipe is a well-guarded se­cret and is used to pump out more than 16,000 hand­made tarts ev­ery day. The dis­tinc­tive blue and white shop front is easy to spot, as is the con­stant long line to pur­chase one (or two) of the crunchy de­lights. One tip is to get there early, when the bak­ery opens at about 7am, buy a box of tarts and eat them as you stroll to the nearby mu­se­ums.


A hop and a skip away from Pasteis de Belem are two of Lis­bon’s best his­toric sites: Jeron­i­mos Monastery and Santa Maria de Belem Church. These im­pos­ing build­ings are the his­toric heart of Lis­bon, the for­mer once be­ing home to the Or­der of Saint Jerome and the lat­ter be­ing one of the most op­u­lent churches in Por­tu­gal.

The monastery’s late Gothic ar­chi­tec­ture and grand­ness mean that it’s just as in­ter­est­ing on the out­side as it is on the in­side; don’t be sur­prised if you spend more time out­side than in.

Be­ing holy places, it’s best to wear clothes that cover your shoul­ders and knees to avoid any is­sues in en­ter­ing ei­ther build­ings.

If you need a lit­tle down­time, or just af­ter some time in the sun, across the road is the Vasco da Gama Garden, which is beau­ti­fully man­i­cured. You’ll of­ten find fam­i­lies and tourists with a box of Pasteis de Belem tarts hav­ing an im­promptu pic­nic.


If your stay ex­tends to two days, or you’re happy to pack in a busy day, a short trip just out­side the city lim­its will take you to the breath­tak­ing Pena Palace. Its colour­ful ex­te­rior makes it look like a Dis­ney cas­tle come to life, sit­ting atop a moun­tain and shoul­dered by lush forests and gar­dens. Once you ar­rive at the palace gates, you need to walk up a rather steep hill (or buy a ticket for the shut­tle to skip the walk) to get to the palace it­self. In­side, the rooms have been im­mac­u­lately kept, many with op­u­lent, orig­i­nal fur­nish­ings.

The gar­dens are vast and are worth walk­ing around af­ter you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the for­mer royal house­hold.

De­spite its rather iso­lated lo­ca­tion, there is a bus that takes visi­tors right to the palace gates. Oth­er­wise, you can hire a car and take a break in the nearby vil­lage, which is charm­ing and pho­to­genic, with quaint cafes and shops.

Given Pena Palace’s pop­u­lar­ity, it’s best to pre-buy tick­ets on­line.


PENA NA­TIONAL PALACE Pena Na­tional Palace above Sin­tra town in sum­mer (main); the clois­ters from the up­per level of the Monastery of Jeron­i­mos (be­low left); a street car trun­dles through the old town.



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