Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Lisbon itinerary! Ask any Lisboner about Belem Portugal, the historic neighborhood just to the west of the city center, and they will tell you that it is a neighborhood for tourists. They will also tell you that it is a destination no tourist should miss. On this one day in Lisbon itinerary, you will find some of Lisbon’s most popular attractions, from the elaborate Belem Tower to the scrumptious Pasteis de Belem.
With this one day in Lisbon itinerary we will learn about Portuguese history, we will photograph strange marvels, we will become experts in Manueline architecture, and we will eat well. We always eat well, don’t we, Internet Stranger? (Say yes or no as you wish because I can’t hear you.)
One Day in Lisbon Itinerary
Where to Stay?
So the hotel where I stayed for my one day in Lisbon itinerary is now defunct, but I can definitely recommend a neighborhood for you. Lisbon is an amazing walking city, so I suggest staying in the City Center. That way you’ll be able to get up whenever you want and go explore! Lisbon has hotels at every price point, so no matter your budget, you’ll be able to find something good.
And if you’d like to explore over 7000 great deal on hotels in Lisbon, just click here.
One Day in Lisbon Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today around Lisbon. It’s very frequently hot here, though not always, so it’s smart to wear sandals. I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Also, don’t forget the sunscreen! The sun can get scorching! My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. You don’t want to sling a heavy bag all around Lisbon. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so you’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Lisbon Itinerary
Morning: Explore Belem
Since Belem is located about an hour’s walk from Praca do Comercio in the city center, if you want to get there the easy way, you should take either Tram 15 or Tram 127. But who wants to do things the easy way? I recommend leaving the Praca do Comercio and walking straight to the Tejo River. (Don’t walk into the river, Internet Stranger! I won’t be there to fish you out.) Then just make a right and keep going until you hit Belem. You can’t miss it because there will be a giant tower blocking your way.
Since we are taking the scenic route, allow me to point out for you some highlights on the way and in Belem when you arrive.
APPROXIMATELY TOP FIVE: belem edition
1) Enjoy the views along the Tejo River
They can be views of varicolored flowers. (Don’t know the names because I’m not a botanist.)
You can also take as many dramatic photos of bridges as possible. Then you can get frustrated because you don’t know the names of any of the bridges.
2) Enjoy this monument to Fado singers
You can tell it is a Fado monument because it combines a Portuguese guitar with the sad, sad face of Amalia Rodrigues about to sing a sad, sad song. Sad!
3) Find the street art hiding under bridges
Street art is just full of surprises. For example, I was surprised to learn that these are not real birds after I tried to shoot one and take it home to mount on my wall. People can do such clever things with spray paint nowadays.
4) Discover the Padrao dos Descobrimentos
This is a remarkable monument dedicated to Portuguese explorers from the 15th and 16th centuries. The proud looking dude in the front is the famous Portuguese royal Prince Henry the Navigator. If you look carefully, you can see such other notable explorers as Vasco da Gama, Magellan, and Bartolomeu Dias.
I personally think they should add a plaque explaining how each of the explorers died because it was usually super dramatic. (Da Gama: died of malaria. Magellan: killed by Filipinos because they were displeased at his efforts to convert them to Christianity, and then they insisted on keeping his body for reasons that remain unclear.) But I might be misunderstanding the point of a monument here.
24 hour Treasure
There is a gorgeous compass rose donated to Portugal by South Africa right next to the Padrao dos Descobrimentos. It is fitting because Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. But I am less interested in compasses than I am in the freaky sea creatures that decorate the compass rose.
If monsters like that actually existed, I would have been much more likely to become a sailor.
5) Lunch at Pao Pao Queijo Queijo
Because Belem is such a touristy neighborhood, it can be hard to find something tasty and affordable for lunch. That’s why I was so glad to discover Pao Pao Queijo Queijo, which I believe translates to Bread Bread Cheese Cheese. Strangely enough, I didn’t see much cheese being served here, just quick, cheap, and tasty falafel and shawarma.
You can choose to get either falafel or shawarma on a baguette or a pita. I chose a pita shawarma because I am the world’s least vegetarian person, but I kind of regret not taking a chance and getting it on a baguette. I’ve never heard of shawarma baguettes before and the bread looked scrumptious. The line is long but it moves super fast, so the wait was worth it. Soon enough, I was chomping into my pita with fresh meat juice dribbling down my chin. The herbed mayonnaise sauce help soothe the savage breast of the spicy shawarma.
6) pasteis de belem
After lunch, you will want dessert, but don’t get it here! Just hop a few doors down to legendary Egg Tart Shop, Pasteis de Belem on R. Belém 84-92. This place has been around since 1837, making tarts according to a secret recipe from the Jeronimos Monastery. Of course it is popular with tourists, but there are also about a billion seats, so you shouldn’t have to wait to get served.
Of the three different egg custard tarts I had in Portugal, I think these were my favorite. The pastry is extremely flaky and the custard is warm and light. But really you should just eat as many egg custard tarts as possible when you are in Portugal. If you go to a restaurant and they don’t have any, you should compel them to make you some. That should make you really popular.
7) Belem Tower
The Belem Tower is a comely 16th century tower that was part of Lisbon’s defense system back when Portugal was an empire and not the world’s top egg tart and dessert wine tourist destination. The tower is a UNESCO protected site as well as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, so I’m sure as you can imagine, lines get crazy long here on the weekends. But I don’t really think you can say you’ve been to Lisbon until you’ve seen this baby, so let’s head inside. At the very least, you can take the virtual tour.
24 hour tip
Bring a book! This may sound like a weird tip, but the stairs up to the top floor of the tower are very skinny and only a certain number of people are allowed up at a time. So you’re going to have to wait on a line that is not short to scale the tower’s top. If you’re solo, that means bringing a book or getting bored. Your choice! I think it’s worth it though, for the amazing views of the river.
My other tip would be to bring a hairbrush because it gets insanely windy at the top of the tower. Don’t believe me? Here is my evidence:
The prosecution rests.
24 hour treasure
My favorite thing to do at the Belem Tower is to examine all the weird, not entirely cohesive architectural elements present in the building. The Belem Tower is an example of Manueline architecture, which was a prominent form of Portuguese architecture during the Age of Discovery. Because those famous Portuguese explorers were out finding so many fabulous things and bringing them home, Manueline architecture tends to be very ornate and contains elements from architectural styles from all over the world.
For example, you might see a fairly traditional Catholic statue of the Virgin Mary:
But then behind this is a tower with a whole bunch of shields, intricate lattice work, and what looks to be an antenna sticking straight up into the sky.
Also, there’s a watchtower with five balls on the top and a braid on the side.
There are random spiky things that look like Christmas tree clown hats.
There’s a whole bunch of what I guess are shamrocks. Did the Portuguese conquer Ireland at some point? It wouldn’t be surprising.
And finally, there’s a whole lot of arrows pointing up in case you are not as good a navigator as Prince Henry and you forget where the sky is.
I’m sure you can find lots of weird details I missed. The hunt for strange and Manueline features should occupy your entire time at Belem Tower. Then it is time for more Manueline marvels at…
One Day in Lisbon Itinerary
Afternoon: Jeronimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery is yet another of Lisbon’s Manueline beauties. It was made for the monastic Order of St. Jerome. These monks were supposed to pray for King Manuel of Portugal and for all the Portuguese sailors setting off on their missions of discovery around the world, and I can definitely see why you would want both of those things if you were the King of Portugal during the Age of Discovery.
The Jeronimos Monastery is also a UNESCO protected site, so as I’m sure you can imagine, it is chock full of amusing and bizarre information. You can’t have a one day in Lisbon itinerary in Belem without seeing it. Let me impart some of the wisdom of the monks to you with…
THREE FUN FACTS ABOUT THE JERONIMOS MONASTERY
1) Were there pirates here?
As the Jeronimos Monastery was meant to house monks who were praying for sailors, there are many nautical elements present in the design. On this shield you can see various important tools pictured, like the ladder and hammer, and the knot above looks like a sailor’s knot. I enjoyed the presence of these elements because they are not typically what you would expect to find in a church, and also because they gave me an excuse to go about singing sea shanties in my head and I always like a good shanty.
2) What’s Special About the Architecture?
The ceilings are some of the most noteworthy features in the monastery because they have eight ribs holding up each part of the vaulted ceiling. Go around and count them if you don’t believe me! You definitely won’t bump into someone.
There is also an octagonal shape in the center of the ribs in many places. I wonder what the significance of the number eight was to the people who built this monastery? Anyway, I highly recommend walking under these ceilings and pretending that you are a princess being chased by an evil monk/sailor. Whatever floats your boat.
3) Are there any diseased corpses?
Don’t miss the church attached to the Jeronimos Monastery. This is where you can find the tomb of famed Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama. You will recognize him by the big ship on his tomb. Just don’t get too close! He died of malaria and you don’t want to catch it…
24 hour Tip
Save money by buying a combination ticket for this and the Belem Tower because the combi ticket is only 12 Euros. If you buy them individually, it’s 16 Euros. SMORT!
24 hour Treasure
You’ve heard of a sacred cow? Well, meet the sacred chicken of the Jeronimos Monastery. I don’t know who this chicken is, but I observe that he is standing on a pedestal, which makes me think he is pretty important. I hope when you visit the Jeronimos Monastery, you are able to find this little guy for yourself, but I’m not going to tell you exactly where to look for him. Be a clever little chicken and I’m sure you can spot him on your own.
One Day in Lisbon itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Belem 2 A 8
The good thing about tourist neighborhoods like Belem is that there’s always loads of people there, so you’re very unlikely to walk down a creepy, lonely side street and get murdered. The bad thing about tourist neighborhoods like Belem is that it can be difficult to find a decent meal. That’s why I was so happy to discover Belem 2 A 8. It is a great place to end your one day in Lisbon itinerary.
It had the feel of a local place because there were groups of Portuguese guys here just watching soccer on TV, but they have an English menu and there were just enough tourists there so I didn’t feel like a weird out-of-place American.
I began my meal with the unusual combination of chorizo and pineapple. I know chorizo is really popular in Portugal, but I never had it prepared this way. The spicy sausage and the sweet pineapple had a great kick to it, which is appropriate since I was being forced to watch soccer the entire meal.
24 hour treat: codfish tongues
In keeping with my philosophy of eating as much seafood as possible in Portugal, my main course was a risotto prepared with codfish tongues. Codfish tongues are actually not tongues at all, but a piece of flesh by the back of the fish’s throat. They have a rich flavor and slightly gelatinous texture. I enjoyed trying this delicacy, but I wouldn’t recommend being this adventurous if you are a picky eater. The restaurant has lots of other meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes to choose from.
24 hour treat: Beirao
My absolute favorite dish was the rich chocolate mousse served with candied nuts and a drizzling of an herbal Portuguese liqueur called Beirao. Apparently the combination of seeds and herbs used in Beirao is a state secret, kind of like the recipe to Coca-Cola. All I know about Beirao is that it goes really well with chocolate, and that is my kind of booze.
Further Reading: One day in Lisbon itinerary!
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Lisbon? Then let me help you with some suggestions for further reading. I’m a fan of Lonely Planet’s guide to Lisbon. They divide each chapter according to neighborhood, which makes the book easy to use for planning purposes.
Jose Saramago is one of the most famous Portuguese writers of all time. After all, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I recommend his novel Baltasar and Blimunda. It’s extremely entertaining and extremely bizarre.
One of the most famous recent novels set in Lisbon is Night Train to Lisbon, This book will take you on a journey into Portugal’s dark fascist past. (JK Rowling named one of the Harry Potter baddies after the Portuguese dictator Salazar, who looms large in this novel.) But it’s also a beautiful story about hope and resisting evil.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Lisbon itinerary. If you want another one day in Lisbon itinerary, try this itinerary. And if you’d like to add 24 hours in Porto, try this itinerary or this itinerary.