If you have Just One Day in Lisbon, How would your Itinerary look?
Portugal is one of the world’s most visited places. Especially the beaches around the Algarve are popular among backpackers. You’ll see a lot of hitchhikers when you drive on the highways. The summers in the Algarve are unique. It’s this special travel spirit very hard to describe with words if you haven’t experienced it yourself.
Most of the travellers who come to explore Portugal arrive in Lisbon mainly at the airport. It’s not only a good starting point to take a train to Faro or rent a car to cruise around Portugal, Lisbon itself is a fascinating city. If you are planning to travel Portugal and pass Lisbon on the way or if you’re there just for a city trip, keep a clear agenda of what you want to see, especially if you don’t have much time to fritter in the never ending “things to do in Lisbon”. I know, I know. “It’s always the same story”, you might say and I don’t want to defend myself. What I have to tell you is nothing new but maybe the focus of the activities differs a bit from the standard tourist’s “not to miss tips”.
This is what I would do if I would have just one Saturday in Lisbon
Morning, 9am – breakfast at Miradouro da Graça
I hope you slept enough last night because everybody who really wants to get enchanted by the uniqueness of Lisbon should be in an energetic mood. So what there is better to start the day with than a good breakfast? As we want to immerse ourselves in the deepest corners of the city, my idea is to go to one of the miradouros (viewpoints) to start into the day. Miradouro da Graça is located within the castle area. There is a little café or so-called quiosque with one of the best panorama views. While we drink Galão and eat home-made custard tarts, we have a view over the whole city.
Morning, 10am – Feira da Ladra
We continue to Lisbon’s biggest flea market Feira da Ladra (market of the thieves). For me, who loves flea markets, there is no better way to get access to the soul of a city than through the exposure of the locals. There is nothing you would not be able to find. Clothes, books, vinyl, electronics, antiques, self-made jewellery, arts or furniture.
The gap between good quality and junk is like on every other flea market quite small. Within the square of the flea market the ancient monumental Igreja de São Vicente is situated. The unique roof reminds me a little bit of the Greek Santorini roof. When we leave the flea market, the white São Vicente cathedral cannot be missed. In front of the entrance is a nice garden. Perfect to have a small rest under the roofs overgrown by rose trees.
Noon, 12am – Alfâma
We head to Alfâma, the oldest of all neighborhoods. Narrow streets with stunning street arts from local and foreign artists, stairways cramped between houses covered by shiny tiles, clothe lines with wild printed patterns hang from the balconies, colorful garlands are spanned from street lamp to street lamp. This all and much more is Alfâma.
Tables and chairs to eat are standing in the middle of a passage, the smell of a fish dish is blowing over, tuk tuk drivers are trying to clear the way through the tourist hot spots, sound of Fado music is coming from a restaurant, homeless sitting in street corners, creepy drug dealers whispering what they have to offer.
All that is Lisbon. Pura vida. The awakening of an alternative city. Everything what we can see, hear, smell, taste and feel. A deep feeling that makes you happy and sad at the same time like expressed in the traditional Fado music.
Noon, 2pm – A Ginjinha
Fulfilled by the magic of Alfâma, we leave the upper districts taking the elevador. Apart from the old trams the elevator is another funicular if you’re too lazy to walk all the way up. It brings us directly to Baixa, the downtown area. Next to the church São Domingo is one of Lisbon’s most famous and oldest Ginjinha bars. In a Ginjinha they offer the traditional cherry liquor served in little cups with an olive. If you’re up to some more candies – find a pastelaria and try Pasteis de Nata or any other of the delicious tarts.
Afternoon, 3pm – Tejo
A little walk through the vivid streets crossing also Rossio, the main square with the cobbled pavement causing an optical illusion. We head to Terreiro do Paço, the riverside. There we can enjoy a wide view of the red bridge Ponte de 25 Abril and the Jesus statue located in Almada, the other side of the Tagus. Behind the bridge the district Belém starts. Although very interesting, I want to keep the focus on Lisbon. If you plan a longer stay you should have a look at the Torre de Belém and the Explorer’s monument.
Afternoon, 4pm – lunch at Martim Moniz
It’s time for lunch. I guess you are pretty hungry. Martim Moniz is a great place where different types of restaurants are located. It’s also one of the multicultural areas. Food trucks and mobile stands serving coffee, drinks and all kinds of fast and slow food are offered in this area. A big papier-mâché sculpture of a cock overlooks the scenery. The wind blows it from one side to the other. A DJ booth is placed in the middle, playing chill music. Most of the people sit on the carpet floor, on pallets or have a snack under one of the food tents. Typical Portuguese food which mainly consists of fish (Bacalhau), but also Asian, Jamaican, Indian or African food can be taken here.
Afternoon, 5pm – shopping in second-hand and vintage shops
After we filled our stomachs, we stay in Martim Moniz and walk all the way up passing little fruit and vegetable shops, cabaleireiros, pastelarias, souvenir stands and alternative stores. If you like second hand, most of Lisbon’s second hand shops are located in this avenue. My favorite is A outra face da lua, one of the rare secondhand shops here that not only claim that they are secondhand but actually really are. The prices are fair and the variety of fashion ranges from 80s vintage looks to modern street wear. In the same street you can also find Humana, the worldwide secondhand chain.
Early evening, 6pm – beer at RDA
If we are travelling to a foreign country there is one thing that can bring us closer to the local culture. Cerveja: beer. Seriously. I never heard a traveller rejecting a beer, especially when it’s summer and no drink can cool better than a cold beer. RDA, the abbreviation for Rua das Anjos, is an alternative place with cheap food and drinks. Actually, it’s a bike repair garage transformed into a meeting point for all kinds of people, such as backpackers, alternative locals, hippies, Couchsurfers and foreign students. It’s located below a bridge over a passage. Every Wednesday they have a Vegan dinner there, which is also a Couchsurfing event.
Evening, 8pm – another beer at Santa Catarina
If you’re up for another beer, there are plenty of little late night shops where you can buy 1 liter Super Bock for under 2 euros what is much cheaper than to buy them in Bairro Alto, the up-town. Before experiencing the very unique atmosphere of Bairro Alto, let’s go to a miradouro. What else? Miradouro de Santa Catarina is located in Chiado, in the same street as the famous funicular Elevador da Bica. It offers the best view exposed to the Ponte 25 de Abril, especially when it’s dark, the bridge is lit by the surrounding city lights.
The spot is highly frequented. It seems like everybody comes here to start the night. Above all, it’s a popular spot to smoke and drink. A platform offers a nice opportunity to sit, the people are welcoming and sometimes there are street musicians. There is a quiosque and also free toilets as long as the quiosque is opened.
Late Evening, 11pm – night out at Bairro Alto
During the day, nobody would expect that the confusing streets of Bairro Alto, filled with bars, food places and music, can become so alive as they are in the late evenings.
The best time to head to Bairro Alto is normally after midnight when the narrow streets are crowded by people moving from bar to bar and refilling their cups. A summer night in Lisbon starts and ends in Bairro Alto they say. Somewhere lost in a bar of which you cannot remember the name anymore. When you talked to so many different kinds of people that you don’t know the next day which story belonged to who. All you will remember is that feeling what makes you feel happy and sad at the same time – Saudade.
This was a Saturday in Lisbon – it’s okay if you skipped some parts or replaced with something else to see or do. Anyway one Saturday is not enough to really understand and get used to the city’s soul. Nevertheless, it’s enough to fall in love with every single corner.