Gaining traction among its European counterparts is the alluring city of Lisbon, rimmed with red-roofed buildings sporting azulejo tiles and cafés selling pastel de nata for close to one euro. Its weathered tiles and affectionate locals fill each city center and discreet alleyway with a welcoming presence beckoning travelers to wander further into the Alfama district or indulge in another late-night feast of piri-piri chicken.
It seems almost blasphemous to summarize the city’s offerings in the matter of a one-day itinerary. However, not all travelers have the luxury of staying in Portugal’s capital for longer than 24 hours. For some, Lisbon calls to them like a dream in the night, evoking their memories of the short span of time spent in this decorated city. If you also find yourself limited on time and want to see the best of Lisbon in one day, there are a handful of recommendations that you should consider adding to your day, as are visited in our guided Portugal trip.
Peer From a Coveted View
In order to feel as if you have explored an entire city, it is always recommended to find the best view potential of a destination. Lisbon’s mesmerizing city scene is attractive from any perspective, but Edward VII’s Park offers a unique, inclined aspect of the metropolis. From this vantage point, peer directly forward at the sharp-cornered landscaping work leading down to the Marquis of Pombal Square. Admire the far-off water and famed architecture home to none other than this inspiring country. From here, one of Lisbon’s most iconic sites stands a mere 15-minute car ride away.
Approach Belém Tower
Now classified as a World Heritage Site, the Belém Tower is a 16th-century staple of the city. In its earlier years, the tower stood as a fort for the city, protecting the capital against raids along the Tagus River. This medieval defense also served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for the famous Portuguese explorers of the time, later being used as a point for customs control. Over the course of its existence, the structure has undergone restoration projects aimed at preserving the historical look of the building. Nowadays, Belém Tower stands as an iconic backdrop to Instagram photos and is a visited landmark of the city.
If exploring while there is a low tide, viewers can venture down the stairs and across the dampened sand, staring at the towering structure from a close standpoint. As you take in the views and reflect on your surroundings, you’ll likely have the additional romantic impression brought on by a local violin player entertaining tourists with symphonic pop tunes.
The Belém Tower is striking on its own accord, but its adjoining public parks and palms are just as worthy of exploring in the afternoon sun.
More Gothic Architecture
Despite its captivating influx of tiled buildings wearing hats of terracotta tiles, the enchanting city also shows evidence of gothic influence in various architectural hotspots, such as the Jerónimos Monastery. This former monastery located near the Belém Tower once existed as the headquarters of monks giving assistance to seafarers who were in transit. Both the building’s interior and exterior are a sight to behold, from its outer landscaping to its ornate ceilings coaxing visitors to tilt their heads back in awe.
Even though the grounds served a humble mission in its beginning years, the monastery has always symbolized the country’s wealth and power. To this day, the impressive sight tells of Portugal’s cardinal history and still continues to be the base for important government decisions.
Bonus: A Half-Day Tour to Sintra
Technically an hour train ride outside of Lisbon, Sintra is an unbelievably stunning area of the country that one must visit. This quaint town is home to lavish romantic castles and various monuments showering its municipality with royalty. Visitors can enjoy walking through the downtown region just a step away from the train station. Even though no trip would be a waste to this gorgeous district, it would be a misfortune to have spent half a day here without visiting at least one of Sintra’s castles.
Perhaps one of Sintra’s most noteworthy and mesmerizing highlights is Pena Palace, a colorful hilltop castle overlooking the lush terrain and countryside estates below. Not only do the outer surroundings of the palace allow visitors to freely roam the palace quarters as the royals once did, but it also contains one of the largest tile collections in all of Portugal. Peer out over the grounds from one of the various turrets and explore the rest of the domain at your leisure before hauling yourself back to the train station to return to Lisbon. Upon returning to Lisbon, don’t be tempted to cut your evening short after a day on your feet. Wander down the storied streets, get lost in the Alfama district, find the best local hotspot for piri-piri chicken, and soak in the evening atmosphere that comes alive each night as the sun sets on this exquisite city.