In this article, I’m going to share with you my 2 days Lisbon itinerary. Lisbon had been on my bucket list for years. I was swooned by those gorgeous pictures of the iconic yellow tram riding up through the narrow cobbled streets. I can confidently tell you that the city was everything I’d hoped for and more.
I had a weeklong trip to the west of Portugal and part of this included spending 2 days in Lisbon. Lisbon is the perfect destination for a short break. The city is relatively compact so you can see a lot in a short time.
If you’re planning a weekend in Lisbon you’ll get to see the pretty cobbled streets, the historic centre, discover the ruins left by the devastating Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755 and explore the once-underbelly district of Alfama. All this in addition to experiencing Lisbon’s fabulous culinary delights (pastel de nata, I’m talking to you) as well as a trip out to the photogenic, dream-like Sintra. Wow, that’s a lot we’re going to be covering in this 2 days Lisbon guide.
The city has so much to offer and I can guarantee that you’ll love your trip to Lisbon. It’s best to explore Lisbon by foot as there’s so much history and culture as well as quirky little gems to discover on every street and corner. It quickly became one of my favourite cities in Europe and I’m sure after you visit Lisbon you’ll agree with me.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a brew (and a pastel de nata) and let’s discover your complete 2 days Lisbon guide.
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LISBON IN 2 DAYS – OVERVIEW
(Click to skip to a section)
DAY 1 – LISBON’S ICONIC LANDMARKS
Including: Praça do Comercio, Lisbon Cathedral, E28 Yellow Tram, Alfama, São Jorge Castle, Santa Justa Lift, Carmo Convent, Rossio Square, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Belém Tower
DAY 2 – SINTRA
Including: Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Castelo dos Mouros
Best time to visit Lisbon
With regards to the weather, the best time to visit Lisbon is from late April through to October, with the warmest months being June – August.
However, the peak time for crowds and prices coincide with the school holidays. This includes the two weeks over the Easter Holidays (April-ish) and the Summer holidays (July-August).
Knowing this, means that the perfect time to visit Lisbon making the most of the good weather, quieter crowds and shoulder season prices are May – June and September – October.
Top Tips for visiting Lisbon
- Lisbon is a fairly compact city and the main highlights are all fairly central. Make the most of the efficient and affordable public transport system for getting about.
- This 2 days Lisbon guide covers all the best things to see in the capital. I’ve given you a jam-packed itinerary which is doable if you only have 2 days in Lisbon and really want to see everything. However, if this feels too rushed for you I suggest stretching the things I cover in day one into two days. This will give you a more leisurely Lisbon city break and the perfect excuse to come back one day to visit Sintra another time.
- Make sure you’re wearing a comfortable pair of shoes with grippy soles. Although you’re in the city, the pavements are often made of polished cobbles which can get super slippery underfoot. Also, Lisbon is a hilly city, so be prepared for some serious leg work at times.
- If you want the easy option to see the main highlights while getting some insights into the history of Lisbon, then make the most of one of the numerous city walking tours.
- If you are planning on staying a bit longer, then it might be worthwhile taking advantage of the Lisboa Card which gives you unlimited use of public transport and entry to loads of the city’s top attractions.
The Lisboa Card
The Lisboa Card is available as a 24, 48, or 72-Hour Pass and gives you unlimited use of public transport, including the famous E28 line (that’s the one with the Yellow Trams,), transport to Sintra as well as and transport to and from the airport.
Not only that the card gives you entrance to a ton of museums and attractions including Lisboa Story Center, the Torre de Belem, Santa Justa Elevator and the Arco Monumental da Rua Augusta. It also gives a discount on a whole range of other attractions (like Sintra).
If you’re planning on seeing loads of highlights of Lisbon in 2 days, the savings can really start to add up.
The Lisboa Card is valid for a full calendar year after its purchase date, so you can buy it in advance. It’s validated on its first use.
2 days in Lisbon - Day 1
LISBON's IConic landmarks
Day 1 - Morning
Praça do Comercio
The Praça do Comercio (Commerce Square) is one of Lisbon’s most iconic and recognisable landmarks. The large square has one open side facing out to the Targus River. The other three sides are lined with beautiful buildings with columned walkways. The colourful yellow trams trundle past in front of the giant Arco de Rue Augusta. It’s a great place to start your 2 days Lisbon tour.
Historically the square was called Terreiro do Paço. This was because the Paços da Ribeira (Ribeira Palace) where the kings of Portugal resided, used to be here. That was until it was destroyed by the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755.
What stands now are bright yellow facaded buildings which gleam into the sunlight into the square. If you want to find out more about the history of Lisbon, on the east side of the square I recommend the Lisboa Story Centre.
From the Praça do Comercio walk up to Lisbon Cathedral (in a northeast direction). The Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral) is located on the junction between two streets which the trams run along. If you wait a short while, you’ll get that Instafamous picture of the pretty yellow tram going past the front of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral was built by Lisbon’s first king and is the oldest church in Lisbon. It’s free to enter, just be mindful that it may be shut at times due to services. It’s also still an active place of worship, so once inside be respectful towards this.
Ride Tram 28
The next part is purely optional and a bit gimmicky. You could easily take the 10-minute walk up to Alfama (the nest destination on this 2 days Lisbon itinerary). Depending on the time of day, it’s most likely quicker to walk. However, if your mind is set on having a ride on the pretty yellow trams on the E28 line, then you could hop on just outside of the Cathedral.
The waiting time for the Tram 28 line can be long, if you’re unlucky you might end up waiting up to an hour to get on it. And even when you are on it, you’d be hard pushed to get a seat (a word of warning, this is prime territory for pickpockets, the number of tourists plus the crowdedness of the tram makes these easy pickings so be sure to keep your belongings somewhere safe).
The tram winds through the narrow and curvy streets. There are tram stops all over the city, so if it’s too busy outside the Cathedral, then pick it up at a later point in the day. It winds through the districts of Graca, Estrala, Baixa up to Alfama. If you have the time, you could sit on here and do the whole circuit.
This is the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon. The streets are narrow and steep, so no public transport can come in here, so it’s a pedestrian-only area. The area of Alfama coves the steep hill between the São Jorge Castle and the Tagus River.
Because Alfama is situated outside of the old city walls, historically it was associated with poverty and crime. Over recent years there’s been a resurgence and the area has been transformed into a trendy artisan district with intimate restaurants, trendy cafes and soulful Fado venues dotted about. You’ll also get a glimpse of locals going about their daily lives. It’s not uncommon to see laundry hanging out in the street and the delicious smell of home cooking wafting out from their kitchens.
Thankfully, the area of Alfama was not destroyed during the 1755 earthquake, so the layout of the area is pretty much unchanged and why it’s kept it’s charming narrow streets and small squares. It’s steaming with history in here and it’s great to pass an hour or so wandering about the labyrinth of streets and alleyways.
São Jorge Castle
If you keep heading upwards and out of Alfama, you’ll eventually find São Jorge Hill. At the top of the hill is São Jorge Castle. The castle can be seen from most places around Lisbon and therefore if you go inside, you get some great panoramic photos of the city below. While you’re checking out the view, see if you can spot the Santa Justa Lift, you’ll be heading here shortly.
The first fortifications at the top of São Jorge Hill date back to the 1st century BC when Lisbon was under Roman rule. However, what you see today is a mix of hundreds of years of history all amalgamated into one, mostly dating from around the 5th to 11th century.
Inside the castle walls are gardens, eleven towers and turrets as well as the castle wall to walk around. You might even see the resident peacocks strutting their stuff.
Day 1 - Afternoon
Santa Justa Lift
From the São Jorge Castle head back down the hill. Make your way towards the lively district of Chiado, which you’ll find bustling with shops, cafes and restaurants.
This is where you’ll find the Santa Justa Lift. The Neo-Gothic style structure was completed in 1902 by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard. Look at the style and architecture of the lift, does it look familiar? Ponsard was actually a student of Gustav Eiffel the architect behind the iconic Eiffel Tower.
Initially built to connect the lower part to the upper part of Lisbon, the lift has now become a tourist attraction more than anything. Take a ride up the 45m lift to the viewing platform which overlooks the city it’s also a great way to photograph the São Jorge Castle you’ve just visited.
If the queues are too long, then walk up to the viewing platform instead by heading along the Largo do Carmo, past the Carmo ruins and then head behind the Bellalisa Elevador restaurant.
From the Santa Justa Lift head to the nearby Carmo Convent. I’ve mentioned the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 quite a few times in the 2 days Lisbon article, the Gothic ruins of the Carmo Convent are a result of that.
The Great Lisbon Earthquake – Portugal’s Darkest Day
The Great Lisbon Earthquake is probably the darkest days in Portugal’s history. It happened on the morning of All Saints Day on Saturday, 1 November 1755. The earthquake reached a magnitude of 9 and the subsequent fires and tsunami nearly wiped out the city and its surrounding areas. It’s thought that over 60,000 people lost their lives as a result of it.
The roofless columns and walls of the Carmo Convent are a relic from that dark day. Inside there is a museum which houses various religious artefacts, mummies and tombstones. The old convent has a tranquil feel to it. I spend ages here exploring the beautiful ruins and playing about with photographing the site.
From the Carmo Convent, head towards the highly photogenic Rossio Square. The lively square is surrounded by stunning architecture, you’d be hard pushed to miss the geometric pattern of the black and white cobblestones.
There are often markets and pop up stalls around here as well as it being a bit of a hub for locals to meet. If you enjoy a spot of people watching, this is your place.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), Belém
For the final part of day one on your 2 days Lisbon itinerary, head out towards the suburb of Belém to see two landmarks.
The easiest way to get there from Lisbon centre is by catching Tram number 15. Head towards Cais de Sodré station to pick it up. If you have time, then stop off at the Time Out Market, which is close to Cais de Sodré station for delicious food. (Click here to jump to where to eat in Lisbon part of this guide)
Construction of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos started in 1500 which then took 100 years to complete. This 500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was built from money derived during Portugal’s age of exploration. Most of the wealth came from the taxes of imported goods from both Africa and the Far East.
The grounds and building its self is visually stunning, so even if you don’t go inside (it’s closed on Mondays) at least swing by the outside for a look.
For the final landmark on your 2 days Lisbon itinerary, take a short walk on from the Jerónimos Monastery towards the Belém Tower. The Belém Tower was built in the 16th Century to protect the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour during the age of exploration.
From the outside, the fortress looks quite ‘blocky’ to say the least, that’s down to its combination of Medieval and Gothic architectural styles. Belém Tower shares the UNESCO World Heritage title with Jerónimos Monastery
Originally, the Belém Tower was built on an island however after the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake, the course of the river shifted which is why now the tower sits on a little rocky outcrop, right on the shoreline.
The Belém Tower also offers a great vantage point to watch the sunset from.
Day 1 - Evening
Watch & Listen to a Fado performance
Finish your first day by heading back to the Alfama district to watch a Fado show. The Fado is unique to Portugal and it’s said that Alfama is the birthplace of it.
The Fado is a music genre that could be likened to blues music, where the sole singer emotionally sings about their woes, love and life. The first Fado dates back to around the early 1800s.
They often happen in small intimate settings of bars and restaurants and there are over 40 in Lisbon to choose from.
Explore Lisbon’s lively nightlife
Like most countries on mainland Europe, the nightlife doesn’t really kick off until around 11 pm. Depending on your preference there are loads of places offering a great night out.
The famous ‘Pink Street’ (Nova do Carvalho) in Cais do Sodré district is one of the livelier areas of Lisbon to party.
If you want something a little less lively, then there are a multitude of trendy cocktail bars along Bairro Alto, or if you prefer somewhere where the locals drink then head towards Rua Nova do Carvalho.
2 days in Lisbon - Day 2
Day 2 - Morning
For the second day of your 2 days Lisbon itinerary, you’re going to be heading out to Sintra. Make your way to Rossio Station to make the 40-minute journey. This is an easy day trip from Lisbon. A word to the wise, start early. To make the most of Sintra you’ll want to be there before the crowds.
Sintra is located about 30km to the east of Lisbon in the stunning surrounds of the Serra de Sintra. The whole area has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, I don’t even need to try and argue why. It’s remarkable in every way.
When you arrive at the train station in Sintra, you’ll notice how green the area is. The station is located a little way from where you want to be but there will be a multitude of buses to take you up to your first stop – Pena Palace.
The green hilly slopes are polar opposite from the built-up capital, you’ll pass through the picturesque town of Sintra which is a bustling hive of shops, restaurants and cafes and you could spend quite a bit of time wandering about here. However, I suggest the first thing you do is head up to Pena Palace before the crowds do.
If you’ve ever typed ‘top 10 castles’ or ‘beautiful castles’ into google image search, I guarantee one of the images you get back will be of Pena Palace.
Built-in the Romanticism style, this 19th-century castle is the most colourful castle I have ever seen. Situated in lavish grounds and gardens the brightly contrasting red and yellow walled castle with black and white striped roofs is an Instagrammers dream. It’s so photogenic and a bit of a playground if you’re wanting to get trigger-happy and artsy with the camera.
There is so much detail in every aspect of this castle that you can spend hours just marvelling at the carvings, archways, turrets, doorways and alcoves that make this place so magical.
It’s easy to lose track of time inside the castle walls. Sometimes the queues to go inside snake all the way to the exit. So be aware of losing precious time if you decide to go in.
Don’t miss out on wandering around the grounds and throughout the beautifully manicured and landscaped gardens.
Day 2 - Afternoon
Quinta da Regaleira
From Pena Palace, head back down the hill and out towards Quinta da Regaleira. This 20th-century house was built in the Gothic style. The grounds are filled with waterfalls, lakes and grottos, it’s would have been a fantastic adult’s playground back in its heyday; and it still is!
One of the most iconic thing to see at Quinta da Regaleira is the Initiation Well. This 88-foot-deep well has a spiralled staircase along the sides winding right down to the bottom. Along the staircase, columned archways give the place a regal yet slightly creepy feel. It was built for secret ceremonies, exactly what went on here will probably always be a bit of a mystery.
If you’ve ever seen the film Pan’s Labyrinth, or other twisted fairy tales, Quinta da Regaleira wouldn’t look out of place as the backdrop.
Equally, the of attention to detail on the main mansion is extraordinary so be sure to spend a decent amount of time exploring here. It’s the quirky fantastical charm, again like with Pena Palace, is a photographer’s dream
Bonus...if you have time in Sintra
I’d also recommend the Castelo dos Mouros. It’s located nearly opposite the lower entrance to Pena Palace. The ancient Moorish fortress is perched on an outcrop of rocks overlooking the whole valley.
Although overshadowed by nearby Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira, the wall walk is certainly worthwhile if you have the time. You’ll get some great shots of the whole region from up here and on a good day, you can see the ocean.
Catch the train back to Lisbon for your final night.
Where to Eat in Lisbon
Time Out Market, Mercado da Ribeira
Located close to Cais do Sodré, Time Out Market is a super trendy food hall which opened in 2014. It boasts over 40 different restaurants, shops and cafes serving some the capitals best artisan foods. It’s at its liveliest during the weekend and is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists.
If you’re a foodie, you could easily spend hours here trying a handful of small tapas-style small dishes from a whole range of outlets all while washing it down with delicious local wine or beer.
LX Factory in Alcantara
Similar to Time Out Market is the LX Factory. This old factory was renovated into an equally trendy outlet. The 100-year-old building is now home to a variety of hip and urban shops, restaurants and cafes. Again, like with the Time Out Market, it’s a haven for food lovers.
Pastel de Nata
So this isn’t specifically a place to eat, BUT it’s a food that you HAVE TO TRY when you visit Lisbon.
This Portuguese speciality is essentially an egg tart made in a flaky pastry shell. It’s super creamy and sweet with a slight vanilla flavour and a hint of cinnamon.
You will notice a whole plethora of cafes selling them across the city with a multitude of places claiming to sell the ‘best’ pastel de nata. Honestly, all of the delicious little Portuguese custard tarts were amazing. And I tried a lot – of course – all in the name of research.
Two of the more famous eateries are Confeitaria De Belém which is located just outside of the station when you arrive in Belem. The other is Santo António located close to São Jorge Castle BOTH cafes get busy, so you will have to queue.
All I’m going to say is, go and ‘sample’ LOTS of them and make up your own mind.
Where to stay in Lisbon
- On a budget: Lisbon Lounge Hostel is centrally located and offers dorm rooms as well as family rooms at a budget price. There’s an onsite fully equipped kitchen as well as loads of areas for socialising and meeting other travellers.
- Mid-Budget: Páteo Saudade Lofts are a perfect choice if you’re wanting something mid-budget yet still centrally located. The spacious apartment s come equipped with space to relax, private bathrooms and fully equipped kitchen. They are modern and beautifully furnished.
- Blow the Budget: Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel is right in the heart of the historical centre and a stone’s throw from all of Lisbon’s highlights. There’s an onsite gym and an exceptional breakfast is included to set you up perfectly for a full day of sightseeing.
Final notes on 2 days Lisbon itinerary
I hope you agree that Lisbon doesn’t half pack a punch when it comes to city breaks and also why it’s crept up to become one of my favourite European cities. This two days in Lisbon guide should have ample stuff to do in this fabulous city, regardless of what your travel style.
I’ve included more than enough stuff to do in Lisbon in 2 days but if you have longer I would highly suggest taking longer and splitting this into 2 days in Lisbon old town and then an additional 2 days to fully explore Sintra.
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