2 days in Lisbon, Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal

Our 2 Days In Lisbon: A Practical Guide

The Rua Augusta Arch, Belem Tower, and the Castle of Sao Jorge, this is Lisbon. This iconic city is the second-oldest city in Europe, after Athens. If legends were to be believed, Lisbon was founded by Odysseus. So, what can you do with 2 days in Lisbon?

With Monsanto Forest Park on the westernmost of the city and the Tagus River on its south, the urbanized areas are collectively known as Greater Lisbon. The city is blessed with a Mediterranean climate and has mild, rainy winters with hot and dry summers.

The highlights of our trip were:

  • Castle of Sao Jorge
  • Santa Justa Lift
  • Praca do Commercio
  • Arco da Rua Augusta
  • Belem Tower
  • Monument to the Discoveries

You have landed on the right page if you are looking for answers to the questions below:-

  1. Where is Lisbon?
  2. Can you see Lisbon in 2 full days?
  3. Where should I stay in Lisbon for the first time?
  4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Lisbon

Venha! Junte-se a nós numa aventura em Lisboa! Which means Come! Join us on an adventure in Lisbon!

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Where is Lisbon?

Lisbon is at the mouth of the Tagus river. The city is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country and has a Mediterranean climate. This means mild, rainy winters and hot and dry summers.

Lisbon has 9 distinct areas with Alfama being the oldest. The name Alfama is from the Arabic word Al-hamma which means “fountain or bath”. This area was once the largest during the Islamic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.

Another district is Mouraria which is the traditional Moorish quarters of Lisbon. This area is the birthplace of Fado, the music of Lisbon. Walk past Largo da Archada, the oldest house in Lisbon, or enjoy the street art of the underrated neighborhood.

History

The earliest known inhabitants of Lisbon were probably Neanderthals, followed by modern hunter-gatherer communities entering the Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon, being one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world was soon occupied by the Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans.

The ancient Romans named the city Olisippo, after a persistent legend that stated that the location was named after Ulysses who founded the city.

By 711, the Moors had invaded Lisbon and renamed it Al-Usbuma. The city returned to Christianity in 1147 and by the end of the 14th century, Lisbon began to flourish.

Portugal’s Age of Discovery was from the 15th to the 17th century with the initial discoveries being the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores, and the coast of West Africa. The famous explorers include Henry the Navigator, Vasca da Gama, Christopher Columbus, and Ferdinand Magellan.

In 1755, Lisbon was devastated by a major earthquake followed by a tsunami. This left the city in ruins. The city was rebuilt with the lower town being known as Baixa Pombalina or Pombaline Downtown district.

During World War 2, Lisbon was one of the few cities neutral cities which led the city to become a gateway for refugees on their way to the United States. 

Today, Lisbon is recognized as an important hub for finance, commerce, media, arts, entertainment, and tourism. Lisbon is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower.

Visa Requirements

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expedites the visa for those traveling to Portugal. There are two types of visa categories available. The first is the short-stay Schengen Visa and the other is the National Visa for longer stays. 

To determine if you need a visa to enter Portugal, check the Diplomatic Portal for more information on the visa types, visa fees, and the documents required for visa application. 

Alternatively, you can apply for a visa through iVisa Portugal which assists with the Health Declaration and the Portugal Passenger Card. With their amazing customer support team that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you can be assured that your queries would be resolved in the shortest time.

How do you get around in Lisbon?

Lisbon is not only beautiful and pedestrian-friendly, but the city also has an excellent public transportation system that covers all tourist sites. This means that you can save money from renting a car and take that adventure of exploring the city by foot and public transportation.

Walking

This is the best way to get around Lisbon is by foot, especially if you are staying in Baixa, Chiado, and Rossio. Before you start walking the city, make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes and good stamina. The roads in Lisbon are steep and can be challenging. 

Tram

There are about 60 trams in Lisbon that travel along 5 routes within the city. The fare for a single-ride ticket costs €3 ($3.25) and is always crowded during peak times. The most famous tram is Tram 28 while Tram 15 is the easiest way to reach Belem.

Metro

The other best way to get around Lisbon is by using the Metro. Lisbon’s Metro has four lines that have 55 stations. A more detailed guide on the metro is on the MetroLisboa webpage which highlights the routes, ticket prices, and service conditions of each line. 

Rideshare

There are three types of rideshare services available in Lisbon. These are Uber, Bolt, and Free Now. While rideshare is much cheaper than a taxi, do note that the drivers are not always familiar with the route or the English language.

Also, rideshare drivers are required to display the letters TVDE sticker on their windshield. If you are taking rideshare, look out for the sticker.  

Viva Viagem and Navegante Cards

If you plan on using public transportation as your main mode of transport, it would be wise to invest in either the Viva Viagem or Navegante Cards. These cards are reusable cards that can be topped up. 

The cards use a “zapping” system as you tag in at your entry station and the end of your trip, you tag out at your exit station. You can purchase the cards at the automated vending machines at the station.

Can you see Lisbon in 2 full days?

Yes, you can see Lisbon in 2 full days. While Lisbon is a large and varied city, it is also pedestrian-friendly which means you can combine a cover a few places in a day, just as we did with our itinerary.

Day 1: Castles and More

On Day 1 of our 2 days in Lisbon, we begin our trip with the must-visits in Lisbon. These are the Castle of Sao Jorge and the end of the day with an iconic trip on Tram 28 or at the Lisbon Oceanarium. 

Castle of Sao Jorge

2 days in Lisbon, Castle of Sao Jorge, Lisbon, Castelo de Sao Jorge, Castle of St George, Portugal
Photo by Robenson Gassant on Unsplash

The first of our 2 days in Lisbon is the Castle of Sao Jorge. This castle is a historical landmark in Lisbon the hills the castle sits on being inhabited since the 8th century by Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors.

The castle still maintains the 11 towers that were originally built with the Tower of the Keep being the most robust and extensively used as a command post. The castle’s peak was from the 13th to the 16th century when it was a residence for the Kings of Portugal.

The castle is open from 9 am to 6 pm from November to February and from 9 am to 9 pm from March to October. 

The entrance fee is €10 ($10.90) for adults and €5 ($5.40) for students. People with disabilities and senior citizens above 65 years of age pay a reduced fee of €8.50 ($9.20) while children below the age of 12 years, enter for free

Santa Justa Elevator

2 days in Lisbon, Santa Justa Elevator, Santa Justa Lift
Photo by Lucie Capkova on Unsplash

The second of our 2 days in Lisbon is the Santa Justa Elevator. The Santa Justa Lift or Elevador Santa Justa connects the lower streets of Baixa with Largo do Carmo on higher ground.

The lift is about 950 meters from St George’s Castle and is an easy 15-minute walk. The lift is built using wrought iron which was a new building material when the lift was constructed. It was originally powered by steam and was soon converted to operating electronically.

There is an entrance fee of €5.15 ($5.60) for return tickets for the elevator. An additional €1.50 ($1.70) is charged to access the viewpoint which was the location of the original steam engine that powered the lift in its inauguration. 

The elevator is open from 7 am to 11 am from May to October and from 7 am to 10 pm from November to April

Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto, Upper District of Lisbon, narrow streets and medieval castles, Portugal
Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash

The third of our 2 days in Lisbon is visiting the Bairro Alto district. This district translates to “Upper District” and is about a 1-mile or a 10-minute walk from the Santa Justa Elevator.

This district grew out of the social and economic transformation of Lisbon during the second half of the 15th century. The district is known for its narrow street along the former medieval castle walls. 

Among the must-do’s when in Bairro Alto include riding the funiculars, specifically Elevador da Gloria which gives you magnificent views of the city at the San Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint.

Look out for the beautiful street art that dots the district. The areas to check out are Rua da Vinha, Calcada da Gloria, and Rua de Sao Boaventura.

Lisbon Oceanarium

Lisbon Oceanarium, woman looking at stingray, largest indoor aquarium in Lisbon
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

The fourth of our 2 days in Lisbon is a visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium. This oceanarium is about 7-miles or a 20-minute drive from the Bairro Alto district. The oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Portugal and Europe.

The oceanarium has a large collection of marine species such as penguins, sharks, rays, seahorses, starfishes, and sunfish. There is a total of 4 tanks that house four different habitats. 

From the North Atlantic rocky coast, the Antarctic coastal lines, the Temperate Pacific Forest kelps, and the Tropical Indian coral reefs are separated by an acrylic sheet which gives the impression as if it all in a single tank.

The entrance fee is €19 ($21) for adults between 13 to 64 years old, €15 ($16) for senior citizens above 65 years, and €13 ($14) for children between 3 to 12 years old. Children below 2 years enter for free. 

Tram 28

Tram 28, one of the oldest trams in Lisbon, yellow cab tram
Photo by Benjamin Pazdernik on Unsplash

The fifth and last of Day 1 in our 2 days in Lisbon is taking a ride on the classic Tram 28 that passes through the districts of Baixa, Alfama, Estrela, and Graca. This iconic tram begins at Martim Moniz and ends at Campo Ourique. 

The busiest route is between Baixa and Alfama with the tram being overcrowded. The key sights along Tram 28’s route are Basilica da Estrela, Rua Augusta, Praca do Comercio, Portas do Sol, and Castelo de San Jorge

As Tram 28 is not a designated tourist tram, an alternative would be the 24-Hour Hop-On-Hop-Off Tram Tour which lasts for 1.5 hours and departs from Praca da Comercio. This tourist tram departs every 30-minutes and takes you through Bairro Alto, Alfama, and Lapa.

Day 2: Squares, Monuments & Tarts

On Day 2 of our 2 days in Lisbon, we explore the city center by visiting its famous monuments. From Praca do Commercio to Belem Tower, and the best spots for Pastel de Nata, let’s go!

Praca do Commercio

Praca do Comercio, Commerce Square, Commerce Plaza, largest plaza in Lisbon, Portugal
Photo by Pelayo Arbués on Unsplash

The sixth of our 2 days in Lisbon is the Praca do Comercio or the Commerce Plaza. This is the largest plaza in Lisbon and is most beautiful as it faces the Tagus river to its south. Before the 1755 earthquake and tsunami, this area was once the Ribeira Palace.

At that time, King Jose I was so traumatized by the earthquake that he refused to sleep in stone buildings. The Royal Court was temporarily moved to tents and wooden structures to the west of Lisbon. This area is where the Ajuda Palace now stands. 

After the rebuilding, what was once a palace, now became a center for economic activity with customs and government bureaus maintaining offices to regulate the port and river activities.

Look out for the Cais das Calunas at the end of the southern edge. These staircases date back to 1755 and were once used by royal dignitaries as they led them straight to the former Ribeira Palace. 

If you are craving some cakes and authentic Portuguese food, make your way to Martinho da Arcada. This restaurant is the oldest in Lisbon and dates back to 1782 and was once the favorite writing spot for Fernandino Pessoa, whose table is still there.

Arco da Rua Augusta

Arco da Rua Augusta, Rua Augusta Arch, landmark of Lisbon, near Praca do Comercio
Photo by Mark Lawson on Unsplash

The seventh of our 2 days in Lisbon is the Arco da Rua Augusta or the Rua Augusta Arch. This triumphal arch was originally designed as a bell tower to commemorate Lisbon’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. 

The arch has six columns and stands at 11 meters in height. Above the cornice, stands the figure of Glory holding two crowns, one for Genius and one for Valor. 

The four statues standing are that of the Marquis of Pombal, Nuno Alvares Pereira, Vasco da Gama, and Viriatus. The two seated figures represent the Tagus and Douro rivers that pass through the city of Lisbon.

While you can walk around the structure freely, there is an entrance fee to access the building. Adults are charged €3 ($3.30) while children below the age of 5 years enter for free. Adults and children who have the Lisbon Card enter for free. 

Monument of the Discoveries

Monument of the Discoveries, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, commemorate Portugal's Age of Discovery
Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash

The eighth of our 2 days in Lisbon is the Monument of the Discoveries or Padrao dos Descobrimentos. This monument is about 6 miles or a 15-minute drive from Arco da Rua Augusta. 

This monument, which stands at 52 meters was built to commemorate Portugal’s Age of Discovery. The monument was initially meant to be a temporary landmark during the Portuguese World Exhibition in 1940. 

The temporary monument was replaced with a permanent structure which was unveiled during the celebrations to commemorate Portugal’s first explorer, Henry the Explorer who discovered the Azores, Madeira, and Cape Verde.

How much is the entry fee to the Monument of the Discoveries?

The entrance fee to the Monument of the Discoveries is €6 ($6.50) for adults and €3 ($3.30) for seniors above the age of 65 years and youths. Children below the age of 12 years, enter for free. Holders of Lisbon Card have a 30% discount on the entrance fee. 

Belem Tower

Belem Tower, Tower of St Vincent, Lisbon, Portugal, Belem Tower at night
Photo by Svetlana Gumerova on Unsplash

The ninth of our 2 days in Lisbon is the Belem Tower or officially known as the Tower of St Vincent is a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon and served as a port of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers.

Belem Tower is about 850 meters or a 10-minute walk from the Monument to the Discoveries. The tower was designed and built as a fort along River Tagus to supplement the defenses that were existing at that time.

Do you need tickets to Belem Tower?

There is free entry for those holding the Lisbon Card. If you do not have the card, the entrance fee is €6 ($6.50) for adults, senior citizens, and youths have a 50% discount on the entrance price while children below the age of 6 years enter for free.

Who built Belem Tower?

Belem Tower was built on the orders of King Manuel I while Francisco Arruda designed the tower

How long did it take to build the Belem Tower?

The tower was completed in two years and was named the Castle of St Vincent in honor of Lisbon’s patron saint.

Pastel de Nata

pastel de nata, Portuguese egg tarts
Photo by Nadya Filatova on Unsplash

The tenth and last of Day 2 of our 2 days in Lisbon is enjoying a plate of Pastel de Nata or Portuguese egg tarts. The origins of these tarts date back to the 18th century when monks created the tarts using the leftover egg yolks.

These tarts are ranked 15th in the 50 Best Things To Eat In The World And Where To Eat Them. Here are our top choices on where to indulge in these rich, buttery and flaky delights.

Our first choice is the birthplace of these tarts, the Pasteis de Belem. The tarts here are from a secret recipe of the monks of the Jeronimos Monastery. This iconic restaurant sells over 25,000 tarts a day, a testament to how good these tarts are.

Our second choice is Confeitaria Nacional which has two popular items on its menu, the bolo rei which is a Christmas cake, and the tarts. As this bakery is located in Downtown Lisbon, near Rossio, you can’t miss it.

Our third and last choice is Fabrica da Nata where you view the process of making these scrumptious delights through a glass wall. We guarantee you would walk in and have a bite before continuing your plans for the day. 

For vegan tarts, head to Vegan Nata where you can indulge in vegan tarts. And, as part of its drive to reduce its ecological footprint, the products are packaged in Zero Plastic with its No Plastic Water. The cups, plates, and straws are edible and in line with their sustainability pillar.

Where should I stay in Lisbon for the first time?

The best place to stay for first-timers to Lisbon is Baixa Chiado. Baixa Chiado or Baixa Pombalina which means Downtown Pombaline is a historic center of Lisbon. This area was built after the 1755 earthquake that devastated Lisbon.

Hence, the buildings here are one of the first and earliest known earthquake-resistant structures. The streets here are lined with neoclassical buildings that lead to the city square and grand avenues filled with restaurants, cafes, and the popular Gold and Silver Streets.

Baixa Chiado District: The Historic Centre

The name Baixa comes from the 1st Marquis of Pombal who was the Prime Minister of Joseph I of Portugal. His notable rebuilding initiative was the gaiola pombalina structure where prefabrication of the new city was made.

The buildings in Baixa were manufactured outside the city, transported to Baixa, and assembled on site. This design changed Baixa’s landscape from a medieval street to a modern city with the streets and avenues we see today.

That being said, the buildings here have retained their old charm and this is experienced in the best places to stay in the Baixa Chiado district. Below are our top choices. We hope you enjoy these places as much as we did.

Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel

This 75-room Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel is unique in that each room is different. With an overall brown and beige color, it reflects Lisbon’s peace and serenity. For history buffs and bookworms, head to Fernandina Room, an archaeological discovery of Medieval Lisbon within the hotel.

Some notable attractions nearby are the Rua Augusta Arch, Praca do Commercio, Rossio Square, and Tejo River. The Baixa/Chiado Metro Station and Cais do Sodre Train Station are within walking distance from the hotel. 

Some positive reviews of the hotel include amazing, friendly, and helpful staff who are knowledgeable and assist with directions, places to visit, and general advice. The other positives include excellent location, luxurious towels, and comfortable beds.

Madalena by The Beautique Hotels

This 38-room hotel comes with air-conditioning, a work desk, flat-screen television, and a minibar. The Pink Oyster tiles of Madalena by the Beautique Hotel are the revival of the 1970s and a nod to Lisbon’s tile heritage. 

The notable landmarks near this hotel are the Santa Justa Elevator, the Praca da Figueira, Rossio Square, and St George’s Castle. The closest metro station is the Rossio Station, the Baixa/Chiado Station, and the Martim Moniz Metro Station.

The positive reviews include convenient location, free minibar, beautiful hotel design, fantastic staff, clean and big rooms, and lovely breakfast. The staff was also helpful and the hotel is next to restaurants, cafes, and bars.

Hotel da Baixa

The 66-rooms in Hotel da Baixa were inspired by historical Portuguese figures of the Marquis of Pombal, Dona Maria II, and Pardal Monteiro. All rooms are equipped with a Bluetooth sound system, Nespresso coffee machine, and television with internet access.

Some nearby attractions include Praca da Figueira, Santa Justa Elevator, Rossio Square, Carmo Convent, and the Dona Maria II National Theatre.

The positive reviews of the hotel include excellent and central location, staff who go above and beyond their duties to ensure guests are taken care of, and clean and modern rooms with comfortable beds. 

Lisboa Pessoa Hotel

The 75-room Lisboa Pessoa Hotel was inspired by the life and works of Fernando Pessoa, a writer, and poet born in Carmo, near the hotel. The hotel has a variety of rooms including interconnecting rooms.

Some rooms have terraces with stunning views of Lisbon city. All rooms are equipped with a safe, flat-screen television, complimentary toiletries, and a walk-in shower. 

The notable attractions within walking distance from this hotel are Carmo Fountain and Carmo Convent, Santa Justa Elevator, Rossio Square, and Praca do Commercio. The nearest MRT station is Baixa/Chiado Metro Station and the Rossio Train Station.

Urbano FLH Hotels Lisboa

Our last recommended hotel is Urbano FLH Hotel in Lisbon. With only 26 rooms, you are assured of privacy and comfort. Each room comes with a safety deposit box, free WiFi, a flat-screen television, and a private bathroom with a shower.

The attractions nearby are the Lisbon Cathedral, the Rua Augusta Arch, Praca do Commercio, Santiago Church, St George’s Castle, and Rossio Square. The nearest MRT is the Baixa/Chiado Metro Station and the Terreiro do Paco Metro Station.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Lisbon

We have answered additional questions which you may have about Lisbon. From whether the people are friendly to whether Lisbon is worth visiting, we have got you covered.

Are people friendly in Lisbon?

Yes, the people in Lisbon are friendly, easy-going, humble, and respectful. While the cost of living is low, there are downsides to living in this beautiful city. 

There is bureaucracy at all levels with public servants being a rather unmotivated bunch. There is no clear information, so you may receive conflicting information. And, government offices close at 3.30 pm. 

It is always best to learn basic Portuguese if you plan to stay in Portugal for the long run. While learning a new language is intimidating, it makes integration into society easier.

Do they speak English in Lisbon?

Yes, English is widely spoken in Lisbon and as a tourist, you may not have any language barriers. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, Portugal is ranked seventh in terms of English proficiency in the major cities of Lisbon, Algarve, Madeira, and Porto.

Is Lisbon safe?

Lisbon is one of the safest cities in Europe with pickpocketing being a major concern for tourists.  As with any travel destination, always take precautions and be aware of your surroundings and personal belongings.

Do not leave any valuable items unattended, avoid empty carriages on the subway, and always walk in a well-lit area. 

Can you drink tap water in Lisbon?

Yes, it is safe to drink tap water in Lisbon. The water in Lisbon is regulated by The Water and Waste Services Regulation Authority. This means that the water quality is strictly inspected and checked to ensure it meets the European Union Water Directive.

If the water tastes different than what you are accustomed to, it could just be a change in the mineral composition of the water itself. The water does have a strong taste as chlorine is added to the treatment process. 

If you are visiting the outskirts of Lisbon, it is best to drink bottled water instead. Most people buy bottled water instead as it tastes nicer than hard tap water. 

What is the best month to visit Lisbon?

The best months to visit Lisbon are during the spring months of March to May and during the fall months of September and October. These months are shoulder seasons and although there is a slight chance of rain during spring, greenery is abundant.

During the spring months, the weather is warm which makes it perfect for sightseeing. The key events to look out for in spring are the Lisbon Half Marathon, Indie Lisboa, and Festival de Sintra.

The fall months of September to October bring fewer crowds. However, be sure to pack a windbreaker as the temperatures drop. Look out for the Lisbon International Film Festival and the Out Jazz Festival.

Is Lisbon worth visiting?

It’s a YES from us. Why?

Other than being a vibrant, colorful, and lively city, Lisbon is a popular destination for both tourists and digital nomads. The city is also safe for solo female travelers and tourists. Here’s why you must make that trip to this city that is as old as time, at least once.

  1. The Pastel de Nata is worth every bite. The custard tarts of Pasteis de Belem are a combination of sweet, rich, perfectly crispy tarts that would leave you wanting more. Interestingly, the secret recipe was never written down.
  2. History lovers paradise. Lisbon predates London, Rome, and Paris by a few hundred years and although it was severely damaged during the earthquake of 1755, remnants of its glorious past remain and are taken care of with pride.
  3. Lisbon is a cheap city. This city is much cheaper to visit and stay in when compared to other major European cities. The city is budget-friendly with a meal for 2 persons at a mid-range restaurant costing €40 ($44) for a three-course meal.
  4. The world’s oldest bookstore. Make sure to stop by the Livraria Bertrand, the oldest bookstore in Lisbon and the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. And, Livraria do Simao is the smallest bookstore in Lisbon. 
  5. Panoramic views are guaranteed. Lisbon is built within seven hills which means you are guaranteed excellent views from any part of the city. 

There is more to Lisbon than the five which we have mentioned. You can always look down and admire the “calcada” which is the traditional Portuguese pavement designed with original patterns.

Lisbon is also home to a Christ the King statue which was inspired by Brazil’s, Christ the Redeemer statue. The view at the top of the statue is one of the best in Lisbon. So, if you haven’t been to Lisbon, now is the time to visit!