Portugal, voted no.1 tourist destination in 2017 is an incredible country and Lisbon, the capital, is a perfect city to spend 48 hours. With our guide to Lisbon in 48 hours, you will be sure to leave the city wanting to return again and again.
Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe and was a thriving city even before the Roman Empire. Four centuries older, according to Historians. It is the second oldest European capital after Athens, being established by the Phoenicians during 1200 BC. Lisbon also only became the capital in 1255 when the King, Alfonso III, moved the court to what later would become Portugal’s largest and most vital city.
Walking through the streets of Lisbon, you can admire the sense of history in the buildings and sloping, winding paths that take you around the city. One of the most striking things about the city is the intense Mediterranean light, the origin of its name “the city of light”.
If you’re wondering how many days in Lisbon is ideal or how many days do you need in Lisbon? well it all depends on what your plans are? You could easily spend 2 weeks in Lisbon or 2 months and still not see or do everything.
Below is a great guide on what to do in Lisbon for 2 days because sometimes 2 days in Lisbon is all you have, especially if you’re going over on a cruise or you’re short on time and want to be able to tour some of the other areas within Lisbon.
With a combination of sea and historical centre, there are plenty of things to do in Lisbon. This guide is perfect for those who only have 48 Hours in Lisbon – A 2 Day Itinerary. If 2 days is not long enough, I’d recommend one of these 3 day Lisbon itineraries.
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The best time to visit Lisbon
The best time to visit Lisbon is in Spring and Autumn, between May and March and then from September to October.
Crowds are thinner, and hotel rates are cheaper than in the summertime. Lisbon enjoys long hot summers, which stretch into September and early October, and you will still be able to enjoy some beach days while avoiding the crowds!
If you want to experience the festive side of Lisbon, you can visit during the Festas Santos Populares celebrations from the 3rd to 14th of June.
Where to stay in Lisbon
In Lisbon, you can experience life like a local in an Airbnb, and there are excellent offers in traditional houses with balconies overlooking the narrow city streets.
The best neighbourhoods to stay in Lisbon are around the centre, Lisbon is a walkable city and easy to get around, with a fantastic hop-on and hop-off tram service.
Here are the best central budget hotels in Lisbon:
VIP Executive Eden Aparthotel. Situated in the heart of Lisbon, the art deco styled building once was a cinema. The rooftop has a pool and a bar and views of the historic city.
Rooms are an absolute steal at starting from €84 per night. Rooms are studios with some of them offering balconies where you can take in the life of the city streets.
Hotel Convento de Salvador – Castelo de São Jorge. This hotel was constructed in one of the oldest convents of Lisbon, in the Alfama district.
The decoration is minimalist, and the halls are full of works by famous Portuguese artists such as Júlio Pomar, Paulo Rêgo and Sebastião Salgado. The hotel offers a terrace and pool, and rooms start from only €94 per night.
The Independente Hostel & Suites, Lisbon – Rua São Pedro de Alacântara 81, 1250-238. This hotel is located in the beating heart of Lisbon, a short walk from Rossio train station, Bairro Alto, Principe Real and Chiado.
The hotel offers hostel dorm rooms at affordable prices and suites that overlook the Tagus River. It is also home to a popular and trendy restaurant, The Decadente, where you can find Portuguese cuisine with a twist. Dorms start from €11, suites from €70 per night.
Getting around in Lisbon
Lisbon is a walkable city, but it also has a very user-friendly metro and tram system. No trip to Lisbon would be complete without a trip on one of these bright yellow trams that traverse the city streets.
If you want to save on transport, buy your Viva Viagem/7 Colinas card at the airport, in fact, if you’re fortunate as you arrive, tourists who are leaving may give you their travel card for free saving you the €0.50 for the card itself.
This is one of the best ways to get around as you can top up your card for use on metro, tram and bus. With Zapping you can pay around €1.30 per metro trip.
Alternatively, you can buy a day pass for only €6.30 which gives you unlimited travel over a 24-hour period on the bus, tram and metro network (€10.40 if you want to include Comboios de Portugal).
Tours to do in Lisbon
There are many options for tours in Lisbon if you’re pressed for time. Here is a selection of the best and most unique tours of Lisbon:
Time Out Discovery Games
This tour offers a new and exciting way to see the city! Explore the neighbourhoods while solving cryptic clues, taking in the views and spotting street art. This offbeat tour with an experienced guide will show you a different side of Lisbon. Tours start from €21 per person.
The 10 Tastings Food Tour
10 fantastic bars and restaurants in one tour led by a local expert. This foodie tour lets you taste the authentic flavours of Portuguese food and drink and learn about the origins of local dishes such as pastel de bacalhau (cod fritters) and the famous pasteis de nata. This three-hour tour costs around €45 per person.
Another option is “Eat With” who offer dinners in Lisbon with locals, you can enjoy an authentic local experience in the home of a local and many many more options.
Lisbon Electric Bike Tour
What is more iconic in Lisbon than the rolling hills of the city? The electric bikes make the steep hills more manageable.
This tour will take you to the different neighbourhoods on a bike of Alfama, Bairro Alto and Chiado and visit landmarks such as the Cathedral and Church of Santa Engrácia. Prices for a two-hour tour start from €35 per person.
48 hours in Lisbon – Day 1 in Lisbon
Start your day on a good note with the best breakfast that money can buy in Lisbon, a Pastéis de Belém and a good cup of Portuguese coffee. Cheap, delicious and filling these little treats are world famous.
The most famous bakery is located in Belem, and there are long queues for these custard tarts, being the original bakery located next to the Jerónimos Monastery. Legend has it that convents and monasteries of the time used tremendous quantities of egg whites to starch their clothes and accumulated a lot of yolks.
They used to make large amounts of tarts and cakes with the yolks and hence the tart was born. This bakery sells 20,000 pastries every day, and the long queues are a testimony to the popularity of these treats with both tourists and locals. I would eat at least one every day for breakfast!
If you want to skip the queues, there is an excellent bakery that produces these tarts called Manteigaria, located in Rua de Loreto, 2. Here you can see the expert skills of the bakers churning out thousands of tasty tarts daily, you can even bring home a box!
From here you can hop onto Tram 28, but bear in mind that this tram is always crowded as it will take you around the city. The yellow trams are an iconic symbol of Lisbon, and a tram ride is one of the must-do attractions in this beautiful city.
Take the tram to Alfama district and visit the Csatelo de Sao George. This stunning 12th-century castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Lisbon.
From there you can take in the historical monuments in Rossio Square, and if you like the cultural vibe, you can visit a few museums such as the National Museum of Ancient Art or the Museum del Fado, celebrating the mournful traditional musical style of Portugal.
Don’t leave Rossio without trying the Ginjinha, the Morello Cherry liquor which you can sample in the smallest bars in Lisbon, such as Ginjinha Sem Rival located in R. Portas de Santo Antão 7, where a tiny cup will set you back €1.40 and give you a little buzz.
These bars only serve cherry liquor, and it is deceptively sweet and tasty, in fact, some places serve it in chocolate cups which makes an absolutely mouthwatering treat!
Now it’s time for lunch, and there are several options in the centre to savour the local dishes in Bairro Alto.
O Cantinho de Bem Estar, on R. do Norte 46, is a small authentic restaurant where you can eat with the locals.
They specialise in seafood with abundant fish dishes where you will find yourself dining at tiny tables side by side with local families and enjoying the authentic Portuguese dining experience. Meals are a steal for their large portions at around €20 for two people.
For a more upmarket choice, you can visit the Latitude 38 Restaurant, Travesa de Carvalho 33, the food is spectacular and you can enjoy seafood, the local cheeses, and more fine dining. Prices start at around €30 per person.
The best local dishes include their delicious fish soups, Portuguese rice abundant with seafood, bacalhau (cod) which is cooked in a myriad of ways and the delicious meats and cheeses washed down with a refreshing glass of Portuguese wine.
After having a delicious meal its time to continue wandering and perhaps take in the panoramic views of the city at the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, just a short walk away from Rossio and take a casual stroll down the sloping streets of the city.
Now it’s time to get the evening started, and I would recommend Pensão Amor, a trendy cocktail bar that was once a brothel. Bold. Burlesque. This bar has erotic art on the walls and ceilings and offers pole dance workshops and houses a sex shop within its premises. Strictly adults only!
For dinner, Time Out Market is just 4 minutes walking distance from the bar. Here you can enjoy a selection of various upmarket stalls offering traditional and fusion Portuguese food.
In 2017, the market received 3.6 million visitors! It is definitely the place to see and be seen. Remember to dine early as, in Portugal, people typically dine around 1900 or 2000.
After dinner, enjoy a glass or two of Portuguese port wine, heady and delicious. Just don’t blame us for the hangover the next day!
Day 2 in Lisbon
Enjoy brunch at Heim café, Rua de Santos-o-Velho 4, where you can have a hearty breakfast. Just arrive early to beat the queues.
Jump on tram 28 heading to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, to visit the 500-year-old monastery that now has become a cultural hub offering regular concerts.
Right next door is the famous Paseis de Belem bakery where you can join the queue for the original tarts from Lisbon.
From there you can walk by the sea and visit the Torre de Belem which was a fortified defence tower which now has UNESCO protected status.
If you want to see Lisbon from a different point of view, do a tour by boat from around €35 per person for a 60-minute tour, and you can enjoy the views of the city and what was once the longest bridge in the world, the 25 de Abril which spans the Tagus River.
You can either jump on a tram or take a walk to the LX Factory that is one of the best places to see Lisbon graffiti.
Once a textile factory, it is now full of boutiques and eateries including Landeau’s mythical chocolate cake, which they proclaim to be “the best chocolate cake in the world”!
You can either choose to have lunch in the LX Factory or head back into the centre to enjoy another panoramic vista from the Miradouro da Graça, where you can have the city of Lisbon at your feet.
After taking in the views, you have a date with Chiado, Lisbon’s bohemian district where you can while away the afternoon on terraces, sipping excellent Portuguese coffees in the local cafes or visit the famous Rua Garrett.
The bookshop from 1732 built upon the ruins of the Carmo Convent which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. For book lovers, the famous Café A Brasileira, where Fernando Pessoa penned some of his greatest works is a must-visit.
Catch your last Lisbon sunset at the Silk Club in Chiado, where you can enjoy the cityscape from above while sipping on a Vinho Verde before going to dinner.
Drop into O Chiado, R. do Crucifixo 104, for your last authentic Portuguese meal and make sure to order a rice dish whatever you decide to do! This intimate restaurant gets full quickly and serves a delicious rice pudding and homemade desserts.
Finally, while away the end of the holiday blues with a Fado concert at Fado in Chiado, R. da Misericórdia 14, where the mournful notes of Fado will tug at your heartstrings before you fly back home with mind full of memories of Lisbon and the desire to return again.
Recommend budget tours in Lisbon:
- Sintra and Cascais Small-Group Day Trip from Lisbon
- Lisbon Small-Group Gourmet Portuguese Food and Wine Tour
- Fátima, Nazaré, and Óbidos Small-Group Day Trip from Lisbon
- Experience Lisbon: Small-Group Walking Tour with Food and Wine Tastings
- Small-Group Tour: Knights Templar Historical Tour from Lisbon
- Lisbon Guided Walking Tour