The Perfect Day in Lisbon

If you only have one day in Lisbon, it has to be a perfect one. Enjoy the unique light of Lisbon and stroll around the neighborhoods and along the river. Listen to fados in a local tavern. And at the end of the perfect day, enjoy the sunset over the red rooftops of Lisbon while dining on fresh seafood.

Largo do Chafariz de Dentro, 1100-139 Lisboa, Portugal
This square is located in the oldest and one of the most typical neighborhoods in Lisbon. Yes, typical houses, old cafes, and grocery shops can still be found here. If you hear hollering out a window, don’t worry, probably it’s just someone calling a neighbor, it isn’t a fire; it’s just how things are done in the daily life of the Alfama locals. If you’d like to know more about Fado (Portuguese folk singing), visit Fado Museum. If you feel like trying to sing it, just choose one of the narrow streets and look for an old tavern. In these taverns, after some cups of aguardiente (Portuguese brandy), everyone sings Fado—usually Fado Vadio (sung by non professionals) or Desgarrada (between two singers, improvising verses that tell a fun story). Don’t expect great voices, as probably everybody is out of tune!
R. do Vigário, 1100-502 Lisboa, Portugal
To get to know the neighborhood and its daily life, nothing beats a stroll through Alfama’s streets. It is the oldest and one of the most typical neighborhoods in Lisbon. Here you might see two women chatting at the window (well, screaming) while hanging the laundry; people sitting outside on small wooden benches or the entrance steps to old houses; and, of course, people listening to fado. The sounds of fado can come from a fado restaurant or from an old tavern (here fado is called Fado Vadio since it is sung by nonprofessionals after drinking aguardiente). On the nights of June 12 and 13, Alfama celebrates Santos Populares, when the streets are adorned with colorful little flags, the air is aromatic with smoke and smell of sardines, the beer is flowing, and music is everywhere.
R. São Tomé, 1100-563 Lisboa, Portugal
Santa Luzia offers you a panoramic view over Alfama, where you can make out the Alfama labyrinth. From here, you can see Santa Engrácia Dome (also known as National Pantheon), Santo Estevão Church, and the two white towers from São Miguel Church. Here you can also find two tile panels, one from Praça do Comércio (before the earthquake) and the other one with Christians attacking São Jorge Castle. Stone benches offer a place to sit and enjoy the views while someone plays music nearby. Or you can appreciate the paintings for sale, usually with trams as themes. Also, you’ll find a restaurant with a terrace. To get here, catch Tram N28.
Largo São Domingos 8, 1100-201 Lisboa, Portugal
A Ginjinha was the first establishment in Lisbon to commercialize the drink called Ginjinha. Ginjinha is a liqueur made with ginja berries, aguardiente (Portuguese brandy), sugar, water, and cinnamon. Francisco Espinheira, a Galician friar of the Church of Santo Antonio, put together all these ingredients, and the result was this sweet and very good liqueur. In Óbidos, the drink is served in chocolate cups, about the size of shot glasses. (They make a very nice gift.) You can eat the cup after drinking the liqueur, or just pour more into the cup. Before having a drink, visit São Domingos Church. It’s worthwhile.
24 Rua João do Outeiro
Located in the Mouraria neighborhood—the birthplace of fado—this restaurant is a prime pick for sampling traditional Portuguese food. The codfish, or bacalhau, is a must here. It is served with plenty of bread to clean your plate. In the style of a classic tasca (Portuguese tavern), the walls are adorned with blue tiles and many photos, paintings and drawings.
Rua da Conceição 8, 1100-226 Lisboa, Portugal
Whoever doesn’t like the smell of cheese should think twice before entering this shop. Not only do they sell a wide variety of Portuguese cheeses, they also dedicate the shop to national traditions from all over the country. Besides cheese, you can buy olive oil, cakes, liqueurs, charcuterie, and more. And there is a daily tasting menu. The shop is hard to miss, in downtown just in front of a tram 28 stop, in an 18th-century building.
R. de Belém 84 92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, common in Portugal. Those found at Pastéis de Belém have become legendary for their super secret recipe. Any day of the week, a line trails out the door waiting to savor one of tens of thousands made daily. Eat them warm with a cafe.
R. do Diário de Notícias 39, 1200-141 Lisboa, Portugal
This place is mandatory, especially if you want to hear some fado. Here you can listen to Fado Vadio (sung by nonprofessionals) on Mondays and Wednesdays, hear consecrated artists and potential stars, or hear a regular who just feels like singing a fado accompanied by Portuguese guitar. Once an old tavern, A Tasca do Chico was restored in 1993; on the walls are paintings, posters, and clippings. Go early, because it can be crowded. If you like chorizo, ask for “chouriço assado"—basically, this chorizo is on fire. Let the flame disappear and then eat it with some bread.
1200-445 Lisbon, Portugal
On August 25, 1988, tragedy fell upon Lisbon: A huge fire turned Chiado to ruins, destroying 18 secular buildings. However, Chiado has come back to become the most elegant and trendy neighborhood in Lisbon. Fortunately, some buildings from the 18th century, a few of them renovated after the fire, still stand, remodeled by the Portuguese architect Siza Vieira. With a location on one of Lisbon’s seven hills, the neighborhood is full of old bookshops, theaters, international brands, and local fashion designers. Also, it’s a popular meeting spot for a dinner or a drink in Bairro Alto. Chiado’s streets are a symbol of the liberty of the revolution, since it was on the 25th of April, in 1974, that the Carnation Revolution would leave Largo do Carmo. Also it’s a neighborhood of intellectual life. The writers Fernando Pessoa and Eça de Queirós were habitués of the cafés.
Largo do Carmo, 1200-092 Lisboa, Portugal
In 1755, Lisbon was all but devoured by an earthquake so strong that it still ranks as one of the most destructive in recorded history. One of the few structures to survive somewhat intact was the Carmo Convent—an impressive feat, considering it was built in the 14th century. Today, you can still tour its beautiful skeleton, complete with soaring archways that cut a majestic path across the sky. Also worth visiting is the open courtyard, which houses spillover ruins from the attached archaeological museum.
R. Me. Deus 4, 1900-312 Lisboa, Portugal
Azulejos (glazed tiles) are a ubiquitous decoration throughout Portugal. They cover the facades and interiors of many houses in Lisbon, and are even used as historical markers. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo, located in a 16th-century convent, has a permanent exhibition that illustrates the heritage of these Portuguese tiles from the 16th century to the present, touching on everything from Ottoman geometry to Goan altars. Also on view here is a remarkable azulejo mural, A Grande Vista de Lisboa, which offers an idea of what the city looked like before the earthquake of 1755.
R. de São Pedro de Alcântara, 1200-470 Lisboa, Portugal
The São Pedro de Alcântara lookout may not be Lisbon’s highest viewpoint—that honor goes to the Nossa Senhora do Monte lookout—but it’s certainly its most romantic, offering panoramas of the city’s signature fortress, Castelo de São Jorge, perched ominously on the opposite hillside. In addition to the vista itself, the area offers pleasant gardens, which are perfect for lazing about, and a kiosk that regularly hosts jazz and other live entertainment. Come here at sunset and enjoy a sundowner as the city lights up below, then head to nearby neighborhoods Bairro Alto or Príncipe Real for a night on the town.
1 Costa do Castelo
Chapitô is a circus school but also a restaurant and a bar. It’s very close to the castle and has fabulous views over the river. It’s ideal for a romantic dinner. The cuisine is inspired by traditional Portuguese cuisine with a mix of international influences. I had dinner there this week and tried the codfish and I recommend it—but you have to eat it on the terrace, since this menu is different from the one inside the restaurant. You will be stunned with the views from the restaurant. Enjoy this beautiful city over a pleasant dinner. If you want to have a drink afterward, there is a bar on the lower floor, sometimes featuring live music or theater.
R. Nova da Trindade 18, 1200-303 Lisboa, Portugal
The latest from the man who is probably Portugal’s most famous chef, José Avillez (of two-Michelin-starred Belcanto), Bairro de Avillez does it all. Upon entry, guests are greeted by a traditional Portuguese taberna, where cheese, charcuterie, and Avillez’s take on traditional petiscos (finger foods) fuel a festive atmosphere. Further inside, you’ll find Páteo, a seafood-focused food court for classic Portuguese dishes, and Beco, a hidden restaurant that offers a gourmet menu alongside sexy cabaret shows. Plan to spend the night here.
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