As Portugal grows to be one of Europe’s hottest destinations, we bring to you the essential Lisbon travel guide to explore the city in a day.
7:00 AM: Where to stay
Touch down Lisbon and head straight to the charming old part of town, Alfama. A 20-minute drive, it is here that Palácio Belmonte hotel, the former residence of a noble family dating back to 1449, sits. The hotel has exceptional sitting rooms – more than 3,800 blue-and-white Portuguese tiles from the 1700s cover its walls while dreamy Fado music plays in its hallways.
The Terrace Suite is extraordinary. Lined with an impressive collection of XVIII century azulejo tile panels (glazed coloured tiles traditionally used in Spanish and Portuguese buildings) and sporting a cathedral height ceiling, it is made up of a big living room, a mezzanine floor (with a king-size Japanese bed), a small dining room, a marble bathroom, and a private terrace (and verandah that runs along the length of the suite) overlooking the river and orange trees. Enjoy a cup of coffee with cinnamon drizzled Pastéis de Nata in the morning. Ask the concierge to sign you up for evening pisco sour tour at the Peruvian restaurant A Cevicheria and a make dinner reservation at the famed Belcanto (more on this below). If you don’t feel like heading out, just make your way to Grenache Restaurant at the hotel, which offers a star meal experience with chef Philipe Gelfi.
11:00 AM: Sightseeing and museum appointments
Head straight to the world-renowned Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in the heart of Lisbon. Its museum houses the founder’s private collection alongside a collection of modern and contemporary art; an orchestra and choir; an art library and archive; and a scientific research institute. It also has one of the world’s finest collections of carpets in the world.
Visit the Berardo Collection, representative of the fine arts of the 20th century and early 21st century, especially of Portuguese, European, and American art. The collection also covers major movements like surrealism, pop art, hyper-realism, minimalist art, and conceptual art presented in various media.
1:00 PM: Lunch Fix
Head to Bairro do Avillez, located in Chiado, at Rua Nova da Trindade. The sprawling 1,000 sq. mt. atypical space is the brainchild of renowned Portuguese chef Jose Allivez and has four different seating areas inspired by the best Portuguese flavours. Open every day from noon to midnight, every corner here hides a surprise. Try the fresh lobsters, local white code grilled, clamps in white wine sauce, and some local cheese.
3:00 PM – Retail therapy and concept stores
Head towards the centre (also the most buzzing part) of town and soak in the reflections from the gorgeous tiles on the building and pavements around. On the way there, you’ll pass the iconic architectural wonder, the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT), a cross-cultural hub that brings together visual arts, urban affairs, technology, and science.
Lisbon is fast becoming known for its trendy stores and you’ll believe it when you see the concept design stores. One such store is 39a Concept Store, a hybrid boutique-gallery with constantly shifting art installations and merchandise from Portuguese and international designers. Another one is 21pr Concept store, across the street, which has a wide range of exclusive, unique, and carefully chosen products, including ready-to-wear, luxury candles, jewellery, accessories, and décor. You’ll find everything from bespoke perfumes to Japanese designers here.
A few others include the Silva & Feijóo (stocking traditional Portuguese products), Loja das Conservas (for tinned goods), Kolovrat (clothes and accessories), and Burel Factory (fashion, home décor, design). Hop into Casa Pereira to sip on the best chocolate sorbet made with 100 percent cocoa, and pack some sundried sugared orange peel dipped in chocolate to take back home.
4:00 PM: Time for TimeOut Market
Dedicate an hour to the world-famous TimeOut Market, 10,000 sq. ft. of restaurants and award-winning chefs serving food. Perfect for on-the-go nibbles, this place can be quite a challenge for the indecisive. If this is your first trip and you still don’t have a favourite spot, just walk around and go with your heart as I did.
5:00 PM: Tiles for Miles
The best part of the evening is not the bars, but the National Azulejo Museum. Azulejos have long played a crucial role in Portugal’s cultural history and a walk around any neighbourhood or street is enough to prove that. This museum, housed on once-sacred grounds, delves into the rich legacy of the tiles, wooing visitors with some 300 beautifully ornate patterns. Highlights include the blue-green-yellow-white azulejo with an armillary sphere.
7:00 PM – Cocktail Hour
Bar hopping is the best way to experience bar culture in Lisbon. Its vibrant nightlife closes late, so don’t rush. I recommend starting at Pensao Amor for a stiff classic Negroni and make your way to Red Frog speakeasy, which features in the list of the World’s Best 50 Bars. Reminiscent of a 1920s New York bar, it sits behind a closed door with no signage on Rua do Salitre 5ª. Ring the bell and once in, order a drink based on your mood. Other bars to try include Cinco Lounge known for the Jumping Jessica and Foxtrot, a quaint bar with a great selection of cocktails with local ingredients and ports from Portugal.
Make sure you try the white port and tonic with an orange twist. There are cute kiosks in most of the squares in the centre of town that have a couple of tables outside and serve their own version of this authentic Portuguese aperitif.
9:00 PM – Dinner Date
Head back to the hotel and freshen up for dinner at Belcanto by Chef Jose Avillez. Belcanto, in the city’s Chiado neighbourhood, had been around for decades before Avillez took it over and gave it an elegant face-lift, and an entirely new, slightly avant-garde menu about six months ago. One of the best restaurants in Lisbon, it is not to be missed. Must order: The Garden of Goose that laid the golden egg.
11:00 PM: Post Dinner
Head back to the hotel & enjoy the stunning view of the river with an inverted martini.