Lisbon for first-timers: what to visit in one day

by - 6:00 PM

Despite being Portuguese, and as surprising as that may sound, I have not explored much of my country's capital: Lisbon. 

Therefore, I decided to go on a day trip to this intriguing city and explore it, covering the main touristic attractions. 

So, here are the things I believe everyone should include in their trip to Lisbon, Portugal: from activities to foods, experiences and monuments.

Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)

Start your trip in one of the biggest symbols of the Age of Discoveries. 
Built during the 16th century, the Tower served the purposed of both a fortress and a ceremonial landmark, utilised for welcoming ships and celebrating departing missions.
While in the area, you can have a refreshing ice cream at Artisani. 


Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries)

Continuing forward, by the coast of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), you will find another monument built during the same historical period. 
It includes statues of important figures such as Vasco da Gama (discoverer of the route to India) and Pedro Álvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil) and represents a romanticised overview of the Portuguese conquests. 

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery)

On the left, you can spot one of the 7 wonders of Portugal.
With the rapidly growing maritime exploration which revolved around the port located near the area, a need for implementing a religious space arose. 
The Monastery was thus built and became the praying spot visited by sailors before departing for voyages. 


Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts)

You have most likely seen pictures of this traditional dessert online. 
The pastel de nata is a crisp pastry tart filled with a delicious egg custard. You also have the option to sprinkle some cinnamon on top. 
One of the most famous bakeries is located within the area of Belém, near the previous monuments, and are thus called pastéis de Belém.
If you go to Portugal, you definitely have to give these pastries a try!


Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge)

While walking in the area, in the distance, you can see the suspension bridge that connects North and South Lisbon. 
It used to be called Ponte Salazar (Salazar Bridge): however, this was altered to Ponte 25 de Abril after the Revolution that ended Salazar's dictatorship. 
Many even say that it is quite similar to the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco. 
In addition, on the other side of the river, you can see the Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei (Christ the King Sanctuary). 

Ride a Tuk-Tuk

A ride in one of these small vehicles is definitely quite a unique experience. It might get a bit pricey (for instance, we paid 20€ from Belém to the next attraction I will describe) but it is definitely worth it. And you can get some insight information and tours by chatting with your driver.


There are plenty of different viewpoints in Lisbon, all worth checking out.
The one we visited was the Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara (São Pedro de Alcântara Viewpoint).


Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square)  

The area used to be called Terreiro do Paço (Paço Terrace). Nevertheless, following the 1755 earthquake and tsunami, the square was fully remodelled and re-named Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square). 
This name resembled the new function of the plaza: the symmetrical buildings became the new economic centre and government office.
In its centre, is the statue of King Jose I, who was reigning during the rebuilding period. 


Arco da Rua Augusta (Augusta Street Arch)

Originally designed to be a bell tower, this triumphal arch was built as a commemorative landmark to celebrate the city's reconstructions. 
It is the opening to Rua Augusta, and thus the link to older squares.


One of the main commercial areas, filled with unexpected attractions. Perfect if you're looking to purchase something or simply want to wander around and be surprised.

Here you ride one of the trams (definitely a must!) and take photos with one of the no longer in service ones.

The Duck Store is definitely the coolest store I have ever visited! They have ducks with every outfit, personality and profession you could think of: from animals and smurfs to Trump or the Queen of England.


The sardines shop consists of a store that sells a very typical Portuguese product: canned sardines (and other fish). It is decorated to resemble an amusement park and you can buy cans with years on them as a birthday gift, for instance.

Somewhat near the area is one of the cutest restaurants I have ever eaten at: Avocado House. Extremely friendly staff and super delicious food. And one of the most adorable gestures ever: they have some notebooks on the table so you can order without an issue if the staff serving you is deaf!


Elevador de Santa Justa (St. Justa Elevator)

Also known as the Elevador do Carmo (Carmo Lift), this elevator connects the lower streets of the Baixa with higher Squares. 


If you continue walking straight-ahead from the Rua Augusta, this will lead you to a few squares, also commercial areas:
  • Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square), where you can find the Nacional Theatre D.Maria II

  • Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue)

  • Praça Marquês de Pombal (Marquês de Pombal Plaza) and Parque Eduardo VII (Eduardo VII Park)

Parque das Nações

This quite recent area features modern infrastructures and a river pier. Here you can find many parks where you can relax and appreciate the water exhibits, a cable car service, a casino, a shopping centre, the Pavilhão do Conhecimento (a centre with exhibitions perfect for kids) and the Oceanarium.
If you're in the area, I also recommend having a meal at 100 Montaditos, a restaurant that serves miniature sandwiches. 


Other things to visit: 
  • Churches: even if you're not religious, Portuguese churches are some of the most stunning, so definitely worth making a visit.
  • Museums
  • Lx Factory: an abandoned industrial complex turned into a cultural and artistic space featuring offices, cafes, show rooms and much more
  • Palaces and Castles

Lisbon is a beautiful city with soooo much to see! Even if you just aimlessly wander around, you will be able to find something special and unexpected.

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