Imagine waking up and looking out your window to see beautiful buildings along cobblestone streets. The coffee is hot, and the Pasteis de Belem are sweet. You spend your day taking in stunning views from the historic castles and monasteries, sipping wine, and enjoying your ideal Lisbon vacation.
Lisbon is one of the hottest cities to visit in Europe right now, and it’s easy to see why. The weather throughout Portugal is generally very temperate, though it does get hot in the Summer. The spectacular sights in Lisbon are improved by the city’s proximity to amazing beaches and delicious food and wines.
The best way to start your day in Lisbon is with a delicious breakfast. Pasteis de Nata, also called Pasteis de Belem, are a great local treat. The original pastries are made at the Jeronimos Monastery, though they can now be found in almost any cafe in the city.
Depending on what you like to do, there are lots of different options for your Lisbon vacation. If you’re visiting in the summer months, you’ll likely want to spend your morning doing outdoor activities, which will start to heat up as the day goes on. Check out the Castelo de Sao Jorge, make the trip to Belem tower, or enjoy walking up and down the hills of the city.
If you’re planning a beach day, you’ll also want to head out pretty early. The sooner you get to the beach, the more likely you are to get a really good spot to lay out your towel.
By lunchtime, you’ll want to fill up with a hearty bifana. The bifana is a locally popular pork sandwich. The meat is marinated in Piri Piri sauce, cooked, and served on bread with grilled onions and mustard. This sandwich is a great way to get a taste of local flavor without spending too much, and makes the perfect afternoon meal.
In the afternoon, cool down in one of Lisbon’s many museums. If you like art, check out the Calouste Gulbenkian museum, the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), or the National Museum of Ancient Art. Another fun and offbeat art stop is the National Tile Museum, where you can see beautiful hand-painted azulejos. If you prefer music over visual art, you’ll definitely want to visit the Museu de Fado, celebrating the style of Portuguese folk music.
For history, there are even more fascinating museum options. The National Coach Museum showcases some of the stunning horse-drawn coaches from Portuguese history. The Museum of the Orient is a fascinating look at Portuguese influences in Asian arts and culture. You can also check out the Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida, which was once the home of a rich Portuguese couple who filled their space with historic artifacts. The home is now open as a museum, which you can tour.
As the first day of your Lisbon vacation comes to a close, you’ll want to head to a restaurant for more delicious Portuguese cuisine. Try some Frango Piri Piri, Caldo Verde, or a delicious Bacalhau dish. Don’t forget to order a glass of Port wine, which originates from Porto in Northern Portugal.
After dinner, head to the Alfama district. Here, you can pop into a number of small bars for a shot of ginjinha, a sweet cherry liqueur. In the Alfama district, you should also find a place playing live Fado music. The traditional folk music is beautiful and soulful, with lyrics that focus on the life of the working class, especially near the sea.
Lisbon has a thriving nightlife scene, especially in Bairro Alto. If you’re up for a night out, head to one of Bairro Alto’s popular clubs. You’ll see people out dancing and drinking any day of the week. Lisbon is a very safe city, so you shouldn’t have any problems staying out as late as you want.
You will definitely need more than a day or two for your Lisbon vacation. Even after you’ve explored every museum and castle, relaxed at the beach, and eaten your fill of local food, you’ll still want to do some shopping, catch a soccer game on TV, or take a day trip.
For some great shopping and unique sights to see, check out our guide to the top 10 unusual attractions in Lisbon.
Some of the best day trips out of the city are to Sintra, Cascais, or Evora. Sintra is very easy to reach by train, and is home to the spectacular Palacio Nacional de Sintra. After visiting the Palacio Nacional, take the bus to the Palacio da Pena. This colorful castle is located in the Serra de Sintra mountains, and has some stunning views.
Cascais is a gorgeous oceanside resort town that was once home to fishing villages and magnificent mansions side by side. In Cascais, you can relax on the beach, take a boat ride, or tour the old town and estates.
Once the capital of Portugal, Evora is full of history. Visit the Roman temple to Diana, the Se Cathedral from the 12th century, or the Museum of Evora. This old city will take your breath away, and you’re likely to learn a thing or two while there.