6 Ideas of Lisbon Itineraries for Sustainable Cultural Tourists

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Ever since I started to write more about Lisbon, I never took the time to sit and come up with a sample Lisbon itinerary to help someone explore the city.

Part of me didn’t want to do it because I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions. However, I understand the practicality of it, especially if it’s your first time in a destination.

So, for the sake of clarity, and in case you just found my blog and this is the first post you’re reading, here’s a list of things this Lisbon itinerary post isn’t about:

  • It won’t include ALL the things to see in Lisbon in a certain number of days. That is not what Tripper is about. I believe, no matter how many days you have in a place, you shouldn’t rush through it. Yes, even if you’ll only visit once;
  • These are samples of Lisbon itineraries for sustainable cultural tourists, so they mix sights and some local museums;
  • I don’t care if there are unmissable top attractions that blog X, Y, Z, and guidebook W told you not to skip. That’s fine. You can mix and match theirs and my tips, and come up with something unique to you;
  • I don’t include restaurant recommendations, but watch out for the signs of what’s a tourist trap in Lisbon;
  • My recommendation for evenings is the same for all itineraries, no matter how many days you’re spending in Lisbon: explore the neighborhood where you’re staying.

Lisbon Weekend Itinerary (2 Days)

This is the ideal itinerary for someone who’s arriving in Lisbon on Friday night and leaving on Sunday night or early Monday morning. You can also adapt this itinerary to any 2 days in Lisbon that aren’t a weekend.

Saturday morning: Belém

It’s always hard for me to include Belém in an itinerary for Lisbon because it’s one of the most touristic neighborhoods in the city. Unlike Alfama, where there seems to always be a mix of locals and tourists, Belém is mostly tourists waiting in long lines to visit the “age of discoveries” related landmarks (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Torre de Belém, and Padrão dos Descobrimentos) and to eat the (in)famous “pastel de Belém”.

That said, and because this is an itinerary for cultural tourists spending a weekend in Lisbon, Belém has to be part of the experience. Although I suggest you skip getting inside the landmarks and just admiring them from the outside.

Take the train from Cais do Sodré to Belém and then back. The trip takes under 10 minutes and on Saturdays trains run every 20 minutes. It’s the best time-saving option because traffic between downtown and the west side of the city is always chaotic.

Torre de Belem in Lisbon at sunset

Belém is about understanding the wealth that the so-called “age of discoveries” brought Portugal and that you can see in the massive monuments Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Torre de Belém, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Both impressive examples of the 16th century Manueline architecture (with a few add-ons done in the 19th century).

Padrão dos Descobrimentos continues this “age of discoveries” narrative of the fearless and the bold “discoverers”, each of them represented on this sail-shaped monument. Notice the marble map in front of it, with all the Portuguese former colonies.

Please keep historical context in mind when visiting these “age of discoveries” monuments. Decolonization is a fairly recent topic for the Portuguese and, I must say, we are now taking the first small steps into addressing post-colonialism and slave trade.

In this itinerary, you can squeeze in CCB (Centro Cultural de Belém) if there is some cultural event there that you don’t want to miss. I would personally skip Museu Coleção Berardo because you won’t see there anything different from any other general art museum elsewhere in the world. Then again, it’s up to you.

Are “pasteis de Belém” overrated? Maybe. But they taste great warm, sprinkled with cinnamon, and with a cup of coffee. Since you’re in the neighborhood, I don’t see why you shouldn’t get one. Just don’t take them to go; they’re not the best after a couple of hours.

Pastel de Belém and coffee at one of the classic Lisbon coffee shops for coffee and pastries

Saturday afternoon: take a Lisbon tour

Your Saturday afternoon depends on how much time you’ll spend in Belém and, to be honest, there’s no rush.

I believe taking a Lisbon tour will be a good use of your Saturday afternoon, especially because all of them or most of them will most likely have a reference to the “age of discoveries” and, by now, you’ve seen plenty of related landmarks to create a picture in your mind.

Inside market 31 de Janeiro, near Saldanha, in Lisbon.
Inside market 31 de Janeiro, near Saldanha, in Lisbon.

Sunday morning: Alfama

Although Alfama has become quite the tourist trap in the last five years or so, this historic neighborhood of Lisbon is quite different in the early morning, especially on a Sunday.

This part of the itinerary is all about getting lost in the narrowing streets, seeing the sunbathed terracotta rooftops from one of the viewpoints, waiting for the city to slowly awake. That perfect time of day right before the crowds arrive.

Despite it all, in many ways, Alfama is still authentic as long as there are locals resisting real estate pressure.

Usually, the meeting point for guided tours is around Museu do Fado ou Campo das Cebolas, which means most guides take their clients uphill to tick off all the must-sees: the old cathedral (Sé), the viewpoints (Santa Luzia and Portas do Sol), and the Castle.

So, the trick to avoid the crowds is to reverse their usual route. This, of course, will depend on where you’re staying in Lisbon, but I suggest you take the Metro to Santa Apolónia (Blue Line), walk up to the National Pantheon, and then make your way down to Rua de São Vicente and take it from there.

You’ll never get really lost in Alfama because the city finds a way to put you back on the right track. Eventually, you’ll end up near the river, somewhere between Praça do Comércio and Campo das Cebolas.

Sunday afternoon: Chiado + MNAC

Assuming that you ended up between Praça do Comércio and Campo das Cebolas, you can now walk up or take the Metro to Baixa-Chiado (Blue Line).

Chiado is usually a shopping neighborhood but I will always associate it with Modernist Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa. Not only did he work and spent time at cafes in this area, but he was also born across the square from Lisbon’s Opera Theater, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (you’ll find a statue dedicated to him here).

I like the contrasts in Chiado and it’s always been and will always be crowded, so I wouldn’t say the current atmosphere is the result of overtourism or a recent surge in popularity. It’s a commercial district.

It’s also the neighborhood of one of my favorite art museums in Lisbon, and one I believe doesn’t get as much attention as it should: MNAC – Museu de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado (Contemporary Art Museum).

The museum is not very big (in size) but I believe it’s an important stop for cultural tourists interested in Portuguese art from the mid-19th century to the present time.

Lisbon Itinerary: 1 Day

This is the ideal itinerary for someone who’s staying in Lisbon for, at least, 12 hours. Ideally, you’re in town for a full day or very close to that.

Figuring out what to see or do in one day in Lisbon was the toughest task related to this blog post. And after taking a long hard look at my notes, I realized I was down to three possible itineraries and I couldn’t part with any of them.

I used the Metro Blue Line as a reference, because that’s the one serving most of the possible entryways into Lisbon: Santa Apolónia (if you’re arriving by train or by ferry), Jardim Zoológico (if you’re arriving by long-distance bus), and São Sebastião (which connects to the Red Line from the airport and from Oriente train and bus station).

Option 1: Chiado + Carmo

This is similar to my recommendations above for your Sunday afternoon during your weekend in Lisbon, except for this option I’m not including the MNAC museum.

Instead, I suggest you get off at the Baixa-Chiado Metro station (the Largo do Chiado exit), walk down Rua Garret and turn left at Calçada do Sacramento until you reach Largo do Carmo.

That square, Largo do Carmo, is the location of two important historical moments in Lisbon. The first, the Great Earthquake of 1755 that completely changed the landscape of the city. The second, the revolution of 25th April 1974 that reinstated democracy after almost 60 years of a conservative dictatorship.

The ruins of Convento do Carmo are the perfect site for travelers who aren’t staying in Lisbon for long but have a thing for historical buildings. The gothic convent was one of the few places that barely survived the earthquake and not much of it remains, except the main walls of the church (roofless since that time).

I know the convent is in every list of top things to see, but I always recommend it because it’s unique. It also doesn’t take long to visit.

Before leaving, go around the back of the convent to look at the view: the castle on top of the hill, the Santa Justa lift, the old buildings cascading down Alfama, the reconstructed buildings of Chiado (that survived a massive fire in 1988), the Rossio square.

If you want a quick snap of the multiple layers of Lisbon, this place is it.

Option 2: Alfama Walking Tour

I’ve mentioned this above, on the weekend itinerary suggestions, Alfama is the place to get lost. However, getting lost is a better option when you have plenty of time to waste.

If you’re staying in Lisbon for just one day, that is not the case. I suggest you pay for a guided walking tour of Alfama, preferably one that’s under three hours.

Option 3: Take a Paid Tram Tour

A paid tram tour is one of the best and most convenient ways to see the historic neighborhoods of Lisbon for those who only have a few hours in the city. I should warn you, though, that it’s not the most comfortable – these are refurbished old trams, riding on rails built at a time when traffic wasn’t an issue.

I suggest the Historic Hills Tram Tour (you can click to buy a ticket below) because:

  • It’s hop-on/hop-off and the ticket is valid for 24 hours, so you can explore as much or as little as you want;
  • If you want to do the whole tour without getting off the tram, it’s a ride of about 1.5 hours (it starts and ends at Praça do Comércio downtown;
  • It follows a route that’s very similar to the one from tram 28, except in this case it’s not a means of public transport, so you’re reducing your negative impact on locals’ mobility;

Lisbon Itinerary: 3 Days

Three days is the average answer to the (unfair) question “how many days in Lisbon?” For most travelers, however, that’s how much time they have to spend. This itinerary excludes day of arrival and day of departure. You can mix and match the days as you please, and there’s plenty of spare time each day so you can wander off and explore the city without a plan.

For first-time travelers in Lisbon, what to see in three days boils down to the rawest side of the city. Usually, that doesn’t include monuments and landmarks, but (slightly overstimulating) parts of town that force you to look all around you and define what the city means to you in that first encounter.

Day 1: Alfama + Fado Museum (Optional) + Mouraria

Despite the threat of overtourism taking over Lisbon, stripping the city from its authenticity (or what we perceive as such), I still strongly believe that that first introduction to the historic neighborhoods of Alfama and Mouraria is key to fall in love with the city.

The real secret to getting this part of Lisbon under your skin is to avoid free guided tours, hopping on tram 28, and staying at one of the hundreds (!) of short-term rentals in this area.

I don’t want to keep repeating myself but go early, before the rest of the tourists arrive, before the cafes and souvenir shops open, and walk, walk, walk as much as you can.

I suggest the Fado Museum as optional because it will depend on how long you’re planning to thoroughly explore Alfama and Mouraria, not because I think you should skip it altogether.

Not only is Fado classified as Intangible Culture by UNESCO, but it’s part of Lisbon’s urban culture. The museum does a great job explaining the music genre’s roots and its evolution from the bohemian, drunken, and poor Mouraria to recent times.

Day 2: Baixa-Chiado + MNAC + Carmo Ruins

While Alfama and Mouraria seem chaotic, Baixa-Chiado is all about shadowy charming squares, wide avenues, and 18th-century buildings. Post-1755 Earthquake Lisbon at its finest.

Once you’ve grown tired of the perfectly planned streets, with or without a side of shopping, split your time between MNAC and the Carmo Convent Ruins. Both are museums that give you time and space to explore, which is perfect when you want a deep experience not a superficial collection of travel memories.

Day 3: Cais do Sodré + “The Triangle”

I know it happened over some time, but I always feel like the transformation of Cais do Sodré from a sort of Red Light District (that’s a very polite way to put it) to hipster nightlife hotspot happened overnight.

To me, the new Cais do Sodré is the first sign of how a city can become a brand. Everything becomes a concept; it’s no longer just a cafe, or a bar, or a restaurant. It has to be built on some kind of concept. It happened first with Time Out Market and the Pink Street, and I don’t remember when did it snowball from there.

Take in Cais do Sodré with a grain of salt (shot of tequila optional).

As for “The Triangle”, I have been professing my love for this unofficial neighborhood of Lisbon ever since I found it by chance in 2017. In some days, part of me regrets ever including it in this article. But my love for this cluster of streets that happen to form a triangle remains the same now for the same reasons as it did then.

If you skip the clearly gentrified areas (and beware that I don’t include cafes like The Mill, Hello Kristof, and Dear Breakfast in the gentrification problem), there’s a raw Lisbon to discover. Exploring the three streets of the triangle (Poiais de São Bento, São Bento, and Poço dos Negros) doesn’t take long, decent parking is virtually impossible, traffic is nerve-wracking, the only available public transport is tram 28, and it’s one of the most challenging areas to Instagram. What’s not to love?

And among all that, on a side street of Poiais de São Bento, a warehouse-turned-museum designed by Siza Vieira houses the Atelier Museu Júlio Pomar. As a museum employee once told me, it’s the kind of place only intentional visitors visit.

Lisbon Itinerary: 4 Days

Ideally, you must be in Lisbon for four full days, but you can probably make it work too even if you have three and a half days in the city. I planned it as three days walking plus one day on a specific bus route. This itinerary excludes day of arrival and day of departure. You can mix and match the days as you please, and there’s plenty of spare time each day so you can wander off and explore the city without a plan.

Day 1: Alfama + Graça + Mouraria

I’ve written plenty above about Alfama and Mouraria and how the charm of visiting the old neighborhoods is all about letting yourself go. Well, Graça is no exception although its chaotic glamour is more recent. One of the most obvious telltales of this? The buildings covered in industrial glazed tiles.

The reason why it looks built in haste it’s because it kind of was. Graça is the neighborhood of vilas and pátios, the blocks of buildings made by factory owners in the 19th century for their workers who were coming to Lisbon, mostly from the farms in the south.

It’s a steep hill, one that’s not amusing to walk up, on a scorching summer day, but it’s blessed by the two best viewpoints in Lisbon.

I suggest doing Alfama first, then Graça, and finally Mouraria. No matter how you spin it, it’s impossible to escape the hills anyway.

Day 2: Príncipe Real + Bairro Alto + Chiado

I don’t know when Príncipe Real became the foodie district of Lisbon. Maybe because I remember it most as that place closest to Bairro Alto to park your car for free.

It’s definitely always been a posh part of town, with high-ceiling apartments and grand mansions, where even the parks and viewpoints look expensive. Then chefs opened restaurants and the square began hosting an organic produce market every Saturday.

On your way back from Príncipe Real, after stopping for the views at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, take the detour through Bairro Alto before heading down to Chiado.

Bairro Alto by night is a crowded neighborhood of bar hoppers holding plastic cups of cheap, watered-down beer on the streets. Not appealing? Probably not, but it’s still a worthy experience if you’re planning to explore the nightlife in Lisbon.

Bairro Alto by day, though, is close to a ghost town (with all bars closed) with some locals going about their business, the few that remain. BA is the Jekyll and Hyde of neighborhoods and that’s the experience. Once the meeting point for journalists, writers, artists, and students, its bohemian soul lives on.

If you’re coming out of the maze of streets that is Bairro Alto and into the wide shopping streets of Chiado feeling like you’ve just come from a parallel universe, you’re probably onto something.

Day 3: “The Triangle” + Madragoa

I’ve spoken about “the triangle” plenty on the Lisbon itinerary for three days above, but I’ve decided to group it with Madragoa in this one.

Most people reach Madragoa coming from the riverside or coming from Belém. I believe getting to Madragoa from “the triangle” is a more interesting transition. Well, to be perfectly honest there’s no transition at all. Both neighborhoods sort of fade into one another and both have an interesting mix of small, family-owned businesses and hipster-focused companies.

In both neighborhoods I’ve also found a common trait in those small business owners: you can appeal to tourists without losing your identity and they have successfully done it.

Mentioning museums in this area is tricky because the most famous is the MNAA – Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art) but it’s almost at the border of the neighborhood (although locals claim it as being part of Madragoa). If you have your mind set on visiting the museum, expect to spend at least four hours to properly see all the exhibitions. That won’t leave you with much spare time to visit anything else.

If you don’t feel like spending so much time in museums, browse the streets of “the triangle” and Madragoa and drop by all those niche stores and small businesses.

Day 4: Post-Industrial Lisbon (bus 728)

I rarely suggest taking a bus as part of a travel itinerary in Lisbon, but I’m opening an exception in this case. Bus 728 has stops on two former industrial areas of the city: Alcantara-Mar (west side) and R. Açúcar (east side).

Keep in mind, of course, that this is public transportation so rush hours will be busier and traffic will impact your trip (and everyone else’s onboard). To keep things speedy, top-up a Viva Card with cash to use on the bus instead of buying tickets from the driver.

The most central 728 bus stops to start your journey are Sul Sueste, Pç. Comércio, or Cais do Sodré. All of them are in the middle of the route, regardless if you choose to go west or east.

LX Factory is on the west side (Alcantara-Mar stop) and it’s the most popular post-industrial site of Lisbon. But on the east side, the trend to refurbish old warehouses and factories has been growing in recent years, specifically the Beato area where the new digital hub of the city is being built. Expect bus stops to change without notice in this area, considering the ongoing works.

The beauty of these two parts of the city lies in its grittiness, of course. Expect graffiti on the walls, closed buildings, and hipster-like businesses.

Lisbon Itinerary: 5 Days

If there’s one itinerary to take things slow, this is it. You can choose to travel from west to east (Belém to Oriente) or do the itinerary in reverse, east to west. This itinerary excludes day of arrival and day of departure. You can mix and match the days as you please, and there’s plenty of spare time each day so you can wander off and explore the city without a plan.

Day 1: Ajuda + Belém

A lot has already been said in this blog post about Belém, with its massive “age of discoveries” monuments, built as a result of this newfound source of wealth or to pay tribute to what most consider as the “golden age” of the Portuguese empire.

For this itinerary, I suggest you start at Ajuda by visiting another Portuguese empire related monument at the top of the hill: the unfinished palace Palácio Nacional da Ajuda.

The palace was built as a safer home for the Portuguese royal family after the 1755 Great Earthquake, but was left unfinished in 1807 after said family escaped the French invasions by running away seeking exile in Brazil (then a colony or, as they liked to put it then, a part of the grand Portuguese empire).

Palácio Nacional da Ajuda (Ajuda National Palace)

Day 2: Madragoa + “The Triangle” + Cais do Sodré

For this west/east or east/west itinerary, I suggest you always start the day at MNAA (National Museum of Ancient Art) because it’s the best way to beat the crowds. I also suggest you stick to one or two floors, specifically the third floor where you’ll find Portuguese art (painting and sculpture).

I also suggest you walk from MNAA to the center of Madragoa down Rua das Janelas Verdes, left on the Calçada Marquês de Abrantes, and left again to Rua da Esperança. Rua da Esperança, in particular, is an interesting mix of old traditional restaurants and new cafes/brunch joints, all coexisting peacefully as far as I can tell.

That street is important because that vibe continues on as you cross Av. Dom Carlos I to get to Rua do Poço dos Negros, one of the three streets of “the triangle”.

Neither Madragoa or “the triangle” focus too much on attracting tourists – in fact, I think tourists come here precisely for that mix I mentioned above – but the vibe is slightly different once you go down to Cais do Sodré.

Day 3: Chiado + Amoreiras + Marquês de Pombal + Rossio

I confess that from all the itineraries that I’ve laid out here so far, this day three of the Lisbon itinerary for five days is probably my favorite. It’s light because it only includes one museum that doesn’t take more than one hour to visit.

It also condenses so much of Lisbon’s identity in one go: the yellow tram 24E, the art museum of a local artist born on June 13th (the day of the city when everyone is going nuts about popular saints and sardines), the grand reinvention of the city after the 1755 earthquake led by Pombal.

Tram 24E, that connects Chiado to Amoreiras, is underrated for tourists but was a major win for a local association of Lisbon residents who lobbied to get this route reopened. The rails were there and the need for this route was there, so after a long battle, they got it back. I boarded the tram on the reopening and I use it frequently now that I work from Chiado.

But there’s more to tram 24E than convenience to get to a part of the city not served by Metro and that’s the stop at Jardim das Amoreiras. Why? Because it gets tourists closer to an art museum that otherwise is kept under the radar: Fundação Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva.

I enjoy small, independent museums that focus on one (or more) local artists. That one is one of them and, as I stated above, it doesn’t take too long to visit.

From the museum, you can walk back to the tram stop and get on the tram again to Amoreiras (which is the next stop, R. Amoreiras) or walk there. This shiny glass building is both an eyesore and an icon. Is this possible? It’s a shopping mall with offices, designed by an architect who became more famous for other creations than his buildings (google it :D). It might not be liked by everyone, but it’s impossible to ignore it.

With the Amoreiras shopping mall on your left, walk down Av. Eng. Duarte Pacheco towards the Marquês de Pombal roundabout. Yes, the guy really thought that much about himself and, well, he can take credit for rebuilding Lisbon after the earthquake.

And no matter how many years I spend in Lisbon, walking down Av. da Liberdade from Marquês do Praça dos Restauradores is still one of my favorite walks.

Day 4: Mouraria + Alfama + Graça

On this day dedicated to the old quarters of Lisbon, I suggest you start with a visit to the tile museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo). I know how the tiles on the buildings of Mouraria, Alfama, and Graça are one of their biggest attractions, but I believe it’s important to get the background of those tiles first.

Geographically, the tile museum is not in neither of those quarters but it’s a short bus ride away from any of them. From the museum, you can take buses 728 or 759 that stop at Campo das Cebolas (Alfama).

Day 5: Oriente

The Expo happened in Lisbon in 1998 and it’s still remembered by locals as one of the largest events in the city. That was long before the Portuguese capital was taken seriously as a European city, long before anyone even thought of it as a tourist destination, long before… Well, you get the picture.

Expo 1998 took place in what is now known as Parque das Nações (or referred to simply as Oriente by locals). The area that was previously an industrial wasteland had been completely transformed with contemporary architecture, an urban park, a (very expensive) second bridge over Tagus River, and a new train station (that everyone complains about when it’s cold and windy).

Most recently, Oriente became the place where all digital roads lead to every year in November during the Web Summit.

When it comes to grand gestures of showing the world Portugal is to be taken seriously, Expo 98 is very close to the “age of discoveries”. Of course, at the time the connection between both events was portrayed as Portugal’s eternal relationship with the seas. Well, that’s one way to put it.

Oriente, to me, is like a modern version of the tribute Belém pays to that relationship with the seas but on the opposite side of town. I expect you’ll draw your own conclusions, of course, since there aren’t any landmarks or museums to visit here.

Lisbon Itinerary: 7 Days

The most “the world is your oyster” itinerary of all itineraries! So much so, that I decided to plan each day by theme. This itinerary excludes day of arrival and day of departure. You can mix and match the days as you please, and there’s plenty of spare time each day so you can wander off and explore the city without a plan.

Day 1: Pre-1755 Earthquake Lisbon

The fatal date of 1 November 1755 is so impregnated in the minds of Lisbon residents that we find it difficult to imagine a time before that. One of the reasons for that is there aren’t that many traces of the city before the Great Earthquake, followed by a tsunami and a fire.

That said, archaeological traces show up all the time. And I do mean, show up. You see, rebuilding Lisbon after the earthquake was a top priority and things moved quite fast.

There was no time to see if you were building streets, a sewage system, or a new block on top of something else. Things are different now and every time something comes up during construction, a team of archaeologists who work at the City Council take action. (No, not like Indiana Jones).

The remains of a Roman wall inside Casa dos Bicos (Alfama)

Most ruins are from the time when Lisbon was a Roman city called Olisipo and that’s why I suggest you start the day at the Roman Theater Museum (Museu do Teatro Romano) in Alfama.

Other traces of what Lisbon looked like before the earthquake are pretty scarce, but you can still spot a medieval house in Alfama (Rua dos Cegos, number 22) and what remains of the medieval wall that protected Lisbon in Mouraria. It’s an easy-to-miss piece of wall (yes, literally) near Martim Moniz square.

Day 2: Rebuilt Lisbon

Lisbon has had the capacity to reinvent itself since that dreadful earthquake in 1755. To make do is a very Portuguese trait, in fact. Maybe because we’re wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and Spain?

But cultural conceptions apart, there are three areas in Lisbon that fit those criteria of rebirth: Baixa, Chiado, and Bairro Alto.

Which one you choose to visit first is up to you, considering they’re nearby, but I’ll leave you with the reconstruction chronology of the three neighborhoods:

  • Baixa (Pombalina) – 18th century, post-1755 Great Earthquake;
  • Bairro Alto – early 1980s, after the democratic revolution of 25 April 1974;
  • Chiado – 1991 to 2001, after the great fire of 1988.

There are several viewpoints to see Lisbon from above, but the one from the top of the arch at Rua Augusta is the best to see the contrasts between medieval Lisbon (Alfama) and post-earthquake Lisbon (Baixa).

From a city planner’s point of view, Baixa is like a dream. For the romantics, of course, there’s nothing more appealing than the chaotic and crumbling nestled buildings of Alfama. Had the earthquake destroyed more of the city by the river, and the whole downtown area would look like Baixa.

The rebuilding of Bairro Alto in the 1980s is more ideological than physical. Originally built after another big earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1531, Bairro Alto was always a symbol of transgression but that became more apparent in the first years that followed the fall of the conservative dictatorship.

From a few brothels and Fado houses here and there in the late 1970s, Bairro Alto blew up with dozens of bars and nightclubs at the turn of the decade. Portugal and Lisbon, in particular, was opening up to the outside world with all the good and bad consequences you can imagine. Frágil, a bar that opened in 1982 on number 126 of Rua da Atalaia, would forever change the nightlife in Lisbon. Unfortunately, it no longer exists.

The devastation caused by the Chiado fire of 1988 was a series of misfortunes. It started at Armazéns Grandella, caused by an electrical malfunction, and spread violently to 18 buildings at 5:00 AM on 25 August 1988. The streets were too narrow for a fire truck to get to the buildings and that caused outrage among the Lisboans, more than the fire itself.

A team led by Portuguese architect Siza Vieira was in charge of the project and it took 10 years (1991-2001) to rebuild Chiado as the commercial bustling area you see now. The last part of the project, known as Terraços do Carmo (Carmo Terraces), was completed in 2015.

Day 3: Reinvented Lisbon

Reinvented Lisbon is slightly different from rebuilt Lisbon because it’s not caused by destruction. Instead, I see it as the natural evolution of a city. However, that natural evolution is sometimes hastened by gentrification and touristification.

I don’t want to repeat myself about “The Triangle”, Madragoa, and Cais do Sodré, so you can read about it on the section Lisbon Itinerary: 3 Days or the Lisbon Itinerary: 4 Days.

When I moved to Lisbon 20+ years ago, Intendente was a no-zone.

“Don’t go there at night.”

“Don’t go there alone.”

“It’s full of prostitutes and drug dealers.”

“It’s not safe for a woman.”

Then, in 2011, Lisbon Mayor António Costa (later, Portugal’s Prime Minister) decides to move his office from the City Council’s main building to Intendente. The goal? To change the reputation of the neighborhood.

Political stunts aside, the truth is that investors and business owners started to look at Intendente for its potential. If the Mayor finds it safe enough for him why shouldn’t they?

As much as I love how Intendente looks today (and you’ll also fall in love with its brightness and energy and the garden that’s actually a piece of urban art by Joana Vasconcelos and the gorgeous Art Nouveau building), I’m concerned about the rampant surge of luxury apartments in the area.

Unfortunately, this is one of those places where you can witness gentrification in Lisbon as it happens. You’ll notice how it’s starting to spread from the Intendente square down the street Rua do Benformoso. If not stopped, it will soon hit the center of Mouraria, the Martim Moniz square.

Day 4: Mid-Century Modern Lisbon

Granted that the itinerary for day four is a lot more appealing for travelers interested in urban architecture, particularly the style of straight lines and simpleness that we call mid-century modern (1933-1965).

If you don’t feel like walking around looking at buildings all day, I suggest you make the best of it at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. You can take a self-guided tour of the gardens, following the itineraries as suggested by one of the landscape architects that created it (Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles). I definitely recommend a visit to the Modern Art Museum. And if you have a few more minutes to spare after that, I suggest you visit Under the Cover across the street — a store that specializes in independent magazines.

The outdoor amphitheater at Gulbenkian Foundation

The neighborhoods of Campo de Ourique and Alvalade don’t usually show up on itineraries mostly for the lack of monuments or landmarks to visit.

Most tourists hop off tram 28 at the stop before last and kill time browsing the market in Campo de Ourique (or the cemetery Cemitério dos Prazeres down the street). As for tourists in Alvalade, either they show up out of curiosity or they’re staying at a short-term rental apartment in the neighborhood.

If you’re an architect buff you must absolutely include Campo de Ourique and Alvalade. Both of them are mostly residential neighborhoods, so in addition to marveling at mid-century buildings you can also do some people watching.

Alternatively, if you want an in-depth knowledge of the urban planning history behind these areas, I suggest booking a tour with Lisboa Architecture Walks.

Day 5: Hipster Urban Lisbon

I like places that are left raw for the purpose of being left raw. Hipster urban Lisbon, namely LX Factory (west side) and the areas of Beato and Poço do Bispo (east side), aren’t it.

I’m quite over the repurposed abandoned and shut down industrial buildings being transformed into cafes, coworking spaces, restaurants, vintage stores. How much more exposed brick, steel beams, and urban art pieces can one handle?

That said, I also understand the appeal to visit them and that’s why I’m including that hipster urban side of the city on this 7-day Lisbon itinerary.

LX Factory in Lisbon

The Beato and Poço do Bispo area is still underdeveloped, but give it another year or two and it will most likely outgrow LX Factory in popularity. Pretty soon the old fabrics factory that was turned into an urban cultural center in 2005 will become obsolete.

The former industrial complex now called Hub Criativo Beato, currently under construction, will soon house Mercedes Benz, Startup Lisboa, a coliving space, and all the needed support facilities like restaurants and cafes.

Day 6: Outdoorsy Lisbon

Small public parks and squares are scattered around the city if you’re looking to lounge around soaking up the Lisbon sun.

But I’d like to suggest something different on your sixth day in Lisbon: exploring Monsanto, the city’s Forest Park. Fun fact: it’s almost three times bigger than New York’s Central Park.

Serafina playground at Monsanto Forest Park

Monsanto has a ton of possibilities for outdoor activities with playgrounds for kids, picnic areas, viewpoints, hiking and biking trails, and an abandoned (for now) old panoramic restaurant covered in street art and with one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon.

Although it looks like the city grew around the Forest Park, the area was actually used for farming and grazing animals until the late 1930s, at the beginning of the conservative dictatorship, when the first trees were planted according to the project of landscape architect Keil do Amaral.

If you feel like hiking or biking, try getting to Monsanto by following the Green Path (Corredor Verde) from Parque Eduardo VII to the Forest Park.

Day 7: Day Trip from Lisbon by Train

My suggestions for your last day in Lisbon depend on a few factors: how exhausted are you? Is there a place in the city you’d like to return to? Are you leaving Lisbon on this day and therefore have less than 12 hours in the city?

Think of day 7 as the bonus day.

If you’ve explored plenty of the city in the last few days, I suggest a day trip from Lisbon by train. Why train? Because I’m partial to this means of transportation, they mostly run on time, and they’re reasonably comfortable.

Don’t overthink it, just choose the destination that fits your plans and your calendar:

  • Cascais (40 min each way)
  • Sintra (50 min each way)
  • Santarém (1h each way)
  • Setúbal (1h each way)
  • Grândola (1h 10min each way)
  • Évora (1h 30min each way)
  • Tomar (2h each way)
  • Coimbra (2h 30min each way)
The old cathedral of Coimbra known as Sé Velha
The Old Cathedral (Sé Velha) in Coimbra

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