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1 week in Lisbon, a suggested itinerary
Lisbon is a historic and vibrant city that contains an abundance of fascinating sights and activities, all of which combine to form a fantastic holiday destination. Traditionally most tourists visit Lisbon as just a short city break of two to three days but the surrounding region provides numerous enjoyable day trip and excursions, which can easily extend a holiday to a week. This guide will provide a suggested itinerary for a 1 week holiday to Lisbon.
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1 Week Tour of Lisbon - Day 1 Alfama and Baixa
The Alfama and Baixa districts are the central downtown areas of Lisbon and make for a great introduction to the capital for new tourists. The two districts are next to each other but are vastly different in every conceivable way, from their architectural styles though to their atmospheres. Baixa is the grand district, which was completely rebuilt after the devastating 1755 earthquake, and boasts grand plazas and magnificent avenues.
The steep steps in the Alfama district
Alfama is warren of narrow streets that stretch from the River Tagus up to the castle and is the oldest section of the city. Alfama was originally the poor slums outside the city walls but today the area is fashionably and trendy. Popular sights and activities include; Lisbon castle, the ancient Se Cathedral, the grand plazas of Praça do Commercial,
the Saint Justa Lift (an industrial age work of art) and a ride on the yellow tram.
The tram as it passes through Alfama
Day 2 To the Beaches
It comes as a surprise to many visitors new to Lisbon that the region contains so many beautiful beaches, many of which are only a short journey by public transport. To the south of Lisbon are the pristine beaches of Costa Caparica coastline, which extend for over 25km along the western side of the Setubal Peninsula and are pounded by huge Atlantic waves, perfect for surfing on.
Traditional fishing boats are still pulled onto the beaches of Costa
To the west of Lisbon are the popular beaches of the Estoril-Cascais coastline a series of sandy beaches and charming resort towns that are ideal for families and sun worshippers. The Estoril coastline is easily accessible from Lisbon as is served by the Cascais railway, which departs from Cais de Sorde train station. Our personal favourite beach, along with most of Lisbon who descends here during the summer months, is Praia de Carcavelos.
The beaches of the Cascais - Estoril coastline
For truly unspoilt beaches head to the Serra de Sintra National Park coastline and Praia de Guincho, this is a region of outstanding natural beauty but the remoteness requires a rental car. For a full guide to Lisbon’s beaches, please read this guide.
The stunning Guincho beach is a surfers paradise
Day 3 Belem and Parque das Nações
During the second day of sightseeing in Lisbon, two very different areas of the city are explored. Belem is the green and open district to the west of Lisbon that follows the banks of the Tejo estuary. This pretty district contains many of the capital's iconic structures and these include:
The delightful Torre de Belem
The ornate and massive Jeronimos Monastery
The imposing discovery monument
The Berardo Museum, the best free museum in Lisbon
The pink Palacio Nacional de Belem
The Jeronimos Monastery in Belem
The Parque das Nações is the ultra-modern side of Lisbon and was the site of Expo 98’ which had a theme of the world’s oceans. The park contains the excellent Lisbon aquarium and there is a cable car that runs the length of the site and provides views out across the Tejo estuary and the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
There is a stripe of bars and restaurants and a large shopping centre that sells excellent value food. For families there is the science discovery centre and numerous water based exhibits. Generally for the day 2/3 of the time is spent in Belem and 1/3 of the day in Expo Park.
Parque das Nações cable cars, Vasco bridge and tower
Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon and should be included in any visit to the region. The town was a favourite with the Portuguese nobility in part due to the cooling pine cover hills of the Serra de Sintra national park. Sintra is only a short train ride from Lisbon and the common day trip visits the colourful Pena Palace, ruins of the Moors castle and the gothic National Palace. For a full guide to Sintra please see Sintra-Portugal.com.
The Pena Palace in Sintra
There are sufficient sights in Sintra to fill a second day of exploration and include the Quinta da Regaleira stately house, Monserrate Palace and the barren Capucho convent. Other activities include hiking or cycling through the hills of the Serra de Sintra or simply relaxing in the pretty town centre. It cannot be emphasised enough how enjoyable a day trip to Sintra is.
The views from the Moors castle high above Sintra
Day 5 Cascais and Estoril day trip
Cascais is a pretty resort that is centered around a charming 19thcentury town, while Estoril is a sophisticated resort with much of its prestige originating from the famous casino. Both towns are a short walk apart and offer a range of historic monuments, fine beaches and interesting museums.
A museum in Cascais
A day trip to Cascais and Estoril could involve lounging on the beaches, taking a free bike along the coastal cycle paths or delving into the history of the region. There is a direct train from Lisbon to Estoril and Cascais.
The beaches of Estoril
Day 6 Cristo Rei and Costa da Caparica
Cristo Rei statue stands on the southern banks of the Tagus River and provides wonderful panoramic views over Lisbon. The journey to the statue crosses the cooling waters of the Rio Tejo by the ferry, and the Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas ferry route passes beneath the Lisbon suspension bridge.
The Christ statue is high above Lisbon
After visiting the statue it is suggested to continue onto the beach resort of Costa da Caparica by express bus. The Costa da Caparica sandy coastline stretches on for 30km and is served by a mini train that operates during the summer. The town of Costa da Caparica is a modern semi-bland resort but is very popular with Portuguese tourists.
The ferry to Cacilhas from Lisbon
Mafra is a small town 25 north east of Lisbon and is completely dominated by a single building, the stunning Mafra Palace. This vast complex almost bankrupted the Portuguese nobility and employed a staggering 45,000 workers daily. Mafra is connected to Lisbon by a direct bus service.
The magnificent Mafra Palace must be included in a 1 week tour of Lisbon
The magnificent baroque palace has over 1,200 rooms, all exquisitely decorated, while the stand out feature is the library, which is considered one of the finest in Europe. Along with the palace there are decorative gardens and the grand basilica. For a guide to Mafra please click here.
The library in Mafra palace