Travel Guide: 24 Hours in Lisbon, Portugal

Travel Guide: 24 Hours in Lisbon, Portugal

The capital of Portugal, Lisbon, has experienced a renaissance in recent years. Check out all the ‘must-sees’ in this ‘must-visit’ city.

Lisbon, the largest city and the capital of Portugal, is one of Europe’s secret jewels. It has the charm of a coastal city with the added lushness of a hilly terrain, amazing architecture – Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums – as well as lovely narrow back street lanes and some really fabulous panoramic views

The city’s landscape and history comprise a historical ‘Age of Discovery’ that brought countless treasures from the New World, emotive “fado” music (head to Senhor Vinho restaurant for a lovely night out to fado sounds), bountiful seafood delights and late-night hotspots where you can dance ’til dawn… Lisbon has it all.


Must Stay
The Grande Dame of hotels in this town is the newly refurbished (to the tune of 15 million euros) Hotel Tivoli Avenida Liberdade conveniently situated just off the Avenida da Liberdade with convenient access to Baixa, the Barrio Alto, and Chiado. Rooms start from €163 for a double room per night based on double occupancy. Read our review of Tivoli Avenida Liberdade.

Must Eat
The city is famous for its seafood. The humble sardine is a symbol of Portugal and devoured hungrily by one and all. Often served as a bar snack, you can enjoy a plate at pretty much any bar or restaurant.

Lisbon is famed for its delicious custard tarts known as Pastéis de Nata. These sweet egg pastries are served in almost every café in the city, but the best ones come from the Casa Pastéis de Belém. This sprawling café is located in the waterfront suburb of Belém to the west of the city centre and they shift around 35,000 of these small yellow custard pies every single day and there are always queues. Try them when they are warm from the oven and covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Another must visit is the Museu da Cerveja. This is a restaurant cum brewery cum museum. You could get a table but it’s more fun to grab a bar stool order a cheesy cod fish cake made with Serra cheese and marinated with coriander (or roasted octopus if you prefer) and a tall glass of Sagres beer.

If you fancy something fancy, then check out one of celebrity chef Olivier da Costa‘s restaurants. He has opened a quartet of restaurants in the city centre, the most flamboyant is Yakuzza – sushi and sashimi with flair.

Must Take
Don’t forget to take a very comfortable pair of walking shoes with you when visiting Lisbon. The city was built on a series of steep hills – ideal when a growing town is trying to protect itself against invaders but not so good for modern-day tourists with tender toes. Those with mobility issues may find the slick cobbles and sharp gradients tricky to handle. Trainers or shoes with grippy soles and walking aids (if required) are advised.

Must Visit

At the height of Portugal’s Age of Discovery, King Manuel I built the Jerónimos Monastery (Praça do Império, Belem) to commemorate the voyage of Vasco de Gama and give thanks for his success. Today, the complex is celebrated as one of the finest examples of European Gothic architecture on the planet and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage monument. Take time to contemplate the cloisters and the tilework telling the Biblical story of Joseph.

Must Explore

There is no main location to explore in Lisbon – everything is worth a wander. Rather, it’s how you do it that will make your stay interesting. Tram 28 is both a symbol of the city and an amazing way to see all the sights. It begins its journey at Praça Martim Moniz and winds its way through all the key neighbourhoods, including Alfama, Barrio Alto, Mouraria and Graça for less than €4 per person. Don’t waste your money on expensive double-decker bus tours when you can see the sights for a fraction of the cost in an authentic antique streetcar. Just watch out for pickpockets as they are notorious on this route.

Must Shop
If you love to shop, then the district of Chiado is the one for you. Named after the square around which the district formed, Chiado is the midway point between downtown (Baixa) and the nightlife and club scene of Barrio Alto. Here is where you will find a plethora of one-off boutiques packed with Portuguese specialties.

Highlights include Luvaria Ulisses for butter-soft gloves in an array of colours (Rua do Carmo 87A), and A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11), the ultimate Portuguese purveyor offering a curated selection of Portugal’s finest products including soaps from Porto, embroidery work, basketry and more. This could be a good place to find something authentic to take home.

Must See The View

The neighborhood of Alfama is one of Lisbon’s most atmospheric, dotted with intimate bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Enjoy a day wandering the labyrinthine streets – just keep heading uphill to reach your final destination, the Castelo de São Jorge.

The castle was built by the Moors to protect the city from Christian crusaders. Today, it offers commanding views of the city and the Tagus River. At one time, the castle was also the royal palace for the Portuguese Royal family, however, the construction of a new palace on the banks of the Targus (where the Praça do Comércio now stands) in the 16th-Century combined with earthquake damage caused the building to lose favour and it was transformed into army barracks and a prison. Spend time wandering the grounds before heading inside the structure itself.

There is another great miradouro (viewing point) to be had from the Graca Church and convent which sits atop Graça hill. You can reach it via the famous tram 28 – just hop off at Miradouro da Graca stop.

Getting there

TAP airlines operate frequent flights to Lisbon.


Greece: NHS paper card is all that’s needed for proof of vaccination

Greece: NHS paper card is all that’s needed for proof of vaccination

Greece is willing to accept the NHS card as evidence of innoculation but Portugal deems the card to at risk of forgery.

Greece, a favourite hot spot for holidaymakers, has announced that Britons who have had two doses of the vaccination are welcome to enter. All they need to show is an NHS card stating as much.

The Greek tourism minister, Harry Theoharis said that the business-card size document would suffice. He said:

“Until the UK has a digital passport, we have seen the paper cards that are provided with the two vaccine appointment dates and we are recognising them. They can be used on the ground and at the borders.”

This is an temporary measure pending the creation of digital health certificate beging deivsed by the UK and EU. However, there will be random spot testing on arrivals to keep an eye on positive cases. Any rise in numbers could result in new measures being implemented.

This is great news for holidaymakers who have already been vaccinated as there is no longer any need to take a PCR test before travelling thereby avoiding a hefty fee of £120 per test.

Those are are not vaccinated will still need evidence of a negative PCR test. The Greek government is considering the use of the rapid antigen test.

At the same time, UK tourism minister Nigel Huddleston revealed that Britain is in cohoots with the EU regarding vaccine passports for travel. There has been no word from the European Commission on this though.

Conversely Portugal are doubtful bout the NHS card stating fears over the riskof forgery. Spokesman Rita Marques said

“As you can imagine, a piece of paper with some handwriting is not considered to be as secure as we would like”.

“It is very important that we avoid fraud and an integrated digital pass is the way forward, with a QR code. We are working with the European Commission to have in place a system that will allow us to welcome holidaymakers safely.”

Greece and Portugal hold high hopes for placement on the UK green list of safe destinations. Indeed their hopes are so high that Greece has stipulated a border opening for Brits as early as May 3, which Portugal remains vague offering sometime in mid-May.

The Trafffic Light System
According to Boris Johnson’s roadmap Brits will be able to travel abroad from May 17. However only those returning from a green list destintion will be able to return without quarantine, but will be required to show a negative PCR test.

Travellers retuning from amber destinations will have to self-isolate for 10 days and show a PCR test on days two and eight. If a test is taken on day five which prooves negative, then self-isolaion can end under “test to release” scheme.

Travellers from “red list countries” will be escorted to a quarantine hotel to quarantine for ten days and a cost of £1,750.

It’s not at all clear who will be on the green list, and even when it is published, this could be reviewed and changed quickly.

With EU countries so far behind the UK with their vaccination rollout it’s likely that the green list will be short for a while and populated as time reveals new destinations that have Covid under control.

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Q&A: Will I be able to holiday in Portugal this summer? UPDATE

Q&A: Will I be able to holiday in Portugal this summer? UPDATE

Portugal is no longer on the travel red list.

UPDATE 28 March 2021: Portugal has had two wins recently. Firstly, it has been removed from the UK’s red list where it was the only European country on there.  Secondly, the country’s secretary of state for tourism has hinted that the country could be welcoming British holidaymakers by mid-May.

Incidentally, the island of Madeira is already welcoming travellers who can provide evidence of vaccination

For many holidaymakers, Portugal is a much-loved destination as it offers sandy beaches, a huge variety of landscapes, think Algarve, great cityscapes such Lisbon and Porto, it’s quick to get there from the UK and most of all it’s affordable.

Portugal is currently on the UK travel red list – the only European destination on there, along with 32 other high-risk countries, including the continent of South America and many African countries.

That means that direct flights to the UK are banned from those countries and UK residents coming home must quarantine for 10 days in a quarantine hotel near to their port of entry and for out up to £1,750 per person for room and board.

In a tit-for-tat measure, Portugal has banned flights from the UK over the Kent variant. 

According to UK  transport secretary Grant Shapps, Portugal was flagged for inclusion on the red list is because of its “strong travel links with Brazil” and by extension fears over the Brazilian variant entering the UK.

Portugal has taken steps by banning flights from Brazil some weeks ago. Since then only two cases of the variant have been found. By contrast, six have been found in the UK in the last two weeks. 

Still, the UK remains concerned and will not take Portugal off the red list until Portugal can show that there is no major risk or that the Brazilian variant is not a threat i.e. that existing vaccines can work effectively against it.

Grant Shapps said travelling abroad would depend on “everybody having their vaccinations” in the UK – and potentially abroad.

Under the present circumstances, no viable date can even be guessed until the status quo on variants changes. In any case, it is illegal to travel anywhere until May 17 (that magical day when a holiday may be taken – pending a review of course) and Portugal has not given any indication as to when it will remove its ban on non-essential UK arrivals.