If you’re looking for cheap flights from North America to Europe, it’s likely that Tap Air Portugal will be one of your top choices. I like Tap Air a lot because they typically have a layover in Portugal, with enough time to head into the city and explore for a while. This may set some people off from booking their flights though, as most layovers can be from 6 hours to 30 hours. To me, this sounds like an exciting opportunity to explore a bit of Portugal without having to plan a full trip there!
My first time in Portugal was on a 6-hour layover through Tap Air. This I wouldn’t recommend unless you sleep well on flights as typically the Tap Air flights are overnight. I fought through the exhaustion and adventured into the city anyways. I would still recommend making a short trip downtown, as you can see the famous square, the waterfront, and eat some local food in that short period of time!
The second time I visited Portugal, and the trip I will discuss in this post, was a 30-hour stopover on my way to Sweden from Toronto. I felt like this was the perfect amount of time to both recover from an overnight flight and see the highlights of Lisbon!
How do you plan an adventure with that limited amount of time? With a LOT of upfront planning! Checkout what I did in order to make the most of my 30-hour layover in Lisbon.
Book a Hotel or Hostel in the Downtown Area
Since your time is limited, it is best to spend a little more money for accommodations close to the attractions so you can save on travel times. If you are coming off of an overnight flight, I would suggest avoiding hostel dorms as they can be chaotic and hard to recover from jet lag in. I am exceptionally cheap when it comes to accommodations and booked a really cool pod hostel downtown here. I survived because of my ear plugs. I would have liked a nice hotel room with a clean, private shower though.
You would be fine booking a room anywhere that is walking distance to the main square as most attractions are in this area. Of course, browse through Expedia and booking.com to find the best hotel rates! Click here to find some of the sweet spots that Lisbon has to offer.
Research Food and Drinks To Visit Ahead of Time
If you are only in Lisbon on a stopover, do as much research as you can ahead of time. This will help you be organized and see as much as possible during your short stay. If you love food as much as I do, you will want to eat as much local food as possible!
Some local delicasies to try include:
- Pastel de Nata – Portugese custard tarts
- Bifana – a sandwich made of thinly sliced pork
- Caldo Verde – kale and sausage soup
- and so much more!
You can’t go wrong with food in Lisbon – there is so much to try. Of course, try out the fish as Lisbon is right on the water. I spent my time in coffee shops, and even went wine tasting and tried wines from many different regions in Portugal.
Check out the Beautiful Praça do Comércio
This plaza is so beautiful, from the amazing architecture of the buildings, to the tall monuments, to the never-ending views of the water. It is lined with various restaurants and shops, none of which would be a mistake to check out.
From here, you can see the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge in the distance. It is a large suspension bridge, connecting Lisbon to Almada. It does get quite busy here, so I recommend heading there early in the morning before the tourists come out.
Stroll by Santa Justa Lift
This lift is really close to the square, and is quite interesting! It is between two tall buildings, and has no destination other than an observation deck.
It opened in 1899, and used to be a way to reach higher levels of the hilly city. It costs about 5 euro to go up and usually has long lines, but it is worth it if you have time to step into a piece of history and see amazing views of the city.
Visit the 16th Century Tower, Tower of Belém
The Tower of Belem is a 16th century fort, that was both a fort and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. The tower is right on the water, and boasts picturesque views of the old architecture of the tower and the surrounding sea. It has been an Unesco World Heritage Site since 1983, representing Portugal’s Age of Discovery.
I didn’t get a chance to make it here, but reading through posts and seeing pictures has made me wish I did!
Bask in Awe at the Giant Jerónimos Monastery
This Monastery is out of the way, but it was something I just HAD to see. I am obsessed with architectures of churches around the world, and this one sure didn’t disappoint. About a 15 minute Uber ride from the core, there is a giant white Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is over 500 years old.
The outside is absolutely dreamy, and the inside is quite amazing as well with beautiful paintings, and an incredible alter. It is a must visit for those like me that like exploring churches or people who love creative architecture!
Wander Through the Botanical Garden of Lisbon
One of my favourite things to do in cities is to find nature escapes in the middle of the city. Lisbon offers an incredible botanical garden in the middle of the city, boasting rare, international plants. It is a great garden to take a mid-day walk through – it is completely silent and filled with one of the largest collections of subtropical plants in Europe! There is said to be over 18,000 different species of plants, spanning over 10 acres.
Have you had a short stopover in Lisbon? How did you make the most of your time? Let me know in the comments!