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48 hours in Lisbon, Portugal (and a further 24 on the island of Madeira)

48 hours in Lisbon, Portugal (and a further 24 on the island of Madeira)

Twilight in Lisbon | Photo: Pixabay

Lisbon is renowned for its picturesque architecture, incredible cuisine and warm hospitality. Plus it’s (still) a relatively affordable place to travel to.

There’s plenty to do and lots to see, but if time is not on your side and you are not in Lisbon for long, not to worry. You’ll be impressed at how much you’ll see in the 507,000-strong capital in one day.

I myself was on a tight schedule, as my long weekend also included a stop off on the nearby island of Madeira (more about which later), a less than two-hour flight southwest of Lisbon over the North Atlantic Sea.

The 25 de Abril Bridge | Photo: Pixabay

Visit the Belem district and try its famous local egg tart pastry: the pastel de nata or pastel de Belem is one of Portugal’s signature sweet treats that has its origins traced back to this old neighbourhood.

It is said that Catholic monks at Mosteiro dos Jeronimos created these delicious bites before the 18th century. The Mosteiro itself is worth visiting for its incredible medieval architecture.

The Tower of Belem | Photo: Pixabay

While in the area, go for a walk along the River Tejo estuary. This recently revitalized area of Lisbon offers world-class restaurants and amazing sights – including the Tower of Belem.

One of the smallest towers you’ll ever see, this outpost in the river – believe it or not – defended the city from pirates and enemy attacks.

‘The hilly city center has as much history as it has character’

Be sure to explore the Chiado and Bairro Alto neighborhoods. The hilly city center has as much history as it has character. The Chiado and Bairro Alto neighborhoods are well known for having quaint cafes and old bookshops dating from colonial times. A famous one is the Livraria Bertrand, which is the oldest bookstore in operation in the world.

Stop for a breathtaking view of the city at Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara. A perfect ending to your 48-hour stopover in Lisbon is a visit to this hilltop point for a great postcard view of the city.

The Lisbon skyline at night | Photo: Pixabay

Lisbon has a buzzy food scene. The capital has lots to offer in terms of culinary options and you will find that sophisticated and high quality restaurants may well be more affordable than in many other parts of Europe.

If you are feeling like eating something different, you will definitely enjoy a meal at Tasca da Esquina, a restaurant where famous chefs Luís Espadana, Vitor Sobral and Hugo Nascimento deliciously reinvent Portuguese cuisine.

This adorable corner restaurant has an informal setting that makes you feel like you are eating in a friend’s house.

The chefs recommended I had the tasting menu, which consisted of a five course meal and included delicious dishes such as tuna steak in pistachio and curry sauce and mini pork sandwiches with beetroot and courgette on azores bread.

Where to stay: I stayed at the Portobay Marques. Incredibly well-located in the heart of Lisbon, this new 4 star hotel offers high-class accommodation for all types of travelers.Like Lisbon itself, the hotel is a mix of cool and classic from its beautiful colonial façade to the modern and stylish interior design and roof-top pool.

Onto Madeira

When buying your plane tickets to Funchal, try to get window seats. The captain will most likely invite you to look outside as the aerial views of Madeira are very much worth seeing – that is of course, if weather permits.

Madeira is of course on the tip of a volcanic range and is very mountainous. The island is an attractive destination for nature enthusiasts as it is home to an incredible diversity of fauna and flora and is dotted with waterfalls.

Taste authentic madeira wine at its source. If you’re a wine connoisseur (or aspiring in my case) you will know that Madeira has its own kind of wine that is produced locally. The volcanic soil is perfect for grape production. Wine making here dates back until the 19th century.

Blandy’s is a famous Madeira wine producer working in the industry since 1811. John Blandy, an Englishman who arrived in the island in 1808, founded the winery. Furthermore, it is still family owned seven generations later. A visit to the Blandy’s Winelodge in Funchal is a must-see for wine lovers.

‘The city of Funchal is beyond charming’

Wander around Funchal’s quaint cobbled streets. The city of Funchal is beyond charming. It has the Portuguese familiarity and yet being on an island, it has a sense of uniqueness. At times I felt like I was in a different country.

Whilst in Madeira I was lucky to be there for the opening event of the Stars Route Gourmet Festival (Rota Das Estrelas) festival. This culinary festival, which started in 2010, aims to promote the best of Portuguese haute cuisine. It takes place in Michelin-starred restaurants around the country. The festival is so successful that it is now also being organized in Spain.

The 2017 edition of The Stars Route was hosted by the Il Gallo D’Oro and William restaurants in Funchal and the venue was the local Mercado de Lavradores (Farmers Market).

Madeira Terroir – the opening day – saw more than 20 talented chefs (and nine sommeliers) sharing their knowledge and food tips with the public. We of course got a taste of their delicious culinary inventions. The list of amazing things I tried would probably not fit in this article so you will just have to make do with pictures…

We furthermore stayed at the Porto Bay Porto Mare. It’s an excellent choice for those who want to treat themselves to an enjoyable stay in villa-style award winning hotel situated along the sea-side promenade. It also boasts a range of outdoor facilities. There’s a stunning pool and garden with an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean.

TAP Air Portugal flies from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Funchal via Lisbon. Prices start at £77 ($106, €87) one way including all taxes and surcharges. For further information, visit or call 0345 601 0932.

TAP Air Portugal offers a Portugal Stopover programme, where passengers can stay in Lisbon for up to five nights, before flying on to Madeira, at no additional charge to their fare.

Words: Aaron Bailey Athias