Exploring Lisbon in a Day on a Luxury Cruise Ship Excursion

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Have you ever visited a destination that immediately spoke to you? It happened to me on a road trip to Montana. Alan and I ended up moving there. I experienced that same feeling when I stepped out onto the balcony of our Seabourn Sojourn suite to view the pastel-colored buildings of Lisbon perched on the hillsides in front of me. “Come explore our nooks and crannies,” they seemed to say.

“But I only have one day in Lisbon to explore,” I replied. “We’ll make the best of it,” the city whispered back.

Lisbon, Portugal
The colorful buildings of Lisbon

How to spend one day in Lisbon on a shore excursion

When Alan and I cruised from Rome to Ft Lauderdale on Seabourn Sojourn, many of the ports were new to us, including Lisbon. While in-depth exploring or active adventures are our preference, sometimes a shorter experience is the best way to take the pulse of a cruise port.

That’s why we chose a Lisbon city tour booked through the ship for exploring the Lisbon’s history and culture. The combination bus, walking and trolley car shore excursion gave us an overview flavored with the smells and sounds of this Portuguese city.

Given Lisbon’s frequent appearance on Transatlantic itineraries and as the transportation hub for Duoro River cruises, we knew there would be a good chance of visiting this lovely city again. With the Lisbon must-see attractions out of the way, next time, we’ll find that active adventure we so enjoy.

First, we explore old town on a Lisbon walking tour

Bakery window in Lisbon, Portugal
Bakery window with tempting treats

After a brief bus ride through old town, our tour guide leads us off of the bus and onto the mosaic paved streets of Lisbon’s central shopping district. Pastry shops line the way tempting us with extravagant baked goods. A colorful flower market brightens a nearby corner.

A walk down a side street prove to be a shoe shopper’s paradise. Christmas lights dangle overhead promising a colorful glow once the switch is turned on later in November. Wish we could come back to see them.

Next stop, Jeronimos Monastery: Vasco de Gama stayed here

Later, we ride the bus along a wide boulevard of upscale homes and foreign embassies before stopping at Jerónimos Monastery. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the Belém District, west of central Lisbon.

Situated near the Targus River, the original hermitage served seafarers in transit during Portugal’s Age of Discovery. In 1497, although the building was in disrepair, Vasco de Gama stayed the night, praying for a safe voyage to the Far East. He later credited those prayers with making him the first known European to arrive in that exotic part of the world.

To commemorate Vasco de Gama’s success in reaching India—and his return—King Manuel I ordered the construction of the current monastery in 1502.  Known as a prime example of Manueline style architecture (late Portugese gothic), Jerónimos Monastery is one of the only buildings to survive the 1755 earthquake that devastated Lisbon, along with a tsunami and earthquake-related fires.

Accompanied by groups of school children, we step inside the 16th century church and cloister (entrance is free) to view intricate stonework of ropes and other navigational symbols that celebrate the grand masters of the sea. 

Touring Lisbon on your own? A fee is required to visit the Jerónimos Monastery (not the chapel). If you purchase a Lisboa Card, admission to the monastery is free. And transportation via bus, metro or tram is also included.

Finally, a Fado serenade during a private trolley car tour of Lisbon

Lisbon trolley car
Riding on a trolley car through the streets of Lisbon

From the monastery, we walk to the boarding area for our private trolley tour of Lisbon. As the car clanks along the rail, two Faldo singers serenade the group to the competing clang, clang, clang of the trolley car bell.

After a hostess serves glasses of tawny port, we, too, are singing Fado while the car climbs up and down the narrow lanes of Lisbon.

What is Fado? Originating in the 1820’s, Fado is played in pubs, restaurants and cafes. The expressive, but melancholy themes, depict the hard realities of life combined with a hopeful resolution of those hard realities. Think of it as the Portugese version of American country music. 

As the bus returns to the pier, Alan and I talk of returning for a Lisbon land-based adventure. When we do, you’ll likely find us at a sidewalk cafe sampling a Portuguese pastry after a day of exploring Lisbon.

Other Lisbon Tours to enjoy

Not a fan of shore excursions? Book a private tour or active travel experience:

Need more options? Start here.

Planning a cruise? Start with our luxury cruise planner.

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Exploring Lisbon in a day. Tips for a 4-hour cruise excursion in Lisbon, Portugal.

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