Straddling seven hills and full of ornate architecture and deep-rooted traditions topped with a bohemian flair, Lisbon is a bonafide tour de force on the Iberian peninsula. It’s no wonder that the city is so popular with tourists and is one of the most visited cities in Southern Europe. Lisbon was the first stop on our 2-week itinerary through Portugal and we loved every minute of it. This post includes tips by our good friend Mariana, a Lisbon local. 3 days in Lisbon or a long weekend in Lisbon gives you plenty of time to experience the city’s classic attractions and a little bit more 🙂
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Table of Contents
Why You Should Spend 3 Days in Lisbon
Being one of the oldest cities in the world, which in fact served as a starting point for many of the famous explorers such as Vasco da Gama, Lisbon is as rich in culture as a city can possibly get. Lisbon is one of Europe’s most visually distinctive capitals with rambling old quarters and the waterfront that runs along the river Tagus to the Atlantic Ocean.
Lisbon is delightfully laid-back and locals are genuinely friendly so you feel very much at home here. It is also a culinary mecca with a wide array of seafood options and mouth-watering pastries. Most of all, it is blessed with pleasant year-round weather which makes it ideal for sightseeing even during the winter.
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Lisbon Card & How to Get Around in Lisbon
Despite being on seven hills, Lisbon is a pretty walkable city and it’s best to walk to see its hidden gems and treasures. Being a large city, some of the sights are quite spread apart. Therefore, the itinerary includes both walking and the use of public transport. You can plan your trip using public transport here.
A large chunk of Lisbon’s sidewalks are made out of easily damaged basalt cobblestone meaning there are numerous cracks along the way. It would be optimum to stick with a comfortable pair of flat shoes rather than heels as they can get stuck in the pavement.
We highly recommend getting the Lisbon Card for 3 days which costs 40 EUR. It offers free entrance to many museums and sites as well as discounts on others. It also includes public transport which is a plus. You can read more about the Lisbon Card on the official website.
In any case, you will probably have to get a day ticket for public transport. These are fairly cheap at only a little over 6 EUR per person. For this you’ll have to purchase the Viva Viagem card and top it up at the ticket machines around the metro stations according to your needs. You can find more information about the Viva Viagem card here.
Taxis are also another option as they offer the swiftest way to get around. Minimum charge is 3.25 EUR and increases at around 50 cents a kilometer. Always insist on the taximeter as it is required by law. Just be careful not to get ripped off as scams are quite common.
Uber also has a significant presence in Lisbon and can be another alternative to get around.
Your 3 Day Itinerary for Lisbon
This itinerary covers all the essential sights but we also touch on some of Lisbon’s unique neighborhoods which give the city its unique character. We’ve included a free map which highlights the best places to visit in Lisbon in 3 days.
We understand that everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace. Below we have compiled a list of the best things to do in Lisbon over the course of 3 days:
- Pastéis de Belém
- Jerónimos Monastery
- Berardo Collection Museum
- Monument to the Discoveries
- Lunch in Belem
- Belem Tower
- Christ the King
- LX Factory
- Check out the Viewpoints
- Carmo Convent
- Rossio Square
- Rua Augusta
- Commerce Square
- Conserveira de Lisboa
- Lunch in downtown Lisbon
- Lisbon Cathedral
- National Tile Museum
- Wander the Alfama district
- Castle of St. George
- Dinner at Time Out Market
- Hop on the iconic Tram 28
- Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
- Lunch at Laurentina
- Park of the Nations
- Bairro Alto & Chiado
Day 1 in Lisbon
Today’s itinerary will cover the sights in the star-studded Belem district, a famous Lisbon landmark, and the coolest place in town.
1. Pastéis de Belém
Kick off your day by heading to the famous Pastéis de Belém bakery, famous for concocting the pastel de nata, a creamy, flaky egg tart pastry filled with custard that is dusted with cinnamon. Pastel de nata is found all over Lisbon but according to us and legions of Lisbon natives, the original and best version is found at the Pastéis de Belém bakery.
Pastel de Nata’s history is interlaced with the Belém neighborhood in which it emanated. Monks from the nearby Jerónimos Monastery originally sold the treat at a local sugar refinery in the 18th century, and in 1837, the pastry began to be produced at Pastéis de Belém using the same recipe that is still used today. It is dangerously YUMMY and you have to try it while you’re in Lisbon!
Given its lofty reputation, Pastéis de Belém is immensely popular there’s always a long queue to get in. It’s well worth the wait though. Once inside make your way to the rear so it will be easier to get a table. In addition to the pastries, we really loved the blue-white azulejos on the walls. Pastéis de Belém is open daily between 08:00-23:00.
The longer part of the queue is actually for takeaway orders. It’s actually easier to get a table than a takeaway box!
2. Jerónimos Monastery
Well, we mentioned Vasco da Gama, didn’t we? Jerónimos Monastery (or Hieronymites Monastery) is, in fact, this Portuguese icon’s eternal resting place. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in 1502, was constructed in the Manueline style of architecture and blends ostentatious Gothic and Moorish influences with elements of nascent Renaissance.
Built to honor Vasco da Gama’s epic 1498 voyage to India, Jerónimos is as much a symbol of the wealth of the Age of Discovery as it is a house of worship. During this time it was a symbol of wealth and power and it is sure to leave you impressed even today.
Entrance to the monastery costs 10 EUR. Opening hours are Tue-Sun, 10:00-17:00 (Oct-Apr), 10:00-18:00 (May-Sep).
3. Berardo Collection Museum
Located across the street from Jerónimos Monastery, the Berardo Collection Museum proudly showcases some of the finest artworks from the twentieth century to the present. The excellent collection was gathered together by the Portuguese entrepreneur and philanthropist, Joe Berardo. This was one of the most impressive art museums we have seen and we were in awe of the collection here. It is so cool!
Take your time to soak in the approximately 1000 pieces on display here. One section covers Minimalism, Conceptualism, Post-Minimalism, Land Art, and Arte Povera movements, featuring works by stalwarts such as Nan Goldin, Anish Kapoor, and Sol LeWitt. The other section probes the 20th-century emergence of everything from Cubism and Surrealism to Neo-Dadaism and Pop Art. Bacon, Dali, Duchamp, Picasso, Pollock and Warhol are all well represented here.
Entrance to the museum costs 5 EUR with free entrance on Saturday. Opening hours are Tue-Sun, 10:00-19:00.
4. Monument to the Discoveries
Just across the street from Jerónimos Monastery you will find one of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks, a monument dedicated to some of Portugal’s most famous explorers, who truly shaped the country’s history. This landmark structure was built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.
A wonderful frieze of statues is set along both sides of the monument of the most prominent luminaries, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan, among others. There is a map of the world in multicolored marble on the floor in front of the memorial, with the dates of the discoveries set in metal.
For a cost of 5 EUR, you can take the elevator to the rooftop from where you will also have a wonderful view over the Tagus river. Opening hours are Tue-Sun, 10:00-18:00 (Oct-Apr), 10:00-19:00 (May-Sep). To be fair, however, the view is pretty nice from the base of the monument as well.
6. Lunch in Belem
There are several great eateries in the Belem district. Try Os Jeronimos or O Pedrouços for some great local seafood (find them on the map above!).
7. Belem Tower
Only about a kilometer from the Discoveries Monument near the mouth of the river Tagus, you will find Belem Tower, a truly majestic Portuguese masterpiece which serves as an emblem of Portugal’s amazing Age Of Discovery during the 16th century. The Belem Tower is arguably the most symbolic of all Lisbon’s historical monuments. It was initially built in 1515 as a fortress which guarded the entrance to Lisbon harbor, and therefore Lisbon in general.
This valuable and iconic monument is justifiably protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just like Jerónimos Monastery, it is an example of the lavish Manueline style of architecture whose ornate façade is enhanced with fanciful maritime and floral motifs. What could be more Portuguese than that? And you know what’s also Portuguese? Wine. Around Belem tower, you may find small stands which sell cups of wine. So take a seat and enjoy!
At a price of 6 EUR, it is worth exploring the interior of the Belem Tower. You can see the armory and former dungeon here. Opening hours are Tue-Sun, 10:00-17:30 (Oct-Apr), 10:00-18:30 (May-Sep).
8. Christ the King
My first glance at the Christ the King statue (Cristo Rei) prompted me to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t in Rio. Inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this 110m giant overlooks the shores of the Tagus river from the small municipality of Almada. To reach here you can simply catch a ferry to the port of Cacilhas which is paid for just like a metro ride. From here you can take a short bus ride up the hill to the foot of the statue. The views from here are absolutely spectacular.
For a small fee, you can also climb to a viewing platform, but it really isn’t necessary. We ourselves were more than pleased staying put and taking in the view for free.
9. LX Factory
Cap off your first day in Lisbon by heading to the LX Factory, Lisbon’s creative hub that is its answer to Shoreditch in London. The complex opened in the 19th century as a textile factory, then housed a variety of industrial companies before being abandoned in the 1980s. During the economic crisis of 2008, it became a haven for young artists and designers, who metamorphosed it into one of the most important creative centers in Lisbon.
Young creatives and trendsetters fill the fashionable bars, clubs, design shops, and galleries that surround the streets here. An eclectic dining scene features everything from trendy restaurants to artisan coffee shops. We recommend checking out Rio Maravilha, an amazing rooftop gastropub that has a mosaic statue of a woman imitating the Cristo Rei on the other side of the river.
You don’t have to be a hipster or an art connoisseur to appreciate this place. The atmosphere is really chill and no-nonsense. LX Factory has managed to stay out of travel guides so it hasn’t been inundated with tourists which is advantageous. The brick buildings here are abound with graffiti that is an exhibition all by itself and seem to reflect social criticism. The best place for us here was the cavernous Ler Devagar bookstore whose walls are filled with books up to the ceiling and has flying bicycles suspended from its ceiling.
Sunday is the best day to visit the LX Factory as there is a market where you can find all kinds of products, from antiques to local designer clothes.
Day 2 in Lisbon
Today’s itinerary will cover the sights in the Alfama, Baixa and the Barrio Alto districts in the downtown. This is the most touristy part of Lisbon and will be a long day.
1. Check out the Viewpoints
Make the trek to one of the numerous cinematic viewpoints (miradouros) scattered all over Lisbon that stem from the city being built over seven hills. Some of the best viewpoints are Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte and Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. The views from the top are great and treat you to a bustling urban mosaic of pedestrianized streets, the ubiquitous Castle of St. George, panoramic squares and the River Tagus.
2. Carmo Convent
The Carmo Convent is a semi-ruined medieval convent in Lisbon that now functions as an archaeological museum. This was one of my favorite sites in Lisbon. The convent was once considered the largest church in Lisbon until it was flattened by an earthquake in 1755. This devastating earthquake destroyed much of the city, but also killed tens of thousands of people. Reconstruction began a year later but stopped in 1834 after the religious orders in Portugal were abolished. The naves, transept, and chapels were never fully rebuilt so now it has a roofless nave. It looks pretty funky due to that!
The small museum houses a small, but very eclectic collection of books, coins, mosaics, a 16th Century Peruvian mummy and an Egyptian sarcophagus! Photography was prohibited though, so you’ll just have to go there yourself to check it out. Opening hours are Mon-Sat, 10:00-18:00 (Oct-Apr), 10:00-19:00 (May-Sep). Entrance costs 3 EUR.
3. Rossio Square
Rossio Square, officially known as the Plaza Don Pedro IV, is one of the most charming parts of the Lisbon. It is the nerve center of the city and a popular meeting point among the locals. When strolling across the vast square you’ll notice the unusual wave-like mosaic pavement, which alternates between lighter and darker stone, creating an impression of movement.
Also to be found in the square are two Baroque fountains depicting mythical figures as well as a monument of Dom Pedro IV, a former Portuguese king and the first emperor of Brazil. Rossio Square is lined with many fantastic cafes, where you can sit sipping coffee while people watching on the square. You can do your Lisbon shopping fix here as Avenida da Liberdade is just around the corner and home to numerous upmarket fashion stores.
Just off of Rossio Square lies a small establishment, A Ginjinha, the oldest and most traditional ginja bar in Lisbon. Ginjinha or simply ginja is a traditional Lisbon based sour cherry infused liqueur. This is one of the things you have to try while in Lisbon! A shot only costs 1.50 EUR. If you like it, you can purchase one of those bottles of red liquid gold as a souvenir. A Ginjinha is open daily from 9:00-22:00.
4. Rua Augusta
Make your way down on Rua Augusta street that leads down to Commerce Square. Rua Augusta is one of the best known and most important shopping streets in Lisbon. The street runs from Rossio square to Commerce Square. In addition to a number of large international stores, there are also numerous catering establishments and a few shops here that are unique to Lisbon.
The entrance to the Commerce Square is formed by the Arco da Rua Augusta. This triumphal arch was built in memory of the 1755 earthquake and is a Lisbon icon and an important symbol of its resilience. I loved how vibrant this street was with its many terraces, street artists and music.
5. Commerce Square
The Commerce Square is the largest and most famous square in Lisbon. It was rebuilt in the eighteenth century, after the earthquake of 1755, and was previously called the Palace Square since it housed the royal palace. There are plenty of great photo opportunities in this scenic square such as the monumental triumphal arch and a towering statue of King Jose on horseback in the center. Some great cafes and restaurants line the square including Café Martinho da Arcada, which used to be a popular hang-out of the Lisbon literati.
6. Conserveira de Lisboa
We weren’t aware that tinned fish is a big deal in Portugal. Luckily we got the scoop about this just before we left from one of our Portuguese friends, a Lisbon native herself, who swore by it and told us that we would have to check it out. Conserveira de Lisboa is an iconic shop in Lisbon that has specialized in tinned fish since the 1930s. The shelves in the shop are stocked with endless rows of fish treats.
The instagrammable retro packaging of the colorful tins is adorable. You can get a wide variety of seafood such as cod, eel, mackerel, octopus, sardines, and tuna here. It is gobsmackingly good! These make for a great souvenir option as well so you might want to pick up some. They cost between 2-3 EUR depending on the variety of fish.
7. Lunch in Downtown Lisbon
The downtown area is home to several great restaurants. However, there are lots of tourist trap joints around here that look inviting but the food quality is mediocre. Some good places in this area are Taberna Moderna – an authentic Portuguese restaurant and India Gate – a lovely Indian restaurant.
8. Lisbon Cathedral
The Lisbon Cathedral is the oldest religious edifice in the city and is a must visit for architecture buffs. It was founded in 1150 to commemorate the defeat of the Moors three years earlier. Over the course of its history, it has been altered a few times, so it reflects a mishmash of architectural styles, including Gothic, Neoclassical, Romanesque and Rococo. The church facade resembles a medieval fortress as it is dominated by two large bell towers and the intricately carved massive rose window. There are several notable tombs inside. It’s worth checking out for a short time.
Lisbon Cathedral is open daily from 09:00-19:00. Entrance is free.
9. National Tile Museum
Amazing murals made of tiles (azulejos) are omnipresent all over Lisbon – on apartments, cathedrals, shops, and train stations. They are a seminal part of Portugal’s cultural identity even though they were introduced by the Moors.
If you love azulejos as much as we do you shouldn’t miss this wonderful museum that pays homage to azulejos and traces the history of oil painting in Portugal. We were both completely in awe of the museum’s vast collection of tiles, which span the early 15th century through to the 20th century. The standout here is the gorgeous 36 m, 1300 tile panel depicting the Lisbon cityscape before the 1755 earthquake.
As impressive as the collection is inside, the building itself is an architectural gem, constructed in the Manueline style symbolic of the Portuguese discoveries period.
Opening hours of the National Tile Museum are Tue-Sun, 10:00-18:00. Entrance is 5 EUR.
10. Wander the Alfama District
Nothing screams Lisbon as much as the Alfama district, the city’s oldest district. The Romans and Visigoths occupied the area in the early 4th century followed by Moors in the 8th century. Due to its position on sturdy bedrock, Alfama is the only area that escaped the wrath of the 1755 earthquake which annihilated Lisbon. You’ll notice that the neighborhood still shows signs of the city’s Moorish past.
Whitewashed walls, cobblestoned streets, lavish Azulejos, .. oh the list could go on and on and on. Keep your eyes, ears, and nose open. Alfama is a place for all the senses – between the melancholic sound coming from the many Fado bars and a distinct fish fry sizzle reaching you from restaurants and private homes, you will fall in love. No wonder it was our favorite district in Lisbon.
One of the things we loved about the Alfama was that we saw locals going through their day to day routine. So If you want to discover Lisbon at its intimate best, Alfama is a place to not be missed!
11. Castle of St. George
The Castle of St. George can be seen from nearly anywhere in the city and is the most recognized of Lisbon’s attractions. It is nearly as old as the city itself, with its oldest parts dating back as early as the 6th century. It served the Romans, Visigoths, and the Moors as a base for further conquests. The castle was the Moorish royal residence until Portugal’s first king, Alfonso Henriques, took control over it in 1147.
Overlooking the city, today it is a small oasis of calm, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Take a stroll around the medieval fortress and step back into the history of Lisbon. Visitors are mostly content to admire the spectacular views from the observation terrace that offers an uninterrupted panorama of the city, the River Tagus, and the distant Atlantic Ocean.
Around here you will also find several small shops which sell more than your average fridge magnet. We ourselves bought a beautiful little watercolor which now rests comfortably on our bookshelf 🙂
The castle is open daily from 09:00-21:00 (March-October) and 09:00-18:00 (November-February). Entrance is 8.50 EUR.
12. Dinner at Time Out Market
After a long day’s sightseeing, you deserve a good meal. In order to get your taste buds galvanized make your way to the Time Out Market. This is a foodie paradise and one of the best things to do in Lisbon. It is the first market in the world where everything has been chosen and tested by an independent panel of city experts.
There are over 40 stalls here from top chefs with different brands of local products as well as more international options. So if seafood, steak sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, sushi, chocolate, and desserts are what you crave you can find it all under one roof here. There is also a good selection of wine and beer.
Time Out Market is open daily. Opening hours are Sun-Wed, 10:00-24:00 and Thu-Sat, 10:00-02:00.
Day 3 in Lisbon
Today’s itinerary will cover some of the outer lying sights, a world-class museum, an iconic tram ride, and a two classic Portuguese experiences.
1. Hop on the Iconic Tram 28
Kickstart your final day by taking a ride on the iconic tram 28. It is one of only three traditional tram lines that still operate in the city. The tram trundles through some of the oldest and most charming neighborhoods of Lisbon like Baixa, Chiada, Graca, and of course, Alfama giving you a splendid vista of many of Lisbon’s renowned gardens, churches, and monuments. The full ride can take up to an hour and there are daily departures every 11 minutes.
We had to endure the frustration of waiting in line for 30 minutes and really had to jostle for our seats since we got on at Martim Moniz. This feeling dissipated as soon as the tram started rolling.
The only drawback about tram 28 is that it is always packed to the core and you will have to scramble for getting a seat. The best chance of getting a seat is by boarding at one of the starting points (Campo de Ourique or Martim Moniz). Nearly everyone gets on at Martim Moniz and there’s invariably a long queue so we would recommend getting on at the other end, Campo de Ourique (near Prazeres Cemetery), where much fewer people board. Also, keep a close eye on valuables since tram 28 has an infamous reputation on which pickpockets chiefly target tourists.
2. Gulbenkian Museum
Gosh! Where to begin? The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (Founder’s Collection) is simply one of the best museums I’ve seen and is one of the must-see attractions in Lisbon. It is quite frankly one of the greatest private collections ever amassed. The entire collection was bequeathed to the city of Lisbon by the Armenian oil magnate, Calouste Gulbenkian. The Gulbenkian Museum houses about 6,000 pieces of mostly ancient artifacts and artworks.
The collection is divided into two sections: one part is dedicated to Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, Islamic, and Asian art, and the other to European acquisitions. The collection is so rich in quality! Some of the highlights include Roman jewelry, Persian tapestries, Chinese porcelain, Japanese paintings, and paintings from the well known Flemish, Italian and French renaissance artists.
If there’s one museum to visit in Lisbon we would highly recommend this one. The museum is open Wed-Mon from 10:00-18:00. Entrance is 10 EUR.
3. Lunch at Laurentina
No visit to Lisbon would be complete without sampling the city’s culinary delight, cod – that is preserved in salt, and locally known as ‘bacalhau’. There are rumored to be 365 different ways of cooking it, one for each day of the year. Being seafood lovers, we ate cod on at least two occasions in Lisbon. While there are plenty of places to get good cod over the city our favorite was Laurentina, once again recommended by our dear friend Mariana. They have a lot of variations of this classic dish and the quality of the food is impeccable.
4. Park of the Nations
Truly, nobody can resist Lisbon’s old-world charm, but the city has far more to offer than just that. If you want to cut yourself a slice of modern Lisbon, head out to Park of the Nations (Parque das Nações). Most of it was constructed for the World Expo 1998. Oriente Station and the Vasco da Gama Shopping Mall will provide you with a bit of “fresh air”, if you like. We would truly recommend taking the short ride on the cable car that straddles the shore of the river. You will be rewarded with great views of one of the world’s longest bridges.
If you are having a little bit of a lazy day or you are perhaps traveling with children, make a stop at the Oceanarium, Europe’s second-largest aquarium (although be warned: also one most the most crowded ones). Along the river, you will also find numerous bars and restaurants for you to relax at.
A perfect way to spend your final evening in Lisbon would be by watching a fado show, Portugal’s version of the blues. Originating in the early 1800s fado is melancholic by nature, and includes instruments like guitars and mandolins with one Fadista crooning poetic lyrics related to the sinister side of romance, death, and sorrow. There are in excess of 40 fado houses spread throughout Lisbon’s cobblestoned streets in the city’s Alfama and Bairro Alto neighborhoods.
Many Fado shows take place in restaurants so you can enjoy a meal while enjoying this touching music. You will pay slightly more than at normal restaurants, but it’s all about the fado. Two of the best places to witness a live Fado performance in the city are Mascote da Atalaia in the Barrio Alto district and Sr. Fado in Alfama. We were a bit skeptical about whether the fado would be worth the money but those thoughts we quickly dispelled. It was a pretty enjoyable experience and should be done at least once.
6. Bairro Alto & Chiado
However, if you still feel that Fado is too somber for you, you can do a pub crawl in the Bairro Alto or Chiado. Of course, you can do both if you have the stamina. Lisbon natives are known for partying hard, usually starting quite late at night and many staying out until the sun comes up. Bairro Alto and Chiado are the city’s hub for nightlife and are home to a cornucopia of bars and clubs.
The bars here are quite small so you’ll see people spilling out onto the narrow streets. This creates a wonderful atmosphere where people socialize on the streets while chugging down the booze. Porta Largas and The Old Pharmacy are some of the best bars around here.
Extending Your Stay
Although 3 days in Lisbon is a good amount of time to get well acquainted, you may want to stay a little longer to explore more of its gems. Lisbon is a great base for exploring some beautiful sights, such as the Moorish town of Sintra, the medieval town of Evora, and the coastal resort town of Cascais.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
It’s handy to stay in the downtown districts of Bairro Alto, Baixa or the Alfama as they are a good base for sightseeing. There are plenty of good options here for all budgets.
Hostel: Home Lisbon Hostel, a great choice right in the heart of downtown.
Budget: Hotel Gat Rossio, solid option near Rossio train station.
Mid-range: LX Boutique Hotel, within 2 minutes of the Cais do Sodre train station in the downtown.
Splurge: Santiago de Alfama – Boutique Hotel, sumptuous top-choice pick in the Alfama district.
Now, what do you think? What would you recommend to see during 3 days in Lisbon? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!