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Lisbon is a fascinating city, with a unique and vibrant culture. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, an action-packed vacation or just looking for new and exciting places to explore, there are plenty of things to see and do in this historic city. Here is a 3-day itinerary of the best sights and experiences that Lisbon has to offer.
3 Days in Lisbon: what to see and do
Day 1 of 3 days in Lisbon: Alfama, Baixa and Rossio
The best way to spend your first day in Lisbon is by getting acquainted with the city, its rhythms and layout. So, get your comfiest shoes for some serious walking ahead!
To explore the city on your own, begin your day by wandering through Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon. Allow yourself to get lost exploring the charming streets filled with colourful buildings and ornate churches.
Alfama doesn’t have good public transport access due to its geography, so getting around can be complicated. That said, why not take the iconic tram 28? The tram takes a scenic route and you get to see many of Lisbon’s sights. However, it can get crowded as it is very popular. The best way to avoid crowds is to take it early in the morning.
Tip: start your journey from the Martim Moniz stop, you’ll have the best chance to find a seat.
Alfama’s best-known site is the famous Castelo de São Jorge. Located on top of a hill, it offers stunning views of the city from above. The closest public transport stop is Castelo, on the 737 bus.
A short walk downwards from the castle, you’ll find one of Lisbon’s best viewpoints. Miraduro de Santa Luzia offers a wonderful view of the Tejo estuary and a beautiful viewing balcony. If you’ve chosen to take tram 28, there’s a stop at the miraduro.
After enjoying the view and lunch at nearby Audrey’s, get back on tram 28 and head to Lisbon’s oldest cathedral, the Sé de Lisboa. The cathedral is also one of the most Instagrammed spots in Lisbon.
Afternoon: Baixa & Rossio
Next, head down to the (thankfully, flat) streets of Baixa and the magnificent square Praça do Comércio. Located on the waterfront, it is one of the most recognisable places in Lisbon. Admire the elegant archways and busy cafés.
On the square, you’ll also find the impressive Arco de Rua Augusta (arch of Augusta street). It is a triumphal arch, built in 1875 to commemorate the regeneration of Lisbon following the devastating 1755 earthquake. If you want, you can take the lift to the viewpoint at top of the arch and enjoy a beautiful view of the square and the river. Tickets are 3€ or free with the Lisbon Card.
From there, turn your back to the river and walk upwards to explore the shops and cafés of Rua Augusta. If you fancy a sweet snack, head for Manteigaria, the best place for pasteis de nata in Baixa/Chiado.
If you still have some energy left, keep walking towards Rossio square (thankfully, the area is flat). It’s a beautiful square with many shops nearby and lots of greenery.
Finally, the best way to end your first day in Lisbon is by having a casual, light dinner at the courtyard taverna of Casa do Alentejo. Popular with students and younger people (or the young at heart), having wine here is one of the most authentic experiences you can have in Lisbon.
For those who prefer a restaurant experience, the Casa’s main restaurant offers delicious traditional dishes and wines from Portugal’s Alentejo area.
Day 2 of 3 days in Lisbon: Belem and LxFactory
On your second day in town, it’s time to learn more about Portugal’s history and culture. Belem is a delightful district in Lisbon and personally my favourite. Either hop on an Uber (they are cheap in Lisbon) or take the tram 15 to Belém, which is on the outskirts of Lisbon.
Start by visiting Belém Tower (or Torre de Belém). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built during the Age of Discovery to commemorate Portugal’s maritime exploits. You can go inside, but honestly, the best is the outside.
Afterwards, enjoy a leisurely stroll by the waterfront, just like the locals do. You can easily do the best sights of Belem in half a day, so allow yourself to enjoy this scenic area, or even have a coffee at one of the cafés.
Near the Belem Tower is the impressive Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument or monument of the Explorers. A popular photo opportunity, the monument features stone carvings of key figures in Portugal’s history of exploration.
Next, head over to Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos). It is another of Lisbon’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The monastery showcases Portugal’s rich history and architecture.
After that, it’s time to taste the original pasteis de nata in the place they were invented. Namely, at Fabrica Pasteis de Belem. It’s the only place that can call the iconic pastries “de Belem“; everywhere else they are called “de nata“, i.e. “cream pastries”.
Tip: the queue for take out/away is much longer than the queue for sitting in and the café is a bit like TARDIS, bigger on the inside than on the outside!
After that, continue on to MAAT Museum (Museu de Arte Antiga e Tecnologia) or the Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Museum of Carriages).
Afternoon: LxFactory & Time Out Market
For the second half of your second day in Lisbon, explore the artisanal heart of the city. Located in the area and buildings of a former typography factory, LxFactory houses over 50 shops, artists’ studios, cafés and restaurants.
In addition, it hosts many cultural events, as well as displays of urban art. All in all, it’s a truly unique place in Lisbon. Don’t miss the impressive bookshop Ler Devagar.
From there, you can either go for a night out in Bairro Alto or if you’re more of a foodie, take an Uber to Time Out Market. This unique food court in Lisbon has stalls of the city’s best restaurants, offering curated dishes at friendly prices. There are also souvenir shops, dessert stands, wine bars and more. The Market also often hosts music and dance events.
Day 3 of 3 days in Lisbon: Bairro Alto, Principe Real and Avenida Liberdade
Morning: Bairro Alto
One way to get to Bairro Alto is by taking the Bica funicular (Elevador/Ascencor da Bica). This funicular connects Rua de São Paulo to Largo do Calhariz. Once at the upper end, turn right to reach Praça Luis de Camōes. Alternatively, trams 28E, 24E and 22B also have stops near the square. The lively square takes its name from the famous poet Luís Vaz de Camões. His statue is in the middle of the square.
All that climbing uphill made you hungry? Grab a bifana sandwich from O Trevo, one of Anthony Bourdain’s fave eating spots in Lisbon.
After you have had your mid-morning snack, it’s time for a coffee. So, head down to Rua Garrett (2 minutes on foot), to historic Café A Brasileira. One of the oldest in Lisbon, it is also the home of the original bica, the Portuguese espresso.
Just a few metres down from A Brasileira, book lovers don’t miss the opportunity to visit Livraria Bertrand, the oldest bookshop in the world (mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records). If you buy a book, ask to have it stamped by the teller.
The ruins of Convento do Carmo are just a short walk from there. It used to be one of the grandest medieval buildings in the city but was destroyed during the 1775 earthquake. Fortunately, the convent’s art survived the earthquake, while the gothic arches still stand. Nearby, you’ll also find Igreja de São Roque, with its beautiful interior.
Afternoon: Principe Real & Avenida Liberdade
Continuing in the same direction, you’ll find yourself in Principe Real, an affluent district with elegant 20th-century buildings.
On your right-hand side, you’ll find Miraduro de São Pedro de Alcantara. It is one of the best viewpoints in Lisbon. Get yourself a freshly-squeezed pineapple juice and relax in its peaceful gardens. Otherwise, stop by Pastelaria Brasil for a good, homemade lunch.
Once rested, hop on the Elevador da Gloria and go down to Praça de Restauradores and Avenida Liberdade.
This is Lisbon’s most exclusive shopping street. Many of the city’s upscale hotels and restaurants can also be found here. It is a wide, easily walkable avenue, lined with many trees. This makes it a delightful area for a leisurely stroll and some window shopping.
At the top end of the avenue, you’ll find Praça Marques de Pombal and the Eduardo VII park. Since you’ll probably be rather tired by now after the day’s exploring, this is the perfect area to end your day with dinner at one of the fine restaurants lining the avenue.
Lisbon in 3 days: a guide to the best neighbourhoods
- Bairro Alto
Once famous for its nightlife, this popular and vibrant neighbourhood also boasts art galleries, street art and interesting eateries. It’s the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to the best nightlife and street life.
Elegant Chiado is south of Bairro Alto, best known for its boutique hotels, chic shops and cafes, as well as its beautiful architecture. Chiado is also home to the iconic Elevador de Santa Justa, a lift that takes passengers up to a viewing platform with stunning views over the city.
Baixa is the centre of Lisbon, known for its grand squares and stately buildings. It was completely rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake and therefore has a uniform appearance. Baixa is also home to some of Lisbon’s most popular tourist attractions, such as the Rossio square and the Praça do Comércio.
Romantic Alfama is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Lisbon. It has a very different feel from other parts of the city. Located on a hillside overlooking the River Tajo, it has narrow streets and traditional houses. Alfama is also home to some of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks, such as the São Jorge Castle. If you’re looking for a true taste of traditional Portuguese culture, Alfama is perfect for you.
Belém is located west of Lisbon city centre, on the banks of the River Tajo. Once an important maritime hub for Portugal, it boasts important heritage sites such as the Torre de Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery. If you want to explore some of Lisbon’s rich history and culture during your stay in the city, Belém is ideal for you.
3 Days in Lisbon Tips
Are 3 days in Lisbon enough?
Short answer? Yes. That said, Lisbon is a multi-faceted city with a rich and complex personality. No matter how long you stay, you’ll always feel as if you’ve only scratched the surface. But 3 days are enough to see the city’s highlights and get a taste of the local cuisine.
Is Lisbon worth visiting?
Absolutely. It’s a charming city and so unlike what you’d expect from a European capital. Lisbon is interesting as a location, and its people are some of the friendliest and most welcoming I’ve encountered in my travels. It is also one of the cheapest destinations in Europe, especially when it comes to eating out.
How many days do I need in Lisbon?
Ideally, you’d spend four days in Lisbon. You need at least three days to explore this multi-faceted city (and climb up and down its many hills). If you add an extra day, you’ll also get to see the magical Pena Palace in Sintra, the seaside town of Cascais and Cabo de Rocca, Europe’s westernmost point.
When is the best time to go to Lisbon?
One of the best times to go to Lisbon is in October (that’s when I went too). The summer crowds have mostly left but the weather is still very pleasant. To give you an idea, I left rainy and chilly Athens and arrived in an almost-summery Lisbon. I even got a bit of a sunburn! Spring is another great time to visit Lisbon, from late March to May. In contrast, summer can be hot and busy, whereas in winter the weather is rainy. Unfortunately, those beautiful, tiled pavements can be very slippery when it rains.
Getting around Lisbon
Admittedly, Lisbon is not one of the most walkable cities out there. Mostly because of its many hills, most of the time getting from point A to B feels like a high-intensity workout. In addition, those charming alleys of Alfama and other historic neighbourhoods can be tricky. Google maps are not much help either. That said, Uber is not expensive and can come to your rescue after you’ve spent two hours trying to get out of Alfama (*innocent emoji*). At any rate, pack the most supportive, comfortable and non-slippery shoes you have!
Best places to stay in Lisbon
In recent years, Lisbon’s hotel scene has exploded. Nowadays, there are plenty of stylish options for all budgets and tastes. Here are my picks for a 3-day trip to Lisbon:
- Luxury: Inspired by two 19th-century Portuguese explorers, Ivens and Capelo, the new Ivens Autograph Collection was featured in Condé Nast Traveller’s 2022 best new hotels list.
- Boutique: The Vintage Hotel & Spa, where I stayed, offers chic 5-star accommodation in the 1950s-60s style, complete with a complimentary gin & tonic cocktail-making cart in every room.
- Mid-range: Hotel da Baixa is a popular 4-star hotel right in the heart of Lisbon’s historic downtown area.
- Budget: LX Boutique Hotel in the lively area of Cais do Sodre, offers stylish boutique accommodation at friendly prices.
To sum things up
No matter what kind of traveller you are, either a sightseeing enthusiast or a foodie, Lisbon doesn’t disappoint! With so much culture and history, spending only 3 days in Lisbon might seem overwhelming, but don’t worry. If there’s one thing that’s certain about this charming city is that it’s friendly and welcoming. Even if you don’t manage to see everything on your list, in Lisbon you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.