Lisbon the capital and the largest city of Portugal is one of the oldest cities in the world. The historic city set along the Atlantic coast is the westernmost city of Europe with Cabo da Roca in Sintra Mountains marking the westernmost point of Continental Europe. The city has a lot of offers in terms of history, culture, food and the charming neighborhoods.
Exploring the historic center was our favorite part of the Lisbon City sightseeing there is always something interesting to discover here. One needs at least a couple of days to cover the major sights of Lisbon. Then there are some beautiful sandy beaches less than half an hour away from the city and a wealth of day trip options to take from Lisbon. All these locations are well connected with Lisbon by public transport. We are sure you are definitely going to need more than just a couple of few days in Lisbon.
Well, here is an itinerary on how to make the best of your 3 days in Lisbon.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Stay in Alfama District (Lisbon Old Town)
There is a plenitude of accommodation options in Lisbon to suit every budget and requirement. But, if you are looking for an authentic experience then we recommend you book a stay in the Alfama District. Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon. The neighborhood is compact with choc o bloc of colorful houses built on the hill connected by steps amidst the labyrinth of narrow alleys and small squares. Most of these historic buildings are occupied by quaint cafes and Fado bars so you are sure to be lullabied to sleep every night with the melancholy music of the Fado.
Bairro Alto is also one of the oldest and traditional districts in Lisbon. Bairro Alto is known for its lively nightlife with plenty of Fado Bars, cafes and restaurants. The neighborhood is known for being the city’s bohemian quarter. If you are looking to stay in an area with a vibrant nightlife then Bairro Alto is your place.
Lisbon Sightseeing Day 1
Start your day with some energizing dark espresso from one of the cafes on the way. You can even try some Lisbon special ‘Pasteis de Nata’ little custard-filled tarts to soothe your hunger pangs and get you ready for the hike to castle.
Castelo de S. Jorge
Start the Lisbon City sightseeing with Castelo de S. Jorge which about 15 minutes walk uphill. Don’t worry you won’t be disappointed once you are up there enjoying the magnificent views of the city.
The Moorish castle sits on the hilltop and offers commanding views of the historic center of the Lisbon City set along the Tagus River from its terraced square. One can also enjoy the 360-degree panorama of the city through the camera obscura located in the ‘Tower of Ulysses’ in the castle. The Castelo de S. Jorge holds a permanent exhibition in the former Royal Palace which is a great place to learn about the history of Lisbon.
Another 10 minutes walk down from castle will bring you to the Lisbon Cathedral, alternatively take a bus which will drop you at the cathedral. But we recommend you get down on foot, in that way you get to explore more wonderful places and hidden gems around the neighborhood. We enquired with a few locals and stumbled upon this restaurant on the seventh floor of a building on the castle hill. The elevator of the building is free to use and will transport you to the ground floor which opens into the streets of downtown Lisbon. The terrace of the restaurant is also a vantage point offering remarkable views of the terracotta rooftops of the city of Lisbon.
Lisbon Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in Lisbon. The architecture of the cathedral features a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements. The twin towers of the cathedral dominate the city skyline and are visible from almost anywhere in the historic center of the city. The interior of the cathedral is worth a visit for the Roman and Medieval remains in the Cloister and the Treasury which holds jewels, relics and religious items from different eras.
Portas do Sol
Portas do Sol is a restaurant with a terrace that offers remarkable views of the terracotta roofs and the maze of alleys of the Alfama district stretching up to the Tagus River. It is located close to the Castelo de S. Jorge and the stop for Tram 28.
Ride the Classic Tram 28
You will have your iconic Lisbon moment here you will find the yellow Lisbon trams rattling past you. A ride on the classic yellow Tram 28 in Lisbon is one of the top things to do on a visit to Lisbon. The Tram 28 passes through the popular tourist attractions in the Old Town Lisbon. The ride on the tram is a fun experience as it screeches and winds through the narrow alleys of the historic center of the city of Lisbon. There is a lot to see on the Tram 28 route, to make the most of it you can buy a 24-hour public transport ticket which can be used on the metro, tram, and as well as the buses.
From Lisbon Cathedral the major landmark of Praca do Comercio or Terreiro do Paco is just a 5 minutes walk. If you are looking to ride the Tram 28 then you will need to get down at Rua da Conceicao which is just a couple of minutes walk from the Rua Augusta Arch. There are several restaurants and cafes around here where you can have another round of dark espresso and something to eat.
Praca do Comercio and Rua Augusta Arch
The Praca do Comercio is a square on the banks of Tagus river and is located on the site of the Royal Ribeira Palace which was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. The magnificent square is dominated by the equestrian statue of King Jose I in the center and is surrounded by arcaded buildings occupied by cafes and restaurants.
To the north of the square, the ornate Arco da Rua Augusta leads to the Rua Augusta, a bustling street lined with cafes and restaurants with open-air seatings. Arco da Rua Augusta was completed in 1875 and is decorated with three statues of Glory rewarding Valour and Genius on the top and two statues depicting the two rivers Tejo and Douro in Portugal on the base.
Santa Justa Lift
About 5 minutes walk from the Arco da Rua Augusta through the bustling street lined with cafes and shops is the Santa Justa Lift or the Elevador de Santa Justa.
The wrought-iron elevator featuring Neo-Gothic style filigrana details was built in 1902 and offers outstanding views of the rooftops of the Baixa district of Lisbon. The lift connects the districts of the Baixa and the Bairro Alto.
Rossio Square and Baixa-Chiado
The Rossio Square is located in the Baixa district in the heart of the city of Lisbon. The square has two gorgeous fountains and a statue of Dom Pedro IV at its center. The square is surrounded by several outdoor cafes and boutique shops. Baixa district is known for some of the exemplary neoclassical buildings, magnificent squares, and grand avenues. And the traditional shopping area of Chiado is the place if you looking to go on a shopping spree. You can find all kinds of shops selling clothing, books and local handicrafts.
Marques Do Pombal
Take a 5 minutes tram ride from Rossio Square to Marques Do Pombalis. Marques Do Pombalis is a monument with a statue of Marquis of Pombal, the former prime minister standing on a column with his hand on a lion. The monument commemorates the works of Marquis do Pombal who was responsible for the reconstructing of the city of Lisbon after the Earthquake of 1755.
Marques Do Pombalis monument to Campo Pequeno, the bullring of the city of Lisbon is another 5 minutes tram ride. The bullfighting events are held even to this day from April until end of summer. The bull-ring is a multi-event venue where apart from the event of bull fight the bullring also hosts temporary exhibitions, events and band performances. There is a museum dedicated to Campo Pequeno where you can learn more about bullfighting and its history through pictures and exihibits. There is also a possibility to take a tour of the Arena, when we visited there was some event being held so we could only have a look at it from the first floor.
The building has a large shopping complex, cinema and numerous shops and restaurants in the underground level..
Parque Eduardo VII
Parque Eduardo VII is a public park behind the Marques Do Pombal and stretches uphill. The top of the hill offers great views of the city with Tagus River in the backdrop. There is a monument comprising of four large pillars and a fountain to commemorates the 1974 Revolution.
You can end your day 1 Lisbon sightseeing at Bairro Alto, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon with a vibrant nightlife. The neighborhood has numerous bars and restaurants and buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Sao Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint offers great panoramic views of the Sao Jorge Castle, the neighborhood of Alfama and the historic city center. Another experience to have when there is a ride on the Elevador da Glória next to the garden and connects Bairro Alto with Restauradores Square in the historic city center.
Lisbon Sightseeing Day 2
The day 2 of Lisbon sightseeing will more along the blue stretch of Tagus River and some of the wonderful historical monuments set along the riverside.
The Belem region is historically significant for Portugal as many great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages from here. The major landmark of the Belem region is the Belem Tower which was built as a fortress to guard the Lisbon harbor.
The tower holds an exhibition of artillery cannons, one can also visit the underground dungeon which served as a prison. Climb up to the terrace of the tower for wonderful views over the river.
Discoveries Monument or Padrao dos Descobrimentos
Take a walk along the Tagus Riverfront which offers remarkable views of the ’25th of April’ bridge and the ‘Christ the King’ monument in the backdrop. About 10 minutes walk along the river promenade will bring you to another iconic landmark of the Belem Region the ‘Discoveries Monument’. The monument is dedicated to the Portuguese sailors who set off their voyages of discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.
The monument comprises of the sculptures of notable Portuguese explorers following Prince Henry the Navigator. There is a multimedia exhibition on the ground floor dedicated to the history of Lisbon City, the rooms on the second level hold exhibitions and a climb to the top of the monument offer great views of the riverfront and the Jeronimos Monastery.
The Jeronimos Monastery is a major historical building located in the Belem Region. The former monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an exemplary Gothic Manueline style of architecture.
Jeronimos Monastery was built by King Manuel I in 1502 on the site of a church where Vasco da Gama and other sailors spent their last night before leaving for their voyage to India. The monastery holds the tombs of Vasco da Gama and other prominent Portuguese historical figures.
When you are here do visit Praca do Imperio. The public square is one of the largest in Europe. The square is surrounded by the Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem Cultural Center with a colossal fountain in the center. And do not miss to try original Pastel de Nata from Pasteis De Belem. Do note that you may want to go there early to avoid the long queues.
If you are visiting with kids then you cannot miss a visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium located in Parque das Nacoes. It is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe with a wonderful collection of marine species. Jeronimos Monastery to Lisbon Oceanarium close to an hours bus ride. On the way back we took a metro back to the city center. The nearest metro station is Oriente on Red Line which is about 15 minutes walk.
Vasco da Gama Tower
The Vasco da Gama Tower located in the Parque das Nações is a 145 m tower on the north bank of the Tagus river. It was named after the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. The viewing platform accessed through elevators offers great views of Lisbon, the Tagus River, and the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
Listen to Fado
One of the must do things when in Lisbon is listen to some Fado which is part of UNESCO’s World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. There are plenty of Fado bars in Alfama and Bairro Alto. We had our apartment booked in Alfama and in the evenings when we would return home we would get a chance to listen to a Fado performance in the open air seating of a restaurant. Fado is a traditional music of Lisbon which is characterized by melancholic rhythm and lyrics.
Day 3 – Day Trip from Lisbon
These couple of days you must have had plenty to explore in the city of Lisbon from historical buildings and monument, terracotta rooftop views, the classic tram rides and devouring on some delicious Pastel de Nata. On the third day get outside of the busy city and head to one of the wonderful places on a day trip from Lisbon. Lisbon is an ideal base to explore these amazing places which are a couple of hours from Lisbon, some of the best beaches are at a distance of about 40 minutes from the Lisbon city center. During our time in Lisbon, we could plan only Lisbon to Sintra day trip.
Sintra is a resort town 40 minutes train ride away from Lisbon. But are a plenitude of day trip options are available from Lisbon.
Read More on the best day trips from Lisbon which you must add to your bucket list for your next Lisbon visit.
Getting Around Lisbon
Lisbon has a very well-connected with a good frequency of public transport consisting of buses, trams and metro system. The historic center of Lisbon can be easily explored on foot. The cities/towns outside Lisbon which can be explored on a day trip are well connected by suburban train network. We recommend you buy a Lisbon Card which is available for different number of days. The card offers free travel on public transport, free access to some of the city’s best museums and attractions including Torre de Belem, Jeronimos Monastery and the Santa Justa Elevator and some great discount deals.
Best Time to Visit Lisbon
The best time to visit Lisbon is Spring (Feb and March) or Autumn (August till October) when the temperatures are warmer. Even the prices of the hotels are cheaper with fewer crowds. Summer is the season to avoid for it may get really hot and scorching.
If you are looking to spend a couple of days in Lisbon and explore the all the museums and city sightseeing attractions in the city then the Lisbon Card is for you. The city pass is available for 24/48/72 hours for your flexible Lisbon trip. The Lisbon has a wide array of benefits for the visitors like free or discounted entry to over 80 major Lisbon attractions. The entry to the key attractions of Jeronimos Monastery, the Belem Tower, and the National Pantheon are free and included in the Lisbon card.
The public transport including trams, Metro, and buses are also free. The Lisbon Card also includes the elevators and funiculars rides. You can enjoy a free ride on Santa Justa Elevator one of the major attractions in Lisbon. It even includes the train ride for day trips to the Sintra and Cascais in Portugal.
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