The capital of Portugal has become the place to be, and this 3 days in Lisbon itinerary is designed to show you exactly why.
With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, a thriving bar and restaurant scene, and one of the lowest costs of living in Western Europe, it’s become a hotspot for casual travelers and digital nomads alike.
Like Rome and Jerusalem, Lisbon was built on seven hills. Although there’s great public transport, from rickety trams to speedy underground trains, it’s a pleasure to explore on foot.
Pack a good pair of trainers with a decent grip (the cobbled streets are slippery when wet). You should also consider picking up a Lisboa Card — this gives you free rides on public transport, and discounted entry to many of the big-ticket attractions.
If you’ve only got a few days to spend in this gorgeous coastal city, fear not — we’ve put together the perfect itinerary to spend 3 days in Lisbon, combining top attractions with hidden gems.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Portugal (Travel Guide)
3 Days in Lisbon Itinerary – Day 1
You’ve checked into your hotel, had a great night’s sleep, and are ready to tackle the Portuguese capital head-on. Here’s how to spend your lazy first day in Lisbon.
Get your bearings on a free walking tour
First things first, head to the Camões Monument on Largo de Camões to meet your Sandeman’s guide for a free walking tour. These take place every day at 10 am, 11 am and 2 pm and they’re a great way to get to know
Lisbon’s city center and intriguing history. You’ll learn all about Lisbon’s role in WWII as a destination for spies, and about the 1755 earthquake which almost destroyed the city completely.
Explore Lisbon through history, food, and drink on a half-day walking tour that includes a series of tastings, a glass of Portuguese wine, and a ferry trip across the Tagus River.
Try everything from pastries and cheese to seafood as a guide shares stories about Portuguese history, local culture, and the landmarks you pass along the way.
Eat a seafood lunch at Cervejaria Ramiro
Take the metro to Martim Moniz and grab lunch at the city’s most famous seafood restaurant. Don’t be put off if there’s a line outside — it moves super fast. It looks swanky, but prices are very wallet-friendly.
Order some percebes (goose barnacles), Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams with garlic and coriander), and a tiger prawn. You can’t have a seafood dinner in Lisbon without finishing with a prego (steak sandwich), so leave room for “dessert”.
Savor gourmet foods from Portugal during this small-group guided food and wine tour of Lisbon.
Taste cheese, pastries, and Port; enjoy a Lisbon wine tasting from the Alentejo, and learn why this region produces some of the world’s best wine. Plus, your guide provides you with tips on the city’s best eats.
Take the Tram 28
This iconic yellow trolley dates back to the 1930s, and clatters and creaks its way up and down Lisbon’s hills.
Hop on at Martim Moniz, near the restaurant — this is the start of the route so you’re more likely to get a seat. Stay on board for a tour of beautiful neighborhoods like Sao Bento, Estrela, and Alfama.
Receive undivided attention on a private walking and tram tour of Lisbon. This is an ideal way for first-time visitors to orient themselves.
You will start at Commerce Square (Praca da Commercio) and check off Lisbon highlights such as São Jorge Castle (St George’s Castle) and Lisbon Cathedral (Se de Lisboa).
Admission: €2.85 if bought on board, €1.45 with Viva Viagem
Running hours: four times an hour from 7 am to 10 pm
Visit the Castle
It’s a steep uphill walk to the São Jorge Castle which towers over downtown Lisbon, but it’s well worth it for the views.
The castle itself was built in the mid-11th Century and has a permanent exhibition with objects found during archeological digs on the site. There’s also a garden with native tree species and a camera obscura.
If you are more interested in visiting the castle in a group instead of alone check out this great private tour of Lisbon, Sintra and Estoril Coast.
Opening hours: 9 am to 9 pm March through October, 9 am to 6 pm November through February
Explore Bairro Alto
From one of Lisbon’s seven hills to another, the Bairro Alto is the perfect place to end your first day in Lisbon.
The neighborhood is famous for nightlife and there’s something for everyone here — whether you’re into wine and tapas, beer and burgers or colorful cocktails served in plastic cups.
Learn to surf with a local surfer
Going to Lisbon and not surfing is like visiting Barcelona and not trying the famous “bread with tomato”, or like going to Amsterdam and not hopping on a bike.
Thing is, Portugal is one of surf’s great capitals and Lisbon has, just 15 minutes away from downtown, magnificent beaches in Caparica, Cascais, and Sintra where you can surf.
Whether you can already surf or simply want to learn, Filipe is a charming local surfer who will take you to the beaches where he usually surfs and that best suits your skills.
Oh, and be sure to bring your Go Pro and film yourself surfing your first wave… Or your falls.
Catch your first wave, brush up your skills or get an insider’s guide to the best surf spots along the Lisbon coast with a local guide and small group of surfers. Find the perfect spot for swell, sea conditions and your skills, and try riding a variety of different boards.
Day 2 – What to do in Lisbon
For your second day in Lisbon, it’s time to leave the city center behind and discover the historic suburb of Belem.
This is where the Portuguese explorers departed from during the age of discoveries and is a wonderful place to while away a morning.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Portugal (Travel Guide)
Eat Pasteis de Nata
First things first — breakfast. Portugal has many different cakes and pastries, but it’s most famous for its custard tarts (pasteis de nata) and the Pasteis de Belem bakery has been making them since 1837.
The shop is cavernous, with large rooms decorated with local tiles (azulejos). The custard tarts are some of the best we’ve tasted, so it’s well worth joining the queue.
Tip: To order one custard tart, you ask for “um pastel de nata” but to order two or more you ask for “duas pastéis de nata.” Portuguese is hard, but don’t worry: there are plenty of free resources for learning Portuguese online.
Get a Lisbon, Portugal Guide Map: Michelin Lisbon City Map – Laminated (Michelin Write & Wipe)
Visit the Maritime Museum
Belem has a huge range of museums to visit, but if you have to pick choose the Maritime Museum.
It’s a great place to learn about Portugal’s seafaring past. There are 17 thousand items on display, including a wooden sculpture of the Archangel Raphael which Vasco da Gama took on his voyage to India.
After leaving the museum, take time to admire Jeronimos Monastery and the Torre de Belem.
These early 16th-Century buildings are some of Lisbon’s few remaining examples of Manueline architecture — the other buildings were destroyed during the 18th Century earthquake.
Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm (6 pm May through September)
Stroll along the River
Walk back towards town along the banks of the Tagus and watch locals cycle, run and fish. This is one of the best spots in the city for jogging and is lined with cute bars.
There are another couple of museums along here too, including the electricity museum and the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology).
Have lunch at Santo Amaro Docks
After walking under the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge (the one that looks like the Golden Gate) you’ll find yourself at a small waterfront area. This strip of restaurants seems to have flown under the tourist radar and is a great place to grab lunch.
The 5 Oceanos restaurant is a great place for lunch, especially if you can sit outside. Order the Azeitão cheese as a starter.
Spend an evening at the LX Factory
This old factory complex is a 15-minute walk from the docks and is a hipster hotspot packed with interesting shops and bars.
Browse the racks in Ler Devager — a bookshop set inside an old printing press — before checking out the kawaii clothes in A Showroom. Finish by watching the sunset from the roof terrace of the Rio Maravilha bar.
Mountain bike Route through Serra da Arrábida
Feel like doing some biking? If you are a big biking fan, then we know an awesome route that will take you through Serra da Arrábida, passing by the Palmela Castle and ending at the Portinho beach.
It’s about 40km along which you’ll be able to enjoy a landscape full of contrasts, one that combines the blue of the sea with the green of the forests and the yellow of the beaches.
Furthermore, there are many great spots to make a delicious picnic in the countryside with some breathtaking views. Because Lisbon is much more than just the city.
Day 3 – Lisbon Itinerary
You’ve managed to take in some of the biggest tourist attractions on day one and two, so on day three, it’s time to really delve into Lisbon’s neighborhoods.
This fashionable neighborhood has the perfect mix of tiny art galleries, independent boutiques, and colorful mansions.
Admire the view from the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara, then head to the Embaixada Concept Store. Set inside an old palace, this shopping gallery is a showcase for local artisans.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Portugal (Travel Guide)
Eat at the Time Out Market
Head down the hill to Cais do Sodre and the Mercado da Ribeira — home to the world’s first Time Out Market. You can sample some of the best food Lisbon has to offer: from fine dining dishes to burgers.
Famous chefs like Henrique Sá Pessoa have stalled in the food court, as do popular restaurants such as Sea Me. There’s also a Super Bock beer experience, where you can sample different flavors and pour your own drink.
Looking for a great food tour? Check out this small-group guided food and wine tour of Lisbon. Taste cheese, pastries, and Port; enjoy a Lisbon wine tasting from the Alentejo, and learn why this region produces some of the world’s best wine. Plus, your guide provides you with tips on the city’s best eats.
After eating your fill, wander over to Alfama on a small-group walking tour. Lisbon’s old town was made for Instagram.
It’s all narrow lanes, cobbled streets and bougainvillea pouring over walls. Look for the street artists painting masterpieces with black coffee and red wine.
In the evening, wander into one of the bars (tascas) and order a drink. It won’t be long before the fadistas start singing the mournful fado music that Lisbon is famous for. Lisbon’s Alfama is a can’t miss when visiting Lisbon.
Watch wild dolphins in the Sado estuary
Although it’s not very common, you can watch wild dolphins not too far from the coast of Lisbon (kids go crazy with this).
For the spot where the Sado River enters the sea hosts a few very special inhabitants: thirty dolphins that have decided to stay in these calm waters despite being so close to the coast and the regular motorboats.
In fact, we suggest you visit them aboard a beautiful and ancient wooden boat, recently restored to meet all the requirements of sustainable and ecological tourism for dolphin watching. There is nothing like watching free dolphins, not locked in a pool.
Sample the local cakes
Although most people have heard of the pastel de nata, few have heard of any of Portugal’s other pastries.
Just as Belem is famous for the pastel de nata, Sintra is famous for the travesseiros — a pillow-shaped pastry filled with almond flavor custard and dusted with sugar.
Some Portuguese people believe you simply can’t get a good one outside the town limits, and the best place to sample them is Casa Piriquita (where the sweet was invented).
While there, try the local Queijadas, a small tart made from requeijão (the Portuguese version of ricotta).
Try Portugal’s Favorite Dish
A trip to Portugal without eating bacalhau (salt cod)? Unthinkable! According to legend, the Portuguese have 365 recipes for codfish, one for each day of the year, but having lived in Portugal I think the actual figure is much higher.
At D’Bacalhau Restaurante you’ll be able to try a good range of dishes. I recommend bacalhau com Natas, which is served in a creamy sauce, or bacalhau com broa which is coated in sourdough breadcrumbs.
Cable car over the Tagus
Take the train back to the Oriente train station and make a beeline for the Telecabine Lisboa. The cable car lifts you nearly 100 feet in the air over the Tagus River.
You’ll get excellent views of the ten miles long Vasco da Gama bridge, the modern Parque das Nações neighborhood and (if you time it right) the pink sky at sunset.
Admission: €3.95 one-way, €5.90 round trip
Opening hours: 11 am to 7 pm (6 pm in winter, 10:30 am to 8 pm in summer)
Suggested Day Trips from Lisbon
It’s time to leave the city center and discover pastures new — you want to get the most out of your last day in Lisbon, after all.
With its pastel palaces and dewy forest-covered hills, Sintra is like a backdrop from a Disney movie. It’s 20 miles from Lisbon, and in the olden days, Portuguese nobility flocked to the town.
Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can catch a train to Sintra from Rossio station in the city center or Oriente Station at Parque das Nações.
Sintra has lots of palaces and castles to visit, including the Castelo dos Mouros, Quinta da Regaleira, and the Palacio Nacional de Sintra. If you can only see one, make it the Palacio da Pena (Pena Palace).
This romantic palace in bright yellow and red really does belong in a Disney movie — it’s one of the world’s best expressions of 19th-century Romantic architecture and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Of course, it’s UNESCO listed, too.
Admission: €14 Opening hours: 9:45 am to 7 pm
The center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with lovely architecture.
During a day trip to this city, you can visit the vibrant downtown Baixa district, walk through the leafy greenery of Serralves Park where the Museum of Contemporary Art is located, and try some signature local wines and food.
Explore Portugal’s second most popular city on this full-day private tour from Lisbon to Porto.
See the city’s key landmarks like Old Town Ribeira, the Porto Cathedral, Sao Bento train station, the Clerics Tower, and the famous port wine cellars.
Known for its architecture, Fatima is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon.
It is possible to visit Fatima itself in a half-day, however, many options exist to combine Fatima with other notable and popular areas around Lisbon to make a full day trip.
Delve into the famous religious pilgrimage site Fatima during this privately guided tour from Lisbon. This tour will illuminate the site where apparitions of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Fatima) were seen in 1917.
Visit the basilica, pay homage at the shrine and see Sanctuary Square which is two times the area of St Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
Motorbike Tour through Southern Portugal
If you want to enjoy a unique experience, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the south of Portugal on a 4-day motorbike tour through southern Portugal along the Vicentina Coast. It is spec-tac-ular.
One thing is for sure, it’s much better if you do it with a local biker like Diogo, since with him you’ll be able to see and know places that the guides never heard about.
Lisbon is the starting point, and the idea is to make an average of 250km per day, submerging in the incredible scenery of the Portuguese south coast while contemplating the beautiful vineyards with old medieval castles, small hidden villages that overlook the sea, green valleys, and wide plains.
All drizzled with delicious local wines and excellent Portuguese cuisine. Awesome, right?
Lisbon Travel Tips
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Deciding where to stay in Lisbon is difficult. Lisbon has so many wonderful neighborhoods, and each has its own vibe and characteristics.
The good news is that no two neighborhoods are very far away from each other. Lisbon is a very walkable city, and it has an excellent public transport service as well.
Let’s start with two areas that I personally avoid first: the Bairro Alto and, increasingly, Cais do Sodre. Both of these are areas that I enjoy spending time in, but both of these are the nightlife neighborhoods of Lisbon.
I once spent a sleepless week in an apartment in Cais do Sodre that was on a street that connected Cais do Sodre to the Bairro Alto.
There are plenty of apartments and hotels in these two neighborhoods that are reasonably quiet, of course. I just find it safer to avoid them if you value a good night’s sleep.
Neighborhoods to look out for are Alfama (one of the oldest parts of Lisbon), Chiado, Baixa, Principe Real, and Avenida. All of these are pretty much in the city center or within a very short walk of it. You’ll find the majority of the hotels here, as well as many Airbnbs and apartments.
I also love Alcântara and have spent many months living here. It’s home to attractions like the LX Factory, within walking distance of Belém, and it has an excellent area for running down by the docks as well.
Ultimately, though, the best area comes down to what you like. Do you prefer to be close to the city center or do you prefer the quieter suburbs? The great thing about Lisbon is that the two are never very far away from each other.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James moved to Lisbon in 2013 and is glad to see his adopted city growing so popular. When he’s not bar-hopping in the Bairro Alto or pounding the pavement by the Belem waterfront, you’ll find him blogging about all things Portugal at Portugalist.
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