Lisbon is one of my favorite cities that I’ve been to so far! There is nothing I don’t like about Lisbon. The weather is mild, the people are nice and the views are simply stunning! Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe! Even older than Rome (by 4 centuries), Paris and London. This 3 days in Lisbon itinerary has a little bit of everything! Lisbon’s best neighborhoods, historical landmarks, amazing lookout points and of course food!
Itinerary for 3 Days in Lisbon
Notes of the itinerary
- You can do these in any order. I did ones close together geographically for each day
- Feel free to do the night activities on any day
- Can you do this in 2 days instead of 3? Technically yes! Especially during the summer when days are longer or if you start your day early. Simply split day 3 between the afternoons/evenings of days 1 and 2
Your first day of this 3 days in Lisbon itinerary starts at the heart of Lisbon in Rossio Square. This square is also called Don Pedro IV square after the king of Portugal and emperor of Brazil. There’s a lot going on at Rossio square and it is always busy day or night.
Igreja de São Domingos
This church was the center of the Inquisition in the 1600s. Today, it is a reminder of the massive earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1755. The earthquake was followed by a fire and tsunami and you can see some of the soot covered walls inside this church even today.
Leaving Rossio Square, head towards Avenida da Liberdade and Calçada da Glória. Here you will find a steep hill that is serviced by a famous funicular called….
Elevador da Glória
While you can certainly ride this funicular up or down, my favorite thing was to actually photograph it either going up or down. Climbing the hill on your feet is no joke though! It’s really steep! Quad workout anyone?
Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
Whether you ride the funicular up or walk up, you will be rewarded by some stunning views at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. This little park like space also has stalls were you can purchase food and drinks. I got a cocktail and it was a little pricey but I definitely earned the reward walking up!
Sao Roque Church
Sao Roque church is a quick pit stop. Built in the 16th century, this church is dedicated to to Roque who protects people from disease and plagues. The highlight of this church is the Chapel of John the Baptist to the left of the alter. This chapel was built in Rome, disassembled and shipped to Lisbon.
Carmo Convent might be one of the most famous landmarks in Lisbon. This convent was completely destroyed by the massive earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1755. Instead of flattening the ruined structure to the floor and rebuilding, the convent was left as is. Today, it’s beautiful gothic arches open up to the sky.
Over this summer, there was a light show at Carmo convent that told the story of Lisbon. It was nice to see the convent lit up. Not sure if it is a annual occurrence but wanted to mention it in case it is.
From Carmo Convent, it’s a about a 12 minute walk mostly downhill to…
Elevador da Bica
This is another famous funicular in Lisbon and perhaps my favorite. The Ascensor da Bica connects Rua de São Paulo and Largo do Calhariz, and runs along one of Lisbon’s steepest hill. It’s also the most photographed funicular. Again, I opted to take pictures of it than actually ride it because I’ve ridden funiculars before and I was more interested in taking pictures. You can walk downhill on the sidewalk to do this.
From the bottom of the hill it’s about another 12 minutes walk to…
Praça do Comércio and Arco da Rua Augusta
This big square used to be the site of Portugal’s royal palace pre-earthquake. Today it’s is surrounded by government officers. The square ends by the water, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists to hang out. On the opposite side of the water is Lisbon’s arch of triumph with Lisbon’s conquering hero Vasco da Gama is displayed on the left.
From the Arch, walk up Rua Augusta until you see a giant steel structure on your left…
Santa Justa Lift
This towering steel elevator was completed in 1902 by an architect who studied under Gustav Eiffel. This elevator connects the upper and lower parts of Lisbon. The small entry fee to climb the spiral staircase up to the top floor deck is worth it in my opinion, especially for the amazing views from above.
Day 2 of this 3 days in Lisbon itinerary starts with exploring Belem. Belem is a district about 5 miles west of downtown Lisbon and is home to some of the important monuments and sites that represent Portugal’s age of discovery.
Getting to Belem
- Bus – 714 and 728
- Tram – 15E
This impressive white limestone, Manueline style church was built by king Manuel as a thank you to the Portuguese discoverers. Two of the highlights of the church for me were the tomb of Vasco da Gama (he was one of the first Portuguese to land in Sri Lanka in 1505, the country of my birthplace) and the cloister. The cloister is one of the best examples of Manueline architecture and is even today used as a site for important events like receiving heads of state or signing various documents of importance like treaties etc.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
This waterfront monument was built in 1960 to celebrate the 500th death anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator. It’s shaped like a ship with sails and has Price Henry right in front with all of Portugal’s’ greatest navigators, discoverers and sailors right behind him.
This fine example of Manueline architecture was built in the early 1500s to protect Lisbon’s harbor. Like the previous monument, this tower also symbolizes the voyages that put Portugal on the map. This tower was the last part of Portugal sailors saw as they set out on their voyages of discovery.
Pasteis de Belem
I’ve been to Portugal twice now and eaten my fair share of Portuguese custard tarts all over Portugal and you got to believe me when I say that you won’t find better pasteis de nata (custard tarts) than at Pasteis de Belem. In fact, Pasteis de Belem is the birthplace of these tarts. From the crispy and thin pastry to the creamy custard, these tarts are amazing! and they come out straight and warm out of the oven. There can be a line here sometimes, but please don’t let it deter you. Trust me, you won’t regret any time you spend in the line!
The visit to the district of Belem, factoring in transport back and forth probably will take you half a day or so. Check out the next couple of sites in the afternoon.
Parque Eduardo VII
Parque Eduardo VII boasts of some nice views of the city with the Tagus river in the background
Lisbon is home to some unique museums that will help you understand its rich culture and history. The National Tile Museum and the Fado Museum are worth exploring if you have the time and energy. Note that some museums are closed on Mondays so check before you go.
Fado is a form of Portuguese singing and music that tell stories about hope and sadness of a seafaring nation. While Fado is not unique to Lisbon, listening to Fado it’s a good way to spend one night in this 3 days in Lisbon itinerary. I admittedly only have checked out 1 place for Fado. It was so good that I have now been there both times and recommend it to everyone I know. The place is called Duque da Rua and it’s a small bar about a 2 minute walk from Carmo Convent. It’s not a massive place but the Fado is very genuine. Instead of a “show”, they have singers who come up and perform. It’s sometimes lively with lots of clapping and sometimes so soulful! They have a small tapas menu and lots of wine.
Come as soon as they open to get a seat or call ahead to reserve a table or seat at the small bar. You can check out the website HERE.
Day 3 of this 3 days in Lisbon itinerary explores some of my favorite neighborhoods of Lisbon along with some amazing viewpoints.
The Mouraria neighborhood makes you travel back in time. This narrow and tightly packed part of Lisbon used to be where the Moors lived back on the day. It’s amazing to see the trams traverse the tiny streets in this part of town.
Miradouro da Graça
Miradouro da Graça is one of my favorite look out points in Lisbon. The view captures the castle as well as the famous Vasco da Gama bridge. It’s also a great place to see the sunset as well! There’s an outdoor café here if you want to sit and enjoy the view.
São Jorge Castle
This castle dates back to the 11th century and was built by the Moors. In 1147, the Moors were chased out and king Afonso Henriques established this castle as a place for royalty to live (until they moved to Praca do Comercio by the water in the 16th century). This castle suffered major damage in the 1755 earthquake so what you see today are very bare bones of a mighty castle that once stood here.
The best thing about the castle though is the view! You can pretty much see most of the city from up here. My one recommendation is to visit here early morning to avoid the crowds and the lines to get in.
The Alfama is another really old neighborhood in Lisbon. Unlike other parts of Lisbon that were damaged due to the earthquake, fire and tsunami of 1755, the Alfama remained pretty much intact. The best thing to do in the Alfama is to explore all the narrow streets and almost get lost. It’s a bit of a maze but it really gives you such great insight into local life.
Largo das Portas do Sol
Largo das Portas do Sol is another great lookout point in Lisbon. The red roofs over the pastel colored buildings with the water in the background makes for a really pretty site.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
This lookout point (Miradouro means lookout point) is next door to Portas do Sol and offers similar views from a slightly different angle. I liked the atmosphere at this lookout point a lot better as there’s always some sort of live music played here that livens the place.
The oldest church in the city, the cathedral was built in 1147 and has a fortress like appearance. The cathedral actually survived the 1755 earthquake.
Walk Through Alfama at Night
Alfama is great any time of day, but it especially comes alive at night! The entire area is a giant cookout and bar with music. Small pop up restuarants, serving genuine homecooked Portuguese cuisine and bars serving all sorts of alcohol, including ginjinha shots, line the narrow streets of the Alfama at night. The music and atmosphere is electric! You have to visit Alfama at night!
Lisbon Travel Guide
Weather in Lisbon
As I mentioned above, I’ve been to Lisbon twice now, once in the winter and once in the summer and it was nice both times. I did need a jacket in the winter but a woolen peacoat is the most I needed. In the summer time, I did need a very light jacket early mornings or late at night. But, here’s the nice thing about Lisbon..just when you think you may be a bit cold, you either have to climb a hill or you can take a shot of ginjinha and you will be warm before you know it!
Getting Around Lisbon
Lisbon is hilly. While most of the attractions (other than the ones in Belem) are walkable, especially if you visit them in order, you have to factor in the hills and slopes too. Lisbon also has a good public transport system that includes a metro, buses and trams. In addition to this, Ubers are relatively cheap in Lisbon and I actually used Uber a lot more my second time around so I didn’t have to waste time. Looking at my Uber receipts I have paid 5-3 euros for trips within Lisbon and about 15 euros to the airport!
More on Public Transport
Lisbon has a card for public transport called a Viva Viagem card. You can pick one up at any metro and then top it up. Once topped up, you can use the card on the metro, all buses, trams, and funiculars in the city. There is also a 24 hour pass that gives you unlimited rides in the above mentioned modes of transport for 24 hours. With the regular top up card, you will need to determine how much you need to load so if you are going this route, start low. You can always top up later if you run out.
These are attractions or things to do that you may find in other articles about visiting Lisbon but I recommend skipping as they are not worth the time.
This historic tram line was initiated in 1914 and takes you through some of narrow roads of the Alfama. However, this tram is also extremely crowded and not worth the line to get in or the jam packed ride in my opinion. If you want to ride a tram, there are plenty of other lines that are not crowded and if you want to see the sites that the tram route lines, you can still walk it instead.
In the recent past, almost every major city in Europe seems to have got on this trend of painting it’s street a color or a multiple of colors, hanging some umbrellas and making it an Instagram spot. Pink street is Lisbon’s version of this. When I visited over summer, the paint has faded and it was nothing much to rave about! There are a lot better Instagram worthy places in Lisbon that this street is skippable.
Eating in Lisbon
Lisbon has some amazing resturants and places to eat but my favorite place is actually a food court called Time Out. Don’t let the word “food court” deter you as this is not your regular type. This is actually where you will find some of the city’s best food all under one roof.
You can check them out HERE
Ginjinha in Lisbon
Ginjinha or the traditional sour cherry liquor is a must try in Lisbon. You can get ginjinha in other places in Portugal but ginjinha is the perfect way to warm up if you ever feel cold in Lisbon.
Some of the famous places to try this shot is at:
- A Ginjinha on Rossio square near Igreja de São Domingos
- Ginginha do Carmo – they offer shots in chocolate cups here. Don’t eat the cup first time around and you can get a refill
- Anywhere at a open bar in the Alfama
Where to Stay in Lisbon
I have stayed in and around Rossio Square both times I have visited Lisbon. I like staying near Rossio Square because in addition to being near a train station and metro, it’s also close to Praça da Figueira where you can find lots of buses and trams. Furthermore, you can also walk to quite a number of places on this itinerary from Rossio Square (all of it actually, minus Belem but the bus or tram to Belem is at Praça da Figueira)
A Word of Caution
Like most big cities in Europe (i.e., Paris, Rome, Athens), Lisbon is not immune to petty theft. I actually lost my brand new phone on my 1st trip and I still can’t figure out how other than it was near Rossio square. Be careful with your belongings!
Just 28 kilometers or a 40 minutes train ride from Lisbon is the beautiful town of Sintra. I cannot recommend a day trip to Sintra enough. It’s an absolute must see location in any Portugal itinerary in my honest opinion and very easily visited from Lisbon. Two options here:
- You could either carve out a 3rd night in Lisbon to make the trip to Sintra the next day OR
- You can shorten this 3 days in Lisbon itinerary to 2 days in Lisbon and go to Sintra the 3rd day
Instead of coming back to Lisbon after your day trip to Sintra, you could easily carry on to your next destination from Sintra itself.
See my detailed guide to Sintra HERE
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