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When a friend first suggested spending 3 days in Lisbon on a recent Euro trip, my initial reaction was a lukewarm, “Sure, why not?” I’d never had a strong desire to go to Portugal, but after finding inexpensive plane tickets (and realizing it would still be warm in September), I booked a ticket and diligently researched and created a 3 days in Lisbon itinerary.
Now that I’ve been there, I consider Portugal to be one of the most underrated countries in western Europe. Besides some enthusiastic surfer friends, I rarely hear people say they really want to go to Portugal, especially if they’re planning one of their first (few) trips to Europe. But trust me on this – you should definitely consider Portugal for your next Europe trip.
The stunning contrast and cohesiveness of old meeting new, of historical meeting modern, is something that is so well integrated into Lisbon’s culture and way of life. Lisbon is the kind of city you could explore for a lifetime, but this 3 day Lisbon itinerary will help you experience the very best the city has to offer.
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Reasons to Visit Lisbon
Now that I’ve been to Lisbon, I can’t wait to return again and again. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should plan 3 days in Lisbon:
- Perfect weather: I visited Lisbon in mid-September, where it was a balmy 75 degrees (that’s 24 Celsius for the non-Americans) every single day. Having just come from cold and rainy Amsterdam, it was clear that fall had already hit Europe, but in Lisbon, it was a perfect spring day every day – just be sure to pack some layers for evenings, as they got a bit chilly.
- Delicious food: Fresh cod, padron peppers, and the heavenly pasteis de nata…nope, no bad meals to be had. And, because seafood is such an integral part of the diet, it’s pretty halal-friendly as well (check out my guide to halal foods to try).
- Beautiful beaches: Being from Southern California, I rarely visit a place just for its beaches. However, I have to admit that the Lisbon beaches left me wishing that I’d made more of an effort to incorporate beach time. Portugal also happens to have the best waves in Europe, so it’s a surfer’s paradise.
How to Get to Lisbon
Lisbon is an easy place to get to from anywhere in Europe and from the United States. Here’s how to get to Lisbon:
The Lisbon International Airport sits 7km from the city center. It’s served by many of the major carriers from most of the major European capitals.
If you’re coming from outside Europe, there are direct flights from several of the larger Midwest and East Coast airports. From Los Angeles, you’ll have to make a connection, but it’s pretty straightforward.
The main train station in Lisbon is the Santa Apolonia station, and it receives trains daily from all over Europe. It’s pretty close to the city center, but if you’re traveling light and have some extra time, hop off one stop early at the Estacao Gare do Oriente. It’s an amazing building.
Psst: I highly recommend booking train tickets ahead of time using Omio! Tickets get more expensive the longer you wait.
Best Time to Visit Lisbon
Unless you’re dead-set on a beach vacation, the best time to visit Portugal is in Spring or Autumn: that’s when you’ll find the best deals and great weather.
Summers can be hot and crowded and although winter is mild and inexpensive, it’s quite rainy, which can be a pain since Portugal is best enjoyed outdoors.
March – May: The weather starts to warm up in March into April, making spring the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. May is the best month to visit for optimal weather and prices (as is September) without the hordes of summer tourists.
September – October: September, like May, is another great month to visit. Temperatures start to cool slightly, and prices start to drop. October brings rain and colder (but still manageable) weather.
The Ultimate Lisbon Itinerary
Alright, now that I’ve gotten all the logistical stuff out of the way, let’s get to the actual Lisbon itinerary. It has plenty of soak-up-the-city time while still hitting all the best things to see in Lisbon in 3 days. Let’s go!
3 Days in Lisbon: Day 1
(Second) Breakfast at As Marias Com Chocolate
Save some room in your stomach after hotel breakfast for second breakfast (also known as dessert). I highly recommend heading to As Marias Com Chocolate on your first morning in Lisbon. There’s no better place to start soaking up the atmosphere of the city than at one of their outdoor tables.
Located on the edge of the Alfama neighborhood, the café specializes in chocolates, fudge, and more. For those of you with a sweet tooth, I highly recommend buying some fudge (all kinds) to take with you. But for breakfast, you can’t go wrong with a pingado or hot chocolate and one of the café’s spectacular pastries.
After breakfast, take your time walking west into the heart of Alfama. You’ll be treated to views of gorgeous Alfama rooftops and stunning water.
Marvel at the Castelo de São Jorge
The Castelo de São Jorge sits on a high hill in the center of Alfama, as it was built as a fortress to protect Lisbon back in the day. This is a prime location, treating you to stunning views of Lisbon – specifically Alfama – and it’s particularly glorious on a sunny day.
The wall of this Moorish fortress is the last standing defensive wall in Lisbon. Within it, you’ll find an entire neighborhood, consisting of the citadel, castle, and ruins of the former royal palace. You can easily spend half a day here, exploring all the nooks and crannies. Keep an eye peeled for the peacocks roaming around. They’re everywhere!
Enjoy Lunch at Claras Em Castelo
For a home-style, spectacular dine-in lunch, your best choice is Claras Em Castelo. The location can’t be beat, sharing a wall with the castle grounds.
Although proximity to tourist locations is often a recipe for overpriced and bland food, Claras is the opposite in every way. Here, you’ll feel like you’re eating at a friend’s place – one with excellent cooking skills, that is. It’s also a great place to sample the local bacalhau (cod). Come hungry!
Wander the Praça do Comércio
Take the tram to the Praça do Comércio, the large and beautiful commercial square located on the water. Sit and enjoy the sun and Tagus river views from the Cais da Colunas. And when you’re ready for a change in scenery, walk down the main shopping road to find blocks upon blocks of restaurants and shops.
Ride the Elevador de Santa Justa
Yes, the Elevador de Santa Justa costs money to ride (but the fee is included in the Lisbon card!), and yes, there are a million places with views in Lisbon, but I still say the lift is a must-do in Lisbon. It was designed by a student of Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame!) and used to run on steam power. It’s a great experience in Lisbon.
Take in the Ruins of Igreja do Carmo
There’s a bridge from the lift to Largo do Carmo, a shady square that feels like you’re in a different world. It’s really peaceful with a fountain and the ruins of Igreja do Carmo, a convent that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755. Note: there’s a walkway to the right of the convent that leads to a terraced area that shows a view of the ruins that many people don’t know about.
Listen to Traditional Portuguese Live Music
Melancholic but beautiful is the best way to describe the traditional Portuguese music style known as Fado. There are many small restaurants and bars that offer live Fado as long as you eat (or drink), although you’ll likely have to make reservations or show up early. They tend to be popular!
The Fado spot I visited has since closed but I highly recommend booking this Fado experience. You’ll get a traditional dinner and a guide who can give you some additional context into the history of Fado and translate some of the themes so you can fully appreciate it.
If you’d rather visit a Fado spot on your own, Solido in Bairro Alto is a great choice.
3 Days in Lisbon: Day 2
Marvel at Gorgeous Tile at Museu Nacional do Azulejo
Start your day off at a leisurely pace – this museum doesn’t open until 10. A museum dedicated to tile might not sound that cool, but if you give it a chance, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll be getting a dose of history, too. Portuguese tiles (called azulejos for their signature blue color) are world-famous.
The Museu Nacional do Azulejo has decorative tile dating all the way back to the 15th century and it is absolutely gorgeous. The colors, the styles, and the craftsmanship are beyond belief. And good news – entrance here is also included in the Lisbon Card.
Enjoy Epic Views at a Miradouro
Before riding around Lisbon’s most famous tram, stop by Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, the highest point in Alfama offering spectacular views of the city.
It’s located on top of a hill in a churchyard and is easily one of the most popular viewpoints in Alfama for both tourists and locals. I promise it’s worth the climb and the 30-minute walk or tram from the museum.
Ride Tram 28 Around the City
Tram 28 is the worst kept tourist secret for traveling around Lisbon. The tram takes you through the majority of the cool neighborhoods such as Baixa, Graça, Alfama, and Estrela. Some people use it to get to Castelo de São Jorge, since it’s a fairly steep climb all the way up.
I recommend you buy a Lisbon Card (all transport is included) and use it for the whole time you’re in Lisbon.
For this excursion specifically, start at Martim Moniz station and get off at the Calhariz (Bica) stop rather than riding to the end. From there, it’s a short 15-minute walk to the recommended lunch spot.
Tip: If you don’t board where the tram line starts, you’re in for an hour-long packed journey standing up, so get on the tram and grab a seat fast. Best believe I got a seat both ways!
Eat a Traditional Portuguese Lunch at Sol e Pesca
If you’re feeling adventurous, give Sol e Pesca a try. It’s a former fishing tackle shop that sells tinned fish – an iconic Portuguese product. Everything on the menu is made with tinned fish and the waitstaff is really helpful when it comes time to choose a meal.
If tinned fish isn’t your jam, there are a variety of other options in the area as well, including the Mercado da Ribeira (Time Out Market).
Stage a Photoshoot at the Pink Street
The Pink Street is easy to find when you get close – it’s painted bright pink! The architecture and art here is totally Instagrammable. I recommend visiting during the day because it can get crowded and sketchy after dark. Plus, you’ll want daylight for those pictures! Although this isn’t a must-do, it’s a fun, quirky stop on your Lisbon itinerary.
Get Lost in Alfama
Tiny cobblestone streets and alleys line the historical neighborhood of Alfama, home to Fado music and picturesque rooftops. If it feels familiar, it’s because it’s where Castelo de São Jorge is located, but there’s so much more to Alfama, including the Se Cathedral.
Wander through the streets here without a map – you’ll come across the cutest cafes and décor. If you’ve timed it well, consider stopping by Miradouro de Santa Luzia for some sunset views.
And, if you haven’t gotten enough of Fado, you’ll find plenty of local Fado bars here as well.
Enjoy a Gastronomic Dinner Experience at Prado
I love eating at traditional restaurants, but I also love to try contemporary, fusion takes on food. Prado is one of those spots.
The menu is seasonal, with locally-sourced produce and meats. It’s very much a gastronomic experience (at reasonable prices) and a spot you’ll need to make reservations for. Still, though, it’s worth the wait and planning ahead to eat here.
3 Days in Lisbon: Day 3
Discover the Ancient Monastery in Belem
Dos Jeronimos is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Lisbon. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site with a deep-rooted political, architectural and cultural history. It’s gorgeous on its own, but if you want to know more about its fascinating history, be sure to get a guidebook before you visit.
Tip: If you have the Lisbon Card, your ticket is already included! Get here early though – the line to get in tends to get long pretty quickly.
Wander the Streets of Belem
The entire area around the monastery is well worth exploring. The Torre de Belem is currently under closed for maintenance but meander alongside the Tagus River for shops, people-watching, small restaurants and photo-worthy backdrops.
Lunch at Pão Pão Queijo Queijo
The true highlight of eating in Belem is dessert, so if you’re anything like me and want lunch to be a somewhat quick but still delicious affair, then Pão Pão Queijo Queijo (translating to Bread Bread Cheese Cheese) is all those things and more.
They offer a Portuguese take on Mediterranean sandwiches and have a variety of vegan and vegetarian options – perfect for those who have dietary restrictions. I recommend taking your food to go and eating in the stunning Jardim Botanico Tropical park.
Sample a Pasteis de Belem (or 4)
Do NOT leave Belem without trying the egg tart pastries at Pasteis de Belem. This is not a joke. I probably ate close to half a dozen over the course of that day (oops) but these will absolutely be the best egg tarts you’ve ever had in your life.
Tip: The to-go line moves quickly, but if you want to dine-in, tables are up for grabs inside. Just hover near people who are finishing up. A ton of tourists were waiting to be seated by the host in one section and the line there was long.
Take in Fresh Air at Parque Eduardo VII
Make your way back to Lisbon for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. Right in the middle of Lisbon is the stunning, 64-acre Parque Eduardo VII. It’s full of monuments and sculptured hedges and yet another view out over the city to the River Targus.
I’m a big fan of urban parks, and this one seriously reminds me of Retiro Park in Madrid, complete with some beautiful buildings, a ferris wheel, and an observation deck. Although this isn’t a must-do, it’s a great place sanctuary in the big city.
Ride the Elevador da Gloria
Riding trams is one of the most iconic things to do in Lisbon Portugal and unlike Tram 28, Elevador da Gloria is lesser-known. It’s a short walk from the park and it’s a popular way to get from Bairro Alto to the Praça dos Restauradores. This plaza is a beautiful, iconic spot spot in Lisbon, complete with a notable obelisk in the center.
From here, you can people watch, take photos, and easily continue walking south all the way to Praça do Comercio. There are tons of little shops and cafes and I still remember scoring a cute spring coat here for just 5 Euro!
Eat Dinner at Mercado da Ribeira
Nothing makes this foodie happier than finding out that a city has a gourmet food hall. At Mercado da Ribeira (also known as Time Out Market), there’s a huge variety of food options – both Portuguese and international.
You can access amazing eats at one central location, thanks to the market’s partnership with some of Lisbon’s best restaurants and chefs. I opted for a prego no pão (garlic steak sandwich) with chips, but you could come here every single day of your trip without running out of options to try.
Dance at a Secret Rooftop Bar
I’m not a nightlife person by any means but a friend who was in Lisbon at the time really wanted to hang out post-dinner and Park was the perfect spot for that. It’s a chill rooftop bar and restaurant with spectacular views of Lisbon.
I had a great time here, dancing the night away to some cheesy 90s’/00’s music though…which is exactly why I would come back here again. The “secret” entrance is through a parking lot, although I’m sure it’s not-so-secret anymore. Still though, if you aren’t ready to say good night just yet, Park is an awesome, low-key option.
Best things to do in Lisbon Portugal in 4 days and beyond
If you’re wondering how many days you need in Lisbon, I’m here to tell you as many as you want! It’s a beautiful place to just be, with good food (including a surprisingly varied amount of halal options!), beautiful views, and a great vibe.
I think three days in Lisbon will give you a good feel for the city, but if you can spend longer, here are some other places to visit in Lisbon:
Brunch and Shop at LX Factory
Although LX Factory is further from the city center than some tourists venture, it is worth the trek. Once a collective of industrial factories, this area has since been renovated into a “creative island” of shops, cafes, and small businesses.
On my visit, I opted to start with an American-style brunch at Café Na Fabrica (a mix of carbs, eggs, more carbs, fruit, and more carbs). I’d been traveling for a month at this point and wasn’t about to say no to a little taste of home. No judgment here if you do the same and yes, it was delicious! But there are plenty of cafes at LX Factory, so you can always eat something smaller or more traditional if you wish.
The area technically opens at 10 AM but be warned that sometimes the shops don’t open for another hour or two.
See Ultra-Modern Lisbon
Remember earlier when I said that Lisbon cohesively intertwines old and new? Well, that’s definitely not the case at Parque das Nações, Lisbon’s modern “New City.”
This municipality was created for the World Expo in the 1990s, and is home to a spectacular mall, the Lisbon aquarium, and lots of new offices, hotels, and apartment buildings. I didn’t feel like I was in Lisbon anymore!
Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot to do in this area but it’s a surprisingly peaceful place to spend a few hours walking around – there’s also a cable car to ride if you’d like.
Shop Til You Drop at Feira De Ladra
If you happen to be exploring Alfama on a Tuesday or Saturday, you’re in luck! The Feira da Ladra is a large and busy flea market filled with rows upon rows of stuff – everything from sunglasses to records to clothing.
I nabbed a pair of €5 sunglasses here, but it’s a fun place to explore and window-shop, even if you don’t want to buy anything.
Take a Day Trip to Sintra
If there’s one thing I regret about my trip, it’s not spending enough time in Sintra, the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city an hour outside of Lisbon.
I definitely recommend adding another day to your Lisbon itinerary and visiting, if possible! Thanks to our leisurely pace, my friend and I made it here late in the afternoon and were only able to visit one of the palaces: the brightly-colored Palacio de la Pena.
You have the option of walking up the steep road to the palace, but we were lazy and short on time so we took a tuk-tuk instead. The castle grounds are huge and you can easily spend a full day walking through the castle and around the surrounding Parque Natural.
This is one of the best day trips from Lisbon. If you’re short on time, consider booking this top-rated Sintra tour. Alternatively, if you’d like to do it yourself, I recommend at least getting entry tickets ahead of time.
Take a Day Trip to Cascais
Cascais is technically part of Lisbon, but it lies on the western edge of the region, making it hard to fit into a few hours. It’s the sort of place that feels like visiting another world, and if you can add a day to your Lisbon itinerary, I definitely recommend visiting.
There’s a ton to see here, like the town hall and the market, but the best way to experience Cascais is to head for the town center and just start wandering.
Psst: If you’re short on time, consider booking this awesome tour that combines a visit to Cascais, Sintra, and Cabo da Roca!
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Public transportation is really convenient for getting around Lisbon, but I still recommend picking a place to stay that’s close to the city center. Location matters when trying to get the most out of a Lisbon itinerary.
It’s worth noting that the luxury hotels in Lisbon are fairly reasonably priced, so this is a city where you can consider splurging on nicer accommodation!
Sant Jordi Hostel (Budget)
With beautiful architecture and an equally gorgeous courtyard, there’s a reason that Sant Jordi has won awards for its quality. Despite being converted from a convent, this building has plenty of modern facilities including A/C, key cards, and an onsite washing machine.
There are room options ranging from dorm-style rooms to private suites. It’s really clean and in a really great location. It’s everything you’d want in a hostel and some.
GS Chiado Boutique Studios & Suites (Mid-range)
The rooms at GS Chiado range from fairly typical hotel rooms to suites with a sitting area and kitchenette. Some of the rooms have great views over the hills or to the ocean, and the location can’t be beat.
It’s worth noting that the hotel doesn’t provide breakfast (it feels more like an apartment rental) or have an elevator, but the owner is really nice and keeps the place spotless.
Atlis Avenida Hotel (Luxury)
There are dreamy places to stay, and then there’s the Atlis Avenida Hotel. This hotel is maybe the best of all the places to stay in Lisbon. The breakfast is incredible, the beds are like sleeping on clouds, and can we talk about the views from the rooftop terrace?
Really, the only downside to this hotel is that the staff makes it so comfortable that you almost don’t want to leave it to go explore all the places to visit in Lisbon!
So there you have it: The best Lisbon 3 day itinerary, full of the top places to visit in Lisbon and best places to eat in Lisbon. I even added some bonus ideas if you’re trying to figure out just how many days in Lisbon will really be enough (the answer to that question is all of them – spend all the days there!). Enjoy!
Tell me: What do you think of this Lisbon itinerary? What else would you do on your Lisbon trip?
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