72 hours in Lisbon
Of course, 3 days in Lisbon will never be long enough to see everything that there is to see and do here. The city has so many great attractions, bars, and restaurants, it would actually be difficult to see everything in 3 weeks, nevermind three days. Don’t worry, though: most people that come to Lisbon fall in love with it and end up coming back again and again. Whatever you don’t manage to see this time, you can pencil in for your return trip.
DAY 1 – CENTRAL LISBON
Regardless of whether you flew into Lisbon on an early morning flight or you arrived the night before, the day has to begin with coffee. This isn’t just because you probably need it, but because that’s how all days begin. Portugal is a big coffee drinking country, and it’s also a country that spends a lot of time at the local pastelaria (café). Coffee is fairly cheap here, often as little as €0.60 for a bica (espresso), and many people go to their local pastelaria several times per day. That’s usually just for coffee, but you can also get both sweet and savory snacks, main meals, and alcohol here. These businesses are basically cafés, restaurants, and bars all in one.
Walking tours are a great way to see many of the main attractions in a few hours. They’re also a great way of getting to grips with a country’s history and culture. You’ll find several walking tours in Lisbon, organized both by smaller, independent Portuguese companies and international ones. It makes sense to do a walking tour on the first day of your trip as well as it will allow you to get your bearings and give you some ideas for what you want to do throughout the rest of your time in Lisbon.
After all that walking, you’ll be ready for lunch. Portuguese food isn’t something that most people know about and, since it’s often hard to find Portuguese restaurants outside of Portugal, you’ll want to try as much of it as you can while you’re here. There are a couple of dishes that are worth looking out for like Bacalhau, Caldo Verde, Leitão, and Polvo à Lagareiro. At least one of these will feature on a restaurant’s menu, and you should have at least six meals to work through them all. They’re not the only Portuguese dishes, of course, but six of Portugal’s best dishes. Alternatively, instead of going to a traditional Portuguese restaurant, you may want to head to the Time Out Market instead. Most walking tours finish up in Baixa-Chiado and the Time Out Market is in Cais do Sodré, which is less than a 15-minute walk away.
During the afternoon, take the time to visit some of the places that you saw on your walking tour but didn’t get to spend long enough in. Cais do Sodré and Baixa are both great neighborhoods in themselves, and it’s also worth exploring nearby neighborhoods like Principe Real, Alfama, and Graça. These neighborhoods are all accessible on foot, and that’s the best way to get around, but trams are available if you need them. Tram 28, in particular, is a popular way to get around and see a lot of Lisbon’s best sights in one go. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly popular and often there are queues of 200 people or more. If you do see a relatively empty Tram 28 going past, though, be sure to jump on. It’s definitely one of the world’s most beautiful public transport routes.
If your legs haven’t given way yet, it’s time to once again eat and maybe drink something as well. For this, we’ll head back to Cais do Sodré. As well as being home to the Time Out Market, Cais do Sodré is also home to some of Lisbon’s most popular bars and, increasingly, restaurants as well. “Pink Street,” in particular, is one of the most popular places in Lisbon to grab an “imperial” (beer) or a glass of wine.
DAY 2 – BELEM & ALCANTARA
Lisbon’s top attractions are split between the city center neighborhoods of Baixa, Alfama, and Chiado, and also the neighborhood of Belém. As we stated before, every day starts with a coffee and where better than at Pastéis de Belém?
Once you’ve had your nata and coffee, it’s time to move onto Belém’s historical attractions. There are plenty that are equally deserving of your time, in particular, the Torre de Belém, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. If you’re a fan of museums and art galleries, Belém is home to some of Lisbon’s best. In particular, it’s worth paying a visit to Museu Coleção Berardo, the MAAT, the National Coach Museum, and the Museu de Marinha.
See other Museums here.
You’ll find plenty of cafés and restaurants in and around Belém as well as at your next destination, Alcântara. Although it’s incredibly simple, the bifana is, without a doubt, one of Portugal’s best snack foods. You’ll find them in just about every pastelaria in Portugal, along with its cousin the prego. In Portugal, both are often eaten as a quick snack. This could be at lunchtime or any time of the day but, if it’s at lunchtime, it’s often combined with a soup. Look out for restaurants that are serving caldo verde, so that you can tick off another dish from your foodie to-do list.
As you’ll be heading back to Lisbon later today anyway, it’s worth stopping in at Alcântara which is on the way. Alcântara is a former working-class neighborhood that has become very popular over the past few years, mainly due to the LX Factory project. The LX Factory is a collection of former factory buildings that have been turned into restaurants, cafés, boutique shops, co-working spaces, and bars. It’s one of the most popular hipster hangouts in Lisbon and a great place to spend a few hours. Ler Devagar, one of Lisbon’s most photogenic bookshops, is definitely worth a visit as is Rio Maravilha. Located high up on the top of an old factory building, Rio Maravilha is a bar and restaurant with some of the best views of the Tejo River and the 25th of April bridge. It’s perfect for a coffee or cocktail, depending on how you’re feeling.
Later that night, head up to the Bairro Alto neighborhood. This literally means high neighborhood, which does mean there’s a little uphill walking involved. It’s worth it, though. The Bairro Alto is a fun, narrow neighborhood made up of tiny bars and restaurants. The bars are sometimes so small that there’s nowhere to drink inside, but that’s okay: everyone drinks outside in this neighborhood. So, grab a cheap beer or a caipirinha and head out into the streets with everyone else.
DAY 3 – PRINCIPE REAL & ALMADA
Your trip to Lisbon is starting to come to an end, but don’t worry: it’s not over yet. You still have a day left, and there are plenty of ways to fill it. As always, the day starts with a coffee. If you’ve been sticking to pastéis de nata as your cake of choice, why not try something else this morning?
Personal recommendations include bolo arroz, queque, and pão de deus, but many Portuguese people prefer something simpler like buttered slices of toast (torrada com manteiga) and a milky coffee like a galão.
Then, it’s time to make the most of your last day in Lisbon. The last day of any trip is often a shopping day, so start your day in one of Lisbon’s best shopping neighborhoods: Príncipe Real. Home to boutique clothing stores, delis, and concept stores, this is the perfect place to pick up a new outfit or a gift for someone back home. In between all of these shops, there are plenty of great cafés where you can grab a bica (espresso) if you need to refuel yourself.
See others things to do at Principe Real.
Head down from Príncipe Real into Chiado, another of Lisbon’s popular shopping neighborhoods. As you do, you’ll pass one of Lisbon’s best miradouros: the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. With fantastic views over Baixa, and with the skyline of São Jorge Castle in the background, it’s the perfect place to get those all-important selfies of your trip.
For lunch, and the afternoon, we’re going to head over to Almada on the other side of the Tagus river. Here, you’ll find plenty of great restaurants including several seafood restaurants that are located right on the water. Ponto Final, in particular, is an extremely popular lunch venue for its views of Lisbon and its precarious seating arrangements. The food, which typically comprises of seafood dishes like arroz de tamboril (monkfish rice), sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines), and grilled fish, is a great example of typical Portuguese fish dishes. To get to Almada, simply head to Cais do Sodré and take the ferry to Cacilhas.
Being in Almada, on the other side of the river, will give you a completely different perspective of Lisbon and, all along the river, you’ll get some fantastic views of the city. For the best view, though, you really should climb up the Cristo Rei statue. You’ve probably seen this statue before: it’s the one that looks like the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil. To get to the statue, take the 101 service from Cacilhas bus station. Buses normally depart every half an hour and will take you back to Cacilhas where you’ll get the ferry back to Cais do Sodré.
You’ll probably be feeling exceptionally sad that you’re leaving Lisbon so soon, which is the perfect mood to go and experience fado. Fado is a traditional type of Portuguese music that can be upbeat but is often very soulful and mournful. It tends to focus on ‘saudade’ or longing, something you’ll be feeling for Lisbon even though you haven’t left yet. You’ll find Fado houses all over Lisbon, but the best and most traditional neighborhood to experience fado in is Alfama. It’s usually best to skip the fado houses that offer dinner and a show, as the food is often disappointing and that’s definitely not how you want to remember Portuguese food. One place that lets you watch performances without needing to buy food is A Tasca do Chico on Rua dos Remédios in Alfama.
Before that, though, you’ll need something to eat. Alfama has plenty of bars that offer petiscos, which are essentially the Portuguese equivalent of tapas. These are small plates that are great for sharing, and easy to pick at while you enjoy a glass of wine or beer. Petiscos that are particularly worth looking out for include chouriço assado, pastéis de bacalhau, salada de polvo, pica-pau, and Serra da Estrela cheese. After that, it’s onto a fado house for your last taste of Lisbon before you head home.
Find others places at Alfama here.