Until not very long ago, Portugal was pretty much an underrated travel destination. Despite being one of the friendliest and cheapest countries to visit in Europe, people didn’t pay much attention to it. But not anymore. Today Portugal’s capital – Lisbon – is one of the most promising cities in Europe, topping the list on many European itineraries. So, if you plan to visit Lisbon but you are not sure what to do there, this 3 day itinerary will help you discover the best attractions in the Portuguese capital.
Table of Contents
- ABOUT THIS 3 DAY LISBON ITINERARY
- THE BEST 3-DAY LISBON ITINERARY FOR YOUR FIRST VISIT
- LISBON ITINERARY DAY 1
- Lisbon Itinerary Day 2
- Lisbon Itinerary Day 3
- More Than 3 Days in Lisbon?
- Where to Stay in Lisbon
- How to Get Around in Lisbon
- Best Time to Visit Lisbon
- Lisbon Card: Is It Worth Buying?
ABOUT THIS 3 DAY LISBON ITINERARY
This 3-day itinerary will take you from the best local spots to the top tourist attractions, while experiencing Lisbon’s majestic architecture, famous blue tiles, romantic fado restaurants and rich art scene.
You need to spend at least 3 days in Lisbon in order to visit it properly. Especially if this is your first time. Before arriving here, we were debating whether to spend just one day in Lisbon in order to make room for a road trip through Madeira. But I’m glad we didn’t, because there are so many things to see and do in Lisbon. Our 3-day itinerary was just perfect for visiting all the best sites without rushing too much.
THE BEST 3-DAY LISBON ITINERARY FOR YOUR FIRST VISIT
Lisbon is divided into several clearly distinguishable neighbourhoods. To really get to know Portugal’s capital, you’ll need to visit each one of them. Therefore, we spent each of our 3 days exploring a different district of Lisbon.
LISBON ITINERARY DAY 1
Morning: Baixa District
Our 3-day itinerary began in the heart of Lisbon, in Baixa district. Baixa is Lisbon’s liveliest neighborhood with grand plazas, buzzy shopping streets, and classical ‘Pombaline‘ style buildings. This area is home to some of Lisbon’s most famous attractions and historical sites, like Praça do Comércio, Elevador de Santa Justa, or the Convent do Carmo Ruins.
1. Praça do Comércio (Market Square)
Praça do Comércio, the most famous public square in Lisbon, tells a lot about the city’s history. On this site once stood the former Ribeira Palace, which was the official residence of the kings of Portugal from 1502 until the 1st of November, 1755. On that day a great earthquake followed by a giant tsunami destroyed two thirds of the city, leaving it in ruins. As Lisbon was built back up, the reconstruction included plans for this new market square that we see today.
Praça do Comércio has many great features. Surrounded on three sides by elegant and impressive buildings, the plaza faces the Tagus River estuary offering sweeping views across the water.
The entrance to the square is marked by the Rua Augusta Arch which commemorates the reconstruction of Lisbon. For a small fee you can climb atop the 100 feet tall arch and get a bird’s eye view of the square and the city behind.
At the center of the square is an equestrian statue of King José I, who reigned in Portugal at the time of the earthquake. Because of the earthquake, King José I became so claustrophobic that he was never again comfortable living within a walled building. As a result, he moved the royal court to an extensive complex of tents in the hills of Ajuda.
Plaça do Comercio is always buzzing with activity: tourists taking pictures, locals running to catch a tram or a bus, or street vendors selling their goods. During your 3 days in Lisbon you’ll be passing through this square on numerous occasions.
2. Walk Along Rua Augusta
From Plaça do Comercio, continue onto Rua Augusta passing through the triumphal arch. This is a colorful pedestrian street with mosaic pavements, outdoor cafés, international shops, and the occasional street artists.
Lined with souvenir shops, boutiques, and restaurants on both sides, the street is always crowded. It’s a nice area to stroll along, but must be careful with pick-pockets around here.
While you are on Rua Agusta, look for the Amorino ice cream shop which is on the right side of the street as you face the arch. Amorino serves a very fancy rose-shaped Italian gelato with macaroons on top. And they have an unlimited choice of flavors to choose from.
Try it once and I promise you’ll return to this place every day for the next 3 days, no matter where you’ll be in Lisbon!
Also on this street you’ll find many bakeries selling the famous pastry Pastel de Nata, an egg custard tart dusted with cinnamon.
I promise you’ll love these delicious pastries, so make sure you don’t leave Lisbon before trying them!
3. Stroll Through Rossio Square
After enjoying a few treats on Rua Augusta, head towards Rossio Square. This is one of the liveliest squares in the city where people stop to relax, or enjoy a drink at one of the several cafés with outdoor sitting.
In the square there are two baroque fountains and a statue of Dom Pedro IV standing on a tall marble pedestal. Another important attraction in this plaza is the Neoclassical building of the Donna Maria II National Theater.
4. Ride the Elevador de Santa Justa Up to the Observation Deck
From Rossio Square head towards the Santa Justa Lift, an elevator situated at the end of Rua de Santa Justa. The elevator is the fastest way to get from Baixa neighborhood to the Bairro Alto district. The 147 ft (45 m) Elevador de Santa Justa is one of Lisbon’s landmarks, so make sure you don’t miss it.
The Elevador de Santa Justa isn’t just a lift, it’s a popular tourist attraction in Lisbon. The structure of the elevator is entirely wrought iron. It’s similar in style with the Eiffel Tower, in Paris. The interior has two old-fashioned cabins that take visitors up to the nearly 150-foot-tall vantage point.
The elevator was inaugurated on 10 July 1902 and was known in the beginning as Elevador do Carmo. Lisbon’s inhabitants were so excited about this novelty that on the the day of the inauguration over 3,000 people came to try it.
Elevador de Santa Justa is open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Unfortunately, there are always long lines to get into the elevator.
Admission fee is €5/person. However, the ride is free with the Lisbon Card.
5. Enjoy the Famous Pastéis de Bacalhau
As you exit the Elevator de Santa Justa, right at the end of the bridge, you’ll come across a small pasticceria serving Pastéis de Bacalhau. This is a typical Portuguese snack made of mashed potatoes, onion and steamed codfish mixed together in a ball and linked with eggs and milk, then deep-fried.
You’ll find Pastéis de Bacalhau almost everywhere in Lisbon, from the modest to highest-end restaurants. But my favorite place was the one next to the Igreja do Carmo ruins (right at the top of Santa Justa elevator), where they serve it with a glass of Port Wine.
And, you get to keep the glass as a souvenir for your trip to Lisbon.
Afternoon: Chiado/Bairro Alto
In the afternoon of your first day visit the bohemian neighborhood of Chiado, famous for its antique cafés and bookshops, elegant boutiques, and historic theaters.
1. Convent do Carmo Ruins
Just next to the Elevador Santa Justa you’ll see the roofless structure of the Carmo Convent. This is one of Lisbon’s most interesting attractions which shouldn’t be missing from your itinerary. Convent do Carmo was once a magnificent medieval building, but the devastating earthquake of 1755 transformed it to a pile of rubble.
Because the roof collapsed on the congregation that was attending Mass that day, the church was never rebuilt. But the Gothic arches and the sacristy survived and are still standing today. Miraculously, much of the art in the convent also survived the earthquake, and are displayed in the convent’s museum.
Admission fee is €5.00. There’s a 20% discount with the Lisboa Card.
2. Visit Praça dos Restauradores (Restauradores Square)
Restauradores Square lies at the southeast end of Avenida da Liberdade, near Rossio Square. At the center of the square there is a 30-meter high obelisk commemorating those who fought to restore Portugal’s independence, in 1640.
Around the square are a number of beautiful Art Deco buildings, among which the famous Teatro Eden and Condes Cinema buildings.
3. Camões Square
This lively square, named after one of Portugal’s greatest poets, is the heart of Lisbon’s most glamorous neighborhood, the Chiado.
At its center is a monumental statue of 16th-century epic poet –Luis de Camões– standing on a pedestal with other smaller statues of classical Portuguese authors. In the vicinity of the square there are two Baroque churches: Loreto and Encarnação, which are worth adding to your Lisbon itinerary, if you have the time.
4. A Brasileira Café
A Brasileira is Chiado’s most famous café. The café was the meeting place of several generations of intellectuals and artists in Lisbon, so don’t miss it.
One of the famous Portuguese poets who was a regular at A Brasileira was Fernando Pessoa. A bronze statue of the poet sitting at one of the tables is on the café patio.
5. Panteao Nacional
The National Pantheon is set beneath the historic Alfama Hill, on the opposite slope from downtown. Its huge classic Baroque dome is visible from many parts of Lisbon.
This building was initially a church, the construction of which started in the 16th century and ended in the 20th century. Today the Pantheon houses the remains of the most distinguished personalities in Portugal as well as its kings.
Interestingly enough, among the Portuguese royal tombs in the Pantheon were also those of King Carol II of Romania who died in Portugal while in exile. However, in 2003 his body has been returned to Romania and is now buried in the Cathedral of Curtea de Argeș, one of the most famous churches in Romania.
Lisbon Itinerary Day 2
Morning: Upper Alfama District
Built by the Moors in the 11th century, Alfama is Lisbon’s most atmospheric district. The neighborhood spreads on the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tagus river. Here you’ll find castle ruins, fancy fado restaurants, and some of the most beautiful miradors (viewpoints) in Lisbon.
Alfama is an old neighborhood with very narrow streets, steep stairs, and beautiful views of the river. It may not be the fanciest or most upscale district, but it surely has a lot of charm if you can see beneath the crumbling painted walls.
1. São Jorge Castle
One of the most emblematic landmarks in Alfama is São Jorge Castle, which sits at the top of São Jorge Hill. The fortress was built by the Visigoths during the fifth century, but was later enlarged by the Moors. In the 12th century, during the reign of Afonso I of Portugal, the castle became a royal residence.
The castle spreads over a large area. There are in all 11 towers to visit and a small museum, so this site will most likely take your entire morning. The views from up here are fantastic, so take time to enjoy your visit.
Admission fee for the castle is €10.00 for adults and €5 for students/children.
2. Stop for Lunch in Alfama District
After spending the morning at São Jorge Castle, you may stop for lunch at one of the small restaurants around the castle before continuing to explore the city.
There are some nice and intimate cafés and restaurants around this area which serve very tasty food. Eating here feels like you are in someone’s dining room, not in a restaurant.
Afternoon: Lower Alfama District
1. Miradouro das Portas do Sol
After lunch continue your tour towards the lower Alfama district. The first point of interest you’ll come across as you are descending from the castle is Miradouro das Portas do Sol. From up here you have a beautiful perspective of the Alfama district, all the way from São Jorge hill to the shores of the Tagus Estuary.
Of all the beautiful viewpoints we visited on our Lisbon itinerary, Miradouro das Portas do Sol was my favorite one. We came here quite a few times, during our 3-day stay in Lisbon.
Portas do Sol is on the route of Tram 28, so you can easily hop-on the tram to continue your tour after visiting it. In the middle of the beautiful terrace is a statue of of St. Vincent and a small a kiosk that serves refreshments. This is a perfect place for a short break!
2. Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Just a few steps down from Portas do Sol is another beautiful viewpoint : Miradouro de Santa Luzia. What is unique about this one is that it’s located inside a small garden and it’s surrounded by beautiful Azulejos tiles.
3. Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral)
Some 200 meters downhill from Miradouro de Santa Luzia you’ll come across Lisbon Cathedral, which is also known as Sé de Lisboa. Although it’s not one of Europe’s greatest churches, the cathedral is a must-see because of its importance to the city’s history.
Sé Cathedral was built right on top of a great mosque, when Lisbon was taken from the Moors, in 1147. Like all the other structures in Lisbon, the building suffered tremendous damages during the 1755 earthquake. The reconstruction took almost a hundred years, but the results are stunning.
They say the cloister contains some remnants of the previous mosque, but unfortunately it was closed at the time of our visit.
Admission fee for the cathedral and museum is €5 for adults and €3 for children.
Lisbon Itinerary Day 3
We spent the morning of our 3rd day in Lisbon visiting the district of Belém, which lies along the Tejo River, in the west part of Lisbon.
Back in the 16th century, Belém was the location of the docks and shipyards of Lisbon. It was also the place from where the ships that brought Portugal riches and fame were leaving. Belem was the very spot from where Vasco da Gama set out and discovered a direct ocean route from Portugal to India, in 1497.
Today, Belém is a cool escape from the city’s tumult. You can easily spend an entire day exploring this neighborhood which is home to three of Lisbon’s most important attractions: the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower), the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery) and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).
1. Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
The Belém Tower was erected as a strategic point and defense against possible invasions and attacks from the Tagus River.
The tower is not very big, but is very picturesque. On the ground floor you’ll see the 16 windows with cannons that were used to defend the city. You’ll also see the pits and holes where the prisoners were held.
Belém Tower has five floors and a roof terrace. The stories are connected by a small and narrow spiral staircase, which can get very crowded during the busy summers.
Admission fee for the tower is €8.50 for adults and students. Children under 14 get in free.
2. Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)
Just a little farther down from the tower, on the waterfront promenade, you’ll see the Monument of the Discoveries. The stunning 52-meter high monument was designed to commemorate the Age of Discoveries in Portugal.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos was inaugurated in 1960, on the 500 years anniversary since the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, who discovered the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde. At the base of the monument there is a group of statues representing Portugal’s most famous explorers led by Prince Henry the Navigator.
At the top of the monument there is an observation deck from where you can see Belém from above. There is an elevator that takes visitors to the deck, so you don’t have to climb any stairs. The cost is €4/person.
3. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery)
Right across the street from the Monument of Discoveries you’ll see the tall structure of the Jeronimos Monastery. This is one of the most magnificent religious edifices that I have ever seen! It will most likely impress you just as much as the Cathedral of Seville, in Spain, or La Cathedral Primada, in Toledo.
The monastery was designed to commemorate the return of Vasco da Gama from India. The cathedral building was erected on the site of the chapel where Vasco da Gama and sailors prayed before setting sail to India.
Although the monastery looks quite massive from the outside, you can’t guess how big it actually is until you get inside. One of the elements that will surely catch your eye is the highly ornate cloister and its complicated arches and patterns.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos houses the tombs of several important figures in Portuguese history, including the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco De Gama. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Lisbon, so don’t skip it.
Admission fee is €10 per person. For €12/person you can buy a combo ticket that includes the Belém Tower. Or for €16/person you can buy a ticket that includes the Monastery + Belém Tower + The National Archaeological Museum.
Afternoon: Park of the Nations (Parque das Nações)
We spent the afternoon of our 3rd day in Lisbon visiting the attractions in Parque das Nações. This part of our itinerary was very different from everything we saw so far, because Parque das Nações is the modern part of Lisbon. Here you have generous public spaces, wide boulevards, parks, a marina, museums, concert halls, sports facilities and modern shopping centers.
With its tall sky scrapers on the backdrop of the Tagus River, Parque das Nações reminded me a lot about Battery Park, in New York City.
1. Visit the Oceanário de Lisboa
The most important attraction in this part of the city is the Oceanário de Lisboa, a large indoor aquarium. The Oceanário houses a huge collection of marine species — from mammals, to sea birds, sharks, hundreds of species of fish and crustaceans.
The main attraction in the Oceanarium is a 5,000,000 liters (1,300,000 gallons) tank with large acrylic windows on its sides. The windows are strategically located all around the tank, allowing visitors to observe the life within the tank from many angles and from two different floors.
The fastest way to get to the Oceanarium from Belém is by car. There is also a bus that will take you there, but the ride takes over 1/2 hour, while the cab takes less than 15 minutes.
Admission fee for the Oceanarium is €19/adults and €13 for seniors, students and children.
2. Take a Ride on the Telecabine Lisboa (Gondola Lift)
The best way to admire Nations Park from above is to take a ride on the Gondola Cable Car, which is right next to the Oceanarium. The Gondola was inaugurated on March of 1998 for the International Exposition of Lisbon. Nowadays, it’s one of the must-see attractions on any Lisbon itinerary.
More Than 3 Days in Lisbon?
There is a lot to see and do in Lisbon if you have extra time to spare. The city is thriving with multiple museums, art galleries, beautiful churches and great bars and restaurants. It is also a good home base for for exploring the area around and taking day trips from Lisbon, or for visiting the castles in Sintra.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
If you are a tourist in Lisbon you’ll want to be based in the heart of the city and within walking distance of the major sights, shops and restaurants. The best areas to stay are Chiado, Baixa, Principe Real, Bairro Alto, Avenida da Liberdade and Alfama.
If you travel in a big group, or have kids with you, good option are the VRBOs in Lisbon. The city has a wide variety of apartments to choose from and some of them are quite luxurious.
Since there was only two of us we chose to stay in a hotel in Alfama, the oldest part of the city, because it’s quieter. However, we had a lot of uphill walking and for this reason we used cabs quite a lot. However, our hotel – Olissippo Castelo – was within walking distance from many of the sites on our Lisbon itinerary and that was a big plus.
You may want to check out this site for some of the best hotels in Lisbon, or use the search box below:
How to Get Around in Lisbon
The best way to get around in Lisbon is on foot. There is no better way to see the sites than walking. The only problem with that however is that Lisbon is set on seven hills, much like Rome. That means you’ll have a lot of uphill and downhill walking if you choose to go on foot.
We walked as much as we could, but also used public transportation. Most sites are accessible by bus, or by tram, but a good way to skip the uphill walking is to use the historic funiculars or the elevators.
Lisbon has many funiculars and elevators, some which are more modern and some which are historic landmarks. The most photographed funicular in the city is Ascensor da Bica, which connects Rua de São Paulo with Calçada do Combro/Rua do Loreto, crossing one of Lisbon’s steepest hills.
There is also a great network of tramways in Lisbon which we used quite extensively during our 3 days in the city. But we also used cabs in some areas and found them to be very reliable and inexpensive.
The subway is more useful for traveling beyond downtown rather than traveling within it, so we don’t recommend it.
Best Time to Visit Lisbon
The best time to go to Lisbon is during the shoulder season, March through May, or September through October. During these months there are fewer tourists, but the weather is still beautiful.
The hight of the tourist season is from June to September. During this time Lisbon will be crammed with tourists, so you’ll have to stand in line at all sites. Also, July and August can be brutal in Portugal, with temperatures rising above 90ºF. So unless you plan to spend all your time at the beach, try to avoid those two months.
Portugal is not a good winter destination. Despite have warmer winters than other countries in Europe, it may get a lot of rain during the cold season.
Another thing to keep in mind when making your itinerary is that many tourist sites in Lisbon are closed on Mondays.
Lisbon Card: Is It Worth Buying?
We believe the Lisbon Card is a good deal if you plan on seeing the sites listed in this itinerary. The card saves you money and the hassle of waiting in line to buy tickets.
You can also travel free on all means of transportation in Lisbon, including trains. You can purchase the Lisbon Card for 1, 2, or 3 days.
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