Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for Falling In Love with Lisbon
Haven’t been to Portugal yet? There’s no better time than now to start planning your trip, and there’s no better city than Lisbon to get acquaintance with the charming and vibrant Portuguese culture. Our 3-day Lisbon itinerary is packed with the best attractions you can find in Lisbon, the coolest neighborhoods and tips to help you plan the perfect 3 days in Lisbon.
Lisbon or Lisboa, Portugal’s capital, is located in the west of Portugal on the northern banks of the Tagus River. It is one of the most ancient cities in Europe (second only to Athens) where you’ll find a mix of cultural influences, lively nightlife and great cuisine. Lisbon is also known as the city of seven hills so there is no shortage in great viewpoints or miradouros in Portuguese. It is one of the most colorful and vibrant cities we’ve ever visited. It has so many things to see and do and though it is a European city, it has a South American flare. The Portuguese language just made us think of South America, not to mention the Capoeira dance circles and the Portuguese infectious joie de vivre. With so many attractions around, you’d better plan your itinerary carefully so you’d be able to experience everything Lisbon has to offer!
Ultimate Lisbon Itinerary – What to See in Lisbon in 3 Days
Day 1 on Your Lisbon Itinerary
Exploring Lisbon’s City Center - Baixa
Start your visit by exploring Lisbon’s city center, Baixa. In this fairly small area you can find many tourist attractions, such as the famous Santa Justa Lift (for hours and prices check here), the beautiful Rossio Square, Comercio Square and Arco da Rua Augusta. It is convenient to start your day at Rossio Square (known also as Praça Dom Pedro IV), make your way to the Santa Justa Lift and then walk on Rua Augusta till you get to the beautiful Arco da Rua Augusta. This area is one of Lisbon’s most hectic areas, with many shops, restaurants and people all around. Unfortunately, there is no shortage in pickpockets here so be careful!
Tips for Santa Justa Lift – Since it is one of the most famous tourist attraction in Lisbon, there are always people waiting to take the lift and it might take a while. If you are just interested in the views, you can actually walk over to the back entrance of the lift (use the bridge behind Carmo Convent). You only need to buy the ticket to get to the viewing platform which is cheaper and you don’t need to waste time standing in line).
Eating at Lisbon's Time Out Market for Lunch
We love markets! No matter if we’re talking about traditional produce markets, upscale ones or the really trendy food markets where you can grab lunch or dinner at a great price. Markets are always on our itinerary. Lisbon’s Time Out Market (or Mercado da Ribeira) combines the best of two worlds – traditional produce market and an upscale foodie’s heaven in reasonable prices. In the morning, you’ll find a traditional vegetable and fruit market on one side of the building and when you cross over to the main hall, you’ll find some of Lisbon’s best eateries. Stroll around, check out the various meat and cheese vendors, restaurants, bars and other delicacies all around you. It’s a great trendy spot for people watching, always packed with locals and tourists who come here for the great food and atmosphere! The Time Out Market also holds the occasional food workshops and the Time Our Studio on the first-floor hosts performances by international and local artists so don’t forget to check the Time Out Market event schedule!
Strolling Around Alfama Neighborhood
Now it’s time to explore the charming Alfama Neighbourhood, the oldest district in Lisbon and one of the highlights of our trip. You can either take the famous 28 tram or a three-wheeler to São Jorge Castle. Our recommendation is to skip the 28 tram ride since it is always packed with tourists and pickpockets alike. You’ll have a chance to ride a tram later to Belem. São Jorge Castle is a must-visit attraction when visiting Lisbon. The castle itself is gorgeous and interesting to walk around, and more importantly, it is one of the best places to get a panoramic view of Lisbon. After exploring the castle’s compound, go and wander in the narrow streets of the wonderful Alfama neighborhood, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods we’ve ever been to. Look for the best viewpoints in Lisbon, the small winding alleys, charming coffee shops and restaurants and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take a picture of the local azulejos, the colorful ceramic tiles. If you like cathedrals, you can check Lisbon Cathedral (also known as Sè) and don’t forget to catch the sunset at one of Lisbon’s numerous miradouros. Two great options in the area are Miradouro das Portas do Sol or Miradouro da Graça. Alfama is also a great place to eat dinner and/or go to a fado bar, so spend the rest of your evening here.
Opening hours for São Jorge Castle: 9 am to 6/9 pm (depending on the season) for more information about the castle.
Day 2 on Your 3-Day Lisbon Itinerary
Belem - One of the Most Charming Neighborhoods in Lisbon
Start your day early and take a tram from Lisbon’s city center to Belem. Belem is a quiet little neighborhood about 9 kilometers from Lisbon’s city center where you’ll find many top attractions and monuments. Taking the 15 tram from Lisbon’s city center to Belem is a great way to get there. This tram is usually less packed than the 28 tram especially in the early morning. It should take you about 20-25 minutes to get to Belem.
Things to Do in Belem
Visit Jerónimos Monastery
To avoid the crowds, start your itinerary with a visit to Jerónimos Monastery. This old monastery is a recognized UNESCO world heritage site and you can spend at least an hour exploring this impressive monastery. It dates back to the early 16th century and the architecture is unique and combines stunning Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance influences. (Opening Hours: October – May: 10 am to 5:30 pm., May – September: 10 am to 6:30 pm, closed on Mondays and special occasions).
Lisbon insider tip: On Sundays – free admission until 2 pm.Lisbon
Eat Pastels de Nata at Pasteis de Belem
Now it’s about time to have a taste of the famous Portuguese delicacy, pastels de Nata. There are many famous places where you could find this delicious egg tart but one of the best is Belem’s Pasteis de Belem. A few minutes from Jerónimos Monastery, you’ll find this small little bakery and trust us, don’t buy just one, buy a few tarts. We usually aren’t too crazy about sweets, but these were so delicious, we came back for more. Oh, and don’t skip it just because of the queue (and there will be a long queue), you won’t have to stand in line for more than a few minutes (Opening hours: every day from 8 am.).
Admire the Impressive Monument to the Discoveries
Next item on your 3-day Lisbon itinerary, cross the street straight to the Monument to the Discoveries (or Padrão dos Descobrimentos). This striking monument is located on the banks of the Tagus River and it depicts the adventures of the Portuguese explorers of the 14th century. The original monument was built from wood in 1940 and later was replaced by the current one. You can climb it and watch the views from above. We decided to climb Belem Tower, though it might have been the wrong choice.
Opening hours: 10 am to 6/7 pm (depending on the season). During winter closed on Mondays.
Take a Picture of Belem Tower
From the Monument to the Discoveries walk along the Tagus River promenade till you’ll get to Belem Tower. If you are planning to climb the Tower, don’t forget to buy the combo ticket while visiting Jerónimos Monastery and then you would be able to skip the long line at Belem Tower. However, after climbing the tower, we are not sure it is worth the effort unless you arrive early before the crowds. It was very crowded inside, groups of people were shoving each other to climb up or down the narrow staircase (there is only enough room to either go up or down but not at the same time). In retrospect, we would have rather just admire it from the promenade. Opening hours: 10 am to 5:30/6:30 pm (depending on the season)
Lisbon Insider tip: On Sundays – free admission until 2 pm.
Walk Along the Tagus River Promenade
Lisbon’s Tagus River Promenade is a great place to spend a few hours, visiting the different monuments or just enjoying the lively atmosphere. There are many coffee shops and restaurants around and also food stands that offer some beer or wine accompanied by snacks. So grab a drink and join the locals who come here to sunbathe and admire the beautiful views. It was one of our favorite places in Lisbon.
After Belem, it’s time to go explore Bairro Alto. We always love to explore the old quarter of any city we visit and Lisbon’s Bairro Alto has definitely met our expectations. On the way back, the buses and trams were packed with people, so we just took another fun (and windy) ride in the local three-wheeler. The Bairro Alto is a great area to find funky little shops, unique boutiques and trendy bars and restaurants. This old barrio has a different atmosphere during the day and during the night so try and arrive early in the afternoon when the shops are still open and stroll around the colorful streets. You can catch the sunset at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, at the top of the hill, and then continue to explore Lisbon’s Bairro Alto. It’s also a great place to have dinner and enjoy some of Lisbon’s trendiest bars.
Lisbon Insider Tip: Another great place to taste the delicious pastels de nata is Mantreigaria and if you’d like to visit one of the hippest restaurants in Lisbon try La Cevicheria though you’ll probably need to wait in line for quite some time.
Day 3 on Your Lisbon Itinerary - Take a Day Trip to Sintra.
Sintra is a charming little town which is located approximately 30 kilometers from Lisbon. If you are wondering how to get there, it is a 45-minute easy train ride from Lisbon’s city center. You can find around this picturesque town many examples of the colorful and a bit kitschy Romanticism architecture which has earned it a UNESCO world heritage site recognition. Sintra is also known for its national parks so you can also explore Sintra-Cascais Nature Park and the Sintra Mountains. Need more details? For opening hours, fees and Sintra’s attractions and information regarding how to get to Sintra from Lisbon. Also here’s a great guide to help you plan your own Sintra tour!
If you Have Extra Time in Lisbon
If you have only 3 days in Lisbon, we’re not sure you’ll manage to see more than our suggested Lisbon itinerary but if you do have extra time, here are two hip places in Lisbon to add to your bucket list.
Visit the MAAT
The MAAT – the museum of art, architecture and technology hosts national and international exhibitions. It is located on the banks Lisbon’s Tagus River and the building alone is worth a visit if you are in the area. The architectures were inspired by the rippling of the water of the river and the building is covered with 15,000 three-dimensional ceramic tiles. Visitors can visit the roof for some spectacular views of the river. The best time to visit would be around sunset so you could also take gorgeous pictures of the scenery and the outer building during the golden hour.
Opening hours: 11 am to 7 pm (closed on Tuesdays)
Visit the LX Factory
A cool place to spend an evening in Lisbon. This former industrial area was turned into one of the hippest places in Lisbon. These structures used to be warehouses and factories but nowadays it is a trendy dining and shopping area with an artistic atmosphere. It is close to Belem and located on the riverside of Alcântara. You’ll find here many unique shops and hip boutiques, lots of restaurants and bars, there is great street art in the compound and art galleries as well. On Sundays, most of the shops are closed but some of the eateries are open and there is a small market where you’ll find food stalls, jewelry, accessories and vintage items. For more details on LX Factory.
When to Visit Lisbon
Lisbon’s weather is convenient enough to visit it any time you feel like it but the best time is usually the shoulder season when the city is not swarmed by tourist groups. Both Spring and fall are a great choice. During the month of June, you’d be able to take part in Lisbon’s festival, Festas de Lisboa, when every night there’s a celebration in a different part of the city. During October – November there are a few film festivals in Lisbon and another highlight for your itinerary might be the Fado festival in Alfama.
For the average temperature and rainy days by month check this.
How to Get to Lisbon
All domestic and international flights land at Lisbon’s airport, Humberto Delgado Airport, located only 7 km from the city center. You can get to Lisbon’s city center by taxi, metro or bus. A taxi ride will cost you about 15 euros (maybe more at nighttime) but you can take the metro/bus for cheaper fares. Here’s some more information about the possible transportation options to Lisbon’s city center.
If you’ll be arriving at Lisbon from another destination in Portugal or Europe, you can take a train straight to Lisbon’s center. For more information check out the train routes to Lisbon for domestic trains or more options if you’ll be arriving from another European destination.
Getting Around Lisbon
We love walking everywhere, it’s the best way to find hidden gems and truly get to know a city. However, Lisbon has so many hills and for some of the attractions, like Belem, you will definitely need some form of transportation. The public transportation in Lisbon is pretty good. If you happen to have the Lisboa Card, you can ride the buses, trams and metro for free. Otherwise, you can purchase the VivaViagem card which will be cheaper than buying a single ticket every time. Taxi prices are pretty high and also have a bad reputation in Lisbon, another option is the local tuk-tuk or three-wheeler. Though their prices aren’t cheap, we recommend taking a fun ride in one of these at least once. Uber is also a great choice.
Where to Eat in Lisbon
Well, we’ve already mentioned Time Out Market but there are other great places in the city you must try. If you want to know where to find the best ice cream or the best seafood restaurant in Lisbon (not to mention the reasonable prices) check out our Portugal Foodie Guide where you’ll also find some of the best dishes you must try in Portugal.
Additional Travel Tips and Essentials for Your Lisbon Itinerary
Lisboa Card: Prior to your arrival check out the Lisboa Card. With this card, you’ll get free entrance and/or some discount while visiting Lisbon’s attractions plus you can take public transportation for free. There are different options (24/48/72 hours) so for prices and more information check out their Lisboa Card website.
Tipping: Some of Lisbon’s restaurants add service charges so check the bill. If there is no service charge, fill free to tip 5-10% for good service. Taxi drivers expect a 10% tip, bellboys usually get 1-2 euros per suitcase.
Couvert: In many restaurants in Lisbon the waiter will serve you some bread or olives and cheese without ordering it, it will be added to the final bill, so ask in advance and ask the waiter to take them away if you are not interested.
Miradouros: Follow any sign you see because these Miradouros or viewpoints are the best places to get a gorgeous view of Lisbon.
Pickpockets: Lisbon is notoriously known as a place where you’ll likely lose your wallet to a pickpocket. We actually witnessed one in action in the middle of Baixa and gave a shout to scare him off. Be careful especially in crowded places and on all of the trams.
Azulejos: You can’t come to Lisbon without looking for these gorgeous ceramic tiles. Our advice is to skip the tile museum and go straight to Alfama. It is THE place to view these colorful tiles.
Funiculars: Lisbon has three funiculars (designed by the same architect who planned Santa Justa Lift) and they can be a great addition to your Instagram feed so if you’d like to include them in your Lisbon itinerary, you can find Elevador da Bica just near Mercado da Ribeira (Time Out Market). The most famous funicular is Elevador da Glória and it connects Restauradores Square with Rua San Pedro de Alcántara in the Bairro Alto. The third one, Elevador da Lavra, is actually the oldest one and you’ll find it here. If you visit it, have a cup of coffee at the nearby Fábrica Coffee Roasters which has excellent coffee and delicious snacks. For more information about Lisbon’s funiculars.
We loved Lisbon and can’t wait to go back there as soon as possible. For more tips about unique things to do in Lisbon and the best times to visit some of the attractions, check out our Lisbon Bucket List and if you are heading to Porto, don’t forget to check our Porto Guide for the perfect weekend.