Lisbon Travel Guide: What to Do, See, and Eat in the City in 3 Days
I had a chance to visit the beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal about two weeks ago, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The colorful tiles on the walls, the winding cobblestone alleys, the fresh seafood and friendly local people are just some highlights amongst many. So here’s my suggested itinerary for 3 days in Lisbon, ensuring that you see the most important neighborhoods in the city over a long weekend.
- Day 1 -
Most tourists decide to stay either in the Alfama region, where there are the most beautiful quaint streets and cute Airbnbs, or the Chiado area with the best food and shopping. (See Day 3 for more details.)
Both areas are somewhat central in the city, whereas the Belem area requires a short Uber ride (about 15 min). Uber is relatively inexpensive at Lisbon. In fact, we did not take any public transportation at Lisbon at all and did the sightseeing on foot and occasionally by Uber.
Belem is a scenic area next to the river. If you love sun, bike-riding, or taking a stroll next to the river, you’re going to love Belem.
Belem Tower is one of the very rare historical architecture that stands on water. Built in the 16th century in traditional Portuguese style, the tower is now a UNESCO heritage site (along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery, which we will talk about later.) The tower was first built as a defense system during the time of the Age of Discoveries.
I did not go into the tower itself since I’ve read on many blogs that suggest against the idea, and the lineup was too long for my liking anyway. Do take a walk around the tower though, as you will be able to take some awesome photos that capture both the architecture and the river.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
After a 10 min walk alongside the river, you will find Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument overlooking the river that signifies the glorious days where Portugal explored and conquered like, half of the world.
The monument includes 33 navigators from history, all marching towards the direction of the river. The square that the monument sits on has a compass that signified all the parts of the world that the Portuguese explorers have set foot on.
Quite interesting to see and think about how Portugal was such a world power in the old days. Even though now things are different, at least there are monuments like this to remind locals and tourists alike of the glorious days of the country.
Just across the street from Padrão dos Descobrimentos is another historical site that tourists love - Jerónimos Monastery. Here you can find the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style: richly ornate, incorporating maritime symbols, and carved in limestone.
I would definitely recommend taking a couple hours walking around the monastery, just to admire the structures and read into the history.
Pasteis de Belem
Before you leave the Belem area, don’t forget to grab an egg tart at Pastis de Belem. There are many egg tart places in town, but I’ve heard that Pasteis de Belem is the oldest and most traditional.
The cafe was opened almost 200 years ago, and I find the interior to be cute and well-kept. And I do think the egg tart is excellent here! I also suggest the coffee with chocolate, it’s very rich and tasty.
For dinner, we took a short Uber ride to LX Factory, which is located in Alcantara, roughly between the Chiado area and Belem. You can find several boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars in the area. This is also an area for creatives and entrepreneurs in Lisbon, as a lot of the upstairs areas are actually shared working spaces or photo studios.
As you are walking in the area, you will find art murals, quotes, and decorations. AKA photo spots.
We tried the famous canned sardine for the first time in Lisbon! Surprisingly not very “fishy” at all!
- Day 2 -
In my opinion, a trip to Lisbon wouldn’t be complete without taking a day to see Sintra. The town is filled with UNESCO world heritage sites, and since most of the attractions are located on top of mountains, you get a great view on clear days. And who doesn’t love castles?!
I'm planning to write a separate post on Sintra, so stay tuned!
- Day 3 -
Chiado & Alfama
Day 3 is all about walking around town, so have your comfy shoes ready as the hills are steep and those cobble-stone surfaces are unforgiving! While there are several attractions at Chiado & Alfama, I decided to only write about the best of the best, keeping in mind your limited time & energy!
There are many miradouros in Lisbon, and you have to visit at least one while you are there! The one we went to was Miradouro Portas do Sol, where you get a view of the river and the houses from high up. There are also a couple of cafes here where you can sit down and enjoy a coffee or a sangria.
Castelo de São Jorge
This medieval castle is located high up on the hill and has very few remnants left, so don’t get your expectations too high before visiting. However, it does offer a vast view of the entire Lisbon city and is especially great for sunset. So check your Weather App to see when sunset is and get there an hour before to walk around and find your sunset-watching spot!
Get lost in Alfama
The best way to experience the charm of Alfama is to just lose your Google Map and walk around in the small alleys that cars can’t pass through. This neighborhood is so charming that you just have to fully immerse in it to know it!
❓Where to stay?
Since most Lisbon can be visited on foot, it’s important to stay somewhere relatively central. I would suggest staying in Alfama or Chiado. Hotels are relatively affordable (comparing to bigger European cities) so we opted to stay in a hotel rather than an Airbnb this time.
Corpo Santo Historical Hotel is a great option with good service, location, aaaand they give you a lot of free food! Popcorn every night, snacks in the lobby and on every floor, free ice cream vouchers….
❓What to eat?
▲Lisbon is known for its seafood. The fresh kind...and the tinned sardines! Most of the more popular restaurants are actually very packed unless you decide to eat at 6 pm or at 10 pm. So if you’re very keen on going to these establishments, I would suggest you make a reservation.
▲One restaurant that we really liked was Antonia Petiscos Bairro Alto. It’s a small, cozy restaurant that was on the Monocle’s food list. We loved all the dishes we had there: the shrimps with garlic, mussels, and sausage were all really good. Highly recommended!
❓What to buy?
▲Canned sardines is a good option, and some are done in such cute packaging so it’s perfect for gifting! This store that we found near the train station sells canned sardines that have birth years on the packaging. Perfect for gifting!
▲As we were leaving the São Jorge Castle, we stumbled upon this boutique that sold arts and crafts from local designers. I bought some handmade jewelries and tiles. Yes, I’m so obsessed with the tiles that I have to bring it home.
❓What to wear?
▲We visited Lisbon in late September and it was very warm. Noon was around 32 degrees and the temperature drops to about 25 at night. Perfect weather for vacation wear!
For footwear, I would strongly suggest not wearing high heels. It’s just simply impossible to walk in heels there. Instead, wear sneakers or sandals.