72 Hours in Lisbon
Welcome to our 3 days in Lisbon itinerary! 72 hours is perfect to make the most of this city. Planning a trip is fun but time consuming, however with this Lisbon Travel Guide you won't have to spend much time thinking about what to see in Lisbon. Just follow our suggestions and we are sure you'll have an amazing time. Enjoy!
Few capitals in Europe enjoy a location quite as brilliant as Lisbon’s. It is spread over seven hills and surrounded by miles of beaches and is just a short train ride away from small, lovely, characterful towns. The mild and sunny climate means that so much of our life is spent outdoors – on the sand, in the sea, at a pavement café or sitting in a city square.
Lisbon may be a traditional, old, historic city, but it has a new buzz that has seen it completely change in the last 5 years – in a remarkable way. It’s alive with music, food, art and creativity. Nothing, perhaps, makes a more obvious reflection of this than the food explosion of new restaurants and chefs.
And let’s not forget the two things that every visitor to Lisbon must do: eat a gooey, custardy tart scented with cinnamon and try a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) served at little hole in the wall bars where your choice is simply ‘com ou sem elas’ — with or without the cherries.
Whether you are looking for inspiration or already in the city, here are out tips for getting the max out of Lisbon. Enjoy!
Day 1 – Baixa, Chiado, Bairro Alto and Ribeira
Take a walk to get your bearings around this most pedestrian-friendly city. You can also start the day as locals do getting a bica (an espresso) and cake at Confeitaria Nacional, in Praça da Figueira, a city institution, baking amazing pastries since 1829.
Stroll down Baixa from Rossio to Praça do Comércio and admire the beautiful pombaline architecture. Prompted by the earthquake, Lisbon’s renaissance was a fast-moving one and by the end of 18th century most of Baixa at the heart of downtown had been rebuilt. Warren-like streets were no more, and the city adopting the vogue-ish grid system which still marks a contrast to the older neighbourhoods you will find as you explore further. Notice also how some old shops resist in Rua da Conceição, selling nothing but needles, buttons and ribbons. It’s a time warp of haberdashery. In the same street browse also all the ports in GN Cellar.
When you find Praça do Comércio, walk on the promenade along Avenida Ribeira das Naus, to Cais do Sodré. Stop to sit on the deck chairs and have an aperitif at the kiosk, then head to Mercado da Ribeira for an early lunch before it gets too busy.
If you only have a short time in the city and want to taste the best it has to offer you should come here to this lively mercado. There are two sections, the old trading market where you can pick up piri piri peppers, bay leaves, oregano, garlic, octopus or clams of the highest quality, sold by women who will welcome you with a smile. Then stroll through to the next hall where many of the city’s best chefs have their names above kiosks offering petiscos (small plates) of abundant variety. Try red wine from Alentejo and a platter of Iberian ham with a finely-aged 24 months pata negra from Barrancos. Or a glass of the light vinho verde with bacalhau (salt cod). These wines will make you realise the Portuguese rosé of your childhood was a little sweet – local wines are amazing, and cheap. Finally don’t miss the awarded custard tarts of Aloma or the ice cream of Santini.
From the market walk to the backstreets and to Largo de São Paulo where new shops converge with the old red kiosk, from the 19th century. In Rua de São Paulo take the Elevador da Bica, perfect to ascend to Bairro Alto and explore its narrow streets. Go all the way to the viewpoint of São Pedro de Alcântara, with a stunning view. Better to sit down in the kiosk and enjoy the view. Walking down to Chiado, visit the nearby Igreja de S. Roque, an exceptional baroque church, and step down the Escadinhas do Duque and then turn to Largo do Carmo to visit the gothic convent without roof (destroyed by the earthquake) and the fabulous view from the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa. Get a drink on the terrace or in the new café further down, run by famous Versailles.
From there, stroll Chiado for some shopping: stop at Livraria Bertrand (oldest bookshop in the world still running) and at Luvaria Ulisses (great value handmade leather gloves).
Finish the day with a visit to the Fashion and Design Museum (MUDE) in Rua Augusta (closes at 18.00). You’ll be so tired of walking up and down the hills that the best place to have dinner is nearby: in Martinho da Arcada, the oldest café in Lisbon, where Fernando Pessoa used to drink his coffee.
Day 2- Go to Belém
In Cais do Sodré, take the train heading in the direction of Cascais, but be sure it stops in Belém, or alternatively catch the 15 tram and jump off in Belém – one of Lisbon’s most historical neighbourhoods, a UNESCO heritage site, home to the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. Both of these are 16th-century monuments celebrating the city’s maritime past. And both are jewels of the Manueline style, an architectural period with sea elements and sumptuous decoration that was popular during King Manuel reign (1495-1521).
Walk through the gardens in the direction of the river. Use the subway passage to walk to Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), opened in 1960. On the edge of the bow, Prince Henry the Navigator is commanding a gallery of historical characters. Once there, visit the top terrace and take in the 360º view of the river, the bridge, the south bank and Belém. Notice also, just in front of the monument the impressive mappa mundi and the compass rose offered by South Africa.
Keep walking until the Belém Tower. Even if you don’t have the time to visit it inside, it’s worth to have a closer look to admire the precious architecture of this fortress built 500 years ago by architect Francisco Arruda. It’s also one of the most celebrated symbols of Lisbon, so don’t miss the photo opportunity.
In Jerónimos Monastery, the architecture reflects the burgeoning artistic creativity during the golden age of the maritime discoveries. Do visit the church and the cloister (you only need a ticket for the cloister and better to buy online to avoid the lines). Check out the Berardo Museum, in Centro Cultural de Belém. It’s free to get in and you’ll see works by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, with some of the best art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Finally go to Pastéis de Belém, a place that many Portuguese will tell you the number one reason to go to Belém. A truly beautiful café, founded in 1837, you’ll feel like you have stepped back in time. But don’t ask for the recipe for the pastéis de nata, it is a closely-guarded secret passed down from monks. Most say this is the best custard tart in Portugal, but no one else can call their final result pastéis de Belém. The rest is pastéis de nata. And ordering just one is silly, one is never enough… Try to sit down in the oldest rooms, those nearest the entrance door and as it is lunchtime have some savouries as well, like pastéis de massa tenra (traditional crispy pastry with a beef filling).
Don’t mistake the queues outside for a queue to get in – these people are lining up to buy pastries to take away. And one more thing: a custard tart should never be eaten without a sprinkling of cinnamon on top. Try one without. Try one with…
If you still have the time visit the Coaches Museum, the best collection in the world (there are discount tickets if you visit Jerónimos and Belém Tower), although the new building took away the charm of its previous location. Or if you prefer being in the outdoors, visit the Botanical Tropical Gardens, with a beautiful collection of plants, trees and animals from the tropics, mainly from Portuguese speaking countries.
Return to the city centre and finish your day with a sunset drink in one of the many rooftop bars – like Mundial – and have dinner in Ramiro, a Portuguese “institution” for seafood and steak sandwiches. Don’t miss the garlic prawns and the clams. You may find a line after 19.30, but it moves usually fast. Or go after 21.00.
Day 3 – Alfama, the castle and the East
The hills on the eastern side are full of history, the Castelo de São Jorge and Alfama show the different layers of the history of Lisbon, but good walking shoes are essential.
From downtown (Baixa) take the elevator in Rua dos Fanqueiros to the top floor. Once in Rua da Madalena, have breakfast in Fábrica Lisboa (known for its croissants and pastries) and then walk up and take the elevator (in the supermarket Pingo Doce) to the top floor and start walking up to the castle. If you are already tired, sit down for a refreshment or coffee in the lovely Chapitô terrace (Costa do Castelo, n.º 1). Both of these lifts are for free and make life so much easier since they opened. Another interesting route is to take the popular tram 28 up hill (but beware of pickpockets) and exit in Largo das Portas do Sol, a beautiful viewpoint, where you can admire the magnificent architecture of Monastery São Vicente de Fora and the Church of Santa Engrácia, as well the Tagus estuary. Then walk up the steep hill to the castle, originally founded by the Moors in the 11th century and a royal residence from the 13th century.
It’s enough to admire just the amazing views but feel free to walk up and down the ramparts and all the stairs or the inner corners, as children do. If you have the time the Camera Obscura (check the schedule) as well as the guided visit (lasts 1hour 30 minutes) will give you some historical background.
Next, the best is to wander towards Portas do Sol and the sights. Follow down the tram tracks until Lisbon’s Sé Catedral, originally from the 12th century, and stop to see the inside. Then get in Alfama’s windy streets and steps through Cruzes da Sé street. Eventually you’ll get lost but that’s part of the fun.
Alfama, with its maze of narrow streets and alleys, is the seductive oldest neighbourhood in the city. The name is thought to origin in the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning “hot fountains” or “baths”.
Stop at Largo de São Miguel and admire the church.
If you’re visiting during the month of June, brace yourself for the street party in honour of Santo António. It includes lots of grilled sardines, wine, beer and loud music.
Walk to the river and stop for lunch at a traditional restaurant like Patrono, in Largo do Chafariz de Dentro. Once there check also the Fado Museum schedule of singers. Nice café and restaurant, with the fado singers performing usually at night. It’s also a good spot for lunch.
Then get on the 794 bus to the Tile Museum (Museu do Azulejo), including the beautiful blue and white tiled church of Madredeus. Finally, take another bus (the 728) to Gare do Oriente or Parque das Nações and visit the most modern neighbourhood of the city and the impressive aquarium (Oceanário de Lisboa) open until 19.00 (last entry at 18.00).
Return to city centre and relax in one of José Avillez’s great restaurants in Chiado, like in Mini Bar and Cantinho do Avillez (R. Duques de Bragança 7). If your legs allow, go for a drink in Príncipe Real famous bar Pavilhão Chinês (R. Dom Pedro V 89, 1250-093 Lisboa), with all sorts of collections and antiques. If you prefer something more busy head to Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodré.