Until not very long ago, Portugal was pretty much an underrated travel destination. Despite being one of the friendliest and cheapest countries 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.

Tram in Lisbon

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.

Spending 3 days in Lisbon
Spending 3 days in Lisbon

You need to spend at least 3 days in Lisbon in order to visit it properly. Especially this is your the first time in Lisbon. The city offers visitors so many delights to enjoy: remarkable landmarks, bohemian neighborhoods, delicious foods and so much more. With this itinerary you’ll be able see all the best sites in Lisbon 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 begins 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, the 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. The square 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.

Plaça do Commercio, the starting point of our 3 days in Lisbon itinerary
Plaça do Commercio, the starting point of our 3 days in Lisbon itinerary

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.

view of the Plaça do Comercio from Rua Agusta ARch
View of Praça do Comercio from Rua Augusta Arch

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 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. 

vie of the King José I Statue in Praça do Comercio
King José I Statue in Praça do Comercio

Plaça do Comercio is always buzzing with activity: tourists taking pictures, locals running to catch a tram or a bus, or street vendors trying to sell 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 artist. 

Street artists in Lisbon
Street artists in Lisbon

This is a very busy street lined with with shops and restaurants on both sides. People walk along Rua August not only for buying, but also for enjoying the lively atmosphere. It’s a nice area to stroll along, but must be careful with pick-pockets around here.

Rua Santa Augusta
Rua Santa Augusta

One of the places you shouldn’t miss on Rua Agusta is the Amorino ice cream shop which serves rose-shaped Italian gelato with a macaroon on top. They have an unlimited choice of flavors to choose from.

Rose-shaped Italian gelato
Rose-shaped Italian gelato

Try it once and I promise you’ll return here 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.

Pastel de Nata, a pastry you should try on your 3 days in Lisbon itinerary
Pastel de Nata

We absolutely loved 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 the liveliest square in the city, where people stop to sit and relax, or enjoy a drink at one of the several cafés with outdoor sitting.

Rossio Square in Lisbon
Rossio Square

In the square there are two baroque fountains and a statue of Dom Pedro IV standing on 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 the Baixa neighborhood to the Bairro Alto district. Elevador de Santa Justa is one of Lisbon’s landmarks, standing 147 ft (45 m) tall.

Santa Justa Elevator in Lisbon
Santa Justa Lift

The structure of the elevator is entirely wrought iron and is 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.

Bridge leading to the Santa Justa Lift
Bridge leading to the Santa Justa Lift

The elevator 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 the famous Pastéis de Bacalhau. Among the many Portugal’s recipes for codfish, the Pastéis de Bacalhau was my favorite.

Woman preparing Pasteis de Bacalhau
Woman preparing Pasteis de Bacalhau

This is a typical Portuguese snack that you’ll have to try while you are in Lisbon. The dish is 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 most modest to highest-end restaurants. But my favorite place was the one next to the Igreja do Carmo ruins (the ruins of the Carmo Church), where they serve it with a glass of Port Wine.

eating pastries in Lisbon
Eating Pastéis de Bacalhau in Lisbon

And, if you want, you can 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. Just next to the Elevador Santa Justa, you’ll see the roofless structure of the Carmo Convent.

1. Convent do Carmo Ruins

Convent do Carmo Ruins is one of Lisbon’s most interesting attractions, so it shouldn’t be missing from your itinerary. The convent was once a magnificent medieval building, but the devastating earthquake of 1755 transformed it to a pile of rubble.

View of Carmo Convent
Carmo Convent

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 still stand today. Miraculously, much of the art in the convent also survived the earthquake, and can be seen in the museum.

inside of Carmo Convent in Lisbon
Inside the Carmo Convent

Admission 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.

View of the obelisk in Praça dos Restauradores
The Obelisk in Praça dos Restauradores

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.

square in Chiado, one of Lisbon's fanciest neighborhoods
Camões Square

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.

A brasiliera Café in Lisbon
A Brasileira Café

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.

Sitting next to the bronze statue in front of the A Brasileira Café,
Sitting next to Fernando Pessoa’s statue at A Brasileira Café

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.

The building of the The National Pantheon in Lisbon, Portugal
The building of the The National Pantheon

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.

Inside the The National Pantheon in Lisbon
Inside the The National Pantheon in Lisbon

Interestingly enough, among the Portuguese royal tombs were also those of King Carol II of Romania and his wife Magda Lupescu, who died in Portugal while in exile. However, in 2003 their bodies have been returned to Romania. They are now buried in the Cathedral of Curtea de Argeș, one of the most famous churches in Romania.

Admission fee is €3/person, but it’s free on Sundays.

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.

Street in Alfama District
Street in Alfama district

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.

view of the São Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle

The castle is very large, so visiting it will most likely take your entire morning. Besides the 11 towers, there is also a small museum and a restaurant on the site.

images of Sao Jorge castle in Lisbon
The walls of São Jorge Castle

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 i here before continuing to explore the city, or you may continue wandering through Alfama district.

streets in Alfama districts
Streets in Alfama district

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.

Small restaurant in Alfama district
Small restaurant in Alfama district

There are great cafés and restaurants around this area. They are small and very intimate, but serve very tasty food. You’ll have the feeling that you are eating in someone’s dining room, not in a restaurant.

Afternoon: Lower Alfama District

1. Miradouro das Portas do Sol

Overlooking the Alfama neighborhood, Portas do Sol provides beautiful views of Lisbon, all the way from São Jorge hill to the shores of the Tagus river. 

View form Miradouro das Portas do Sol
View form Miradouro das Portas do Sol

Of all the places 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.

Enjoying a drink on the terrace of Portas do Sol
Enjoying a drink on the terrace of Portas do Sol

Portas do Sol viewpoint is on the route of Tram 28, so you can easily hop-on the tram to continue your tour after visiting it. In the vicinity of St. Vincent’s statue that dominates the terrace, there is a small a kiosk serving refreshments, perfect for a short break.

2. Miradouro de Santa Luzia

Just a few steps down from Portas do Sol is another beautiful viewpoint in Alfama district: Miradouro de Santa Luzia. What is different about this one is that it’s located inside a small garden, which in itself is quite nice. The viewpoint has very beautiful Azulejos tiles all around.

View from the Miradouro do Santa Luzia
Miradouro do Santa Luzia

3. Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral)

The Lisbon Cathedral, also known as Sé de Lisboa, is located in the lower part of Alfama, some 200 meters downhill from Miradouro de Santa Luzia. 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.

view of Lisbon Cathedral
Sé de Lisboa Cathedral

Sé Cathedral was built in 1147 right on top of a great mosque, when Lisbon was taken from Moors. Like all the other structures in Lisbon, the building suffered tremendous damages during the 1755 earthquake. As a result, the church went through an extensive reconstruction that lasted for almost a hundred years.

Altar of the Lisbon Cathedral, one of the attractions in Lisbon
Altar of the Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa Cathedral)

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

Morning: Belém

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 Lisbon’s docks and shipyards. It was also the place from where the ships that brought Portugal’s 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.

the port of Belem today
The port of Belém today

Today, Belém is a cool escape from the tumult of the city center. 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 rampart was also served as a gateway to the city of Lisbon and a strategic point also protecting the Jeronimos Monastery, which constituted strategic points to invade the city.

View of Belem Tower, one of the attractions in Lisbon
Belém Tower

The Belém Tower is not very big, so you won’t need a lot of time to visit it. 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.

The Cannon's Room at Belém Tower
The Cannon’s Room at Belém Tower

The tower has five floors which lead to a roof terrace. The stories are connected by a small and narrow spiral staircase, which during the travel season can get very crowded.

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 stunning Monument of the Discoveries. The impressive 52-meter high monument was designed to commemorate the Age of Discoveries in Portugal.

View of the Monument of Discoveries
The Monument of Discoveries

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 sculptures representing Portugal’s most famous explorers led by Prince Henry the Navigator.

Statuary group at the base of the Monument of the Discoveries
Statuary group at the base of the Monument of the Discoveries

At the top of the Monument of the Discoveries there is an observation deck from where you can see Belém from above. Access to the deck is by an elevator and the cost is €4/person.

3. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery)

Jeronimos Monastery is one of the most magnificent religious edifices I’ve seen in Europe. It will most likely impress you just as much as the Cathedral of Seville, or La Cathedral Primada, in Toledo.

The monastery was designed to commemorate the return of Vasco da Gama from India. Interestingly enough, the building was erected on the same site of the chapel where Vasco da Gama and sailors prayed before setting sail to India. 

The Cloister of Jerónimos Monastery
The Cloister of Jerónimos Monastery

The building looks quite massive from the outside, but 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.

Jerónimos Monastery
The Nave of Jerónimos Monastery

The monastery houses the tombs of several important figures in Portuguese history, including the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco De Gama. Jerónimos Monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for being one of the most beautiful buildings in Lisbon.

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. 

image of Parque das Nações district in Lisbon
Parque das Nações district

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. 

Water tank at the Oceanarium in Lisbon
Oceanarium in Lisbon

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. By cab it’s only 15 minutes.

Admission fee for the Oceanarium is €19/adults and €13 for seniors, students and children.

2. Take a Ride in the Telecabine Lisboa (Gondola Lift)

The best way to admire Nations Park from above is to take a ride in 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. 

Gondola cable car in Lisbon
Telecabine Lisboa (Gondola cable car)

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. Lisbon is also a wonderful home base for for taking day trips, 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 and within walking distance of major sights, shops and restaurants. The best areas to stay are Chiado, Baixa, Principe Real, Bairro Alto, Avenida da Liberdade and Alfama. You may want to check out this site for some of the best hotels in Lisbon, or use the search box below:

We chose to stay in Alfama, the oldest part of the city, because it’s quieter and has the best views. 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.

How to Get Around in Lisbon

The best way to get around in Lisbon is obviously on foot. The only problem with that is that Lisbon is set on seven hills, just 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 if you want to skip some uphill walking you should use the historic funiculars or the elevators. The city’s most photographed funicular is Ascensor da Bica, which connects Rua de São Paulo with Calçada do Combro/Rua do Loreto, crossing one of Lisbon’s steepest hills.

View of the funicular in Lisbon
Ascensor da Bica

Lisbon has a great tramway network which we used every day for 3 days. But we also used cabs quite often and found them to be very reliable and inexpensive.

traveling by tram in Lisbon
Traveling by tram in Lisbon

The subway is more useful for traveling beyond downtown rather than traveling within 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. In summer time Lisbon will be crammed with tourists, so you’ll have to stand in line at all sites. Besides, July and August can be brutal in Portugal, with temperatures rising above 90ºF.

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.

Other Lisbon Activities That You May Like:


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