What to see in Lisbon in three days
Lisbon is a beautiful city set right on the Tagus river and Atlantic Ocean. It makes a great year-round destination due to its warm winters where daytime temperatures will typically stay around 15C.
There’s plenty of history and art to explore, a great food scene and lots of charming curiosities like its old trams, funiculars and elevators. With so many hills there are lots of beautiful views to take in and photograph.
It makes a great destination for a short or long weekend due to its proximity to the airport, reachable in a taxi in around 20 minutes typically for under €20.
Getting to Lisbon
You can get cheap (under £100) return flights to Lisbon from London Stansted with Ryanair, from Luton and Gatwick with EasyJet and from Heathrow (although prices are around £150 return depending on the time of year) with British Airways and TAP Portugal.
Where to stay in Lisbon
I visited last year and stayed in the five star EPIC SANA Lisbon. There’s an outdoor rooftop pool and bar area for summer but also a very nice indoor pool and spa. The rooms are new, service good and there’s a great selection at breakfast.
The hotel is in the Amoreiras area (near the mall). It’s not right in the centre of Lisbon but it was easy enough to walk into the centre to most sights (which you can see from the maps below) or to get buses or taxis depending on where you’re going. I thought it was a great hotel (and it gets some good reviews online).
In the same area (just a few doors down) is the Four Seasons Lisbon, another great option. There are plenty of other options in various areas of the city. I usually turn to Booking.com when looking for somewhere to stay as they have something to suit every budget.
Where to eat in Lisbon
There is so much great food in Lisbon of all different types and at all price points.
Make sure you try the local delicacies like pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) and bolinhos de bacalhau, deep fried balls of salted cod fish. These are everywhere in Lisbon but you should make sure you try custard tarts at their birthplace, Pasteis de Belem, which you can combine with touring Belem Tower and the nearby monastery.
I especially like the bacalhau in Casa Brasileira on Rua Augusta. In fact there are plenty of restaurants, pastry shops and cafes on Rua Augusta so it’s a nice place to stroll mid morning or mid afternoon when you’re ready for a snack and a coffee.
For the best fish in Lisbon in huge quantities and great prices head to Cervejaria Ramiro, an informal, sprawling restaurant over several floors. Make sure you get a reservation or you’ll spent your evening queuing in the street with everyone else.
Another great place to try lots of different foods, both local and international, is the Lisbon Timeout market. There are also bars where you can stop for a beer or G&T. Particularly good (and you should go before you leave Lisbon) is Tartar-ia which services impossibly fresh and delicious tartares. The restaurant is run by a team from Vila Joya restaurant, the first in Portugal to achieve two Michelin stars.
What to see in Lisbon- 72 hour itinerary
Get ready to walk! Lisbon is very walkable and it’s a shame not to take your time as their are interesting and photo-worthy sights around every corner. Just be warned that Lisbon is built on a number of hills so there is some more challenging terrain…especially if it’s hot.
Head towards the Miradouro de Sao Pedro for breath-taking views across the city and your first taste of Lisbon. As you carry on down the hill you quickly come to the first few interesting places, firstly the Ascensor da Glória, a funicular elevator that takes people up and down connecting the Barrio Alto with the streets below. It was first opened in 1885 and was electrified in 1912.
Further along is the Igreja de São Roque, a Catholic church which was the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world. It was built in the 16th century and most of the interior is in the highly ornate 17th century Baroque style. A museum is attached to the church, a small but worthwhile museum.
Next visit the Carmo Convent, a Roman Catholic convent ruined during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. It was founded in 1389 as part of the Carmelite order. You can explore the beautiful ruins of the convent including a small archaeological museum including items from various periods of Portuguese history including architectural pieces like fountains, tombs and windows.
For more beautiful views over Lisbon’s roof tops and narrow streets, head to the Santa Justa elevator which connects the lower streets of Lisbon’s Baixa with the Carmo Square above. It’s Lisbon’s only remaining vertical elevator, the others still operating being funiculars and the other vertical elevators since demolished.
The elevator was built in 1901 and started operation a couple of years later by steam power until it was converted to electric in 1907. The lift itself is a beautifully decorated iron structure. From here you can buy a ticket and descend to the streets below to explore.
Wander through Lisbon’s winding streets and head down Rua Augusta for a mid morning snack of bacalhau or pasteis de nata from one of the many cafes and patisseries along this pedestrianised street.
Next head to Lisbon’s Cathedral, Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa or Sé for short. It’s the oldest church in the city; construction started in 1147 but has been modified numerous times since. It was built on the site of Lisbon’s main mosque after Lisbon was reconquered by a Portuguese army after being under the control of the Moors from the 8th to 12th centuries. The current cathedral features multiple architectural styles including Romanesque and Gothic. Extensive restoration was required following the 1755 earthquake.
Climb up the hill for breathtaking views over Lisbon from the Castelo de São Jorge, a Moorish castles which stands on one of Lisbon’s hills. Fortifications have graced the hilltop since the 2nd century BC. You can explore the remaining fortifications, take in the views and catch glimpses of the many resident peacocks.
Take a Tram ride on the historic Tram 28 with its quaint wooden interiors. It traverses the neighbourhoods of Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. The tram gets extremely busy so try to get on it early or pick it up halfway through its journey and not from its start in Martim Moniz.
Have dinner at Cervejaria Ramiro (which can be reached on the Tram 28 route) for excellent fish- make sure you have a reservation and get ready to stand in the street!
Save some time and hassle by getting a taxi to Belem or you can hop on a tram if you want a cheaper option (although taxis in Lisbon are very reasonably priced). Tram 15 from Praça da Figueira will get you there.
Start by exploring the beautifully ornate Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (although it’s no longer a monastery, it was secularised in 1833). It’s built in the Portuguese Manueline style dating from the late 15th century to early 16th century. The complex includes both the monastery itself and the Church of Santa Maria. The cloister is a beautiful space, feeling peaceful even when rammed with tourists!
Take a break with a mid morning snack of pasteis de nata (and anything else you fancy) at the one, the only Pasteis de Belem. They have been making pasteis de nata since 1837 following an ancient recipe from the nearby monastery.
Next head across the street to the Torre de Belém. It’s a fortified tower built in the early 16th century and also in the Manueline style like the monastery. I didn’t make it inside due to the huge queues but you can still appreciate it from the outside and it’s a nice spot to sit and listen to the waves of the Tagus River lapping at the shore.
Head to the Berardo Collection for a break from the old with some contemporary art including works by Picasso, Kline, Kiefer, Mondrian, Dali and others. I really enjoyed this collection, it’s well worth at least an hour of your time. Admission is free on Saturdays (usually 5 euros).
Head back towards central Lisbon for a late lunch at the Timeout Market. Here you can sample food from lots of different stalls, but you absolutely must try Tartar-ia.
Have dinner at A Travessa restaurant which resides in the former Convento das Bernardas do Mocambo, founded in 165Sintra
Day 3 Sintra
You shouldn’t visit Lisbon without a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Sintra. Sintra is 25km from Lisbon and can be reached by train from Rossio or by taxi. Trains depart multiple times an hour and take around 40 minutes.
Here you can see the Pena National Palace, summer residence of the monarchs of Portugal during the 18th and 19th centuries. Wear sturdy shoes as there can be a lot of walking involved as sites are spread out across a wide area and up some big hills.
Another of the main attractions is the Quinta da Regaleira, a 19th century gothic mansion surrounded by gardens full of caves, ponds and follies. The main feature is the huge ‘initiation well’ which you can climb down inside via its spiral staircase.
There’s also a Franciscan monastery, founded in 1560 and Moorish castle to visit. You need at least a day here but could happily spend more.