The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
Three days is the perfect length of time to fully discover Lisbon. Within these three days, you can visit all of the main tourist attractions, experience the vibrant nightlife, savour delicious regional dishes, and leave with lasting memories of this wonderful city.
This article will provide you with a suggested three-day tour of Lisbon, which could be used for a short city break or as part of an extended tour of Portugal.
Note: This guide only focuses on the city of Lisbon and not the surrounding region. There are many enjoyable day trips from Lisbon which could easily extend a holiday to 1 week; for a guide to a one-week holiday please click here.
The following is an overview for our suggested 3-day tour of Lisbon:
• Day 1 Morning – Alfama and Baixa districts
• Day 1 Afternoon – Chiado, Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre districts
• Day 1 Evening – Fado music performance, and the restaurants and bars of Baixa
• Day 2 Majority of the day – Belem district
• Day 2 Later part of the day – The number 28 tram tour of Lisbon
• Day 2 Evening – A big night out in Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre (Friday or Saturday night)
• Day 3 Morning – Parque das Nações
• Day 3 Afternoon – Parque Eduardo and Av. da Liberdade or the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
• Day 3 Evening – Alcântara, Santo Amaro Docks and Lxfactory
An interactive map for 3 days in Lisbon is shown below; day one is highlighted in green, day two in yellow and day three in blue.
Note: Many tourists replace the third day for a day trip to Sintra, and this is a good alternative if you are on a city break or limited for time. This article solely discusses exploring Lisbon in 3 days, but for a guide to Sintra, please click here.
A rental car is not required for this itinerary, as Lisbon has excellent public transport and inexpensive taxis.
The following section explains in detail each of the suggested days and provides links to further in-depth information
For the morning, it is suggested to explore the two central, but vastly different districts of Baixa and Alfama. Both districts are steeped in history and contain many of the iconic monuments of Lisbon.
The Baixa district was completely destroyed by the devastating 1755 earthquake, and the reconstruction followed one of the first examples of a grid-and-block layout. Baixa comprises of magnificent plazas and wide avenues, which are lined with grand Baroque buildings. Major sights of the district include:
• Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s most impressive plaza and its historic centre for trade
• The panoramic view from the top of the Arco da Rua Augusta
• The busy shopping street of Rua Augusta, with its open-air cafes and gimmicky tourist shops
• The Elevador de Santa Justa, a neo-Gothic styled wrought iron elevator (lift)
• A glass of Ginjia, a sweet cherry liqueur, drunk at the A Ginjinha bar, the traditional home of the drink
Related articles: Baixa guide.
Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and is the complete opposite to Baixa’s grandeur and uniformity. Alfama is a labyrinth of cobbled streets and alleyways, which follow the ancient medieval layout of the city, and leads up from the Tejo Estuary to the castle.
Originally Alfama was situated outside of the city walls and was the home to the poor and desperate. Later on, the district became the grim home of sailors and dock workers, but fortunately today the area has been transformed into one of the most stylish and desirable sections of the city.
Popular tourist attractions in Alfama include:
• The Castelo de Sao Jorge, the castle that stands high above the city
• The Sé de Lisboa cathedral, with its Gothic towers and massive fortifications
• The Igreja de Santo António, constructed on the birthplace of Lisbon's patron saint
• The maze of medieval streets that criss-cross Alfama, and are a joy to wander
• A ride on the number 28 tram as it rattles and screeches through the district*
• The Portas do Sol viewpoint, with its fantastic views across Alfama
*The 28 tram is suggested for the second day as the western sections of the route are less busy
Related articles: Alfama gudie.
For the afternoon, it’s suggested to visit the area to the west of Baixa, which encompasses the districts of Cais do Sodre, Chiado and Bairro Alto.
Baixa is connected to Cais do Sodre by a pleasant riverside walk along the Ribeira das Naus, which leads from the Praça do Comércio to the Jardim de Roque Gameiro. This route ends close to the Timeout Market, housed in the old Mercado da Ribeira, and is a highly recommended location for lunch.
Cais do Sodre was a red-light district, but has been rejuvenated into a trendy nightlife district, which still retains its gritty and unrefined character. From Cais do Sodre ferry terminal, it is possible to cross the Tejo Estuary to Cacilhas on one of the commuter ferries (€2.50 return), and this provides fantastic riverside views of Lisbon and the suspension bridge.
Chiado district was historically the artisan district of Lisbon, where Portugal's intellectuals would gather in the coffee shops to discuss the important issues of the day. Today it is Lisbon’s theatre district, and the central square is dedicated to Portugal’s’ most famous poet, Luís de Camões.
Bairro Alto is the nightlife hub of Lisbon; by day it may appear a little shabby, but at night it comes alive with revellers packing the numerous small bars and the sound of Fado music wafting out of the live music venues.
Highlights of the afternoon include:
• The Ribeira das Naus, where Lisboetas come to relax on a hot summers day
• The vast choice of gourmet foods, sold at sensible prices, in the Timeout Market
• The ruins of the Igreja do Carmo, the lasting monument to the 1755 earthquake
• A coffee in one of Lisbon’s oldest cafes, and a slice of history at the Café A Brasileira
• The Praça da Alegria viewpoint with its views over Baixa and the castle
• The stunning interior of the Igreja de Sao Roque, one of the world’s first Jesuit churches
• A ride on the Elevador da Glória
Related articles: Chiado and Bairro Alto guide -Cais do Sodre guide
There is very high demand for accommodation during the peak season, we advise to book your hotel rooms now before they sell out. To check current prices and availability enter your holiday dates in the search box below:
For the first evening, our suggestion is to dine out at one of Baixa’s excellent open-air restaurants and then attend a performance of Fado in the Alfama or Bairro Alto districts. Fado is a haunting style of music, inspired by the sorrow of the sailor’s wives, and comprises of a lone female singer accompanied by classical guitar – Fado is an emotional and moving style of music.
Belem is the picturesque district to the west of Lisbon that lines the northern banks of the Tejo Estuary Belem is closely associated with the great Portuguese explorers, and it was here that Vasco da Gama spent his last night before discovering the sea route to India
The green parks and open spaces that cover Belem today were once massive shipyards and harbours, and from here departed many of the 15th-century voyages to Brazil, Africa and India. Later, the gold and wealth that flowed into Portugal from the newly discovered colonies funded the construction of the magnificent Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
This Portuguese seafaring history is commemorated by the imposing Padrao dos Descobrimentos, and from the viewing platform on the top of the monument are outstanding views over Belem and the Tejo Estuary.
The Torre de Belem is a charming 16th-century fort, which protected Lisbon against seaward attack, and has since become the icon of Lisbon. The Centro Cultural de Belém was constructed to house the 1992 European Union Presidency, and is now houses the Museu Coleção Berardo, the best free art gallery in Lisbon.
Other sights in Belem include; the Aos Combatentes do Ultramar war memorial, the MAAT museum, the Museu de Marinha, the Museu Nacional dos Coches and the president’s residence. There is a lot to see in Belem and a whole day’s sightseeing could be easily spent in the district.
Related articles: Belem guide.
Insider tip: For this day is suggested to get the 24-hour unlimited public transport ticket, so you can have unlimited use of the trams (Tram 15 to Belem and Tram 28 for the afternoon)
One of the best ways to discover Lisbon and to meet fellow travellers is to join a guided tour. We have worked with Getyourguide.com for the last six years, and some of the best tours of Lisbon include:
For the latter part of the day, it is recommended to ride the number 28 tram and visit the sights and districts along the route. Interesting sights along the tram route (which were not visited on the first day) include:
• The Basílica da Estrela – A grand basilica with an impressive domed roof
• The Jardim da Estrela – A peaceful park
• The Estrela district – A prosperous and calm district
• The Palácio da Assembleia da República - The neo-classical Portuguese parliament building
• The Graca district – Bustling and characterful Portuguese district, a great area to experience normal Portuguese daily life.
• Miradouro da Graça – The best viewpoint of Lisbon but it is a steep walk up to the summit of the hill.
Related articles: Number 28 tram guide
An alternative to the tram ride is to visit the Campo Pequeno and North African inspired bullring. Campo Pequeno is another affluent district of Lisbon, with good shopping and a mixture of classical architecture.
For the second night, it is suggested to have a big night out in the Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre districts (the best nights are at the weekend). The night begins in the small bars of Bairro Alto and soon spills into the streets, which becomes one social gathering of all ages, diversities and nationalities. As the bars in Bairro Alto close, the partying moves downhill to the Pink Street, in Cais do Sodre district, where revellers can party until the sun rises. For live music check out Music Box on Pink Street.
The Parque das Nações is the ultra-modern side of Lisbon and was constructed for Expo 1998. Since Expo 98 the area has been transformed into the business and corporate centre for Portugal, and the district combines bold architecture with water-based exhibits and gardens.
The standout tourist attraction is the Oceanário de Lisboa, an impressive aquarium which is divided into four huge tanks that represent each of the four oceans. Other attractions of the Parque das Nações include:
• Torre Vasco da Gama, Lisbon’s tallest building
• A ride on the cable car
• The Vasco da Gama shopping centre
• The Ciência Viva, a science museum which is great for children
• The striking architecture of the Estação do Oriente
• The pleasant walk along the waterfront
Related articles: Parque das Nações guide.
The recommendation for the afternoon, is to take a gentle walk through the Parque Eduardo VII park and along the Avenida da Liberdade, to the Baixa district. This is an enjoyable route, as it is all downhill!
The Parque Eduardo VII is an ornamental park, and it’s a breath of fresh air from the crowds and chaos of Lisbon. The tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s most stylish shopping street, filled with boutique shops and exclusive restaurants.
At the southern end of the Avenida da Liberdade is the Praca dos Restauradores, a grand plaza with a towering obelisk and a beautiful art-deco theatre. For those still with energy, could extend the trip by visiting the Principe Real, one of Lisbon’s most affluent districts.
An alternative afternoon activity is to visit the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. This museum houses one of the finest private art collections, and is an ecliptic mix of ancient artefacts (Egyptian, Persian, Asian) and classic European art (Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck).
There is a secondary museum, the Coleção Moderna, which displays an extensive selection of Portuguese modern art, while the whole complex is surrounded by peaceful, shaded gardens. For more information, please see: https://gulbenkian.pt/museu/en/
The district of Alcântara is rapidly being transformed into one of the most stylish areas of Lisbon, and contains the Santo Amaro Docks and the LxFactory. The Santo Amaro Docks lie in the shadow of the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge and these former warehouses have been converted into stylish bars and chic restaurants.
Close by is the LxFactory, a centre for Lisbon’s artisan scene, and contains hip restaurants, alternative shopping and trendy bars.
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