The Best Guide to Lisbon

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Lisbon in Three Days - A Suggested Itinerary and Tour

Lisbon is an outstanding destination for a city break and three days is the ideal length of time to fully discover the city. This guide has been written to provide a suggested itinerary for three days, but a holiday to Lisbon could be easily extended to a week to include all of the enjoyable day trips or beaches that surround Lisbon.

Praca Comercio in Baixa

The magnificent Praça do Comércio, the heart of Lisbon

Overview of a suggested 3-day Itinerary in Lisbon

The following is a brief overview of our suggested 3-day tour:
• Day 1 Morning – Alfama and Baixa districts
• Day 1 Afternoon – Chiado, Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre districts
• Day 1 Evening – Baixa and Fado
• Day 2 Most 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 – Santo Amaro Docks

Note: Many tourists replace the third day for a day trip to Sintra. This is a good alternative if you are short on time, but the Sintra day trip is not discussed in this article, for a guide to Sintra, please click here.

For this suggested itinerary there is no need for a rental car, as there is excellent public transport in Lisbon.

The following section explains in detail each of the suggested days and provides links to further in-depth information.



Lisbon 3-Day Itinerary
Day 1 Morning - Alfama and Baixa

For the first part of the day, 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.

Lisbon alfama

Alfama is a maze steps and small streets

Baixa 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 wide avenues, magnificent plazas, and is lined with grand Pombaline styled buildings, which, more importantly, incorporate one of the earliest forms of earthquake poof architecture. For a full guide to Baixa please see this guide. Major sights include:
• Praça do Comércio, the historic commercial centre and Lisbon’s grandest plaza
• 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, an industrial age marvel, which transports visitors up a steep hill
• A glass of Ginjia, a sweet cherry liqueur from the traditional home of the drink

Rua Augusta lisbon

The pedestrianised Rua Augusta in Baixa

Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and the complete opposite to Baixa’s grandeur and uniformity. Alfama is a maze of cobbled streets and alleyways, which lead from the river up 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, Lisbon castle that stands high above the city
• The Se Cathedral, with its Neo-Gothic towers and massive fortifications
• Saint Anthony's Church, constructed on the birthplace of Lisbon's patron saint
• The maze of narrow streets that criss-cross Alfama, and are a joy to get lost in
• The number 28 tram which rattles and screeches through the district (a ride is suggested for the second day)
• The Portas do Sol viewpoint, with its fantastic views across Alfama and the Tejo Estuary.
For a full guide to Alfama please see this article.

Se Cathedral Alfama district

The imposing Se Cathedral is in Alfama

Day 1 Afternoon - Cais do Sodre, Chiado and Bairro Alto districts

For the second part of the day, it’s suggested to explore 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, the old Ribeira market, and is a highly recommended location for lunch.

Praça Luís de Camões Chiado

The Praça Luís de Camões with a sataue of the poet in the centre of the square

Cais do Sodre was recently a red-light district, but it has been rejuvenated into a trendy nightlife district, which still retains its rough 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), this provides fantastic riverside views of Lisbon and the suspension bridge.

Chiado 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’ finest poet Luís de Camões.

Elevador da Gloria

Elevador da Gloria

Bairro Alto is the nightlife hub of Lisbon, by day it may appear a little shabby, but by night it come alive with small bars and the sound of Fado music wafting out of the live music venues. For a guide to Chiado and Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre. Highlights of the afternoon include:
• The Ribeira das Naus, Lisbon’s new and trendy shoreline
• The vast choice of gourmet foods at sensible prices in the Timeout market
• The ruins of the Igreja do Carmo, the lasting monument to the 1755 earthquake
• A coffee and a slice of history at the Cafe Brasileira
• Praça da Alegria viewpoint with its brilliant 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



Day 1 - Evening - Baixa and Fado

For the first evening, dine out at one of Baixa’s excellent open-air restaurants and then attend a performance of Fado. Fado is the haunting style of music, inspired by the sorrow of the sailor’s wives who lived in Alfama, and comprises of a lone female singer accompanied by classical guitar – Fado is an emotional and moving style of music.

lisbon party sagres beer

A glass of Sagres beer is a great way to start a night

Day 2 Morning (and most of the day) - The Belem District

For the second day, it is suggested to visit the Belem district (which will be the majority of the day) and then later ride the number 28 tram. The tram ride provides a leisurely tour of Lisbon and access to some of the lesser visited areas of Lisbon. Belem is the picturesque district to the west of Lisbon, which lines the banks of the Tejo Estuary. Belem has a close association 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 major shipyards and harbours, where many of the voyages of discovery departed from. Later on, the gold and wealth that flowed into Portugal from the newly discovered colonies funded the construction of the magnificent Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.

 Belem fort tower

The Torre de Belem

This glorious history is commemorated by the imposing Padrao dos Descobrimentos monument, and from the viewing platform are stunning views over Belem and the Tejo Estuary. Further along is the Torre de Belem, a charming little fort that guarded Lisbon against seaward attack. The Belem Cultural Centre was constructed to house the 1992 European Union Presidency, and is now home to the Berardo Museum, the best free art gallery in Lisbon.There is a lot to see and do in Belem and for an article about Belem, please click here.

Belem lisbon

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belem

Insider tip: For this day is suggested to get the 24-hour unlimited public transport ticket, so you can hop-on hop-off the trams (tram 15 to Belem and tram 28) as many times as you like.



Day 2 Afternoon – The number 28 tram ride and tour of Lisbon.

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 previous day) include:
• The Basílica da Estrela – A grand basilica with an impressive domed roof and elaborate nativity scene created from cork.
• The Jardim da Estrela – A peaceful park loved by Portuguese families.
• The Estrela district – A prosperous and calm district.
• The Palácio da Assembleia da República - The neoclassical Portuguese parliament building
• The Graca district – Bustling and characteristically Portuguese district, with lots of family-run shops and a great area to immerse into typical Portuguese daily life.
• Miradouro da Graça – The best viewpoints of Lisbon but it is a steep walk up to the summit of the hill.

For a full guide to the number 28 tram, please see this article.

Estrela Basilica

The Estrela Basilica

Aa 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.

Evening of Day 2 – Big night out to Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre

For the second night, it is suggested to have a big night out in the Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre districts. At the weekend the night begins in the small bars of Bairro Alto and soon spills into the streets, which become one giant gathering of all ages, diversities and nationalities. As the bars in Bairro Alto close the partying moves to Cais do Sodre and the Pink Street, where revellers can drink until the sunrises. For live music check out Music Box on Pink Street.

lisbon nightlife

The small bars of Bairro Alto spill out onto the streets

Lisbon Day 3 - Morning Parque das Nações

The third day is divided between the ultra-modern Parque das Nações, and the area around the Parque Eduardo VII and the Avenida da Liberdade. This day will discover both the modern and chic sides of Lisbon.

The Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations, or Expo Park) was an extensive regeneration project to transform a large, derelict area of Lisbon into the showground for Expo 1998. The theme of the Expo 98 was the ocean, and the entire area combines futuristic design with water-based exhibits and features. Parque das Nacoes  Lisbon

The Parque das Nações in eastern Lisbon

Parque das Nações contains the outstanding Lisbon aquarium (Oceanarium), a favourite with children, which is divided into four huge tanks representing the four oceans. Other attractions are the cable car, a large shopping centre, and the Torre Vasco da Gama, Lisbon’s tallest building. For a guide to Parque das Nações please click here. Lisbon Oceanarium Lisbon

The Lisbon Oceanarium in The Parque das Nações

Day 3 Afternoon - Parque Eduardo VII and Avenida da Liberdade or the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

The recommendation for afternoon, is to take a gentle walk through the Parque Eduardo VII park and along the Avenida da Liberdade, to the Baixa district. The Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s most stylish shopping street, and boutique shops neighbour exclusive restaurants along the pleasant tree-lined avenue.

Praca Marques Pombal

Looking down to the Praça Marques Pombal in Lisbon

The Parque Eduardo VII is an ornamental park, and is a breath of fresh air from crowded and chaotic Lisbon. At the intersection of the park and Avenida da Liberdade is an impressive statue dedicated to the Marquis of Pombal (the person responsible for the rebuilding of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake). Overlooking the northern side of the park, is El Corte Inglés, Lisbon’s largest department store. In Baixa, the Avenida da Liberdade opens into the Praca dos Restauradores, a grand plaza with a large obelisk and a beautiful art deco theatre. The route from the Parque Eduardo to Baixa is an enjoyable walk as it is all downhill.

Avenida Liberdade lisbon

The tree lined Avenida Liberdade

An alternative suggestion is to visit the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon’s finest museum. The museum houses, what is considered as one of the greatest private 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. An afternoon could be easily spent here, and for more information please see:

Day 3 - Evening – Santo Amaro Docks

The former dock warehouses have been converted into stylish bars and chic restaurants that stand in the shadow of the golden suspension bridge. The Santo Amaro Docks area is calm and stylish by day, but at night becomes a haven for partying.


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The Best Guide to Lisbon