The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
5 days in Lisbon is the ideal duration to fully discover the capital and surrounding region. A 5 day holiday allows for Lisbon to be fully explored, which takes three days and provides two days as excursions to visit the interesting towns close to Lisbon.
Popular day trips from Lisbon include the charming town of Sintra, the historic fishing port of Cascais and the glorious beaches of Carcavelos and Costa da Caparica. This guide will detail what is feasible in 5 days of typical sightseeing and will provide links to further in-depth information. The 5 day suggested tour of Lisbon does not require a rental car as public transport is extensive, inexpensive and safe.
The magnificent Praça do Comércio in Baixa
Brief Overview of the Suggested Tour
Day 1 – Alfama and Baixa districts of Lisbon
Day 2 – Belem district of Lisbon
Day 3 – The Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) and north Lisbon
Day 4 – Day trip to Sintra
Day 5 – Day trip to Cascais
The first day is spent exploring the classic tourist sights of central Lisbon in the Baixa and Alfama districts. Baixa is the heart of Lisbon and was completely rebuilt after the devastating 1755 earthquake. The district is focused around magnificent plazas and grand avenues that boast the wealth and influence of 18th century Portugal.
The magnificent Rossio square in Baixa
Popular tourist sights of Baixa include:
• The Elevator of Saint Justa, an industrial age marvel and work of art.
• The Praça Rossio the heart of Lisbon with it’s open air restaurants and cafes.
• The stunning Praça do Comércio plaza that was the trading centre of Portugal.
• The Praça dos Restauradores with its obelisk, the pink Foz Palace and the art deco Eden theatre.
A pretty church in Alfama
Alfama is much an opposite from Baixa as possible. Alfama was once the home to the poor and undesirables of Lisbon and today the maze of narrow streets of ancient buildings has a crumpling charm unique to the district. Sights of Alfama include:
• Lisbon Castle, with the panoramic views over the Baixa district.
• The Se Cathedral and church of Saint Anthony.
• The Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint.
• A ride on the quaint yellow tram as it navigates the narrow streets.
• Listening to the haunting sound of Fado being sung from the small bars.
The pretty and colourful Alfama district
The first evening should be spent sampling traditional Portuguese food at the many fine restaurants that are situated close to the Rossio square. Lisbon is famous for its freshly caught seafood dishes.
The second day of the 5 day Lisbon tour is spent in the western side of Lisbon, primarily focused on the Belem district. Belem is a pretty district of parks and monuments that follows the banks of the River Tagus.
Belem is on the banks of the Tagus River
From the harbours that once lined the water’s edge departed the 14th century voyages of discovery, while the wealth of these expeditions and the subsequent trade with colonies funded the extravagant Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. Belem is reached by travelling on the number 15 tram.
The Lisbon suspension bridge close to the Belem District
Highlights of the district include:
• The highly ornate Jeronimos church and monastery.
• The Berardo Museum Lisbon’s finest art museum housed in the CCB the location for the 1992 European presidency.
• The imposing Discovery Monument.
• The charming Torre de Belem fort, which guarded the Tejo Estuary.
• The views over the estuary and the golden suspension bridge.
• Tasting a Pastel Nata, a custard tart cake from the Pasteis de Belem.
As a side excursion, the stunning Basilica da Estrela can be included in the second day.
The Torre de Belem
The evening should be spent in the Bairro Alto district with its many little funky underground bars and venues. Bairro Alto is best visited during weekends, when patrons overspill into the streets and there is a sociable party atmosphere.
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:
The third day of the 5 day Lisbon tour is spent at the ultra-modern side of Lisbon and then includes other sights around the city. The Park of Nations (Parque das Naçoes) was the venue for Expo 98 and has since then been transformed into a trendy and fashionable side of Lisbon
The ultra-modern Parque das Nações in Lisbon
The park has many outstanding attractions including the Lisbon Oceanarium, which is regarded as the best aquarium in Europe having 4 huge tanks that represent the four oceanic aquatic zones.
The cable car in the Parque das Nações
Running the length of the park is a cable car with views over the 15km long Vasco da Gama Bridge and Lisbon’s highest building of the same name. The park contain numerous water related features and is a great location for families while the long strip of restaurant, bars, clubs and casino will entertain older visitors!
A notable attraction to be visited after the park is the North African inspired Lisbon bull ring, the Campo Pequeno. Those visitors still with energy should take a stroll down the fashionable shopping street of Avenida da Liberdade.
The Campo Pequeno in Lisbon
The evening of the third day of the 5 day tour of Lisbon should be spent in the Park of Nations. The long strip of bars has many varied places to socialise, drink or have fun: think Karaoke, salsa dancing or relaxing with a beer. It is always busiest at the weekend but each club has its own specialist night during the week.
The fourth day is the first excursion from Lisbon and a visit to the pretty town of Sintra is suggested. Sintra is nestled within the hills of the Serra de Sintra and was a popular retreat of the Portuguese nobility. Contained within the town there are three palaces, a romantic ruin and an assortment of other 19th century stately houses.
The Pena Palace in Sintra
The stand out attraction is the flamboyant Pena Palace with its multi-coloured exterior and strange decorative features. The interior has been preserved as it was left in 1914, when the Portuguese court fled the country during the revolution. In the heart of Sintra is the gothic National Palace, while on the highest hill is the ruins of the Moorish castle. Sintra is connected to Lisbon by an inexpensive and regular train service which makes it an ideal and easy day trip from Lisbon. For a guide to a Sintra day trip is documented here.
The Moors castle high above Sintra
For the final day of the 5 day tour there is a choice: it can be spent on one of the excellent beaches that are close to Lisbon or exploring the historic fishing town of Cascais. Cascais was a historically a fishing harbour that found favour with the Portuguese nobility in the 19th century. Today the town contains this tradition by being charming and historic but it’s still the favourite residence of Lisbon’s rich and famous. Contained in Cascais there are many good free museums and stately houses that revolve around the pretty town centre and fishing harbour, please click here for a guide to Cascais.
The charming resort town of Cascais, only a short train ride from Lisbon
It surprises many visitors who learn that there are such good beaches so close to Lisbon. For a guide to Lisbon’s beaches please click here. The coastline between Lisbon and Cascais is served by an inexpensive railway and there are numerous good beaches ideal for visitors who wish for some sun before returning home.
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