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Lisbon is without a doubt one of the prettiest cities in Europe. It also happens to be one of the most affordable European cities to visit, so it’s a great spot for a quick city break that won’t break the bank.
Numerous low cost airlines fly to Lisbon within Europe and you can often find some great flight deals to Lisbon from the US too.
If you’re thinking about spending a long weekend there, I’ve put together an itinerary for 3 days in Lisbon that includes all the major sights, plus the magical land of Sintra and the lovely beaches of Estoril.
A Quick Intro to Lisbon
- Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and one of the oldest cities in Europe – it actually predates Rome!
- The city is located on the northern banks of the River Tagus, which is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula.
- Much of Lisbon was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755.
- The city is very hilly and is famous for its trams and elevators.
- Lisbon has lots of different neighborhoods to explore, including Baixa and Chiado, Alfama, Barrio Alto, and Belèm.
- Today Lisbon is a popular European tech hub and has a thriving startup scene.
Should You Get the Lisbon Card?
Before getting into this 3 day Lisbon itinerary, it’s worth mentioning that there is a Lisboa Card, which comes with free public transportation and free entry to lots of Lisbon’s top attractions.
For adults 16+ the Lisboa Card costs $21.95 for 24 hours, $37.32 for 48 hours and $46.11 for 72 hours.
- Free admission to 26 attractions, including Torre de Belem, Jeronimos Monastery and Santa Justa Elevator.
- Free unlimited travel by public transport, including buses, elevators, funiculars, metro and trams.
- Free travel on CP train lines to Sintra and Cascais.
- Deals and discounts on tours, shopping and nightlife.
I don’t always recommend getting city cards but the Lisboa Card is affordable and worth the money since it includes lots of attractions as well as trains and public transportation.
Lisbon Itinerary, 3 Days
Day 1: Sightseeing in Lisbon
Your first day of your 3 days in Lisbon will be spent exploring Baixa and Alfama Neighborhoods, followed by drinks in Barrio Alto in the evening. Here’s a map of your walking route from Rossio Square to Santa Justa Lift and Praca do Comercio:
Start your Lisbon itinerary by enjoying a coffee and some breakfast in Rossio Square (officially Dom Pedro IV Square), which is one of the city’s main squares and a popular meeting place.
There’s a 27 meter-tall monument to King Pedro IV in the center, plus two baroque fountains on either side. The floor of the square is decorated with tiles in a wave pattern and this pattern has actually been replicated throughout Portugal, Rio de Janeiro and Macau.
Santa Justa Lift
From Rossio Square walk to the Santa Just Lift (Elevador de Santa Justa).
This beautiful wrought-iron elevator was built in the 19th century to transport passengers from the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo. If you take the elevator up you’ll reach the viewing platform, which offers some of the best views of Lisbon.
Santa Justa Lift is open from 7.30am to 11pm daily and usually departs about every 10 minutes. A return ticket costs €5.30, which includes entrance to the viewing platform. The lift is considered part of the Lisbon public transport network, so you can also use your 24-hour public transport ticket if you’ve purchased one.
Sometimes during peak season there can be long lines for the elevator so I’d suggest going either early or late to avoid the queues in the middle of the day.
Praça do Comércio
Next head to Rua Augusta, which is Lisbon’s famous shopping street where you can find shops like Bershka and H&M. Keep walking all the way down towards the waterfront until you get to Praça do Comércio. This impressive plaza overlooks the Tagus River and is one of the highlights of the city.
The plaza actually stands on the site of a former palace, Ribiera Palace, which was destroyed in the earthquake of1755. Up until then, the palace was the main residence of Portuguese kings for about 250 years.
King José I ordered a commercial square to be built in its place and in the center of the square lies a statue of the king himself, mounted on his horse, Gentil. The plaza is lined with distinctive Pombaline style yellow buildings and there are numerous restaurants where tourists and locals can dine outside.
For the best views of the square, pay the €2.50 entrance fee to access the terrace of the triumphal arch, Arco da Rua Augusta.
Lisbon is known for its historic yellow trams and you’ll often see them in photos of Lisbon. They’re still in use and are part of the Lisbon public transport network, so you should definitely take a ride on one!
The most popular tram is Tram 28. The tram follows a scenic route from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique, passing through districts such as Baixa and Alfama.
Board the tram at the Rua Conceição or Rua Augusta stop and get off in Alfama at the Portas Sol stop. The tram can get very crowded and you’ll probably find yourself standing, so hold on tight! Be wary of pickpockets and try to purchase a 24-hour public transportation ticket at one of the metro stations to save you the hassle of buying a ticket on the tram.
Once you get off at Portas Sol, take a walk around Alfama. The Miradouro das Portas do Sol viewpoint has a large open terrace and is the most popular viewpoint in Lisbon.
Just a short walk away you’ll find the Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint, which is located in front of the church of Santa Luzia and has a much prettier terrace. When I visited there were artists selling art work and playing music. Here you can soak up the panoramic views across Lisbon’s terracotta rooftops and out to the Tagus River.
There’s also a cafe on the terrace, so you can grab some refreshments before climbing up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge.
Castelo de Sao Jorge
Located on the city’s highest hill is Castelo de Sao Jorge, which is a fortification that dates back to around 1st century BC and was expanded upon by the Moors in the 10th and 11th centuries. In 1147, both the city and the castle were captured by the Portuguese in the Siege of Lisbon. Since then it has served as a number of things, including a royal palace, a military barracks, and now a tourist attraction.
The castle was destroyed in a major earthquake in 1755 but was eventually declared a National Monument in 1910 and underwent major restoration work to transform it.
On your visit to the castle you can visit the museum to learn more about its history and snap photos of Lisbon’s city center from above. The views are stunning and it’s really worth the visit.
Evening in Barrio Alto
Barrio Alto is known for its nightlife filled with bars and restaurants. In the summer months people spill out of the bars and onto the streets, drinking mojitos or caipirinhas in plastic cups.
There are numerous Fado houses here offering traditional Portuguese food and nightly Fado shows. If you’ve never heard of Fado, it’s a genre of music that has a melancholy tone and originates from Lisbon. The performance usually involves a singer and a person playing the Portuguese guitar, which has a unique pear shape.
You could start your night with dinner and a Fado show, then spend your night bar hopping around the bars.
Popular places to eat in Barrio Alto:
- Versículo d’O Faia
- A Nossa Casa
- Taberna do Bairro alto
- Sabores na Travessa
- Tapa Bucho
- As Salgadeiras
Bars to visit:
- The Old Pharmacy
- Maria Caxuxa
- Tasca do Chico
- Portas Largas
Day 2: Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is like a real life Disney kingdom; a magical land of palaces, castles, gardens and extravagant villas. Located in the Sintra Mountains, this UNESCO world heritage site is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Portugal and should definitely be included on your 3 day Lisbon itinerary.
Highlights of Sintra include the Pena National Palace, the Castle of the Moors and the Sintra National Palace.
Getting to Sintra
It’s super easy to get to Sintra. The train from Rossio train station in Lisbon costs €2.25 one way or €4.50 round trip. Very cheap! If you have the Lisboa card then the train to Sintra is included. Trains depart every 30 minutes and the journey time takes roughly 40 minutes.
Once you get to Sintra, most people follow this route:
- Palacio Nacional
- Historic center of Sintra and lunch
- Castelo dos Mouros
- Palacio Nacional da Pena (buy tickets online here)
You can get around Sintra by taking the #434 tourist bus, which departs from Sintra train station to the historic center, then climbs up the hill to the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle.
Of course, if you don’t want to do it yourself then your other option is to take an organized, day trip. Here’s a selection of tours from GetYourGuide.
- Lisbon: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip
- From Lisbon: Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais Full-Day Tour
- From Lisbon: Sintra Highlights Full-Day Tour
- From Lisbon: Sintra and Cascais Full-Day Tour
If you don’t want to book a tour, you can at least avoid the ticket queues by booking your entrance tickets online before you go.
In the summer months Sintra can get very crowded, so try to depart as early as possible for your day trip. The main attractions to see in Sintra include:
Palacio Nacional de Sintra
Your first stop will be the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, which is located in the center of Sintra. This medieval royal residence was inhabited by Portugal’s rulers from the 15th century to the 19th century and features a minimalistic gothic exterior. Due to its location, it is often referred to as the Town Palace. You can instantly recognize it by the cone shaped chimneys that protrude from the top.
Castelo dos Mouros
Set in a strategic position up high on a hill, the Castle of the Moors is a castle that was built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries, founded under Islamic rule. Excavations of the castle have revealed the existence of a mosque as well as some muslim houses.
However, the castle fell under Christian rule in the 12th century when Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, captured it in 1147. It was occupied until the mid 15th century but was gradually abandoned over the years, falling into disrepair. However, in the mid 19th century King Ferdinand II began a restoration project in keeping with the Romantic style of that time.
From the castle you can see stunning views over the town, the Pena Palace, the green hills of Sintra and the ocean.
Palacio de Pina
Places to Eat in Sintra
There are lots of cafes and restaurants in the historic center of Sintra, including:
- Fatto a Sintra
- Romaria de Baco
- Villa 6
- Cantinho Gourmet
- Bacalhau na Vila
Day 3: Sightseeing and Estoril
When discussing Portugal beaches most people automatically think of the Algarve. Yet Lisbon also has beaches, you just need to head a little further along the coastline. If you’re visiting during the summer months when it’s warm, I’d suggest taking the train to Estoril, which is a town on the Portuguese Riviera.
Before that I’d spend the morning visiting Belem, which is on the way. Belem is one of the most beautiful districts of Lisbon, located about 5km west of downtown. The best way to get to Belem is by taking the E15 tram, which departs from Praça da Figueira and makes a stop at Praça do Comércio. If you purchase a single ticket on the tram it costs €3, or you can use your Lisboa Card or the 24-hour unlimited transportation ticket, which can be purchased at the metro stations.
Situated along the banks of the Tejo Estuary, Belem was once home to Lisbon’s shipyards and docks, and was a main departure point for Portuguese explorers. This district has a laid-back vibe, with lots of greenery and parks. Sights you should see while you’re there include:
The most notable sight in Belem is Belém Tower, which is a 16th century fort that was used to defend the city and served as an entry/exit point for Portuguese explorers. Built during the Portuguese Renaissance, the tower was built from lioz limestone and consists of a bastion and a four-storey tower. It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Entry to the tower costs €6 or is free with the Lisboa card and opening hours are usually from 10am to 5.30pm or 6.30pm depending on the time of year.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Construction of this Manueline-style monastery began in 1501 and took 100 years to build. The initial design was created by Frenchman Boytac and his work was continued by other notable architects, including João de Castilho and Diogo de Torralva. After the Portuguese arrived in India, the construction was largely funded with money from trade with the East.
The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most visited attractions in Portugal. Highlights include the Church of Santa Maria, which has a single nave held up by six beautifully sculpted columns, and the cloisters, which are beautifully decorated.
Padrao dos Descobrimentos
Padrao dos Descobrimentos is a monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery (or “Age of Exploration”) during the 15th and 16th centuries.This 52-meter-high concrete slab is designed in the form of the prow of a caravel ship and features ramps on either side.
Standing along the ramps are 16 figures (33 in total) representing important people from the Portuguese Age of Discovery, including monarchs, missionaries, artists, scientists and explorers.
Pasteis de Belem
Portugal is well known for its pasteis de nata – egg custard tarts with a flaky pastry casing and a caramelized top. Pasteis de Belem is a pastry shop in Belem that’s been making its famous egg custard tarts from a secret recipe since 1837. Stop by the shop to try one for yourself and enjoy a cup of coffee before departing for the beach.
This resort town west of Lisbon is home to a nice sandy beach called Praia do Tamariz, which is situated close to the Estoril train station. In summer this beach is jam packed with locals and tourists since it is very easy to get to. The beach has plenty of facilities, including beach cafes, bars and shops.
Between Lisbon and Cascais there are also lots of other beaches dotted along the coastline, so you don’t have to stick with just one. There’s Praia da Rainha, Praia da Ribeira, Praia do Guincho, Praia da Carcavelos and Praia de São Pedro, to name just a few.
There’a train that runs from Cais do Sodré train station in Lisbon along the coastline to Estoril. You can board the Cascais line in Belem and the journey time takes roughly 30 minutes. Easy peasy!
Time Out Market, Lisbon
When you arrive back in Lisbon, head to Time Out Market for some dinner! The market is located not far from the Cais do Sodré train station and is open till midnight.
Here you’ll find lots of restaurant stalls under one roof and it’s a great place to try some of Portugal’s famous foods. Some of the stalls are run by top Portuguese chefs, including Michelin-starred chefs Alexandre Silva and Henrique Sá Pessoa.
Some popular stalls to try include:
- Croqueteria – specializes in breaded and fried croquettes.
- Cozinha da Felicidade – known for its octopus stew.
That completes your Lisbon itinerary!
Getting to Lisbon
Lisbon’s airport is called Humberto Delgado Airport. It is located 7km northeast of the city.
When booking flights, my go-to search engine is now Google Flights. I also cross reference prices with sites like Skyscanner and Kayak but Google Flights is usually the best. I’m also signed up to Scott’s Cheap Flights, which is an email service that sends you airfare deals.
Lots of airlines fly to Lisbon, including low cost airlines. TAP Air Portugal is the country’s national airline and you can often find some decent deals to Lisbon from both London and New York.
Flying from the US you’ll have a choice of airlines such as Delta, United, American Airlines and TAP Air Portugal. Most flights from the US are overnight flights, so you’ll land early in the morning ready to kick-off your Lisbon itinerary.
If you’re coming from the UK you have a wide selection of airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Iberia and TAP Air Portugal.
How to Get Around on Your 3 Days in Lisbon
During your 3 days in Lisbon you can mainly get around on foot or by taking public transportation. Just remember the city is very hilly, so definitely skip the heels and wear sneakers or comfy sandals.
The public transportation system is extensive, with a network of trams, buses, metro lines and ferries. Definitely don’t rent a car as you’ll have to deal with parking and heavy traffic.
Tip: If you choose to travel by public transport then it’s best to get a 24-hour ticket which includes unlimited travel on the metro, the trams and the buses. A ticket costs 6.40 euros and can be purchased at one of the metro stations.
Metro – Metro stations have an ‘M’ sign outside and there are four color coded lines. Services run from 6.30am to 1am and tickets can be purchased at the station with card or cash. There are two fare zones but all of the tourist attractions fall within zone 1. A single fare costs €1.50 but it’s better to get the 24 hour pass that includes all public transportation.
Trams – Lisbon has five different tram routes and some of the vintage trams (particularly Tram 28) have become tourist attractions.
The trams can get crowded, particularly in summer, so they’re often standing room only. Stops are marked by a yellow paragem sign and fares cost €3 if you buy a ticket onboard. Better to buy the 24-hour pass, which includes the tram.
Taxis – Since the metro stops at 1am you’ll probably end up taking a taxi after a night out. Uber also operates in the city and fares are usually under €10.
Where to Stay on Your 3 Days in Lisbon
Boutique Hotels for 3 Days in Lisbon
AlmaLusa Baixa/Chiado – AlmaLusa is a stylish hotel with 28 rooms and suites, located in one of Lisbon’s main squares, Praça do Município. A winner of multiple awards, the hotel features local and national brands throughout and has its own restaurant – Delfina – which serves Portuguese cuisine.
NH Collection Lisboa Liberdade – Located on Lisbon’s main avenue, the Avenida da Liberdade, NH Collection Lisboa is just a short walk from all the main sights and attractions. All rooms have Nespresso machines and free WiFi, while some of the rooms have views of St Jorge’s castle and the Tagus River.
LX Boutique Hotel – LX Boutique Hotel has a blue theme throughout, with a baby blue facade and shades of blue running throughout the corridors and rooms. The hotel boasts a central location, just a short walk from the Time Out Market, the Chiado Contemporary Art Museum and the oldest book store in Portugal, the Bertrand.
The Late Birds Lisbon -Housed in a restored, late-18th century building, The Late Birds is a gay urban resort with lounge, garden and UV-treated swimming pool. Rooms feature Portuguese mattresses, floor to ceiling windows and Riga hardwood floors.
Lisbon Wine Hotel – If you’re a wine lover you may want to try Lisbon Wine Hotel, which features decor inspired by the colors of wine. The hotel offers 19 rooms with City View or Garden View, plus daily breakfast so you can start your day off right.
Hostels for 3 Days in Lisbon
There are tons of amazing boutique hostels in Lisbon! Too many to list here. The quality of hostels in Lisbon is second-to-none and many of them are like hotels, but with dorms. Here’s a selection you can book on Hostelworld:
Living Lounge Hostel – Located close to the Baixa-Chiado metro station in the heart of Lisbon, this boutique hostel has a welcoming living area where you can chat with fellow travelers. Rooms at this hostel are decorated with artwork from local artists and the hostel organizes various free tours including nightlife tours and daytime walking tours.
Yes! Lisbon Hostel – This award-winning hostel has a lively social scene, with nightly dinners, an in-house bar and free shots every night. If you’re traveling solo you’ll easily meet people since the hostel runs a variety of tours and pub crawls.
Home Lisbon Hostel – Housed in a 200-year-old building, Home Lisbon Hostel features a comfortable living room, a dining room with a bar, a kitchen, a patio and spacious rooms with balconies or large windows. The hostel is known for its nightly “Mamma’s Dinners”.
Best Time to Visit Lisbon
The best time to visit Lisbon is really anywhere between March to October.
The months of June, July and August are the busiest and the weather is usually hot, sunny and reliable. However, with more crowds come higher hotel prices, so you may want to visit in spring (March/April) or autumn (September/October).
Winter is much quieter but the weather is much milder than in other parts of Europe.
Your FAQs About Lisbon, Answered
How many days do you need to see Lisbon?
Lisbon has several neighborhoods and lots of things to do so ideally you need at least 3 days in Lisbon or even up to 5 days to really explore the city properly. Of course, if you have time constraints you could see the city in 2 days but 3-5 is ideal.
Is it worth visiting Lisbon?
Yes, Lisbon is definitely worth visiting. The city is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with picturesque views, historic trams and delicious food. It’s a very lively and colorful city with lots of things to do. Plus, it’s one of the best budget destinations in Europe!
Which is nicer, Porto or Lisbon?
Lisbon and Porto are quite different. Lisbon is much larger than Porto since it’s the capital city. However, Porto has a more relaxed vibe because it’s smaller. Ideally, if you have the time I’d spend a week or two in Portugal and visit both cities, along with the Algarve.
Is Madrid or Lisbon better?
I’ve been to both cities and I prefer Lisbon to Madrid. Lisbon is situated along the coast so you can relax on the beaches as well as visiting the city’s tourist attractions. Madrid is landlocked and much flatter. Lisbon is hilly, so you have lots of incredible views.
Madrid has the edge over Lisbon when it comes to nightlife but in general I prefer Lisbon as it has more varied sights to see.
What is Lisbon known for?
Lisbon is known for its tiled pavements, historic trams and colorful buildings. In terms of attractions, the city’s most famous sights include Praça do Comércio, Santa Justa Lift, Castelo de São Jorge and Belem Tower.
Is Lisbon safe for tourists?
Yes Lisbon is safe for tourists and I have traveled solo there, twice. As with any European city, you should exercise caution when it comes to belongings. Beware of pickpockets on trams and public transportation. I recommend traveling with a sling bag so you can keep your belongings close to your chest.
Does Lisbon have a beach?
Yes, Lisbon has beaches! While there aren’t any beaches in the downtown area, there are a string of beaches along the coastline which are accessible by train from Cais do Sodré train station. Popular beaches include Praia de Carcavelos, Praia do Tamariz, Praia da Ribeira and Praia de São Pedro do Estoril.
What food is Lisbon famous for?
There are a few Portuguese foods you simply must try on your trip to Lisbon. These include:
- Chicken Piri Piri – Chicken marinated in a spicy sauce made with fresh chilis.
- Pastéis de Nata – Egg custard tarts.
- Bifana – sautéed, marinated pork inside a crispy bread roll.
- Bacalhau – Dried salted codfish.
Is Lisbon expensive?
Lisbon is one of the most affordable cities to visit in Western Europe. As it becomes more popular it is getting more expensive but it is still relatively affordable. Accommodation and flights will take up most of your budget. If you purchase the Lisboa card then that includes entry to many attractions plus free public transportation. A beer should cost around xxx while a typical meal will cost around xxx.
A Final Word About This Lisbon Itinerary
Lisbon is such a beautiful city that’s steeped in history. If you haven’t visited before, you should definitely put it high on your list! With 3 days in Lisbon you can see a lot of what the city has to offer and fit in a day trip to Sintra too.
Portugal is one of my favorite countries in the world so I would definitely stick around to see the rest of the country too. The country has gorgeous beaches, amazing surf, beautiful architecture and delicious seafood (with massive portions). Consider spending a week or even two weeks in Portugal to see Lisbon, Porto and The Algarve.
I hope you enjoy this Lisbon itinerary!