Lisbon in 3 Days – What to Do and See and Where to Eat

Three days in Lisbon allow you to explore the main sightseeing neighbourhoods at a leisurely pace, and then head off to the enchanted Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the seaside resort of Cascais. This is the perfect way to spend three full days in Lisbon.

Bear in mind that the first two days are the same as our Lisbon in 2 Days Itinerary. These two days cover Lisbon’s most popular attractions in the old Lisbon (the historic neighbourhoods of Alfama, Baixa, Chiado and Bairro Alto), as well as on the riverside – on the trail of the Portuguese explorers in Belém and the modern Lisbon in Parque das Nações.

The itinerary includes dinner at a fado restaurant on the first day. The third day covers Sintra and Cascais, a must-do day trip from Lisbon.

Day 1 in Lisbon

On the first day, you’ll ride on the scenic tram 28, visit the medieval castle and stroll the medieval streets of Alfama. You’ll spend the afternoon sightseeing in the Baixa and Chiado neighbourhoods. The day will end at a fado restaurant.

Morning

Tram 28 starting point

Go to the Martim Moniz Square early in the morning to guarantee a place on tram 28 (or 28E where “E” stands for “Eléctrico”, the Portuguese word for tram). The tram will take you on a ride covering some of the most scenic corners of Lisbon. To save money, use your Viva Viagem card.

The queues for tram 28 can be long if you don’t arrive early – even off season you may have to wait 20 minutes or more to get into the tram. An alternative is the shorter ride on tram 12 (or 12E) from Praça da Figueira, which makes a circular route from Praça da Figueira, past Martim Moniz, and climbs the castle quarter.

If you take tram 28, you’ll cross the historic centre towards Basílica da Estrela where you can visit the church built in the Neoclassical and Baroque styles. Climb its dome for a panoramic sweep of the city (admission €4, open 9.30am-12pm and 2pm-6.30pm).

Whether returning on tram 28 or going on tram 12, hop off either at Largo das Portas do Sol or the nearby Miradouro de Santa Luzia, considered one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Lisbon. Admire the panoramic views and the blue-and-white azulejos (tile panels), depicting the Terreiro do Paço (which you’ll visit in the afternoon) before the great earthquake of 1755.

View of the castle

Head to the ramparts of Castelo de São Jorge to explore the medieval castle, which is Lisbon’s most important tourist site.

After visiting the castle and admiring the views over Lisbon’s red rooftops and the River Tejo, stroll the castle quarter and get lost on the narrow and maze-like streets of Alfama.

Lunch in Alfama or Baixa
There’s a somewhat limited selection of places to eat in Alfama, and an endless selection if you walk down to Baixa, where you’ll be spending part of the afternoon. Here are some picks:

  • Chapitô à Mesa: Fairly close to the castle, it offers food as well as views. See other Rooftop Restaurants and Bars in Lisbon.
  • Café-Restaurante Martinho da Arcada Marquês (Praça do Comércio 3 – Terreiro do Paço): the oldest café in Lisbon serves traditional Portuguese food. You can sit beneath the old arches or inside.
  • Restaurante Solar dos Bicos (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, 8A-8B): it offers Portuguese food that can be sampled in the outside seating area.

Afternoon

Terreiro do Paço

Terreiro do Paço

After lunch, stroll on the riverside Terreiro do Paço and see the Portuguese calçada (sidewalk pavement) from the top of Arco da Rua Augusta.

Do some shopping on Rua Augusta, Baixa’s main commercial street, and visit its two main squares – Rossio and Praça da Figueira. Don’t miss the century-old Confeitaria Nacional at Praça da Figueira that sells several pastries and sweets, including Lisbon’s most famous Bolo Rei (King Cake) eaten especially during Christmas.

Make a quick detour to toast with cherry liqueur at Ginjinha do Largo de São Domingos, opposite the church which has a surprising interior.

Elevador de Santa Justa

Admire the wrought-iron tower known as Elevador de Santa Justa. There is usually a long queue to go up the lift. Some people think it’s not worth the wait: the journey is very short, and you may get a similar view by walking up to the Convento do Carmo. On your way there, window shop on Rua do Carmo and Rua Garrett where you can still find century-old establishments.

If the timing works out, you may want to squeeze in a visit to the Igreja de São Roque, a church with an austere Renaissance façade that hides a surprising and exuberant interior of gold, marble and azulejos (hand-painted tile panels).

Ascensor da Glória

Ascensor da Glória

Just north of the Church of São Roque, find Ascensor da Glória, one of the three funiculars still in operation in Lisbon. Next to it, you’re treated to a stunning panorama of the castle and the Baixa district from the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.

Evening

Head to the Bairro Alto neighbourhood, known for its lively nightlife and for being an important fado stronghold. Just wander the tangle of cobblestone streets before finding one fado restaurant. If you prefer, go back to Alfama, where the song is said to be born, for a memorable night out of fado.

If fado is not you for you, check out these alternative picks:

Day 2 in Lisbon

You’ll spend the day between the riverside districts of Belém and Parque das Nações, visiting some of Lisbon’s top attractions, such as the Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery and the Oceanarium.

Morning

Drawbridge at the Tower of Belém

Drawbridge at Belém Tower

Be up early so that you can beat the crowds. Take tram 15 to reach Belém. You may want to visit the Belém Tower first, since the queues tend to be longer here. You’ll visit the amazing monastery afterwards. Buying a combined ticket gives you access to these two monuments plus the Archeology Museum.

For this second day, you may want to see Lisbon’s riverside attractions from the comfort of a hop on hop off bus tour. You can hop on and off as many times as you wish for 24 hours, giving you a chance to explore these areas in more detail.

Head to the river front and admire the caravel-shaped Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) on the natural route along the waterfront to the peculiar Belém Tower, which opens at 10am (save time in the often long lines by booking your entry ahead). Be rewarded by a fine panorama of the waterfront and the river from the tower’s top terrace.

By 11am, you should be ready to get back and visit the UNESCO-listed Jerónimos Monastery. You’ll have time to visit the Church of Santa Maria and the Cloister, and possibly the Archeology Museum in a wing of the monastery.

After an hour or so, head for Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB), Lisbon’s most important cultural centre, to admire the building and, if time allows, to visit some exhibition.

Belém is also famous for the pastel de nata at Pastéis de Belém, so don’t forget to enjoy one in between the sights, or after lunch as a dessert.

Lunch in Belém
There’s a selection of places to eat close to Pastéis de Belém.

Afternoon

Parque das Nações

After lunch, catch tram 15 back to Terreiro do Paço where you can take the metro (blue line) to spend the afternoon at Parque das Nações.

The Expo 98 was responsible for converting an ugly industrial area into the futuristic Parque das Nações, a neigbourhood of ocean-themed buildings.

If you took the metro, you’ll get off at the vaulted structure known as Gare do Oriente (Oriente Station), designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Take a look around the nearby Vasco da Gama Shopping Centre which has some top-floor eateries and a terrace, or just head straight to the Oceanarium, an aquarium holding 5 million liters of sea water and a diversity of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. This is a place that will surprise you.

Teleferico

Teleférico

On your way to and from the Oceanarium, go under the impressive Pavilhão de Portugal’s roof by the Portuguese architect Siza Vieira. Be sure you stroll the walkway by the river around the sunset, and admire the views on board of the teleférico, a gondola lift that glides 30 metres above the Tejo’s edge.

Evening

The area of Chiado and Bairro Alto has the highest concentrations of places to eat in Lisbon. For some picks, check out the following pages:

Day 3 in Lisbon

Palácio da Pena

Take a full day trip to Sintra and Cascais, with possibly a stop for visiting Cabo da Roca, which is Portugal and continental Europe’s westernmost point, and Guincho, a stunning beach and also a surf and windsurf hotspot. We give details and full transport directions on our Planning a Day Trip to Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Guincho & Cascais page.