Lisbon is the capital, the biggest city, and the main cultural and economic center in Portugal. To understand Portugal and Portuguese culture one has to visit Lisbon, at least for a few days. We suggest spending at least 3 days in Lisbon and have created this Lisbon 3-day itinerary to guide you. We will also advise when is the best time to travel to Lisbon and where to stay in Lisbon.
The Portuguese capital has always been an extraordinary city to live and to visit, but lately, it’s really thriving. Lisbon is a very lively city, where there’s always something happening, during the day and night.
Best things to do in Lisbon in 3 Days
We have organized this itinerary by days and each day is dedicated to a different area of Lisbon. Though, you’ll always return to Downtown Lisbon (Baixa), the true city center!
Day 1 Belém – Lisbon 3-day Itinerary
On the first day in Lisbon, we suggest you go to Belém. This neighborhood is packed with some of the best things to do in Lisbon. These are the ones you can miss in a 3-day itinerary to Lisbon.
Note: Belém in Portuguese means Bethlehem (yes, like the Palestinian City)
Jeronimos Monastery – “Mosteiro dos Jerónimos”
We advise you to start with Jeronimos Monastery. This World heritage UNESCO site was built in the 15th century and it’s one of the best examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. One could even argue that Jeronimos Monastery is the most beautiful building in Portugal.
During the 19th century, the church became the sepulcher for some of the most famous heroes and poets like Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões. More than a Pantheon, a church or a Monastery, Jeronimos became a part of Portugal and Portuguese culture.
- Tickets: 10 Euros
- Opening hours: From 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ( 5:30 from October to May). Last admission at 6:00 p.m. (5:00 pm from October to May)
Very close to Jeronimos we have the Belem Tower, strategically located on the Bank of Tagus River. This architecture Jewel was also built in the 15th century and in the Manueline architecture style. Actually, when it was built the river was much wider and the tower was in the middle of the River, and not on the bank.
The Belem Tower was built as a defensive tower to defend the city from River/sea attacks. It’s a symbol of both the age of discoveries and Portugal. On the other hand, it also clearly states the extravagance lived in Portugal on those times.
- Price: 6.00 Euros
- Opening hours: From 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ( 5:30 from October to May). Last admission at 6:00 p.m. (5:00 pm from October to May). Closed on Mondays.
Pastel de Belem (the original Portuguese egg tarts)
Going to Belem and not enjoying one Pastel de Belem, is just weird! The Pastel de Belem was born in the Monastery, but it was almost lost when the religious orders ended. Luckily someone from the monastery opened the pastry shop right next to the monastery and those pastries quickly became known as “Pastel de Belem”.
To have a pastel de Belem you have to go to “Antiga Confeitaria de Belem”, which is right next door to Jeronimos Monastery. Even if you feel that’s a bit crowded, they work really fast and the pastry is huge inside. We also strongly suggest you have at least one warm, right from the oven – they are at their best like that. Then you can have a few others to go 🙂
The pastry is open everyday between 08:00 and 23:00, so you won’t have problems fitting it into your Lisbon itinerary.
Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos)
The monument to the discoveries is a much younger attraction than the tower and the monastery. It was temporarily erected in the 20th century, and inaugurated in 1940 in the Portuguese World Exhibition, and then definitely built-in 1960 at the celebration of the 500th Aniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.
It’s located about 500 meters from the tower of Belem and very close to Jeronimos monastery in the breakwater the Tagus River. It’s one of the favorite spots for travelers to take beautiful photos and a very Instagram friendly location.
This was built to be a very symbolic landmark. It looks like a Portuguese caravel, it has Henry the Navigator commanding it, and then 32 more Portuguese protagonists of the Portuguese Age of the Discoveries: navigators, warriors, cartographers, missionaries, colonizers, chroniclers, and artists.
Berardo Collection Museum (Museu Berardo)
The Berardo Collection Museum is also in this area and it’s a great option or those who like museums and particularly modern and contemporary art. It’s said to be the most visited museum in Portugal.
The museum goes through the different movements of art in the 20th century and features artworks from many well-known artists live, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Paula Rego, Max Ernst, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, Andy Warhol, and many others.
- Ticket: 5 Euros. Free on Saturdays.
- Opening hours: Every day from 10:00 to 19:00 (last entry at 18:30)
National Coach Museum (Museu do Coche)
The National Coach Museum is also in the Belem district, and it’s one that we really enjoyed visiting. It holds one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world and is one of the most visited museums of the city.
Some of its most impressive items include carriages from the 16th to the 19th centuries and give the perception of the evolution of carriages through the centuries. The most interesting exhibits are the coach used by King Felipe II of Portugal as he traveled from Spain to Portugal in 1619 and the lavishly decorated in gold Coach given by King John V in 1715 to pope Clement XI.
- Ticket price: 8 Euros
- Opening Hours: Everyday from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed on Mondays
Day 2 – 3 days in Lisbon Itinerary
On the second day of this 3 days in Lisbon itinerary, we are taking you to the heart of the city, the historical center. Note that there’s so much to see and do here that you may need to cut off a few things or return the next day.
Downtown Lisbon (Baixa Pombalina)
The heart of Lisbon is the downtown, what the Portuguese usual call “Baixa Pombalina”. This area is very easy to recognize it Lisbon as it’s the only part of town that is organized with long straight parallel streets forming a grid pattern. This area includes wide avenues, magnificent neoclassical buildings, and plazas. You should note that all this area was completely destroyed by the catastrophe of 1755, where an earthquake, a tsunami and then multiple fires hit the town.
Some of the highlights of downtown include Augusta Street, and its amazing arch, Comercio Plaza, and Rossio. These days this area of Lisbon is very lively with both Portuguese and tourists roaming around and enjoying the city.
Alfama and Mouraria
Alfama and Mouraria are two neighborhoods located east to downtown Lisbon. They are also very easily distinguished from the rest of the city. Both are the oldest neighborhoods of Lisbon and feature architecture of the Muslim era. In fact, what really makes Alfama and Mouraria unique in Lisbon is the typical Muslim small streets and so intricate that one can get lost in just a few minutes.
Both districts are full of restaurants and some bars. It’s a really fun place to roam around and discover new corners and streets. However, we strongly suggest you take a guided tour of these districts – you’ll be taken to the best spots, and learn a lot about their history.
You should note that these districts comprise several Lisbon hills which means that this is steep terrain. On the other hand, we’ve got to spend the calories of all those custard tarts…
Tram No 28
Trams in Lisbon are a very useful way of getting around the center, and one of the most popular activities for tourists, particularly Tram No 28. Why? You’ll feel like you were transported to a different era, with a wooden car, horns constantly ringing to pedestrians, and the obvious charm of the neighborhoods it crosses.
These quaint yellow tram No28 goes through the very narrow streets of Graca, Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela. You can both, sightsee and go commute between landmarks.
Lisbon trams are an institution, a popular tourist attraction and a useful means of transportation for both locals and travelers.
São Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge)
São Jorge Castle is another of the most famous landmarks in Lisbon, and a mandatory destination on any trip to Lisbon. It’s located on Alfama district on the top of the highest hill in Lisbon providing some of the best views in Lisbon.
Lisbon is a very ancient city (one of the oldest in Europe) and a castle has existed here for at least 2000 years. The first fortresses date from the 1st century BC, having been rebuilt several times by various peoples and given different names.
Today’s castle has a medieval character, but most of its walls and towers are very recent because the castle wasn’t preserved until the 20th century and then it was almost completely rebuilt. Despite this, it’s still very fun to wander around the castle, walking on the walls and enjoying the tremendous views of the Tagus river.
There are some interesting guided tours on the castle, particularly on the archaeological ruins. There you can see evidence of the different periods of Lisbon, the pre-Moorish settlements, the remnants of the Moorish era and the Christian/Portuguese Era.
- Tickets: 10 Euros
- Timetable: 9:00 to 18:00 (from November to February) and 9:00 to 21:00 (from March to October.
Situated in Alfama in the heard of Lisbon, the Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Lisbon. Its construction was ordered by the Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese King right after conquering Lisbon from the Moors. Nevertheless, most of what we see today is due to successive reconstructions, particularly after the All Saints day earthquake, tsunami and fires of 1755.
Due to the different steps of construction and reconstruction, the cathedral shows very different styles, but particularly Romanesque on the outside (the huge rose window) and Gothic in the inside (the beautiful arches)
- Tickets: Entrance to the church is free, but it costs 2.5 Euros to enter the cloisters
- Timetable: 9:00 to 19:00
The National Pantheon, also known as the Church of Santa Engrácia, was originally built in the 17th century as a church and later on the 20th century converted into the National Pantheon. Well, actually the works started in 1663 and were only finished in the 20th century… even for Portugal that’s too much! That’s why in Portugal when we want to refer to something that it is taking too long we say it looks like the Santa Engrácia works.
This is where some of the most important Portuguese personalities are buried. Among them writers Aquilino Ribeiro, Almeida Garret, and Sophia de Mello Breyner, presidents Manuel de Arriaga and Óscar Carmona and even the singer Amália Rodrigues and footballer Eusébio. There are also cenotaphs to Luís de Camões, Pedro Alvares Cabral, Nuno Álvares Pereira, Henry the Navigator, Afonso de Albuquerque, and Vasco da Gama, which means that their remains aren’t really there.
The National Pantheon is situated on a privileged spot, with ample view to the river. It’s possible to climb all the way to the top, making it a very pleasant place to enjoy the views. This is also a very imposing building, visible from many angles and an unavoidable reference in Lisbon’s skyline silhouette.
- Tickets: 4 Euros
- Timetable: 9:00 to 17:00 (from October to March) and 9:00 to 18:00 (from April to September). Closed on Mondays.
Feira da Ladra (if it’s Saturday or Tuesday)
Behind the National Pantheon in Campo de Santa Clara, there’s the Feira da Ladra which basically is Lisbon’s flea market. You can find lots of cool stuff there, particularly some collectibles and antiques. It’s a really fun thing to do and we find it very enjoyable to look around and find cool stuff and bargains.
Feira da Ladra is obviously free and occurs every Tuesday and Saturdays between 9:00 and 18:00.
Carmo Convent and Church
Carmo Convent was built by the Portuguese hero Constable D. Nuno Álvares Pereira. He donated all his fortune and entered the convent. However, in the terrible All Saints Day of 1755, the church got destroyed and was never fully rebuilt. What you can now visit is the ruins of the church that was said to be one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture.
It’s located in the Chiado neighborhood, on a hill overlooking the Rossio square and facing the Lisbon Castle hill. Those who like to visit ruins (I know we love to) will enjoy this attraction.
- Tickets: 5 Euros
- Timetable: October to April – 10:00 to 18:00. May to September – 10:00 19:00. It’s closed on Sundays.
Finally, we have Bairro Alto, the traditional bohemian quarter of Lisbon. This is an area to visit at night when it really comes to life. During the day it’s very quiet and you won’t imagine how different and live it’s at night.
In Bairro Alto, you’ll find plenty of places to eat, great bars and the famous Fado houses. If you want to visit one, this is your opportunity. During any day of the week, but much more on weekends, you’ll find thousands of people in Bairro Alto, having dinner or just enjoying a drink with friends.
Day 3 – Lisbon in 3 days
On the last day in Lisbon, we are doing things a little differently, we will visit two different areas, one of them outside Lisbon. We suggest that you cross the Tagus River and go to Cacilhas and the Christ the King in the morning and then to the Expo area in the Afternoon. Or if you feel that you couldn’t do everything on the second day two, you may want to skip one of these two suggestions and return to Baixa.
Cacilhas is on the other side of the Tagus river, so you’ll have to cross the Tagus. To do so, you’ll just need to head to Cais do Sodre and catch a ferry. It’s very easy and a quick trip as there are plenty of ferries.
Cacilhas is very small and it’s famous mostly for its many seafood restaurants. We suggest you go early and when you reach Cacilhas walk the trail along the river. We find it to be a very pleasant walk, with few tourists and beautiful views of Lisbon. This trail will lead you to an elevator that takes you to old Almada and from there you can walk to the Christ the King statue. Or you can get a Bus or Taxi.
Christ the King Statue – Cristo Redentor
The location and the size of this statue are what really make it so majestic. Christ the King is 28 meters high, but it’s placed on a huge pedestal of 82 meters. It was obviously inspired by the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and isn’t as impressive as the original, but it’s still worth the visit.
You can climb to the pedestal where you have an astonishing panoramic view to Lisbon, and 25th of April Bridge. It’s probably the best lookout in Lisbon.
Before returning to Lisbon don’t forget to head back to Cacilhas and have a wonderful seafood lunch/dinner. It’s really worth it and not very expensive. Well, it’s cheap compared with what you pay for seafood anywhere else in Western Europe.
Expo – Parque das Nações
The second part of this day is going to the Expo area, the newest part of Lisbon. This area is usually called the expo (or Parque das Nações) because it was born with the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition.
This is a different side of Lisbon, a modern one, but it isn’t less interesting. The most famous attraction here is clearly the Oceanarium. There are about 8000 aquatic species in Lisbon’s Oceanarium, including Penguin, sharks, otters, rays and sea dragons making it the biggest indoor aquarium in Europe.
But besides the Oceanarium, you can also visit Tower Vasco da Gama and walk the boardwalk all the way from the Marina to the Vasco da Gama Bridge. It’s also possible to take the cable car and enjoy a whole new perspective while resting a bit. This area is very popular among Lisboners to jog or run along the river.
Where to stay in Lisbon for 3 days?
Lisbon is a big city but if you are staying here for only 3 days you want to stay close to the action and avoid having to do big commutes every day. Thus, we believe that downtown and all the surrounding area are the best to stay in Lisbon in 3 days.
Chiado, Baixa, Alfama, Mouraria, Bairro Alto, Rossio are all good options. The closer to Baixa the more expensive hostels tend to be. If you are traveling to Lisbon during high season you may end up having to book a little further away in Graça or Belem.
When to go to Lisbon for 3 days?
As we mentioned above Lisbon is now a very very popular destination. Tourists come to Lisbon all year round, but the months of June to September are the most crowded ones. It’s also when the weather tends to be warmer and drier. During winter the city tends to be calmer but even then it has plenty of tourism.
We believe that the best time to visit Lisbon is in April, May, and October. During these months it’s still probable to find nice weather (though not beach weather) and you won’t feel the huge crowds.