Lisbon ticks a lot of boxes for the ideal European city break. The flight time is less than three hours from the UK, the climate is usually mild-to-scorching and Portugal is one of the cheapest countries using the Euro. Not to mention it has a phenomenal foodie scene, lots of historic attractions and exciting things to do. Despite all Portugal’s capital has to offer, 3 Days in Lisbon is the perfect amount of time to get a taster of the city. Did I also mention Lisbon is flipping gorgeous?
– This guide was originally published on 31st May 2016 and has been updated.
I haven’t visited the city since 2016, but considering the best things to do in Lisbon consist of a castle that is almost 1,000 years old and a cathedral that is well over 1,000 years old, I’d say my knowledge is still relevant a mere four years on. I’ve also added in some top tips from watching travel shows like Somebody Feed Phil and Travel Man: 48 Hours in… Lisbon.
My three days in Lisbon itinerary includes what to see in Lisbon in three days, where to eat and drink, where to stay and how to get there and get around. Basically, everything you need to plan a weekend in Lisbon to remember! And if there’s anything I haven’t mentioned or you have any questions, just ask and I’ll do my best to help.
3 Days in Lisbon Itinerary: What to do in Lisbon, Portugal
Travel/Flights to Lisbon: How to get there
Four years ago, I flew from Manchester Airport with good ol’ Ryanair for an absolute steal. The flights cost less than £70 for a round trip to Lisbon Airport in the shoulder season, though the flight times were limited and not ideal. Most of the top and budget airlines operating in the UK fly direct to Lisbon from several airports. And if you book in advance, I bet you can snag them super cheap. I always look at Skyscanner before I book my travel to find the best deals.
Public Transport in Lisbon: How to get around
Lisbon’s metro is absolutely going to be your friend during your 3 days in Lisbon. Operating from 6:30-1:00 every single day, a single journey costs just €1.50 and a 24-hour ticket costs only €6.40. It’s so cheap! The airport or Aeroporto is also on the metro network (the pink line) so it’s super easy to get to and from the city. You can download the metro map here. Unless your flight arrives at some ungodly hour (like mine did!) then you’ll need to pre-book a taxi. Don’t worry, the airport is fairly close to the city.
While I still consider Lisbon’s historical centre fairly walkable and compact, it’s not a gentle stroll. Like Rome, Lisbon was built on seven hills. Hence the elevators and funiculars! Tram 28 is perhaps the most iconic funicular route. They’re included in the 24-hour transport cards. Funicular journeys are €3 and elevators are generally €5, so well worth getting a 24-hour card if you’re planning to take more than one journey anywhere!
My goodness, for a capital city in Western Europe using the euro, how cheap is Lisbon?!
Accommodation in Lisbon: Where to Stay
I’ll be honest, I stayed at this Airbnb when I first visited Lisbon in 2016. The Alfama location was perfect, the apartment was cute and affordable and it was a really positive experience. But now, I’m more aware of how Airbnb and short term lettings are making property unaffordable and renting a scarcity for locals in city centres, so I wouldn’t use Airbnb for finding accommodation in Lisbon again.
If I were travelling solo, I’d stay in one of Lisbon’s many amazing hostels and if I were travelling with a partner I’d probably just opt for a private room in a luxury hostel.
- Good Morning Hostel – This hostel has near-perfect reviews on Hostelworld, offers an all-inclusive option (!) which is something I’ve never heard of before and the location is perfect. The rooms are bright, modern and clean and it looks like more of a sociable hostel as opposed to a party hostel. Which is perfect for me!
- The Independente Hostel & Suites – If I wanted to stay somewhere beautiful and historic, especially if it were a city break, I’d choose this luxury hostel and maybe stay in one of their private rooms. Initially built for the Swiss ambassador over 100 years ago, this hostel boasts beautiful dark hardwood floors and high ceilings. And the terraced bar has an amazing panoramic view of Lisbon!
Day 1: Alfama Neighbourhood & Praça do Comércio
Breakfast – Eat in your Accommodation
I’ll have to be honest again, my last visit to Lisbon was in 2016 so I’m not up-to-date on many of the best restaurants and bars. I don’t know where to eat the best brunch in Lisbon, nor breakfast for that matter. As I said, I rented an Airbnb and ate breakfast in the apartment. So that’s all I can suggest you do! And spend your food money on Pastéis de Nata and peri peri chicken instead.
- Castelo de São Jorge – Start your 3 days in Lisbon at one of the top things to do in Lisbon. Castelo de São Jorge is one of those castles (like Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome) that has been used for just about everything over the 2,000 years something’s been standing there. It’s been a fort, a palace, a military barracks… You name it! You have to visit the castle. Bloody lovely views, too. Open 9:00-18:00 every day. Entrance fee is €10 for adults.
- Alfama Neighbourhood – Coincidentally enough, the Castle is slap bang in the middle of the Alfama neighbourhood, so this is the perfect opportunity to have a walk around. It’s quite a big neighbourhood but so freaking beautiful. So many tiled houses and street art to post on Instagram, so little time…
- Lisbon Cathedral – Sometimes simply referred to as Sé (I don’t know why or what it means, don’t ask me), Lisbon Cathedral is the oldest church in the city having been built in 1147. It’s perhaps not as lavish and grand as other cathedrals, but it’s survived so many earthquakes and restorations. It’s battered exterior is understandable! Open 9:00-19:00 every day with some exceptions for services. Entrance is free!
Lunch – Mercado da Ribeira / Time Out Market
You absolutely need to head to Mercado da Ribeira (or the Time Out Market) during your 3 days in Lisbon. In fact, I recommend you visit multiple times so you have a chance to taste more food. So go there for lunch on your first day in Lisbon because if you go on your third day, you’ll be disappointed you can’t go back!
This is an indoor food market which I can only describe as an upmarket food court. You sit at a table (it can be difficult to find free seating at peak times but hang in there), and you can go and get restaurant-quality food from any of the vendors around the outside. Approximately 24 restaurants, eight bars and a few shops live under one roof. They have pizzerias, burger joints, Portuguese cuisine, so much choice! And so reasonably priced.
If I haven’t emphasised this enough: Lisbon is CHEAP. Open 10:00-0:00 Sunday-Wednesday and 10:00-02:00 Thursday-Saturday.
- Praça do Comércio – One of Lisbon’s grandest squares is Praça do Comércio on the harbour. Very ornate with lots of cool statues and stuff. It’s just one of those European city squares you have to visit. And the next thing to do in Lisbon is situated in this square, too…
- Lisboa Story Centre – If you visit just one museum/exhibit during your 3 days in Lisbon, make it the Lisboa Story Centre. I don’t know about you but I knew next to nothing about the history of Lisbon before visiting. This museum is the perfect way to get up to speed! You are given an audio guide and an exhibit to walk around so enjoy a whistle-stop tour on the history of Lisbon in 60 minutes. Open 10:00-20:00 every day. Tickets are €6.50 for adults.
- Elevador da Bica – If you see any postcards of Lisbon or have an idealistic view of a quaint, old-worldly Lisbon in your mind, you’ll no doubt be thinking of the bright yellow funiculars that glide around the city. And you’ll especially be thinking of Elevador da Bica (sometimes known Ascensor da Bica or The Bica Funicular). It’s the one that rides up and down a particularly steep hill connecting to the sea and looks particularly picturesque. Open 7:00-21:00, costs €3.80 to ride. If you don’t have mobility problems or a 24-hour transport pass, just walk the hill if you need to and take photos of the tram for free. €3.80 is waaaay too expensive for one ride.
Dinner – Noobai Café
Nearby Elevador da Bica is a restaurant called Noobai Café. I ate here on my first night in Lisbon and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the food was for so little. My travel partner and I ordered beers (standard Portuguese Super Bock lagers), two starters and two mains and only paid around €25 in total! In Lisbon! A capital city, no less!
It’s a super cute, easy-going restaurant with a varied menu and gorgeous views over the river. Or so I’m told, I visited on such a rainy and foggy day that I couldn’t see very much. Open 10:00-00:00 every day.
If you’re anything like me and you like a pint (or a few tankards) of beer, definitely head to Trobadores – Taberna Medieval. I visited twice during my 3 days in Lisbon it was that much fun.
The pub is exactly as it sounds. Heavy wood, no-nonsense wheat beer on tap, a bar that wouldn’t look out of place in Middle Earth. And the (very friendly) staff were dressed as if they were about to catch a flight to Oktoberfest. Yeah, not traditionally Portuguese, but it is one of the highest-rated bars in Lisbon for a reason. Definitely recommend! Open 12:00-02:00 Sunday-Thursday and until 04:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Day 2: Urban Art, Bairro Alto, Ginjinha & Fado
- Manteigaria – If you’ve researched anything about Lisbon for your trip, you’ll know about pastéis de Nata, those delicious Portuguese egg custard tarts. Start your second day in Lisbon by making a pit stop to eat some of the best Portuguese tarts in Lisbon at Manteigaria! Open 8:00-21:00 most days and until 13:00 on weekends.
- Lisbon Street Art Tour – I LOVE doing walking tours in a new city. Especially if I’ve not had time to plan my trip properly. If you visited the Lisboa Story Centre yesterday I think that will give you a good foundation of Lisbon’s history, so why not join a street art tour? I really like checking out street art in new cities and Lisbon has some amazing murals. And even if you don’t join the tour, still check out Miradouro Graffiti Fado Vadio in the Alfama neighbourhood, it’s my favourite.
- Lisbon Oceanarium – One of the most popular things to do in Lisbon is to visit the oceanarium. It’s the largest indoor aquarium in Europe and boasts a vast purpose-built tank in the centre of the building and an incredible array of sea life. Lisbon Oceanarium is a 40-minute metro ride north along the coast so it is a bit of a trek. If aquariums are your thing, you’ll love it! Lots of people love it and I’m including it here because I also visited. I’m not massively into aquariums and I’m not sure how ethical they are so I wouldn’t visit again. Open 10:00-19:00 every day, €19 entrance fee for adults. Which is very expensive for Lisbon!
Lunch – O Trevo
I didn’t eat lunch at O Trevo but I have several good reasons for recommending you visit during your 3 days in Lisbon. Firstly, it’s hella cheap. Secondly, it’s a no-nonsense Portuguese fast food takeaway where you can grab a sandwich (or Bifana) and beer. And finally, Anthony Bourdain visited O Trevo on his show No Reservations.
Oh, and it’s perfectly located for where you are exploring this afternoon! Need I say more?
- Church of São Roque – Home of the self-proclaimed “world’s most expensive chapel”, Church of São Roque in the Bairro Alto neighbourhood doesn’t look like much on the outside. But inside literally glitters with gold. Gold covers every alter, shrine and tiny decorative detail in this church. It’s so bright and shimmery your eyes will go funny. I know strolling around churches isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this one is a truly unique experience. Open 9:30-17:00 every day and entrance is free. There is a museum but I wouldn’t bother tbh.
- Elevador de Santa Justa – Unlike Elevador da Bica, Elevador de Santa Justa is an actual elevator. This is a 1920s art deco style lift just plonked in the middle of the street that connects two street levels. There’s a bit of a queue but it’s not crazy long, and you do get lovely views of the city at the top. Open 7:00-22:45 every day, tickets are €5 but the elevator is included in the 24-hour transport card.
- A Ginjinha – Is it 5 o’clock yet? It will be somewhere. Time to sample one of Lisbon’s local delicacies: ginjinha. This is a traditional Portuguese liqueur made from sour cherries and you have to try it at least once whilst you’re in Lisbon. The best place to buy a shot of ginjinha is at A Ginjinha bar which looks like a takeaway counter. To get there from Elevador de Santa Justa, you cross the Praca do Rossio which is worth noting. It’s literally just a main square. A bit unexciting but at least you can say you’ve seen it. Open 9:00-22:00 every day, €2/3 per shot.
- Miradouro da Senhora do Monte – Finally, with all the vantage points around Lisbon (it is the city of seven hills, after all!) go to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for sunset. It wasn’t even sunny the day I climbed to the top (be prepared for a little bit of an incline) but it was still beautiful. Also, great street art on the way up!
Dinner – Jesus é Goês
For lunch, we ate where Anthony Bourdain ate. For dinner, we’re following in the footsteps of Phil Rosenthal from Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix! Man, I love that show. Jesus é Goês serves Goan food… prepared by the chef and owner, Jesus! It’s really that straightforward.
I’ve never had Goan food and I’ve never eaten here, so I can’t recommend it myself. But, you know, I trust Phil. And it’s in a great location for climbing up to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for sunset. Because sunset will, of course, depend on what time of year you are spending your 3 days in Lisbon! Open 12:00-15:00, 19:00-00:00 every day.
Alternatively, you could also eat dinner where I am recommending you spend your evening on your second night in Lisbon, Café Luso – Fado & Food. I had only heard of fado music after watching Richard Ayoade’s Travel Man: 24 Hours in… Lisbon, which seems rather silly.
Fado is a type of traditional Portuguese song, usually performed with guitars and mandolins, with sad and melancholic melodies and lyrics. It can only be traced back to the early 1800s but likely started much earlier. If I were to return to Lisbon, I’d definitely head to a fado bar and enjoy an evening listening to depressing music while drinking cocktails. I’m sure I’d feel right at home! You may need to book. Open 19:30-02:00 every day.
Day 3: Belém, Burgers and Ex-Brothel Bars
- Train to Belém – Many of the top things to do in Lisbon, Portugal are actually a train ride away from the city centre in Belém. Which is nice, because you get to see a whole different part of the city! And they cannot be missed. Walk or get the metro to Cais do Sobre, Lisbon’s main transport terminal. Buy a Zone 1 return ticket and hop on a train going to Linha de Cascais. Belém is only a 15-minute ride away.
- Pastéis de Belém – You can’t eat Pastéis de Nata only once in Portugal! You also have to taste them in apparently the best Pastel de Nata bakery in Lisbon, Pastéis de Belém. No matter what time you show up, there will probably be a queue but they’re old hats at this and you won’t have to wait long. Open 8:00-23:00 every day.
- Mosteiro dos Jerónimos – Your first proper stop of the day is Jerónimos Monastery. The monastery dates back to 1503 and clearly took a painstaking amount of time to complete – there’s so much craftsmanship in every column and ceiling. Portugal is known for it’s famous navigators and most of the famous ones are buried here. Open 10:00-17:00 Tuesday-Sunday. Tickets are €10 for adults or €12 for a combination ticket with Belém Tower which you should definitely get. Prepare for a queue!
Lunch – Honorato Belém
I’m sure there are better places to eat lunch in Belém, but this is where I ate lunch and I loved the food. I also had another in the Time Out Food Market. Honorato Belém is literally a burger joint but it’s a bloody good burger joint. I ate one of their veggie burgers with homecut chips and it was delicious. Also – how refreshing is it to order a burger these days and receive one of normal height? You know, one I don’t have to massacre in order to shove in your mouth.
Note: The inside of the restaurant isn’t very appealing. Eat outside and you’ll have a totally different experience.
- Belém Tower – Armed with the combination ticket you bought at the monastery, you should be able to walk right in! You’ll see a pattern in the majority of monuments and landmarks in Belém, they all have something to do with Portugal’s exploring, navigating and colonising history. Belém Tower (or The Tower of St Vincent) is traditionally where the explorers would embark upon and return from their journeys. It’s a pretty nice tower! There are lots of levels so you can look out over the sea, too. Open 10:00-18:30 (17:30 in low season) Tuesday-Saturday.
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos – After visiting the tower, you can walk along the harbour and take in the monuments. Padrão dos Descobrimentos is the impressive white block dedicated to Portugal’s worldly discoveries. Again, Belém is like one big commemoration of Portugal’s colonial achievements.
- Ponte 25 de Abril – You can see the 25 de Abril Bridge from many vantage points in Lisbon, but it’s most visible from Belém. This bridge (which looks uncannily similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco) was built before the April 25th revolution in 1974 but renamed after the defeat of Portugal’s dictator, Salazar (to whom the bridge was originally named). Also, there’s a Christ the Redeemer statue across the river. Apparently, this statue and the one in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil are geographically looking at each other from across the world. Pretty neat, huh?
Dinner – Mercado da Ribeira / Time Out Market
I know I’ve already recommended eating at the Time Out Market, but there’s such a fantastic choice of restaurants there’s no harm in returning! Plus, I was in Lisbon four years ago and I don’t have any other recommendations. Sorry! I know since this itinerary is for 3 days in Lisbon, so you should try and make the most of your time in the city and try out different restaurants.
But heading back to the Time Out Market wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. You could still try food from a different vendor! Hey, I went back twice during my trip and loved both experiences. Again, open 10:00-0:00 Sunday-Wednesday and 10:00-02:00 Thursday-Saturday.
Finally, end the last night of your 3 days in Lisbon at one of the best bars in the city, Pensão Amor. The bar used to be a brothel and offers low lighting, kitschy living room decor and hosts Burlesque shows on certain nights of the week. It’s a great place to sip a cocktail and snuggle into a lavish armchair and admire the mirrors and ornaments surrounding you. Open 12:00-03:00 Monday-Wednesday, 12:00-04:00 Thursday-Sunday.
Day Trips from Lisbon
If you have longer than 3 days in Lisbon, Portugal, definitely take a day trip from Lisbon. Of course, there’s always more to see and do in the city but don’t miss a chance to explore more of this beautiful country.
- Sintra – This is perhaps the most popular day trip from Lisbon. Sintra is a mountain town where royalty used to escape to back in the day. You’ll probably have seen Pena Palace on Instagram if you follow hundreds of travel accounts like me. It’s a fairytale yellow and burgundy castle in a romantic style which looks gorgeous but I’ve heard the town itself is worth visiting too.
- Tróia Peninsula – If the weather is great and you fancy a beach day, head to Portugal’s Tróia Peninsula. It’s essentially a 13-mile long sandy island only a short ferry ride across the Sado Estuary from the city of Setubal. It’s got a beach resort kind of vibe which isn’t my jam, but if it’s yours this could be a great day trip option! It does get pretty crowded in July and August though, not surprising.
And that’s my 3 Days in Lisbon itinerary for first-time visitors! Have you spent a weekend in Lisbon? Or planning a trip to Portugal’s capital city? Let me know in the comments below!