3 days in Lisbon, Portugal

People who have been to Lisbon say the city is the jewel of Portugal. Despite the city’s rising prosperity since Portugal joined the European Union, prices for services and goods are still relatively low cost compared to other European countries. All this means that the hilly capital of Portugal is not only a city full of historical attractions and major monuments, but also a place where you can get the best bang for your buck. In this 3-day suggested itinerary, you will see most of Lisbon’s key attractions. There are of course numerous other destinations in this city so you might want to mix and match the suggestions below to create your own itinerary.

Things to know before travelling to Lisbon:

1.Language – The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. Foreign travelers should not be discouraged from traveling in Portugal if one does not speak Portuguese because the Portuguese have a good understanding of English. Language should not be a concern while traveling on public transport as most signs have an English translation and all tourist attractions provide leaflets in English. Like most countries in the world, attempting to say a few basic words in Portuguese are always appreciated by the locals.

2.Money and costs – Portugal uses the euro, the same currency now used by most European Union countries with the exception of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Prior to travelling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks and bureau de change to get the best rates.

3.Etiquette – The Portuguese are modest, traditional and conservative people. They are reserved and they value privacy. In Portuguese society rank is very important, and those senior to you must always be treated with respect. In social meetings, people shake hands with everyone present. Always greet with titles unless you’re on familiar terms with them or until your Portuguese friend suggests otherwise. In Portugal, men are addressed as Senhor (Mister) and women as Senhora (Mrs./Ms.).

4.Getting there – Round-trip tickets to Lisbon from Rio de Janeiro start at 680 USD; from Hong Kong round-trip tickets are usually about 850 USD (but if you spend few extra minutes searching, you can find deals starting at 633 USD); from London – a round-trip ticket will cost you less than 100 USD if you visit during the off-peak season.

5.Getting around – Lisbon features an extensive public transport network consisting of buses (autocarro), trams (electrico) and Funicular system.  The center of the city is a fairly compact area which can be explored on foot or on a bicycle. If you plan to bike around the city, please note the hilly topography of Lisbon and cycling infrastructure make it somehow challenging. Another reliable option when getting around is by Taxi. There are plenty of taxi companies and taxi rides are fairly inexpensive compared to other European cities.

6.Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in Lisbon, from luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like youth hostels and bed and breakfast. There are also plenty of apartment rentals if you prefer the comfort and convenience of having your own place with cooking facilities. For first time visitors, we would recommend the Bairro Alto, the Baixa or the Rossio area as these area are centrally located and close to restaurants and nightlife.

Hotels to consider in Lisbon:

Valverde Hotel (Avenida da Liberdade, 164, Lisbon 1250-146, Portugal)

Britania Hotel (Rua Rodrigues Sampaio 17, Lisbon 1150-278, Portugal)

As Janelas Verdes (R. Janelas Verdes, 47, Lisbon 1200-690, Portugal)

Hotel Avenida Palace (Rua 1 De Dezembro 123, Lisbon 1200-359, Portugal)

Memmo Alfama Hotel (Travessa das Merceeiras, 27, Lisbon 1100-348, Portugal)

Detailed Itinerary 3 days in Lisbon, Portugal

Day 1: Baixa District

Assuming you had to cross an ocean to get to Portugal, your first day will be rife with jet lag. Take a flight that arrives in Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) as early as possible and check in to your preferred hotel/hostel. The airport is about 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) away from the center of Lisbon (Baixa District) and there is a direct railway line that connects to the city center (a change of line is required) in just 25 minutes. To walk off your jet lag, hit one of the quirky breakfast and brunch spots in Baixa.

Santa Justa Lift
The Elevador de Santa Justa (caleed also Carmo Lift ) is open every day between 7:00 and 23:00h. A single ticket costs €2.80 and tickets can be purchased from the ticket office, located below the main lift shaft

In the afternoon, begin your Baixa tour.  There’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting Praça do Comércio, the magnificent square laid out in a neoclassical grid. Then, make your way to Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift), the neoclassical elevator that transports passengers from the Baixa district up to the ruins of the Igreja do Carmo church. Hit the nearest sidewalk cafe surrounding Rossio Square, said to be the heart of Lisbon. End your day with a sumptuous dinner at one of the top rated restaurants in the city such as Crisfama, BelcantoSalsa Rosa Bistro and Enoteca de Belem.

Rossio square, Baixa district
View of theater and fountain monument on Rossio square of Lisbon. Rossio square is one of main squares in Lisbon, ever since the Middle Ages

Day 2 : Belem District and Alfama Distrcit

Jeronimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal,  was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983
Jeronimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal, was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983

After breakfast, make your way to Belem, Lisbon’s most monumental and historical district. It was this picturesque district where many of the great Portuguese explorers such as Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan embarked on their journey. Today, many great monuments from the glorious days of Portugal are still present in Belem. Some of the must see attractions are Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (free admission on the first Monday every month, otherwise tickets cost 10 EUR or 25 EUR you purchase combined tickets for Mosteiro dos Jerónimos Torre de Belém, Museu Naciona de Arqueologia, Museu de Arte Popular, Museu Nacional de Etnologia and Museu dos Coches)  Torre de Belém,  Padrao dos Descobrimentos and Palacio Nacional Belém. Do not miss to try Pastel de Nata (Portuguese custard tart), the most popular Portuguese pastry. For lunch, try al fresco dining at Darwin’s Cafe (Av. Brasília Ala B, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal).

Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis de Nata is a traditional Portuguese dessert and among the most famous food items among locals

Travel Tip: To get to Belem, hop on the historic Remodelado trams of the number 28 route which passes through the streets and hills of Alfama, which follows the River Tejo. Purchase a 1-day ticket Carris/Metro which can be used in the whole network of Metro and Carris in Lisbon. The cost of the 1-day pass is  6 EUR (6.85 USD) and valid in 24 hours. A single ticket to Belem costs 2.85 EUR (3.25 USD) and can be purchased on board the tram.

Alfama, Lisbon
The Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo river

After lunch, board the tram to Alfama District. the oldest district of Lisbon. This quaint quarter is filled with narrow streets and crooked lanes climbing the steep hills of Lisbon. Sights of the afternoon include Castelo Sao Jorge, Sé Cathedral, Saint Luzia Viewpoint, Praça do Comércio and Praça de Dom Pedro IV (Rossio). In the evening, experience Lisbon’s vibrant nightlife at Bairro Alto.

Day 3: Cascais

The Hell's Mouth chasm  located by the seaside cliffs near Cascais
The Hell’s Mouth chasm located by the seaside cliffs near Cascais

Start off your day with breakfast at one of the breakfast and brunch spots in Baixa. After breakfast, hop on the train and spend the morning on the beach in Cascais (Cascais is easily reachable from Lisbon  by train from the Cais do Sodré station. A return ticket costs approx 4 EUR, less than 5 USD, and can be purchased from the automatic ticket machines. Remember to keep the ticket as it will be checked and punched in both directions). Located 30 kilometers west of Lisbon, this cosmopolitan suburb was a go-to holiday destination by European nobles and is now a favorite beach destination by celebrities. For lunch, head to one of Cascais’s seafood restaurant overlooking the bay.

If your last day happen to be on a Tuesday or Saturday, go for last minute shopping at Feira da Ladra (Campo de Santa Clara, 1100-472 Lisboa, Portugal), the legendary flea market of Lisbon. In the evening, head for O Faia (R. da Barroca 54-56, 1200-050 Lisboa, Portugal), a celebrated traditional restaurant in Bairro Alto, to enjoy some live fado music (the soul music of Portugal).

This is the end of our 3-day suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form the only way to travel the country. There are several alternative routes of travel within the country and it will depend on your intended length of stay. Enjoy Lisbon!

Have you been to Lisbon or anywhere else in Portugal? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.

City exploring, History, Portugal

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