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Lisbon in Three Days - A Suggested Itinerary and Tour

Lisbon is an amazing and varied tourist destination and three days is the ideal length of stay to fully discover the city. Lisbon contains sufficient interesting districts, historical monuments and entertaining activities to easily fill a short city break and within these three days of sightseeing, exploring and carousing, a true appreciation of this fascinating city and people can be gleaned

Praca Comercio in Baixa

The magnificent Praça do Comércio, the heart of Lisbon

This guide has been written to provide a suggested itinerary for a three-day, trip but a holiday to Lisbon could be easily extended to a week to include all of the enjoyable day trips or to spend time on the glorious beaches that surround Lisbon. For details of when to go, where to stay and other practicalities please see our “Lisbon introduction” article.

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Overview of a suggested 3-day Itinerary in Lisbon

The remainder of this article will explain in detail our suggested 3-day itinerary for Lisbon and below is a quick overview of the suggested tour route:

• Day 1 Morning – Alfama and Baixa districts

• Day 1 Afternoon – Bairro Alto, Chiado districts

• Day 1 Evening – Baixa and Rossio

• Day 2 Most of the day – Belem district

• Day 2 Later part of the day– Estrela District and a ride on the number 28 tram

• Day 2 Evening – Bairro Alto (best on a Friday or Saturday night)

• Day 3 Morning – Parque das Nações

• Day 3 Afternoon – Parque Eduardo VII and the Avenida da Liberdade

• Day 3 Evening – Santo Amaro Docks

Lisbon has excellent and inexpensive public transport therefore a rental car is not required and would actually be more hassle than it’s worth due to the limited car parking and challenging driving conditions. Lisbon is often loving referred to as being spread across seven hills, so during you visit expect to walk up some very steep hills.

Lisbon 3-Day Itinerary
Day 1 Morning - Alfama and Baixa

For the first part of the day, it is suggested to explore the two central but vastly different districts of Baixa and Alfama. Both districts are steeped in history and are crammed full with unique monuments and attractions that reflect the two important eras of Lisbon.

Lisbon alfama

Alfama is a maze steps and small streets

Baixa was completely destroyed by the devastating 1755 earthquake and the reconstruction was the first example of a grid-and-block layout. This characteristic city layout is now common throughout the modern world, but was considered revolutionary for the mid-18th century. Baixa comprises of wide avenues and grand plazas, and the construction of this magnificent section of the city was funded by the wealth that poured into Portugal from the Portuguese colonies. For a full guide to Baixa please see this guide.

Rua Augusta lisbon

The pedestrianised Rua Augusta in Baixa

Alfama is oldest section of Lisbon and is totally opposite to uniform and mighty Baixa. Alfama is a maze of cobbled streets and stairways that lead up from the river to the castle and are filled with ancient house, boutique shops and trendy bars. Originally Alfama was situated outside of the city walls and was the home to the poor and desperate. Later the district became the grim home of sailors and dock workers, but fortunately today the area has been fully rejuvenated and transformed into one of the trendiest sections of the city. For a full guide to Alfama please see this article.

Se Cathedral Alfama district

The imposing Se Cathedral is in Alfama

Popular tourist attractions in Alfama and Baixa include:

• The Castelo Sao Jorge; the castle of Lisbon that stands high above the city

• The Se Cathedral, with its Neo-Gothic towers and massive fortifications

• Saint Anthony's Church, constructed on the birth place of Lisbon's patron saint

• The narrow streets of Alfama and the Saint Luzia View Point

• Praça do Comércio, the old commercial centre of Lisbon and the grandest square

•A glass of Ginjia, a sweet cherry liqueur from the traditional home of the drink in Rossio Square.

Day 1 Afternoon - Bairro Alto, Chiado

For the second part of the day it’s suggested to explore the areas just to the west of Baixa, which encompasses the districts of Bairro Alto and Chiado. Chiado was historically the artisan district of Lisbon, where Portugal's intellectuals would gather in the coffee shops to discussed the important issues of the day. Today it is Lisbon’s theatre district and the central square is dedicated to Portugal’s’ finest poet Luís de Camões.

Praça Luís de Camões Chiado

The Praça Luís de Camões with a sataue of the poet in the centre of the square

Bairro Alto is the nightlife hub of Lisbon, by day it may appear a little shabby, but by night it transforms as small bars opening and the sound of Fado music wafting out of the live music venues. No trip to Lisbon is complete without experiencing the haunting music of Fado, which is sung by a lone female singer accompanied by classical guitar.

Portuguese guitar Fado Singer

The traditional Portuguese guitar and black clothes of a Fado Singer

Bairro Alto and Chiado are located at the top of a steep hill, high above Baixa, and Lisbon constructed ingenious methods for the residents of the city to climb these hills. The Elevador Santa Justa is a wondrous elevator that blends neo-gothic design ideas in iron, while the Elevator de Glória is a classical yellow funicular. Once at the top of the hill there are fantastic views over central Lisbon (at the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara) or the River Tejo estuary (at the Miradouro de Santa Catarina). For a full guide to Chiado and Bairro Alto please see this guide.

Elevador da Gloria

Elevador da Gloria

Highlights of the afternoon include:

• A ride up the Elevador Santa Justa

• A coffee and a slice of history at the Cafe Brasileira

• The ruins of the Igreja do Carmo, a lasting monument to the 1755 earthquake

• The viewpoints over Baixa and the River Tejo

• The stunning interior of the Igreja Sao Roque, one of the world’s first Jesuit churches

• The theatres and specialist shops of Chiado

Day 1 - Evening - Baixa and Rossio

For the evening, try dining out at one of Baixa’s excellent open-air restaurants, or eat much cheaper at one of the noisy and sociable Tascas (inexpensive, traditional restaurants popular with locals). For your meal be sure to try some of the unique Portuguese cuisines, including Bacalhau (salted cod fish), which supposedly has over 365 different methods of preparation.

For the remainder of the night, kick back and relax in the bars and late-night eateries behind Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (north of Baixa), watching the bustling tourist and local-filled streets go by with a glass of locally-produced wine.

lisbon party sagres beer

A glass of Sagres beer is a great way to start a night

Day 2 Morning (and most of the day) - The Belem District

For the second day, your trip should feature a visit to the historic Belem district, the Estrela Basilica, and a ride on the number 28 tram. The majority of the day will be spent in Belem, where there are numerous tourist attractions and countless historic monuments. Belem is a picturesque district to the west of Lisbon, which lines the banks of the River Tejo; for a detailed guide to the area, please click here.

 Belem fort tower

The Torre de Belem

Belem has a close connection to the great Portuguese explorers of the past, and it was here that Vasco da Gama spent his last night before discovering the sea route to India. Meanwhile, the parks and green areas of Belem were once the harbours, boatyards, and docks for these great voyages. Later on, the gold and wealth that flowed in from the African and Brazilian colonies funded the construction of the magnificent Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, a monastery dating back to the late 15th century.

Belem lisbon

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belem

This glorious history is commemorated by the Padrao dos Descobrimentos monument, and from the viewing platform of this imposing piece of architecture are stunning views over Belem and the Tejo Estuary. Further along is the Torre de Belem, a charming little fort that guarded Lisbon from seaward attack. The massive Belem Cultural Centre complex was constructed to house the 1992 European Union Presidency, and is now home to the Berardo Museum, the best free art gallery in Lisbon.

Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

Inside the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

For an inexpensive riverside view of Belem, catch a ride on the old car ferry that crosses the Tejo river from Belem to Porto Brabdao and Trafaria. A single ticket costs €1.15 (€2.30 return), and the ferry departs from the terminal close to the Jardim Afonso de Albuquerque.

Belem Ferry

The Belem ferry as it crosses the River Tejo

Day 2 Afternoon - Estrela and Tram Ride

Estrela is a calm, relaxed district of Lisbon that’s also the setting for the grand Estrela Basilica. This church was constructed by order of Queen Maria I, in fulfilled thanks for the birth of her healthy son. Inside the mighty structure is a charming Nativity scene constructed from cork and terracotta, while from the dome there are fantastic views over the city.

Estrela Basilica

The Estrela Basilica

Estrela is a tranquil but prosperous district of Lisbon, and opposite the Basilica is the Jardim da Estrela, a pleasant park that is a favourite with Lisbon’s residents. Estrela is connected to Baixa by the quaint number 28 tram route, which continues into the Alfama and Graca districts. This delightful tram route is one of the best ways to view the city and is best ridden later in the day when is less crowded.

Lisbon Tram 28

The number 28 tram in Praça do Comercio

Evening of Day 2 - Barrio Alto

As discovered on day 1, Bairro Alto is Lisbon’s main nightlife district and features a series of narrow streets filled with small bars and trendy venues. Bairro Alto is Lisbon's home of the haunting Fado Music, and the sound can be heard wafting out of the small bars and restaurants. At the weekend the streets are lined with late-night revellers, and there’s a lively, social atmosphere about the district.

lisbon nightlife

The small bars of Bairro Alto spill out onto the streets

Lisbon Day 3

The third day is divided between exploring the ultra-modern Parque das Nações, and the area around the Parque Eduardo VII and Avenida da Liberdade. This day will discover both the modern and stylish sides of Lisbon.

Lisbon Day 3

The Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations, or Expo Park) was a massive regeneration project to transform a large, derelict area of Lisbon into the showground for Expo 1998. The theme of the Expo was the ocean, and the entire area combines futuristic design with water-based exhibits and features. Parque das Nacoes  Lisbon

The Parque das Nações in eastern Lisbon

Parque das Nações contains the wonderful Lisbon aquarium (Oceanarium), a favourite with children which is divided into four huge tanks representing the four oceans. Other attractions are the cable car and Torre Vasco da Gamma, which is Lisbon’s highest building and provides great views over the Tejo River and Europe’s longest bridge over water.

Gare do Oriente Lisbon

The Parque das Nações

Afternoon - Parque Eduardo VII and Avenida da Liberdade

The Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s most stylish shopping street, and boutique shops neighbour exclusive restaurants along the pleasant tree-lined avenue. The Parque Eduardo VII is a long park that stretches from the end of the Avenida da Liberdade up to the flag viewpoint; at the intersection of the park and Avenida da Liberdade is an impressive statue dedicated to the Marquis of Pombal.

Praca Marques Pombal

Looking down to the Praça Marques Pombal in Lisbon

It is a pleasant walk from the Parque Eduardo VII, down the Avenida da Liberdade, to Baixa. At the bottom of the avenue sits the Praca Restauradores, a grand plaza with a large obelisk and a beautiful art deco theatre.

Avenida Liberdade lisbon

The tree lined Avenida Liberdade

Evening and Late Night – Santo Amaro Docks

The former dock warehouses have been converted into stylish bars and chic restaurants that stand in the shadow of the giant suspension bridge. The Santo Amaro Docks area is calm and collected by day, but at night becomes a haven for party animals.

Santo Amaro Docks

The Santo Amaro Docks under Lisbon suspension bridge

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