Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal happens to be one of the most underrated cities in the world. In this guide on how to spend 3 days in Lisbon, I will be touching on some of the best things to do in Lisbon in 72 hours for those visiting for the very first time. From tram rides to seeing the Golden Gate Bridge replica and stuffing your face with the most delicious Pasteis de Nata, there is never a dull moment when visiting Lisbon!
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WHY VISIT LISBON FOR 3 DAYS?
Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is possibly Western Europe’s best kept secrets. Never on the same list as London, Paris or Zurich, the city will charm your socks off with its cobbled winding streets, friendly people, breathtaking Miradouros (viewpoints), the melancholia of Fado (traditional Portuguese music) and of course the seamless blending of old structures and traditions with the new. Add in the lip smacking seafood and world famous Pasteis de Nata (those melt in your mouth pastries) and you have the perfect reason for visiting Lisbon.
Unlike other big cities in Europe, Lisbon has a very relaxed vibe to it. It is also a very walkable city and definitely more affordable food and lodging wise. Also, the winter temperatures are relatively milder than London and Paris, making it a viable destination for colder weather as well. If you’re visiting Europe for the first time, I recommend starting off with Lisbon for its low key, chilled out charm.
Lisbon is personally very dear to me. This is a sister city to my home, i.e. San Francisco, and constantly reminded me of SF with its replica of the Golden Gate Bridge (The Ponte 25 de Abril) and its trams. In this guide to spending three beautiful days in Lisbon, I hope I can show you why I fell in love with the city and inspire you to do the same.
IS 3 DAYS ENOUGH TO SEE LISBON?
3 days in Lisbon is good enough to see the major attractions in the city as well as make a half day trip to Belem. In this guide to 72 hours in Lisbon, I will tell you everything that you need to know to cover the top Lisbon attractions with tips on where to stay and eat.
TIPS TO PLAN YOUR 72 HOURS IN LISBON
CHOOSE A CENTRALIZED LOCATION FOR YOUR HOTEL
The vibrant Baixa district, the buzzing Bairro Alto and the most popular Alfama neighborhoods are were you should aim to stay for their centralized locations and also because most of the popular landmarks are located here. For more affordable options, explore the quiet Riverside neighborhood which is overlooks the Ponte de Abril and has easy access to public transportation (metro and bus) to take you to downtown.
FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN LISBON
Lisbon is extremely walkable, but you cannot beat the efficient public transportation to get from one point to another. On our very first day, we were so exhausted after walking all day that we could barely get out of bed on day 2 (the cobbled streets will do a number on you). Also, the trams are so picturesque, you gotta get on one to soak in the vibe!
With buses, funiculars, trams and metro there are lots of choices for getting around Lisbon. Lisbon has a very complicated system for tickets, so simply buy the 7 Colinas card from any metro station and charge it for a 1 day travel card (costs 6.30 Euros or 6.80 USD) for use on trams, buses, metro and lifts. You can also skip the card to buy a single one time use ticket for the public transit option of your choice that costs 1.45 Euros (1.60 USD).
HOTELS IN LISBON
Summer (which is when we visited) is the most popular time for travel and hotels can get quite expensive. We decided to opt for Airbnb as an economic alternative during our 3 day trip to Lisbon and stayed in the Riverside neighborhood. P.S. Be careful while booking on Airbnb and always book through the actual site after combing through the reviews for a genuine experience. For those of you who are Airbnb savvy guests, here is a post on 11 learnings and great tips for beginner Airbnb hosts.
If you’re planning to stay in a more centralized location, AlmaLusa in Baixa/Chiado and Portugal Boutique Hotel (again in Baixa/Chiado/Rossio) are good options. Memmo Alfama Hotel is perfect for experiencing the best of Alfama, one of the most popular neighborhoods in Lisbon and the one we absolutely loved!
BEST THINGS TO DO IN LISBON IN 3 DAYS: DAY 1
EXPLORE DOWNTOWN AREA (BAIXA/CHIADO)
Your first stop in Lisbon summer travel in this 72 hours Lisbon itinerary, should be Baixa/Chiado, the vibrant downtown neighborhood, to grab a bite to eat (at the famous cafe Cafe Brasileira bustling with tourists and locals vying for the pastries and coffee) but not before making a quick detour at Mercado Da Ribeira, a bustling marketplace minutes from our apartment and which was voted by Time Out magazine as a must visit place to enjoy a local snack and witness a slice of Portuguese daily-life humdrum.
Coffee, especially those miniature espresso shots, is huge in Lisbon, but we steered clear and got some hot chocolate, toast and salmon salad instead to wet our appetite. If you are looking for good coffee in the city, read this awesome best coffee in Lisbon guide for your caffeine fix!
This cafe gets very busy especially in the afternoon, and getting the attention of the extremely busy servers if you grab an outdoor seat is akin to a tiny miracle, so you need to be patient or show up early for breakfast. For more culinary inspiration, read this guide to 8 traditional Portuguese foods that you must try while in Portugal.
RIDE UP THE ELEVADOR DE SANTA JUSTA
Soak in the many sights of the city as you brave your way past the squares, the ambling trams, shiny tuk-tuks (three wheelers which are pricey but good alternatives to take you where you want when your legs have given up) , stop by to marvel at the Elevador de Santa Justa (a huge structure operated by a lift to take you all the way up and reveal sweeping views of the city) which is steps away from Carmo convent in the heart of the city.
This elevator was inaugurated in 1902 and has been operating ever since. It is part of the public transportation system in Lisbon and is currently managed by Carris. The elevator opens at 7:30 AM everyday and I highly recommend arriving as early as possible to avoid those long tourist lines. We did not plan well and were totally deterred by a very long line. For those interested in skipping the lines or avoid paying the return back fee, read this helpful article.
GET SPECTACULAR VIEWS OF THE CITY FROM THE MANY MIRADOUROS
Portuguese are mighty proud of their city scales and views, so if you ever spot a sign saying “Miradouro” (viewing spot), drop everything and make a beeline for it. Here are some of the best viewpoints in Lisbon to check out:
Castelo de São Jorge
This is a must visit spot during your 3 days in Lisbon where you will find gorgeous views of the city (think red tiled roofs ) and get to see beautiful peacocks! This Moorish castle,located on the hilltop provides sweeping views of the city and is the perfect way to end another busy day in Lisbon after all the sightseeing.
The castle is located right next to the old Moorish neighborhood of Mouraria which is a treat to explore as well.The old neighborhood of Moraira, erstwhile Moorish quarters of 12th century Lisbon and possibly the birthplace of Fado music, is extremely charming and quaint with hundreds of years of secrets tucked in its every fold, step and corner, and is a must visit to witness a slice of old-world charm with only 72 hours to spend in Lisbon.
Portas do Sol
The other must visit destinations during your three days in Lisbon are the viewing spots of Portas Do Sol and the adjacent must visit neighborhood of Alfama. Added bonus, another viewing area called Miradouro de Santa Luzia, adjacent to Portas Do Sol.
Both these viewing spots are open balconies overlooking the Tagus river and offer excellent views of the Alfama district (read this excellent guide on things to do in Alfama). Camera fiend or simply a lover of beauty, the sights will leave you speechless! For more on such photogenic spots in the city, read this guide on the best photo spots in Lisbon.
Graca And Praca do Comercio
Even if you have only 72 hours in hand in Lisbon, do find some time to visit Graca, one of the oldest suburbs of the city to partake of fantastic views from the famous Miradouro de Santa Graca. Finish off your day with a stopover at Praça do Comércio, a bustling square near the water and often considered the gateway to Lisbon.
Jostle your way through the crowds on Rua do Comercio to the triumphal arch Arco da Rua Augusta in the granddaddy of plazas, Praça do Comércio to be greeted sweeping sights of the water, the red bridge and a small beach.
In the words of the Lonely Planet “With its grand 18th-century arcades, lemon-meringue facades and mosaic cobbles, the riverfront Praça do Comércio is a square to out-pomp them all. Everyone arriving by boat used to disembark here, and it still feels like the gateway to Lisbon, thronging with activity and rattling trams. At its centre rises the dashing equestrian statue of Dom José I , hinting at the square’s royal roots as the pre-earthquake site of Palácio da Ribeira.
In 1908, the square witnessed the fall of the monarchy, when anarchists assassinated Dom Carlos I and his son. The biggest crowd-puller is Verissimo da Costa’s triumphal Arco da Victória , crowned with bigwigs such as 15th-century explorer Vasco da Gama. Come at dusk to see the arch glow gold; end the day with a golden sunset over the bridge and refreshing roadside kiosk lemonade.
EXPLORE ALFAMA, THE COOLEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN LISBON
Alfama is the one neighborhood to end your visit to all others, so if you are very hard pressed on time, don’t give this place a miss! Tucked away in slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo river, this place is part trendy, part charming, part old-world, part bustling, it’s a neighborhood where hidden gems lie waiting to be discovered on its winding streets and beautiful local eateries beckoning you with evening rendezvous with Fado and food.
Generally a great place to just get lost, without any rhyme or reason, this was hands down our favorite in all of Lisbon during our 72 hours in Lisbon. The more you walk its winding lanes, the more you stumble upon sights and make discoveries! We loved, loved, loved this neighborhood and returned one evening to get our fill on Fado.
72 HOURS IN LISBON: DAY 2 LISBON ITINERARY
BREAKFAST AT BAIRRO ALTO
For the second day in your three day Lisbon itinerary, start your morning with yummy breakfast at Quinoa, a charming bakery in the Bairro Alto neighborhood. We loved the cafe with its charming decor and had our first taste of Lisbon’s famous Pastel-de-Nata. These are flaky, round pastries that you are bound to see in any cafe worth its salt in Lisbon.
VISIT JARDIM ANTÓNIO NOBRE AND CHURCH OF SÃO ROQUE
A quick walk north of Quinoa is a beautiful, tranquil spot of Jardim António Nobre, a park doubled up as another viewing spot. That and the beautiful Church of Sao Roque, resplendent with the famous Portuguese tiles, were our pit-stops before we headed of the tourist hot spot destination of Belem.
GO ON A DAY TRIP TO BELEM FROM LISBON
Even with 72 hours in Lisbon or less, you cannot miss a trip to Belem. Hiking to Belem, on the south-western fringes of the city is not a good idea, so we got the 24 hr pass from a vending station at the Metro and got on to the bus, jam-packed with tourists to find out for ourselves what the entire fuss was about.
The Monastery of Belem (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos), despite a daunting lone line of tourists, is a must visit during your 3 days in Lisbon and so is the monument to the discoveries, an ode to Portuguese sea navigators and adventurers who went adrift in search of new lands to conquer and colonize. A brisk walk from both attractions is the tower of Belem where you will again encounter a long line of tourists.
There are several museums here too, such as the National Coach Museum,National Archaeology Museum and Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (free entry), which we had to give a miss, but the one thing that you should not miss at all costs is the Pastéis de Belém, started by the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery. This is a pilgrimage worth every imaginable pain, wait, blood, sweat and tears and one taste of the delectable pastry is guaranteed to make your life feel complete, finally.
THREE DAYS IN LISBON: DAY 3 ITINERARY
VISIT THE BEAUTIFUL TILE MUSEUM
To witness some of the best in Portuguese art, visit the Tile museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) to see the beautiful ceramic tiles that have made Portugal so famous! The museum was a visual treat with rows of blue and white azulejos and a well curated timeline of history of Lisbon and the museum itself. Although off the beaten track, this museum is worth a visit and must be included in your 3 days in Lisbon itinerary.
WALK DOWN PRINCIPE REAL
Stroll down the trendy street of Principe Real and stop for some time at the trendy souk/marketplace Embaixada, where local artists and manufacturers showcase their wares.Finally no Lisbon summer travel is complete without some Gelato, so do stop by the famous Gelateria Nannarella to get a scoop of their fresh, homemade gelato.
Other posts on Lisbon that you should check out
If you have only one day in Lisbon, you can cover the major attractions in this Lisbon in one day guide. If you are staying for longer, don’t forget to read this road trip in Portugal guide (Porto to Faro) or visit the famous Hell’s Mouth of Cascais city.
For those of you into hiking, check out this Camino Portugues from Lisbon guide that details the famous pilgrimage route from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. For more on Portugal, read this guide on top things to do in Northern Portugal which includes the beautiful town of Porto in Douro valley or if you have more time, check out these things to do in Porto and day trips from Porto.
This brings me to the end of this 3 days in Lisbon summer travel guide. I hope you enjoyed this guide to 72 hours in Lisbon and are planning a trip soon. Thanks a lot for stopping by and check out my other Europe guides here.
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