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 (who often do not speak a word of English but are too earnest to be dismissed), breathtaking Miradouros (viewpoints), the melancholia of Fado (traditional Portuguese music which is making a comeback in a big way) and of course the seamless blending of old structures and traditions with the new. Long story short, if you only have 72 hours in Lisbon, there is quite a bit to cover. Lisbon may be best described as a city that gives you a good sort of déjà vu, specially to San Franciscans who are reminded of home when they see the red bridge (25 De Abril, and an exact replica of the Golden Gate), the trams and the distinct charming neighborhoods. For Rio De Janeiro folks, it’s the miniature Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city from the other side, would be a familiar sight. No matter what memory Lisbon evokes, one thing is certain, it will make you want to come back for more. Not to be missed if you ever find yourself in the Iberian peninsula, here is my Lisbon summer travel guide for spending a beautiful 72 hours in this charming city. 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.
72 HRS IN LISBON: WHERE TO STAY?
Given how steep hotel prices can be during summer, we decided to opt for Airbnb for an economic alternative when we stayed for 72 hours in Lisbon. We settled for an entire apartment everywhere since we were a party of three and were greeted with a lovely apartment in the upcoming Riverside neighborhood which had great access to public transportation (metro and bus) and overlooked the red bridge (the San Franciscan in me did a mini war dance when I first laid my eyes on it). Brownie points for our host to welcome us super early in the morning! The apartment was lovely, very spacious and like every where else had free wifi (a must, must, must!).
THREE DAYS IN LISBON: MAJOR ATTRACTIONS
Your first stop in Lisbon summer travel in this 72 hours Lisbon itinerary, should be Baixa Chaido, the vibrant downtown neighborhood, to grab a bite to eat (at the famous cafe A Brasileira bustling with tourists and locals vying for the pastries and coffee) but not before making a quick detour at Mercado De Ribiera, a bustling market place minutes from our apartment and which was voted by Timeout 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! That place 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.
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 pricy 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) and move on. A huge line of tourists might greet you at any time of the day unless you arrive really early, so if you are crunched for time like we did, it would be a good idea to move on to more better viewing spots, again like we did. 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. Jaw dropping awe guaranteed every time! We did just that and left the elevator /tourist trap behind and marched on to the old Moorish joint of Mouraria and its adjacent the famous Castelo de São Jorge for magnificent views minus the tourist lines.
Portas do Sol
The old neighborhood of Mouraira, 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 during your 72 hours stay in Lisbon. The other must visit destinations 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!
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, its 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.
Graca And Praca do Comercio
Find some time to visit Graca during your 72 hours in Lisbon, one of the oldest suburbs of Lisbon northeast of the castle to partake of our 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 grand daddy 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 road-side kiosk lemonade.
LISBON SUMMER TRAVEL GUIDE: DAY 2
For the second day in your 72 hours in Lisbon, start you day off 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.
Jardim Antonio Nobre and Church of Sao Roque
A quick walk north of Quinoa is a beautiful, tranquil spot of Jardim Antonio Nobre, a park doubled up as another viewing spot. That and the beautiful Church of Sao Roque, resplendent with the famous Portugese tiles, were our pit-stops before we headed of the tourist hot spot destination of Belem.
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 gingerly got what seemed like a 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 dauntingly lone line of tourists, is a must visit and so is the monument to the discoveries, an ode to Portugese 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.
Castelo de S. Jorge
This is a must visit spot 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 sight seeing.
72 HOURS IN LISBON: DAY 3
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 ofblue and white azulejos and a well curated time line 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 72 hours in Lisbon itinerary.
Stroll down the trendy street of Principe Real and stop for some time at the trendy souk/marketplace Embaixada, where local artists and manufactuers showcase their wares.Finally no Lisbon summer travel is complete without some Gelato, so do stop by the famous Gelateria Nanarella to get a scoop of their fresh, home-made gelato.
This brings me to the end of this 72 hours in Lisbon summer travel guide. Do check out my other post on a tasty tour of Madrid where we joined a food tour to sample local flavors.
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