Best things to do in Lisbon in 2, 3 or 4 days
Planning a trip to Portugal can be overwhelming to say the least, I know this is exactly how I felt when trying to gather information about the best places to visit and things to do and see in Lisbon. This is why I have put together this pretty long Lisbon itinerary, which summarises all the major things that have to be seen in each part of the city.
This guide is perfect if you’re spending 2 or 3 days in Lisbon, and I have an extra tip if you’re staying even longer. Depending on where your accommodation is, which districts are closest to you, and what your priorities are, you can put together this guide in many different ways, or leave out some of the things if you feel like it. Each of the bigger points would take you around half a day (or slightly more), depending on how long you take at each stop.
So take out your travel journal and scribble down the next bullet points, as this will serve as the perfect Lisbon guide throughout your trip.
Spend (half) a day in Alfama
Discovering the beauty of the Alfama district is a great start to every Lisbon adventure. Alfama can easily be labeled a crowd favourite – almost everyone who visits this place falls in love with it. Let’s talk about all the things this gorgeous neighborhood has to offer and that shouldn’t be missing on your Lisbon itinerary.
Once I got to Alfama, I was slightly confused as to which route to take and how to not get lost. The streets of Alfama can get a bit tricky because they are so intertwined and you’re constantly going uphill and downhill.
I found out the best way to explore this place is by either taking the number 28 tram (change the rest of these), or walking along its route. Bear in mind that taking this exact tram is on everyone’s Lisbon itinerary, so riding on it feels like being in a can of sardines.
Alternatively, you can take the number 12 tram , which takes a very similar route, but it gets way less crowded.
The Se Cathedral
The Se Cathedral, or Lisbon Cathedral, is the oldest and most important church in the city. The cathedral was constructed back in the 12th century. It was built in predominantly Romanesque style.
The entrance is free of charge, but you need to pay a small fee if you want to see the cloister and the treasury as well.
Miradouro das Portas do Sol
There is no way you can miss this spot as it is one of the main stops of the tram 28, and pretty much everything leads to it. Miradouro das Portas do Sol offers a spectacular view of the colourful rooftops of Alfama.
The view from Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Just a few steps away from Miradouro das Portas do Sol is the Miradouro de Santa Luzia – a romantic terrace with another beautiful view over Alfama. The cafe here is a perfect quick stop for a refreshing drink.
Saint George’s Castle
The Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a great starting point to climb up to the St. George’s Castle. The castle is located on a hill overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon and Tagus River. It dates back to the 6th century, and today it’s considered one of the city’s main landmarks.
Many people online suggested visiting the castle at sunset, but following this advice we missed the opening hours and sadly didn’t get to see it for ourselves. It turned out that from October till February the castle closes at 6pm (we were visiting end of February), and the rest of the year – 9pm. So keep this in mind when you decide to visit.
The entry fee for adults is €8.50, students pay €5 and children under 10 y/o go in for free. You get 20% discount if you have the Lisboa card.
São Vicente de Fora Church
São Vicente de Fora is a church and a monastery and was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It was founded in the 12th century by the Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, and it was built outside of the city walls at that time. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon.
Graça Church and Miradouro
Right above São Vicente de Fora Monastery, if you climb up the hill you’ll reach the Graça District. Here you’ll find one of the city’s oldest churches – the Graça Church, and right next to it – the Miradouro da Graça – another terrace, offering a splendid view of the St. George’s castle and central Lisbon.
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
If you want to, however, see the city from the its highest viewpoint, head up to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. This position offers a great panoramic view over Lisbon and a perfect opportunity for capturing some great photos.
Santa Engracia National Pantheon
This impressive building should definitely be included in your Lisbon list of things to see. Originally being a church, Santa Engracia serves nowadays as the National Pantheon of Portugal, where many important Portuguese people were buried. Its beautiful white dome is part of the beautiful Alfama skyline and it can easily be spotted from some of the viewpoints mentioned above.
It’s worth it to climb up to the interior of the dome, which opens up a beautiful view of the intricate floor patterns below. You will also be awarded with yet another beautiful view over Alfama. The stairs up are quite narrow and twisted, so decide for yourself if it’s something for you.
National Tile Museum
If there is one museum you visit in Lisbon, make this the National Tile Museum. The museum features a huge variety of decorative ceramic tiles (or azulejos) starting all the way from the 15th century to present days. It goes through the different periods, types of tiles and decoration, as well as materials and techniques, used for manufacturing tiles.
Take a stroll around Baixa and Chiado
Rossio Square, or Praça do Rossio, is the very centre of Lisbon and the liveliest part of the city. Overflowing with cafes, restaurants and shops, you will find everything you need around here. Right next to Rossio Square is the Central Railway Station.
There are a couple of monuments in this square that are worth pointing out. In the centre you will see the Column of Pedro IV of Portugal. Next to the railway station is The National Theatre D. Maria II, which is considered one of the most prestigious Portuguese venues.
Carmo Convent and Church
One of the most spectacular and dramatic things we saw during our trip in Lisbon was the Carmo Convent, or the Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The medieval convent was severely destroyed during the huge earthquake in 1755. You can still see the remainings of the beautiful Gothic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which lost its rooftop during the disaster.
Nowadays, the Carmo Convent serves as an archeological museum. Adults ticket costs €4, seniors and students pay €3, and children 0-14 y/o enter for free.
Santa Justa Lift
One of the most famous viewpoints of Lisbon is the Santa Justa Lift. Standing 45 m (147 ft) tall, it offers a spectacular view over the Baixa district and the rest of the city. Beware that getting on the lift involves a good amount of waiting in line, as it can only carry 20 people at a time. The platform, however, takes a maximum of 29 visitors.
The lift is technically part of the public transport in Lisbon, so if you already own a daily pass, you are in luck. A ticket costs €5.15. If you own a Viva Viagem card, you only pay €1.45 for the platform, which is not included in the public transport daily pass.
Arco da Rua Augusta
Another must-see place in Lisbon is the Triumphal Arch, or Arco da Rua Augusta. The arch was built in the 19th century as a symbol of the capital’s recovery from the devastating 1755 earthquake.
Visitors can also climb to the top of the arch for a stunning view over Lisbon’s streets. Admission fee €3.
Arco da Rua Augusta
Experience the Bairro Alto by day and night
Bairro Alto is a very unique district as it’s the only one in Lisbon that completely transforms after the sun goes down.
Miradouro de Santa Catarina
Miradouro de Santa Catarina is one of the least popular Lisbon viewpoints, at least among tourists. Locals, and especially young people, love meeting the sunset over a drink at this exact spot. The viewing platform also has some cafes and restaurants, from where you can comfortably enjoy the beautiful view over river Tagus. Many consider this the best spot from which to photograph the iconic 25 de Abril Bridge and the Christ the King statue.
Church of Santa Catarina
Santa Catarina does not impress with its exterior as much as other churches, but on the inside you’ll find one of the most decorated and lovely churches of Lisbon. It’s noteworthy for its spectacular gilt work and for its 18th century rococo stucco ceiling, which is considered a masterpiece.
Elevador da Bica
I am sure many of you have seen a photo of this place at some point on Instagram, but weren’t sure where exactly in Lisbon it was. Same goes for me. Even though Elevador da Bica may be offering some great photo opportunities, the Bica funicular actually serves as a connection between Calçada do Combro, Rua do Loreto and Rua de Sao Paulo. The iconic yellow funicular represents the 19th century Lisbon transport and aims at preserving its history.
São Pedro de Alcântara Belvedere
I know I have already mentioned manny viewpoints over Lisbon, but bear with me as this city offers heaps of those. Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara offers a wonderful panoramic view over the city, overlooking the Saint George Castle. This open area has a park, some benches and a cafe, all of which providing a great opportunity to enjoy the mesmerising view.
Have a drink in the streets with the locals
Bairro Alto may be a normal touristy place during the day, but at night it transforms into the party district of Lisbon. The culture here is slightly different from other places in Europe. People would usually get a drink and then go out in the streets to enjoy it over a conversation with others. Bairro Alto turns into the heart of the city at nighttime. The Portuguese just love socialising and enjoying the fresh air and nice weather outside the small bars.
Explore the Belem District
Wandering around the most important sights shouldn’t take you more than half a day, so plan this the best way possible to suit your own itinerary. Getting there is extremely easy, as tram number 15 and a few other buses take you directly there.
The Church of Santa Maria
The first thing you will come across when getting off the tram/bus is the Church of Santa Maria. This is where the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was buried. The church impresses with its beautiful interior, decorations and stained glass windows.
Entry is free.
Santa Maria Church
Monastery of Jerónimos
Right next to the church you will find the Monastery of Jerónimos – one of the most visited places in all of Lisbon. The monastery is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Belem Tower that is located not so far.
It was built in a gorgeous Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style and it was a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome. Its construction lasted around a century and was finished in the 17th century.
Adults ticket costs €10, and Seniors (65+) and students with a valid student ID get 50% discount. Children under 12 are granted free entrance. If you have the Lisboa card, then you don’t have to pay an entrance fee. On the first Sunday of every month the entry is free for everybody.
Monastery of Jeronimos inside
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Right across from the Monastery of Jerónimos, on the waterfront you will find the beautiful Padrão dos Descobrimentos. The monument is dedicated to the explorers who helped turn Portugal into a superpower in the 14th century.
You can enter the monument and go up to the viewing platform for a beautiful scenery from the top. The entry fee also includes an exhibition and a short film.
Adult tickets are €6, and young adults 13-18 y/o pay €3.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos at sunset
Torre de Belém
A couple of stops away by tram and you reach the famous Belem Tower. As previously mentioned, this place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the significant role it played during the Age of the Discoveries.
The tower was constructed in the 16th century and it is a great example of the typical Portuguese Manueline style, which you’ll find all over Lisbon.
An individual ticket costs €6, and as always students and seniors have 50% discount. You can get a combined ticket Belem Tower + Jeronimos Monastery for €12.
See the new part of the city – Parque das Nações
Parque das Nações is the modern, newer part of Lisbon. This district is quite different from the rest – corporate buildings, new architecture, but also many cultural activities and things to see. Initially built for the 98 Expo, it now serves as a residential and corporate district.
The Lisbon Oceanarium
The main highlight of Parque das Nações is certainly the Oceanarium. The aquarium has a large collection marine species, such as sharks, penguins, seahorses, starfishes and many more. The huge displays make you feels as if you’re part of the underwater world. No matter your age, the view turns into a curious child, leaving you fascinated and wanting to learn more about these creatures.
Highly recommended attraction for children!
If you’re reaching this part of the city by metro, there is no way you could miss this stunning piece of modern architecture. The station was built with a roof of glass and steel, made to look like a row of trees. Apart from the metro, you will also find a bus terminal and a train station there.
Vasco da Gama Bridge
With its 17.2 km (11 miles), Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in all of Europe, and one of the longest in the world. The bridge is seemingly endless, but one can’t really appreciate its size from a distance. The best place to see it is undoubtedly from Parque das Nações.
Vasco da Gama Tower
With its provoking 145 m (575 ft) height, Vasco da Gama Tower is the tallest building in Lisbon. The viewing platform at the top can be reached by a glass elevator and it provides a breathtaking view over Lisbon, Tagus river and Vasco da Gama bridge. Nowadays the building serves as a luxury hotel.
If you’re already nearby, stop and take a look at the this gravity-defying structure. Its ‘sagging’ concrete rooftop, weighing 1,400 tones, may look like it could collapse any second, but it has been standing since 1998. The building is now used for temporary exhibitions.
Take a day trip to Sintra
Pena Palace in Sintra
If you are spending an extra day in Lisbon, I strongly recommend taking a day trip to the beautiful village of Sintra. This historical place is packed with castles and medieval fortresses, waiting to be explored.
A train leaves every 10 minutes from Lisbon Rossio and it takes 40 minutes to reach Sintra. From there, you can take a public bus to get to most attractions.
A Sintra Itinerary coming soon!