Lisbon is full of colorful houses, blue tiles, and red roofs. It’s such a fun and vibrant city with so much culture and pastries that are to. die. for. The cobblestone streets really give you that old Europe feel and the people are so kind and genuinely excited to share their country with you.
Whether you’re stopping in Lisbon on your way to another European city or starting your adventure around Portugal from there, Lisbon is definitely worth exploring for a few days. Here’s what you should do with three days in Lisbon:
Day 1: Take in the Views of Lisbon
Walk around Praça do Comércio: Start your time in Lisbon by walking around the town square. It’s always lively and you can see various street performers, shop from local vendors, or grab a bite from a local restaurant. Even if you just wander around, it’s a fun place to explore and start your adventure around the city.
Go up the Rua Augusta Arch: This is one of the best views of the city. You get a 360 degree view of both the red roofs and the river. You could also go up Elevador de Santa Justa, but honestly, the view is better from here, it’s cheaper, and the line is not nearly as long!
Do some window shopping on Rua Augusta: If you’re looking to do a little shopping, the main street right below Rua Augusta Arch is the perfect place to do it. I love shopping in new cities, because you get to see how style plays a role in a different culture and you get to find fun new pieces you could never find at home.
Time Out Market: Time Out Market is one of the most famous places to go to eat in Lisbon and for good reason. There are tons of different options, so if you’re looking for famous Portuguese bacalhau (cod fish), candied nuts, or a pizza, Time Out Market literally has something for everyone. It also has a really fun communal vibe to it. Be sure to go to Manteigaria for the best Pasteis de Nata (the most famous Portuguese dessert). Seriously, I’ve eaten a lot in my life, and these ones are the absolute best in the city.
Try all the Pastries: The first day of vacation is always the best, because you haven’t eaten too much yet, so you’re still excited to try all the things. Our favorite treats are bolo de berlin (like a custard filled donut), bolo de brigadeiro (chocolate cake), brigadeiro (sweet little chocolate balls covered in sprinkles), and pasteis de nata (custard tart, I swear it’s better than it sounds).
Take in the views at Castelo de São Jorge: Castelo de São Jorge is an old Moorish castle that overlooks the whole city and has incredible views of all the iconic red roofs. You can also see the famous 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo Rei (the sister statue to the one in Rio de Janeiro) from up there.
Enjoy the sunset from Miradouro das Portas do Sol: This is probably the most popular place to get the iconic Lisbon views, but you can’t come to Lisbon without stopping here. You get sweeping views of the Alfama district, the 17th-century Monastery, and the Rio Tejo.
Where to Stay: Hotel Santa Justa Lisboa or Four Seasons RITZ Lisbon
Day 2: Explore Old Lisbon
Torre de Belém: The old watch tower of Belem is one of the most famous architectural monuments in Lisbon. Get there first thing in the morning, because the line for tickets gets long fast and they only let a certain number of people inside at a time. The inside has old cannons and a prison in the basement that smells absolutely awful, haha. Even if you don’t go inside, it’s beautiful to see, and it’s great for a great place to take an iconic Lisbon photo.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos: Just down the river from Tower of Belem is the Monument of the Discoveries. It features some of the world’s great explorers on the outside, like Vasco de Gama and Ferdinand Magellan.
Grab Lunch from Pão Pão Queijo Queijo: For a quick bite and the most popular sandwiches in Lisbon, be sure to make your way over to Pão Pão Queijo Queijo, which means “bread bread cheese cheese,” so…you really can’t go wrong.
And grab a pastel de nata from Pastéis de Belém: Since you should probably make sure you eat at least one pastel de nata a day, next door to Pão Pão Queijo Queijo is Pastéis de Belém, which is supposedly home to the original pastel de nata. Be sure to top your pastry with cinnamon and powdered sugar. I promise it makes it so much better. Also, don’t be intimidated by the line. If you don’t want to sit inside, you can grab it “to-go” and that line goes really fast.
Wander the Streets of Alfama: Alfama is one of our favorite areas in Lisbon. It’s probably the most “Instagrammable” spot with colorful houses, tiled walls, and adorable store fronts everywhere you turn. I could seriously get lost wandering around these cobblestone streets and just getting inspo for our future home from these houses for an entire day.
Eat a smoothie bowl at Bowl: If you’re craving a healthy treat, head to Bowl for a delicious, fresh smoothie bowl. Also, run next door to the grocery store, Pingo Doce, and pick up a box of “My Time Chocolate: Preto e Branco” cereal. I promise it’s delicious and not healthy at all and will be better than any other breakfast cereal you’ve ever eaten in your life. Our advice: don’t even bother pouring milk in it. Just take a handful and put it straight in your mouth.
Enjoy the sunset from Bairro Alto: Bairro Alto is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Lisbon and it’s known for really coming alive at night. If you’re looking for fun nightlife, this is the place to be.
Day 3: Day Trip to Sintra
Spend the Morning at Pena Palace: Sintra is a magical fairytale land tucked in a beautiful forest and known for it’s castles. The most iconic in our opinion is Pena Palace. It’s also for sure the most colorful palace in all of Europe! At least from the outside. It’s built up on a hill and has the most beautiful gardens (full of swan-filled lakes) that you can walk through and enjoy on your way up to the castle. It gets really crowded later in the day, so be sure to get there as soon as it opens and if you don’t want to walk through the gardens, you can take a shuttle straight to the entrance of the castle.
Explore Quinta de Regaleira: This estate was built in the early 1900s and has everything from a palace and a church to secret tunnels and hidden wells. One of the most famous wells on the property is called the Initiation Well and used to be used for ceremonial rituals. It’s a beautiful secret garden-esque home to explore for a few hours.
Wander the Streets: Sintra has adorable shops and restaurants and you can easily spend the afternoon wandering through the town and in and out of all the different stores. Sintra was once known as a place where artists came to create and get inspiration, so it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy some time just enjoying all the beauty of Portugal. Even if you just sit on a park bench in Sintra, you’ll leave feeling totally in love with Portugal.
Spend some time on the beach at Praia de Rainha: You don’t have to go to the Algarve to enjoy the beaches of Portugal (but you should definitely still go). Praia de Rainha is in Cascais, which is the town just outside of Sintra on the coast. It’s a small beach, but it’s also the most picturesque.
After you’ve spent some time in Lisbon, be sure to head down and explore the cities and beaches of The Algarve. If you’re looking for other places to visit and things to do while you’re in Portugal, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Portugal.