This past summer, Liesl and I (and The Husbands) had our first ever vacation together, and we ventured off to the colorful land of tiles, sardines, hilltops and cobblestone streets. Was it everything we dreamed of? Everything we dreamed of, hoped for, and MORE! Our minds were blown by this friendly (seriously some of the kindest people we've met!) and history-rich city, with its beautiful blend of old and new. Lisbon surprised us in more ways than one.
We spent three wonderful (and hot!) days in this vibrant and friendly city, climbing hills and hopping on trams as we explored, and indulging in the fabulous food scene as we went along. Below you can see our top picks of what to do, where to eat and where to stay during 3 DAYS in one of the coolest (and most affordable!) spots in Europe.
WHAT TO DO & WHERE TO EAT
The Belem District is a suburb located by the Tagus River, and home to the the famous Belem Tower (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that looks like something straight from a fairy tale (Hello, Rapunzel!) Hop on tram 15 and it will take you straight there. Go early to avoid lines and climb up the tower (entrance fee is €6 or free on Sundays) or opt to take in the beautiful views from outside. Walk along the Tagus River to the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument and go up to the top floor for beautiful views of the Tagus, the Belem Tower and also the Rose Compass in the square. Cool down afterwards with some delicious frozen yogurt, which you can buy at a food cart right beside the Rose Compass next to the harbor.
Cross the road and head to another one of Lisbon’s famous sites, the Jeronimos Monastery. The entrance fee for the monastery is €7.00 and the main chapel is free. It’s located right around the corner of Pasteis de Belem, the oldest pastry shop in Portugal, where you can indulge in one (or five!) of Portugal’s traditional egg tarts, Pastel de Nata. Grab a table if you can (it gets quite busy in there!) and relax before hitting another must-visit in Lisbon, the hip LX Factory.
After devouring a few too many egg tarts, walk off those calories from Pasteis de Belem all the way to LX Factory (or hop on tram 15 if you’re experiencing a heatwave like we did!) LX Factory, a formerly abandoned factory, has been transformed into an creative hub filled with street art, restaurants, bars and shops.
Go there on a Sunday and experience one of Lisbon’s best flea markets where creative locals have stalls selling everything from handmade jewelry and leather goods to designer clothes and vintage vinyls. Make some time for exploring and have your camera ready, ‘cause the snap-worthy walls covered in art is an Instagrammer's dream. Pop into the Ler Devagar bookstore (the best book store in the city!), admire the unique interior, and browse through a book or two while enjoying a refreshment at the bar.
Time for lunch! The options here are endless, but we highly recommend Wish Slow Coffee House (ideal for a light lunch and caffeine fix) or the hip and happenin' Burger Factory (Go here if you’re feeling hangry). Before you head back to the city, go grab a drink on the rooftop of Rio Marivilha where you’ll have amazing views of the river and also Lisbon’s very own "San Francisco Bridge “. Afterwards, you can get back on Tram 15 and it’ll take you back to the city center.
After taking a long and much needed rest at home, put on your party shoes and head to the famous and Insta-worthy Pink Street for drinks and dinner. Go to Menina e Moca, a library-inspired bar, and grab one of their colorful triangular tables outside and enjoy a cocktail inspired by famous Portuguese authors. Enjoy a light meal here, or go to A Rosinha de São Paulo for something a little heartier.
A trip to Portugal wouldn’t be complete without visiting the picturesque town that is Sintra, located just 28 km outside of Lisbon. This magical landscape lies at the foot of Sintra’s mountains, where lush green forests and fairy tale castles can be seen. The colorful Pena Palace is the most popular attraction and also one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal.
To get here, take the train from Rossio Station in Lisbon and get off at the last stop (It takes about 40 minutes). Take bus 434 from Sintra’s train station and go straight to Pena Palace. The ticket office is right outside and the entrance fee is €7.50 to see the terraces and the gardens only (If you’re interested in the history of the palace and would like to see the rooms inside the castle, get the €14 ticket).
Explore the grounds and terraces before taking a break at the terrace cafe, where you can enjoy light meals such as sandwiches and coffee or other beverages. Afterwards, you can hike up to the High Cross (Cruz Alta) where you can have breathtaking views of Sintra and Pena Palace.
Other sites worth visiting if you have time is Caste of the Moors (entrance fee is is €7.60) which is less than 200 m from Pena Palace, and the National Palace of Sintra (entrance fee is €10), which is located right in town. Buy combined tickets for all three sites online on Parques de Sintra and you'll save a few Euros.
Time Out Market
After a long day of exploring and sightseeing, go to the bustling Time Out Food Market, where you can find over 30 kiosks, restaurants and bars selling the best food and drinks Lisbon has to offer, chosen by Lisbon’s TimeOut magazine. From fresh (or fried) cod dishes, to meaty Prego rolls and melt-in-your mouth desserts, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. An abundance of delicious wines and beers on tap are also available.
What better way to start off a day than with a good ol’ brunch? Lisbon’s cafe scene is fab and you are spoiled with choices, but our top pick is this stunning, magazine-worthy cafe located in the charming and vibrant Bairro Alto neighborhood. Go early and grab a table by the entrance for the best natural light, and order an iced latte (Not easy to find in Europe!) and an Acai Bowl (A must-eat when in Portugal!).
After devouring this gorgeous spread, explore the hilly Bairro Alto neighborhood and take advantage of the snap-worthy tiled walls, pops of color and narrow cobblestone streets for some postcard pictures you can cherish forever.
When you’re done exploring, head back to Rua Poço dos Negros and get on the famous tram 28 (just around the corner of Dear Breakfast). Stay on the tram until you reach Santa Luzia viewpoint (In Portuguese viewpoint is ‘Miradouros’ , look out for these signs all over the city!)
This viewpoint has a beautiful tiled terrace and a bougainvillea garden, overlooking the Tagus river and the Alfama district.
After taking in the panoramic views at Santa Luzia, walk uphill to Castelo De Sao Jorge, a moorish hilltop castle overlooking Lisbon (Entrance fee is €8.50) Go inside and explore the grounds and terraces for as longs as you wish, and also admire the breathtaking views of Lisbon from this historic hilltop.
Afterwards you can enjoy refreshments at one of the many street cafes nearby, or head to O Velho Eurico for a hearty and traditional Portuguese meal.
Before making your way downhill, stop by Fado Vadio, the most famous graffiti area in Lisbon dedicated to traditional Portuguese music, which is just around the corner from O Velho Eurico and in Escadinhas de São Cristóvão.
After admiring this amazing artwork, you can slowly start to make your way downhill towards the Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s biggest plaza. On your way down you will see the Lisbon Cathedral on your left (entrance is free) and also the famous Conserveira de Lisboa, an 88 year old store that sells over 130 kinds of canned fish. Pick up some gifts for friends and family here and make your way to Praca do Comercio square.
Arco da Rua Augusta
The Arco da Rua Augusta is the large arch-like historical building you’ll see towering over the Praca do Comercio square. It was built to celebrate the city’s reconstruction after the big earthquake in 1755, and is one of Lisbon’s biggest attractions. Walk through the arch and you’ll be in Rua Augusta, the most famous shopping street in Lisbon. Make your way up Rua Augusta to the Santa Justa Lift and go up the elevator (€4) for magnificent views over Baixa.
On your last night in Lisbon, head back to the trendy Bairro Alto, the neighborhood with the best bars, clubs and restaurants. Go for dinner at Buenos Aires (Reserve ahead!), a street restaurant where people can enjoy their meal dining on the stairs in true Lisbon style. After dinner you can do some bar hopping in the area and sip away on some of the best cocktails in the city.
WHERE TO STAY
When Liesl and I travel, a LOT of research goes into our accommodation, and we always do our best to find a place that is 1. In our price range 2. Has excellent reviews 3. Is centrally located and 4. Has gorgeous interiors. We narrowed it down to these two apartments in Baixa-Chiado, the most central part of Lisbon, and both of us (and The Husbands!) had a wonderful stay.
Modern Apartment Calcada Sao Francisco
GS Chiado Boutique Studios & Suites
Both these apartments have minimal and modern interiors, are spacious, have all the amenities needed (including excellent WiFi and air conditioners!) and were within walking distance of all Lisbon's major attractions.
We hope you enjoyed our guide and it helps you in planning your trip to this wonderful city. You can also make use of our customized Lisbon Map with pins of all the places we included in our guide.
A Guide to Lisbon - MAP
If you have any other questions, feel free to comment below or send us an email. We are more than happy to help. Happy travels!
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