Exploring a new city for the first time is so exciting – there is just so much to see and do! But sometimes knowing where to start can be really overwhelming. We recently spent a few nights in Lisbon and fell in love with this charming city. I have put together a 3-day itinerary for Lisbon, so that you can enjoy everything this gorgeous city has to offer.
WHAT TO SEE IN LISBON: DAY 1
Belém lies on the banks of the River Tagus to the west of the city centre, and is famous for its many iconic Lisbon tourist attractions and historic monuments. You can easily spend half a day wandering around Belém to see the main sights. If you choose to enter all of the tourist attractions plus visit the museums in the area, factor in a full day to explore Belém.
Belém can easily be reached by taking a train from Cais do Sodre to Cascais. Take a train that stops at all stations, and hop off at Belém station. Wear good walking shoes as you will do a bit of walking around Belém to reach all of the iconic sites.
Oh, and don’t make the same mistake that we made… most of the sites in Belém are closed on Mondays. This completely slipped my mind and unfortunately, we ended up in Belém on a Monday! So be sure to plan your visit for any other day except for Monday.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery)
First up on our list of what to see in Belém is Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. This highly ornate and elegant monastery is over 500 years old and showcases beautiful architecture and intricately detailed cloisters. The monastery was built by King Manuel I on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator. Vasco da Gama and his crew spent the night in prayer here before departing on their voyage to India. The monastery was founded by the Order of Saint Jerome, where the monks gave guidance to the sailors and prayed for the king’s soul. In 1983, the monastery was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Useful Information for Jeronimos Monastery
Address: Praça do Império 1400-206 Lisboa, Portugal
Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6:30pm (May to September); Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5:30pm (October to April). Closed Mondays.
Tickets: Tickets are sold onsite only. Individual tickets cost €10/person (children under 12 are free). A combined ticket to Jeronimos Monastery and Belém Tower will cost €12/person.
Tips: Avoid the line by purchasing your ticket from the Archaeological Museum (located in the same building). If you don’t want to pay to go in, the Main Chapel is always free to enter.
Directly opposite the monastery is a beautifully manicured garden with impressive fountain. This is called Jardim da Praca do Imperio and it is the perfect spot for a photo opportunity and a quick rest before continuing to explore Belém.
When you reach the road, there is a pedestrian underpass that allows you to cross to the river side in order to see the rest of Belém’s sights. You will come out right in front of Padrao dos Descobrimentos.
Padrao dos Descobrimentos
This massive iconic monument (standing 52m high!) was designed to commemorate the Age of Discoveries in Portugal. It represents the prow of a ship when viewed from the side, and a Latin cross when viewed from the rear. I found the sheer size and magnitude of this sight impressive. There is also a beautiful marble mosaic at the foot of the monument, depicting a large compass with a map of the world. For a fee, you can enter the monument and go to the observation deck right at the top. From here you can see panoramic views over the Tagus River and the nearby bridge.
Useful Information for Padrao dos Descobrimentos
Address: Av. Brasilia 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 7pm (March to September); Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm (October to February). Closed Mondays.
Tickets: Tickets are sold onsite only. Individual tickets cost €5/person (children under 12 are free).
Tips: There is an elevator to reach the top observation deck.
Once you have finished at Padrao dos Descobrimentos, continue walking towards Belém Tower. You will pass a few cafes and eateries along the way (note that you cannot walk along the water – the path forces you back towards the road).
Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
Belém Tower was built in the 16th century as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour. The stunning architecture and tranquil surrounds make this iconic monument so special. It was built in the Manueline style, but also features a Moorish-style watchtower. You can climb up a set of narrow steps to go into the Belém Tower – but beware that it is quite crowded and hot, and can get a bit claustrophobic in the narrow stairwell.
Useful Information for Belém Tower
Address: Av. Brasilia 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6:30pm (May to September); Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5:30pm (October to April). Closed Mondays.
Tickets: Tickets are sold onsite only. Individual tickets cost €6/person (children under 12 are free). A combined ticket to Jeronimos Monastery and Belém Tower will cost €12/person.
Tips: Avoid the line by purchasing your ticket from the Archaeological Museum (at the Monastery). The view is quite similar to Padrao dos Descobrimentos, so you may wish to skip going up in Belém Tower and simply enjoy it from the outside.
We headed back to our hotel after spending some time at Belém Tower, as we had one very tired toddler with us. But for those who wish to explore Belém a bit more, there are a few more attractions in and around the area.
MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology)
MAAT is the new cultural centre in Lisbon, showcasing various exhibitions and artwork. But there is more to MAAT than the exhibitions – the futuristic architecture of this building make it worth a visit! The roof of the building has been designed for visitors to climb up and enjoy panoramic views of the riverside and beyond. The landscape becomes absolutely beautiful in the late afternoon, with the sun setting on the horizon.
Useful Information for MAAT
Address: Av. Brasilia, Central Tejo 1300-598 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open from 11am to 7pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Tickets: Individual tickets cost €5/person (children under 18 are free). Entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month.
Tips: Come here around sunset for amazing views
Pasteis de Belém
This bakery is renowned for being the home of the pastel de nata. It is believed that these delicious custard tarts were perfected in the 18th century by nuns from Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. In 1837 the bakery started selling these delicious tarts to the public – and to this day tourists still flock to Belém to sample them! There is always a long line just to get inside the bakery, so unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to try the pasteis de nata from this famous bakery.
For those wanting to taste delicious pasteis de nata in Lisbon without the tourist hype and long line, I highly recommend going to Manteigaria. As soon as we walked in, we knew this place was going to be amazing. They only sell pasteis de nata and espressos and they are always busy (yet there is no horribly long line). The pastry shell is thin and perfectly crunchy. The custard filling is rich (but not too rich) and oh-so-smooth. They are simply divine and you must eat at least one every day while you stay in Lisbon! You can even watch the bakers work their magic as they create these delicious tarts. Manteigaria was right around the corner from our hotel Le Consulat Lisboa (read about our stay here – link coming soon), so we could indulge in these as often as we liked!
Useful Information for Manteigaria
Address: Rua do Loreto 2, 1200-108 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open daily from 8am to 12am (midnight)
WHAT TO SEE IN LISBON: DAY 2
There is so much to see in downtown Lisbon, so our second day was spent exploring Bairro Alto and beyond. Be prepared for lots of walking, we found it was the best way to get around and experience the cultural heart of Lisbon.
Largo do Camoes (Camoes Square)
This small square is located at the convergence of the Bairro Alto and Chiado districts. In the centre of the square stands a bronze statue of Luis de Camoes, a 16th century Portuguese poet. The square is ever-so-quaint with its cobblestone pavement, historic coffee kiosk and surrounding picturesque buildings. There are many cafes and pastry shops around Largo do Camoes, so grab some breakfast and continue on exploring. Pop into Manteigaria and buy some pasteis de nata to eat at our next stop.
Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
From Largo do Camoes, face the church on the corner (Igreja do Loreto) and walk up this road (uphill walk). You will pass Ascensor da Gloria on a street to your right (don’t worry, we will come back to this to look at it) and then you will reach this miradouro (viewpoint). There are great panoramic views across the city and Sao Jorge Castle. Sit back, relax and eat those tasty pasteis de nata!
Ascensor da Gloria (Gloria funicular)
This is Lisbon’s second oldest funicular and provides a quick and easy way to make the steep climb between Baixa and Bairro Alto. Gloria funicular originally opened in 1885, and was then electrified in 1915. It still maintains its charm and the bright iconic yellow façade – making a great photo opportunity. The 3-minute trip costs around €3.60 and is usually jam-packed with tourists. We chose to simply take a few photos and then walk down to the bottom of the hill to reach Avenida da Liberdade.
Avenida da Liberdade
Take a stroll down this picturesque boulevard dotted with high-end boutiques, mansions, theatres and luxury hotels. The tree-lined avenue features mini-gardens, fountains and pretty cobblestone pavement. Soak up the atmosphere by relaxing at one of the outdoor cafes or enjoy some shopping in the designer boutiques (think Louis Vuitton, Tods, Burberry).
Parque Eduardo VII
At the end of Avenida da Liberdade, you will reach Marques de Pombal Square – a large roundabout with an ornate monument. Just behind this massive roundabout lies Parque Eduardo VII, a beautiful green space in the heart of Lisbon. We walked up the hill to get some stunning views across the green labyrinth hedge, the city and beyond.
After a leisurely stroll back on Avenida da Liberdade (you can always jump in a taxi if you need a break from walking) we reached Rossio Square. This lively square features two baroque fountains, a large monument and cobblestone pavement in a wave-like pattern. It is surrounded by quaint cafes with outdoor sitting areas – but is extremely overpriced. We chose to buy lunch from a bakery a few streets away, which we then enjoyed while sitting in Rossio Square.
A short walk from Rossio Square brought us out at Carmo Convent. I didn’t know what to expect of Carmo Convent – but it actually took my breath away! You see, in 1755 a massive earthquake hit Lisbon and destroyed much of the city. The ruins of Carmo Convent are a reminder of that tragedy, as this Gothic church remains roofless. I found the ruins to be a tranquil haven away from the busy city. There is also a small archaeological museum attached to the convent ruins, and the gift shop has a window with amazing views.
Useful Information for Carmo Convent
Address: Largo do Carmo, 1200-092 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open Monday to Saturday 10am to 7pm (June to September); Monday to Saturday 10am to 6pm (October to May). Closed Sundays.
Tickets: Tickets are sold onsite only. Individual tickets cost €4/person (children under 14 are free).
Tips: Check out the view from the gift shop window
Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift)
Built in 1902, the Elevador de Santa Justa is an elaborate Gothic wrought-iron lift designed to transport people up the steep hill from the Baixa district into Bairro Alto. Once you get to the top, there is a spiral staircase that leads you up to an even higher vantage point with viewing platform. The panoramic view from here is stunning – making this such a popular tourist attraction. But do be warned that it gets extremely busy and you may have to queue for an hour to take the 20-second lift ride up to the top. Try to plan your visit early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the queues. Or, skip the queues entirely (and save money) by skipping the lift ride altogether and accessing the top deck by climbing the stairs along the side of the Carmo Convent.
Useful Information for the Santa Justa Lift
Address: Rua do Ouro, 1500-060 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open daily from 7am to 11pm (March to October); open daily from 7am to 9pm (November to February).
Tickets: Return lift ride tickets cost €5.15/person (children under 14 are free). An additional €1.50 is charged to access the top viewing platform
Tips: Use the entrance by Carmo Convent to skip the queue and save money
WHAT TO SEE IN LISBON: DAY 3
Our third day in Lisbon was spent wandering around the narrow, cobblestoned lanes of Alfama, before we made our way back to Bairro Alto and Baixia. Alfama is one of those charming neighbourhoods that allows you to get a glimpse into a more traditional way of life in Lisbon. The winding alleyways are lined with colourful houses with peeling paint. Their wrought-iron balconies have washing hanging off them and women are selling fresh fish from their doorways. It’s the perfect place to wander around aimlessly and just enjoy its classic charm.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
We took the iconic Tram 28 from our hotel and got out at Miradouro de Santa Luzia. This is one of Lisbon’s prettiest miradouros, with magnificent decorative tiles, a lovely garden and a pop of colour from the bougainvillea tree. The views from here are pretty special too – with a panoramic outlook across Alfama, the dome of the National Pantheon, Santa Estevao Church and Sao Miguel Church.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to fully experience the beauty of this miradouro, because I was a bit shaken and upset from our tram ride. You see, I had spotted a pickpocket in action on Tram 28. I called him out for what he was doing and he started abusing me in Portuguese. If you plan on taking Tram 28 at any stage during your stay in Lisbon – beware of pickpockets and watch your belonging carefully! Read our Tips for being a smart traveller in Lisbon here (link coming soon)
Castelo de Sao Jorge (Sao Jorge Castle)
From Miradouro de Santa Luzia, we followed the signs and walked uphill to reach Castelo de Sao Jorge. The castle was built in the 11th century on the summit of the highest hill in Lisbon, and was designed as a fort to house military troops in case of a siege. The ruins themselves are okay – but the wow-factor for our trip to Castelo de Sao Jorge was the magical views across Lisbon.
Useful Information for Sao Jorge Castle
Address: Rue de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open daily from 9am to 9pm (March to October); open daily from 9am to 6pm (November to February).
Tickets: Individual tickets cost €8.50/person (children under 10 are free).
Tips: It does get quite hot and quite busy at the castle, so plan your visit in the morning or late afternoon.
For those that just can’t get enough of the amazing viewpoints in Alfama, here are two more miradouros near Sao Jorge Castle. We didn’t get to make it to either of these, as both involve walking uphill and we had a toddler in a pram (narrow cobblestoned streets + uphill + pram = bad combination). But if I ever return sans pram I would definitely check them out.
Miradouro #1 – Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
This is the city’s highest lookout point and offers stunning panoramic views across Lisbon. From the ruins of Sao Jorge Castle to the red roof tiles of the city centre to the river Tejo in the distance – this viewpoint showcases it all. Be prepared for a 20-minute walk uphill from Sao Jorge Castle to reach this miradouro.
Miradouro #2 – Miradouro da Graca (aka Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen)
If you want a fantastic viewpoint that is a bit closer, Miradouro da Graca is just a 10-minute walk from Sao Jorge Castle. This miradouro has a splendid terrace that offers panoramic views across the city and castle.
Se Cathedral (Lisbon Cathedral)
Take your time wandering through the cobblestone maze of the Alfama district, until you reach Se Catedral. This ancient cathedral resembles a medieval fortress from the outside and has two striking bell towers plus an exquisite rose window. Entry to the main cathedral is free, and for a small fee you can also visit the Gothic cloisters.
Useful Information for Lisbon Cathedral
Address: Largo da Se, 1100-585 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Open daily from 7am to 7pm (main cathedral); open daily from 10am to 5pm (cloisters)
Tickets: Entrance into the main cathedral is free. Tickets to access the cloisters are €2.50/person.
Praca do Comercio (Comercio Square)
After walking down from Alfama and reaching Comercio Square, you can truly see why it is the grandest square in Lisbon. It is oh-so-large and is surrounded by beautiful bright-yellow buildings on three sides, with the river bank on the fourth side. In the centre of the square stands a bronze statue of King Joseph I on horseback.
Arco da Rua Augusta (Rua Augusta Arch)
At the northern end of Comercio Square stands the beautiful and ornate Rua Augusta Arch. This arch was built to commemorate the rebirth of the city after the devastating earthquake of 1755. It is adorned with marble statues of important historical figures such as Vasco da Gama, Marquis of Pombal and Viriatus. The arch is beautiful to admire no matter which way you look at it. But to me, the most spectacular part of the arch is the panoramic view from the top!
Useful Information for Rua Augusta Arch
Address: Rua Augusta 2, 1100-053 Lisboa, Portugal.
Hours: Lookout open daily from 9am to 7pm.
Tickets: Individual tickets cost €2.50/person (children under 7 are free).
Tips: To get to the top of the arch you will take an elevator and then climb a small spiral staircase. There is no alternative access for those with reduced mobility.
Ribeira das Naus
Ribeira das Naus is a new riverfront promenade that stretches from Comercio Square to Cais do Sodre. Both tourists and locals alike come here to relax, read, jog or simply have a drink and take in the view. Live music and a kiosk add to the lively atmosphere. Check it out and then continue walking until you reach the Time Out Market.
Time Out Market Lisboa
Mercado da Ribeira is known to be the oldest and largest market in Lisbon. And thanks to an innovative idea by Time Out Lisboa Magazine – it is now also the trendiest market! Sample some delicious Portuguese food, sweets and drinks at the Time Out Market food hall. The market even features some budget-friendly samples from Michelin Star chefs from the region.
Miradouro de Santa Catarina
Miradouro de Santa Catarina typically attracts a younger crowd and has a bohemian vibe. There is live music, a kiosk and a terrace bar. The views from here are pretty amazing (especially of the 25 de Abril bridge), but be aware of dodgy people here. To be honest, we felt a little bit uncomfortable at this lookout – as we had noticed a few dodgy people watching the tourists very carefully. Between the dodgy people and the strong smell of marijuana, I would avoid this lookout. If you do go to check out the view, watch your bags and take extra care.
I hope you love exploring Lisbon using our 3-day itinerary! If you have an extra day, I would definitely recommend a day trip to the fairytale-like town of Sintra. Check out our 1-day Sintra itinerary here (link coming soon).
Happy travels xx