3 Days in Lisbon: Everything You Should Know
Located in western Portugal, Lisbon is the westernmost capital city in continental Europe. It is the oldest city in Western Europe and one of the oldest in the world, established around 1200 BCE. It is the country’s largest city and tourist center, known for its elegant gardens, verdant parks, colorful houses, sunny weather, and ornate architecture.
Spending 3 days in Lisbon is like taking a walk through history with its world-class museums, ancient monuments, and fascinating landmarks. No matter what time of the year you visit Lisbon, this Portugal capital offers many unique places to discover and plenty of activities for visitors, from wine tasting and treasure hunting to immersing in soulful fado music and walking through its narrow cobbled streets.
During your day trip, see what a Roman theatre looked like at the Museu de Lisboa Teatro Romano and explore one of the city’s major attractions and popular tourist destinations, St. George’s Castle. Perched atop Lisbon's highest hill, this historic castle offers breathtaking views from the observation terrace and allows you to discover unseen sights over the city.
If you’re traveling with kids, check out the Lisbon Oceanarium, one of the world’s largest aquariums and one of the finest in Europe. It’s a family-friendly destination, home to an incredible collection of fishes and marine animals. You can also visit several UNESCO World Heritage sites, including The Belém Tower, Sintra, Mafra, and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and find hidden gems around its charming and distinct neighborhoods.
For some, having only 3 days in Lisbon may seem short, but there’s so much you can do if you plan your itinerary well. It should give you plenty of time to enjoy and experience the city’s incredible attractions and enjoy every minute of your stay, whether it's during the day or at night when out on the town. But before starting your journey, don’t forget to store your bag at Bounce luggage storage in Lisbon to protect your belongings and travel with no burden.
Lisbon itinerary - Day 1
Morning Stroll Around the Rossio Square
Rossio Square is a great place to start your 3 days in Lisbon. It’s located in the city’s most central and renowned neighborhood, Baixa, offering many leisure activities and shops. It’s the most lively area in the city center, overflowing with restaurants and bars and a short distance from The Avenida da Liberdade and Restauradores Square, where you’ll find a number of iconic buildings.
The square is home to an array of landmarks and monuments. These include the Rossio Railway Station, constructed in 1887, and The National Theatre D. Maria II, founded in 1842. Located in the middle of the Rossio Square is the Column of Pedro IV, also known as ‘the Soldier King.’ You’ll also find one of the capital’s most celebrated cafes, the Café Nicola. It opened more than 200 years ago, boasting a stunning art deco façade. Besides serving as a symbol of the city’s history, this café restaurant is ideal for social gatherings, dining, and meeting.
Several Lisbon attractions are only within walking distance from the square, including the Sao Domingos Church and Rua Augusta, the main shopping street in the City Centre. It’s also close to the Santa Justa Lift, the fastest way to get you to the Bairro Alto district from the Baixa neighborhood.
Afternoon Tour from Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral
Sao Jorge Castle and the Cathedral should always be part of your 3-day Lisbon itinerary. Just a few minutes’ walk from Rossio Square, Castelo de Sao Jorge is one of the most symbolic landmarks of this Portuguese capital. Nestled on the highest hill in the city, the castle has a rich history with a small fortress built during the 5th century by the Visigoths. Then it was modified and expanded in the mid-11th century and has served as a military barracks, a royal palace, and is now a famous tourist attraction.
There are several ways to get to the castle from Baixa, but the best one is by foot. It allows you to explore the Alfama neighborhood’s narrow streets and get to know the area. While in the neighborhood, take the chance to visit Sé de Lisboa. It’s the oldest and most significant cathedral in the city, constructed in the 12th century.
The Cathedral features a Romanesque style but has undergone various design makeovers since its original structure. It survived a series of earthquakes, including the great earthquake that occurred in 1755, which left part of the church in ruins. You’ll now see a blend of impressive architectural styles with the twin castellated bell towers as the main features.
Also, don’t forget to stop by the Museu de Lisboa Teatro Romano. The museum is only a minute walk from the Cathedral, sitting on the southern slope of the castle hill. It’s part of the Museum of Lisbon, revealing one of the most significant Roman monuments, Felicitas Iulia Olisipo, a theater with structures that date back to the first century AD.
No matter how many days in Lisbon you have, never miss the chance to visit these two major attractions. Museums in Lisbon are can't miss activities! You can also join a walking tour and explore different sites in the city center and beyond.
Evening Walk and Dinner at Praça do Comércio
End your first day with a bang at Praça do Comércio, the city’s most important square and arguably one of Europe’s most beautiful squares. It was called the Royal Yard (Terreiro do Paco) before the 1755 earthquake due to the Royal Palace located on its western side since the 16th century.
The square reflected Portugal’s ambitions and wealth during the late 18th century. It was where merchants and captains would plan their sea voyages to Southeast Asia, India, and Brazil and unload their goods as they returned. It was built as a symbolic door into the city from those foreign lands.
Commerce Square is home to two points of interest, the Rua August Arch and the equestrian statue of Joseph I. It is surrounded by bars, shops, and small yet elegant restaurants where you can enjoy local cuisines and try a Pastel de nata. Explore all of the eateries, from vegetarian restaurants to those serving fantastic meat and seafood dishes. There’s also a beer museum opened in the newly renovated square, which will take you on a journey through the spectacular flavors of Portuguese beers.
Lisbon itinerary - Day 2
Morning Adventure at The Belem Tower and Jerónimos Monastery
Commence your second day trip at the Belem Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built between 1514 and 1520. Situated on the northern bank of the Tagus River, the tower was part of a strategic defense plan to protect the city and prevent the entry of enemy ships. It’s one of the most remarkable monuments in the country and an iconic landmark of unique Portuguese identity.
Apart from its role in defending Lisbon, the tower was also used as a state prison. Many of the prisoners were held in the basement of the bulwark, which was initially designed as storage. Then years later, the tower was transformed into a customs house and a lighthouse.
Far from Lisbon City Centre and just a stone’s throw away from the Belem Tower is the Jerónimos Monastery, another World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 1983. It’s one of Lisbon’s most famous attractions and a resting place for explorer Vasco da Gama. It’s also an impressive symbol of the country’s power and prosperity during the Age of Discovery.
The construction of this religious building began on January 1501 and was not completed until the 17th century. It boasts a Portuguese late Gothic style and a spacious interior with octagonal piers intricately decorated with reliefs.
Afternoon Museum Exploration
Your Lisbon itinerary won't be complete without visiting some of the best museums in this amazing city. Adjacent to the Jerónimos Monastery is the Archaeology Museum, featuring artifacts that date back from the Paleolithic era to the Middle Ages.
Founded in 1893, the National Archeology Museum of Lisbon holds the most extensive archeological collection in Portugal. These include items made of earthenware pots and gold, precious stones, Roman mosaics and ornaments, Celtic earrings, and Egyptian finds.
Also located very close to the monastery is a small but charming and unique museum. It houses one of the world’s most important collections of horse-drawn carriages from the 17th to the 19th century. It features some notable horse-drawn vehicles that belonged to Philip II of Spain and Pope Clement XI. The museum also features several paintings and interesting objects from the same period. The National Coach Museum is a highly-recommended historical place when visiting Lisbon.
Evening Trip to a Fado House
After visiting ancient buildings and places of great cultural significance and history, take your historical excursion to the next level by heading to the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Although Alfama is regarded as the Fado district, Bairro Alto is home to some of Lisbon’s best Fado houses.
Fado is a well-known symbol of Portugal. It’s a performance genre integrating poetry and music that’s genuinely Portuguese. It is performed in concerts professionally and in small Fado houses by amateurs and talented performers. UNESCO even granted Fado World Heritage status in 2011 as an urban Lisbon song that represents the city and the country.
A Fado house can be a restaurant or a small informal eatery. But if you want to visit one of the city’s oldest Fado houses, check out the Café Luso, housed in the cellar of a former palace of the 18th century. It serves traditional Portuguese dishes, but if you’re only after the Fado performances, the show starts at 8 p.m and runs until 2 a.m.
Lisbon itinerary - Day 3
Morning trip to Park of the Nations
Park of the Nations is a striking neighborhood in Lisbon located in the city’s northeastern part. It’s a modern area with several futuristic buildings and wide-open spaces. The district was transformed into a corporate center and leisure space for the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition, boasting numerous bars, theatres, restaurants, parks, and a large shopping center.
On your final day in Lisbon, make sure to take a morning trip to the modern side of the city and discover its different offerings. It’s accessible by train or crossing the Vasco da Gama Bridge, the longest bridge in Europe, measuring over ten miles long. It’s significantly long that it’s impossible to see the other side of the bridge on a cloudy day. It’s also close to Lisbon Airport, one of Europe’s busiest airports and the largest in the country.
You’ll also feel one with nature in the beautiful gardens in the neighborhood, including the Palm Trees Garden and the Water Gardens. The Water Gardens or Jardins da Agua features fountains and a waterfall for a refreshing morning.
Afternoon visit to the Oceanarium
Don't leave just yet after having brunch at one of the restaurants in the Park of the Nations district. Spend your afternoon in the Lisbon Oceanarium with your family or friends. The Oceanarium is one of the most eye-catching and popular tourist attractions in the district. You can visit from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter.
The Lisbon Oceanarium features two floors. You’ll find marine animals that thrive closest to the water surface on the top floor and deep-sea creatures on the ground floor. Its largest aquarium holds hundreds of species, including different types of manta rays, stingrays, sharks, and other colorful tropical fishes.
Dinner at Time Out Market
There’s probably no better way to end your 3 days in Lisbon than spend it in Time Out Market. Located in the historic Mercado da Ribeira, a landmark since the 1890s, this remarkable food market houses more than four dozen restaurants, shops, and bars managed by professionals and top chefs in the industry. These food stalls and shops represent the city’s vibrant dining scene and deliver some of the best food experiences in the city. It also features a high-end music venue for live music and fun performances.
What started from an idea in 2014 in Lisbon has now turned into a global project with branches in cities worldwide, including Dubai, New York, Boston, Miami, and more. As you walk through the building’s main doors, you’ll see a spacious food court lined with numerous stalls selling local food, sweets, and beverages. Stop by anytime before 2 p.m., and you’ll get a glimpse of the original fish and farmer’s market, where you can buy souvenirs, unique gifts, and local produce.
That's it for your 3 days in Lisbon! Obviously, there are many more places worth exploring in this brilliant Portugal capital, not to mention the off-the-beaten paths travelers and even locals must see and experience. But it’s a great place to start, especially for first-time visitors. With fantastic weather, fun music festivals, fascinating history, good food, and beautiful culture, you’ll quickly fall in love with Lisbon in three days.