Beautiful capital of Portugal is a city of enormous heritage where every sight tells a story. Marked by a horrific earthquake, the city is an example of modernism and progressive development. It is situated on the coast providing a pleasant climate to visit it throughout the whole year. Lisbon is a metropolis, yet peaceful; magnificent, yet charming, so here is an itinerary for a weekend break to get to know this city one has to see in a lifetime!
Dedicate your first day to visiting one of the oldest and most popular parts of Lisbon city center, Baixa and Alfama districts. Before you start with sightseeing, take some time to have a proper breakfast. Coffee is simply ‘a must’ to begin your day in Lisbon and you will find plenty of cafes with lovely terraces where locals love to prepare for their start of the day. Try most common coffee combinations with milk such as meia de leite or galão and add some of the endless pastry options from the local patisseries or toasted bread variations for a full meal.
The district of Alfama is the Lisbon Old Town which survived the notorious earthquake mixing the historical architecture with modern bars and cafes. Start with a beautiful Lisbon castle, Castelo de São Jorge, a recognizable landmark providing stunning views on the city, all the way to the river Tagus. Another remarkable sight in this area is Lisbon cathedral or Se Cathedral, an important religious building dating back to the 12th century. A short walk from the Cathedral takes you to Praça do Comercio, a famous square situated near Tagus river.
When ready to continue, begin strolling the streets of Baixa, the most central district of Lisbon. After the devastating earthquake, the neighbourhood was completely renowned but remained in recognizable Lisbon style. Explore its avenues of which the most important one is Avenida de Liberdade, discover Restauradores Square with a large obelisk dedicated to the restoration of country’s independence, and Rossio Square, a favourite meeting point of both locals and tourists. Don’t miss Santa Justa lift or Carmo lift, a 13-meter high elevator for a great city panorama. By the time you explore these districts, you might want to sit for lunch, and there is no wider offer of great Lisbon restaurants as in this area.
The afternoon is reserved for more Lisbon sights and you can continue with Bairro Alto district. There are various things on offer to spend the afternoon, from casual strolling the streets and shops to visiting a Museum of Sacred Art and Igreja de São Roque, The National Museum of Contemporary Art or Botanical Garden of Lisbon. The choice is yours, but the best place to be when the sun starts to go down is Miradouro de Santa Catarina, for sure.
If willing to round up your evening with dinner, check out the Time Out Market, an open air food market with a wide selection of restaurants. Get some good rest and prepare for the day 2!
Second day of your visit to Lisbon should be dedicated to the iconic district of Belém where some of the most recognizable sights are located. As usual, start your day with breakfast, but this time go to Pastéis de Belém, a pastry shop dating to the early 19th century with all kinds of pastries and tarts. The old Portuguese proverb says that a bride who eats the pastry will never take off the ring. If travelling as a couple, this might be a cool Portuguese tradition.
The most common way to get to Belém is to take a tram 15E or 127, which is a really authentic Lisbon experience. Walk to the banks of the river Tagus to see the famous Belém Tower (Torre de Belem), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the 16th century in order to protect the coast. Take a walk along the river bank and get to another trademark of Lisbon, Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) dedicated to 33 important figures involved in Portugal’s Age of Discoveries. From this point, you have the perfect view on the Lisbon bridge or Ponte 25 de Abril, connecting the sides of the city divided by the river Tagus and reminiscent of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. Remember to get back to see the bridge at night, a truly spectacular scenery.
There are many places to visit and things to see in Belém. Choose between Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Museu Coleção Berardo), National Coach Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches) or something else of your choice, but stay around since the bank of the river Tagus offers some great restaurants where you can try some fresh seafood delicacies.
When ready to continue, dedicate your afternoon to see 2 more interesting places in Lisbon. Art lovers, but not only them, will adore Gulbenkian Museum housing one of the largest private collections of art and private antiquaries in the world. Right next to the museum is one of the most beautiful sights in Lisbon, Jerónimos Monastery. Discover this massive complex where Vasco da Gama spent his last night before his voyage.
Depending on your pace and desires, if you end up visiting all of the mentioned sights way before the evening, choose between a relaxing stroll or simply sit in a tram 28 for a popular tour around all the main tourist sights in Lisbon to catch up with what you’ve missed. On the other hand, animal lovers can maybe pay a visit to Lisbon Zoo (Jardim Zoológico) with about 2000 animals of 300 different species.
The evenings give an entirely different atmosphere to the city. Use the opportunity to get one of the most authentic Portuguese experiences and that is fado, a unique music genre that even UNESCO had recognized. Combine dinner with fado for the most amazing experience, and some of the places we suggest are Mesa de Frades, Senhor Vinho, Clube de Fado, Casa de Linhares, Senhor Fado de Alfama.
For the third day of your visit to Lisbon we suggest you take it slowly. If you’re arriving in the months when swimming is possible then visiting some of the best Lisbon beaches is obligatory. Lisbon coast is full of stunning beaches and the best selection of them can be found on the line between Lisbon and Cascais. Estoril offers all kinds of beaches, from crowded, touristy ones over surfing beaches to peaceful ones with no crowds. Getting from Lisbon to Estoril is easy by train which takes you there in 30 minutes. Continue to Cascais for additional 10 minutes. If you prefer to explore the area on your own, consider renting a car. Many beaches are well equipped and often situated near the resorts, so you can easily spend the whole day on the beach. Don’t get too surprised when you discover that sea is pretty cold with temperatures rarely going above 20°C due to the currents of the Atlantic Ocean. If looking for any suggestions, some of the top beaches are Praia de São Pedro do Estoril, Praia de Carcavelos and Praia das Avencas.
As an alternative to spending a day on a beach, you can visit the Lisbon Oceanarium (Oceanario de Lisboa), the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. Use the opportunity to see a large collection of marine species as well as bird species and mammals, but also plants. All in all, more than 16 000 plants and organisms of 450 different species can be found.
As you are in this part of the city, pay attention to the longest bridge in Lisbon, Vasco da Gama Bridge, crossing the river Tagus.
At this point of your stay in Lisbon, we wouldn’t like to add any additional sight or place, but we’ll leave it to your choice how to spend the final afternoon.
When the night falls, we suggest returning to Bairro Alto district one last time. The district is incredibly different during the day and during the night, when it becomes the center of nightlife along with Principe Real district. Since this is your last night in Lisbon, how about you loosen a little bit? Whether you’d like to have a conversation in a cool Lisbon bar while sipping your favorite drink or you’d simply prefer to hit the dance floor, this area offers all kinds of nightlife. The Old Pharmacy is a wine bar for everyone who wants to chill, Artis is a place for all jazz and blues lovers, Fragil and Portas Largas are popular gay-friendly places, Capela with its gospel ambience and Loucos & Sonhadores with its boho atmosphere and eccentric interior attract artists, musicians, writers etc. In the end, no matter where you choose to go for a night out, the overall atmosphere of the central Lisbon is incredible and guarantees a good time!