How to Spend 3 Days in Lisbon: What to Do, Where to Eat & Stay
Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Since the start of 2018, I knew I wanted to visit Portugal at some point that year and I am so glad I made it happen. Portugal exceeded all of my expectations: the food, the wine and the beautiful beaches. Not going to lie, planning this 7-day trip to Lisbon and the coastal region of Algarve took a lot of researching and planning, mostly because I didn't want to miss out on anything! That's why I've mapped out the ultimate 3-day guide to Lisbon for you. After reading this, check out my guide to Algarve (my favorite part of the trip). From all of the must-try restaurants to the best hotels, here is my guide for travelers visiting Lisbon for three days.
Day 1: Brunch, Panoramic City Views + Exploring Old Town
It's day one, don't stress yourself by trying to pack a million touristy activities into one day while you're still adjusting to the new time zone. First things first, brunch.
Head over to the fairly new Cafe Janis for a great atmosphere and even better food (& bloody marys!). This cafe is in an authentic corner of Lisbon with open outdoor seating, making it one of the best spots to people watch while getting situated into the city. The food was so fresh, we ordered the full hearty breakfast, avocado toast with a poached egg and smoked salmon, and the ham truffle baguette sandwich.
After brunch, stroll over to Mirsadouro das Portas do Sol for the best views of the city and usually live music in the park. You have to trek up the hill a bit, but it's worth it. You'll see the orange-roofed neighborhoods, river and cobblestoned streets below.. the perfect Instagram-worthy spot!
The first night we were still a bit jet lagged, so instead of our original dinner plans we opted to relax on the rooftop of the amazing outdoor terrace of our hotel, Palacio Belmonte (more on this property below), to snack on some delicious wine and light bites.
Day 2: Day Trip to Sintra, Sunset Cocktails + Night Out
Wake up early and start the day with a day trip to Sintra to see Pena Palace and the cute town that surrounds it. While there are plenty of tour companies who will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to Sintra, we found it easier and more adventurous to hop on the train and do it ourselves. This way you can be on your own time, leave whenever you want, without a group and without spending extra money on a guide.
It's super easy - walk to the city center train station called Rossio Station that goes to and from Sintra. The trains run every 30 minutes and tickets are super cheap roundtrip, about 5 euro total. Get off at Sintra Station, the ride is about 40 minutes. Once you get to Sintra, the best way to get to around, especially to Pena Palace, is by taking the public busses that go back and forth since it's very hilly and will take a while to walk up. If you're into hiking, go for it, but the bus (loop 434 and 435) was the most popular way to get there.
The busses stop at:
- Sintra train station
- Historic center of Sintra (Sintra Vila)
- Castelo dos Mouros
- Palacio Nacional da Pena
- historic center again, and back to the Sintra station to loop around
In Sintra village, eat lunch at Tascantinga, a cute tapas spot. It serves the best of the Portuguese typical gastronomy in tapas version with an original presentation. Even though it's in the center of the village, it's not a tourist trap! It's quality food, good vibes and tasty wines.
After a long day of sightseeing, it's a must to grab a drink at the Sky Bar located at Tivoli Lisbon's rooftop. It's a super chic and sophisticated rooftop with breathtaking sunset views and awesome music by the resident DJ. Following happy hour at the Sky Bar, spend the night out in the Bairro Alto district where there's tons of bars and lounges.
Day 3: Time Out Food Market, Museums + Rooftop Bar
The third day, spend your entire day in Lisbon taking in all of the flavors. The best way to do that? Lisbon's Time Out food market is where you can find the best of Lisbon under one roof: the best chefs, restaurants, cultural events and cooking workshops. It's an open, airy food court featuring a wide selection of global restaurants with family-style seating. Make sure to try Pasteis de Nata (the pastries pictured below) which are the traditional Portuguese custard tarts.
We also checked out a few of the museum's in Lisbon including the military museum on the water. For a person who isn't a museum fan (like myself) it was pretty cool. The Military Museum of Lisbon, formerly dubbed the Artillery Museum, shelters one of the widest artillery collections in the world. It has the world's largest collection of cannon on display and other historical artifacts relating to Portugal's military history.
End the night with drinks at Park Rooftop Bar, another great spot for watching the sunset. Park is actually a rooftop parking lot turned into a hip, elevated garden terrace. 180º views of Lisbon can be enjoyed in the sunny afternoon or by starlight through the evening. Potted plants and wooden patio furniture provide a natural ambiance and casual comfort.
The last night we enjoyed dinner at Cantina Zé Avillez, but just found out it's permanently closed. However, it was one of Portugal's top chef, José Avillez's restaurants and he has plenty others to check out while in Lisbon including Belcanto and Bairro do Avillez.
Where to Stay in Lisbon:
Palacio Belmonte - this hotel is pure luxury and seclusion from the bustling city. We stayed in the Amadeo Souza Cardoso Terrace Suite which was a two-story paradise. Palacio Belmonte offers 11 suites, all different, all unique, some with terraces, a garden or a built-in a Roman tower with 360º view. This exclusive, courtyard palace hotel is just steps away from St Jorge’s Castle in the historical town of Alfama. There's a late night honesty bar, lounges and game rooms, and a quirky art collection.
Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisboa Hotel - this contemporary 5-star luxury hotel had the best staff and most comfortable beds. The location is perfect for first-time visitors since it's in the city center and right in the midst of all the action and sites. Between the white marble bathrooms, outdoor pool and delicious restaurant - I can't choose my favorite part of this hotel. We had a fantastic dinner at the restaurant here, the seafood was a huge highlight of the entire trip. Also, highly recommend stopping by the hotel's Anantara Spa for a treatment to relax after a long day of sightseeing!
How to Get There + Getting Around:
First things first, if you're a bargain-hunter like myself then you'll want to grab the best flight deals. I worked with TAP Air Portugal and I highly suggest checking the website when starting to plan your trip, as they have the best prices in the game combined with quality experience and service. I'm the kind of person (at this point in my life) who would rather splurge on hotels, shopping, food etc. when traveling, rather than purchasing the best flight seats. My 2019 goal: figure out how to convert all of my miles into upgrades. While in Lisbon, use Uber when getting around to areas that aren't walking distance. The metro is very easy to navigate as well - we took the metro from the airport to city center.
Top Fave Restaurants/Bars Summary:
- Cantina Zé Avillez
- Time Out Market
- Tascantinga Sintra
- C.O.W Beef & Cocktails
- Park Rooftop Bar
- Sky Bar at Tivoli Hotel
Have you been to Lisbon and have a favorite recommendation? Comment below!