Look. The only reason I’m here is to find out if I’m related to Cristiano Ronaldo, and I have 3 Days In Lisbon to figure it out!
The thing is, I’m not even joking. For years I’ve been told that my great, great-grandfather was Portuguese. Information relayed through oral history – as my cousin Tanya would call it, stories passed down from generation to generation.
So how did I get to the Portugal conclusion?
- Well, for starters, there’s a sepia-toned oval-framed portrait of a white man with a beautiful young black lady that hangs on the wall of my mother’s childhood home.
- Whenever she can, my cousin Tanya puts in some painstaking work gathering documents; government records, marriage certificates and death certificates. She traced our family tree to the sepia-toned oval-framed portrait.
- My cousin provided me with a hand-printed Family Tree which, with family members’ permission, has been entered into an Ancestry database. All that’s left is my DNA.
In any event, Lisbon is a beautiful city with much to offer. From its stunning architecture and rich history to its delicious food and amazing weather, it’s no wonder why Lisbon is such a popular holiday destination. One thing to note about Lisbon is that it’s all about the details. From the intricate and gorgeous tile and pattern work on the sidewalks and squares to the breathtaking tile work on the buildings. It’s incredible!
With two days in Lisbon, you can easily explore the city’s main attractions and taste what this vibrant capital offers.
History Of Lisbon
- Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in western Europe, with a history that stretches back to its original settlement by the indigenous Iberians.
- Lisbon flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries as the centre of a vast empire during the period of Portuguese discoveries. This was a time of intensive maritime exploration when the Kingdom of Portugal accumulated great wealth and power through its colonization of Asia, South America, Africa and the Atlantic islands.
- Evidence of the city’s wealth can still be seen today in the magnificent structures built then, including the Jerónimos Monastery and the nearby Tower of Belém, each classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Getting To Lisbon
American Airlines has direct flights from Philadelphia to Lisbon during spring and summer. Tap Portugal connects Boston, Miami, and New York JFK with Lisbon. United Airlines also offers direct flights between New York JFK and Newark to Lisbon.
Travellers can now fly directly from Toronto to Lisbon thanks to Tap Portugal’s nonstop flights, which launched in the spring of 2017. Air Canada and Air Transat also have direct flights between Toronto, Montreal, and Lisbon during peak summer months.
In the United Kingdom, those who want to travel to Lisbon have a range of budget airlines that may be used. A flight from London to Lisbon will last two and a half hours. Several airports across the UK, including Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London Gatwick, and London Luton, are accessible via flights from EasyJet. While British Airways flies from London’s Heathrow Airport, Ryanair provides service from STN in London along with Manchester and Glasgow.
If you plan to travel around Portugal, you might consider travelling by train. A journey between Porto and Lisbon takes 3 hours. If you are travelling from Spain to Lisbon, you can take a night train that leaves every day from Madrid. The journey takes 10 hours and costs a minimum of 60€. This means of transportation is the slowest and most expensive, but you might prefer it to a plane.
When traversing through Portugal, you may want to contemplate using a train as your mode of transportation. For instance, if someone wishes to venture between Porto and Lisbon, the trip will take 3 hours.
Somebody looking to journey from Spain to Lisbon can use a night train taking off each day from Madrid.
Getting Around Lisbon
To experience the top sights of Lisbon, it is suggested that you obtain a Lisboa Card. This card is available as a 24, 48, or 72-hour day pass. It provides unrestricted use of city buses, trams, and trains during that period and free admittance to 26 tourist attractions. The Lisboa Card is an ideal way to explore the Portuguese capital.
Here’s what you need to know about driving around Lisbon:
Know the Rules of the Road Before You Go
Portugal follows some different rules compared to other European countries. Be sure to familiarize yourself with all the rules before you start your drive. Also, ensure that you have car insurance coverage, as it’s mandatory.
Use GPS To Avoid Lisbon Traffic
Traffic can be an issue in any big city, and Lisbon is no exception. A GPS navigation system can help you navigate traffic jams or provide alternate routes if roads are congested. There are also apps available that can inform you about parking spots near your destination before you arrive.
Know Where to Park Your Car
Street parking is available but limited, so finding an open spot can be challenging during peak season or weekday afternoons when people are commuting. For longer stays in the city centre, secure garages are recommended as they may offer 24/7 service and assistance should something happen while your vehicle is parked there.
Pick up Rental Cars at the Airport
Lisbon’s international airport (Humberto Delgado Airport) has plenty of rental car companies with competitive prices that travellers can use for their stay in Lisbon. This option tends to be more expensive than car-sharing networks or public transportation but often offers more comfortable vehicles and peace of mind.
Places To Visit In Lisbon | 3 Days In Lisbon, Day 1
A Lisbon must see is the Baixa district, renowned for its grand plazas and vibrant shopping centers. The area was completely reconstructed after the 1755 earthquake, yielding a grid street design that was revolutionary for its time.
Baixa is a vibrant and exciting Lisbon area, making it an ideal spot to start sightseeing. It’s the main tourist district and can be easily accessed by metro at Rossio or Terreiro do Paço stations.
Praça do Comércio | Estátua de D. José I
The Praça do Comércio is a large square located in the Baixa district of Lisbon. It was built after the 1755 earthquake and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Lisbon.
Rossio Square is another one of those typical European squares that made me fall in love with Europe.
In the center of the square are a monument and two fountains on either side. Perfect for three of my favourite pastimes – drinking beer, coffee and people-watching. Rossio Square is the perfect place to start your visit to Lisbon. Located just north of the city centre, it is a great way to get oriented and used to the city’s look.
The square is adorned with wavy tile patterns, a fountain, statues, and buildings surrounding it, including the National Theatre.
The National Theatre D. Maria II
The National Theatre D. Maria II is a beautiful neoclassical theatre built in 1846 and has been home to some of Portugal’s most renowned theatrical performances. The theatre is named after Queen Maria II, the daughter of King João VI and mother of King Pedro V.
The building is an architectural marvel, with its grandiose columns and ornate decorations. Visitors can admire the stunning ceiling frescoes painted by Portuguese artist José Malhoa in 1901.
The theatre also houses a museum dedicated to the history of Portuguese theatre, which includes costumes, props, and other memorabilia from past productions.
Visitors can take guided tours around the building or attend one of the many performances throughout the year.
Before heading to the city centre, you can take a detour past the train Rossario train station to Glória Funicular (Ascensor da Glória). Here you can ride the uphill Lisbon funicular or take a leisurely walk up to the Garden of São Pedro de Alcantara.
This residential square and its gardens will reward you with stunning views of Lisbon and all its wonderful hills.
Praça dos Restauradores
Praça dos Restauradores is a square located in the heart of Lisbon. It was built to commemorate the restoration of Portuguese independence from Spanish rule in 1640.
Garden of São Pedro de Alcantara
The Garden of São Pedro de Alcantara is a beautiful terraced garden located in the Bairro Alto district of Lisbon. The garden was built in the 18th century and offered stunning views of the city from its highest point.
The garden is also home to several monuments, including a statue of King João VI and a monument dedicated to those who died in World War I. Visitors can also explore the ruins of an old convent at this site.
Santa Justa Lift
The Santa Justa Lift is a charming and old-fashioned mode of transportation. Built in 1902, this antique lift looks like a contraption from a bygone era.
It takes passengers up to the top of the hill, where they can find the ruins of the Carmo Convent. From the square in front, it may not seem like much, but it’s only after entering the convent that you’ll be able to appreciate its beauty.
Carmo Convent | Convento do Carmo
The Carmo Convent is now a museum with artifacts that speak to its history and importance. It is one of the top places to visit in Lisbon. However, the only feature missing from this former church is a roof, making for quite an uncanny experience as visitors explore its open-air ruins.
Visitors can learn about the convent’s past and admire its beautiful architecture. The Santa Justa Lift provides an exciting way to get there while also giving visitors a glimpse into Lisbon’s past.
Rua Augusta is one of the most popular streets in Lisbon and a great place to explore. This pedestrian street is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, making it another great spot for people-watching.
Praça do Comércio, one of the city’s main squares, lies at the end of Rua Augusta. The square is adorned with wavy tile patterns, a fountain, statues, and buildings surrounding it, including the National Theatre. Visitors can also take a boat ride along the Tagus River from here.
Commerce Square | Praça do Comércio
The Praça do Comércio is one of the most iconic spots in Lisbon, and it’s easy to see why. The square is framed by three elegant palatial buildings built following the devastating earthquake of 1755 that changed the face of Lisbon forever.
Many festivals, concerts, processions and executions have occurred over the last centuries.
Arco da Rua Augusta
Arco da Rua Augusta is a triumphal arch located in the center of Lisbon. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake and tsunami.
The arch is decorated with sculptures depicting scenes from Portuguese history, including Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India and the Battle of Aljubarrota.
Alfama – Places To See In Lisbon After Lunch
One of the top things to do in Lisbon visits the Alfama neighbourhood, a charming neighbourhood that offers visitors a unique glimpse into the city’s past. Located just east of Praça do Comércio, Alfama is full of winding streets and vintage architecture that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
The best way to explore this area is by hopping aboard one of Lisbon’s iconic trams, like Tram 28. As the tram winds through the narrow streets, you can appreciate how small and quaint this neighbourhood is.
In addition to its picturesque atmosphere, Alfama also has some notable religious and historical landmarks worth visiting. The most impressive of these has to be the Lisbon Cathedral, which dates back to 1147 and stands tall at the top of a hill overlooking the city.
I was told by friends, colleagues and fellow travel bloggers that when planning what to see in Lisbon, riding tram 28 to climb the steep hill from Baixa to the castle and Alfama is an absolute must. These trams are a huge part of the Lisbon public transport network – plus your legs and glutes will thank you.
The final stop for Tram 28 is right in front of A Padaria Portuguese. This is one of the best bakeries in Lisbon 😉
FYI. When and if you can finally decide what you want for lunch, you will have to take a token and wait for your turn.
São Jorge Castle
Regarding Lisbon sightseeing, one of the things you can see almost everywhere in the city is São Jorge Castle. The majestic São Jorge Castle stands tall above the Alfama neighbourhood of Lisbon, Portugal. Built by the Moors in the 12th century, it was used to watch over the city and grew in importance when Lisbon became the capital of Portugal in 1255.
Visitors must purchase tickets online or at the gate to enter this historic castle. Prices start from 8.5€ and provide access to its grounds and gardens with stunning views of the city and river below.
Once inside, visitors can explore its many attractions, including a stroll through its gardens, admiring its high walls from the castle keep, and learning about its rich history. The castle also houses several museums, such as Museu de Arqueologia e Etnografia de Lisboa, which displays artifacts from prehistoric times to the present day.
Miradouro da Graça | Graça´s Viewpoint & Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte | Our Lady of the Mountain Viewpoint
If you haven’t already noticed, Lisbon is full of hills. Not a problem for some, painful for others but one of the benefits of hills is great sweeping views!
Heading north of the castle, you can find several stellar viewpoints by navigating the city’s backstreets. Often positioned by churches or green squares, these views can exceed those found at the castle.
Two incredible viewpoints to look for are Miradouro da Graça (Graça´s Viewpoint) & Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte (Our Lady of the Mountain Viewpoint). Both make a great spot to end your day watching the sunset over Lisbon.
Igreja Paroquial da Graça | Church of Our Lady of Grace
Located at Graça´s Viewpoint is the Church of Our Lady Grace. Igreja Paroquial da Graça (Graça Parish Church) is a beautiful church built in the 18th century; it stands as an example of Baroque architecture and is one of the most important religious sites in Portugal.
Capela de Nossa Senhora do Monte | Chapel of Our Lady of the Mountain
At Our Lady of the Mountain Viewpoint, you will find The Chapel of Our Lady of the Mountain, a small chapel located at the top of one of Lisbon’s highest hills. It was built in 1770 and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is said to have appeared on this hill in 1517.
The views from these hilltop viewpoints are truly breathtaking and offer an incredible perspective of Lisbon. Whether it’s during the day or night, you’ll be able to take in all of Lisbon’s beauty from up high.
To get down once you’re done, both have grand long staircases that lead back into the city centre.
Church of São Vicente de Fora
The Church of São Vicente de Fora (São Vicente de Fora Monastery) is a stunning example of Manueline architecture. Built in 1582, it was originally a monastery and is now one of Portugal’s most important religious sites.
The church features several chapels, each dedicated to different saints and decorated with beautiful paintings and sculptures. Visitors can also explore its cloisters and gardens, filled with lush vegetation and fountains, and a museum where visitors can learn about its history and admire some of its artifacts.
The National Pantheon was built in the 18th century and is dedicated to Portugal’s most important figures. Visitors can admire its majestic architecture and explore its many chapels, each dedicated to a different figure.
The Pantheon also houses several tombs of famous Portuguese people, including writers, poets, and politicians. Visitors can also take part in guided tours that explain the history of the building and its significance to Portugal’s culture.
Se Cathedral | Lisbon Cathedral
Lisbon Cathedral is one of Portugal’s oldest and most important religious sites. Built in 1147, it is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture and features several chapels dedicated to different saints.
Visitors can explore its interior, admire its beautiful stained glass windows, and take part in guided tours that explain the history of the building. The cathedral houses several tombs of famous Portuguese people, including kings and queens.
Portas do Sol viewpoint
The Portas do Sol viewpoint is one of the most popular spots in Lisbon. It offers a stunning view of the city, with its terraces and gardens providing an ideal spot to relax and take in the views.
The vibrant neighbourhood of Bairro Alto is the perfect place to end the first day in Lisbon. This area is home to various restaurants and fado bars, where you can enjoy traditional Portuguese cuisine and music. Fado is a type of folk music that originated in Portugal, and it’s often performed live at these venues. The Mascote da Atalaia is a bar where you can listen to melancholic tunes while savouring delicious dishes.
The atmosphere at these fado bars is truly unique. As you listen to the passionate singing and guitar playing, you can also take in the sights and smells of the restaurant. The menu typically includes classic Portuguese dishes like bacalhau (codfish) or feijoada (stewed beans). Enjoying dinner with some live fado music is an unforgettable experience that will make your trip even more special. So don’t miss out on this opportunity to explore Bairro Alto’s culture and cuisine!
2 Days In Lisbon (Day 2)
Jump Tram 15 from Baixa, and in about 20 minutes, you will be in Belém. Once you arrive in Belém, there are loads of attractions and activities to explore. From the iconic Tower of Belém to the Jerónimos Monastery, there are plenty of historical sites to visit.
You can also stroll through the gardens at Ajuda Palace or visit one of the many museums in the area. After a full day of sightseeing, sample some traditional Portuguese pastries at Pasteis de Belém before returning to town.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos | The Jeronimos Monastery
Recognized by UNESCO for its important heritage, the Jeronimos Monastery is one of the must-see Lisbon tourist attractions in Belém, Portugal. As a result, it can get busy, but the monastery is well worth the potential queue. It’s best to visit as early as possible to avoid long lines.
Once inside, visitors will be enchanted by the detailed Gothic architecture of the monastery and its inner cloisters. The monastery’s church is particularly impressive, with an ornate ceiling over the resting place of famed explorer Vasco de Gama.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is a stunning example of Manueline architecture. It was built in the 16th century and is now one of Portugal’s most important religious sites.
Praça do Império Garden
Directly outside the monastery lies a large, manicured park with trimmed hedges around a big fountain. This tranquil setting provides a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and offers visitors a chance to relax and take in their surroundings. Whether looking for history or enjoying peace and quiet, Jeronimos Monastery is worth visiting in Belém.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos | Monument to the Discoveries
The Monument to the Discoveries is a stunning tribute to Portugal’s many explorers and their achievements. Located across from the monastery in a large, manicured park, this stone tower is designed like a ship with famous figures aboard. At its base lies a square with intricate mosaic patterns around a compass, adding to the monument’s beauty and symbolism.
Climbing up to the top of the monument offers breathtaking views of both the monastery and the river beyond. It’s an impressive sight that serves as a reminder of Portugal’s rich history of exploration and discovery. Visitors can take in the grandeur of this memorial while reflecting on all these brave adventurers accomplished.
Pastéis de Nata | Portuguese Custard Tarts
Pastéis de Belém
If, for some reason, you haven’t yet tried a Portuguese Butter Tart/Custard tart on day 1, then now is the time. These egg custard tarts are a Portuguese specialty. The pastel de nata is an incredibly addictive pastry, with its flaky crust and creamy custard center.
Of all the Lisbon places to visit for Pastéis de Nata, the most famous place to get them is here in Belém, at the Pastéis de Belém bakery. This bakery has been using the same recipe for over 150 years, making it a truly special place to enjoy your first, second or third pastel de nata.
It’s best enjoyed warm and fresh out of the oven, so be sure to get there early!
Torre de Belém | Belem Tower
The Belem Tower is an iconic landmark in Lisbon. Built in 1519, it was once used as a fortress to protect the city from invaders. Today, visitors can explore its interior and admire its stunning architecture. The tower also houses several artifacts related to Portuguese maritime exploration, including maps and navigational instruments.
The Belem Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks. Built in the 16th century, it was originally used as a fortress to protect the city from invaders.
Visitors can explore its interior, admire its intricate carvings, and take part in guided tours explaining the tower’s history.
25 de Abril Bridge
The 25 de Abril Bridge is one of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks, and it’s worth taking the time to appreciate its grandeur up close. Spanning the Tagus River, this immense bridge connects Lisbon with the far bank.
Just a stone’s throw away from the bridge lies the LxFactory, an area revitalized into a giant art space and a great place to explore and experience the city’s creative side.
The complex has several buildings, each with its unique atmosphere and activities. Everything from art galleries, cafes and restaurants to shops selling handmade items makes it one of the top things to do in Lisbon. The perfect spot to grab a drink and relax.
The main attraction here is the LX Factory Bookstore, which houses over 10,000 books worldwide.
Sanctuary of Christ the King
The Sanctuary of Christ the King is a monument located on the south bank of the Tagus River in Almada. It was built in 1959 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Portuguese missionary Francis Xavier.
The monument comprises a large white marble statue of Jesus Christ and a chapel dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. The statue stands over 70 meters tall and can be seen across Lisbon.
Visitors can take an elevator to the top for stunning views of Lisbon and its surroundings. Inside the chapel, visitors can learn more about St. Francis Xavier and his mission work in Asia.
Best Restaurants In Lisbon
Marisqueira do Lis
You can end the day at Marisqueira do Lis, a seafood restaurant in the heart of Lisbon. It offers a wide variety of fresh seafood dishes, from traditional Portuguese recipes to modern creations.
The menu includes grilled fish, shellfish, and other specialties such as caldeirada (Portuguese fish stew) and Arroz de marisco (seafood rice). The restaurant also serves an extensive selection of wines from Portugal and abroad.
The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting, with friendly staff always willing to help you choose the perfect dish.
Ramiro’s is a seafood restaurant located in the heart of Lisbon. It has been serving up delicious seafood dishes since 1956 and is one of the city’s most beloved restaurants.
The menu includes traditional Portuguese recipes such as caldeirada (Portuguese fish stew) and Arroz de marisco (seafood rice), as well as modern creations. The restaurant also offers an extensive selection of wines from Portugal and abroad.
The atmosphere at Ramiro’s is relaxed and inviting, with friendly staff who are always willing to help you choose the perfect dish.
3 Days In Lisbon (Day 3)
Sintra is a small town located just outside Lisbon and is one of the most popular day trips from the city. It’s home to some of Portugal’s most stunning castles, palaces and gardens, making it a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Lisbon.
The main attractions in Sintra are the Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle and Quinta da Regaleira. The Pena Palace is an extravagant 19th-century palace built on a hill overlooking the town. Its colourful exterior makes it one of the most photographed landmarks in Portugal. The Moorish Castle is an ancient fortress that dates back to the 8th century and offers stunning views over Sintra. Finally, Quinta da Regaleira is a beautiful estate with lush gardens, mysterious underground tunnels and hidden grottos.
Visitors can also explore Sintra’s charming cobblestone streets lined with shops selling traditional Portuguese souvenirs such as cork products and handmade pottery.
Getting to Lisbon from Sintra, with regular buses and trains running from Lisbon. Plenty of tour companies also offer day trips to Sintra, so you can comfortably explore the town.
Best Location To Stay In Lisbon
Perfectly located on the Praҁa dos Restauradores, this hotel faces the Avenida da Liberdade on one side and the neo-Manueline, horseshoe-arched Rossio station on the other. It was built in Lisbon’s 1940s heyday and became a hotel in 2011, offering 70 elegantly designed rooms and a rooftop restaurant.
In the narrow streets of lower Lisbon, which run down to the wide Tagus River, this 18th-century building, with its pistachio green façade, offers 84 rooms and a buzzy bar and brasserie. Frequent art exhibitions, live performances, talks and pop-ups make this as popular with locals as with visitors.
In ‘downtown,’ Baixa is on a pedestrian-only street and within walking distance of the city’s main sights, such as Praҁa do Comércio on the waterfront. This is a lively, buzzy district with new shops and cafés opening all the time. Lisbon Airport is 30 minutes away by the Aerobus shuttle, and Santa Apolónia Railway Station is a 20-minute walk.
While in Lisbon, we stayed in Pedro’s Airbnb. It’s a big room in a big apartment with big areas. Relaxing living room, a fully equipped kitchen and two bathrooms. It’s located in the historical part of Lisbon and has the famous Tram 28 running right in front, which we discovered while riding Tram 28 – “Hey isn’t that…yeah, that’s our Airbnb!” Pretty Cool!
Final Thoughts on 3 Days In Lisbon
I think Lisbon is underrated. 3 Days in Lisbon will give you a new appreciation of what a great city it is. Need I remind you Portugal is connected solely by Spain on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other?
This means fresh seafood. So please do not come here and not have seafood or at least try fish. They got catching fish and prepared fish locked and mastered. However, they also know how to prepare chicken. They use this delicious secret spice sauce called Peri-Peri on the chicken and the fish and the meat…it’s incredible.
Eat as many Pastéis de Nata’s as possible, then work them off on the steep hills as you explore all the wonderful side streets.
Am I related to Cristiano Ronaldo? Who knows? I’m still working on that. That earthquake of 1755 damaged a lot, including records and documentation. But I’m not giving up hope 😉
In the meantime, go visit Lisbon!