Lisbon, Lisboa, city of spies or the City of Seven Hills - whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying the growing popularity of Portugal’s capital. Home to the oldest bookstore in the world, with a local delicacy that rivals a Greggs custard slice (It’s a Brit thing), here’s how to spend four days in the capital that’ll leave you feeling like a Lisbon local.
Visiting in June
Visiting Lisbon from 6th to 9th June 2019 meant it was celebration time for the upcoming Feast of St. Anthony - otherwise known as the Lisbon Sardine Festival.
Why Sardines? I hear you ask! Well, firstly sardines are associated with the poor and St. Anthony took a vow of poverty. The legend also goes that St. Anthony preached to the fish who came to the sea edge to listen to him after being ignored during one of his sermons.
If you're thinking it's a sombre affair you'd be sorely mistaken, as all-night street parties are a common sight - something to consider if you're choosing to stay within Alfama.
If you're visiting Lisbon in June, bear in mind 10th June is also Portugal Day - or Dia de Camões- and so a public holiday as it marks the death of Luís de Camões - the famous Portuguese poet.
While Uber does operate in Lisbon, public transport is easy to navigate and a cheap way to get around - plus you can't miss a ride on a tram! You can either pay as you go, purchase a Viva Viagem card or invest in a Lisboa Card. The Viva Viagem card is similar to London's oyster card in that you simply pre-load the amount and tap it using the machines. It is likely to be more cost-effective to invest in a Lisbon Card if you're hoping to visit some attractions, see below.
Depending on how much of Lisbon you want to see, and what attractions you're hoping to visit, it might be worth investing in the Lisboa Card. The card costs €42.00 for 72 hours, €34.00 for 48 hours or €20.00 for 24 hours and provides free transportation and free entry to 35 museums, monuments and places of interest - such as Monastery of Jerónimos, Torre de Belém and Elevador de Santa Justa.
A Quick Disclaimer...
While I did do some research before my trip to Lisbon, there were a number of attractions we sadly didn't find out about until we were there. So while our itinerary was a bit of a mishmash and could have had better planning, I have written the itinerary as I would do it if I were to visit again - including activities we weren't aware of at the time.
Jump to Lisbon Neighbourhoods:
Streets in Lisbon
Streets in Lisbon
Day One: Baixa, Chiado and Bairro Alto
Bertrand Chiado - The Oldest Operating Bookstore in the World
Bertrand Chiado opened its doors in 1732 and after almost 300 years is still a firm favourite in the city. Despite its age, the modern interior features a tunnel-like architecture with wooden panelling. There's a small English section near the cash register, who will stamp inside the cover stating where exactly the copy was purchased.
The bookstore is located in the centre so shopping is aplenty with many high street stores such as Pull & Bear, Zara and H&M available - don't miss my favourite, Ale Hop!
Dine at Time Out Market Lisbon
Set in a former market hall with over 100 years of history, the Time Out Market Lisbon - or Mercado da Ribeira - is the best example of al fresco fine dining the world over. Taste-tested by an expert panel of Time Out food critics, the market showcases the best of Lisbon with everything from fresh fish, regional cheeses and of course the famed Pastel de Natas.
“If it’s good, it goes in the magazine, if it’s great, it goes into the market.” - Time Out
This fantastic concept that started in 2014 has now spread to Miami, New York, Boston, Chicago, Montreal (2019) and soon to be London (2021) and Praha (2022)
The Rua Nova do Carvalho - or Pink Street - in the Cais do Sodré neighbourhood was once dubbed Lisbon’s Red Light District as it was a scandalous hangout for sailors, local criminals, and prostitutes. Today it's home to the must-visit Mercado de Ribeira's (or Time Out Market) and notable bars.
Santa Justa Lift
Despite my fruitful research, the Santa Justa Lift is actually something we stumbled upon while pottering around the town centre. The imposing Gothic structure isn’t easily ignored! Fortunately, when we decided to reach new heights, the queue was fairly short and we only waited around twenty minutes. The lift only holds around 20 people and requires 10 minutes rest between trips.
We paid around €5.30 each directly to the operator on entry to the lift (without a Lisbon Card) that included an ascent, descent and up to the terrace reached by a staircase after embarking (turn immediately left on exiting the lift). If you're using a Lisbon card, the card only covers you for the ascent and descent, and the terrace is a further €1.50 paid on entry to the barrier.
Top tip: if the lines are too long from the Santa Justa lift, ride the what tram? to Carmo ruins or walk. This is also a cheaper alternative if you don’t have a transport card, that’ll cost you €1.50 to reach the panoramic terrace.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Bairro Alto District if you do take the ride up. Rather than riding the lift back down, walk through the Bellalisa Elevador restaurant and take the stairway down. From here, you can admire the view from the open-air bar at Terraços do Carmo, and reach the Largo do Carmo and Carmo ruins
Time Out Market
Santa Justa Lift Terrace View
Day Two: Belém
LX Factory is worth a visit, if not to see Bordalo II's Wasp, then to grab a coffee in a redeveloped 19th-century industrial site. Former warehouses are now home to hipster stores, artist studios, coffee houses and more.
Staying in Alfama, we caught the bus 728 heading in the direction of Restelo (Av. das Descobertas) from Cais Lingueta - the stop in front of the Fado Museum - departing at Alcântara Mar. It's roughly 9 stops and we paid onboard around €1,80 each one way.
Don't miss the Ler Devagar bookstore, the Bordalo II Wasp or the Rio Maravilha roof terrace.
Pastéis de Belém
It was time for some refreshment and of course, this meant the infamous Pastel de Natas! We walked to the Calvário bus stop and caught tram 15e in the direction of the Jerónimos Monastery - we made a direct beeline for Pastéis de Belém.
There is the option to purchase from the counter which was very busy or to be seated. Even the seating seemed very busy, however, there is a back terrace which has many more seats and short waiting time. So walk to the back of the restaurant as if you're heading to the exit and you'll find the extra tables.
The tables are serviced by waiters and we ordered two lattes, 1 water and six tarts (to take some away) which came to €10.55 - savoury items such as sandwiches are available on the menu.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
When we reached Belém, we were in total awe of the Unesco-listed Jerónimos Monastery having had no clue as to its existence prior to arriving - it turned out to be one of our favourite things to do not just in Belém, but in Lisbon.
With cloisters to rival Oxford, the church is free to visit but before you do, walk further down to the ticket office to save you walking backwards and forwards in the heat. You can purchase a monastery ticket from the self-service machines. From the monastery, you can access the viewing balcony over the church.
Top tip: It’s possible to buy a combined ticket that gives access to the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower and National Archaeology Museum - potentially saving you €4
Torre de Belém
The Torre de Belém is an interesting monument, and likely not suitable for anyone with difficulty walking or claustrophobia. This 16th-century fortification operates a traffic light system for visitors to pass up and down the narrow staircase. The highlight is the open terrace at the top of the tower that offers a great view of the April 25th bridge.
Top tip: you can buy your ticket from the tourist information before arriving at the tower to avoid long queues. If you're stuck for time, you can give this one a miss.
If you're up for a bit of a stroll, walk for around 25 minutes along the riverfront to reach the MAAT - passing by the Tropical Botanic Garden, several monuments and the Belem Lighthouse.
Walk the Roof of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT)
While access to the museum and exhibitions costs €5, access to the roof gardens and gazebo is completely free, accessed by a step-free pedestrian footbridge. You can walk along the roof with fantastic views of Belem and the river. Sadly, we didn't get to do this but it's first on my list for when I return! As well as being open to the public, the space is used for outdoor performances, workshops and concerts.
25th April Bridge Experience
Ponte 25 de Abril is an amazing feat of architecture and dominates the Lisbon skyline. Extending across the Tagus River, it's the largest suspension bridge in Europe and the 20th longest in the world. While sadly you can't walk across the bridge, the Pilar 7 bridge experience offers an elevator ride up to a panoramic viewing point that provides an unrivalled view of the city and the river - for just €5 or free with the Lisbon card. While we didn't get to experience this, there' is apparently a PhotoBooth for you to visit as a memento.
Top tip: look out for the lower platform of the bridge where the trains run unobstructed by the car traffic.
Dine in a Converted Bus
Buzz Lisboetas is an old double-decker bus converted into a cosy restaurant that serves light meals, brunch and delicious desserts. Alternatively, settle down for dinner in the Doca de Recreio de Santo Amaro and soak in the atmosphere from the marina, or head back to the Rio Maravilha roof terrace at the LX Factory for a well-deserved drink.
LX Factory Bookshop
Pastéis de Belém
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Day Three: Alfama
Grab you're walking shoes and a bottle of water, you'll be doing plenty of walking today!
Ride Tram 28
One of the number one things to do in Lisbon is to ride the infamous tram 28 as it passes a number of key attractions, however, the queues are often very long and the trams very crowded. So Time Travel Turtle suggest that you walk the seven-kilometre route instead - even providing this handy little map.
Feira da Ladra Market
Whether by foot or by tram let's start the day with a bit of bargain hunting. Lisbon's Mercado de Santa Clara - or Feira da Ladra - is a real-life portrayal of a car boot sale, offering all manner of tidings from housewares, antiques and media. Taking place every Tuesday and Saturday, it's THE place to nab 1 euro tiles and some Portuguese ceramics.
National Pantheon (or Church of Santa Engrácia)
Recognisable by its white dome, the National Pantheon is open Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 5pm and located very near to the flea market. The entrance fee is €3, except on Sunday mornings and national holidays when it is free. Become mesmerised by the symmetrical floor patterns and enjoy panoramic views from the dome.
São Vicente de Fora Museum
Roughly translated as Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls, this church is worth a visit to ogle at the Portuguese history depicted with superb blue and white azulejos tiles. You'll find them in the entrance portal to the monastery buildings and the marble of the sacristry.
The church is free to visit and located very close to the Pantheon.
Castelo de São Jorge
The camera obscura, archaeological site and castle with its magnificent views is a great way to wile away the afternoon. The castle is open seven days a week from 9am to 6pm between November and February, and 9am to 9pm March to October.
Miradouro das Portas do Sol
Lisbon - dubbed the city fo seven hills- unsurprisingly has a number of purpose-built viewpoints called miradouros. Miradouro das Portas do Sol - translated as Windows to the Sun - is by far the most popular for its red sea of terracotta rooftops and views of Igreja de São Vicente de Fora and National Pantheon.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
One of the most famous viewpoints in Lisbon for its romantic terrace and national monument - the Church of Santa Luzia. Within the garden is a long collonaded pergola decorated with the azulejos. Once again the Santa Luzia church features historic panels decorated with blue coloured azulejos.
Largo de São Miguel - June
If you are visiting in June, then you'll find the majority of the St. Anthony festivities taking place in the square in front of the Largo de São Miguel - grab a chocolate shot, nibble on a sardine or pick up a bite to eat.
Without a doubt the most famous church in Lisbon, dating back to the 12th century. Its the oldest and most important church in the city having withstood seven natural disasters and the great earthquake of 1755 that destroyed much of the city. In gothic style, the cathedral houses cloisters and a treasury containing jewels and relics.
Having worked up an appetite, look to spend the evening in a Fado house with dinner and a performance.
Feira da Ladra Market
Day Four: Sintra
The Mountains of the Moon - for its Roman namesake, Lunae Mons - is a fairytale town of palaces, mythic gardens and Atlantic views. It has inspired many from Portuguese monarchs to well-renowned artists. Due to its close proximity to Lisbon, it has become a popular summer retreat.
Getting to Sintra is surprisingly easy and cost-effective, as the train ticket costs only 5€ return from Rossio Station.
Do bring a jacket as it did go off a bit chilly towards the end of the day.
If you're feet feel like they're going to drop off from all the walking so far, then you can rejoice in the knowledge that there are a couple of buses available.
The worldwide hop on and hop off bus is available directly from the train station, costing 15€ per adult and operating until 5pm.
The second option is the Sintra Tourist Bus 434 – The Circuito da Pena. The loop includes the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace, Vila Palace and Liberdade Park - but it does not cover the entire route as the recognisable hop on and hop off. This bus does operate as a Hop-on Hop-off service, with tickets costing just €6.90. The service is run by Scotturb.
Quinta da Regaleira
Starting out life as a home to Portuguese businessman Carvalho Monteiro, the grand house is a spectacle, but the wishing well is where you'll find that iconic Sintra postcard. Eventually coming into ownership by the local Government, the 4 hectares of grounds are centres around ancient secret orders and symbolism with caves and concealed hidden passages. Today it has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site.
For a self-guided tour, the adult entry fee is 8 € and Lisbon Cardholders benefit from a 20% discount.
Click here for more information
Park and National Palace of Pena
One of the most recognisable attractions in Portugal means the palace can often become busy and over-crowded. Located on a hill, there is the option to hike, but many will look to grab a taxi, a tuk tuk or ride the bus. The 19th-century architecture is a mismatch of painted terraces, gargoyles and stone carvings. Take a mini hike up to
Don't miss: Cruz Alta Viewpoint for some extraordinary views and Castle of the Moors for panoramic views over Sintra from high fortified stone walls.
You can't leave Sintra without tasting their local delicacy - the famous Queijadas. And one of the best places is Casa Piriquita, named by King Carlos I who encouraged the creation of the popular sweet treats. The bakery has enjoyed over 160 years of party success, going on to develop the Travesseiro.
Cabo da Roca
If you haven't yet made it to Europe's most South Westerly point, then you can at least tick off a visit to mainland Europe’s westernmost point! Bring a jacket, it can get a little breezy. Affording you views of the Atlantic, this is where the Earth ends and the Sea begins.
Feira de São Pedro
Sintra's flea market takes place on the second and fourth Sunday in São Pedro. Dating back to the 12th century, this curiosities and antiques market is a great place to sample the regional bread - pão saloio - and other local delicacies.
Fancy something extra? Check out the Sintra Tram some vehicles over 110 years old.
And if that wasn't enough, then how about these?
Amoreiras 360º Panoramic View
Named as Lonely Planet's best view in Lisbon, the 360-degree view of Lisbon is located in the Amoreiras shopping centre for just 5€/
Free Walking Tours
With 3,000 years of history which include an earthquake that ended in utter destruction, there's plenty to learn about Lisbon's chequered history. Fortunately, you can participate in a free three-hour tour starting at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 4pm daily.
If you have time, wander over the river to visit the statue of Cristo Re - similar to Rio's Christ the Redeemer! You can't walk across the bridge, so you'll need to either grab a taxi (uber might be a good idea here) that can go across the bridge, or navigate the train timetable.