Lisbon is an undeniably beautiful European city. With its rolling hills, yellow trolleys, and iconic tiled rooftops. Recently I visited Portugal’s largest city for a short stopover between my tour of Spain and Morocco. It was a short visit, but it was long enough for me to become infatuated with the city. Here are my recommendations for the best things to do in Lisbon if you only have a few days to visit.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
The neighborhood of Barrio Alto is a great, central place to stay. There is a lot of wonderful places to eat and the nightlife is some of the best in the city. I rented an AirBNB, which was more affordable for my group that stay in a hotel or hostel.
Top Things to Do in Lisbon on a Short Trip
Three days is not enough time to spend in Lisbon, but if that’s all you have before jumping to another European adventure, the below list will help you see some of the highlights. If you have more time, be sure to check out a few of Lisbon’s famous museums.
Try a Custard Tart
The Portuguese know their pastries, and perhaps the most popular is the Pastel de nata – a custard tart dusted with cinnamon. It’s not uncommon to see locals and tourists alike munching on one of these tiny delicious sweets while walking towards a streetcar stop or in between shops. I suggest picking one up at Manteigaria in the Bairro Alto area. Pick up a pastel de nata with a coffee in the morning, before you begin your day of sightseeing.
Shop on Rua Augusta
This pedestrian street is absolutely gorgeous and a must see! Spend the afternoon window shopping for cork products, wine tasting, or people watching. The street spills out onto Comércio Plaza, which is worth spending some time to snap tourist photos.
Take Trolly #28 Around the City
The iconic yellow trolly #28 will take you to many of the tourist areas around the city. It’s also just fun to ride! Jump on a take it for a bumpy spin to get acquainted with the city.
Walk the Walls of São Jorge Castle
Although more of a fortress than a castle, walking on top of the walls will give you a grand view of the city from above.
Visit the Oldest Operating Bookshop in the World
Bertrand Bookshop opened in 1732, almost 50 years before the United States became a nation, and it’s still in business today! Think of all the wars, politics, art, and other significantly historic moments that store has lived through. As an avid reader, I had to buy a book from the store (they do have books in english). Upon purchase, the woman adorned the first page with the Bertrand Bookshop official stamp. It’s a great souvenir!
I was astounded by the quality of restaurants in Lisbon. The best places require reservations, every single night, and after trying a few it’s easy to see why. A few of my favorite places were: Chapito A’ Mesa (great view) and Taberna da Rua das Flores (daily changing menu and charmingly tiny restaurant). If you’re going to splurge on anything in Lisbon, let it be food.
Admire Portuguese Tile
Almost everywhere you look in Lisbon you’ll see intricate and vibrant tile work. Enjoy letting your eyes scan the architecture for tile, and if you’re like me, you’ll fall in love with the gorgeous patterns. You may even visit a few artisan shops, where you can purchase small handmade tiles to take home.
I like wine, but I don’t love sweet wine. Even so, I felt that I needed to do a Port tasting while in Portugal. My suggestion would be to make a reservation at BA Wine Bar in Barrio Alto for a wine tasting and charcuterie board before heading out for a late dinner. The sommelier asked us about our preferences and carefully crafted a wonderful tasting for us. They have Port wine, of course, but also a variety of other wines from Portugal. The experience felt authentic and customized to my liking, without being pertinacious. Highly recommend.
See a Fadó Show
Seeing a Fadó show is one of the best things you can do in Lisbon. Admittedly, before I visited this amazing city, I had never heard of this type of music. Fadó is traditionally played at pubs and restaurants in around Portugal. It’s highly emotional and also very respected. Do not talk during a show, or you can expect to be audibly shushed and shot an angry grimace. Again, reservations for these shows are highly recommended. I suggest Tasca do Chico for excellent ambiance and decent food. The Fadó group I saw was very talented, playing 15-minute sets with 15-minute breaks in between. At times, I felt overcome with the emotion, even though I couldn’t understand the lyrics. It was intense and very enjoyable.