Top Things to Do in Lisbon, Portugal in 3 Days: Maximizing Your Visit

If you ask us, every traveler should do a backpacking trip through Europe at some point in their lives. Typically, Spain, France, and Italy are known as the “must-see” countries, but just east of those idyllic places lies a hidden gem: Portugal.

Jumping Ahead

blue outline of arrow pointing right What is Lisbon, Portugal well known for?

Spain’s next-door neighbor is often skipped, which is a shame because there’s really no place quite like Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. The hilly, coastal city is famous for its pastel buildings and café culture. It also has an impressive collection of museums, historic buildings, castles, town squares, and cathedrals. We think it’s worth the visit and we hope we can convince you to think the same!

blue outline of arrow pointing right Quick Stats About Lisbon

If you aren’t familiar with Lisbon, here are just a few pieces of general information to note before you depart.

Population: Around 500,000 peopleLocation: On the Atlantic coast and West of the Tagus River

Official Language: Portuguese

Currency: EUR

Older than Rome: Lisbon is a pretty ancient city. It’s actually the oldest capital city in Europe, making it older than Rome.

City of Light: Not only is it the capital of Portugal, but Lisbon is also considered the sunniest capital of Europe. Let’s just say no matter when you visit, you’ll likely get some sunny days!

Pro Tip: Our destination guides page includes more travel and safety information for popular travel spots.

blue outline of arrow pointing right Must-See Things to Do In Lisbon, Portugal

If you’re thinking about visiting Lisbon, here’s our list of sites and experiences you simply can’t miss:

Visit a Historical Site:

Praca do Comercio

Praca do Comercio, or Commercial Square, is Lisbon’s largest plaza. It was built in 1755 after a large portion of the city was destroyed by an earthquake, and it is known for its beautifully painted walls. Situated on the banks of the Tagus River, the square was the central hub for traders, sailors, and financiers back in the day.

Many around-the-world expeditions were likely planned inside the plaza’s walls, and you can feel the buzz of that energy when you visit now. While you’re there, don’t forget to grab a photo next to the statue of King José.

A city street in lisbon with beautiful buildings.

Torre de Belem

Torre de Belem, or the Belem Tower, is Lisbon’s ultimate showstopper. The ornate tower was constructed during King John II’s reign and originally functioned as a commemoration of the discoveries made by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who was the first European to reach India by sea.

The tower soon became a fortress and a ceremonial gateway into Lisbon and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its significance during Portugal’s Golden Age of Discoveries and genre-defying architecture.

Belem Tower in Lisbon, Portugal

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, another UNESCO World Heritage site also situated right next to Torre de Belem, is one of the most ornate churches in Portugal. It is a monastery that, like the Torre de Belem, has come to represent Portugal’s famed era of expeditions.

It was commissioned by King D. Manuel I and donated to the monks of Saint Hieronymus so they could pray for explorers and sailors who left Lisbon in search of a new world. Be sure to book your tickets in advance if you’re traveling in the summer.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimo in Lisbon, Portugal

The Castle of St. George  

Located in the middle of Alfama (more on that later!), the castle of St. George is Lisbon’s most popular tourist attraction. Towering over Lisbon, the castle offers unparalleled views of the city.

Other than the panoramic views it offers, history is its most captivating aspect—the oldest parts of the castle date from the 2nd century. Over the years, Visigoths, Moors, and Christians alike have called the castle home, and now tourists can too, if only for a moment.

St. George Castle in Lisbon.

Check Out the Lisbon, Portugal Beaches  

Did we mention Lisbon is home to multiple, beautiful beaches? No matter what kind of beachgoer you are, Lisbon has a beach for you. Here are a few of our favorites:

Praia da Morena in Costa da Caparica (Morena Beach): A great spot if you’re interested in socializing with a younger crowd and enjoying a cold drink on a hot afternoon. 

Praia do Meco (Meco Beach): If you’re looking for a more peaceful atmosphere, Meco is the beach for you. You’ll find fewer visitors here. The waters might be more rough, so keep a watchful eye if you’re traveling with children.

Praia do Guincho: If all you really want is to cool off in Portugal’s turquoise waters, go to Guincho. This stunning beach offers perfect conditions for surfing too!

beach in lisbon portugal with turquoise waters

Pro Tip: Most hostels offer free transportation to the city’s most popular beaches. If you’re traveling on a budget, exploring Lisbon’s beaches is a great way to enjoy the day.

Walk Around Alfama

As we mentioned before, Alfama is the historic area of Lisbon, comprised of narrow streets flanked by colorful houses. Hidden alleys pop up every few blocks or so and they are an absolute delight to check out. It’s also a great place to watch the locals go about their lives (any people watchers out there?).

Alfama in Lisbon, Portugal

Stay the morning, and you’re likely to see grandmothers selling fresh seafood and cafés filling up with Fado musicians (we’ll expand more on this later). There are more hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Alfama than you could possibly count, so make sure to arrive on an empty stomach.

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A word to the wise: Expect yourself to fall head-over-heels in love with Alfama –it’s not uncommon for travelers to rearrange their plans to allow for a few extra nights. Give yourself the freedom to roam by purchasing an international travel insurance plan that has optional add-on coverage to cover spontaneous choices like rental cars and cancellation.

Check Out a Fado Show

Fado is a historical genre of music exclusive to Portugal. It’s most famously simplistic in character, comprised of nothing more than lyrics and Portuguese guitar. It’s also notable for its mournfulness—most Fado songs tell resigned tales about love, loss, and life as a working-class person in Lisbon.

The fact Fado music has survived so many centuries is a testament to the Portuguese people’s strong desire to honor their culture and history. The best way to experience Fado music is to wander the streets of Alfama and pop into a tavern. On any night of the week, there’s always an opportunity to sip on ginjinha (the locals’ favorite alcoholic drink) and listen to Fado.

blue outline of arrow pointing right Bonus Things to Do In Lisbon If You Have Extra Time

It’s hard not to want to see everything that Lisbon has to offer. If you have extra time to explore Portuguese culture in Lisbon, make sure to visit these places.

National Azulejo Museum: Take a look into Portuguese culture through the history of tile located in a former convent. This museum is a must-visit if you have time to squeeze it into your itinerary.

LX Factory: This trendy area of Lisbon is known for its restaurants, bars, and shopping. Experience art exhibits, events, and industrial vibes!

blue outline of arrow pointing right How to Get Around Lisbon

The metro system is the fastest and easiest way to get around Lisbon. You’ll find it operates from 6:30am – 1am each day. Additionally, trams are an iconic way to see areas the metro doesn’t reach. There are several tram routes to choose from and you can save some money by purchasing a 24-hour ticket. A word of caution: beware of pickpockets on trams, especially in exceptionally crowded ones.

yellow tram in lisbon, portugal

A second option to save you from renting a car is walking! Although Lisbon’s tremendous hills are well-known, it is doable to navigate the city by walking. Though, it’s noted that some of the sidewalks can be slippery in some areas (be careful on those hills!). Just make sure to pack appropriate, and perhaps nonslip, footwear so your feet won’t tire easily.

blue outline of arrow pointing right Is Lisbon Safe?

Yes, it’s ranked 6th place for countries with low crime rates –so you probably won’t encounter any issues during your vacation. As we mentioned before, be vigilant against pickpocketers. They’re becoming more of a problem in Lisbon, though few of them are violent. 

To protect against this, ensure that you secure your bags, phones, and wallets on the front of your body and leave your valuables at home. Knowing what areas to avoid or be more alert in Lisbon, like this list areas pickpocketers like to frequent from created can help you be more informed. To prevent other common scams, be sure to read our other blog outlining common tourist scams and how to deal with them.

blue outline of arrow pointing right How to Travel to Lisbon on a Budget

Lisbon is surprisingly affordable. In Lisbon, you can get by on 50 euros a day if you’re willing to do a little bit of planning. Funky hostels like Yes Hostels and Poets Hostel offer cheap rates for quality accommodations, as long as you’re okay with dorm-style living. 

Plus, reservations at these spots include amenities like complimentary breakfast, walking tours, and all-you-can-drink coffee. With the essentials —housing and caffeine— covered for a low price, the rest of your budget can go toward exploring the city.

blue outline of arrow pointing right Should you get travel insurance for your trip to Lisbon?

Our answer is…yes! Considering your flight, hotel, and tour costs might be nonrefundable or have strict cancellation policies, its wise to insure those in case you suddenly have to cancel or interrupt your trip. If your travels are canceled or cut short for a covered reason, travel insurance may reimburse the unused trip cost.

Even if your getaway is only three days, your flight there or back could get delayed and cause you to spend extra money on hotels and meals. Not ideal if you’re sticking to a strict budget. Travel delay is a benefit included with most travel insurance plans and could reimburse the cost of these extras you didn’t plan for in your travel budget to Lisbon.

Have you been to Lisbon? If so, tell us about it! Get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

As a seasoned professional with over five years of experience in the travel insurance industry, Meagan has honed her expertise in marketing and operations working for Yonder Travel Insurance. Throughout her career, she's shown dedication assisting customers at every stage of their travel insurance journey, from the initial quote process to navigating the claims process. Her expert understanding of travel insurance equips her to provide unbiased and valuable insights, which help travelers find the best coverage and maximize its benefits.

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