72 hours in Lisbon
Where to start! During our holiday in Portugal, Nathan and I went on a road trip from the Algarve to Lisbon. We took the coastal route, which led us along windy mountain roads, along the seafront, on to a ferry and through rural Portuguese villages. It was quite an experience! We stopped off at a few places along the way (I’ll cover this more in a separate Portugal travel guide). For now, let’s chat about Lisbon.
We stayed at the Jupiter Lisboa Hotel via Booking.com, located far enough to the edge of the city to make it an easy drive in and close enough to hop on the metro for a 15-20 minute journey to the centre. For us, this was the perfect location. Rooms are modern, clean and comfortable with a rainfall shower (I could barely contain my excitement!), daily maid service, a plush king size bed (ideal for fellow sprawlers) and a rooftop bar and pool. It had the best of both with close proximity to the city centre and a pool with sun loungers for catching some rays after a busy morning of exploring. Perfect for: explorers who fancy a little bit of luxury for a budget friendly price.
Well, you’re certainly not short of restaurants in Lisbon, that’s for sure! For breakfast, we went to a local supermarket to buy pastries, cereals, juices etc to keep the cost down (I highly recommend Pingo Doce as they have a decent selection, gluten free and dairy free products and not too costly). If you’re going to Lisbon, you have to try their pastel de natas – the famous Portuguese custard tart. Being gluten free, I found everywhere was pretty accommodating.
- Restaurante Sacramento – gorgeous seafood, chic decor and the staff were so friendly. Try the skate and monkfish or their fresh mojitos. Perfect for: a romantic meal for two.
- Zarzuela – gluten free heaven! They specialise in gluten free food (‘sem gluten’) and the staff are very friendly and helped me learn some more Portuguese! Try their incredible pastel de natas and gluten free pizzas. Perfect for: a decent priced lunch or a GF snack.
- Bairro deo Avillez Pateo – this restaurant has three different sections. Go to the Pateo part of the restaurant for delicious food and melt-in-the-mouth desserts. I highly recommend their fish dishes and pavlova! Just note that the service is particularly speedy if you haven’t booked. Perfect for: dinner for families, friends or couples looking for a stylish place to eat.
- Time Out Market – holy moly. If you’re in Lisbon, make sure you stop by as this is not a place to be missed! We visited on a Thursday at around 12.30pm to beat the queues and luckily, it was pretty quiet. There’s so much food to choose from – mix and match to sample as many goodies as you can. Perfect for: lunch, tapas or drinks with nibbles.
I wasn’t planning a particularly boozy trip but Lisbon had other ideas! Their cocktails and mojitos are incredibly fresh (and very strong – warning, the Portuguese measures are, er, much stronger than ours here in the UK!) Whether you’re looking for a quiet post-dinner drink, some cocktails with the girls or some daytime sampling, there’s something for everyone.
- A Ginjinha – pop along to the tiny, cupboard-sized bar to try Lisbon’s renowned Ginjinha – a liqueur made from ginja (sour cherries). We queued up at 2pm (don’t judge, we were on holiday!) and bought a shot each for just over 1 euro. I was quite a fan as it had a lovely sweet flavour…and it gave us a boost for the metro journey back to the hotel! Perfect for: those wanting to try the local products and traditions.
- Pensão Amor – if you’re looking for somewhere quirky with a relaxed vibe, squishy armchairs and an impressive drinks list, then head over to Pensão Amor. Fun fact – it was a brothel once upon a time (I’m assuming the furniture is new/has been upholstered…) but the place has a seriously cool, chilled, vintage vibe with a nod to its former venue in the decor. Perfect for: those looking for somewhere a little more quirky and relaxed.
Lisbon turned out to be different to my expectations. It’s not a chic city like Paris, or a quaint city like Valencia. It feels very real, raw, slightly edgy/grungy and so authentic – I loved it. I’ve seen some negative posts about Lisbon – maybe it’s a Marmite kind of place, you either love it or hate it. But I do wonder how much exploring people have done as it’s easy to miss the key central areas, modern shops and historic sights if you’re not looking for them. Lisbon is made up of gorgeous, old cobbled streets and is also very hilly – perfect if you want to have a good walk!
- Tram 28 – okay, a bit touristy but I loved seeing the city from a different perspective. This was the first thing we did the day after arriving in Lisbon and helped us get our bearings as well as admiring the views and the steep cobbled streets. Turn up early (before 10am) to beat the crowds and definitely get a seat so you can see out of the window. It’s a wonderful way to see Lisbon, although we did get kicked off halfway round as another tram had broken down! We proceeded to get very lost and almost end up in someone’s back garden – all part of the fun!
- Baixa – also known as downtown Lisbon. This is the main heart of the city and has many shops and big brands nestled along its streets, including Mango, Pull and Bear, Zara Home and H&M, amongst department stores and independent retailers. The area is full of street cafes and has a lovely buzz, as well as the grand buildings of the National Theater and Saint George’s Castle.
- Rua Augusta Arch – definitely worth having a stroll to the Rua Augusta Arch. It’s a gorgeous, grand building and was built to commemorate the restructure of the city after the earthquake in 1755. Get some lovely snaps and walk down to the waterfront for a wander on the beach, sit at a cafe by the marina or see the impressive 25 de Abril Bridge.
- I would’ve also loved to go to Mosteiros dos Jerónimos if we had more time – it’s a little bit out of the city. It looks like an interesting piece of Lisbon’s history and it looks incredible – if only for the Insta photos!
Lisbon’s Metro is actually pretty nice and puts the London Underground to shame! It’s clean with marble interiors and air conditioning (thank God). The city is very well-connected and the Metro is a quick way to get around. I would recommend getting a 24 hour travel card which costs around 6 euros and gives you access to the Metro, trams and buses. We used this across the 3 days and topped up when required. We also used a few taxis which only cost around 5/6 euros from the centre to our hotel. Tip – always use the green and black or cream coloured taxis as these are the legal, regulated taxis.
Most places/hotels/restaurants/taxis speak English, but as with most countries, it does pay to speak a little Portuguese. Not only is it polite (even if you just learn hello, thank you and goodbye – hola, obrigada(o) and tchau) but we also found that it was appreciated that we were making an effort and we received great service everywhere!
In all honesty, I felt very safe in Lisbon. As with every city, it’s sensible to be wary – don’t get lost at night and look after your belongings etc. But we never saw any trouble, felt unsafe or came across anyone unsavoury! In fact, I’m pretty sure we became besties with one of our taxi drivers.
I think 3 days was a good amount of time for exploring Lisbon, although I would’ve loved to stay a little longer to explore places like Sintra and Mosteiros dos Jerónimos. Hope you’ve found this guide useful! Have you got any recommendations to add to the list?