Before I begin, let me add a disclaimer by saying that this is in no way intended to be a comprehensive guide. As with all of my travel experiences, this is from my perspective and based on what intrigued me before I came and subsequently, after I had visited. I should also note, that since my trip was during the winter this guide leaves out beaches which are, of course, a big part of the Lisbon experience in warmer weather. With that being said, Lisbon is simply a beautiful and charming city that captivated me as soon as I got off of the train stop to head to my Airbnb. Colorful buildings are stacked upon one another on hill after hill and I loved getting lost in the alleyways and tiny streets. Well, except for my second day there when it poured raining all day (like, I’m talking flooded streets type rain showers). That still didn’t stop me from going out and exploring on foot, literally all day, and getting completely soaked in the process.
Nevertheless, if I can do it in crappy flood weather and still enjoy my time (don’t get me wrong, I was not exactly singing in the rain that day), then you can surely do it on milder days and see even more than me! For my trip, I decided to stay in the downtown area, Baixa-Chiado, in order to be central to as many sights as possible with such a short time. I booked an Airbnb that I loved which was super clean, modern and had a balcony for just $21/night! I’m sure prices increase during busy season, however…
Over the course of my 3-day getaway, I hung out in Baixa-Chiado, visited the districts of Belem and Alfama, and took a half-day trip to Sintra. Below is a very brief round-up of recommendations based on my time. More detailed posts on the below will be posted in the coming days.
Day 1: Belém District, Jeronimos Monastery, Belém Tower, Pasteis deBelém
On Day 1, I ventured to the Belém district which houses two UNESCO world heritage sites that are a must-see in Lisbon: Jeronimos Monastery and Belém Tower. Jeronimos Monastery is breathtaking and for anyone who enjoys architecture, you will absolutely be impressed. See more in this post. Note: it’s also free the first Sunday of every month (as are many, if not all, of the museums and sites).
After visiting Jeronimos Monastery, I took a stroll along the Tagus river in order to see Belém Tower (you want to walk away from the city to go in the direction of the tower). It’s just about a 20 minute walk or so. I chose not to go inside (it was too late anyway) and just view from the outside but it is said to have nice views (though I think there are plenty of other free areas for great views if you are on a budget, like me).
Finally, I finished off my day by walking back towards the Monastery and heading to Pastéis de Belém, the famed bakery known for pastéis de nata, an egg tart pastry. Y’all- this thing is delicious. Go get it. DO IT. It is reminiscent of french toast to me in a way but it is soft, warm, sweet, creamy and just so necessary. I would also recommend getting it from this bakery (at least for your first one) because when I had another one from a different bakery later that weekend, it was not nearly as good! I hear the lines here can get insane during busy season but since my visit was during the off-season I waited 5 minutes max.
For dinner, I found a place called By The Wine which was very close to my Airbnb in Baixa-Chiado. I ended up eating here like three times while I was in Portugal! I’m not even playing with y’all when I say the Quesadilla “Chiado” was game-changing. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it!
Day 2: Tram 28, Alfama District, Fancy Dinner, Drinks in Baixa-Chiado
If you have even remotely done any research on Lisbon you should have by now seen recommendations for Tram 28 which takes you around the city and offers wonderful views of the colorful neighborhoods and key points. I rode the Tram as my first excursion on Day 2, but did not get the full experience because of the pouring rain. I did go back on day 3, however, and it was a pretty chill, laid-back ride (try to get a window seat or seat in the very front for the best experience).
I hopped off the Tram about halfway through in order to explore the Alfama district. Naturally, I got lost which normally I enjoy but sadly on this rainy day I was stressed as hell. However, I stumbled upon an awesome viewpoint, Miradouro das Portas do Sol, where I saw amazing views of Lisboa and kind of forgot about the dampening weather.
Next, I figured I deserved a fancy dinner due to my rain adventures and landed on a Michelin starred restaurant, Cantinho do Avillez. Here I decided to try the country’s food staple, codfish. It was tasty but in hindsight I wish I had tried the codfish at any regular old place (since it is so common) and gone for something more exotic at the restaurant. My meal was not too badly priced either, considering it is Michelin starred, coming to about 30 euros which included a starter, entrée and a glass of wine.
I ended the night weaving in and out of the streets in Bairro-Alto, which is more specifically where my Airbnb was located, where the neighborhood comes alive at night as all the bars and lounges open their doors. It was invigorating and I loved the liveliness of the nightlife here. I would highly recommend spending a night hanging out in Bairro-Alto.
Day 3: Sintra (half) Day Trip, Shopping in Baixa-Chiado
Sintra is a small town in Lisbon about 45 minutes away by train. It’s very easy to get to! I would honestly recommend Sintra for a full day trip since there are so many castles and palaces to explore but because I wanted to re-do my Tram trip from Day 2, I got a late start in heading to Sintra. Because I was so late, I only had the chance to stop at two palaces but I think I hit what is arguably the most beautiful: Pena Palace. Again, if you love architecture or colorful buildings like me then please go see this! Even if you aren’t super into architecture there are some amazing views and it is such a majestic structure.
Lastly, when I caught the train back to Lisbon’s city center, I did some walking around where there are boutiques and shops galore including favorites like Zara, H&M, Bershka, Pull & Bear and more.
Now, if I can manage all of that in 3 days with the rain- what will you take on when you visit? Let me know! I would love to hear what you did in Lisboa or hope to do one day when you visit.