Lisbon is one of those cities that you don’t expect too much from but, at the end, you realize you were wrong about it all that time.
Even though Lisbon is one of the easily accessible European capitals, somehow you always give priority to the cities as Paris, Rome or Prague.
Well, at least this was our case.
After years of traveling wherever and whenever we could, somehow Portugal was always staying somewhere on the side and we were leaving it for “later”.
Well, that later happened when, close to the end of the year, we realized we are out of vacation days but we really needed to travel at least for a weekend.
It was more of a best option than a free choice and here we are in the Portugal’s capital – Lisbon.
Soon enough we realized – Lisbon has a lot to offer to a visitor, it’s a beautiful, charming city with cheerful and happy energy buzzing all around and we should have visited it long ago.
How it happened that we are visiting it only now?
Ever since our short 3 days visit to Lisbon, we both remained speaking constantly about Portugal and making plans for our next visit.
In this text we will give a short overview of main attractions and sightseeing for your Lisbon weekend trip.
For 3 days you can have more-less a good overview of the city, explore some main points but, in case you would want to stay longer, you will not be bored at all – there are so many interesting places and things to do in Lisbon.
And, oh yes, food – some of really good things are being cooked in Portugal.
So, here it goes, impression from the first hand on how to get there, where to stay and what to do during your weekend trip to Lisbon.
GETTING TO LISBON?
Lisbon is well connected with almost any European city and you can find inexpensive flights all year round. Direct flights are many and not only from and to European capitals.
ACCOMODATION IN LISBON
Considering that Lisbon is a capital of a European country, accommodation in Lisbon is not so expensive.
There is plenty of budget options in the city center, starting from hostels with shared rooms and bathrooms, to private rooms in hostels, hotels, guest houses and obviously some fancy options too.
Most of the hostels and budget hotels are located in the very central area of the city – Rossio which is a great location if you want to explore the city on foot.
Even if you go without booking, just walking around Rossio neighborhood you can find a room easily in some of the hostels or hotels that are located there.
Hostel options in the shared dormitories are cheap while a modest, private room with private bathroom can cost around 30/40 euros per day.
Of course, moving a bit away from the center, you can get much better prices.
TRANSPORTATION IN LISBON – METRO, TAXI, TRAM
Transportation in Lisbon is a very interesting topic.
Taxi service in Portugal has fame of being the cheapest in Europe.
Taxi from the airport to the city center can cost between 10 and 13 euros.
However, beware of the scams – as in almost any country in the world, getting a taxi at the airport can be a risky business so we suggest, before getting into one, always ask for the price first.
We did not do so, so we ended up paying 38 euros for the ride from the airport to the hotel which was located in the center. Later on, when taking another taxi from the same hotel to the airport we were amazed when the taxi driver told us the price of only 12 euros.
He explained to us that taxi in Lisbon (and in whole Portugal) is the cheapest in the whole EU and cannot possibly cost more than 15 euros the route Airport – city center.
Go with that knowledge and don`t let them scam you!
Assuming that you are staying in the city center (it is really the best option especially if you are on a short trip), you will not use much the public transport.
Another interesting thing about transport in Lisbon – trams are a thing there. They are a part of touristic experience and an attraction itself.
One-way tram ride costs 2 euros or you can buy a 24h public transport tickets which costs around 6 euros and allows you (besides rides in metro, trams and buses) to enter to some of the city attractions for free (Santa Justa Lift and legendary tram 28 – which are, in theory also means of transportation but in practice, they are tourist attractions as well).
Tram ride is something you should not miss when in Lisbon so don’t even bother with metro or buses. Tram is your way to go through Lisbon.
In any case, if you are accommodated in the center, many points of interest are within walking distance.
WHAT TO SEE & WHAT TO DO IN LISBON?
If you are on a weekend trip to Lisbon o extended weekend trip (meaning from 2 to 4 days), some of these places are not to be missed:
1. ROSSIO SQUARE
2. SANTA JUSTA LIFT
3. CARMO CONVENT
4. ALFAMA NEIGHBORHOOD (Tram 28, Viewpoints (Miradours), St George Castle)
5. PINK STREET
6. ARCO DA RUA AUGUSTA
7. BELEM AREA (Tower of Belem, The Monastery Of Heronimos, Pastry shop Belem, Padrão Dos Descobrimentos)
8. TIME OUT MARKET
9. DAY TRIP TO SINTRA
10. BARRIO ALTO AND FADO SHOW
Let’s start from the beginning – if your accommodation is in Rossio area (we really recommend it to be) then you will have some of the main sightseeing just across the corner.
1. ROSSIO SQUARE
is that main square that almost any city has.
It’s a wide-open space with a statue and a fountain in the center, surrounded by both modern and traditional stores and boutiques, plenty of touristic stuff, taxi station, street food and souvenir sellers.
It’s a starting point for the kickoff of your amazing Lisbon weekend trip.
From there you can explore the surrounding – beautiful little narrow streets where you can take a breakfast in some of the traditional pastry shops or even have a lunch in some of the restaurant’s terraces.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, all kind of stores and boutiques together with souvenirs, you can find in this area.
Cost → free
Location → Rossio Square
Time for Visit → 30 min
Opening Hours → 24/7
2. SANTA JUSTA LIFT (also known as Carmo Lift)
is one of the most iconic landmarks of the city and literally any city guide will have it included in the list of “must see” places in Lisbon.
It is basically a lift that was originally constructed in order to connect the lower part of the city – Baixa neighborhood with the Carmo Square located in the upper part.
The lift ride is quick and will bring you to the point from where you will have an amazing view to the city center. To get to the view point you can easily avoid the lift and arrive to the Carmo Square on foot, but the lift ride is also part of the experience so, why not!
Anyway, our suggestion is to plan the lift ride at 9.00 in the morning because it gets really crowded, the queue for the lift ride is really long and moves slowly so you should definitely try to be there early in the morning.
In case you don’t feel like waiting in the queue, you can just walk to the Carmo Square and you will arrive to the same point.
Cost → lift ride – 5 euros (ticket to be bought on the spot, only cash accepted) *if you buy a 24 hours public transport ticket, you can access the lift with that one without buying new ticket for the lift ride.
24 hours public transport ticket costs 6.40 euro and besides the public transport, a lift ride by Santa Justa Lift is included. Public transport ticket can be purchased at any metro stop (not at the Santa Justa Lift ticket office)
Location → Santa Justa Lift
Time for Visit → 30 min
Opening Hours → 9AM – 9PM
3. LARGO DO CARMO (CARMO SQUARE) & CARMO CHURCH
Assuming that you took that lift ride and now you are on the view platform having the most amazing view of the Lisbon’s city center, your view will also catch the amazing Carmo Convent – a roofless gothic church just in front.
Carmo Convent (or Carmo Church) used to be a gothic church which was partially destroyed in the devastating earthquake in 1755.
Very particular thing about these ruins is that the main structure of the church survived the earthquake but not the roof.
The view of the roofless church is impressive and, even though you can enter inside, the best view you will get from the viewpoint of the Santa Justa lift.
There is a small archeological museum within the church complex.
Surrounding the Carmo church you will find a beautiful Carmo square and the neighborhood with beautiful old buildings painted in bright colors and with lot of flowers and trees around.
You can take a walk around and enjoy this beautiful part of the city.
Cost → 5 euros to enter the inside part of the church and the Archeological Museum or you can see it from outside for free
Location → Carmo Church
Time for Visit → 30 min
Opening Hours → Monday – Saturday 10AM – 6PM (more info on the official web page )
4. ALFAMA NEIGHBORHOOD (Tram 28, St. George Castle, Viewpoints)
The Alfama neighborhood is the oldest Lisbon’s neighborhood characteristic by its narrow, cobbled streets and old colorful houses all around.
A nice walk all the way uphill will bring you to the St. George castle (you can enter or see it from outside), various viewpoints (miradours) from where you will have spectacular views to the city, some nice parks, souvenir shops, authentic bars and restaurants and incredible spots for taking incredible photos.
You can easily spend the whole afternoon roaming around the streets of Alfama and getting to know each corner of it.
As it is difficult to go there with a certain direction on your mind, just get lost and eventually you will get to the main points of interest – St. George castle, several viewpoints, St. Anthony church, Largo da Graca…
If the walk becomes too tiring you can get a rikshaw ride or a tram. Or simply make a break and have lunch or coffee in some of the bars.
THE TRAM 28 is the one that runs through the whole Alfama area and it’s an attraction itself.
The ride by the tram 28 is extremely popular among tourists so it might be really crowded but still not impossible to get a spot next to the window and enjoy the ride up and down the streets of Alfama.
Cost → walking around Alfama – free , the tram 28 – 3 euros one-way (in case you have 24 hours public transport ticket, it is included), entrance to the St George Castle – 8.50 euros
Location → Alfama
Time for Visit → couple of hours or the whole afternoon
Opening Hours → Alfama – 24/7, tram 28 from 6AM to 10PM, St George Castle 9AM – 6PM
*additional info on St George Castle – here
5. PINK STREET
Pink street is more of an Instagram trend then really a big thing – it’s basically a street that is pink.
However, apart from being a super cool background of your Instagram photos the street has very interesting story behind.
Long ago it used to be a Red District zone. Needless to say, that the whole area had a bad reputation and was not a very representative place in the city.
To break with the bad fame, with a great initiative, the street is painted in pink and transformed into super-cool and modern spot in the city.
It is packed with modern looking cafés and bars where you can take a coffee during the day or go out at night.
Cost → free
Location → Pink Street
Time for Visit → you can walk it in 10-15 minutes (with taking photos) or stay for a coffee or drink at night
Opening Hours → the street 24/7, some bars are open during the day, some only at nighttime
6. ARCO DA RUA AUGUSTA
Roaming the streets of the Lisbon’s city center will eventually bring you to the Triumphal Arch located in Rua Augusta.
The symbolic meaning of the triumphal arch is quite interesting as it represents the victory and re-birth of the new Lisbon after the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami in 1755.
The arch is possible to see from many points in the city (due to its size and height) so you will spot it from somewhere and just follow the direction intuitively.
It is possible to visit the top of the arch and enjoy spectacular views of the Baixa neighborhood or just simply walk around and admire it from the ground.
Nearby you can see the Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square) which is situated near the Tagus river.
The whole area was destroyed and rebuilt after the earthquake.
Cost → free from the ground, 3 euro if you want visit the viewpoint on the top
Location → Arco da Rua Augusta
Time for Visit → some 30 minutes to visit the river bank, Commerce Square and the Triumphal Arch
Opening Hours → 24/7, entrance to the Arch viewpoint from 9AM – 8PM
7. TIME OUT MARKET
Food in Lisbon is just amazing – there is so much variety and food for any taste.
From sea food prepared in the typical Portuguese cataplana dishes, cod fish prepared in different ways, potato croquettes, traditional meals such as Migas and Leitao and of course, the omnipresent desert – Pasteis de nata.
Not to forget the Portuguese wine.
Some of these you can try at the modern looking Time Out Market located nearby the Arco da Rua Augusta.
The market is packed with food stalls offering the food of all kinds – not only the Portuguese cuisine but also pizzas, burgers, and some Asian food as well.
Cost → you can have a decent meal for about 10 euro per person, or try several smaller plates; entrance to the market is free
Location → Time Out Market
Time for Visit → 30 minutes – 1 hour
Opening Hours → Sunday – Wednesday: 10AM – 12AM; Thursday – Saturday: 10AM – 2AM
8. BELEM AREA – (Belem Tower, The Monastery of Heronimos, Pastry Shop Belem, Padrão dos Descobrimentos)
Belem is another interesting district of Lisbon rich in sightseeing.
It takes some 20 to 30 minutes bus or tram ride to arrive from the Lisbon center.
You can spend a nice couple of hours exploring some of the main points of interest in Belem – Belem Tower, the Jeronimos Monastery, the Monument of the Discoveries, Belem Palace (the president’s residence) and yes, the most famous pastry shop – Pastéis de Belém where it is said they made the best pasteis de nata (the most famous Portuguese dessert).
The area of Belem is famous also as a museum area as some of the interesting city museums are located there – MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, Art Museum, National Coach Museum, Planetarium, Belem Palace, National Archeological Museum, Navy Museum.
If you have enough time (we did not) and you like museums, Belem is a place.
If you are on a quick, weekend trip, we recommend taking a look on Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery, and, if you cannot resist, visit Pasteis de Belem pastry shop and enjoy the authentic taste of the country’s most famous desert – pasteis de nata.
Interesting thing with this pastry shop (apart from the great taste of the sweet they make) is that the queue to enter the shop is longer than to any other sightseeing in Lisbon.
If you are not in a hurry and really like sweets, why not. Otherwise, you can try pasteis de nata in literally any place anywhere in the city and it will taste just as delicious (ok, maybe not just as but you will like the taste anyway).
Cost → free to see the all of these from outside,
Jeronimos Monestary – 10 eur (free on Sundays from 10AM – 2PM)
Location → Belem
Time for Visit → around 1.5 hours to visit the main points from outside (Belem Tower, the Jeronimos Monastery, the Monument of the Discoveries and the pastry shop), few more hours if you want to enter to any of these or to museums.
Opening Hours → Jeronimos Monestery – 10AM – 5.30PM
*for more accurate info visit official web site
9. DAY TRIP TO SINTRA
Even though Lisbon has just enough interesting places to visit within the city itself, there are also some places in its vicinity that are just not to be missed at any cost.
One of these (but not the only one) is Sintra.
This is a small town some 25 km away from Lisbon full of interesting places, palaces and castles. It’s a real fairy-tale town where you can spend a magical day visiting some of the amazing castles and palaces.
The main points of interest are: – Park and Pena Palace (Palacio Nacional da Pena) – located on the top of a hill in the mountains above the town.
The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is famous as one of the 7 wonders of Portugal (another 2 from the 7 Portuguese wonders are Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem Tower).
The exterior of the Palace is just amazing with colorful facades and typical Portuguese tiles gives an idea of all the romantic stories about castles and princesses.
The park that surrounds the castles is quite impressive itself as well with its fountains, lakes and beautiful trees and flowers – you can easily get lost (on purpose) in that beautiful environment.
Another interesting place in Sintra is Castle of the Moors – located close to the abovementioned Pena Palace.
It is a medieval castle built by Moors in 8th century and played an important role due to its strategic place during the Reconquista. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and important part of the cultural heritage of Portugal and Sintra in particular.
In case (like it was ours) you are on a day trip to Sintra only, you will not have too much more time after visiting the above two places and strolling down the streets of Old Centre.
But, in case you have more time, some of these places look like more than worth of a visit: Quinta da Regaleira, Cabo da Roca, Park and Palace of Monserrate, Palace of Sintra, Palácio Nacional e Jardins de Queluz, Convento dos Capuchos.
The train from Lisbon will leave you in the center of Sintra from where you will need to go all the way uphill some 2, 5 km.
The distance is not big but it is all uphill – you might want to take a bus, taxi or hire a rikshaw (most of the people do so). If you prefer to walk, it’s totally doable (we did it). You will see many interesting things on the way even though it will certainly make you tired.
Cost → train from Lisbon to Sintra is around 4,30 euros (both ways)
Entrance to the Pena Palace and the Park – 14 euros
The Park only – 7,50 euros
Entrance to the Castle of the Moors – 8 euros
Location → Sintra
Time for Visit → it took us full day (from midday to 7PM) for the Park of the Pena Palace (without entering the Palace) and Castle of the Moors from outside (without entering) + walk and lunch around the Sintra center.
Opening Hours → Pena Palace and the Park – 10AM – 6PM
Castle of the Moors – 10AM – 6PM
*For more accurate info on the working hours and prices of all sightseeing in Sintra – here
10. BARRIO ALTO & FADO SHOW
To sum up a perfect day in Lisbon – dinner with fado show in Lisbon’s most popular nightlife area – Barrio Alto.
Following the narrow stairs nearby the Rossio Square that lead all the way up, you will reach the streets of Barrio Alto packed with bars and restaurants.
This is a perfect place for dinner in some of the restaurants or even some drinks and dancing until late at night.
Most of the restaurants in Barrio Alto offer free Fado shows that you can watch while having your dinner and without making any reservation in advance.
Fado music is traditional Portuguese genre known for it’s expressive and melancholic singing. As a tourist attraction it is commonly offered in the restaurants.
Normally, you can watch it for free if you order food.
Of course, there are more serious Fado shows offered for the price of some 40 euros and more but, if you are looking for a budget options, free Fado with (paid) dinner at Barrio Alto is a great choice.
Restaurants normally serve good and fresh traditional Portuguese food and wine so you will not be disappointed.
We spent all our nights in Barrio Alto having dinners in different restaurants and we could not recommend more these foods:
- Leitao (slow cooked lamb meet),
- Migas (dish made of bread crumbles and eggs,
- Bacalao (cod-fish) that is prepared in several different ways,
- Sea-food cataplana (something like a sea-food stew with vegetables) and some of traditional deserts –
- Pasteis de nata (sweet, egg tart),
- Ovos moles (egg and sugar desert) or
- Trouxas-de-Ovos (rolled wrap made of sweetened egg yolks).
Of course, you don’t want to leave without trying some great Portuguese wine.
If you are not a wine person, there is a great cherry liqueur – Ginjinha (or Ginja) – sometimes served with chocolate – also a great option if you like sweet drinks.
Average price of a dinner for 2 with drinks and desserts would cost around 40 euro.
GOOD TO KNOW FACTS
Taxi service in Lisbon is the cheapest you could find in Europe. However, there are lot of scammers (as everywhere) so ask for the price before entering the car.
When ordering food in restaurants, you will notice that you will be offered some food that you did not order before your ordered food comes – that is not for free – if you eat it, you will pay it, in case you don’t touch it, you will not be charged for it.
It’s a local custom that they will offer you some starter (normally some cheese, pate or salad) and many tourists (including myself) at first, perceive it as free food – well, it’s not the case.
If you don’t want anything else than what you ordered, just politely tell that to the waiter (or just leave it on a side without trying it).
In case you want to try it, its s good to ask for the price to avoid any surprises. In some restaurants they will tell you how it works and how much it costs but, in some others, they just bring you the cheese (or some other starter) encouraging you to try it without telling you that is not for free or how much does it cost.
Portuguese people are, in general, very polite, friendly and willing to engage in small talks with tourists.
Generally, Lisbon is slightly cheaper than most of other European countries (or at least cheaper than Paris, Rome o Madrid).
We were warned several times about pickpocketing but we didn’t notice any such activity.
SOUVENIRS – WHAT TO BRING HOME FROM LISBON?
- Cans– tuna, sardine, bacalao o any fish in a can – it’s traditional Portuguese product and they are being sold at every step.
There are whole stores dedicated to selling only canned fish, the packages are beautifully decorated and they even sell them as gift packs.
- Some Portuguese wine and/or Ginjinha liquor
- Pasteis de Nata
- Some of the beautiful tiles that reflect the typical decoration style of Portugal and are sold as souvenirs all around
- Magnet – if you really don’t want to think too much (btw, there are some pretty cool ones)
If you are looking for a perfect weekend (or extended weekend) trip, Lisbon is a great idea.
The city is truly magical, with beautiful facades decorated in traditional style with tiles in different colors and patterns, its narrow streets and the most amazing tram rides up and down.
Numerous viewpoints (miradours) are around the city are great for a nice walk and enjoying the perfect sunsets.
Portuguese food deserves a whole another text and even some experimenting in the kitchen. We might have some recipe in mind for the upcoming days.
Have you visited Lisbon?
If yes, what is your favorite place in Lisbon?
If not, does it seem attractive for you?
Tell us in the comments below!
Tag @tango_and_rakija on Instagram and hashtag it #tangoandrakija and share your Lisbon experience with us.
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