Your Guide to the Perfect 3 Days in Lisbon

Because Portugal is on your bucket list

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As the closest mainland European capital to the U.S., Lisbon, Portugal is one of the easiest destinations for a long weekend trip. And with direct flights from major U.S. cities, breathtaking views, five-star restaurants and bars that are open late, you can get the most out of Lisbon in a short amount of time. At least, that's what I did when I visited for Labor Day Weekend (and stayed at one of the most beautiful hotels in the city, more on that below). Of course, I wish my trip was longer, but you can still make the most of a Friday-through-Monday vacation. Here, a guide for how to spend 72 hours in the City of Seven Hills.

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Day 1: Explore Alfama, aka the Old Town

A bit of a history lesson: Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, dates back to the 8th century and is one of the only parts of the city that survived the historic 1755 earthquake due to its narrow, alleyway-like streets and close-together buildings. Save your walking energy for less jetlagged days and instead hop on a TukTuk (aka the little electric rickshaws you’ll see everywhere) for an overview tour of the old city (we recommend Ricardo of Tuk It Lisbon).

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Highlights of the tour include winding through the narrow streets and up steep hills, passing the Sé Cathedral, and taking in views of the nearby medieval Castle of Sao Jorge. Be sure to hop out at the flower-covered lookout spot Miradouro de Santa Luzia for breathtaking views of the city and Portuguese tile work.

For food, grab a bite to eat at Petisqueira Conqvistador, a rustic tapas joint with local favorites like octopus salad and garlic shrimp, or a glass of wine and charcuterie board at the laidback Graça do Vinho. Save sunset for a refreshing Caprihna at one of the many local carts located at another scenic lookout: the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

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Day 2: Get Hip and Quirky in Bairro Alto

Spend the first part of day two like a true local: with an espresso and Portuguese staple egg custard pastry, aka Pasteis de Nata. Nosh on your way to the lively neighborhood of Bairro Alto. Explore the neighborhood’s many bars, shops and eateries that line its cobbled streets, including the famous Pink Street. Avoid the crowds and tourists of the TimeOut Market, and instead opt for lunch at marble-tabled Italian eatery Leonetta.

When the sun sets, practice your Portuguese while sipping wine on the wooden barrel stools at the chemist’s shop turned bar appropriately named The Old Pharmacy, then cross the street for a lively jazz concert at Páginas Tantas. You can always opt for a traditional Fado performance instead, but come prepared with tissues—the sad singing has a way of tugging at even the toughest heartstrings.

For a super-restful night and gourmet white tablecloth breakfast after the long days of trekking hills, you can't beat the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon located on the scenic Parque Eduoardo VII. That's where I stayed during my long weekend visit, and I found the exceptional service, convenient location and extensive amenities were second to none.

Or, if you’re traveling on a budget, the centrally located Hotel da Baixa is a boutique 4-star hotel that will serve you well. There's also plenty of Airbnbs (we're partial to the ones with rooftops or balconies overlooking the city).

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Day 3: Blend the Past and Present in Belém

Time to taste-test. This morning, grab an Uber and head down to the riverside district of Belém. The original Pastéis de Nata has been made at Pastéis de Belém since 1837 using traditional Portuguese baking methods and an ancient recipe from the nearby monastery.

With the fuel of food, tour two of the city’s most historic landmarks: the Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery. While both can be seen in more detail with tickets booked online, the views from the outside of the structures are also spectacular.

Finish your trip with a scooter ride (rentals are parked in high-traffic locations) along the Tagus River back into downtown Lisbon, and end with a fresh pour of the traditional Portuguese cherry liqueur, aka Ginjinha, at one of the many Ginja shops near the central square of Praça Dom Pedro IV.

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Bonus Day

Have extra time? Plan a day trip to Sintra, a forested royal fortress that’s only 40 minutes by train from Lisbon’s Rossio station. There you can explore the Romanticist villas, palaces and parks that dot this UNESCO world heritage site. Or get away from the crowds and make your own wine at L’And Vineyards, a stunning countryside resort about an hour outside Lisbon.


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