Lisbon is becoming an increasingly popular place to visit, but it still isn’t the crowded and expensive nightmare of other European destinations!
Lisbon is extremely walkable and has a relaxed atmosphere.
Here is everything you need to know about visiting the capital of Portugal, including how long you need, and is it even worth doing?
Is Lisbon Worth Visiting?
Yes, Lisbon is worth visiting. It is a trendy young city and a top choice for Digital Nomads, but you don’t need a lot of time to see it.
There are other places in Portugal that are worth spending more time in. If you are slow travelling through Portugal I would still allocate a short time for Lisbon.
How Long Do You Need in Lisbon?
3 days is the ideal amount of time to spend in Lisbon. That will give you enough time to visit everything you want to see in the city center, and still have time to relax.
If you only have 2 days, that would be enough to see Lisbon, but less time for coffee shops, lazy strolls, and activities.
You can’t visit both Lisbon and Sintra properly with only 2 – 3 days. 4 might be possible, if you stay in Sintra instead of Lisbon.
(More on that in a moment, plus your full 2-3 day itinerary.)
Is 5 Days in Lisbon Too Much?
5 days is the ideal amount of time to spend in Lisbon if you also plan on exploring Sintra. There is a lot more in Sintra than you can see and do in a single day trip
Is 7 Days in Lisbon Too Long?
7 days is too long to spend in Lisbon alone. You can see all of Lisbon and Sintra in 5 – 6 days. If you have a whole week, you would be better off heading to the Algarve, spending some time in Fatima/Batalha, or even taking a train up to Porto.
Having said all of this, there are plenty of people who like Lisbon enough to live there. Digital Nomads and families like the city for it’s amenities and mild weather.
For me the difference is that Lisbon would be a practical place to settle down, but not an exciting place to explore for more than a week.
Best Time to Visit
Most tourists will be on vacation from May through August, so by visiting in the off season you can avoid any large summer crowds.
For pretty much any trip, I will always advocate for the shoulder season, which is Spring or Fall.
The best time to visit Lisbon is in March/April or October/November. These transitional months are mild and the weather is nice.
That being said, Portugal doesn’t get truly cold weather, daily temperatures in winter range from lows of 2C (35F) to highs of 20C (68F.)
That’s quite warm compared to where we are from, so a winter visit would be fine by me.
Arriving in Lisbon
Lisbon does have Uber, so you don’t need to plan too much ahead about how you will get to the city center. (We only EVER take airport taxis as a last resort.)
Uber is only allowed to pick up in the departures area, so make your way over there.
There is also a metro station in Terminal 1. If you arrive at Terminal 2, you can take the free shuttle bus between terminals.
Using the Lisbon Metro
Lisbon’s metro is very user friendly, so you won’t have an issue figuring out the lines.
The Saldanha line is one of the main ones that goes to the city centre from the airport, but of course, it depends on where your accommodation is.
The metro is safe, but like most major cities, petty crime is a problem. To avoid pickpockets, keep your belongings in sight and off of your back.
Both times that I was the target of pickpockets it was on an escalator, so don’t think that it only happens on the train or in crowds.
NEVER store important items in outside pockets, and keep your wits about you at ticket machines and while you’re reading maps.
Other than that, happy riding! It’s very easy and affordable to get around.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
The best area to stay in Lisbon is the Baixa district and the surrounding area.
The easiest way to choose your accommodation is to find “Santa Justa Lift” on a map, and then cast a wide net outwards.
Lisbon is very easy to get around, both on foot and via the metro, so being right in the centre is less important than other cities.
Most of Lisbon is beautiful historic buildings, so finding a place you can afford in a picturesque location shouldn’t be too much trouble.
Upon your arrival, make your way to your accommodation and get settled.
Explore your neighbourhood on foot.
Pick up a “Pasteis de Nata” – Portuguese custard tart – at a cafe, have dinner, or go right to sleep.
Day 2 & 3
Your second day in Lisbon will really be your first actual day, so spend it having a wander!
Here is a list of some ideas for easy things to do without needing to plan. This is an opportunity for you to decide how long you will want to spend in Lisbon.
Relaxing Things to do in Lisbon
This train station is both a main connecting point for the metro and for long distance trains.
The architecture here is very interesting and it makes for a good photo stop!
On the upper level of Oriente station is where the longer distance trains come in, and it is covered in a cool geometric canopy.
The mid-level is an interesting concrete structure. Ground level is a pretty typical train station.
Across from Oriente station is a HUGE mall, so if you are needing to purchase anything before your vacation really takes off, this place has everything.
The grocery store on the bottom level is very convenient.
The Oceanarium is what it sounds like, an aquarium, but there are also penguins and other water creatures.
You don’t need a lot of time here, maybe a couple of hours, depending on how busy it is and how much you like watching sea life!
We found the visit very relaxing, and there was a travelling exhibit called “Forests Underwater” that we also enjoyed.
The Oceanarium is only one block walking from Oriente Station.
Oceanarium Ticket Prices
- Ages 0 – 3: Free
- Ages 4 – 12: 10 Euros
- Adults 13 – 64: 19 Euros
- Seniors 65+: 13 Euros
I don’t believe there is a family rate unfortunately, but I could be wrong! I checked, but there is nothing listed on the website.
The Oceanarium is not exactly a “cheap” thing to do. We really like aquariums and downtime so we bit the bullet, but it was one of the most expensive things that we did in Portugal.
(Second only to some admissions in Sintra!)
You can take that two ways:
- Nothing in Portugal is crazy expensive, and
- You might not want to spend 58 Euros to take the kids to the Oceanarium
If you like aquariums and plan to spend a lot of time in Lisbon during your trip, the annual family membership is 85 Euros (2 adults + 2 kids,) and then you can return any time.
An adult membership is 35 Euros, and additional kids are 30.
The Lisbon cable car south station is right outside of the Oceanarium.
We love a good cable car, so we’ve seen a few, but this one is probably my favourite!
The ride is a decently long round trip in a comfy enclosed cabin with a bench seat. The car dangles perilously (kidding!) above the ocean and you have a great view of the Lisbon waterfront.
The best part was that it was not at all busy when we were there. I imagine in summer it could get a little more crowded, but shoulder season was quiet.
Telecabine Lisboa Ticket Prices
- Ages 0 – 3: Free
- Ages 4 – 12: 5.50 Euros
- Adults 13 – 64: 8 Euros
The cable car operates daily from 11 am to 6 pm, with additional hours during high season.
Here is an ideal schedule for exploring this whole area:
- Arrive from your hotel via the metro to Oriente Station
- Take a walk through the shops and get lunch on the top floor
- Walk to the Oceanarium and take your time through the exhibits
- Walk just a few steps to ride the cable car over the ocean
Strolling the City Centre
From Oriente Station you can take the metro a little closer to the centre.
Restauradores, Rossio, or Baixa-Chiado are all good stations to get off in a walkable area.
From whichever station you choose, get lost in Lisbon! You can’t really get very lost, because there are metro and tram stops everywhere.
Speaking of which, consider taking the little yellow trams at night, through Lisbon’s pedestrian friendly centre.
Cafe’s and restaurants are not hard to find in this area. Challenge yourself to find a quieter haunt on a less travelled street.
Santa Justa Lift
While you’re in the area you will probably catch a glimpse of the Santa Justa Lift at the end of one street or another.
The lift amounts to a very large, very elaborate, elevator. It was styled after the Eiffel Tower by it’s designer, who admired his fellow architect’s work.
The lift connects two parts of Lisbon where previously you would have to climb a prohibitively steep hill.
I feel like I should be embarrassed by saying that I have been to Lisbon several times and have never actually taken the lift.
Every time that I have happened by, the line up was very long, and I just didn’t want to ride it badly enough.
(The Santa Justa lift carries 20 people up and only 15 down.)
The lift does have an observation deck on top, which offers views of central Lisbon.
Insider tip: Access the lift from the top for a shorter queue!
Santa Justa Ticket Prices
- Return ticket: 5.30 Euros
- Observation Deck: 1.50 Euros
Riding the lift is free if you purchase a 24hr transit ticket. (Observation deck extra)
If you do decide to ride the lift, it will take you up to the Carmo Convent.
(If you don’t take the lift, access the same area by exiting on the “Chiado” side of Baixa-Chiado station.)
Destroyed during the great earthquake of 1755 (of which you will read a LOT in Lisbon) this convent is now a beautiful open-air Gothic cathedral.
Tickets: 5 Euros per person
Lisbon’s Pink Street
Ten minutes walk from Santa Justa Lift, or near the metro stop “Cais do Sodre”, is Lisbon’s “Pink Street.”
Closer to the waterfront in Lisbon, this street was painted pink as a revitalization project, in what was considered a seedy area.
The project did work and now it has become a tourist and Instagram hot-spot, instead of being the red light district!
Come back in the morning if you want to take photos without the crowds!
Praça do Comércio
You will very likely pass Praça do Comércio during your pedestrian adventures in Lisbon, but if you want to seek it out, just walk straight from the Santa Justa Lift to the waterfront.
This public square is huge, and surrounded on three sides by distinctive yellow buildings. Once the site of a palace, the square was destroyed by the earthquake and following tsunami of 1755.
When Praça do Comércio was rebuilt, it was no longer a palace because the traumatized King refused to move back to a stone house, and lived in tents until he died.
In the centre of the square, leading towards the old town, is a huge arch: The Arco de Rua Augusta.
For just 3 Euros you can actually climb the stairs to the top of the arch and take in an amazing view of Lisbon. A fact I did not know until long after our trip. Next time!
You can easily cover all of the City Centre sights in one day, since you can walk to them all and explore as you like.
If you fall in love with Lisbon, stay longer!
If you spend days 2 and 3 of your trip to Lisbon enjoying all of the sights above. Now is a great time to move on to nearby Sintra.
A visit to Lisbon (and Portugal for that matter!) isn’t complete without spending some time in Sintra.
If you do it right, you can easily combine the two cities.
Don’t Plan for One Afternoon
I will start by saying that Sintra is not a day trip from Lisbon.
Technically yes, you can take the train to Sintra and back in the same day, but you can’t possibly see everything you should during that time.
Plan for a few days that you will split between Lisbon and Sintra.
Stay in Sintra to Visit Lisbon
We found that it worked best for us to actually stay in Sintra for a few days. It allowed us an early start in the morning before the crowds descended, and a place to take a break when we wanted to.
In the late afternoon or evenings we would take the train to Lisbon for dinner and nightlife in the city. Sintra is pretty dead after the castles close for the day, so it’s half out of necessity.
The train is 45 – 50 minutes into Lisbon, but it’s a pleasant ride and we didn’t mind it at all.
You could always do the opposite, and take the train from Lisbon to Sintra each morning, but we preferred to start the day already in Sintra.
Definitely do whatever you need to do in order to spend a good amount of time in Sintra. Every major attraction in the town is totally worth seeing!
5 – 7 Days or More
If you have decided to stay longer in Lisbon, here are some of the more famous sights that you might want to visit.
More Things to do in Lisbon
These are the kind of tourist attractions that will be busier and you should plan your visit ahead.
Buy tickets in advance if possible, and go early in the day.
There are lots of other things to see and do in Lisbon, but nothing that I consider a “must-see.”
(I will explain why in a minute!)
In the spirit of slow travel, I think you should really walk and ride around to see what piques your interest.
Sao Jorge Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge)
You really can’t miss the beautiful outline of Sao Jorge Castle while you explore Lisbon. It’s basically in the city centre, and it’s lit up at night.
The first fortifications occupied this spot as early as the 1st century. Many rulers over the years added to it until it was a castle and royal residence of impressive size.
At one time the castle had all but disappeared under military barracks and other structures built over top of it. Here is an interesting photo I found of Lisbon in 1877.
Restoration of the castle took place in the 1930’s and 40’s to bring it back to the landmark that it is today.
The castle boasts several towers, an attractive inner courtyard with trees, and a museum. You can enjoy stunning views over the city from Sao Jorge Castle.
Sao Jorge Castle Ticket Prices
- Adult: € 10
- Student: € 5
- 65+ or people with disabilities: € 8.50
- Children (under 12): Free
Belem Tower (or the Tower of Saint Vincent) is a fortification on the Tagus River from the 1500’s.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was also named one of the “Seven Wonders of Portual.”
The fortress is more elaborate than a lot of the brick castles scattered around Portugal, and it managed to survive the great earthquake of 1755 that destroyed a lot of Lisbon’s other treasures.
Getting to Belem Tower
The fortress is a little ways out of the centre. You can catch a tram from Praça do Comércio straight down the waterfront to the tower. It takes about a half hour.
Your Visit to Belem Tower
As of August 2021 the inside of Belem tower is closed to visitors.
It was reported to be closed due to the pandemic, but the signs state something about it’s historical value, so perhaps it is going to be a restoration project of some kind?
If and when the tower reopens, you can climb the spiral staircase up all five stories to the viewing platform at the top. You could also tour the prison cells below.
This is one of Lisbon’s busiest tourist attractions, and the stairs are narrow and can get claustrophobic. If it reopens and you want to go in, arrive early in the day for your visit.
Ticket prices before it closed were: 6 Euros for adults, 3 Euros for Students & Seniors, Kids under 12 free.
Are Belem Tower and Sao Jorge Castle Worth Visiting?
It depends. If you have a lot of time in Lisbon to wander around and enjoy all the sights, then sure!
If you are planning to visit other places in Portugal, I would say that there are better castles and better fortresses to see.
Sightseeing fatigue is real, and as slow travellers, that’s what we are trying to avoid.
I would personally rather walk around the city centre, or sip coffee in a park, then take the day to visit these two sights, if I know we will be seeing LOTS of impressive architecture on our trip.
(Sintra being one of those places.)
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jeronimos Monastery (also known as The Hieronymites Monastery) is the most popular tourist attraction in Lisbon.
Considering Lisbon is the most visited city in Portugal, this means that Jeronimos Monastery could be the most popular tourist attraction in the country.
Any way you slice it, this place is busy.
Visiting Jeronimos Monastery
The monastery is very beautiful of course, having been built in the old Portuguese style. There is an inner courtyard, impressive gardens, and an epic cathedral.
If you have time, and you are visiting in the off-season, then a visit to Jeronimos may not be too busy for you.
If you want to skip the crowds, make the trip to the awe-inspiring Batalha Monastery instead. (Another of Portugal’s seven wonders, as is Jeronimos.)
Getting to Jeronimos Monastery
You can get to Jeronimos on the same tram from Praça do Comércio that you would take to go to Belem.
If you plan to visit both Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery, ask about the combo ticket (but only if Belem Tower is reopened to visitors by then.)
Jeronimos Monastery Ticket Prices
- Adults: 10 Euros
- Students & Seniors: 5 Euros
- Children (under 12): Free
Ideal Lisbon 2 – 3 Day Itinerary
Now that I have covered all of these great things to do, I will say that I like Lisbon, I don’t love it.
For me personally, two to three days in Lisbon proper would be plenty. There are so many amazing places in Portugal, and if I’m going to settle in for a while, it just wouldn’t be in Lisbon.
(Again, I do like it and it is worth a visit.)
My ideal itinerary to Lisbon would be:
Days 1 – 3 : Lisbon
Days 4 – 7: Stay in Sintra with evenings in Lisbon.
Sintra or Lisbon
If you have to choose between Sintra or Lisbon, I would choose Sintra all the way. You can still do dinners and evening strolls in Lisbon, but also make sure that you see all the amazing sights in the village.
(Honestly, the train ride is not bad at all! I feel like it gives you the best of both.)
If you only have 2 days to see Lisbon:
Skip Sintra, and come back another time, because the visit will be deeply dissatisfying.
Spend your 2 days doing everything from “Day 2 & 3” in the itinerary above. It looks like a long list, but you can easily cover the city centre as well as visit the Oriente Station area in just two days.
Make Time to See Portugal
Portugal is truly an amazing country with a relaxed atmosphere and a staggering amount of history. Whenever possible, plan to spend a good amount of time here! You will find it so worth your efforts.
For my complete Portugal Slow Travel Itinerary, visit this article:
For more of the Lisbon Aesthetic, here is my moodboard!
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