We spent our gloomy May 2019 bank holiday in Lisbon and it very quickly became one of our favourite European cities! If brightly coloured pastel buildings, terracotta rooftops, riding on old rickety trams and eating pastries by the dozen sounds like fun to you, we’re sure you’ll love Lisbon too! The historic centre of Portugal’s capital city is home to beautiful architecture, incredible views and of course, plenty of great bars to enjoy a drink or two after leg burning walks up and down the winding streets (do NOT underestimate how hilly it is!)
Lisbon is great for a short weekend break, but there is so much to do that you could easily spend a lot of time getting lost around its seemingly endless backstreets. Here is our three day itinerary to help you plan a perfect weekend in Lisbon.
Welcome to Backpacks and Beverages!
Hi there ! We're Joe and Nat.
We both share a passion for drinking around the world and our aim is to explore as many countries as possible.
Day 1 - Western & Central Districts
We arrived into Lisbon at around 1am Friday morning after catching a late flight out of the UK after work on Thursday. Top tip for maximising our holiday days as we only needed to take the Friday off. Flights at these times tend to offer better value as well, and you get to enjoy a full day on Friday to start your weekend.
We spent our first morning in Lisbon exploring Belem, considered to be the city’s most cultural district. Here you’ll find the 500-year-old, UNESCO World Heritage site Torre de Belém, or Tower of Belem. The tower is one of the most famous buildings in Lisbon. It is one of the most photographed landmarks and as a result, gets very busy. If you want to go inside the castle, get there as early as you can as the entrance line is pretty long, although the general opinion amongst tourists is that you could pass on this, as the outside view is the most impressive part. We arrived mid-morning and the queue was steadily building up, so we just took in the tower from outside, and grabbed a cold one from a nearby stand of course! The weather wasn't great, but brits abroad know to always have a brolly handy!
A short walk down the river from the tower is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or Monument of the Discoveries, a huge 52-meter-high structure featuring sculptures of the most famous explorers of Portugal’s ‘Age of Discovery’ during the 15th & 16th centuries. There are lots of cool street vendors serving cocktails, wine and ice cream near the grassed areas, so this is a great spot to grab a drink and relax by the river.
Be sure to take a walk past Jerónimos Monastery while you are over on the western side of the city. Also part of the UNESCO world heritage site, the monastery took 100 years to build and is another amazing example of renaissance architecture.
Pasteis de Nata Stop One
Now for a subject that is very close to Nat’s heart <3 Pasteis de Nata, a small egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon. Please do not be put off thinking they are like an English egg custard tart, as we're not a fan of those either! Portugal is the home of the Pasteis De Nata, and we tried a LOT while we were in Lisbon. They are sold all over the city, so we have picked our favourite spots to pick one (or a dozen) up.
The best place to grab a Pasteis de Nata if you’re visiting the Belem region is Pastéis de Belém, which is thought to be the home of the original Pasteis de Nata recipe. Evidenced by the size of the queue outside the shop door, the largest queue we saw (this was even in the pouring rain!). Pastéis de Belém opens at 8am every day, so if you don’t fancy queuing for half an hour make sure you get there nice and early
Grab Lunch at Timeout Market
Timeout Market is one of the most well-known places to grab a bite to eat in Lisbon for good reason. There aren't many places where you can find 24 restaurants, 8 bars, shops and a high end music venue all under one roof! There are tons of different options apart from the award-winning Portuguese cuisine (they have a Manteigaria bakery here too!), including asian, seafood, burgers and desserts. Timeout Market has something for everyone! Check out the Super Bock experience while you're there for an education in pouring a perfect pin. This is also a great option if you are unlucky like us and its rating as the majority of the market is indoors.
Enjoy craft beer at Crafty corner
Something that might surprise you about Portugal is that Sagres and Super Bock aren’t the only choices of beer on offer nowadays, although we do love them too!. The craft beer scene has well and truly taken hold and there are several great spots in the city to enjoy something a little different.
Crafty Corner is just around the corner from Timeout Market, with 12 taps on rotation with cool décor touches such as bar stools made of empty beer kegs, and a laid-back daytime atmosphere perfect for an afternoon pint.
Pasteis de Nata Stop Two
If you want to watch the bakers in action, Manteigaria allows you to see the Pasteis de Nata’s being made while you watch through the glass windows. There is no space to sit so take your pastries away and enjoy them in the sunshine or grab a large take away box - they will keep for up to 3 days. They are only a short walk from Timeout Market and Crafty Corner.
Watch the sunset from the Santa Justa Elevator
For one of the best viewpoints in the city, make sure you head down to the Elevador de Santa Justa. The elevator was opened at the turn of the 20th century to assist with navigating the hilly districts of Baixa and Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). Nowadays the elevator offers tourists a seven storey ride to the top of the viewing platform, and fantastic 360 degree views of the city.
TIP: there is a very easy walking route up to the viewing platform which avoids the seemingly endless queue for the elevator itself, read about how to get there here. This will save you hours!
Bar hop around Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto was our favourite district to spend an evening. The backstreets in this area are lined with bars and restaurants with Al Fresco seating which makes for a great atmosphere!
One of our favourite bars in this area was Duque Brewpub, Lisbon’s first brewpub, specialising in local beers as well as their in-house brews. These guys aren't afraid to experiment and their homemade beers are little out of the ordinary. That being said, their 'Snow White' white stout was really good! Their cured meat platter and homemade bread was delicious too, we didn't want much to eat after Timeout and all the Pasteis De Natas earlier in the day so this was just what we needed.
From Duque its only a short walk down the road to The Beer Station. This is a small bar with a huge selection of both local and international beers, on the taps and in bottles.
This is good place to check out if the more crafty beers aren't for you. That being said, we still tried a few local brews that we hadn't heard of.
There are also a variety of street vendors in this area selling everything from Aperol Spritz to Ginjiha (more on that later!).
By now we were pretty tired from our busy day plus, if you couldn't tell from reading, we'd had quite a few! So it was time to head back to our apartment and rest up for our big day trip to Sintra in the morning! 😀
Day 2 - Take a day trip to Sintra
For our second day, we decided to head out of the city and into the countryside to explore Sintra, a picturesque town located roughly 25km from Lisbon that is famed for its grand palaces, castles and gardens, which have made the town a popular day trip destination for people visiting the city. Taking in this stunning scenery is a must during your visit!
How to get there
Sintra is just a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon Rossio station, and we would advise taking the train as the roads around Sintra are always jammed with people visiting, plus its only €1.90 each way!
We highly recommend that you double check the train times and get your tickets well in advance! We stopped for a quick bite to eat before heading to the train around 10 minute before it was due to leave, which was a HUGE mistake as the line for tickets was enormous! There was no chance of getting a ticket before our train, and we needed to catch it so we would have enough time to see all of Sintra. Luckily, the public transport system in Lisbon has tickets which can be used on trains, busses and metros. So, Joe had to sprint to the metro station on the other side of Praca Dom Pedro square to buy tickets so we could catch the train, which we managed to do with literally seconds to spare. Don't be like us, get your tickets early!
Palacio da Pena
The historic centre of Sintra is a short walk from the station and is a great spot to grab a bite to eat or a drink. We’re guessing though that you (like us) will want to head up to explore the Palácio da Pena, a 19th Century Romanticist style palace once used by the Portuguese royal family. With its colourful facades, turrets and domes, the palace will no doubt be the highlight of your day.
The castle sits high in the Sintra Mountains with incredible views over the town, valleys and Portuguese Riviera below. Head round to the back along the ‘wall walk’ for the best views but there are plenty of stunning photo spots all around the palace and its grounds.
We decided to walk up to the palace, to work off all the previous days’ beer & food, and because the roads were gridlocked with busses and coaches full of people heading up to the palace. If trekking for 1 hour up a mountain doesn’t sound like fun, then you can catch the 434 tourist bus from town. Remember, what goes up, must come down too, and you will need to make your way back down the mountain to the town so give yourself enough time.
Where to Eat
Sintra is another busy day, so you will need to fuel up at some point. There is a cafe at the palace where you can grab something little to go, but bear in mind it will be busy for the majority of the day and you will queue for a while!
We went back down the mountain to grab something in the town before catching the train back to Lisbon. There are a lot of options from small coffee shops to lavish restaurants. We went somewhere in the middle and had a pizza at Giallo D'Ora just up the road from the train station. Reasonably priced and with a good beer choice, whats not to like?
Heading back to Lisbon
The trains back to Lisbon from Sintra are inevitably always very busy due to the sheer number of tourists. Make sure you get to the station a little early and try to position yourself near the doors, as when the train arrives its a free for all and you could well end up standing the entire way back if you're not quick.
The day trip to Sintra took it out of us, so we decided to pick somewhere for a few chilled out drinks to end our day and headed to Quimera Brewpub, another craft beer bar in a converted 18th century coach tunnel. This was Joe’s favourite!
The menu is inspired by the bar’s American owners, with pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs amongst some of the choices to pair with their experimental IPAs that are brewed in house. They also have regular live music, with a jazz guitar duo providing the background ambiance for our visit.
Day 3 -Historic Centre
We spent our third and final day in Lisbon exploring the historic districts of the city centre. One of the oldest medieval areas of the city, here you will find a blend of Roman and Moorish architecture, ending cobble streets and great viewpoints over the city as you climb up higher through the Baixa and Alfama neighbourhoods.
Ride the Trams
Trams have been an icon of Lisbon and a traditional mode of public transport since the network opened in 1873 and are a convenient & cheap way to get around the city.
The number 28 is the classic Lisbon tram journey most tourists want to experience. The route winds its way around tight bends and climbs steep hills through several districts, passing many attractions, so it’s a great way to take a tour of the city while screeching around in a quaint, yellow 1930s Tram.
Just be aware, the trams do get very busy so board early to get yourself a seat or at least some space. Pickpocketing is also a reality so make sure you are extra vigilant with your belongings during any journey.
Relax in Commerce Square
Take a walk around Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), check out the Triumphal Rua Augusta Arch and the statue of Joseph I (not our Joseph, unfortunately ).
Sit outside one of the many restaurants and cafes enjoying a drink in the sun, watching the world go by to recharge your batteries before you get back to exploring. The square also serves as the headquarters of several government departments and also occasionally hosts concerts and exhibitions, a stage was being built while we visited so keep an eye on any events that might be worth grabbing a ticket for during your stay.
Make sure you check out one of the Ginjinha stands too! Ginjinha or Ginja is a sweet cherry liquor, and second place in Nat’s Lisbon loves behind Pasteis de Nata <3
For around €2.00 you can enjoy two shots in a delicious chocolate cup, who doesn't love a free refill?!
The square is a great starting point for walking along the River Tagus or wandering the back streets of the central Baixa district.
Just to let you know though, people will probably try to sell you weed here, each to their own.
Check out Lisbon Cathedral
A short walk uphill from the square is Lisbon Cathedral, better known as Sé de Lisboa. It is the oldest and most important church in the city, dating from around the twelfth century, and has been classified as a National Monument since 1910.
The church has been renovated and restored several times during its existence, and now shows a combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture.
The cathedral is now used partly as a museum and as an archaeological site after a roman road was excavated in its central courtyard. For only €2.50 it’s definitely worth exploring.
Pasteis de Nata Stop Three
If you’re exploring this side of the city, Pastry Santo Antonio should definitely be saved in your google maps.
This was Nat's personal favourite and the best Pasteis de Nata we had in Lisbon, it was baked to perfection! The perfect espresso and pastry stop to fuel up for long afternoon wandering the streets of Alfama.
Take in the view at Castelo de São Jorge
For the unquestioned best view of Lisbon, you need to make your way up to Castelo de São Jorge. The history of the castle dates back to the first century and it overlooks the centre of the city with incredible panoramic views. The 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo Rei (the sister statue to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro) can be seen from the castle walls, making this spot the best for capturing great photos the entire city in its terracotta glory.
It seemed a shame to take in such epic scenery without a beverage in hand 😉 So we treated ourselves to two glasses of red from Wine With a View, a small cart selling local wines within the castle grounds. Good value and delicious, the perfect way to enjoy your time at the castle!
If you want even more hints and tips to get the most out of your Lisbon visit and more importantly, avoid the mistakes we made 😉 Check out our other Lisbon blog post ‘Lisbon, Portugal: The things No-one Tells You’ here.
Lisbon has something for everyone tucked away around every back street, so just get lost exploring this fantastic city! If you guys think we have missed anything, let us know down in the comments below. We will absolutely be returning to Lisbon one day, so we’ll be sure to check it out!