3 days in Lisbon itinerary
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Three days is the average answer to the (unfair) question “how many days in Lisbon?” For most travelers, however, that’s how much time they have to spend. This 3 days in Lisbon itinerary excludes day of arrival and day of departure. You can mix and match the days as you please, and there’s plenty of spare time each day so you can wander off and explore the city without a plan.
For first-time travelers in Lisbon, what to see in three days boils down to the rawest side of the city. Usually, that doesn’t include monuments and landmarks, but (slightly overstimulating) parts of town that force you to look all around you and define what the city means to you in that first encounter.
Despite the threat of overtourism taking over Lisbon, stripping the city from its authenticity (or what we perceive as such), I still strongly believe that that first introduction to the historic neighborhoods of Alfama and Mouraria is key to fall in love with the city.
The real secret to getting this part of Lisbon under your skin is to avoid free guided tours, hopping on tram 28, and staying at one of the hundreds (!) of short-term rentals in this area.
I don’t want to keep repeating myself but go early, before the rest of the tourists arrive, before the cafes and souvenir shops open, and walk, walk, walk as much as you can.
I suggest the Fado Museum as optional because it will depend on how long you’re planning to thoroughly explore Alfama and Mouraria, not because I think you should skip it altogether.
Not only is Fado classified as Intangible Culture by UNESCO, but it’s part of Lisbon’s urban culture. The museum does a great job explaining the music genre’s roots and its evolution from the bohemian, drunken, and poor Mouraria to recent times.
While Alfama and Mouraria seem chaotic, Baixa-Chiado is all about shadowy charming squares, wide avenues, and 18th-century buildings. Post-1755 Earthquake Lisbon at its finest.
Once you’ve grown tired of the perfectly planned streets, with or without a side of shopping, split your time between MNAC and the Carmo Convent Ruins. Both are museums that give you time and space to explore, which is perfect when you want a deep experience not a superficial collection of travel memories.
I know it happened over some time, but I always feel like the transformation of Cais do Sodré from a sort of Red Light District (that’s a very polite way to put it) to hipster nightlife hotspot happened overnight.
To me, the new Cais do Sodré is the first sign of how a city can become a brand. Everything becomes a concept; it’s no longer just a cafe, or a bar, or a restaurant. It has to be built on some kind of concept. It happened first with Time Out Market and the Pink Street, and I don’t remember when did it snowball from there.
Take in Cais do Sodré with a grain of salt (shot of tequila optional).
As for “The Triangle”, I have been professing my love for this unofficial neighborhood of Lisbon ever since I found it by chance in 2017. In some days, part of me regrets ever including it in this article. But my love for this cluster of streets that happen to form a triangle remains the same now for the same reasons as it did then.
If you skip the clearly gentrified areas (and beware that I don’t include cafes like The Mill, Hello Kristof, and Dear Breakfast in the gentrification problem), there’s a raw Lisbon to discover. Exploring the three streets of the triangle (Poiais de São Bento, São Bento, and Poço dos Negros) doesn’t take long, decent parking is virtually impossible, traffic is nerve-wracking, the only available public transport is tram 28, and it’s one of the most challenging areas to Instagram. What’s not to love?
And among all that, on a side street of Poiais de São Bento, a warehouse-turned-museum designed by Siza Vieira houses the Atelier Museu Júlio Pomar. As a museum employee once told me, it’s the kind of place only intentional visitors visit.