4 Days in Lisbon itinerary
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Ideally, you must be in the city for four full days, but you can probably make this 4 days in Lisbon itinerary work too even if you only have three and a half days to explore. I planned it as three days walking plus one day on a specific bus route.
I’ve written plenty about Alfama and Mouraria and how the charm of visiting the old neighborhoods is all about letting yourself go. Well, Graça is no exception although its chaotic glamour is more recent. One of the most obvious telltales of this? The buildings covered in industrial glazed tiles.
The reason why it looks built in haste it’s because it kind of was. Graça is the neighborhood of vilas and pátios, the blocks of buildings made by factory owners in the 19th century for their workers who were coming to Lisbon, mostly from the farms in the south.
It’s a steep hill, one that’s not amusing to walk up, on a scorching summer day, but it’s blessed by the two best viewpoints in Lisbon.
I suggest doing Alfama first, then Graça, and finally Mouraria. No matter how you spin it, it’s impossible to escape the hills anyway.
I don’t know when Príncipe Real became the foodie district of Lisbon. Maybe because I remember it most as that place closest to Bairro Alto to park your car for free.
It’s definitely always been a posh part of town, with high-ceiling apartments and grand mansions, where even the parks and viewpoints look expensive. Then chefs opened restaurants and the square began hosting an organic produce market every Saturday.
On your way back from Príncipe Real, after stopping for the views at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, take the detour through Bairro Alto before heading down to Chiado.
Bairro Alto by night is a crowded neighborhood of bar hoppers holding plastic cups of cheap, watered-down beer on the streets. Not appealing? Probably not, but it’s still a worthy experience if you’re planning to explore the nightlife in Lisbon.
Bairro Alto by day, though, is close to a ghost town (with all bars closed) with some locals going about their business, the few that remain. BA is the Jekyll and Hyde of neighborhoods and that’s the experience. Once the meeting point for journalists, writers, artists, and students, its bohemian soul lives on.
If you’re coming out of the maze of streets that is Bairro Alto and into the wide shopping streets of Chiado feeling like you’ve just come from a parallel universe, you’re probably onto something.
I’ve spoken about “the triangle” plenty on the 3 days in Lisbon itinerary, but I’ve decided to group it with Madragoa in this one.
Most people reach Madragoa coming from the riverside or coming from Belém. I believe getting to Madragoa from “the triangle” is a more interesting transition. Well, to be perfectly honest there’s no transition at all. Both neighborhoods sort of fade into one another and both have an interesting mix of small, family-owned businesses and hipster-focused companies.
In both neighborhoods I’ve also found a common trait in those small business owners: you can appeal to tourists without losing your identity and they have successfully done it.
Mentioning museums in this area is tricky because the most famous is the MNAA – Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art) but it’s almost at the border of the neighborhood (although locals claim it as being part of Madragoa). If you have your mind set on visiting the museum, expect to spend at least four hours to properly see all the exhibitions. That won’t leave you with much spare time to visit anything else.
If you don’t feel like spending so much time in museums, browse the streets of “the triangle” and Madragoa and drop by all those niche stores and small businesses.
Note: I wrote about Madragoa for the 2020 edition of the book Secret City by Lonely Planet*.
I rarely suggest taking a bus as part of a travel itinerary in Lisbon, but I’m opening an exception in this case. Bus 728 has stops on two former industrial areas of the city: Alcantara-Mar (west side) and R. Açúcar (east side).
Keep in mind, of course, that this is public transportation so rush hours will be busier and traffic will impact your trip (and everyone else’s onboard). To keep things speedy, top-up a Viva Card with cash to use on the bus instead of buying tickets from the driver.
The most central 728 bus stops to start your journey are Sul Sueste, Pç. Comércio, or Cais do Sodré. All of them are in the middle of the route, regardless if you choose to go west or east.
LX Factory is on the west side (Alcantara-Mar stop) and it’s the most popular post-industrial site of Lisbon. But on the east side, the trend to refurbish old warehouses and factories has been growing in recent years, specifically the Beato area where the new digital hub of the city is being built. Expect bus stops to change without notice in this area, considering the ongoing work.
The beauty of these two parts of the city lies in its grittiness, of course. Expect graffiti on the walls, closed buildings, and hipster-like businesses.