Europe’s original version of San Francisco, Lisbon is a city that wins your heart right from the start. Perhaps it’s the hills overlooking the Tagus River with their panoramic lookouts and cafes, perhaps it’s the ancient lifts and trams that connect the city’s neighborhoods, or perhaps it’s the incredible food scene – from the sweet to the sour – at bargain prices that win you over. Whatever the case may be, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Lisbon. In this 4 days in Lisbon sample itinerary, we’ll explore the city’s top attractions, both on the sightseeing and culinary sides, and even embark on a road trip to soak some extra rays of sunshine.
Lisbon was one of Europe’s wealthiest cities during Portugal’s heyday, in a period known as the Golden Age. The strategic port city was the departure point for some of the world’s greatest maritime voyages. The riches brought back were used to erect spectacular palaces, monuments, and gardens but is all came to a tragic end on one Saturday morning in 1755 when an 8.5-magnitude earthquake rocked the capital. The subsequent fire and tsunami killed nearly a fifth of the local population and destroyed much of the city. It was a tragedy from which the Kingdom struggled to recover.
The city was slowly rebuilt over the years and these days, Lisbon is one of the most charming European cities – somewhat of a relatively hidden secret, a destination worthy of return visits. It’s worth mentioning that Lisbon is home to (literally) dozens of museums. On this particular couple’s trip, we chose to mainly stay in the outdoors and even combined our visit with a trip to Porto. If you fancy history and culture or if it’s a rainy day in Lisbon – know that there are plenty of ways to stay busy (and dry).
What’s Included in this 4 days in Lisbon Sample Itinerary?
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Visiting Porto or other parts of Portugal? Sample Portugal itineraries and an in-depth guide to Portugal’s “other” great city are waiting for you in the Portugal Travel Guide collection. Bom dia!
4 Days In Lisbon Map
This map contains all the places mentioned in this sample itinerary. Click on the image to open in Google Maps.
Lisbon Travel Tips:
- Pick up your own copy of the Pocket Rough Guide to Lisbon. It’s got just the right amount of info about Lisbon and will comfortably fit in a small bag when you wander the city streets. If you’re combining your 4-day trip to Lisbon with other stops in Portugal, also pick up the Lonely Planet Guide to Portugal. I personally used both books when visiting Lisbon and Porto.
- Browse through this collection of online tickets to Lisbon’s various sites, tours, and experiences. Tickets are immediately issued and usually delivered by email. This includes the Lisbon Card which allows skip-the-line access to 26 museums and monuments as well as free use of public transportation. As you’ll later read, part of the fun in Lisbon is using the famous “lifts” (elevadores) to negotiate the steep hills. With each ride costing a few Euros, the Lisbon Card unlocks additional unexpected savings.
- Getting from the Lisbon airport to the city is quite simple as the distance isn’t great. A Taxi should cost under €20 (depending on the traffic) but you can also use the Metro.
- Lisbon is a city that’s best explored by combining walking together with its antiquated elevators (elevadores) for negotiating the steep hills and trams (electricos) for scenic rides between neighborhoods. For longer (and quicker) journeys, consider using the Metro.
- Take extra care of your belongings, especially when riding the tourist-crowded trams. Pickpockets make their living by riding the lines, usually working in tandem. If you look carefully, you’ll be able to spot the two partners working the carriage. Ensure you have absolutely nothing in your back pocket, zip-up your bag or purse, and pay close attention to your valuables.
- Ladies, leave your high heels back home and guys, sneakers or sandals are the way to go. Lisbon is best enjoyed on foot so dress properly. Have a look at the X Days In Y Packing List for clothing and apparel ideas.
- Part of the fun of exploring Lisbon is pausing in the lookout points (miradouros) to enjoy the views and the vibes over a drink. Leave enough room in your itinerary for spontaneity and for relaxing.
- As for shopping, alcohol and ceramics are the name of the game in Lisbon. If you won’t be visiting Porto, be sure to pick up a few bottles of port wine along with Ginghina – the local cherry liqueur. On the ceramic front – originally painted tiles and the famous Rooster of Barcelos are great souvenirs to bring back home with you. We’ll visit the best shop for ceramics in Lisbon in the second of this four days in Lisbon itinerary.
Where to Stay in Lisbon?
On our first visit to Lisbon, we stayed at the Eurostars Das Letras. It was a very comfortable “Holiday-Inn” type of hotel but slightly on the more luxurious end of the scale. Despite a 20-minute walk to the main city center area, the hotel is just five minutes away from a main avenue, train station, and dining options.
On our second trip to Lisbon, we stayed in the heart of the city center at the Teatro Boutique Bed & Breakfast. This charming B&B is located between the Chiado and Bairro Alto neighborhoods so you’re just steps away from excellent nightlife, restaurants, bars, and major tourist sites. Across the street is the historic Teatro da Trindade with its impressive facade. Each room is individually decorated, the staff are friendly, the WiFi is fast, and the breakfast is excellent. We found this boutique accommodation of great value and would definitely recommend it to other couples.
Here’s a list of other Lisbon accommodations that you can book online!
Day 1: Baixa, Rossio, Chiado & Bairro Alto
The first of these 4 days in Lisbon will be a very busy yet rewarding day. We’ll start things off in the Lower Town districts of Baixa and Rossio before beginning the ascent to Barrio Alto – Upper Town – via the Chiado district.
Breakfast in Chiado
We’ll later come back to explore parts of Chiado but there are a number of good reasons to start your day in this part of the city center. Chiado is a unique part of Lisbon since its topography is comprised of high ground which gradually descends to the flat riverbank of the Rio Tejo.
Walk along Rua Garrett, Chiado’s main street, to A Brasileira – Lisbon’s most famous historic café. In business since 1905, you really can’t miss the iconic bronze statue of the poet Fernando Pessoa at its entrance. It ain’t the cheapest spot in town for a cup of coffee but it sure is one of the most enjoyable ones. If you’re lucky (and don’t mind paying a bit of a premium), grab a seat outside and do a bit of people watching while basking in the sunlight. In any case, check out the impressive interior which sends you flying back in time to a more glorious era (or so it seems). Adding to the historic vibe is the Igreja dos Mártires just across the street with its exquisite interior ceiling.
When you’ve had your dose of caffeine and people watching, check out the shopping scene of Rua Garrett. The street boasts a mix of old shops along with current brands, and on weekends you’ll be treated to a small used books market – favored by some of Lisbon’s intellectual seniors.
Head to our next sightseeing stop – the Praca do Comercio – via Rua Garrett’s side streets which descend south towards the river. You’ll find on these small streets cool shops selling stamps, antiques, collectibles and the likes. This part of Lisbon reminded me of those historic Parisien shops that sell “stuff” that you really can’t find elsewhere.
Praca do Comercio
Lisbon’s main square is nestled along the banks of the River Tejo and is the gateway to the grid-pattern streets of the Baixa district (Lower Town). At its center is the bronze statue of Dom Jose – Lisbon’s monarch during the destructive earthquake and the subsequent rebuilding of the city. The square is a popular spot for working on your tan, catching a bus or tram and for chilling around sunset time. On the sightseeing front, also check out the mosaic-paved Praca Municipio – Lisbon’s City Hall. This is the site of the 1910 declaration of the Portuguese Republic and it’s worth checking out what is considered to be among the most beautiful structures in the city.
Enter the realm of the Baixa via the massive arch of Arco da Rua Augusta. Built to commemorate the reconstruction of Lisbon, you’ll find an assortment of touristy souvenir stalls under the shade of the arch, beyond which is Rua Augusta – the Baixa’s main avenue. A busy place during the daytime, shops, and cafes line both ends of the cobble stone avenue while street performers, hot chestnut stalls during the winter months, and tourist restaurant take up space along its interior.
For a more leisurely stroll, check out the smaller streets that make up the Baixa grid, especially the ones running north to south. Like we saw earlier in Chiado, you’ll find here an assortment of “old school” shops if the previous dosage wasn’t enough.
In any case, make your way to Elevador de Santa Justa for the first taste of Lisbon’s famous “lifts”. This imposing Gothic-style elevator was built by one of Alfred Eiffel’s students back in 1902 and is actually a shortcut back up to Chiado. For €5 (return), you’ll be treated to awesome views from the viewing platform atop the Baixa. Be sure to head up the narrow steel spiral staircase for even finer unobstructed views.
After snapping a few photos or enjoying the views over a drink in the tower’s cafe, you can either head straight down back to the Baixa or take a detour via the Convento do Carmo. This 15th-century Gothic monastery was partially destroyed by the great earthquake but wasn’t toppled down by the authorities. These days, it houses an archeology museum and makes for an eerie walk through its nave which is exposed to the elements.
Back down in Baixa, head to Rossio (a.k.a Praca Dom Pedro IV) – a large square which houses a large central fountain. At its northern end is the National Theatre – yet another impressive building, but Rossio is also a good spot for grabbing lunch or a drink in one of the cafes lining the square. They’re a bit pricey and slightly on the touristy end but, hey…it’s all about location. If you’re craving seafood, walk a further five minutes to Rua das Portas de Santo Antão.
Since it’s already the afternoon and since you’re on vacation, meander along the narrow alleys east of the Rossio and make your way amid the selection of port-wine bars to A Ginghina for a taste of Portugal’s famous cherry liqueur. This tiny tile-decorated bar is a Lisbon landmark and is the equivalent of an espresso bar in Rome in the sense that locals make a quick pit stop, down a glass of port wine or cherry liqueur and continue about their day. Hopefully feeling a pleasant “buzz”, also check out the facade of Igreja de Sao Domingos, which likely seems even more impressive with the sugary alcohol now in your bloodstream
Naturally, the next stop should be Praca da Figueira but this former grand square has lost much of its appeal over the years. Instead, head to Praca dos Restauradores just beyond the Rossio. This square is surrounded by several historical structures and is essentially the bottom end of Avenida da Liberdade – a wide tree-lined boulevard showcasing high-end shops, statues, cafes, and the facades of tiled-covered buildings.
Jardim do Torel or Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara (or Both)
We’ll end the sightseeing portion of this busy first day in two charming lookouts located on opposite hills above the Baixa. We actually paid a visit to both on this day but if you want to take things slow, head to Jardim do Torel and leave the second choice for tomorrow’s breakfast location!
The Jardim do Torel is a small park that commands fine views of Lisbon’s Lower Town and the Rio Tejo. It’s a popular spot with the locals and you’ll love chilling here for a while over a cup of tea during the winter months or a fresh pint of Sagres on a warm afternoon. The best part of visiting this spot is that you have yet another excuse for using one of Lisbon’s iconic lift, this time Elevador de Lavra (€3.50 return) which dates all the way back to 1882!
On the hill opposite the Jardim do Torel, the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara is a worthwhile spot. Located in the Bairro Alto (Upper Town), take the Elevador da Gloria to get up here from the Baixa. An engineering marvel, this 1885 lift is one of the more popular rides in the city as it negotiates a very steep hill. From the lookout, enjoy panoramic views of the Lower Town but also the castle – which we’ll visit tomorrow. If there’s time, you can also check out the nearby Praca do Principe Real – a lovely square where locals come to catch some shade during the day, and the Jardim Botanico if you fancy botanical gardens.
Dinner & Drinks in Bairro Alto
Wrap up this rewarding first day in Lisbon with a proper dinner and consider these two options, both specializing in Portuguese grill and the local tradition of cooking your own meat on a sizzling hot stone.
To dine with the locals, head to Restaurante Casa dos Passarinhos – a long running establishment with its proud history displayed on its walls. Requiring a short, yet totally worth it taxi ride from the Bairro Alto or Chiado to get here, we learned about this place from local friends. It all starts with an assortment of appetizers including bread, olives, and empanadas. For the main course, choose your own cut of meat and grill it to your liking over a hot stone right at your table. Wash everything down with a glass of red wine from the Douro Valley and ask locals to help you out because the staff might not speak a word of English!
For a similar experience, head to Restaurante Cabaça in the heart of the Barrio Alto. The scene is more geared towards tourists and the opening hours a bit odd, but the vibe is good and the food excellent.
If you still have some energy left in your after all that sightseeing, meat, and red wine, stroll the streets of the Bairro Alto – the place to be by night in Lisbon. The narrow lanes come to life after hours and the party scene often spills over to the streets on weekends and on summer nights. We checked in to Grapes & Bites – a cool wine bar with a huge selection of port wines, delicious tapas, and live music on some nights.
Day 2: Graca, Santa Cruz and Alfama
The second day of your 4 days in Lisbon is spent exploring the eastern neighborhoods of the city center. It’s another full day of walking and sightseeing, with pauses here and there in scenic lookouts and one ride that you really don’t want to miss.
Breakfast With a View
If you want to spice things up for breakfast, head (back to) Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara. The large scenic lookout boasts a proper cafe along with a kiosk and you can enjoy your breakfast under the sun with views of the area which we’re about to explore.
The #28 Tram
You will have no doubt noticed Lisbon’s famous yellow-colored trams on day one and it is now time to ride the city’s most famous line to our first stop of the day. The #28 tram departs from the Baixa and quickly ascends the hills of the Graca before heading back down to lower ground via Alfama. Throughout the journey, the ride offers exceptional views of Lisbon and miraculously manages to overcome the steep inclines (and declines) as well as super tight corners. However, you’ll have to share the small carriage with locals, dozens of other tourists, and pickpockets.
To ensure you actually get on board, walk to the Martim Moniz metro station and wait for the #28 to arrive. You can merely ride the entire journey if you are really pressed for time but if you want to follow along this itinerary, get off at Largo da Graça just next to Nossa Senhora da Graça church to check out the Miradouro da Graca – yet another stunning lookout, this time with fantastic views across to the Castelo. As with nearly every Lisbon lookout, you’ll find here a small kiosk where you can enjoy a refreshing drink while admiring the views.
Santa Cruz & Castelo
From the lookout, walk down Rua de Sao Tome and enter the gates of the medieval village of Santa Cruz. Housed within the walls of the Castelo de Sao Jorge (simply known as Castelo), Santa Cruz feels like its own little world, a village detached from the rest of the city thanks to its elevation and the Moors who built its ancient walls.
The obvious next stop is the Castelo (€8) – an ancient Moorish castle that commands the finest views in the city. The Castelo is the most visited tourist attraction in Lisbon so if you don’t buy your tickets in advance, you might have some waiting to do.
Presence on this prime real estate dates all the way back to 48 BC, with the Moors later fortifying this place in the 11th century. In 1147, the castle was placed under siege by a tandem of Crusaders and Portuguese Royalty, destroying much of its walls in the ensuing battle. When the dust had settled, the castle was rebuilt and the royal family even stuck around for a few more years to enjoy the views and the cool air (after which the castle was converted into a prison). The fun thing to do here is to simply stroll the grounds, check out the views from the ramparts, and listen to guitarists usually hiding in shaded corners of the castle.
Lunch at the Circus
For lunch (with a view, of course), head to Restaurante Chapitô à Mesa – an iconic eatery that also doubles as a circus school. This is a popular place for both lunch and dinner, but since the views are to die for, it’s best to come here during the daytime when you can actually admire the scenery. I recommend making advanced reservations (especially for dinner) and to sample the signature meat and fish dishes. It ain’t a cheap place to eat but, hey, you’re on vacation!
Post lunch, head to Miradouro de Santa Luzia and check out its adjacent church. This lookout is one of the most charming spots in Lisbon. It offers great views over the red rooftops of the Alfama and the whitewashed churches rising above them, but the best part is grabbing an outdoor seat at the small cafe and sipping a glass of sangria while watching the #28 tram slide down the hill.
To slightly get away from the tourist scene, head on a pleasant 10-minute walk to the Spanish-built church of Sao Vicente de Fora (€4) and continue to the white-domed Santa Engracia – an impressive 17-century church that now functions as Portugal’s pantheon – the Panteão Nacional.
Santa Engracia took nearly three centuries to complete and it now houses the remains of some of Portugal’s most historic figures. Entrance to the pantheon is around €3 and absolutely worth it, not only for the history lesson and architectural amazement but also for its rooftop terrace. Scenic terraces and lookouts must be a Lisbon thing (as you’ve probably figured out by now) and the one atop the pantheon boasts sunny views of the Castelo, the Alfama, and the river. We really enjoyed chilling here for an hour under the sun as we were pretty much the only ones up here. Oh, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the nearby Campo de Santa Clara hosts the city’s largest flea market.
We’ll spend the rest of the afternoon in the labyrinth of charmingly run down alleys that make up Alfama. This was once a posh neighborhood but when the aristocrats moved out, this neighborhood attracted fishermen who were in search of cheap real estate by the river.
Part of the fun of exploring Alfama is simply getting lost as you wander from one alley to another and watch the locals go about their daily routines. At some point, make it to Igreja de Sao Miguel – a beautiful Spanish-style church that really stands out among the rundown houses of the Alfama.
The next major stop is the Se – Lisbon’s main cathedral. Built on the site of a former mosque to mark Lisbon’s capture from Moorish hands, you really don’t want to miss the visit to the Se, plus it’s free to enter!
Not too far from the Se, head to Pois Cafe on Rua de Sao Joao da Praca and grab a seat on one of the comfy couches beneath the arched ceiling. Pick up a book or a magazine, unwind and relax, and ask for the “sunrise cafe” (trust me).
It’s nearly time for sunset and we’ll make two quick stops before grabbing dinner. The first one is to check out the interesting exterior of Casa dos Bicos (“House of the Points”) – a 16th-century building with a unique facade that’s lined with diamond shaped stones. Right next door is Loja dos Descobrimentos – the best place we found in Lisbon for buying authentic ceramic tiles and the likes. It’s also where we finally learned why we kept seeing rooster figurines everywhere in town. This has to do with the legend of the Rooster of Barcelos, and you can buy your very own rooster right here!
Waterfront or Fado Dinner
For dinner, I once again recommend two options. The first one involves a 15-minute walk from Alfama to the cruise ship terminal area for sunset drinks and dinner at Deli Delux – a fine foods shop that also doubles as a restaurant and bar with a fantastic outdoor terrace. From here, you can grab the metro back to town from Santa Apolonia station or walk along the river back towards Praca do Commercio if it’s not too dark.
For a more authentic experience, use your time in Alfama to check out the myriad of fado restaurants hiding in the narrow alleys. Make dinner reservations for the one you fancy the most and enjoy your meal to the melodramatic tunes of the fado.
Day 3: Belém, Ajuda and Bairro Alto
On the third of these 4 days in Lisbon, we’ll venture away from the city center and explore the historic riverside suburbs of Belem and Ajuda. We’ll then come back to the city center and visit the most charming spots of the Bairro Alto (Upper Town), a neighborhood that we just got a small taste of during the busy first day.
Morning in the Market
Since it is at its liveliest during the morning hours, I recommend starting day 3 in Lisbon with a quick visit to the Mercado da Ribeira in Chiado (Tuesday-Saturday 5am-2pm). Lisbon’s central market hosts inside its massive interior dozens of your usual market stalls, flower shops, local and seafood restaurants, drinking holes and a buzzing atmosphere during the morning hours. It’s a good opportunity to buy some snacks for the day and there might even be some live music upstairs.
#15 Tram to Belem
Just across the market is the Cais do Sodre rail station, where you can catch the #15 tram all the way to Belem (you can also catch this line from Praca da Figueira or just in front of the arch of Praca do Comercio).
The lovely riverside suburb of Belem is a 20-minute ride from the historic city center. A very popular tourist destination, Belem boasts a number of iconic Lisbon landmarks as well as museums (which we usually skip, as I mentioned in the intro). Belem was the site from which Vasco da Gama set sail to India in the 15th century, a journey which pretty much fired Portugal’s magical era known as the Golden Age. But with all due respect to the famous explorer, Belem’s main draw these days is a legendary cafe.
Breakfast in Belem
Be sure to leave some room in your stomachs because you simply cannot miss the first real stop of the day. Get off the #15 tram just in front of the Presidential Palace and say hello to the serious-looking guards before heading to Pastéis de Belém. If you’re not sure where it is, just follow the crowds.
This is without a doubt a culinary experience that you don’t want to miss. This special cafe has somehow mastered the art of making the pastel de nata – a custard-filled tart that you can’t stop eating. These tarts are ubiquitous in Portugal but they taste nothing like they do here. Perhaps it’s because Pastéis de Belém has been around since 1837!
Don’t be intimidated by the waves of people marching towards the cafe or by a number of patrons inside. Though it seems small when you first enter, the cafe is huge when you discover all the inner dining halls they managed to score over the years. Oh, and the coffee’s pretty damn good too.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
You might have some feelings of guilt for having a few delicious custard-filled tarts but the good news is that we have some walking to do. From the cafe, head across the street to Mosteiro dos Jeronimos – a 16th-century monetary erected in celebration of Vasco de Gama’s return from his voyage to discover a path to the Orient. The great explorer’s tomb lies inside the monastery but do take the time to admire the intricate Gothic-style exterior architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site before heading inside (free).
Walk down to the banks of the Rio Tejo via the leafy grounds of the Praca do Imperio and head to Padrao dos Descobrimentos – an iconic Lisbon landmark commemorating Prince Henry the Navigator. You can pay a few Euros and climb to the top of the monument but in any case, you can catch great views from this spot across the river to the Ponte de 25 Abril – the ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ lookalike, and the Torre de Belem – our next stop.
Torre de Belem
The riverside area makes for a lovely stroll, especially in the direction of the Tower of Belem. Built during the early part of the 16th century, the tower’s purpose was to defend the strategic mouth of the River Tejo and was later used as a prison for political rivals. You can admire the tower’s architecture and grandeur from the outside but if you fancy a look inside, check the opening hours and have €5 ready.
Lunch in Belem
For lunch, head to Rua Vieira Portuense – a lovely pedestrian street that’s lined with excellent Portuguese restaurants and orange trees. After checking out a few menus, we settled for Floresta de Belem and treated ourselves to a delicious local lunch consisting of fish, potatoes, and steamed vegetables. We washed everything down with a bottle of white wine and paid less than €30 for the both of us!
Jardim Botânico da Ajuda
We wrapped up our visit to the suburbs with a 15-minute walk up the hill to the botanical gardens of Ajuda (€2). This is one of Lisbon’s most tranquil and historical gardens, built in the 18th century and not frequented by too many tourists who seem to be turned off by the steep hike to its entrance.
The gardens are divided into eight manicured sections and boast water fountains, trees from around the world, terraces, and great views. This is a good spot to relax before catching the #18 tram from just outside the garden’s entrance back to the city center.
Get off the #18 tram just in front of the Mercado da Ribeira, where we started the day, and catch the Elevador da Bica to the get to the Upper Town (€3.50 return or free with the Lisbon Card). This is another iconic Lisbon lift, famous for its arched entrance and its steep ascent via the Bica neighborhood. We departed midway through the climb to the Bairro Alto to explore the narrow side streets on either side of the lift. This place has a lot of character to it and makes for a pleasant walk to our next stop.
Miradouro de Santa Catarina
This was by far our favorite spot in Lisbon and I recommend finishing your day at this lookout to watch the sunset. Surprisingly, for such a cramped part of the city, making it to Santa Catarina is a treat for the eyes, with wide open spaces and panoramic views to the city lying below. You can chill in the small park or grab a seat in the kiosk and enjoy the great atmosphere over a fresh glass of Sagres.
The streets around Santa Catarina are also worth a stroll, dotted with impressive houses and their tiled facades along with rows of orange trees.
Day 4: Sintra and Cascais
On the last day of these 4 days in Lisbon, it’s time to leave the city behind and embark on a day trip to the Royal hilltop village of Sintra – home to a very impressive palace. We’ll then drive back to Lisbon via the beautiful coastline and check out the popular beach village of Cascais.
Pro tip: to do everything that’s mentioned in today’s itinerary, you will need to rent a car for the day. If you just want to visit Sintra or Cascais, you can use public transportation.
Located about 30 km outside of Lisbon, the village of Sintra is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is where the royal Portuguese family used to spend their summers and where you can travel back in time for the day. Sintra’s top attractions are its village, hilltop Moorish castle, two palaces, and museums. Since we personally rented a car for the day, we concentrated our efforts on the absolute top highlights, leaving enough time to explore the coast before heading back to Lisbon. This means that if you’re only visiting Sintra, there are enough places to see to fill up a full day.
How to Get to Sintra Without a Car?
You can take a train to Sintra from one of Lisbon’s main train stations (Rossio, Entre Campos, and Sete Rios). Upon exiting the station in Sintra, a number of bus lines ferry visitors to the main attractions so just inquire at the station. Alternatively, you can join organized day trips from Lisbon, with tours to Sintra or to Sintra and Cascais.
Palacio da Pena
The Royal Palace is the real reason for traveling to Sintra and I suggest making it your first sightseeing stop of the day. The palace looks like something out of a Hollywood movie, with brightly colored towers rising from the forest and a series of bridges and ramparts connecting them. It was built during the 19th century by a German architect and housed the royal family until they had to quickly flee the scene with the outbreak of the 1910 revolution.
From the parking area (also where the bus drops you off), you can walk uphill to the palace entrance or catch a private shuttle for €3. You can purchase a palace-only ticket or a combo ticket which includes entrance to the palace’s tranquil park (recommended). That park boasts several short hiking trails which usually lead to scenic lookouts over the surrounding area, including the hilltop Moorish castle.
Inside the palace, take your time and explore each and every room. Since the royal family didn’t get much time to wear out this place, everything is in pretty good shape. Visitors are certainly rewarded with a vivid glimpse into royal life at the time, complete with all the luxury items, modern gadgets (for that time) and the likes.
Locally known as Sintra-Vila, the village is a good place for lunch. Things can get quite crowded during peak tourist season but the secret is to simply head uphill and explore the narrow lanes of the village’s high ground. We randomly stumbled upon Tacho Real and didn’t know we were in for a real treat.
With waiters dressed in formal attire, a fireplace keeping diners warm, and food wheeled over on a cart, you would think lunch would cost a fortune at this historical eatery, right? Well, we devoured a delicious lunch that included a selection of meat, seafood, cheese and even dessert – all for a fraction of what this would cost back home!
Post lunch, we meandered along the alleys of Sintra Village, eventually making it down to the 14th century Palacio Nacional (€7). It’s hard to miss this Sintra highlight, thanks to its signature rounded chimneys, but we decided to pass and continue the road trip.
Cabo da Roca
From Sintra Village, it’s back to the car for a scenic 30-minute drive inside the Parque Natural Sintra-Cascais to Cabo da Roca. This cape is the most westerly point in mainland Europe, marked by a pretty-looking lighthouse as remote capes usually are. Park the car, check out the lighthouse and walk down to the cliff for breathtaking views of the rugged Atlantic coastline.
It’s now time to head back to Lisbon. Take the N247, which negotiates the forested hills before meeting the coastline. You’ll drive through several picturesque villages before entering the affluent and trendy seaside holiday village of Cascais. What used to be a fishing village is now a prime spot for Lisbon residents to hang out during the summer months. Park the car somewhere and check out the scene, especially the waterfront area. Grabbing a cup of coffee before the ride back to Lisbon is not a bad idea.
Dinner in Alfama
For our last dinner in Lisbon, we headed back to the narrow alleys of the Alfama – one of our parts of Lisbon. Our spirits were quite high after the great road trip, so we decided not to spoil the mood with some melancholy Fado. Instead, we enjoyed yet another delicious meal, this time in Barracao de Alfama – a restaurant recommended to us by locals.
I hope you’ve found this 4 days in Lisbon sample itinerary useful for planning your own adventure! Are you including Porto or other parts of Portugal in your travel plan? Sample Portugal itineraries and an in-depth guide to Portugal’s “other” great city are all waiting for you in the Portugal Travel Guide collection. Bom dia!
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