My first visit to Lisbon absolutely blew me away. The title might be misleading since you could easily spend more than just a weekend here—as one day of my three was sacrificed to the hangover gods, I felt like I left with a lot undone. While there are lots of reasons to go to Lisbon, what all should you do once you’re there? Here’s how to spend a weekend in Lisbon!
Castelo Sao Jorge
The castle sits on top of one of Lisbon’s (many) hills, overlooking the city. Built by the Moors in the mid-11th century, the castle is imposing and its towers and walls are great for exploring. The remains of the royal palace now house a exhibition, and there is also an archaeological site (which was unfortunately closed when I visited).
Undoubtedly the best part of the castle is the phenomenal view over Lisbon!
Speaking of great view points… no trip to Lisbon would be complete without hiking up steep, winding streets to get some amazing views. There are loads of “miradouros” (view points) scattered across the city—besides Castelo Sao Jorge, I thought Miradouro Portas do Sol and Miradouro da Graca (for views of the castle itself) were the best.
Get lost in Alfama
The Alfama neighborhood is characterized by narrow streets snaking their way up (very very VERY) steep hills—and by some of the most beautiful buildings. Ditch the map and get gloriously lost in the winding alleys here (you probably wouldn’t be able to find your way on a map anyway). The tiled buildings here are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen!
Ride the No. 28 Tram
You can’t go to Lisbon and not ride tram #28. The small, yellow tram has become the city’s icon and takes in some of the major sights of the city. It starts at Martim Moniz, but you can jump on at any point—just be prepared to be squished with more tourists than you ever thought possible. It’s 1.25€ for a single tram ride with a “viva viagem” public transportation card.
Pastel de nata
In general, no trip to Portugal would be complete without stuffing yourself full of these pastries at every given opportunity. Pastel de nata (or pasteis de nata, if you’re talking plural) is a custard filled pastry wrapped up in a crispy package. I would make a pilgrimage back to Portugal just for some more of these! The best are in Belem (see below).
Lisbon’s main cathedral was constructed in the 1147, and is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Following the 1755 earthquake in Lisbon, the building sustained damage but has been rebuilt and renovated. There’s no admission fee.
Panteao Nacional and Mosteiro de San Vicente de Fora
If you have extra time, these two beautiful churches are worth checking out. Unfortunately I visited both of these on a Monday, when they were both closed—so head there any other day of the week!
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Located in Belem, about 6 km (~3.7 miles) away from the central area of Lisbon, is the stunning Jeronimos Monastery. A UNESCO World Heritage site, construction began on the monastery in 1501 and was completed 100 years later. It boasts the best cloisters I’ve ever seen—you can wander around the cloisters on both the lower and upper levels! While the attached church is also breathtaking (and without an admission fee), you should definitely pay to see the monastery. It’s closed on Mondays.
Padrao dos Descobrimentos and Torre de Belem
The Monument to the Discoveries and the Tower of Belem are both located in Belem, right along the Tejo River. The Monument to the Discoveries was built in 1958 and honors the Portuguese explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Tower of Belem was built in the early 1500s and is another UNESCO World Heritage site. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend paying the admission fee, but it’s definitely an interesting attraction, located right in the river.
Pasteis de Belem
If you’ve made it all the way out to Belem, you simply can’t leave without trying the best pastel de nata in the country. The gossip is true: no other place does the pastries better. There will almost always be a queue, but it is 110% worth it! Buy the pack of 6. Eat first, think later.
You can’t go to Lisbon and not experience the nightlife! The city is poppin’ (especially on weekends) and has enough bars, pubs, and clubs to keep you busy until the late (or very early) hours of the morning.
If you’re looking for a daytrip from Lisbon, I visited both Sintra (for the palaces) and Cabo da Roca (the western-most point of continental Europe) in one day. You can read my tips for daytripping to Sintra here! Cascais is another popular daytrip from Lisbon, and is especially popular for its beaches.
The Basics: Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and has a population of about 550,000. The official language is Portuguese, although many people will speak at least some English. Portugal’s currency is the Euro, and is part of the EU. Pickpockets are known to target major tourist areas, so keep an eye on your belongings.
Getting Around: The city has an extensive bus and tram network, as well as a metro with four lines. You should purchase a “viva viagem” card and top up as you need in order to get the best deal. Tram #28 is the famous yellow one, but a few other lines use the same classic yellow cars. If you want to get to Belem, you can take tram #15 from the city center. Tuk-tuks are also huge here! Decide on a price before you go. Walking is a great way to explore the city, but be warned: there are lots of hills.
Where I Stayed: I stayed at Yes! Hostel in Lisbon and it was one of the best hostels I’ve ever been to! It’s great for solo travelers and meeting people. I stayed in a 6-bed dorm with everything I like: a curtain for privacy, 2 plugs next to the bed, a little shelf for my phone and watch, and my own reading light. The bathrooms were clean and even had a built-in nook in the shower for your stuff! The dinners every night are 10€ for a 3-course meal, which includes an open bar (!!!!!). I highly recommend the dinners (I ate there 2 out of 3 nights)—it’s a great way to relax and meet people, and the food is exceptional. There’s a free shot at 11:30pm for everyone in the hostel. The staff are wonderful and several of them knew me by name—always the sign of great hostel employees! I would jump at the chance to stay here again!
Lisbon is a wonderful city to travel to for a weekend. While there’s definitely much more to do than what you can fit into a weekend, a weekend is the perfect amount of time to scrape the surface!
Have you ever been to Lisbon? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!