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The best Lisbon itinerary: a local’s recommendations

Are you ready to fall in love with Lisbon? This city will woo you in the most unexpected ways. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself smiling as a Portuguese grandmother (avó) keeps an eye on you from her perch in the window. Stopping to smell the roses is fine, but in Lisbon you’ll stop to admire the intricate details and differences on every azulejo tile. Who needs chocolates when a freshly baked pastel de nata, topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar, melts in your mouth? Whether you’re spending 2 days in Lisbon, 3 days in Lisbon, or 5 days in Lisbon, I’ve got you covered! Each day of this Lisbon itinerary is broken down into different regions or interests, so you can pick and choose your own adventure.

Visiting for the first time? This place might just rock your world. It absolutely rocked mine. I fell head over heels for this “city with a sweet tooth” and six years after my first visit, I officially became a resident of Portugal! Follow this Lisbon travel guide to experience the very best meals, activities, and– of course!– desserts in Lisbon.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting The Sweet Wanderlust by booking here! 

Where to stay in Lisbon

Corpo Santo Hotel 

If an emergency 24-hour/day ice cream machine, a daily Portuguese drink + snack happy hour, and an underground archaeological site pique your interest, you’ll love the Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel. It’s close to the Cais do Sodré station, which goes all the way to Cascais for easy beach access! 

Book your stay at Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel here

Hotel Avenida Palace 

If you want to be treated like royalty in a hotel fit for a queen (or king), consider Hotel Avenida Palace your castle away from home. The breakfast is amazing, the staff is OTT attentive, the bar is well stocked (try the Porto tonic), and the location is unbeatable. The 19th century Belle Époque building is right next to Rossio Station– perfect for your day trip to Sintra!

Book your stay at Hotel Avenida Palace here


Booking.com

Book your travel insurance for Lisbon

Before you take off for your Lisbon adventure, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. I recommend SafetyWing, which I personally use for all of my travels! Sign up here

How to get from your airport to the hotel

Uber and Bolt are the top rideshare apps in Portugal and the metro goes straight from the airport to the city. Download Bolt or Uber before you travel, or use one of the private transfer services below:

 

A few phrases to help you get around

Bom dia, boa tarde, boa noite – Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Always use these phrases as greetings! 

Obrigada/ obrigado – Thank you (end in -a if you are a female, and -o if you are a male). 

Fala inglês? – Do you speak English?

Se faz favor/ Por favor – Please (can be used interchangeably)

Queria um pastel de nata se faz favor –  I would like one pastel de nata, please! (This is a VERY important phrase.)

The most fun 5-day Lisbon itinerary

Are you ready to have the most epic trip to Lisbon? I’ve compiled all of my favorite things about this city in a jam-packed Lisbon travel guide. I hope you slept on the plane because we’re going to hit the ground* running!

*The ground here is a mosaic of limestone cobblestones. It’s gorgeous, but it’s slippery. I write this post with a bruised elbow thanks to a slick cobblestone and the ground disappearing under my feet. Pack sturdy shoes and leave the high heels at home. 

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get started! 

Visiting for the second, third, or fifteenth time? This blog post on off-the-beaten-path adventures in Lisbon will help you explore the city’s quirky side! 

Day 1: A day for the artists 

Calling all artistas! Today is a dreamy, azulejo tile-filled day, so put on a colorful outfit (yellow and pink pop against the blue tiles), lace up your comfy shoes, and head to Alfama for brunch. 

Dear Breakfast Alfama

Dear Breakfast is a Lisbon-based breakfast chain with three restaurants around the city. I’m obsessed with their eggs benedict and avocado toast with beet hummus, but you really can’t go wrong with anything you order.  

Dear Breakfast eggs benedict

If brunch is your love language, check out these 25+ places for brunch in Lisboa

Cantinho da Sé

Save some room, though, because there’s another foodie stop right across the street. After breakfast, pop by Cantinho da Sé for a pastry to eat later. The flower-shaped pastry has a souffle-like texture, and it’s topped with a generous dollop of doce de leite. 

Paint Azulejos

Every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30 am, Art of Azulejo hosts an azulejo painting class. You can sign up here and get $8 off your first experience with Fever when you use code BRITTANYK8574. The instructor, Caroline, walks you through a history of how azulejo tiles were made throughout the centuries, then sets you up for success with a stenciled tile for your first try.

Azulejo tile stencil

Once you get the hang of it, you can create your own tile or use one of her pre-made examples as a guide. I love my Lisbon tram and flower azulejos! 

Painted azulejo tile

Did you know that the tiles aren’t painted with paint?! Instead, you’ll use finely ground glass, which hardens to make these heat-proof tiles. Once they’re fired in the kiln, you can use your azulejos as hot plates, coasters, or hang them on the wall as art. 

Note: Your tiles need a couple of days to be fired– so don’t save this activity for the end of your trip!

Visit the Museu Nacional do Azulejo to see how the experts painted azulejos throughout history

Now that you’re feeling great about your artistic skills, come back down to earth with a visit to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. Here, you’ll find tiles created by artists and artisans from the mid-15th century until the present day. The museum is in the former Convent of Madre Deus, and the Renaissance choir room is a stunning look into Portuguese history. 

Before you go, download the app on Google Play (Android) or iTunes (iOS) for the full experience. 

The museum also offers tile painting classes on Sunday at 2 pm. 

Eat a small lunch

After visiting the museum, head back into town for a little lunch– emphasis on little! Dinner’s a big one tonight, so I recommend opting for something light. Fábrica da Nata offers several different menus, where you can have something savory, a drink, and a pastel de nata for less than €5.

Alternatively, you can go for the famous pork steak sandwich at As Bifanas do Afonso. Top your bifana with mustard and/or hot sauce and pair it with a beer or vinho verde (green wine) from the tap. 

Street art tour

This morning, you learned about an art form that came to Portugal in the 15th century. Now, you can experience the ever-changing street art scene. After the revolution in 1974, street artists came out in droves to cover the city in political street art. The rich street art culture remains– and is even sanctioned by the government. Join a street art tour to discover works of art across the city.

Street art Mouraria

A few of my favorites to watch for? Bordalo II creates art out of trash, proving that one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure. If you spend enough time here, you may spot his Iberian lynx, fox, bee, raccoon, chimpanzee, and stork. Another artist to watch out for is Vhils. The talented artist uses a chisel or explosives to create detailed faces in concrete. 

Vhils Mouraria

Learn all about street art culture on a street art tour at 3 pm or check the Meetup app, where Grupo Lisbon Street Art has some tours where you can try your hand at wielding a spray can on legal walls.

Delight your senses at a hidden restaurant

Chef José Avillez was awarded two Michelin stars for Belcanto, but it’s his restaurant, Mini Bar, that puts stars in my eyes! For €75, you can experience 12 courses where nothing is quite as it seems. 

Mini Bar

From the “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” to the “Passion fruit” with coconut sorbet, prep your tastebuds for a wild ride! 

Mini Bar by José Avillez

Mini Bar is reservations-only and it fills up fast, so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment. 

Visit a speakeasy

Not ready to say goodnight yet? Wander over to Foxtrot for a nightcap. Ring the buzzer and enter into the Art Nouveau-style bar with an interior terrace and cozy indoor seating. Play a round of billiards or snooker, or settle in by the fireplace if it’s chilly outside. 

Foxtrot

Day 2: A photo-worthy day

Pack your camera and put on your cutest clothes– today is all kinds of Instagrammable! 

Say cheese at a Lisbon photoshoot

You’ve got your selfie game on lock, but a holiday in a city as gorgeous as Lisbon deserves frame-worthy photos. Enter: Phelipe Paraense. Phelipe is a creative genius with an eye for innovative shots. Case in point? We ran into some street cleaners during our early morning session. I saw wet ground. Phelipe saw this:

Rua Augusta Arch Lisbon

With his tips for posing and a persona that puts you instantly at ease, you’re sure to go home with some epic photos. The only issue you’ll have is deciding which to post first! 

Alfama tram

Book your photoshoot here and tell him I sent you! I recommend choosing the earliest session of the day so you can get shots with minimal tourists. 

LX Factory

On your way to Belém, stop in at the LX Factory for hot cocoa at Ler Devagar. The bookstore is consistently named one of the top 10 most beautiful bookstores in the world, and their hot cocoa is one of my favorites in Lisbon. 

Ler Devagar in LX Factory

Afterward, wander through the industrial complex to shop for souvenirs and see some great street art. Psst. Bordalo II has a piece here. Can you find it?

Rui dos Pregos

After all that modeling and exploring, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite! When you arrive in Belém, head straight to Rui dos Pregos and order the prego no pão for €2.90. It’s a piece of thin beef steak that’s the size of your face with TONS of garlic on fresh bread. Note to all the single pringles reading this post— today’s *not* the day for smooching strangers if you choose to eat this sandwich. 

Rui dos Pregos

Pasteis de Belém

Since you’ve been in town for over 24 hours, you’ve probably already tried the famous pastel de nata. Now, you’re going to see where it all began. Don’t be intimidated by the line– it moves fast. When you enter Pasteis de Belém, take a deep breath– you’ll smell buttery pastry, cinnamon, and sweet custard with a side of history.

The pastel de nata is a “conventual sweet,” meaning it originated in the convents. While I’ve heard many stories about how these sweets came to be, most agree that egg whites were used to starch the nuns’ habits and conventual sweets were the result of an abundance of egg yolks. 

Pasteis de Belém opened in 1837 after all of the Portuguese convents and monasteries were shut down. Almost 200 years later, the pastry chefs create each pastel de Belém in a secret room, using the same secret recipe from the convent. Just like Champagne– it’s only a pastel de Belém if you have it here, so be sure to try the original! 

Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is quite possibly my favorite building in the world. I lived just up the street from this early 16th century UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, and I still get all the feels remembering walking past this iconic building for the first time as a Portuguese resident. 

Jerónimos monastery

Founded by King D. Manuel I, the first stone was laid on Kings Day in 1501 or 1502. The church houses the tombs of explorer Vasco da Gama and Portuguese poet and writer Luís de Camões, while the tomb of Portuguese writer and poet Fernando Pessoa and an exhibit on the history of the monastery lie within the cloister. 

While entrance to the church is free, you’ll need tickets to enter the cloister. Purchase your fast-track pass here

Belém Tower

From the monastery, head towards the river and turn right. Stroll along the Tagus until you come to the Belém Tower. Most days, you’ll find vendors selling pina coladas in pineapples and the most talented electric violin busker playing pop tunes. The Belém Tower is the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon and the site of the embarkation and disembarkation of many Portuguese expeditions.  

Don’t want to do it all on your own? Get the full scoop on a guided 2.5-hour tour

Tower of Belém

Santini ice cream

I hope you packed your sweet tooth today! The first Gelados Santini shop opened in 1949, and the popularity hasn’t dwindled! The chocolate and coconut flavor is my favorite– but I haven’t had a bad scoop yet! 

Sunset cruise

Still not convinced that Lisbon is the most magical place on earth? Head back to the water once more for a sunset cruise on the Tagus. Sail past the monuments with a glass of Portuguese wine in hand as the sky explodes into a multitude of colors. I guarantee this will be a night you’ll never forget! 

This two-hour Lisbon sailing tour offers morning, sunset, and night tours. 

This one or two-hour Lisbon sailing tour offers morning, afternoon, sunset, and night tours. 

A Cevicheria

Head back into town for dinner and cross your fingers you can get a spot at A Cevicheria. Chef Kiko’s restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, but it’s worth any wait.

A Cevicheria – Ceviche de Salmão e Ananás

I don’t even like fish (let alone raw fish) and this is one of my favorite restaurants in Lisbon. Don’t miss the Ceviche de Salmão e Ananás or Taco de Tártaro de Atum e Tobiko!

A Cevicheria tacos

Pavilhão Chinês

After dinner, walk one minute down the street to Pavilhão Chines and ring the bell to enter a bar that puts Ariel’s Secret Grotto to shame. Built in an old grocery store, this unique bar is filled with vintage collectibles, tchotchkes from around the world, and a mannequin of a British Palace Guard! 

Pavilhão Chines Queen’s Guard

The cocktail menu is one of the most extensive I’ve ever seen, and choosing just one was not easy! After much debate, I decided The Godfather was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Like revenge, the Scotch whiskey, amaretto, crème de cacao, creme, and cinnamon is best served cold. 

The Godfather at Pavilhão Chines

Day 3: A Sintra day trip fit for a queen (or king)

Dust off your princess crown! Today, you’re headed for the most magical place on earth (without a larger-than-life-sized mouse). 

Pena Palace

Palacio Nacional da Pena (or Pena Palace) is a Disney castle come to life! The red and yellow castle with gorgeous blue azulejos is a stunning example of 19th century Romanticism architecture mixed with Manueline (like Jerónimos Monastery) and Moorish architecture.

Pena Palace Sintra

The site was originally used as a church and later, a monastery, before King Ferdinand II began construction on the site to build a summer home for the royal family. The castle was completed in 1854, but wouldn’t be used for long by the royal family. After the 5 October 1910 revolution, Queen Amélia spent her last night in Pena Palace before leaving the country in exile. 

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth a visit, just listen to the words of German composer Richard Strauss, “Today is the happiest day of my life. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. This is the true Garden of Klingsor – and there, up on high, is the Castle of the Holy Grail.”

Buy your tickets to Pena Park and Palace here

Quinta da Regaleira

This is the setting of a Nicholas Cage movie waiting to happen. Dreamed up by a wealthy, Knights Templar-obsessed Brazilian mining mogul, the Gothic pinnacles of the main house are studded with gargoyles, and the extensive gardens are filled with secret Masonic symbolism. Descend the winding steps of the Initiation Well toward the cave system below, crossing the nine platforms designed to evoke the nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno. 

Initiation Well – Quinta da Regaleira

Was António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro an initiate of the Knights Templar, or simply interested in the secretive group’s traditions? Which rituals and rites have these wells seen? Visit for yourself and try to get to the bottom of it! 

Taste the wines of Portugal at Bar do Binho

Ascend the stairs, past photos of Johnny Depp, and into the tasting room of Bar do Binho. When I visited, we opted for the Premium Table Wines Tasting Set for €32.50 alongside a cheese and meat platter (because four wines on an empty stomach isn’t a great choice). Is this the cheapest wine tasting you’ll ever attend? Definitely not. But the wines were unique and the storytelling is second to none. By the end of our tasting, Carlos felt like an old friend, and I can’t wait to go back for another round of tastings! 

Eat travesseiros at Casa Piriquita

Talk to any local, and they’ll tell you that you simply must stop at Casa Piriquita for travesseiros. Founded in 1862, the bakery is now in the hands of the fifth generation, who make the fluffy pastry filled with egg and almond custard. Just like Pasteis de Belém– this recipe is so well-guarded that only the family has access! 

Don’t want to DIY? Try these Sintra tours.

Book a guided tour and take the guesswork out of the day! Book this tour to enjoy air-conditioned travel to and from Lisbon, a guided tour of Quinta da Regaleira and Pena Palace (entry to Pena Palace is extra). 

Feeling adventurous? Book this Jeep tour of Sintra, with stops at Quinta da Regaleira and Pena Palace with travesseiro and ginjinha tastings included!

Feel saudade at a fado performance

Saudade is a Portuguese word without a translation. To feel it for yourself, you’ll have to see a fado show. The singers’ mournful tones evoke a feeling of deep yearning, melancholy, and nostalgia. 

While fado performances in Alfama and Mouraria are the most popular (and for good reason!), I love the performance at Trovas Antigas in Bairro Alto. As you’re shown to your table, be sure to peek into the ancient well that once provided water to the area. 

When you sit down, you’ll find a basket of bread (€2) and a platter of meat, cheese, and marmalade (€20). If you’re not up for a €22 investment as soon as you sit down, just let your waiter know that you don’t need the couvert. In Portugal, most restaurants bring small snacks or appetizers to the table– unlike the unlimited chips and salsa at your favorite TexMex spot, these aren’t free. If you want them, great! If not, just let your waiter know.

I highly recommend that you say a heck yes to the black pork cheeks in red wine. The €16 meal is one of the best I’ve had for the price! 

Looking for a Portuguese Connection?

Pop into Pub Português next door for a Portuguese Connection cocktail. It’s a Lisbon-ified version of a G+T, made with ginjinha instead of gin and garnished with sour cherries. Those cherries are soaked in aguardente (translation: firewater) that can contain up to 60% alcohol, so eat with caution! Be sure to say hi to Nuno and Eduardo and tell them I sent you! 

Portuguese Connection at Pub Português

Day 4: Step back in history

Gooood morning! I hope you didn’t eat too many sour cherries last night because we’re going to do some exploring today in two of Lisbon’s most traditional neighborhoods. You’re going to break records with today’s step count, so wear your comfiest shoes. 

Try the best pastel de nata in Lisbon (according to me) 

I believe every day should start with something sweet. And in this city with a sweet tooth, there’s no shortage of amazing desserts pastries. Some people think desserts should happen after a meal (we’re not friends with those people), but if you call it a pastry it can happen anytime! 

I digress. Start the sweetest day yet with a pastel de nata from Pastelaria Santo António. I believe desserts taste best with a side of magic, and Santo António delivers. St. Anthony was born in Alfama and is known as the matchmaker saint. Whether or not you’ve found true love, make a wish before eating this pastel de nata and Santo António will make it happen*!

Pastelaria Santo António

*My wish hasn’t come true yet, but I think that just means I need to eat more pasteis de natas.  

Take a walk on the wild side of Lisbon history

Lisbon’s history is wild. The slippery cobblestone streets? That’s a direct result of King Manuel I’s rhinoceros and a birthday parade. And that’s not even the craziest story about King Manuel I and the rhino. To find out how an elephant and the pope fit into the narrative, you’re going to have to join the free Alfama and Mouraria: History versus Modern Facts tour

The 3-hour tour starts at 10:30 am and will take you through some of the oldest and most authentic neighborhoods in Lisbon. Pedro led the tour I joined, and his encyclopedic knowledge, ability to entertain, and penchant for finding hidden gems made this one of the best free tours I’ve ever taken.

History of Lisbon

Don’t forget to tip your guide! 

Food tour – Taste of Lisboa

Hungry yet? You’re in for a treat. On my first visit to Lisbon, Taste of Lisboa introduced me to my favorite cheese in the world and told stories that led to my love affair with (and eventual move to) Lisbon. I can’t promise you’ll want to move here after a Lisbon Roots, Food, and Cultural Walk, but I can’t guarantee it won’t happen, either! Book your tour here

Watch the sunset from a secret garden

You deserve to sit down and rest– but you should do it with a great view. Walk up to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, and find the Secret Garden LX. Behind these unassuming (and unmarked) garden gates, you’ll find a gorgeous oasis with tasty cocktails, meal specials, and occasional live music and poetry soirées!

Secret Garden views

Take in the views, watch the sunset, and debrief from all the information you’ve learned! 

Taberna Sal Grosso 

If you’re looking for authentic, affordable Portuguese food in a cozy, welcoming atmosphere, make a reservation at Taberna Sal Grosso. Specials are written on a chalkboard mounted on the wall, but you can’t go wrong with anything you choose. After we finished our food, the waiter brought around several bottles of alcohol and two glasses for me and my friend to pour our own digestif.  A fun end to a delicious meal!

Day 5: A day for the foodies 

Your time in Lisbon is coming to a close, and the best way to make the most of your last day is to figure out how to bring Portugal home with you. Today, you’ll be learning how to cook some of the best Portuguese dishes so you can impress your friends and relive this trip over and over again!

Zenith

Ready for the most OTT brunch in Lisbon? If you’ve been to Porto, you know all about the francesinha sandwich. This delicious heart attack on a plate is a combination of bread, ham, sausage, melted cheese, and a tomato/beer sauce that leaves you begging for mercy while complimenting the chef. Zenith has taken it to the next level with their francesinha pancakes. A stack of pancakes is topped with bacon, chicken, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, and francesinha sauce– I hope you wore your stretchy pants. 

Zenith francesinha pancakes

Pastel de nata class

How many pasteis de natas have you eaten on your trip? If you’re thinking of bringing a sleeve home, I hate to break it to you, but these babies don’t travel well. As the saying goes: If you give a traveler a pastel de nata they’ll eat it today. If you teach a traveler to make a pastel de nata, they’ll eat them forever! 

Pastel de Nata cooking class

Join this pastel de nata cooking class to learn how to make these custard tarts at home. Bonus? You’ll also learn how to make a fried bacalhau snack! The instructors were friendly and made sure our sweet and savory creations turned out great. 

Spend the day playing

When was the last time you broke the “grown-up” façade and let your inner nine-year-old out to play? If there’s a neighborhood you haven’t seen yet or one you’d like to explore some more, consider a DIY scavenger hunt. Take a look at all of the Secret City Trails riddle routes, and see if you can crack the puzzles to discover more hidden gems in Lisbon.  You can read more about the scavenger hunt I participated in here

Try another pastel de nata

You’ve had the original pastel de nata and you’ve tried my favorite traditional pastry. Now it’s time to blow your mind with a chocolate pastel de nata from Nata de Lisboa. If you’re looking for a reason to extend your trip, this might just push you over the edge!

Nata de Lisbon – chocolate pastel de nata

Shop for souvenirs

If you’ve saved room in your suitcase, here are a few Portuguese souvenirs to bring home:

  • Cork products
  • Canned Sardines (The Fantastic World Of Portuguese Sardines is a quirky shop with a circus-like atmosphere that sells colorful, whimsical cans of sardines)
  • Ceramics
  • Portuguese wine
  • Port wine
  • Gold filigree jewelry
  • Art (you can purchase directly from artists at most of the mirodouros)
  • Tea from Companhia Portugueza do Chá (the British love of tea is all thanks to a Portuguese woman who married the king of England)

Please don’t buy authentic azulejos. Many are stolen, and increasing the demand for the tiles from historic buildings increases the incentive for thieves to continue destroying the azulejos that make this city special. 

Dinner: DIY-style

It’s your last chance to bring a little Portugal home with you. Join a cooking class to perfect the art of petiscos (Portuguese tapas) or go for a full-fledged 3-course meal. No matter which option you choose, you’ll be prepared to host a Portuguese-themed dinner party when you return home. 

 

All good things must come to an end, and it’s time to fly back home! I hope this Lisbon travel guide has helped you to fall in love with Lisbon, and that we’ll see you back in Portugal again someday in the future. 

Até breve! See you soon! 

What was your favorite part of your trip? Let me know in the comments! 

Pin this Lisbon itinerary!

Helene

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

Hello and thank you for this very informative blog. As a result, we've booked the tile painting. I was also suggesting to my group that we go to Mini-Bar. However, one of them pointed out that the latest reviews - mostly those over the summer - have been quite poor. Do you know of anything that could have changed? We are going in mid-September. Thank you again!

Brittany

Thursday 25th of August 2022

I'm so happy to hear you've booked the tile painting— I hope you love it as much as my mom and I did! I have been to Mini Bar three times— most recently in May. I've always had great service and an awesome experience. I love the unique presentations and find joy in things not being as they appear. If that kind of thing sounds exciting to you, I think you'll have a great time!

Becky

Friday 25th of February 2022

Thank you! I've read a bunch of Lisbon articles and they are all basically the same so I appreciated having a few different ideas. We're looking at a late May visit and I'm jotting down a bunch of your restaurant recommendations!

Brittany

Saturday 26th of February 2022

This makes me so so happy to hear; I loved putting together this list and I'm glad it's been helpful! I hope you have a wonderful trip to Lisbon!