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3 Days in Lisbon for First Timers

Organisiert von Jade Harveywhose mom’s move to Portugal gives her an excuse to visit several times a year.

Lisbon combines the cosmopolitan chic you’d expect of a capital with a small-town charm that makes you feel right at home. Since my mom moved to Portugal’s Algarve five years ago, I insist on taking a detour through Lisbon every time I visit her—so enamored am I by its steep cobbled streets, egg yolk-yellow trams, and vistas that stretch far into the Atlantic Ocean. Not to mention the croqueta de bacalao (salt cod croquettes) on every corner.

But the city doesn’t reveal all of its secrets too easily. Even though I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited Lisbon now, I discover something new every time I go—whether it’s a secret stall selling sweet, flaky pasteis de nata or a lookout point that seems to appear magically from a tangle of steep stairways. This itinerary will introduce you to Lisbon’s enchanting highlights and secrets in three days.

Carry a jacket, even in spring and fall—the Atlantic breeze can make the city feel pretty chilly.

If you only have time for one thing, make it a ride on the bright yellow tram no. 28; it’s a fast and cost-effective way to tick off ample Lisbon attractions in one easy sweep.

Day 1

Spend your first morning getting your bearings (and catching your breath) on the steep, cobbled streets of the Chiado and Alfama neighborhoods. Opt for an electric bike to save yourself breaking a sweat, particularly during the hot summer months.

Then, take a short stroll from Alfama—past the 8th-century BC St. George’s Castle—to the starting point of the bright yellow tram no. 28, the city’s most iconic tram route. Hop aboard and ride past the historic Graça district and the Church of São Vicente de Fora before disembarking in Casi do Sodre to visit the famous Time Out Market Lisbon, housed in the grand Mercado da Ribeira.

Day 2

Get up early today to visit the picture-perfect town of Sintra. Take the train or join a tour that’ll take you to highlights such as the UNESCO-listed Pena Palace, the hilltop Castelo dos Mouros, and Quinta da Regaleira. On the way back, stop to feel the salty ocean breeze on your face at Cabo de la Roca, Europe’s westernmost point.

No trip to Portugal would be complete without seeing a haunting fado performance. Spend your evening watching a show with a glass of wine in a candle-lit tavern in the historic Mouraria district.

Day 3

Start the day by taking tram no. 15 to the Bellem district, perched on the banks of the Tejo Estuary. Admire coastal gems such as Belém Tower and the giant Monument to the Discoveries, which depicts 32 figures from Portugal’s exploratory past.

Finish your Lisbon sojourn in style with a sunset sail on the Tagus River. See the 25th April Bridge and the Christ the King monument, a nod to Rio de Janeiro, before topping off your time with a cocktail in Baixa Alto, the city’s liveliest nightlife district.

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