HOW TO SPEND 5 DAYS IN LISBON
Before I start to get into how to spend 5 days in Lisbon, I want to share some amazing facts about this beautiful city. To provide a little background information. Lisbon is the capital and largest city of Portugal. With an estimated 3 million people living within its metropolitan area it ranks as the 11th most populous city in the European Union and 3rd most populous city in the Iberian Peninsula. The River Tagus runs through the city, giving a stunning backdrop.
Lisbon is one of the warmest capital cities in Europe, with mild, rainy winters with average temperatures of 15C and in the summer average highs of 28C / 30C with approximately 12 hours of sunshine a day. The city of Lisbon is modern, vibrant, energetic city with loads of things to see and do. Lisbon and indeed all of Portugal is welcoming, friendly and extremely diverse.
Lisbon is a beautiful city. It is vibrant and full of life, yet remains calm and collective. Like a great place to hang out, take it easy and enjoy the slower pace of life. The city and country is full of culture, history and we are not even getting started with the food and hospitality. Lisbon really is a perfect place to visit and explore
In this post I will share my week long trip in Lisbon. I explored all of the highlights in 5 days, districts like Alfama, Belem and Bairro Alto. Some of the major highlights were also crossed off the list like Sao Jorge Castle, Belem Tower, Lisbon Cathedral and Praca do Comercio. We also took a day trip to the world famous Pena Palace in Sintra. We used public transport throughout our visit, using trams, metro and buses so will also go into detail on using them, I have some great tips on saving money while also showing you how to enjoy this amazing city.
Here is how to spend 5 days in Lisbon…
After a good night’s sleep, I was more than ready to enjoy my first full day in a brand new city. It was a mild morning at 19C already. We wanted to get up and out as soon as possible. I left the hotel at 08:45am and walked the short 10mins to the metro station (blue line). We chose to stay at the Holiday Inn Saldanha. It would turn out to be the perfect location, with easy access to the metro, trains and buses. Once we got to the metro station (Parque) we topped up our metro cards.
It costs just 6 euros a day for unlimited travel on the metro and buses around the city. We got the train to the “terrio de paco” station. This was right outside the main commerce square called “Praca do Comercio” and the city centre of Lisbon. We first checked out the square, the Rua Augusta Arch, the streets and stalls from around the square. It is a beautiful area, there were many people walking about. It was still early and turning into a beautiful morning.
As we were walking through Alfama a woman stopped us outside a restaurant and we took a look at the menu, we were both hot and needed some shelter from the sun and a drink so we choose to go into the restaurant. The restaurant was called “Casa dos Amigos” and it would turn out to be one of the best meals we had in Portugal. The waitress was exceptional. Friendly, chatty and even helped us pick the food from the menu. As it would be our first proper meal in Portugal we wanted to try some traditional food so opted for, “Bacalhau a Braz“, “Grilled Octopus” and “spicy prawns“. It was wonderful, we could not have asked for anymore.
After lunch, we continued to explore the city and so headed back to Praca do Comercio. We walked right along the sea wall area and into another very popular district “Barrio Alto“. Another extremely popular area of the city. We walked along the “green street” and even saw the “pink street” but didn’t go down it.
It was getting well into the afternoon now and it was getting really warm, about 26C so we wanted to stop again and we got a drink and some rest bite from the sun in the “time out” market. I had a wonder around the market and that was really busy. I then started to head back along the city wall toward the square, by this time it was getting close to 19:00hrs and we were getting hungry. We found a lovely little place on the roadside and had some food. After food we headed back toward the city centre and waited for our first Portugal sunset. Just after 20:00 we headed back on the metro and back to the hotel for the evening. The weather was still really mild, about 18C now and we had walked 27,989 steps. What a brilliant first day in Lisbon.
It was an early start today with a 6am wake up call. We left the hotel at 07:30am and headed for the metro station again. “Parque” station which would end up being the station we used most of the time. We got the metro to “resturadores” station, which brought us out in front of the “Foz Palace“. This was the meeting place for our guided tour today. Our guide “pablo” who we meet and got to know our group. He was very nice, welcoming and knowable. The weather was sunny/warm and perfect. We boarded the bus and made the 40min drive by mini bus to the town of Sintra. Sintra is town in the greater Lisbon area and a major tourist attraction.
The area is famed for its picturesqueness and the area has several historic palaces, castles, scenic beaches, mountains and parks. The town of Sintra is a World UNESCO Site Heritage site which continues to be one of the most visited areas in the country. Arrival in Sintra was around 09:20 and headed for a coffee as nothing opened until 10am. We found a lovely little café and we had a coffee and slice of cake each at “Casa Piriquita“. We then followed Pablo for a short 10min walk up the hill for our first stop of the day “Qunita de Regaleira“.
Qunita de Regaleira
This palace is a Portuguese national monument and considered one of the top two attractions in the town. During its history, it has seen many changes including owners as many have fought over this stunning building. The Palace is characterised as “Gothic” style with pinnacles, gargoyles and an impressive octagonal tower. The tower lends to some of the best views across the town of Sintra and the Sintra Mountains. However, this Palace is most famous for its system of tunnels and Initiation wells. The Initiation wells were never used for water, instead they were used for ceremonial purposes. Most of the time they were used for Tarot initiation rites. But, can also be linked to Freemasonry or Knights Templar. It certainly is a sight to behold. A single entry adult ticket into Qunita de Regaleira will cost you around £9.70.
It was certainly turning into a brilliant day. After the first stop we headed back into town to grab some lunch, we had 2hrs for lunch. We choose “Paco Real” for lunch this time around, they had a lovely little Terrence to sit out on the street. The service and food was amazing and I highly recommend the restaurant.
After lunch, we had a little look around Sintra town. As our restaurant was situated in the middle of the square it felt right to go and have a wonder around and get lost in the little side streets.
At around 13:20 we headed for the “Pena Palace” a very popular tourist spot in the country. In fact Pena Palace is the TOP tourist attraction in Lisbon and maybe in Portugal. The Palace, which is actually a castle is situated right at the top of the Sintra Mountains, it is also a Portuguese Monument and still today is used by the Portuguese President to hold state events. We took a short bus ride up to the palace and got our tickets to head inside. The palace is beautiful.
We got a full tour of all the rooms and info from Pablo. The history of this place really is something I enjoyed learning about. Like in the tearoom, where Queen Victoria was introduced to tea! The great opportunity with taking a tour is the palace is so popular there are timed ticket entrances, you can not just turn up and enter the Pena Palace. However, due to this being a booked tour this was all taken care off for us. It took a lot of stress out the day including parking and driving so we were able to enjoy this experience to the full.
At the end of the tour of the palace, we got 40mins to have a wonder around ourselves. It was still a warm day today at 25C and it was becoming overcast which was making it feel warmer. In total we spent about 3hrs in the Pena Palace which was more than enough, this allowed us to see everything.
We headed back to Lisbon on the bus leaving Sintra about 16:30. Finally we rolled back into Lisbon about 17:20pm. We walked down the “Avenue da Liberdade” which is the richest street in the city. It is lined with designer stores and coffee shops. Once we had, a look around we walked back to the hotel after a brilliant day of sightseeing. We popped out for dinner to a local restaurant and then headed back to the hotel, we had a few drinks in the bar getting to know some other guests and then finally went up to bed around 22:50hrs.
Sintra was high on my list of places to visit during this trip and it certainly did not disappoint. Sintra also has great public transport access, as the area is so popular. It is really worth a visit if staying in Lisbon for 5 days.
We finally managed to get a little sleep in today. The first day of our trip we did not wake up to an alarm clock. After Breakfast we headed for “Edward VII Parque” which was a short walk from the hotel. We had a lovely walk around the park and you get to see some stunning views of the city. I headed down the main path in the park and came out onto the start of “Avenue da Liberdade” so we headed back down that street and this time grabbed a little coffee at one of the many coffee shops lining the street.
We continued down that street to the resturandoes metro station and headed for the main square again “Praca do Comercio“. I got to the square and it was very busy today. We headed to the tourist hub in the square and got our Lisbon cards (24hr passes). These cards are a great way of saving money while in the city if you plan on doing and seeing a lot. You can opt for 24hrs, 48hrs of even 72hrs. The Lisbon Pass allows you to use unlimited travel on buses, trains and trams. It also allows access into many of Lisbon’s attractions.
We headed for another popular district in the city of Lisbon, the district of “Belem“. We got the bus from the main central bus station (No.728) and it took around 30mins to ride to Belem. The bus was packed and it was standing room only. We got to Belem about 1pm and found a little spot to grab some lunch. We opted for “Comptoir Parisien” for lunch. It was a lovely little spot with great food and great service.
After lunch it was a short walk to the “Jeronimos Monastery“, another major attraction in the area and the queue time was 2hrs. So, we opted NOT to visit inside but I am sure we will next time. The outside was just as impressive and we continued our walk along the main street to another very popular attraction in the city, “Torre de Belem“. As we had our Lisbon cards the entrance was already included. We joined the queue, which was 45mins and went on inside the tower. It was great to be inside and we got a really good history lesson on the tower and how it came to be, but also how important this structure would become to the defence and safe guarding of the city of Lisbon.
From the tower we walked along the riverfront, we grabbed an ice cream and continued making our way along the front to another impressive attraction in the area “Padrao dos Descobrimentos“. Padrao dos Descobrimentos was built in 1940. It is a very impressive statue and the views from the observation deck are excellent. After the statue it was time to start heading back to the main square again as it was now 17:30 and most of the attractions were all starting to close for the day. However, it was still a stunning day and we wanted to stay in the area for as long as possible so took a short walk to the famous “Pasteis de Belem” and grabbed some traditional Portuguese tarts and a coffee.
The bus/tram station was pretty much outside the store so we popped over the road and as we have not been on a tram yet. We jumped on the No.15 Tram back to the city centre. It took us right back to the main square and took about 20mins or so. We stayed in the square to watch the sunset and after the sunset we headed through the Arch and found the famous “Santa Justa Lift” A very cool thing to see and free access with our Lisbon Cards. We then started to make our back to the hotel using the metro, we went back via the Edward VII Parque gardens again to grab some pictures of the gardens and city by night.
It was hot already today, already at 19C and only 08:45am. Breakfast this morning was cereal and some fruit, I did not want too much as I was saving myself for the main event lunch later today. We headed into town. We got on the metro from the Parkque station to the central square again and walked down to the local ferry terminal. As today we would be checking out another part of the city on the other side of the river.
We got the “Cacilhas” ferry across the river Tagus which took only 10mins. It was easy and simple and only cost 7 euros each for a return. We got to the other side and headed for the restaurant I had booked for my birthday lunch. The walk along the river’s edge was lovely. I highly recommend it, even if just for the walk. We got to the restaurant “Ponto Final” a little early so needed to wait a while for lunch service to begin.
The setting was amazing and once we were seated, I could not believe the experience. The service, food, atmosphere and general feel of the place was exceptional. I highly recommend booking a table. As it was my birthday they put us in the best seats of the restaurant right at the end of the dock with uninterrupted views over the river and Lisbon. It was amazing. I had Sea Bass and Nathan had Sea Bream for the first time. It really was a wonderful experience. As it is a popular place to eat, I would recommend booking a table in advance like we did.
After the amazing lunch, it was time to head up the hill to see the “Sanctuary of Christ the King” Statue. This statue is a Catholic monument dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus Christ. The statue was completed in 1959 and is inspired by Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro. From the Ponto Final restaurant it was about a 45min walk, however be warned it is all uphill. The views once we got there were brilliant and they were even better once we got to the top of the statue. We could see in every direction for miles. This is also one of the best places to get the best views of the 25 de Abril Bridge. After the statue which does feature toilets and a café we stopped for a drink and a snack ready for the walk back to the ferry.
We walked back and it was really warm today, 28C (our hottest day) so far and not a cloud in the sky. It really could not have been a better way to spend my birthday. We made our way back to the Almada town centre and got some ice cream. I got the ferry back across the river and stopped in the central square for some dinner. We both went for “Octopus”. After our last evening meal in Lisbon, we sat and watched the sunset. As our time in Lisbon was ending, we could not escape the moment of reflection of our time here as we watched the sunset.
It was an early start today with an alarm call of 0630am. We had some breakfast at the hotel finished packing our cases, cleared up the room then headed out to checkout. It all went fine, no issues at all and the hostel in Lisbon is a great place to stay, I cannot recommend it enough.
We left the hotel and it was already hot/humid at 21C and only 09:30am at this point. There was not a cloud in the sky either and it was turning into a brilliant day. From the accommodation, we walked down to the train station (entrecampos) as we were getting a train to destination no.2 today. The station was only 15mins away (walking) from the accommodation so we walked down. We arrived at the station to find out that the train company was on strike and there might not be any trains running at all. Some trains were running but at a reduced service. Due to the strikes, there was also NO staff on duty at the station. It was lucky that we had already ordered and brought our tickets online.
The main board in the station did however show our train running. It would be arriving at the station as planned at 10:10am on Platform 4. We waited on the platform and still no train had arrived. There were also other people gathering on the platform all-looking for the same train to Faro. As mentioned there was NO staff to ask, all platform staff and ticket office staff were out on strike.
Because of the strikes and very lucky I did, the night before we did get wind that trains might be an issue. I booked two adult tickets on the last coach leaving Lisbon for Faro for today. However, the coach was leaving the main coach station at Oriente at 12:30pm, so by now we had just over 1hr to get from entrecampos to Oriente. We raced across the city on the metro (red line) which meant a short walk back to the hotel to jump on the metro. Using another 6 euros, we jumped on the metro and headed for Oriente.
We did arrive a little stressed/hungry/sweaty and desperate for a wee with 15mins to spare. We finally have our wee, managed to get a drink (as we brought some supplies the day before for the train journey) and I found our bus (1010 Faro) to Faro. The coach was lovely, we used Flexibus and they were brilliant. The buses were comfortable, had WiFi/Aircon and plenty of room for our luggage. We grabbed our seats (4A/4B) and settled into the journey. It ended up taking 3hrs, 45mins to drive with us finally arriving in Faro about 1610pm.
We found the hotel after a short walk from the drop off point. I checked in and finally we could relax and enjoy the last part of the trip. We had made it to Faro, on Portugal’s Algarve. To read how this part of the trip went, I have another blog post coming soon. I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope it gives you some insight on how to spend 5 days in Lisbon.
It is hard to argue that Lisbon is one of the best cities I have visited in Europe to date. I believe there are a few things to strike out about Lisbon. The first, although it is a capital city it does not feel like one.
Not once did I feel like I was in a capital city. The entire city atmosphere and ambience creates a laid-back approach to life in the city. No one was really in a rush anywhere, strangers wanted to stop and talk to you in the street. The ticket woman at the metro wanted to know if I was having a great day. You certainly do not get this in cities like, London, Paris or Madrid. Maybe the weather helps; everyone seems happier and enjoying life. This makes the entire city uplifting in a way and brings a sense of calm and a good feeling nature about the place. Sure, I guess in peak summer months it may be busier. We travelled in early April and although the weather was great, maybe this is the best time of year to visit.
The second thing about Lisbon and Portugal is the amount of history the country has. This I was not expecting at all.
For such a small country, in fact Portugal is 2.6 times smaller than the UK in size (land mass) and has a population of 10.3 million people. To compare the UK has a population of 67 million, so it is a lot smaller. However, the country has so much history. Lisbon is packed with historic landmarks, museums and districts. Alfama is one of the oldest districts in Europe and was the building blocks for what now has become Lisbon. Alfama was the earliest known settlement of people, it become so popular and grew over the years, which we now call Lisbon. There are royal palaces, castles and monuments all over the city and further afield paying respects for the people from the past that made Portugal what is today. I was blown away by the history this small country has to offer and loved learning all about it.
Check here for flights to Lisbon.
I also recommend looking for parking options at Gatwick Airport. I always use APH.
Using public transport in Lisbon is excellent. We used buses, Trams and the metro during our trip and all were brilliant. On time, conformable, air-conditioning and easy to use. I really recommend using the Lisbon Card. We used it for the 72hrs and it really saved us some money and time having all public transport already paid for.
For me Lisbon was more than just a city break. It was a city to switch off, enjoy life and not take anything to serious for a change. It was a chance to reset the batteries, enjoy great food and hospitality. For the first time in my life I was able to celebrate my birthday in a foreign country, it was an epic birthday, and for that, I will always have a love in my heart for Lisbon. I am sure, once you visit, you will too.
Until Next Time…