Lisbon itinerary in 4 days
Lisbon is a gem which is often overlooked. It is a bustling European city which is just the right size to explore in a few days. Its charm lies in the hills that are scattered throughout the city. Restaurants and cafes line the inclines and hill tops. The city is not as picture-perfect as some of the more popular European capitals but that's part of its charm. With friendly people who speak English well, it should be on everyone's go-to list.
Arrive in Lisbon and check into the lovely Avenida Palace Hotel.
Grab lunch at a local restaurant
Our private guide, Claudia DaCosta, met us at our hotel and gave us a walking tour of Old Town, Chiado, Alfama, Castle and Baixa. We walked up and down the hills - and even rode the old elevator to the top of Carmo Area.
This tour gave us an excellent introduction to the city, which is very walkable, despite it being quite hilly. It was good to do it in the late afternoon as it wasn’t so hot outside. We covered a lot of ground over four hours.
At the end of the tour, Claudia dropped us off at a restaurant, called Joao do Grao, located on Rua Correeiros (one of the main streets near our hotel), and even took the time to order our dinner in Portuguese. She ordered the seafood special which was delicious.
We started our day with a food tour through Inside Lisbon. Our guide was a young man who grew up in Lisbon. There were two other people on the tour. He walked us through Chiado and Baixa explaining the history and giving us delicious tastings along the way. He also took us to a couple of artisan shops – one cork and one hand painted tiles, where we purchased some beautiful souvenirs. The tour ended across the river at a restaurant with a beautiful view of Lisbon.
We went to the Gulbenkian Museum which was beautiful. It is an art museum with a large collection of colourful Moorish tiles and other crafts. It also had a gorgeous exhibit of a contemporary Portuguese artist named Escado. The museum grounds include a lush garden with walking paths. Highly recommended if you want to do something indoors during the mid-day heat.
We decided to go on a Sunset Tapas and Fado Tour. This was mainly in the Alfama area. We had a nice group of about 10 people from all over the world. We learnt more history about the area and about Fado - the traditional Portuguese guitar playing and singing. The evening included wine tastings and a Fado show with dinner.
Day trip to Sintra
I did a lot of research about different tours in Sintra. Some can pick you up in Lisbon, drive you there, drop you off to tour the palaces on your own and then drive you back. If you do this privately it is extremely expensive. If you do it in a group, you are bound by the pace of the other members.
Because we wanted guided tours inside the palaces we chose to take a train to Sintra and hire a local guide, Christina Quental, for a walking tour. This worked out very well. The high-speed train gets you to Sintra very quickly and leaves Lisbon often.
Christina met us in the train station in Sintra, then we took a cab to the beautiful Pena Palace at the top of the hill. She was able to get us quickly through the line and into the Palace. The bright red and yellow exterior of the Pena Palace are a beautiful contrast to the light blue sky. The interior is ornate with royal artifacts and furnishings. We spent the morning in this palace.
We then walked through the lush Pena Palace gardens (not to be missed). The gardens are filled with a variety of interesting trees, shrubs, flowers and even a pond with rare black swans. It took about an hour to meander down the paths into the town where we had a delicious lunch in a French bistro, called Cafe de Paris, across from the Villa Palace. Our goat cheese and zucchini salad with a blueberry dressing was refreshing and hit the spot.
We spent the afternoon touring inside the Villa Palace, which is just as beautiful, then walked around the town and headed back to the train station to catch our train back to Lisbon. Christina was an excellent guide.
We decided to stop in the beach town of Cascais and have a light dinner on the beach at the Albatroz Hotel. This was easy by train and worked out perfectly. We got back to our hotel, after a nice long day of touring.
On our last day in Lisbon we did a private walking tour of Belem with Sandra Felix. She was an outstanding guide. We met her in front of the Jeronimos Monastery. She took us right in (skipped the line) for a tour inside the monastery which was gorgeous and interesting. The Monastery has beautiful architectural detail and includes a lovely courtyard. From there we went to the fotified Belem Tower. The line-up was very long but she was able to “fast-pass” us through the line (we were so impressed) and we went to the top to see the views.
After the tour Sandra dropped us off at an excellent fish restaurant, called Rota do Infante. She recommended that after lunch we go to Pasteis de Belem, famously known for their delicious and creamy custard tarts. They are divine. The bakery uses a "secret" recipe that was used in the late 1800's by the pastry chefs in the Jeronimos Monastery.
Sandra suggested that rather than wait in the long line at the take-out counter, that we go inside the café – which is huge and has lots of rooms. We were able to get a table and order tarts and ice coffee which really hit the spot. This turned out to be quicker than standing in line. The tarts did not disappoint - they were creamy and warm, straight out of the oven. We ordered three and were practically licking the plates.
We stayed in Belem for the afternoon and went to Museu Berardo which is an impressive gallery of modern and contemporary art. It was a great way to spend the afternoon inside with air conditioning.
We walked around Baixa and went to Pharmacia restaurant. This restaurant is on a hillside with a beautiful patio with a view toward the river. The food is modern Portugese. Afterwards we went for ice cream at the famous Gelado Santini. They have several locations and are known for their colourful, fruit-flavoured sorbets with all natural ingredients. If you have a sweet tooth or enjoy a refreshing ice cream during the summer heat, head to Santini.
From Lisbon we headed to London for four days. See itinerary for London in 4 days.
Guides and Tours
Claudia DaCosta - Private tour guide in Lisbon. Very knowledgable and good introductory tour of city.
Cell: +351 965 560 216
Inside Lisbon - Food Tour and Sunset Fado Tour - Nice guides and interesting tours and tastings
Email: ; Phone: +351 968 412 612 and +351 211 914 545
Christina Quental - Private tour guide in Sintra. Very knowledgeable.
Cell: +351 919 922 480
Sandra Felix - Private guide of Belem area. Booked through Premium Tours. This tour company is very reasonably priced and Sandra was an excellent guide.
Phone: (+351) 917 213 730 or (+351) 917 376 789
Additional resources beyond Lisbon:
If you will be travelling throughout Portugal, check out the helpful guide by Suitcase Six.
Joao do Grao in the centre of town. This restaurant is famous for its delicious seafood stew (aldeira de bacalhau).
Rota do Infante is a very good fish restaurant in Belem. A nice place to have lunch. Their specialty is grilled fish.
Pasteis de Belem for the famous Belem tarts. Try to find a table inside (it's deceivingly large inside). Sit down and have an ice coffee with the tarts.
Pharmacia Restaurant is a modern Portugese restaurant. Very good food and beautiful patio.
Santini ice cream shop. This ice cream is famous in Lisobon for it's natural fruit ice creams.
Cafe de Paris is a nice spot for lunch. We had a delicious goat cheese salad that our guide recommended.
Gulbenkian Museum is a wonderful museum of art with a focus on Portuguese art over the centuries, including Moorish tiles and a collection of beautiful modern Portuguese art. It also has lush gardens with winding paths. Highly recommended, especially in the afternoon as a nice spot to get out of the summer heat.
Museu Berardo is an impressive contemporary art museum in the Belem area. It has an incredible international collection. Highly recommended while you are in Belem.
My sister-in-law and I have travelled together before, but always with our families. This time, we decided to do a girls trip to Europe. London was a given because my son was studying there. We chose Lisbon as our other destination, for it's beautiful weather, old architecture and hopefully some good meals along the way.