Top tips for a perfect Lisbon weekend break

Tiempo de lectura: 10 minutos
Panoramic view in Lisbon with tourist

Lisbon really is one of our favourite cities. There are a lot of places we love. And we mean a lot! But Lisbon will always have a special place in our heart. It’s hard to put our finger on exactly what it is, but there’s something about its faded grandeur, its mix of cultures and the way it seems to sit guard on the edge of the Atlantic that makes it a truly magical place.

It’s a city you can spend a lifetime getting to know but it’s also perfect for a weekend break. The centre of the city is fairly compact and easy to explore. And full of amazing things to see, taste and do. In fact, you don’t really need to do anything to have a good time. One of the great joys of the city is sitting outside a bar, drinking a coffee, soaking in the city’s unique charms while you watch the world go by.

Here’s our guide to the perfect weekend in Lisbon. We hope it helps you make the most of your time in this fantastic city.

If you’re on a weekend break, you’re obviously not going to see and do it all. It’s good to plan ahead and choose the places you want to visit. Here are our top 5 places in Lisbon to see if you’re only in the city for a few days.

São Jorge Castle

View of Castle San Jorge in Lisbon

You really can’t miss São Jorge Castle because it can be seen from all over the city. Just look up and there it is! The castle stands on top of São Jorge Hill, the highest of the city’s seven hills. There’s been a fortification of some kind here for more than 2,000 years!

The current, medieval, castle is nearly 900 years old.  Visitors to the castle are treated to a journey through time. Walking through its sturdy walls and expansive grounds, one can explore ancient ruins, peer through cannons, visit museum exhibits that showcase archaeological finds, and wander through well-kept gardens. The castle’s eleven towers, several of which are open to the public, offer intimate glimpses into medieval military architecture.

Tower of Ulysses

Among these, the Tower of Ulysses, which houses a camera obscura, presents a fascinating 360-degree view of Lisbon, ingeniously projected onto the walls of a darkened room. Whether you’re soaking in the history, enjoying the panoramic vistas, or simply relishing a peaceful stroll along its ramparts, San Jorge Castle is a captivating escape into the heart and soul of Lisbon’s history.

Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery

Front of Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon

Lisbon’s Belém district is one of the city’s most charming areas. Situated on the banks of the Tagus, it’s home to two of the city’s star attractions. The Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery. These two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are both must-visits. The Belém Tower is a beautiful example of Manueline architecture, while the Jerónimos Monastery is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

Belém Tower

The Belém Tower was built to help protect the mouth of the river Tagus and serve as place for Portugal’s great explorers to embark and disembark as they began and ended their great voyages of discovery. Over the years, it’s come to symbolise the Age of Discovery and the city of Lisbon itself. It’s a fascinating place to visit and we’re sure you’ll love the views from the top of the tower.

Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery is perhaps the city’s most impressive building. This vast structure has a front façade that’s 300 metres long! The Monastery was built in the 16th century with money raised by taxing the Portuguese spice trade with India. It was a religious building until the 19th century, Like the Belém Tower, it’s come to represent the Portugues Age of Discovery.  Vasco da Gama started his first voyage of discovery from just near where both buildings would be built.

Today, they’re both representative of Lisbon itself and places you have to visit if you’re exploring the city. You can’t really say you’ve seen Lisbon until you’ve seen them!

Baixa, the neighbourhood reborn after the Great Earthquake

The Baixa district is the heart of Lisbon. It’s home to many of the city’s most important landmarks, including the Rossio, Commerce Square, and the Santa Justa Lift.


The whole area was destroyed in the massive earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1755. Before the earthquake, the Baixa area was a maze of higgledy-piggledy streets that had been built without plan over the years. As much of a disaster as the earthquake was, it have the era’s enlightened thinkers the chance to rebuild the city on new more organised lines more in line with the current ideas of what cities should be.

The Marques de Pombal, Portugal’s despotic leader at the time, oversaw the rebuilding of the Baixa. It was the first time buildings had been built to resist earthquakes. Fortunately, how effective they are hasn’t been tested by any earthquake with the force of the one that hit in 1755!

Grand squares like Praça do Comércio and stately avenues like Avenida de Liberdade were built. We don’t imagine that anyone involved thought how important these would be to the city’s popularity as a tourist destination centuries later!

Praça do Comércio

Praça do Comércio is an amazing space. It sits on the banks of the Tagus and is the gateway to the Baixa district. Measuring 175 metres by 175 metres, it’s the second largest square in the country and almost definitely our favourite!

It’s not our favourite part of the Baixa though. That honour goes to the Santa Justa lift. This lift, which looks like something out of a 19th-century steampunk fantasy, was built to make it easier for people to get from the lower area of the Baixa to the higher streets of Largo do Carmo.

The lift is always popular with tourists as it’s such an unusual looking structure and it’s an unusual experience. There’s often a queue to ride it, but we think it’s worth it. There are stairs too but they’re definitely more of an effort, even if potentially quicker!

Oceanário, a magical aquarium

Penguins in the Oceanario, Lisbon

The Oceanário is one of the largest aquariums in Europe. It welcomes up to a million visitors a year, who come to see it’s incredible collection of fish and other water-dwelling animals.

Star of the show is possibly the sun fish, one of the few in any aquarium. This magnificent beast is one of the world’s largest bony fish. In the wild, sun fish can weight over 1000 kilograms! That’s as much as car!

The Oceanário is also home to other lovable creatures such as penguins, otters, rays, starfish, octopuses and seahorses. It’s also home to perhaps less lovable creatures like sharks and sea urchins – though that, of course, depends on your point of view! After all, one person’s meat is another person’s poison…

If you love life under the water, then Lisbon’s Oceanário is just the ticket.

Get lost in the Alfama district

The Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest and perhaps most charming district. It’s a maze of narrow streets and alleyways, with many traditional restaurants and shops. It’s also home to some of Lisbon’s must-see sights.

Top of the pile (literally) is the already mentioned São Jorge Castle. Only a ten-minute walk away from the castle is Lisbon Cathedral. We’d recommend walking from the Castle to the Cathedral, not the other way around as it’s quite a climb.

For us, the best way to get to the Castle is on our hop-on hop-off green line. Once there, you can choose whether to hop back on to head down the hill and to go back on foot.

Lisbon Cathedral

The cathedral has survived three major earthquakes. Though each left its mark with different amounts of reconstruction being needed. It’s the oldest church in the city and open to the public every day. Admission is relatively cheap.

Feira da ladra flea market

Another highlight of the Alfama is the Feira da Ladra, Lisbon’s famous flea market, which takes place every Tuesday and Saturday. This market has existed in one form or another for almost eight centuries! It’s a brilliant place to while away a sunny Saturday morning, while you take in the mixture of antiques, hand-crafted goods and, to be honest, junk. There are several excellent bars where you can stop to enjoy a coffee or some toast too. We think that breakfast at the Feira da Ladra is one of the quintessential Lisbon experiences.

Fantastic Fado

Alfama is one of the places that can claim to be the birthplace of fado, Portugal’s mournful popular music. It was definitely home to some of the city’s Casas de Fado, where the music was first played. Today, you can still hear the music being played through the Alfama. It’s also home to the Fado Museum, where you can learn about all this particularly Portuguese music.

The star of Alfama, however, is Alfama itself. There’s nothing better than sitting outside a bar with a coffee and a pasteis de nata, soaking in Alfama’s unique atmosphere and watching the world go by.

What to pack for a Lisbon weekend trip

Lisbon has a climate that many other places might envy. It’s warm and sunny in summer and generally mild in winter. Summer days can get very hot and winter days can see a lot of rain, but more often than not the weather is good. Before you go, keep an eye on the forecast and pack accordingly.

One tip if you’re travelling in the warmer months is to take a light top for the evenings as temperatures can drop a bit. If you’re sitting on a terrace enjoying an evening meal, you might well appreciate the option of having a cardigan.

Taste the local cuisine: 5 tasty dishes to try

Grilled sardines in LisbonLisbon is a foodie paradise, with a wide variety of delicious food. Here are a few of the local specialties you won’t want to miss:

  • Sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines)
  • Bacalhau à Brás (a codfish and potato dish)
  • Cataplana de marisco (a seafood stew)
  • Pasteis de nata (a custard tart)
  • Bifana (a cheap and yummy pork sandwich)

Don't ride the 28 tram at rush hour!

The 28 tram is a popular tourist attraction, but it can get very crowded, especially during rush hour. If you want to avoid the crowds, it’s best to take the tram early in the morning or late at night. An excellent alternative is our hop-on hop-off bus!

Where to stay in Lisbon for a weekend

Lisbon has a wide variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Here are a few suggestions for where to stay:

  • Bairro Alto is a lively district with a vibrant nightlife. It’s got plenty of small hotels and tourist apartments.
  • Alfama is also packed with places to stay.
  • Avenidas Novas is a little further away from the river, but still a great place to stay. It’s a modern district with a family-friendly atmosphere.

Learn some Portuguese expressions

Learning a few basic Portuguese expressions will help you get by during your weekend in Lisbon. Here are a few useful phrases:

  • Olá (hello)
  • Obrigado or Obrigada (thank you from men or women)
  • Por favor (please)
  • Sim (yes)
  • Não (no)

Many people in Lisbon speak excellent English, but they’ll appreciate any attempt to show off your Portuguese no matter how bad it is!

Bring a plug adapter

The electrical outlets in Portugal are different from those in the United Kingdon, the United States and Canada. You’ll need to bring an electric adapter if you want to use your electronic devices.

Romantic weekend in Lisbon? Find out where to enjoy the sunset

View from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, LisbonLisbon is a fantastic destination for a romantic weekend. It’s got such a romantic vibe that you might find a break that doesn’t start out being romantic ends up that way!

It’s such a beautiful city with many stunning viewpoints. The city has lots of terraces that are used as viewing points from where you can admire the beauty of the city together.

These are some of our favourite places to enjoy the sunset:

  • Miradouro da Senhora do Monte: This is the highest viewing point in the city, and it has some of the very best views. You can see all of Baixa below you, as well as Sao Jorge Castle on the other side of the city centre.  It’s a fantastic place to watch the sun go down over the city.
  • Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara: Another fantastic place to see the city. From this expansive terrace, you can see the entire city.
  • Miradouro das Portas do Sol: This picturesque viewing pointing Alfama has amazing views over this atmospheric neighbourhood and the Tagus. Chances are that you’ll be serenaded by a street singer while you’re there. We’re not sure if that makes it more or less romantic!

We know you'll love your weekend in Lisbon

Lisbon is a wonderful city with something to offer everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or nightlife, you’re sure to have a great time on your weekend getaway.

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Frequently Asked Questions

There are several convenient options to get from Humberto Delgado Airport (Lisbon Airport) to the city center:

  • Metro: One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways. The airport is connected by the Red Line (Linha Vermelha) that takes you to the Saldanha station, where you can switch to other lines depending on your final destination in the city. The journey to the city centre takes about 20 minutes.
  • Aerobus: A dedicated airport shuttle bus service that connects the airport with major points in the city. It operates from 7:30 AM to 11 PM, and tickets can be purchased on the bus or online in advance.
  • Taxis and Ride-Sharing Services: Available right outside the arrivals terminal. They offer a direct route to your destination. Be aware that taxi fares may vary depending on the time, traffic, and extent of the journey, but there’s a fixed price policy for trips from the airport to the city center.
  • Car Rental: For those preferring more independence, car rental services are available at the airport.

The best time to visit Lisbon is either from March to May or September to October, due to the pleasant weather and smaller crowds. During these months, you’ll find comfortable temperatures and less congestion at major tourist spots, making it ideal for exploring the city. The summer months, June through August, offer beautiful weather but can be quite crowded and hot. The winter months are cooler and rainier but could be perfect for those looking to explore the city without the crowds, and this period also often offers lower accommodation rates.

  • LX Factory: Once an industrial complex, this vibrant space in the Alcântara neighbourhood is now a creative hub filled with quirky shops, fascinating bookstores, trendy restaurants, and art installations.
  • Museu Nacional do Azulejo: Explore the beauty and history of Portuguese tiles at this lesser-known museum housed in a magnificent former convent.
  • Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira: Located a bit outside the city center, this 17th-century palace showcases stunning Portuguese tiles, beautiful gardens, and intricate stonework away from the tourist crowds.
  • Príncipe Real Neighbourhood: Skip the more frequented areas and head to this trendy district known for its unique boutiques, organic markets, charming gardens, and a slower pace of life.

These locations offer a deep dive into Lisbon’s rich history and contemporary culture beyond the typical tourist spots, making them perfect for a unique weekend break.

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