So you think maybe you want to go to Portugal, but aren’t quite sure if you want to spend an entire week or even two there. If only you could go for just a few days to test the waters before making a decision. Well, now thanks to TAP Portugal Airlines, you can do exactly that!
TAP Portugal recently launched a new stopover program, similar to Icelandair’s stopover program, that gives passengers the opportunity to “discover Portugal on the way” to their final destination. Passengers on TAP can choose a stopover of 24, 48, or 72 hours in either Lisbon or Porto. When booking your stopover you have the option to choose how many nights you wish to stay in the city, and whether you’d like to stopover on your outbound or inbound flight. After completing your booking, TAP also helps you search for hotels in Portugal, making planning your stopover that much easier.
Your final destination doesn’t need to be another region within Portugal either! You can participate in the stopover program if you’re going to the Algarve or Azores, but also if you’re travelling on a long-haul flight to Africa or another European country. This program is essentially letting your explore you two destinations for the price of one!
On our way to the Algarve region of Portugal, Logan and I decided to take a 72-hour stopover in Lisbon to see what the country’s capital city had to offer. Lisbon is such a massive city with so much culture and history to explore, that we were nervous we wouldn’t be able to experience it all in one day. However, I think we were able to hit some of the top spots in Lisbon as well as a few hidden local gems in those three days.
Today I’m going to share our three-day itinerary with you to help you discover the best of Lisbon on the way to your final destination.
Spend your first morning in Lisbon crossing off some of the top items on your Lisbon Bucket List. Though I usually like to stay away from “typical tourist traps” there are some things you just have to do in some places – like ride the 28 tram in Lisbon. A ride along the entire 28 tram route provides one of the best tours of the capital and is often a highlight of any holiday to Lisbon. Be sure to get their early to avoid a crowded car and keep track of your belongings, as unfortunately, pitpocketers are known for targetting the tram.
After the tram ride check out the Santa Justa elevator. The lines are usually pretty long, so if you don’t have time you can skip going to the top (there are a ton of other great places in the city for great views), but at least check out the elevator from the street – it has an almost “Gotham City” feel to it.
In the afternoon, spend time exploring the central areas of Barrio Alto and Rossio. Rossio is a beautiful square in the centre of the city that houses a variety of cafes, restaurants, and shops. This is also where the main train station is located. Use the afternoon to sit back and enjoy an espresso around the square while you take in the hustle and bustle of the city.
Barrio Alto is a fun, quiet area of the city to explore during the day. It’s located high above the city, providing stunning views over central Lisbon. Be sure to check out Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara and the Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
When evening rolls around head on over to the Baxia district, considered to be the official downtown of Lisbon. This area is home to some of the best and authentic open-air restaurants that the city has to offer.
A tip to finding the best Portuguese food is to search for restaurants that don’t have their menu’s translated into English. These restaurants will be aimed at appealing to locals and will have the best selection of authentic cuisine. Steer clear of menus translated into English and restaurants with waiters standing on the street trying to bring people in – these will not only be more expensive, but they won’t have the best, authentic taste of certain dishes.
Don’t be worried about a menu you may not completely understand – letting your adventurous side come out will pay off, I promise! Simply ask the waiter for help translating or bring a dictionary to dinner to help you along. To start you off, you must try Caldo Verde, which is cabbage soup with Portuguese Churishio, and Bacalhau, famous Portuguese codfish that has over 365 methods of preparation. Don’t forget to enjoy some wine with your meal as well – Lisbon has a huge wine selection!
Begin your second day in Lisbon by taking a quick trip to Belem, reachable by a quick 30 minute tram ride. Stop in at Pasteis de Belem to try their famous natas tarts which have been made here originally since 1837 and are the best natas you’ll eat in all of Portugal. Natas are a Portuguese pastry filled with creamy egg custard, served warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon and icing sugar on top. Beat the long lines by enjoying your natas inside with an espresso instead of getting takeaway.
After enjoying your delicious breakfast hop on over to two of Lisbon’s most iconic attractions: Torre de Belém (Belém Tower) and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery).
Built strategically in the 16th century to protect the kingdom’s capital, Belém Tower quickly became the first symbolic icon for explorers and had an important role in the era of Portuguese Discoveries.
You can go inside the tower for a fee of 6 EUR, but it’s more of a tourist trap than anything. Instead, I’d recommend enjoying the tower from outside, or grabbing a bite at a nearby, waterfront restaurant for a stunning view while you dine. P.S. Keep in mind the tower is closed on Monday’s, so if you do want to go inside, plan around that.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery) is a massive and highly ornate monastery and a true architecture gem not to be missed. It’s impossible not to be dazzled with all the craftsmanship –this place is 500 years old!
The Monastery is currently under construction and will be closed until the end of Summer 2017 approximately. However, if you’re visiting in the future you can enter for a fee of 6 EUR, or buy a combo pass for 12 EUR to enter Belém Tower as well.
In the evening head back into the city to visit Parque Eduardo VII and Avenida da Liberdade.
Avenida da Liberdade, literally translated to Liberty’s Avenue, is where all the high-end boutiques, shops and hotels are located. Enjoy some some shopping – or window shopping – before grabbing a coffee at one of the outdoor cafes along the street.
After you finish your shopping head on up to Parque Eduardo to watch the sunset over the city. This spot offers one of the best viewpoints of the city. From there you can see a large part of the city skirted with vivid green gardens and the river Tejo as a backdrop.
Use your last morning in Lisbon to the oldest and most scenic area of the city, Alfama. Originally Alfama was home to the poor and desperate until it became the grim home of sailors and dock workers. Fortunately, today the area has been fully renovated and transformed into one of the trendiest sections of the city. This beautiful district is a maze of cobbled streets and stairways that lead up from the river to the castle and are filled with boutique shops and great nightlife.
Use the afternoon to explore Praça do Comércio (Comércio Square), the grandest square in Lisbon and one of the largest in Europe. This plaza is positioned on the edge of the Tagus estuary and is traditionally where traders would sell their goods. These days, the square is a beautiful spot to enjoy a stroll and take some photos. It’s also a huge transport hub in Lisbon. This square is the departure point for the tram network heading towards Belem and the departure point for the ferry that departs across the River Tagus. These ferry routes offer a very different perspective to Lisbon and allows the city to be viewed from the water.
Finish of your last day in Lisbon with a trip to LX Factory – the up and coming artsy area of Lisbon. In this area you’ll find a variety artists, from painters to musicians, sharing their crafts along the street. This area is very hipster and gives a unique look into up and coming Portuguese culture. Cheers to your last night with a Ginjinha drink – a sour cherry drink that locals love.
If you’re feeling like making your final night last a little longer, head back to the Barrio Alto district, which is home to some of the best nightlife in Lisbon and stunning Fado music. Dance and drink the night away with locals and end off your trip with a bang!
Airplanes & Avocados was welcomed as a guest of TAP Portugal. All Opinions are my own.