A three-day city getaway in Lisbon allows ample time to visit most of the main tourist attractions. This article includes travel tips for what to see and do during the three day trip.
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is one of the most unpublished “city break” cities in Europe. But despite this lack of tourist marketing, Lisbon is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and has a unique exotic quality that evokes the impression of a place far removed from Portugal’s colonial past. A three-day city getaway in Lisbon allows ample time to visit most of the main tourist attractions. It was early October when we enjoyed such a break and the weather was perfect.
Every day has blue skies and sunshine with a pleasant breeze preventing it from getting too hot.
Even so, the evenings are still warm enough to eat out. However, Lisbon’s weather isn’t always so good at the end of October and it’s probably safer to plan to visit a little earlier than we did. Our first afternoon was spent exploring St George’s Castle in the heart of Lisbon’s Alfama district, the oldest and most beautiful part of the city. The castle, like so many on the Iberian peninsula, was of Arab origin.
It is located on top of one of the highest of Lisbon’s many hills forming a switchback-like topography. The castle was taken by Christians from the Moors in 1147. It still retains its strong outer walls, various defensive buildings, eleven towers and the former Moorish palace which was the residence of the Kings of Portugal between the 14th and 16th centuries.
We find the castle where such an atmosphere is that we are content just to wander around its enchanting gardens, stop to look out of the fort over the panoramic red roof, or just sit and listen to a skilled guitarist playing the intoxicating melody in the courtyard below us. When we finally left the castle, we descended through the narrow streets and alleys of the Alfama district, where the pointed roofs of the houses almost touch each other and the sloping buildings seem to defy the law of gravity. The sudden appearance and the sound of the trams, creaking into view from around the corner, tell us we are back in the twenty-first century once again. But there is much more to enjoy on our way through the city and back to our hotel.
Our second day was spent visiting Sintra. Although Sintra is part of the Lisbon district, it is a city on its own and it takes about thirty minutes on local trains to get from Lisbon. It is simply one of the most beautiful places in Europe and holds world heritage status. Our days there were packed with things to do and sights to see. It was as if the landscape had been renovated into art. The former summer palace of the Portuguese king is located here. Built in the 14th century and later extended.
Many of the rooms are simply magnificent and the palace is a constant reminder of the grandeur and opulence of Portugal’s imperial past. There is another palace in Sintra that really demands the attention of tourists and their cameras. It’s called the Palace of the Pen and to see it you have to give up part of your day for a demanding hike or get a taxi to take you there. After all, the trip is worth it. Standing at 1500 meters high, this nineteenth-century building with its pink and yellow towers, dome and bridge is all things fairytale, Disney, and fantasy fiction. Also high in the hills, but much less hike to get to, are the remains of a Moorish castle dating from the 8th century.
A walk around the top of its expansive walls provides stunning views of the surrounding district.
Looking west, the glorious panoramas cover the Atlantic coast and it is easy to make up the many beautiful beaches that are located just a short drive from Sintra. Before leaving Sintra, make sure you leave time to stroll the medieval alleys, enjoying the many tourist shops. small with a stop at one of the cafes for a few drinks. Our last day was more of an unplanned, relaxed, sort of day. The highlight and the area we spent the most on was Lisbon’s lower city area, Baixa.
We also include the ruins of the Carmo Convent and further from the center, the Portuguese parliament building and the nearby botanical garden. In the afternoon we return to the Alfama district to explore the parts we missed on our first day. Like any other city getaway, there is a lot we don’t get to see but I feel that three days is just about the perfect time to get a feel for the exciting city.