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woman at Sky Bar
woman at Sky Bar
Original photo by Claire Brodish

An Instagram-able 5 Day Travel Itinerary for Lisbon, Portugal

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UVA chapter.

Lisbon, Portugal is a city on the up-and-coming as a cool travel destination for American students. It is a wonderful city, full of historical sites, beautiful beaches, fine dining, and nightlife that is sure to offer something for everyone. I spent two months in Lisbon last summer for an internship and became well acquainted with the sights. So, having seen it all, here are my top recommendations for visitors (with particular focus on the most Instagram-able spots for your Instagram travel post, of course).

Lisbon has earned a special place in my heart (especially as a destination for young people) because:

  • Ubers are cheap and abundant, making your travel experience seamless
  • The locals are very friendly and most speak English, which can ease travel anxieties especially for young women and solo travelers concerned about language barriers
  • There are so may low-cost historic sights, museums, and beaches to explore
  • Accommodations and food are very affordable, so it is easy to travel with budget-minded friends
woman at Sky Bar
Original photo by Claire Brodish

day 1

Museo Nacional do Azuelejo (National Tile Museum)

The National Tile Museum is one of Lisbon’s hidden gems. Despite its extraordinary collection of Portuguese tiles, it is less-traveled by tourists because it is a bit out of the way. However, with a 10 minute Uber, you can easily add it to your travel itinerary. Bring cash to pay the small entrance fee. This was easily one of my favorite sights and will not disappoint.

National Tile Museum, Lisbon, Portugal
Original photo by Claire Brodish

Castelo de Sao Jorge

While in Lisbon, you must go to the Sao Jorge Castle, as it is a popular landmark and tourist attraction. While the actual castle’s interior is not very impressive (in my opinion!) It is worth going to see beautiful panoramic views of the city as well as the peacocks that roam the property.

Sky Bar Lisboa

Sky Bar Lisboa is by far the most beautiful bar in Lisbon. Located on the rooftop of the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Hotel, it offers premium cocktails and premium views of the city. The bar area is decorated in chic floral arrangements. I recommend taking photos on the elegant white steps that lead down to the bar area. The drinks are expensive but so worth it for the views!

Sky Bar Lisboa rooftop view
Original photo by Claire Brodish

day 2

Praia de Carcavelos (for surfing lessons)

Carcavelos Beach is an awesome destination to get some beach time while in Lisbon. It is about a 15 minute uber from the center of the city. I highly recommend getting surf lessons in the morning. The waves in Lisbon are nice and easy for beginners to catch some waves!

Honest greens (lunch)

Honest Greens is my all time favorite lunch spot in Lisbon. It is a cool, trendy cafe and lunch spot that serves salads, fresh meat and rice dishes, and a selection of pastries. While in Portugal, I ordered their chicken goat cheese salad about a dozen times! It is a fast casual set up, so its great for a quick healthy lunch. It does get quite busy from 12-1 so keep that in mind. There is also a lovely downstairs lounge area which is excellent for remote work or reading if you need some down time on your trip for a coffee. 

Tagus river boat rentals

While in Lisbon, you must do a boat rental on the Tagus River. You can see many of the city’s landmarks from the river and enjoy a beautiful sunset. There are also a lovely strip of restaurants at the main port where boat tours take off, so there are lots of options for dinner after an afternoon boat trip.

woman sitting on a boat on the River Tagus
Original photo by Claire Brodish

Izanagi (dinner)

Izanagi is a nice Japanese restaurant located right by the Tagus River, making it an excellent stop post-boat tour. If you are seeking some cuisine other than prawns (Portuguese cuisine is heavy on seafood) this is a great place to go. The menu is affordable but also very high quality. The outdoor seating has great views of the river, even at night, as you can see the bridge illuminated by lights.

River Tagus views at night
Original photo by Claire Brodish

day 3 (sintra day trip)

Parque e Palacio da Pena

For your day trip to Sintra, which is about 30 minutes from Lisbon, first stop at the Pena Palace. You can either Uber there (I think this is preferable if you can afford to do so) or take public transportation. This is the site of the picturesque castle and is located on the top of the mountain. I recommend buying a ticket online in advance to avoid the entrance lines.

Quinta de Regaleira

The less-visited gardens of Regaleira are whimsical and filled with fascinating history. While you are there, check out the Poco iniciatico (the Initiation Well), a massive well that was once used for initiation ceremonies for a secret society. The well is so impressive and really makes you wonder about its mysterious origins.

The Initiation Well, Sintra, Portugal
Original photo by Claire Brodish

Palacio Nacional de Queluz (hidden gem)

On your way back from Sintra, stop at the Queluz National Palace. This beautiful palace is a hidden gem within Lisbon. Very few tourists visit here, as it is about 15 minutes from the heart of Lisbon. However, it is well-worth the drive! The rooms of the palace are over the top, and the gardens are very interesting, as well.

Queluz National Palace, Lisbon, Portugal
Original photo by Claire Brodish

Al Garage (dinner)

Once you have settled back into your accommodation in Lisbon, head over to Al Garage for dinner. Al Garage is an Italian restaurant well-loved by the locals for its large menu and charming ambiance. While staying in Lisbon, I was very impressed by the Italian restaurants, so if you are also a fan of Italian food, this restaurant is a great choice!

day 4

Torre de Belem

Stop by the Belem Tower to snap a picture in front of this historic landmark. While you are there, you can wait in line to tour the actual tower. However — hot take — I don’t think it is worth the long waits. Instead, walk five minutes down the strip to the next monument (mentioned below) for even better panoramic views of the city.

woman standing in front of the Belem Tower
Original photo by Claire Brodish

Padrao dos Descombrimientos

This monument is absolutely breathtaking. Unbeknownst to many tourists, there is an elevator within the monument that takes tourists up to the top of the monument to take beautiful views of the city and Tagus River.

Praia de Ursa

In the afternoon, take an Uber to Ursa Beach for an unforgettable beach experience. Ursa Beach is Lisbon’s best kept secret — this beach is absolutely stunning. I will note that you do need to hike down a cliff to get to the beach. The hike is quite steep and challenging at points, so I wouldn’t recommend bringing elderly family or those with physical disabilities as there are currently no accessible ways to get to the beach. Bring athletic sneakers and water with you. Have your Uber drop you off by the lighthouse so you can take the popular hike down to the beach. When I visited, my friends made the mistake of taking a less-traveled path and we ended up having to butt-scooch down a rock cliff. On your hike down, take lots of pictures of the ocean. Once you get to the beach, soak up the beautiful rock formations lining the beach. Be careful if you choose to swim as the current can be pretty strong here.

Praia de Ursa beach view
Original photo by Claire Brodish
woman at Praia de Ursa (beach in Lisbon, Portugal)
Original photo by Claire Brodish

day 5

Oceanario de Lisboa

For your last day in Lisbon, check out the enormous aquarium. If you are not into aquariums though, feel free to skip this one. I really loved seeing the sea otters and shark tank. At the ticket booth for the aquarium you can also purchase tickets for the Sky Gondola behind the aquarium. The Gondola offers a 5-minute trip through the sky to take in the views of the city and water. This was a very memorable ride for me, and I would definitely recommend doing it if you go to the aquarium.

Sky Gondola at Lisbon Aquarium
Original photo by Claire Brodish

La Avenida Liberdade

Finally, to ring in your time in Lisbon, treat yourself to lux shopping on the Liberdade Avenue. On weekends, there are also outdoor vendors that set up along the street selling jewelry, clothing, and souvenirs to take home with you.

I hope this article was helpful to you. If you are traveling to Lisbon soon, enjoy your stay! And if you are on the fence about whether or not to add Lisbon to your next trip abroad, I definitely think it is worth it!

Claire Brodish is a third-year student at the University of Virginia studying Commerce. Claire serves as the chapter's President. Keep up with her on Instagram @claire_brodish xx