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A photo of Lisbon orange brick rooftops in the foreground with the ocean in the background.

How Ultimate Break Does Lisbon in 7 Days

Lisbon is the perfect place to stroll through history and take day trips to fairytale villages while daydreaming about what wine you’ll be drinking later. Check out what our experts have to say about the best things to do in Lisbon.

Kiana Cook
May 14, 2024

Lisbon is large and in charge. It’s Portugal’s capital, and a city rich in history, European charm, and all the Pastel de Nata you can stomach (enough said). With so much to see, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details, but believe it or not, you CAN get the full experience in just one week. Seasoned EF vet (or Market Development Specialist), Sally Dent, and Ultimate Break traveler and influencer, McKenzie Morgan (@styledbymckenz) have both traveled on our Lisbon: City Experience trip and have got the inside scoop on the best ways to experience Lisbon in seven days—YES, seven days!

Photo taken of a hand holding 3 colorful Lisbon postcards, hovering over a vibrant orange flower bush.

Sights in the city

On to the good stuff: the best areas to spend your time in Portugal’s biggest city. Right off the bat, some Lisbon to-dos include discovering the rainbow tiles along Algarve, taking in the vast views at the Miradouro Da Senhora Do Monte lookout, and feeling all the good vibes in the sunny yellow square of Praca do Comercio. Not looking to max out your steps just yet? Then here’s a tip from McKenzie:

“Lisbon’s famous yellow trolley is called the 28 tram and is the oldest operating tram in the world. It began in 1914 and still functions today, connecting tourists and locals to the city’s oldest districts, landmarks, and breathtaking views. A great way to see the city, especially if you need a break from all of the hills.”

So, hop on the vibrant tram and get transported back in time for a change of pace as you explore more of Lisbon. If all that seems too overwhelming, you could always do it with a local Tour Director that has the inside scoop and secrets to the best spots in the city cough like with EF Ultimate Break cough.

An establishing shot of Monsaraz village atop green mountains in the bottom left of the photo and foggy clouds in the top right of the photo.
Lisbon's Hidden Gems

Once you’ve trotted around an iconic sight or two, make sure to spend some time realllyy diving deeper into the local life and culture. For instance, if you’re a history buff, hop on a sunset sail along the Tagus River where you can pass historic sites like the Belem Tower and Lisbon Cathedral. What’s not to love about a 3-hour cruise on a 40-foot catamaran with complimentary wine in hand? If you crave a more music-y type of vibe then a fado show is totally for you. Fado is Lisbon's traditional folk music; Sally describes going to a show as one of her favorite live-like-a-local type of excursions on her Lisbon: City Experience trip. “It’s a live performance...more low-key opera-style, but it's typically a sad song about love. It is really great! Even though I didn't understand the words.”

And when in doubt, if you’re not sightseeing, humming along to Portuguese tunes, or dipping down artsy alleys, you can always find comfort in a 2-ounce shot of crimson red liquor (that’s where you’d find me at least). Located on almost every street corner is ginjinha—a sour cherry celebratory spirit. “You can just walk up to the shop, buy a shot for a Euro and walk away” says Sally. Served in small shot glasses or edible chocolate cups, it’s simultaneously sweet and strong, and packs a punch. If that sounds like your thing then book it to Lisbon (with EF Ultimate Break perhaps?) sip it slowly, savor the taste, and enjoy fun memories with new travel buddies.

An establishing shot of part of Sintra castle in the middle of the photo. Green, rocky, mountains in the bottom of the photo and nearby villages out of focus in the background.
Day trips from Lisbon

While Lisbon is a great city on its own, another advantage of it is its proximity to other smaller, beautiful villages. Monsaraz, known for its wine, views, and medieval aesthetic is the perfect spot to spend the day taste testing house-made wine and strolling through acres of vineyards all with the Great Lake of Alqueva in the distance.

“This countryside is one of the largest in Portugal and one of the leading wine districts in Europe! We spent several hours at Ervideria Winery” on the Ultimate Break trip, says McKenzie. “The employees were incredible and the wine was so tasty. Highly suggest the rosé. This day trip is a little further but 100% worth it.” So basically, this place is the Napa of Portugal—I’m sold.

Another fun day trip a little closer to Lisbon center is Sintra, a scenic mountain town filled with colorful houses and stunning coastline views. This is the perfect place to have a full-blown IG photoshoot feeling like the royalty you are strutting through the halls of Palácio da Pena. It was one of Sally’s favorite aspects of the trip. “There was the castle visit—it was so beautiful—and then we had lots of free time in the town. I LOVED exploring Sintra on my own.” It was also one of McKenzie's favorites. “This adorable town is just a short ride away from Lisbon and is so worth the ride. Locals are singing on the corners and a vibrant energy radiates around. One of those European moments where I thought “Wow, how lucky am I to be here?!”

I mean, with a review like that, it’s hard not to be intrigued.

A man standing on a red dirt trail looking out at a view of mountains and valleys
The packing list MUST-HAVES

For most trips I usually suggest a light jacket for cool nights and a good pair of walking shoes for all the steps you’ll be racking in. Mackenzie backs me up on her site Styled by McKenz. “It’s all uphill and cobblestones”, she says, so go ahead and grab those trusty sneakers. Another rec of hers is lightweight linens for “the best way to stay cool during long days of exploring.” I personally want to add that if you’re feeling funky, bring those vibrant colors and stacks of jewelry out to play because the city of Lisbon is a literal rainbow everywhere you turn so, you’ll fit right in—plus you’ll get a fire IG pic out of it.

Still not convinced?

Check out our Lisbon itinerary to get the low-down on all things Lisbon. And if you really wanna get bougie, you can kick it up a notch with our Plus-style itinerary where you get a bunch of meals included, curated hotels, and a more private room setup.

Lastly, if you’ve been meaning to make it out to Europe for a while but are overwhelmed by your choices, our team can also help you stack your tour into a full blown Eurotrip with faves like Madrid, Paris, and Munich. Connect with us and we’ll help you plan out a multi-city adventure.

Phew, that was a lot of information but all this to say, Portugal is one of those ultimate European destinations for “beginners.” It’s got friendly locals, a large English-speaking community, and a walkable atmosphere. It’s the perfect way to ease into the European lifestyle without the intense culture shock. So, book it to Lisbon and we’ll handle the rest!

About the Author

Kiana Cook is a San Diego-born creative working at EF Ultimate Break. After graduating from Temple University with a degree in advertising, Kiana lived in Japan for two years where she explored her passion for traveling, writing, and learning her culture. While there, she studied the language, interviewed local artisans, traveled to neighboring islands, and even summitted Mt. Fuji three times. She hasn’t been to Lisbon (yet) but after hearing from our travelers, she’s convinced.

For this article she interviewed Ultimate Break employee Sally Dent and influencer Mackenzie Morgan, both of whom have traveled on Ultimate Break's Lisbon: City Experience trip.

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