Lisbon is one of Europe’s hottest destinations, and I’m not just talking about the weather (around 300 days of sunshine every year!). The beautiful Portuguese capital is renowned for its many historic landmarks, including the Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery and the São Jorge Castle, but also a colorful culture.
Despite its popularity, Lisbon remains a very affordable city for travelers to explore on a shoestring, with lots of affordable restaurants and accommodation, and there are masses of great things to do in Lisbon that are free or cheap. This guide provides some useful tips for budget Lisbon travel, as well as taking you through some of the must-sees and must-dos. So if you’re looking to travel Lisbon on a budget, here’s what you need to know.
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Where to stay in Lisbon on a Budget
The most expensive neighborhoods to stay in are Chiado and Príncipe Real. It’s a very walkable city, however, so if you opt for budget accommodation in Lisbon you can still get to these lovely areas quickly. Baixa, for instance, is next to Chiado, and the accommodation there tends to be far easier on the wallet.
Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, is also one of the cheapest to stay in. There are many simple but comfortable hotels and bed-and-breakfasts to be found among these winding, steep streets.
Expect to pay between €40 and €80 per night for decent budget hotels in Lisbon, although if you’re prepared to stay in less-popular areas a bit further from the city center, there is no shortage of cheaper options.
If you’re being very savvy with the cash, a bed in a hostel dorm room is typically around €20. Sant Jordi is one of the best hostels in Lisbon , especially for solo travellers. It has a chic style and lively atmosphere whilst still allowing you to sleep well at night.
Tips for Visiting Lisbon on a Budget
These are things you need to know to have the best budget trip to Lisbon possible!
If you’re traveling on a shoestring then staying in hostels is a handy way to keep within your budget. Many Lisbon hostels will offer complimentary WiFi and breakfasts and may also provide fun little extras such as guided walking tours, bike rental or port wine-tasting.
Food and Drink
Lisbon locals eat out all the time, and once you escape the more touristy areas you can eat very well for under €10. The Time Out Market in Cais do Sodre offers affordable dishes from some of Lisbon’s best restaurants all under one roof.
A small, chilled glass of Sagres or Super Bock, the main Portuguese beers, is perfect fuel for sightseeing. It will usually cost around €1 – ask for an imperial.
Purchase a 24-hour public transport ticket from a metro station, for around €6.40, and it covers all trams, buses and metro services. Single tram tickets alone usually cost around €3 so this is a great budget travel idea for Lisbon. Getting around on foot is easy, but Lisbon is a city built on seven hills and can be hard going especially in summer.
By staying in hostels, making your own meals, and using public transport or walking wherever possible, you should be able to enjoy a really satisfying stay in Lisbon for as little as €40 per day.
Free and cheap things to do in Lisbon
You don’t need to blow your budget on expensive attractions when in Lisbon, because there are so many fantastic things to do here that are either free or cheap.
One good tip to remember is that you can buy a ‘Lisbon Card’ for €20 which covers 24 hours, and gives benefits including free public transport, free entry to many of the best attractions in Lisbon, and even free train travel to popular nearby destinations Cascais and Sintra.
There are many stunning beaches along Lisbon’s Atlantic coast, several of which you can easily be reached by bus or train.
Among the most popular are the small beach in glamourous Estoril, 20 minutes by train and foot from central Lisbon, and Guincho, which takes an hour with a train to Cascais and then a short bus journey. Guincho is world-famous for surfing and wind-surfing, and it has a great little restaurant.
The beaches along the Costa da Caparica are slightly harder to reach without a car, involving ferry or train and then a bus, but they are worth the effort. Beloved by locals, these golden stretches of sand are virtually unknown by foreign tourists, and they promise lovely views of Lisbon across the Tagus River.
One of the big pleasures of wandering the Portuguese capital on foot is the amount of awesome street art. Some artists have made good use of the distinctively patterned pavement tiles, while others have painted gigantic murals across entire buildings.
Vhils is among the best-known street artists in Portugal, chiseling deep into brick and plaster walls to create eye-catching portraits that look almost as though they are exploding into life.
Sweetly melancholic fado music is one of the cultural icons of Lisbon, and while many of the fado bars tend to be both overpriced and not especially authentic, you can usually find a good show by asking the locals where they would go.
There are plenty of free fado bars around the city, and some will offer traditional Portuguese food as well. Keep a lookout for tascas with Fado Vadio, which is sung by amateur performers.
Portuguese Custard Tarts
Pasteis de Nata, or Portuguese custard tarts, are a delicious local delicacy in Lisbon. Some people will queue for literally hours outside the famous pasteleria near the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém for a taste.
But you can find just as good pasteis de nata in cafes across Lisbon, and you can pick up a box of them for only a few euros. They make for mouth-watering snacks and also a fab gift idea.
São Jorge Castle
For the best views in Lisbon, take the legendary 28 tram up to the ancient São Jorge Castle and a walk around the well-preserved walls and fortifications. Entry is just €10, or €5 for students.
After leaving the castle you can either take the tram back down or follow my advice and walk through the spidery streets of the historic Alfama neighbourhood. Miradouros (the name for viewpoints in Lisbon) abound, and you will pass endless cafes, tascas, and shops selling beautiful tiles, while local residents shout greetings to each other between balconies strung with washing.
Lisbon has some absolutely gorgeous parks. The Jardim de Estrela is huge, and a very popular spot for locals. It’s close to the Basilica and also convenient for the 28 tram up to the castle.
Alternatively, try the Estua Fria – the Greenhouse – which boasts plants and trees from all over the world. It’s a very tranquil place, perfect if you’ve overdone it on the sightseeing, with babbling brooks and lots of shady spots. The entry is €3.10 but free on Sundays.
The National Coach Museum is the most prestigious museum in Lisbon, with an unrivalled collection of horse-drawn coaches throughout history. You can also find contemporary art at the Coleção Berardo Museum in Belém, and the National Tile Museum in the Madre de Deus Convent, which showcases some superb azulejo (traditional Portuguese tilework).
Most museums in Lisbon cost just a few euros to enter, but many of them are free if you’ve already purchased the Lisbon Card. Some may also have free admission days at various points in the year.
The riverside neighborhood of Belém is home to several of the best-known landmarks in Lisbon. There is the ornate Jerónimos Monastery, the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument, a nod to Portugal’s legendary seafaring past, and the 16th century Belém Tower, where many of these intrepid explorers would board their ships.
Most Belém landmarks cost just a handful of euros to enter, but you can also admire them from outside, completely free of charge. And of course, this being Lisbon you’re never far from a cafe selling a cool glass of beer.
That’s all of my top tips for a budget trip to Lisbon, have a safe trip!
This is a budget travel guide from Kieren, a 20-something-year-old from Wales with a passion for adventure and backpacking. He’s spent time Interrailing through Europe and backpacking Southeast Asia with plenty more on the bucket list. Kieren shares tips and travel guides over at Got My Backpack.
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Portugal
The Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook for your trip. It can be hard to find big, international guidebooks once you land (or they’ll be way overpriced). Get yours ahead of time, either a hard copy or on a Kindle.
An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use a Portuguese sim card while here to help navigate public transportation and when you’re on the road.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Portuguese cities because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets.
It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
More Portugal Travel Resources
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for Portugal make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities like Lisbon where tourists can easily become the targets of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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