Discover Lisbon on a Budget: A Local's Guide
Lisbon, Portugal is a charming city that captures the hearts of visitors with its stunning architecture, colorful streets, and vibrant culture. While Lisbon has a reputation for being an affordable European destination, it can still strain your budget if you’re not careful. As a local Lisboeta, I’ve compiled my top tips for experiencing the best of Lisbon without breaking the bank.
Save on Accommodation in Alfama
Alfama is Lisbon’s oldest district, with winding cobblestone streets, traditional shops, and the sounds of Fado music drifting through the air. It’s also home to some of the most budget-friendly accommodation options. You can find basic but comfortable rooms for under €50 a night. Some recommended budget hotels in Alfama include:
- Hotel Lisboa Tejo: Simple but cheerful rooms from €35/night. Some rooms feature balconies with panoramic views of the river.
- Lisbon Calling: Stylish hostel with dorms from €20/night and private rooms from €50. They offer free walking tours and bar crawls.
- Memmo Alfama: While not ultra-budget, rooms at this boutique hotel start around €100/night. It’s a great mid-range option with an outdoor pool and stunning views of the city.
Take Public Transit to the Beaches and Sintra
Lisbon has some lovely beaches that are easily accessible by public transit. The beaches at Estoril and Cascais are only 30 minutes by train from Lisbon and offer scenic coastlines without the high costs of accommodation. Train tickets start around €2 each way.
You can also take a bus to the picturesque town of Sintra to see fairytale palaces and castles for under €5 roundtrip. The bus journey is only 45 minutes but will transport you to a magical place that feels worlds away.
Public transit in Lisbon is very budget-friendly, so take advantage of it to explore areas outside the city center without spending a lot on taxis or tour groups.
Dine for Less in Príncipe Real
The upscale Príncipe Real neighborhood is home to many affordable dining options. Head to Pão Pão Queijo Queijo for delicious sandwiches and salads for under €10. Or enjoy a casual 3-course meal for €20 at Casa Independente, a laid-back space in a leafy garden.
Other money-saving dining tips:
Take advantage of fixed-price lunch menus (menu do dia) for €7-10 for a starter and main
- Share tapas and Petiscos (small plates) which are meant for sharing. An order of 4-5 plates is usually enough for two people.
- Buy snacks and pastries from bakeries or delis instead of sit-down cafes. A pastry and coffee will cost around €3 vs €10 at a cafe.
- Avoid the touristy restaurants in Baixa and Chiado. Walk a few minutes away to find spots catering more to locals at lower prices.
Explore for Free: Viewpoints, Museums, and Festivals
Some of the best ways to experience Lisbon don't cost a cent. Walk around the Alfama district, climb the Arch of Rua Augusta, and hike up to the São Jorge Castle for panoramic views of the city.
Many museums offer free entry on Sundays, including the National Azulejo Museum, the National Museum of Ancient Art, and the Museum of the Orient.
In June, don't miss the Festas de Lisboa, a popular street festival with live music, food, and entertainment. And every night in Alfama, you can enjoy a free Fado performance at the Fado Museum or Clube de Fado.
Lisbon has so much natural beauty, culture, and history to offer budget travelers. By saving on accommodation and dining, and taking advantage of the many free activities, you can experience the best of Lisbon without breaking the bank. Have a great trip and boa viagem!