Budget Guide to Lisbon
Lisbon is a beautiful capital built across seven hills and offering guests amazing views It’s a laid back city with a riverside feel, pastel buildings, and a thriving cafe scene.
Compared to many affordable cities, it’s very affordable and if you run out of money, you can just spend your days on the beach sunning yourself for free!
Having worked out how to relocate to Lisbon a few years ago, and worked in the city for 6 months, here are my best tips on taking on this incredible spot with a tight budget.
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Getting around Portugal’s capital is incredibly easy with its network of trams, buses and efficient underground metro system. A day ticket for use on either costs only 6.15 euros. Buy them on board, or buy a rechargeable card called the Viva Viagem and top it up online, then tap to use your balance. You’ll never need to walk up the city’s intense hills!
For days out touring the city, the historic and quaint trams in Lisbon are part of the attraction, since they trundle through all the most beautiful quarters, helping you reach the city’s incredible decorated look out points that are on each of the seven hills in the city.
Dedicate time to touring on the trams, and visit each ‘miradouro’ or look out point for only the cost of a tram ticket.
Next, choose a cloudy afternoon for one of Lisbon’s charming and affordable museums. Self-effacing and shy in publicity, this Museu Da Marioneta, or museum of puppetry, is actually a gem for wiling away an afternoon on your travels.
The collection of puppets is visually stunning and spans several centuries, plus the curators intersperse details about the culture that surrounds them- what kind of society would make this depiction?
The museum is fully interactive with theatrical stages for you to act out a marionnette story and try your hand at some early camera work to tell your story- kids love it. This surreal collection is free to the public on Sunday mornings! On other days, it costs 5 euros.
Now it’s time to see some of Lisbon’s grandest beauties. Take yourself to the incredible 25 de Abril Bridge, a kind of sister to the Golden Gate Bridge, for only the price of a ferry ticket that will give your impressive views. By boarding the Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas ferry you’ll be treated to the full attraction for 2.35 euros and funnily enough, the best photo opps are from the water itself.
Once you’re in Cacilhas bus #101 will drop you directly at the Cristo Rei statue, an incredible figure of Jesus that dominates the skyline and is a total must-see. The best views are free from the ground where everyone gazes up at the statue, or pay 5 euros to reach the top and wonder at the city’s beauty.
When it comes to food, it’s not just what you order, but the area of the city you’re in that will affect things. Every miradouro will usually have a cafe, where you can enjoy the incredible views and dig in to a drink and a snack for a few euros, and these were my favourite calling points for a quick pick me up.
But, if you’re in need of full meal for a growling belly, Almada would be my pick. As long as you are near Lisbon’s famous bridge, you are near the ferry across the waterway, and great seafood is served on both sides.
There are some lovely fish restaurants lining the banks of the river here that won’t break the bank and you can’t go wrong with Alentejo bread or the famous ‘bacalhau com natas’ or cod in cream.
As night falls, your best budget thrill is in Bairro Alto- the city’s nightlife capital. It’s a place to socialise, nibble snacks and try the best drinks while meeting friendly locals. Arrive at a a traditional fado bar such as A Tasca do Chico, Rua do Diario de Noticias 39, around 8pm and reserve your seat, then order a drink and wait for a night of sweet fado.
Avoid pricey touristic fado places with high cover charges, the real experience is out there and costs only a few tasty drinks. While you’re sipping, try Vinho do Porto, a wine from the Porto region, or the sweet cherry liquor Ginjinha.
Lisbon’s prices have been gently stabilising after the euro’s economic downturn, but it’s still a very affordable destination, perfect for a budget long weekend. The public transport is excellent and full of character, so you’ll avoid pricey taxis, and always go for the local experience rather than the tourist trail to save your pennies. If you’ve 24 hours spare in Europe, take a layover tour of Brussels or find out how to get to San Marino.