Lisbon is one of the top travel destinations of the moment. Portugal was voted no.1 tourist destination in 2017 and there are many international flights and low cost flights from within Europe to Lisbon airport which will allow you to explore “the city of light”, as it is known by its locals, on a budget.
The intense Mediterranean sunlight reflects off the historic buildings and bathes the city in warmth. Its winding and sloping streets are for getting lost in and around every corner you may find an interesting, dilapidated historical building.
Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, and was a thriving city dating to the era before the Roman Empire. Four centuries older, according to Historians. It is the second oldest European capital after Athens, being established by the Phoenicians during 1200 BC.
Lisbon is a perfect city to spend for a budget holiday. With our budget guide to the Lisbon, you will be sure to leave the city wanting to return for more. With a combination of being situated by the sea and a sense of history emanating from the historic streets and buildings, there are plenty of activities that will keep the budget holidaymaker happy.
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The best time to visit Lisbon
The best time to visit Lisbon is in Spring and Autumn, between May and March and then from September through to October. Crowds are thinner and hotel rates are cheaper than in the summertime. Lisbon enjoys long hot summers, which stretch into September and early October, and you will still be able to enjoy some beach days whilst avoiding the crowds!
If you want to experience the festive side of Lisbon, you can visit during the Festas Santos Populares celebrations from the 3rd to 14th of June.
Getting around in Lisbon
Lisbon is a walkable city, but it also has a very user-friendly metro and tram system. No trip to Lisbon would be complete without a trip on one of these bright yellow trams that traverse the city streets.
If you want to save on transport, buy your Viva Viagem/7 Colinas card at the airport, in fact if you’re very lucky as you arrive, tourists who are leaving may give you their travel card for free saving you the €0.50 for the card itself. This is one of the best ways to get around as you can top up your card for use on metro, tram and bus. With Zapping you can pay around €1.30 per metro trip.
Alternatively you can buy a day pass for only €6.30 which gives you unlimited travel over a 24-hour period on the bus, tram and metro network (€10.40 if you want to include Comboios de Portugal).
A ride on tram 28 is a must as it will take you around the most popular areas of the city, The yellow trams are an iconic symbol of Lisbon and a tram ride is an experience that you cannot miss, bear in mind that this tram is always crowded and often there are long queues to get on board, especially from the centre of the city.
Where to stay in Lisbon
In Lisbon, you can experience life like a local in an Airbnb and there are excellent offers in traditional houses with balconies overlooking the narrow city streets.
The best neighbourhoods to stay in Lisbon are around the centre, Lisbon is a walkable city and easy to get around, with a fantastic hop-on and hop-off tram service.
The cheapest neighbourhoods to stay are in the North of the central Baixa district which is situated a little out of the centre it is still within walking distance of everything.
Here are some of the best budget hotels in Lisbon:
Hotel Convento de Salvador – This hotel was constructed in one of the oldest convents of Lisbon, in the Alfama district. Decoration is minimalist and the halls are full of works by famous Portuguese artists such as Júlio Pomar, Paulo Rêgo and Sebastião Salgado. The hotel offers a terrace and pool and rooms start from only €94 per night.
The Independente Hostel & Suites, Lisbon – This hotel is located in the beating heart of Lisbon, a short walk from Rossio train station, Bairro Alto, Principe real and Chiado. The hotel offers hostel dorm rooms at affordable prices and suites that overlook the Tagus River. It is also home to a popular and trendy restaurant, The Decadente, where you can find Portuguese cuisine with a twist. Dorms start from from €11, suites from €70 per night.
Tours to do in Lisbon
There are many options for tours in Lisbon if you’re pressed for time. Here is a selection of the best budget tours of Lisbon:
If you are watching your wallet, Sandemans offers a free tour with a guide to show you around the city and regale you with tales from its history as well as the legends surrounding the capital of Portugal. It is advisable to leave a tip.
This tour offers a new and exciting way to see the city! Explore the neighborhoods while solving cryptic clues, taking in the views and spotting street art. This offbeat tour with an experienced guide will show you a different side of Lisbon. Tours start from €21 per person.
What is more iconic in Lisbon than the rolling hills of the city? The electric bikes make the steep hills more manageable, this tour will take you to the different neighbourhoods on bike of Alfama, Bairro Alto and Chiado and visit landmarks such as the Cathedral and Church of Santa Engrácia. Prices for a two hour tour start from €35 per person.
Cheap eats Lisbon
Despite the recent rise in costs of accommodation and food in Lisbon due to its status as a popular holiday destination, there are still many places to eat for those on a budget. If you are on a really tight budget you can visit the food courts at Vasco di Gama Shopping Centre, Armazéns do Chiado shopping centre or Colombus Shopping Centre. Here you can find cheap eats at a fraction of the cost of restaurants.
If you want to try some local restaurants here are some of the best budget eats in Lisbon:
Manteigaria, Rua de Loreto 2
Start your day on a good note with the best breakfast that money can buy in Lisbon, a Pastéis de Belém and a good cup of Portuguese coffee.
The most famous bakery is located in Belem and there are long queues for these custard tarts, being the original bakery located next to the Jerónimos Monastery, which is said to have the original recipe of this delicious tart.
The legend says that convents and monasteries in Lisbon used huge quantities of egg whites to starch their clothes and accumulated a lot of yolks which they used to make the tarts and cakes leading to the birth of the Pastéis de Belem.
The most famous bakery sells 20,000 pastries every day and the long queues are testimony to the popularity of these treats with both tourists and locals. I would eat at least one every day for breakfast! However, If you want to skip the queues, there is an excellent bakery that produces these tarts called Manteigaria, located in Rua de Loreto, 2. Here you watch the bakers making thousands of tasty tarts right before your eyes, you can even bring home a box!
O Cantinho de Bem Estar, Rua do Norte 46
This small authentic restaurant is a budget gem; here you can eat with the locals side by side as the tables are incredibly close together. They specialize in seafood with abundant fish dishes and you will see local families enjoying the authentic Portuguese dining experience. Meals are a steal for their large portions at around €20 for two people.
Frangasqueira Nacional, Tv. Monte do Carmo 19
For those on a tight budget there is nothing better than a juicy, succulent chicken roasted on a spit. This is one authentic place where you can buy a delicious chicken and eat it in a nearby park, guaranteed to be so good you will want to lick your fingers!
Café Beira Gare, Praça Dom João da Câmara 4
This café is loved by locals and tourists alike and is a budget restaurant near Rossio train station, which serves great food at a fraction of the price. It can be crowded and noisy but is definitely authentic and a great place to visit.
Restaurante Leão D`ouro, R. 1º de Dezembro 105
This restaurant has an all-you-can-eat buffet for only €5.90 at lunch or €7.40 for dinner which is excellent value for money and perfect for the budget traveller.
Budget things to do in Lisbon
From the centre you can get to Rossio Square, where you can visit some cultural museums such as the National Museum of Ancient Art or the Museum del Fado, celebrating the traditional style of singing from Portugal, full of mournful notes.
At Rossio without trying the Ginjinha, the Morello Cherry liquor which you can sample in the smallest bars in Lisbon, such as Ginjinha Sem Rival located in R. Portas de Santo Antão 7, where a tiny cup will set you back €1.40 and give you a little buzz. These bars only serve cherry liquor and it is deceptively sweet and tasty, in fact, some places serve it in chocolate cups, which makes an absolutely mouth-watering treat!
Visit a Miradouro or viewpoint
Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara is just a short walk away from Rossio and is a popular viewpoint to take in the spectacular panorama of the city, alternatively there are so many other viewpoints you can visit that you could do a different one every day! There is the Miradouro de Santa Catalina, Miradouro da Graça and the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte.
Budget tip: many budget travellers buy a beer from a nearby shop and sit and watch the sunset from the Miradouros, get there early and try to catch a prime spot before it fills up.
Visit the Belem Neighbourhood
Tram 28 will take you to the Belem neighbourhood where you can visit the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, to visit the 500-year-old monastery that now has become a cultural hub offering regular concerts. Right next-door is the famous Pastéis de Belem bakery where you can joint he queue for the original tarts from Lisbon.
From there you can walk by the sea and visit the Torre de Belem which was a fortified defence tower which now has UNESCO protected status.
Check graffiti at the LX Factory
The LX Factory that is one of the best places to see Lisbon graffiti. Once a textile factory, it is now full of boutiques and eateries including Landeau’s mythical chocolate cake, which they proclaim to be “the best chocolate cake in the world”! The LX Factory is just a short walk away from the Belem neighbourhood.
Visit Chiado, the Boho district of Lisbon
Chiado is Lisbon’s bohemian district with numerous restaurants, cozy cafes and restaurants as well as shopping. Here you can visit the famous Rua Garrett, the bookshop from 1732 built upon the ruins of the Carmo Convent which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. For booklovers, the famous Café A Brasileira, where Fernando Pessoa penned some of his greatest works is a must-visit.
Visit the old red light district of Cais do Sodré
Once upon a time, this riverside district was a meeting point for all the local criminals, prostitutes and sailors and had a notorious unsavoury reputation, the scandalous red light district has now been painted pink and Pink Street is now one of the trendiest nightlife district in Lisbon.
The Cais do Sodré district received a facelift in 2011 to turn its reputation around. The once run-down bars and brothels were reborn as trendy little bars, keeping their original names and tacky signs.
Pensão Amor, a trendy cocktail bar that was once a brothel is bold and burlesque. With erotic art adorning the walls and ceilings, this trendy place that attracts locals and tourists alike now offers pole dance workshops and houses a sex shop within its premises. Strictly adults only!
Visit a local flea market
Every Saturday and Tuesday morning the locals flock to Campo de Santa Clara Square, just beside the National Pantheon to hunt for curiosities and bargains, here you can find something to suit every budget. It is known as the Feira de Ladra or “thieves market” and if you had your mobile phone stolen on tram 28, you will surely find it here among the stalls. It may just be the perfect place to pick up a budget souvenir to bring home!
Catch a Fado Concert for free
You can listen to the mournful tunes of Fado music on Mondays and Wednesdays for free at Tasca de Chico, situated in the Bairro Alto district in Rua do Diário de Notícias 39. This is the perfect way to end your Lisbon adventure and leave you wanting to return again to Lisbon.
Recommend budget tours in Lisbon
- Sintra and Cascais Small-Group Day Trip from Lisbon
- Óbidos, Nazaré, Fátima and Batalha Day Trip
- Experience Lisbon: Small-Group Walking Tour with Food and Wine Tastings
- Lisbon Half Day Private Tour
- Lisbon Small-Group Gourmet Portuguese Food and Wine Tour
- Sintra Small Group Tour from Lisbon
- Lisbon Super Saver: 2-Day Sintra, Cascais, Fatima, Nazare and Obidos Small-Group Day Trips
- Lisbon Guided Walking Tour
- Small-Group Tour: Knights Templar Historical Tour from Lisbon
- Lisbon Hills Electric Bike Tour
- Lisbon Sunset Small-Group Walking Tour with Fado Performance
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