Guest writer Jarno shares tips and tricks for saving money in Lisbon.
Ah, Lisbon, the city of seven hills, where history whispers through narrow alleys and the sun kisses the cobblestone streets. And here’s the secret: You don’t need a treasure chest to explore it all. This guide will show you and other budget travelers how to enjoy Lisbon without emptying your pockets.
Affordable Public Transportation
Lisbon’s public transportation system is a budget traveler’s dream. Trams, buses, and the iconic yellow funiculars are not only efficient but also budget-friendly. Grab a Lisboa Card for unlimited rides, or opt for the Viva Viagem card for pay-as-you-go convenience.
Lisbon’s compact city center is a walker’s paradise. Meander through Alfama’s labyrinthine streets, explore Baixa’s elegant squares, and hike up to São Jorge Castle.
Comfortable shoes are your best travel companions here.
Bike Rentals and Cycling Routes
Embrace the breeze on two wheels by renting a bike. Discover charming routes along the riverfront or tackle the hills for panoramic views. Several bike rental shops offer affordable daily rates.
Budget-Friendly Hostels and Guesthouses
Lisbon boasts a variety of hostels and guesthouses that won’t break the bank. From historical buildings with character to modern spaces, there’s an option for every budget.
Check out the trendy Bairro Alto and the lively Cais do Sodré areas for affordable accommodations.
Alternative Accommodations like Airbnb
If you’re traveling with a group, consider booking an apartment or room through platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, and VRBO. It often proves more budget-friendly and gives you a taste of local life. However, make sure to choose a location that suits your vacation style. Do you want to be in the heart of the city, near the beach, or in a quieter neighborhood? Also pay attention to guest reviews to get insights into the quality and reliability of the property and the host.
Tips for Finding Affordable Lodging Options
To secure the best deal, plan your trip during the offseason or midweek. Additionally, booking well in advance often leads to more affordable rates.
Also consider getting a vacation package to Portugal from Exoticca, a reputable travel company known for crafting unforgettable European experiences and adventures worldwide. These deals encompass almost every aspect of your trip, including all flights and accommodations, as well as select transfers, meals, and activities. By choosing an Exoticca package, you can enjoy the utmost comfort and convenience without straining your budget.
Food and Dining
Local Markets and Street Food
Lisbon’s markets are a treasure trove of affordable delights. Explore Mercado da Ribeira, where you can sample traditional Portuguese dishes and buy fresh produce. Street vendors offer tasty bifana (pork sandwiches) and pastéis de nata (custard tarts) at pocket-friendly prices.
Budget-Friendly Restaurants and Cafes
Head to restaurants outside the touristy hotspots for more affordable meals. Opt for daily specials to savor local cuisine without breaking the bank.
Cooking and Eating In
For the ultimate budget hack, shop at local markets and whip up your own Portuguese feast. Many accommodations have kitchen facilities, which can save you a bundle of dining expenses.
Sightseeing and Activities
Free or Low-Cost Attractions
Lisbon’s treasures are open to all. Stroll through the historic neighborhoods of Alfama and Bairro Alto, where the old-world charm lingers. Take advantage of the enchanting Miradouros (viewpoints) for breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Some of the best and most popular miradouros in the city include:
Miradouro da Senhora do Monte: Often considered the best viewpoint in Lisbon, this location provides breathtaking city views, especially at sunset.
Miradouro da Graça (Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen Viewpoint): This miradouro offers views of São Jorge Castle and the city’s historic center. It’s a great spot to enjoy a coffee or a meal while taking in the scenery.
Miradouro das Portas do Sol: Situated in the Alfama district, this viewpoint provides a postcard-perfect view of the Alfama neighborhood, the river, and the dome of the National Pantheon.
Affordable Guided Tours and Excursions
Consider joining budget-friendly walking tours that offer insights into Lisbon’s history and culture. Alternatively, hop on a tram 28 to experience a cost-effective city tour. It provides a charming and affordable way to explore the city’s historic neighborhoods, including Alfama, Baixa, and Graça, while passing iconic landmarks like São Jorge Castle and the Sé Cathedral. Also consider escaping to Belém to explore historical landmarks, such as the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
Parks, Beaches, and Outdoor Activities
Lisbon’s natural beauty is a gift for budget travelers. Explore the striking Parque das Nações or soak up the sun on the inviting beaches of the Lisbon district, such as Carcavelos Beach and Costa da Caparica, both easily accessible by public transport. Plus, if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Costa da Caparica offers excellent opportunities for surfing and hiking, ensuring a fulfilling and budget-friendly outdoor experience.
Historical Neighborhoods to Explore
Lisbon is a city that breathes history. Explore the winding streets of Alfama, where you’ll encounter narrow alleys, colorful tiles, and friendly locals. This historic neighborhood, perched on a hill, offers picturesque views and is a treasure trove of ancient charm. Mouraria, one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods, is another excellent option. Adjacent to Alfama, it is known for its multicultural history and vibrant atmosphere.
Museums with Discounted Days
Many museums offer discounted admission on specific days of the week. For instance, the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) welcomes visitors for free on the first Sunday of each month. Similarly, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum offers complimentary admission on Sundays after 2 p.m. Plan your visit accordingly to make the most of these deals and enrich your understanding of Portuguese culture and history.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Bargain Shopping in Local Markets
Steer clear of the overpriced tourist shops near popular attractions. Instead, explore local flea markets like Feira da Ladra and independent boutiques to find authentic and reasonably priced souvenirs. Look for traditional Portuguese souvenirs, such as cork products, Portuguese ceramics, and beautifully crafted tiles. These items make for meaningful gifts and memories of your journey. Haggle a little, and you might score a great deal.
Using Public Amenities Wisely
While Lisbon provides a range of free or budget-friendly amenities, note that public bathrooms are not abundantly available. Your best options are gas stations, malls, and public transport hubs. In some cases, when using restrooms at restaurants or cafes, you may have to make a small purchase (even just an espresso). Be strategic to save on the minor expenses that can accumulate during your visit.
Moreover, keep an eye out for free and high-quality drinking fountains scattered throughout the city. If you have a reusable water bottle, take the opportunity to refill it, which can be incredibly refreshing during the scorching summer months when temperatures soar. Drinking tap water in Portugal is deemed safe across all regions, and it consistently meets the rigorous standards set by the European Union.
Discount Cards and Passes
Invest in a Lisboa Card for access to public transportation and discounted museum entry. Likewise, the 7 Colinas and Viva Viagem cards offer discounts on public transport. These cards can prove invaluable for budget-conscious travelers.
Avoiding Unnecessary Expenses
Set a daily budget and stick to it. Plan your expenses for activities, food, and shopping to avoid overspending. Use ATMs wisely to avoid high withdrawal fees, and notify the bank of your travel plans to prevent unexpected charges.
Lisbon: A Treasure Trove for Budget Travelers
Lisbon, the city of seven hills, is a treasure trove for budget travelers. With affordable transportation, lodging, dining, and plenty of low-cost activities, you can experience the beauty, culture, and history of this enchanting city without breaking the bank. Don’t let budget constraints deter you from exploring Lisbon, as it’s a city that welcomes every traveler with open arms and a warm Portuguese embrace. Enjoy your affordable adventure in this captivating city, where history and modernity intertwine to create a truly unique experience.