Portugal on a Budget: Highlights from 7 days in Lisbon
Walking Libson’s scenic and hilly streets are worth with views like this from Santa Luzia.
As a bilingual speaker, my travels have taken me to some of the most beautiful Spanish speaking countries in the world. However, I wasn’t sure if it would help me out when venturing into Portugal. So with some pocket change, a carry-on bag, and a quest for learning a new language, I set out for Lisbon.
Cheapos will love Lisbon; the way you start and end every conversation with “Obrigada” (thank you), the sounds of Fado guitars, the sights of clay roofs and the tastes of Galão (espresso with foamed milk). And, of course, the low prices for just about everything.
Here is a roundup of low-cost activities to do during a seven-day stay, and a collage of photographic memories. Let’s go explore Lisboa!
Avenida da Liberdade at dusk.
Avenida da Liberdade snakes through Lisbon, making it a convenient home base while you’re in town. For a BnB feel just off this main drag, check into Residencial Alegria (Praca Da Alegria 12). The hotel is run by a French owner and features 35 rooms with private bath and a touch of style across from a park. It’s also within walking distance of most things Lisbon, so it’s a great home base to explore the city. Prices start at $69 for a double room.
Related: More cheap Lisbon hotels and hostels starting at $23
Praca do Comercio along Rio Tejo.
Luckily for those who love exploring by foot, Lisbon is a walkable city with some of the oldest and most breath-taking views Europe has to offer. Be sure to wear comfortable sneakers, as the city’s streets are ancient, and lined with uneven cobblestones and tiny sidewalks. Trust me, the walks are worth it when you stumble upon hilltop views like Santa Luzia (the photo at the top).
Lisbon’s yellow trams.
Soak in the city’s artistic community by walking to the Galeria de Arta Urbana (wall of street art graffiti) where you can see the latest pieces by the city’s most beloved street artists. Make sure to also snap a photo by the graffiti-covered yellow trams, a favorite among visiting tourists.
Keep your eyes out for blue-tiled interiors, and find out their relevance at the National Tile Museum. It’s only a €5 entry fee and free on the first Sunday of each month.
If the weather is nice (which it usually is), take a leisurely stroll to the huge public square at Praca do Comercio where locals sit idly by the river hand-in-hand. The view of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), that stretches all the way to Spain, will take you back a few centuries.
Soak in the atmosphere and start thinking about what to eat. After all that walking, you’ll be ready for some tasty Portuguese cuisine.
If you’re hungry for a quick snack, stop into any of the many cafes that dot the Lisbon streets. Must-eats include an egg-based pastry (like a belem) paired with an espresso or a beer.
Coffee, beer and pastries are a few of the culinary delights of Lisbon.
Family is a huge priority in Portuguese culture. What better way to spend a lunch than with a hearty meal full of freshly grilled fish and veggies, home-cooked by one of the oldest family-run restaurants in Lisbon? Be sure to pop into Tasca do Joao for the real deal. Make the owners proud by ordering an obscure Portuguese wine called “Vinho Verde Tinto”.
A classic fish counter with the day’s catch at Mercado da Ribera.
Speaking of food, no trip abroad is ever complete without visiting the local market. While in Lisbon I took full advantage of whole fish, ordering every type I could—baked cod, grilled snapper and smoked fish (I love the version at Restaurante Fumeiro, a classic old-world hang out).
If you really love seafood, it’s all delicious and worth seeing in person at the Mercado da Ribera in the Cais do Sodre district.
Related: EuroCheapo’s budget tips for Lisbon
Galão (espresso with foamed milk) and a glass of local wine at Chapito a Mesa.
At night the city comes alive with music and lights. For a mix of both, check out Chapito a Mesa, where I settled into a corner table to do some writing (with wine) underneath a street market selling local knickknacks. If you’re looking for some new threads, head to Principe Real, where all the fashion-obsessed go.
Don’t miss a chance to see authentic Fado music when you come to Lisbon. There are several spots to catch a show, but Sr. Fado is a cozy spot serving up tasty Portuguese cuisine with a side of live Fado music. It’s so romantic, you just might fall in love after an evening here.
Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra.
If time permits, I encourage you to take a day trip out of Lisbon. One of the best is up to Sintra, where Moorish castles offer a trip back in time. Prepare to hike up mountains and take plenty of photos along the way. A view from Castelo dos Mouros is something you’ll want to brag about back home.
For more sights to add to your Lisbon to do list, here is a Google curated map:
The author taking a break at Parque Eduardo VII north of Avenida da Liberdade.
All Photos by Alisha Miranda and Philippe LeSaux