How to do Lisbon on a budget

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

3 January 20245 min read

A view showing the skyline of the Lisbon's old town in Portugal, including the Sao Jorge Castle atop of the hill, and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge in the horizon.

Named by the Post Office as the cheapest city in the eurozone thanks to its excellent value accommodation and budget-friendly restaurants, Lisbon is a top choice for a city break on a shoestring.

But even in this affordable city, you can make your money go even further. Here’s how to do your holiday to Lisbon for less.

Where to stay on a budget

Packed with top-notch restaurants and swanky boutiques, Chiado and Príncipe Real are Lisbon’s most popular neighbourhoods – but staying here comes with a hefty price tag. Instead, look to historic Alfama or Baixa, both in the heart of the city, where you’ll find low-cost hotels and B&B starting at just €40 a night.

Lisbon is also a hub of hostels making it easy to find a cheap night's stay. They’re a fantastic way to meet fellow travellers if you’re holidaying solo, plus often include money-saving perks such as free breakfasts, wi-fi and walking tours. Try Yes! Lisbon Hostel or Sant Jordi Hostels, where a dorm bed will set you back from €20 a night or €40pp for a private room.

Up for making your own meals? Consider a self-catering apartment. There are some amazingly priced deals on the fringes of the city, plus you can keep eating out costs down.

Where to eat on a budget

It goes without saying that if you rock up to a restaurant in any city’s main tourist area, your meal won’t come cheap. Avoid the tourist strip and look for the places where locals eat – in Lisbon, check out the restaurants around Saldanha metro station, Marquês de Pombal square and on Rua da Madalena.

It pays to eat local, too. Go for traditional dishes like bacalhau (salted cod) and beers such as Sagres and Super Bock – both are cheap and delicious. And, look out for lunchtime set menus. A Provinciana in Baixa is known for its great value prato do dia (plate of the day).

If you’re seeking cheap eats on the go, street food is your answer. Bifana stewed pork sandwiches, pão com chouriço (bread stuffed with chorizo) and Portugal’s iconic pastéis de nata (custard tarts) can all be picked up for just a few euros each.

Shopping centre food courts are also great places to fill up on local dishes for less. Try Armazens do Chiado or Vasco da Gama.

What to do on a budget

Whether you’re a serial sightseer or culture craver, there’s plenty to enjoy in Lisbon without throwing the holiday budget out the window.

Lisbon’s cathedral is free to visit and is one of the city’s star attractions (arrive early to beat the crowds). For history, Alfama’s Museu do Teatro Romano is home to an incredibly preserved Roman theatre while art lovers will enjoy the modern art at Museu Coleção Berardo in Belém and the eye-popping graffiti-filled Calçada da Glória. All three are free to visit.

Some of the city’s most beautiful spaces cost nothing to visit, too. Admire the ornate buildings and historic monuments of Chiado, hike up to the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte viewpoint for city panoramas, or pause for a picnic at Edward VII Park – this huge park covers in downtown Lisbon even has exotic greenhouses (entry costs €3.10).

If you’re planning to do a lot of sightseeing, the Lisbon Card offers free or discounted entry to several attractions as well as unlimited public transportation. Prices start at €21 for a 24-hour card.

How to get around on a budget

Lisbon’s extensive metro network covers the entire city, costing less than €2 for a single ticket. It also connects Lisbon Airport to the city centre so you can avoid high taxi fees. Alternatively, you can take the Aerobus airport shuttle for a similarly cheap fare.

A trip on Lisbon’s iconic trams is both a fun and inexpensive way to see the city. A single ticket for the number 28 tram costs €1.65, covering Alfama, downtown Baixa and the Estrela Basilica.

Buses are also cheap and efficient, or if you fancy seeing Lisbon from a different angle, hop on one of the commuter ferries. You’ll get the same views as the tourist cruises for a fraction of the cost.

If you plan to travel around a lot, a 24-hour public transport ticket costs around €6.60 and covers all trams, buses and metro services. You can pick one up from a metro station.

Keen cyclist? While the city’s hills aren’t for everyone, Lisbon’s bike-sharing system, Gira, only costs €2 for a 24-hour pass.

Insider tips

  • Night clubs and cocktail bars can be expensive, so stick to small local places in neighbourhoods like Bairro Alto (known as the local party district) for evening entertainment.
  • Fado shows are a staple of Portuguese culture, but they can be pricey. The Tasca do Chico is a great place to catch a show for less.
  • For a day at the beach, a return ticket to Carcavelos is less than €3 on the Cascais-Lisbon railway.
  • Skip the bread and olives at restaurants and cafes. They’re often brought to the table automatically and you’ll be charged for them on your bill.
  • To eat out for less, find discounted meals in hundreds of restaurants across the city with The Fork app.

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