Cheap Places to Stay
My friends and I stayed in the Bica area, a few blocks from the Bairro Alto district – right on that famous street with the cable car (see above)! I highly recommend this area – we were surrounded by locals, hole in the wall restaurants, and centrally located to everything. We could easily walk to: the Time Out Market, countless bars, the main train stations, and the Tagus River. And I want to brag on the views from our apartment as well, but because Lisbon is built on several hills, the views are amazing no matter where you go. Where wouldn’t I stay? Probably the neighborhood Baixa – this is the main shopping and tourist district, and honestly was just way too busy and crowded for my liking. Castelo would be another area I would consider –it’s a quieter part of town, and the views are of course amazing. Use Airbnb. It was by far the cheapest option.
Free Things to Do
Walk, walk, walk. Like I mentioned, Lisbon is super walkable (albeit can be steep!) so anywhere you want to go, you are able to walk to. We walked through Baixa and up into the steep hills to São Jorge Castle, because the views are spectacular. After checking out São Jorge Castle , we walked over to San Graca church (again, the views there are amazing), but the church itself is free and definitely worth a visit inside. Also near there is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a romantic terrace with a view of Alfama and the Tagus.
On our way back to Bairro Alto, we walked through the shopping district of Baixa and through the Rea Agusta – which is a stone arch near the river and definitely the perfect place for a photo op. The opposite way, we hopped on a tram to Torre de Belem, which is a free tourist attraction along the Tagus River. From there, it’s an easy walk to Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos – the museum charges a fee, but again the church there is free to look around!
We read everywhere that the absolute best way to see the city is on a ride on Tram 28 – it cuts diagonal across the city, and is definitely not for the faint of heart. The tram (or cable car) shares the road with cyclists and cars, is always packed, and of course does not have A/C. A single ride was less than €3 and the route was perfect if you want to see Lisbon. The next place we went after we hopped off Tram 28 was the Santa Justa Lift. The lift offers a viewing platform, up a steep staircase, with (what else?!) views of Baixa.
Cheap Things to Do:
Sintra: Do not leave Lisbon without a train ride to Sintra. It was only about a 40 minute ride from the Rossio Train Station (again, in the main part of town). Sintra is a perfect, quaint town and has several famous attractions, but the one you absolutely cannot miss is Pena Palace. It has a long history, but now is preserved as King Ferdinand’s former palace. In real life, it looks exactly like a Disney castle and was one of the highlights of my trip. The entrance fee is around €20.
Cheap Places to Eat:
The markets were essential to our visit in Lisbon. Not only did we find several outdoor markets with tons of food stands (and Sangria stands!) but Time Out Market is a relatively new, converted warehouse that has about 50 different food options. Feel like a squid ink arancini and your friend wants an octopus hot dog? Done! You can find both – and then some – at this market. Note: the pricing options vary throughout the Time Out Market, but you can definitely find affordable dishes.
Another key point: “Eat on the hills, not on the flats” our Airbnb host told us. This seemed to work well for us – we found many affordable options along the hills, and they seemed to have more locals, less tourists and local food of course.
Cheap Places to Drink:
– Answer: literally, everywhere. I had no clue that Lisbon would be such a vibrant party city. Bairro Alto district has more than 200 bars, and you can buy a drink and hop from bar to bar all night – and did I mention how affordable the drinks are?! You can buy a beer/sangria/shot for around €3.
Takeaway Tips (or things we wish we would have known beforehand):
- Buy an all day metro pass for €6.15. With it, you can take the tram to Belem, ride tram 28 all day, and access the Santa Justa Lift.
- Bring comfortable shoes. We walked an average of 10 miles every day.
- Most people speak English so if you’re having a hard time with Portuguese (read: can’t say anything besides Ola and Obrigada like me), use English.
- When you arrive in Sintra, immediately hop on the bus that takes you to Pena Palace. IT’S NOT WORTH TRYING TO WALK. We wasted a good hour attempting to walk, only to turn around and walk back to the station to hop on the bus.
- Sintra was about 18 degrees colder than Lisbon, so pack accordingly! I, of course, did not and was freezing in the overcast 57 degree weather.
- Try the sardines, egg custard cups, and of course the Sangria
- Don’t miss the shopping. There were stores in Baixa that were cheaper than HM and Forever 21, with even cuter clothing! Check out: Zara outlet, Pull and Bear and Bershka