Lisbon on a budget: 7 travel hacks to save on your trip
In recent years, Lisbon has become one of Europe’s trendiest travel destinations. Younger tourists might have discovered this Portuguese city through travel programs and blogs, but Lisbon has quietly been one of the best places to visit for decades, especially if you’re looking for a (relatively) inexpensive trip. Because of the gorgeous public parks, amazing landmarks, and reasonable restaurants and bars, Lisbon is the ideal budget travel destination in Western Europe.
Most importantly, you won’t only save money on a trip to Lisbon through a low-cost airline or by limiting foreign transaction fees. Some of the best activities are either affordable or entirely free. São Jorge Castle, Belém Tower, and the Jerónimos Monastery are all world-class historical landmarks to visit while visiting Lisbon, and they are all entirely free or inexpensive to enjoy. Planning ahead will help you save money as well, whether it’s booking lodging ahead of time, finding affordable luggage storage in Lisbon, or investing in a museum pass.
Here are the best budget hacks and helpful tips for visiting Lisbon on the cheap:
Cheap places to stay in Lisbon
One of the best ways to save money while traveling is to find inexpensive lodging. Lisbon has plenty of budget hotels and amazing hostels for young tourists. Hostels provide a social element, along with incredibly affordable prices. Even if you stay at a hostel, you can book a private room for a decent price.
They aren’t all in the city center, either. Lisbon has a diverse number of vibrant neighborhoods that appeal to a variety of travelers. Avenida da Liberdade and Chiado are ideal for Lisbon newbies because of their central locations, but Barrio Alto and Baixa are perfect for budget travelers. Check out the Lisbon neighborhood guide to find out which area fits your preferences and plans.
Sant Jordi Hostels Lisbon
This is one of the most attractive hostels you’ll ever find, which is refreshing given the typical budget hotel you find in Europe. While the stylish design and modern layout make it easy on the eyes, the real draw here is the incredible location near nightlife and restaurants. Prices stay around $30 per night for a shared room.
No Limit Hostel
Located just a few minutes on foot from the city’s historic district, this is a solid option for cheap but comfortable Lisbon trips. A single room with twin beds starts at around $60 for a night, so this trendy hostel is perfect for traveling pairs. Even better, there’s a fully equipped kitchen for preparing your own meals, which is a must if you’re really trying to save money.
Hans Brinker Youth Hostel Lisbon
For social travelers, this is one of your best options in Lisbon. With a gorgeous rooftop terrace outfitted with a grill and a fully-stocked bar, you won’t need to venture far from Hans Brinker. Every afternoon, the rooftop turns into a party, so you’ll save money on drinks while meeting fellow travelers. Single rooms and shared dorms range between $30 and $80 per night.
Cheap things to do in Lisbon
The capital of Portugal is one of the most affordable places in Europe to travel to, and not just because of lodging and logistical costs. Lisbon has countless landmarks, town squares, street art, neighborhoods, and gorgeous public parks that are completely free or inexpensive to experience.
Explore the beautiful Jardins da Gulbenkian
There is nothing better than strolling through tranquil public gardens in a European capital. Some of the most breathtakingly gorgeous sights can be enjoyed without having to pay a penny. The Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian Gardens have a modernist design and an open-air amphitheater to appreciate while you walk through lush landscapes and sunny glades.
Bargain hunt at Feira da Ladra
If you want to save money on food or souvenirs, a trip to Feira da Ladra is the best flea market in Lisbon. Literally, anything you can imagine, and some things you couldn’t imagine, end up on sale at this quirky but historic market. Every Tuesday and Saturday, the flea market opens its gates to locals and tourists. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a fun activity that’s completely free.
Enjoy epic views from Miradouro de Santa Luzia
With rolling hills and an Atlantic ocean backdrop surrounding the city center, there are some amazing vantage points to appreciate breathtaking views. One of the best is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which offers wonderful views of the Tagus River, the historic quarter, and all the terracotta rooftops of Lisbon’s many churches and buildings. There are even bars and cafés with patios for enjoying a drink from the hill.
Free walking tour of Lisbon’s historic quarter
Looking into free walking tours are a penny-pinching pastime for all budget travelers, and there are a number of superb options in Lisbon. First tip: use your hostel or hotel as a resource for finding the best free walking tours in the city. Second tip: do not skip out on touring Rua dos Correeiros, where there are Roman buildings and walls still standing. Núcleo Arqueológico da Rua dos Correeiros is one of the most popular walking tours in Lisbon and certainly should be considered.
Explore Lisbon’s Roman ruins
In the aftermath of Lisbon’s disastrous earthquake of 1755, much of the city was rebuilt. While it had to be done, much of Lisbon’s historic architecture was lost, including a great deal of infrastructure left by the Romans. Still, there are Roman ruins peppered throughout Lisbon that can be explored. Teatro Romano, Casa dos Bicos, Fundação José Saramago, and the Eurostars Museum are the best places to appreciate artifacts and Roman architecture.
Street art at Galeria de Arte Urbana
You’ll have to climb up the steep Calçada da Glória in order to appreciate it, but the Galeria de Arte Urbana is one of the must-visit contemporary art exhibits in Lisbon. Portugal has a world-famous tradition of street art, where the medium is revered rather than suppressed. The Galeria is a sanctioned exhibit featuring the best street art in Portugal, often from local artists. The view from the hill is almost as iconic as the art itself.
Cheap places to eat in Lisbon
With amazing street food and market scenes, Lisbon is the perfect city for cheap eats. While the restaurants and bars serve delicious traditional Portuguese food, you can save money AND experience local flavors by preparing your own food or finding cheap bites by checking a cafe's social media channels for specials and deals.
Pastéis de nata are the perfect budget bite
Regardless of your budget, you definitely want to try local delicacies, pastéis de nata, while you’re in Lisbon. It’s a sweet custard tart dusted with cinnamon or powdered sugar that pairs perfectly with an espresso or coffee. Locals start their day with a trip to the café for one of these delicious and incredibly cheap delicacies
Cantina das Freiras
This casual spot is located near plenty of notable landmarks in the Chiado neighborhood, but it’s surprisingly affordable, perhaps because it’s a little tough to find. Located on the top floor of an office building, Cantina das Freiras has an amazing rooftop terrace overlooking the river. The menu is approachable and affordable as well, making it the ideal casual dinner with a view.
Café Beira Gare
If you’re taking the train through Rossio Train Station, this is the perfect spot to stop for a cheap sandwich and a beer. It can get crowded at peak hours, but it's worthwhile for its delicious pork steak sandwich and lively atmosphere.
Padaria do Povo
This is your classic Lisbon diner, with casual counter service and a large terrace for a relaxing meal and drinks. The menu features traditional Portuguese snacks and small plates that are called petiscos. It’s the perfect place for socializing and drinking in a beautiful setting without breaking the bank.
Cheap bars in Lisbon
Drinking in a new city can be intimidating, but Lisbon has one of the most approachable and affordable bar scenes in Europe. The price for a beer at a normal bar is around $3-$4, and most options are way more flavorful than cheap beer in the US. Super Bock is the most popular option in Lisbon, and this delicious lager is brewed by the country’s oldest brewery.
For wine drinkers, Lisbon is also an affordable travel destination, with a glass costing around $4 at most bars and restaurants. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out Port Wine, which is a regional delicacy made in the region around Lisbon. The Port winemaking industry has recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re looking for inexpensive bars, look into places that aren’t near popular landmarks or tourist areas. It’s smart to seek out places where locals actually go. You’ll not only find inexpensive drinks but a more authentic experience. Cinco Lounge, Maria Caxuxa, Pavilhão Chinês, and Pai Tirano are all popular watering holes with Lisbon locals.
Bonus budget tips for Lisbon
Personal finance and travel don't always mix. Luckily, there are plenty of great travel hacks to make Lisbon an affordable travel destination.
Visit Lisbon during the off-season
One of the most obvious budget hacks for visiting Lisbon is still true. Visiting during the off-season is one of the best ways to save money. The tourist season runs from June to September, like just about everywhere else. Not only are lodging and rental cars more expensive, but the most prominent attractions and landmarks also become overrun with tourists.
Luckily, Lisbon is in Southern Europe, with a warmer climate that makes visiting during “shoulder season” or winter just as, if not more, pleasant to visit. Temperatures dip down into the 50s at night during the fall and spring, but the daytime is as enjoyable as any in Europe. If anything, shoulder season is more comfortable than the sweltering Portuguese summer. This means you’ll avoid the sweaty mess that most attractions turn into when they are swamped with travelers and tour groups. If you see cheap flights and an inexpensive hotel room, don't be afraid to book.
Flight deals will be less expensive, but so will lodging. Hotels and hostels are considerably less expensive during fall and winter, which will really help save money on things like foreign transaction fees and traveler’s insurance as well.
Invest in a Lisbon Card
Recently, travel cards have gone by the wayside in favor of researching and online deals, but the Lisboa Card has found a way to remain one of the best budget hacks for visiting the Portuguese capital. It’s an amazing value if you are looking to visit multiple tourist attractions and jet around this bustling city using public transportation.
There are 26 historical landmarks and attractions that Lisboa Card holders will have free or discounted access to. Some of these are UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Belem Tower or Jeronimos Monastery. Another important function of the Lisboa Card is that you can often skip long lines to access these landmarks.
The Lisboa Card also grants unlimited access to Lisbon’s public transport system, which will help you reach all of the landmarks you plan on visiting. Buying the Lisbon Card ahead of time will allow you to start using the trains and buses from Lisbon Airport, or even help you get to a day trip destination.
Prepare your own meals at least once a day
While trying new foods and exploring a country’s restaurant and café culture are imperative for a full travel experience, it can get expensive. One of the best ways to save money on a trip is to limit the number of meals you eat at restaurants by cooking your own meals.
Luckily, Lisbon’s markets and delis provide flavorful and authentic ingredients for preparing a picnic or traditional homemade meal. The best part of this strategy has to be the ultra-cheap prices for bottles of wine, which start at around $4.
Saving money while traveling can be difficult. Flight deals, off-season bargains, and lodging that’s miles away from the city center don’t always pan out. Fortunately, a Lisbon trip doesn’t have to break the bank. There are so many great free things to do in Lisbon, and even more that charge nominal entrance fees. And with a little planning, it’s incredibly easy to find affordable lodging, delicious but affordable food and drink, and a budget-friendly itinerary.