I’ll let you into a secret. Craig and I spent 10 days in Portugal’s capital Lisbon, the longest we’ve stayed in any European city! Why? Because Lisbon is bouncing! The city is awash with winding streets, graffiti, delicious food, and a vibrant music scene. The best budget news – there are 15 things to do in Lisbon for under €15!
15 Things to do in Lisbon for Under €15
1. Get Lost in Alfama
The oldest district of Lisbon, Alfama, is one to get lost in! Wander around the impressively tall buildings and narrow streets, stopping off for a coffee or port to recharge the batteries. These roads will take you from the São Jorge Castle down to the Tejo River, ogle at the pretty tiled buildings along the way. I can only compare Alfama to the maze that is Edinburgh’s Old Town but on a much larger (or narrower?) scale.
2. Beers at Bairro Alto
The neighbourhoods you want to visit in Lisbon are all very close to each other. It is likely that you will take a new street and be in the next area without realising it. Bairro Alto is the zone where the nightlife kicks off. By day it simply looks like streets with eateries, by night these streets come alive. More than often, it feels like you are having drinks in your Grandma’s living room! It’s easy to find cheap drinking options too, check out Q Lata for happy hour beer and sangria (€1). Personally, I would avoid accommodation in Bairro Alto, unless you are the party!
3. Get High in Lisbon
Reaching the stars for the best views of the city has been a running theme in our European city guides of late. Lisbon has no shortage of rooftop viewing platforms and luckily for us, most come with a cool drink in your hand! Check out the laid-back Park Bar for lovely views of the 25 de Abril Bridge (mojito €6.50 / beer €3.50). One of the many hipster things to do in Lisbon! Don’t miss Miradouro de Santa Catarina viewing point at sunset where you can take a carryout and hang with the locals. Quick tip – the viewing point directly across from The Decadente Restaurant has the best views of Säo Jorge Castle. It’s not just the scenery in Lisbon that will steal your breath away. Struggle with hills? Check out Lisbon’s four elevators – three are yellow and run on tracks, Lisbon’s trams!
- Address: Park Bar – Calçada do Combro, 58 1200-115 Lisbon, Portugal
Tram #28 is notoriously busy! Jam packed with site hungry tourists looking to get a glimpse of Lisbon’s most popular tourist attractions, all for under €3! There is no audio guide but the cool breeze from the window seat is included. I did not find this ride as exhilarating as others have but I did finally jump on it on day eight so had seen much of what was on offer, plus the rail to the castle was closed.
5. Even More Lisbon Tours
I have never seen a city with so many tours! Segway, tuk-tuk, a bus that turns into a boat… We opted for the traditional and reliable Lisbon walking tour, which guided us around the historic old town. Our guide, Carla, energetically marched us through the tiny streets of Alfama while sharing tales of war, natural disasters, religion, and economic downturns. All of these events contribute to Lisbon’s new badge of honour as a city of tolerance. If you are not so keen on group tours, check out this audio walking tour of Lisbon by fellow blogger, Julie Dawn Fox, a British expat in Portugal!
• Price: Paid through tips
• Time: 11am
• Duration: 2 – 3 hours
• Meeting point: Rossio / Pedro IV Square (the one with two fountains)
6. Square Deal
Lisbon has lots of squares! Rossio Square is the one with two fountains. Praca do Comercio (aka Terreiro do Paço Square) has a big yellow building with an arch and is close to the river – this is where we watched the semi – final of the European cup, a massive TV was set up for all to see. Camões Square is my favourite square; many a Bifana (pork sandwich) was consumed while watching the world go by here. One of the cutest things about the local community squares (and each neighbourhood has one) is the tiny bar where you can buy a coffee!
7. Down The Hatch – Ginjinha
Served in a shot, but must be sipped – Ginjinha is a sour cherry liquor best enjoyed after midday. Recommended rocket fuel to get you up those hills. One of the tastiest things to do in Lisbon in 2016, and beyond!
- Price: €1 – €1.40
Salted, canned, fried – apparently, there are 365 ways to cook cod so that’s one dish for every day of the year. You’ll discover where cod is being sold by smell before sight! Not a fan of fish? The Portuguese sure know how to do a sausage! And snails… More on Lisbon’s best cheap restaurants to come at Two Scots Abroad, sign up for our newsletter to ensure that you don’t miss this post!
Foodies: it’s live – where to eat in Lisboa.
9. Party on Pink Street
Guess what colour the ground on this street is? Yes! You guessed it, pink. The infamous party street is lined with the ‘best clubs in Lisbon’ so not for faint-hearted travellers (actually seemed pretty tame!) A trip to Pink Street is one of the popular things to do in Lisbon at night.
• Address: Rua Nova do Carvalho
Yes, Lisbon is famous for the emotional and romantic Fado music (heaps of bars and restaurants play live Fado most nights) but what impressed us more was the number of rock / pop concerts in the city. We attended NOS Alive (a three-night gig) for two nights. I was really impressed with Junior Boys on the Thursday night but less impressed with how busy the venue near Belém was by the Saturday night, you couldn’t even get in to use the bathrooms. A total riot! Although NOS Alive exceeds the €15 price tag, every Sunday there is a party in the park style DJ event for less! Also, the weekend we were leaving, Lisbon was playing host to Super Bock Rock festival – summer really is jumping in Lisbon.
11. Lunch at LX Factory
LX Factory is pretty fancy and I am sure most of the visitors to this arty lunch spot are tourists but the area is still a pleasant place to brunch in. Don’t forget to check out the street art behind the main drag and pick up some vintage gifts at the market. Word of warning – when you are offered olives, bread, etc aka as couvert, this is not free. Each item will be added to your bill, so if you’d prefer not to get stung with the side dishes (a total surprise to us after ‘free’ tapas in Granada, Spain!) send them back. We were stung by a €28 breakfast of eggs and bread. Check out this E-book on Portuguese food if heading to Lisbon.
• Address: R. Rodrigues de Faria 103, 1300 Lisboa, Portugal
Close to the 25 de Abril Bridge, you will find Santo Amaro Docks – a small stretch of bars and restaurants mostly occupied by locals. I always feel pretty smug when I discover less touristy spots and this area certainly was that. Check out the boats in the marina while having a beer under Lisbon’s San Francisco Bridge, enjoy Lisbon like a local!
• Doca Santo Amaro Armazém CP, 1350-353, Alcântara, Lisboa, Portugal
So many fun things to do in Lisbon but leaving the centre is also recommended. Belém is a very cute area of Lisbon just a short tram ride away. Feeling energetic? Hire bikes and pedal the 40-minute bike route which takes you along the River Tejo, under the bridge, past the boats to Belém Tower. More on Belém to come in our guide to Lisbon’s best day trips. Definitely one of my favourite Lisbon attractions.
• Bike hire: €10 – €15 (4-hour hire)
• Tram to Belém: 15 or tram 127 from downtown (get off at Jeronimos Monastery / approx. 30 minutes))
If you only do one thing in Portugal it should be this – eat a custard tart. The crème de la crème (see what I did there?) can be found in Belém at Pasteis de Belem for €1.05 per tart. Just look for a stupidly large queue and you are there! We were advised to queue for a seat (as opposed to take away) for speedy service but the wait was still around 10 minutes.
• R. Belém, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal
Sintra, the city for tourists with deep pockets. Many holiday – makers adore this day trip from Lisbon, where they can visit more than ten national monuments (once they have won the lottery). Monuments include the National Palace (€10), the Moors Castle (€8) and the Pena Palace (€14). I can’t deny that it is an interesting looking city but I preferred our scooter ride home via Cascais, that’s where we filmed our very last video from the 17 month career break to travel the Americas and Europe (can’t wait to tell you about it next week!)
• Transport: Train 434 route / Station: Rossio / 40 minutes / €4.30
• Website: Parques de Sintra
Accommodation in Lisbon
We were slightly taken aback at the prices of accommodation in Lisbon. Hotels in Lisbon centre start at €60 – €459. Lisbon hostels are cheaper, starting at €8 for a dorm bed. Airbnb averages at €98 but can be found as cheap as €27 for a private room. Not using Airbnb yet? Enjoy private space and sign up with our code for money off. We’ll get credit too! Craig and I actually stayed in the Santos area, which I would recommend as it is close to Bairro Alto (15-minute walk) but far enough away to not hear any noise. Chiado is another nice area which is a little livelier than Bairro Alto but not party central.
Weather in Lisbon
Really lovely in July and August but with this being the warmest time of the year (extreme high of 36 degrees) you can expect it to be the busiest. November to March can get rainy with February being the wettest month.
Transport in Lisbon
Lisbon is pretty well connected with a tram system, buses, and trains to get out of the city. Taxis also operate as well as the cheaper taxi service, Uber. Don’t rule out a bike ride either!
Check out this neat interactive map of Portugal’s capital city. Remember, most of those streets are hills!
Currency in Lisbon
Lisbon is part of the European Union and uses the Euro. For the most up to date rates see here.
Portugal’s capital is a city that has something to offer every type of traveller on any kind of budget. It would make the perfect long weekend, with heaps of things to do for under €15 over two or three days or an ideal extended trip for the slow holiday – maker who is fond of day trips! I left my heart in Vancouver, my head in Sarajevo, and my liver in Lisbon!
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