See Lisbon for Less – Affordable European Vacation in Portugal

in Trip Locations

A summer getaway to a European city with stunning views and Mediterranean weather sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? And expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Forget Rome and Spain’s Basque Region; your Euros will go much further in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon.

Strolling about the city’s winding back alleys, its quaint museums, and majestic Gothic cathedrals, you’ll wonder why more people don’t make the journey. The city is a bit of a European secret, with all the history and culture of the other capitals without the hefty prices.

Lisbon is easily accessible by air road, sea, and rail. If you’re short on time, flying is the best way to travel. You’ll find the cheapest rates to Lisbon Portela Airport using one of the many flight comparison websites. The airport is just four miles north of the city, so it’s easy to reach your hotel once you touch down. If you’ve got more time up your sleeve you could enjoy the countryside from an Intercity train or your hire car. International cruise ships also dock in Lisbon, but that option will leave a nasty hole in your bank balance.

Once your travel arrangements are sorted you’ll need to think about where to stay. So many frugal travelers book the cheapest place they find, but if you’ve got a little extra money it’s worth doing your research. Often the difference between a one-star hovel in the old town and a four-star room in the chic Marques de Pombal district is as little as $25US. If you’ve been slumming it in hostels around Europe, a plush bed in Lisbon can feel like heaven!

Lisbon’s taxis are also reasonably priced when compared to the rest of Europe, but those fares can still add up. The city’s public transport systems are both affordable and efficient. Buses and trams criss-cross the city, taking tourists to the city’s main attractions. If you don’t mind feeling like a sardine in a can you’ll appreciate the speed and low fares of the metro. And you’ll enjoy the scenery as you cross the Tagus River on the ferry.

Walking is always the cheapest option though, and Lisbon is small enough to make this feasible in most cases. Many locals also speak English, and they’re so friendly that they’ll point you in the right direction if you lose your way. The city is quite hilly though, so you might want to work on your fitness before you leave. The challenging trails are perfect for burning the calories from lunch though!

When money matters, leave Via Augusta behind and head to the back streets. The restaurants here are much more affordable than the ones you’ll find along the main tourist strip, although you’ll still need to watch for sneaky extras. Waiters will often put bread and cheese on the table, but these tempting tidbits aren’t free. They look delicious, and the cheese always is, but resist the temptation if you want a cheap meal. If you’re not very hungry forget the restaurants and cafes and head to a bakery instead. These eateries offer an array of affordable and tasty savory snacks.

Once the essentials are sorted it’s time to have some fun. Lisbon has plenty of free and close to free ways to occupy your time. It doesn’t cost a lot to soak up some culture at the city’s museums. While admission is always affordable, you can visit the Museum of Ancient Art and National Tile Museum for free on Sunday mornings. If you’d like to do things more leisurely, the Gulbenkian Museum has free admission on Sundays from opening to close.

Admission to the National Palace of Sintra is also free on Sundays. This 13th century castle is the best preserved in the country. You don’t need to be an architecture buff to appreciate the Moorish mosaics, the majestic domed ceilings, and some 72 coats of arms. And if you haven’t had your fill of breathtaking buildings you can take in the Jeronimus Monastery and Belem Tower.

I can’t promise you won’t spend money, but it’s free to browse the Feira de Ladra. This famous flea market is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays near St Vincent de For a Church. It’s fun to peruse the eclectic mix of items, and a great place to find affordable souvenirs.

The National Palace of Sintra, Lisbon

The National Palace of Sintra, Lisbon

And it’s always free to spend time lounging on the beach. You’ll find several stretches of sand along the coast between Lisbon and Cascais. Guincho has an international reputation for enviable surf, while Carcavelos is family friendly. If you travel a little further from the city center you’ll find secluded Adraga Beach, regarded as one of the best in Europe. It’s worth the journey to soak up the romance of this unspoiled paradise.

So whether it’s sun and sand or a cultural adventure you’re after, you’ll find it for less in Lisbon.

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