Visiting Lisbon, Portugal on a Budget

We loved Lisbon, Portugal! This city is beautiful with all the different patterned cobblestone streets, colorful buildings and design tile work.  We enjoyed exploring the city by foot as well as eating the freshest seafood and most delightful desserts. You can take in the beauty of Lisbon, Portugal on a budget too as most of the attractions are completely free. We recommend spending at least 3 days in Lisbon.  Here is our guide on what to do when visiting Lisbon, Portugal on a budget.

Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in early March

What to do in Lisbon on a Budget

Explore the Alfama District by foot 

Alfama District Cobblestone Street, Lisbon, Portugal
Alfama District Cobblestone Street

This area is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. The cobblestone streets and labyrinthine alleyways give it a very unique feel.  The streets here are full of shops selling traditional crafts and food. 

Miradouro Das Portas do Sol, Lisbon, Portugal
Miradouro Das Portas do Sol

The area overlooking the Tagus river is filled with traditional white buildings with ionic orange roofs. Some of the best views of the city are here including Miradouro Das Portas do Sol, a famous viewpoint of the city. 

Cobblestone streets, Lisbon, Portugal
Varying cobblestone patterns that line the sidewalks of Lisbon

Fun fact: Different patterns of black and white cobblestone pave most of the pedestrian walkways throughout Lisbon. We counted 25 + different patterns! The picture above features just some of our favorite cobblestone patterns. Challenge: see how many patterns you can find when visiting. Bonus, seeing all these cobblestone patterns is completely free!

Day trip to Belem 

Belem Tower, Belem, Portugal
Belem Tower

Belem is about 5 miles outside of Lisbon’s city center. You can either walk here or take a Tram from the city center.  Here you can explore the iconic sites of Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries to honor Portugesse explorers who departed from here), Belem Tower (UNESCO World Heritage Site, Built to protect access to Portugal on the Tagus River) and the Monastery of Jeronimos.  You also can get Pastel de Nata at the iconic Pastries de Belem (see what/where to eat section below).  

Padrao dos Descobrimentos Monument, Lisbon, Portugal
Padrao dos Descobrimentos Monument

Day Trip to Sintra

Sintra Palace
Sintra Palace

Sintra is an approximately 40 minute train ride from Lisbon and definitely worth the ride.  This magical city is well known for its historic palaces, castles and gardens.  The highlight of our trip here was exploring the Pena Palace and hiking in the Sintra Mountains.  

Hiking through Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
Hiking through Sintra-Cascais Natural Park

We embarked on a steep, very picturesque and green hike through part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park to get to the Pena Palace located atop of one of the Sintra Mountains. Alternatively, you can take a cab ride to the top of the mountain if hiking is not your idea of a fun time.  However, this hike was so pretty (and completely free) so we really recommend you hike if you can.

The Pena Palace is unlike any castle you have ever seen before with its vibrant colors and unique architecture.  It was very foggy on the day we visited but this only added to the mystical atmosphere of this countryside castle and city. 

Sintra Gardens, Lisbon, Portugal
Sintra Gardens

On our hike down from the castle, we enjoyed exploring the charming gardens as well as the very expansive and luxurious Sintra estates. 

Tip: If you have more time, there are plenty of other attractions to visit in Sintra and you may want to consider making it an overnight trip from Lisbon. 

What/Where to eat in Lisbon

Pastel De Nata

Pastel de Nata at Pastries de Belem
Pastel de Nata at Pastries de Belem

Delicious traditional Portuguese egg tart made with a flakey crust. We loved these! There are little shops selling them everywhere in Lisbon.   

Our favorite Pastel de Nata experience was at Pastries de Belem where Pastel De Nata originated in Belem.  This pastry was created by Catholic Monks in the 18th century to sell and keep the Monastery of Jeronimos open when it was facing closure due to finances. 

Mercado da Ribeira

Times Out Market, Lisbon, Portugal
Times Out Market, Lisbon, Portugal

The Mercado de Ribeira or “Time Out ” Market in Lisbon has a variety of local Portugese food stands all within the same building.  We enjoyed trying a diverse selection of Portugese food here.  We liked this market so much that we ate here twice so we could try more of the food options. 

El Rei D. Frango

El Rei D. Frango, Lisbon, Portugal
El Rei D. Frango

This location is a hole in the wall restaurant (with maybe 10 tables in total) that we stumbled upon while walking around late one afternoon.  The seafood and atmosphere here were really unmatched.   This dinner was our favorite meal in Lisbon and we highly recommend eating here!  We want to fly back to Lisbon to eat here again.

Tips: This restaurant is cash only so make sure to bring enough to pay.  Plan to eat an early dinner unless you do not mind waiting in line outside of the restaurant for a table to open up. There was a line down the street to get in as we were leaving on a Tuesday. We were fortunate to stumble upon this gem!

El Rei D.Frango Lisbon

Chapito a Mesa

Chapito a Mesa, Lisbon, Portugal
Chapito a Mesa

Restaurant in the Alfama district with an incredible view of the river and the whole city. Here you dine in a rooftop garden and it’s the perfect spot for lunch when the weather is nice. The food and atmosphere were both on point. 

Tip: This place is easy to miss because it looks like a gallery from the street.  You have to walk through a little gallery and then take a metal spiral staircase to the main dining area. 

Sardines & Sangria 

Sardines and Sangria in Lisbon, Portugal
Sardines and Sangria in Lisbon, Portugal

To Sam’s delight, Sardines are a delicacy in Portugal and in no short supply.  Sardines were even featured on one of our cheese boards. While Sardines were not Natalie’s cup of tea, the fresh Sangria found throughout Lisbon was.  

Where to Stay in Lisbon on a Budget

VIP Executive Eden Aparthotel

This hotel was large with no fancy frills but the location and price were great.  The rooms were also much bigger than most European hotel rooms and included a small kitchen.  

VIP Hotels

We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Lisbon.  Anything else you’d add to our guide?  We’d love to hear your feedback.  Please leave us a comment. 

While in this area of Europe, be sure to pop over to visit both Madrid and Barcelona in Spain. We hope to visit Porto, Portugal someday too. See our friend Christine’s The Ultimate Restaurant List for Porto & 4 Incredible Experiences you do not want to Miss in Porto posts.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!

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Planning a multi-city trip to Europe? See our How to Plan Your First Europe Trip on a Budget guide for more tips on how to do this.

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