Lisbon on a shoestring

Other | Wednesday 19th July 2017 | Rose

If you’re looking for an affordable short break this summer look no further than Portugal's capital.

City exploring, chilled beaches and clubbing, Lisbon has it all, which makes it one of the most versatile places to visit. All this must have to break the bank slightly, right? 

Not with Lisbon, if you do it right.

Here are 6 reasons why Lisbon wins as a budget holiday without compromise:

Shockingly affordable places to stay

The hostels and Airbnbs are super cheap. I stayed in a private room in an Airbnb with the most comfortable double bed, and lovely hosts, for £12 a night near metro station ‘Arrios’. This was a 30-40 minute walk to the main town centre, but there was still loads going on where we were, and for the price and comfort of the place, I couldn’t complain one bit.

Extensive partying, and a FREE festival?!

People in Lisbon love to party, head out to the clubs at around 4 am. There are a tonne of choices from bars, clubs, outdoor venues. Music Box is an underground venue hosting a variety of genres and top DJs both local and international.

Talking of ‘free’ and saving money, one thing that HAS to be mentioned is weekend long Freekuency festival. With free in the name it is true, this festival is just that. 

With 2 stages and 3 areas of music, hosting techno, drum and bass, reggae and more, plus drinks & entertainment, such as the circus, street art, fire shows, theatre, pantomime and magic; Freekuency is dance music heaven.

The drinks at the bar provide funds for future festivals to keep improving production levels, visuals and sound so spending heavily is encouraged!

Top food without top price

One of the amazing things about Lisbon is the seafood. Because Lisbon is surrounded by coastline, there is a huge variety of fresh, locally sourced and tasty seafood on offer.

If you want to sample the cuisine without spending your whole allowance for the holiday you could try the tapas style. Choose a restaurant and order a variety of dishes to share. The restaurant we went to was on the slopes of Alfama. We sat inside a cave next to a koi pond, and we were brought a selection of cheeses and breads before ordering. Snacking on different food not just having a traditional main is deffo welcome in Lisbon's restaurants.

The old town of Alfama

Alfama itself is a must see. It is the oldest district in Lisbon and it slopes up or down dramatically on every street. There are very few cars, mainly because it would be such a challenge to navigate the narrow streets. 

The little yellow trams do manage to reach some of the high points, though I don't know how. Alfama is beautiful in a cute, historic way, and it has some magnificent views of the rest of Lisbon. In Alfama, there are plenty of gift shops and independent but affordable restaurants.

Walking through here is a free exploration, and you really do feel like you are experiencing Portuguese history & culture.

Cheap trains allowing adventures further afield

Travel when you’re there. Though you may be staying in the centre of Lisbon, there are many other beautiful spots accessible by public transport.

We decided to explore the coastline west of Lisbon, so we bought a zone-based train travel card (which was so cheap - around €6) that got us all the way to Cascais. We got off at Estoril for a fun day of beach fun at Praia do Tamariz: swimming, paddling, sunbathing, eating ice creams and generally relaxing. After we were done with the sun we went for a little walk and ended up at a park, where we looked up and against the skyline was the biggest casino in Europe; Casino Estoril!

This casino is a must-visit if you are in Lisbon. It's unbelievably huge. The security didn’t mind our sandy shoes and lack of ID. We proceeded to get lost inside a whole world of gambling, wandering through slots rooms that felt as though they went on forever, poker rooms, restaurants, even a live music space all inside this enormous casino.

We finally reached what we had been looking for about 15 mins (of course there's no way of telling with no clocks or even windows inside the casino); the blackjack and roulette. We both lost €5, but got up and left, not wanting to be sore losers. Gambling for fun is all about knowing when to stop, and most of the time if the money is already lost, you’ll probably just lose more trying to get it back.

Estoril, casino is free to enter, and you don’t need to be into gambling for it to be worth the visit. This place is crazy enough to see in its own right. After all the fun at Estoril, we headed to Cascais, which is a pretty seaside town with a harbour, all patterned streets, beach volleyball, cool bars and a McDonald's that serves beer and actually does a nice veggie burger!

Ability to keep a beer in your hand at all times

The drinks are cheap in bars, but even cheaper from the shops. It’s so warm too in the summer months that you don’t need to huddle inside a small bar. Grab some SuperBocks and head to one of the many stunning viewpoints overlooking the sights of Lisbon.


Sun, sun, sun

The weather. It’s just beautiful. We stood out as tourists so much, because of our summery get up. All the locals must be used to it but for us, a 28-degree heat was some crazy stuff, hotter than Croatia in the same month. You can pay a lot of money to fly somewhere hot and sit on a beach, but you can do that in Lisbon, along with much more.