Lisbon has long been known as a budget-friendly destination, and although prices have gone up considerably in the last few years, it’s still much more affordable than other Western European capitals and major cities.
Public transportation remains inexpensive, food and drinks are relatively cheap, and accommodation can be a good value if booked some time in advance.
If you’re on a limited budget, or simply if you like a good deal (who doesn’t?), follow this advice:
Free Sightseeing and Free Transportation with the Lisboa Card
The airport is linked to the city center by metro, which you may ride for free with the Lisboa Card. That’s the tourist pass that offers free unlimited rides in all public transportation (metro, buses, trams, funiculars, and trains), and free or reduced admission to most of the city’s attractions. You may order it online and pick it up at the tourist office at the airport, which is found in the arrivals hall. The card is available for 24-, 48- or 72-hour periods, and is an excellent value, as it saves you money and time.
Get your card:
Checking Hotel Deals and Booking in Advance
The best hotel deals are found outside the high season (which in Lisbon is between June and August), but any time is a good time to look for last-minute deals. Lisbon has become quite a popular destination, so to guarantee a good room within your budget, book some time in advance. You may book online for free (no fees), and most hotels allow cancellations with no penalties (usually if done up to 24 or 48 hours before the check-in date). Most also don’t require a deposit, so you pay nothing when you book, only when you arrive at or check out of the hotel. The most expensive hotels are on Avenida da Liberdade and Chiado, but the boutique hotels in Baixa (downtown) can be a good value if you consider the location.
Eating and Drinking on a Budget
To save on eating and drinking, head to the city’s food courts. In addition to the fast food restaurants you’re familiar with, they have local franchises with quality and healthy food -- eating in a food court does not mean eating junk food. The most central is found at the top of the Armazéns do Chiado shopping mall. The shopping malls of Amoreiras (reached by tram 24 from Praça Luís de Camões in Chiado) and Vasco da Gama (in the Parque das Nações district) are other excellent options. The biggest one is a metro ride away, inside the Colombo mall.
Cafés are also good choices for fulfilling light meals at reasonable prices, but the best-value meals in Lisbon are at the small, family-owned restaurants serving traditional Portuguese cuisine. They’re mostly found outside the most touristy neighborhoods and often list daily specials.
As indicated above, the Lisboa Card offers free or reduced admission to most attractions, so you don’t have to spend a dime or very little on sightseeing. But there are major sights in Lisbon that are always free. The hilltop viewpoints, which are mandatory stops, are the best examples, and then there are the beaches nearby. The most popular ones are in Cascais, which is reached by a train service covered by the Lisboa Card.
Visitors also don’t have to pay to enter the city’s churches, and there’s a museum that never charges admission, the Money Museum.