It’s the New Year, and all your money has gone on Christmas gifts and Boxing Day sales. But the cold, grey days and the long winter nights are slowly chipping away at your spirit, and you need to get away. We have a solution. A cheap winter sun destination that combines history, culture, good food and a great atmosphere. Lovely Lisbon. And we’re going to tell you how you can do it on a budget.
Lisbon is a coastal city located almost in the middle of Portugal. It has an international airport, making it easy to get to from anywhere in Europe or the UK. Known as the City of Seven Hills, Lisbon is blessed with stunning views over the vast Atlantic ocean. The rich history makes it a fascinating place, with medieval castles and ruined monasteries telling the stories of Lisbon’s people. If that sounds like too much for you, you could always opt to relax on one of the city’s pristine beaches. Although the water is cold, Lisbon is quite a popular surfing destination. If you’re on one of the hills facing the water, look to the far right. You’ll see the sister statue of Christ the Redeemer, like the one in Rio de Janeiro. In the countryside surrounding Lisbon, you’ll find hundreds of acres of vineyards producing some excellent wines.
The City Tour
On your first time in a new city, I always find it useful to go on a tour. It helps you get your bearings and teaches you some of the city’s history. Its also the quickest way to get an appreciation for the new culture. Often you’ll even receive very useful suggestions or recommendations from your guides. One of the things I love about Lisbon is the ease of getting around. Cobbled pedestrian streets weave over the surrounding hills, leading to fascinating squares and alleys.
Our first budget recommendation is to join a free walking tour. You can check out different companies that offer them, and choose one that best suits your schedule with regard to timing. I personally enjoyed the one with Sandeman’s. Although the tour is free, a tip is appreciated by the guides. For those who can afford it, the recommendation is £10-£15 per person. That said, the whole concept behind the free walking tour is to make travel affordable for everyone, so don’t feel bad if you can only afford a small tip. Another good way of getting around is on the famous yellow trams. They have frequent services and cover the whole city, making it a super option for those who are less mobile.
Top Tip: Invest in a Lisboa card. It’s valid for 24 hours from first use and gives you unlimited travel on the metro. The Lisboa card also gives you free access to several attractions in the city.
Eating & Drinking Like a Local
Start your day with a coffee and a Portuguese tart. Resembling a custard tart (but so much better), these pasteis can be found all over the city. Most tourists flock to Pasteis de Belem, but this is a bit out of the way and somewhat overpriced. City centre cafes do them just as well, at half the price. If you’re feeling up to it, make like a local and indulge in a Ginjinha; a cherry liqueur shot. It is perfectly acceptable to have this drink at any time of the day, so don’t be afraid to knock one back before lunch. You’ll see a small hole in the wall on the outer edge of Rossio Square that does the authentic liqueur, whole cherries and all. They cost around £1.40 each. For lunch, there are many places to choose from, but I love the hidden courtyard setting of Casa Do Alentejo.
For snacks or an early dinner, head to Timeout Market, which has many retailers selling delicious and freshly prepared local foods. Like many Mediterranean cities, Lisbon’s food and drinks scene starts later than most of us are used to. Your walking tour should have given you some ideas of where to go to experience the nightlife, but generally the locals will be found in the small streets of Bairro Alto. These streets may look like nothing during the day, but they transform into a vibrant and pumping place after 10pm. Many places will stay open until the last people leave, sometimes even until sunrise. Well, when the local Super Bock beer costs less than £2 each, why not!?
Where to Stay
Another reason why we absolutely love Lisbon, is that its famed for having some of the absolute best hostels in the world. Try Home Hostel Lisbon, which is family-run and where Mama cooks dinner daily. Best of all, her delicious dinners are only £10 for 3 courses and include unlimited beer and wine. You’re welcome!! Alternative hostels that are highly rated by guests include Lisb.on Hostel and ‘We Love F****** Tourists’. Yes, that’s their actual name. If you’re not a hostel-type, then perhaps you’d prefer the guest house Mi Casa en Lisboa. If possible, request a castle view room, it’s breath-taking. A hearty and delicious breakfast is included in the room rate.
There you have it, how to visit of the best (and friendliest) cities in Europe on a very modest budget. We’d say £30 per person, per day is more than enough. Now all you need are cheap flights, and for that we have SkyScanner. See you there!