Lisbon, Portugal

How To Enjoy A City Break To Lisbon On A Budget

Lisbon, Portugal
Eduardo VII Park, Lisbon.

With a line-up of affordable cool happenings in Lisbon this summer, a city break with family or friends to Portugal’s captivating capital is achievable on a small budget.

According to the Post Office’s 2013 City Costs Barometre, Lisbon ranks as the most affordable city in the Eurozone and with its many districts offering free or inexpensive entry to their cultural attractions, it is easy to spend a little and see a lot.

Below are a number of holiday ideas for the budget-conscious traveller:

Bohemian-break in Bairro Alto

For backpackers and fashionistas both young and old, the district of Bairro Alto is a heady mix of bohemian cafes, cobbled streets with vintage clothes and jewellery shops, restaurants serving an eclectic mix of international cuisine and as day turns to night, it boasts the coolest bars and clubs in the city.

What to do: Visitors can climb the funicular Elevador da Gloria (£2.90 for two journeys) above the rooftops and stop at the gardens of Miradourno de São Pedro de Alcântara to enjoy views over the castle, explore the lush botanical gardens of Jardim Botânico (£1.60 per adult) or enter the house of the late Amalia Rodrigues (£4 per adult) the undisputed Queen of Fado. Admission is free to the lavish chapels at Igreja de São Roque church and the leafy Praça do Príncipe Real is ideal for a relaxed stroll and a glimpse of locals playing cards.

Stay: In a cosy guest house in the heart of the action from £38, based on two sharing a double room per night.

Eat: Traditional Portuguese cuisine, including the famous bacalhau (cod fish), can be tasted in the area’s family-run tascas.

New in town: Every Wednesday until late September, Lisbon’s Open Air Cinema offers free outdoor screenings at Mercado da Fusão in Praça Martim Moniz.

Rooftops of Lisbon, Portugal
The rooftops of Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon.

Familiy fun at Parque Das Nações

The Parque das Nações district best encapsulates modern Lisbon, with impressive futurist architecture and the Vasco da Gama Bridge, Europe’s longest bridge, forming the backdrop to this bustling modern waterfront. Its pedestrianised walkways and cycle paths and flat open spaces make this an ideal safe base for families.

What to do: Family tickets to Europe’s largest aquarium, Oceanário, and the Pavilion of Knowledge, which is nearby and provides hours of entertainment with interactive and 3D exhibitions, are reasonably priced at £34 and £12 respectively. The Telecabine gondola which rises above the Park of Nations and River Tagus is popular with children, as is hiring bikes (£5 per hour) from the Parque do Tejo or trying out water sports at the Marina Parque das Nações (beginner lessons start from £30 per person). The free-to-roam Jardins da Água is a great spot for picnics where kids can play for hours with the various water gadgets and pumps.

Stay: In one of Lisbon’s 4 star hotels which offer spacious family rooms at affordable rates, starting from £170 for a Junior Suite based on a family sharing per night.

Eat: A selection of the freshest seafood prepared and grilled-to-order in one of the many seafront cafes and restaurants.

Chill-out beach retreat in Cascais

The former fishing village of Cascais is the more vibrant and busy of the seaside resorts located west of Lisbon city centre and can be easily accessed by train from Cais do Sodre. Cascais boasts a number of sandy beaches with excellent facilities; not only attracting sun-seekers but also water sports enthusiasts – surfing, kite surfing and windsurfing are popular pursuits due to the great weather, wind and sea conditions.

What to do: Visitors can watch the fresh catch come in at the local Fish Market each afternoon and the grid of streets north of the Igreja da Assunção and the leafy parks of Parque Municipal da Gandarinha around the marina provide a welcome escape from the crowds. Two museums offering free entry are the sea-themed Museu do Mar and the Casa das HistÓrias, dedicated to the living artist Paula Rego.

Stay: In a hostel two minutes away from the beach, in a private ensuite room for two people from £50 per night.

Drink: Wines produced in the Lisbon region, as visitors watch the sunset over the sea.

New in town: The free to attend Faz Música Lisboa returns on 21st June to celebrate live music in eight different venues and parks around Lisbon. It brings together more than 50 bands to entertain audiences with a wide variety of music, including Blues, Fado, Brazilian, jazz and rock.

You can get more ideas on affordable city break itineraries at


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