When we planned our European trip to Barcelona, Lisbon, and the Azores I was mostly excited about visiting Barcelona and didn’t give Lisbon too much thought. However, this city quickly landed on the short list of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited. Between the old charm, the colors, food, and ease of accessibility and affordability, Lisbon blew me away.
The great thing about Europe is that it’s incredibly easy to travel there on a budget. We initially flew to Barcelona for about $250 a person through Priceline and then flew from Barcelona to Lisbon on the budget airline, Ryanair for $40. You can of course fly directly to Lisbon for about the same price if you sign up for flight alerts. We also went in late September, early October so flights were much cheaper during the off season yet the weather was still very warm. My family said the next time we come here (oh yes, there will be a next time already!) that we look into traveling using the likes of Jettly Private Jets or the likes considering the commercial flights were so cheap. It could definitely be one way to get the holiday off to an amazing start, and we’d even be looking forward to the flight back!
We traveled with our family, so splitting an Airbnb was extremely affordable. We stayed at this place in the stunning Alfama neighborhood and loved it. Maria, the owner of the home was kind, warm, and helpful. Plus, THE VIEW! If you aren’t signed up for Airbnb, you can get a $35 credit through this link if you book.
It was much harder to get around in Barcelona so one of the things we loved about Lisbon was the ease of accessibility by cab or Uber. We didn’t ride a tuk tuk but those seemed fun too! Get $15 off your first Uber ride by clicking here!
Things to do
Visit the Alfama district
Alfama is the oldest district in Lisbon. I immediately felt like I stepped back in time. There’s so much to do here and a lot of doesn’t have to break the bank. Walk around, grab a bite, shop, visit cathedrals. Make sure you’re charged up because you will want to take about a million pictures of the pastel homes and tile buildings.
Visit the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
While you’re in Alfama, be sure to stop by the spectacular Monastery of Sao Vicente De Fora. They were closed when we arrived but we spent a good hour sitting in silence in the courtyard. Between the bright pink floral bushes and vines and the calming water fountain, we were honestly left speechless for a while.
Eat a pastel de nata
This egg tart pastry unique to Portugal is a must while in Lisbon. The best one we had was at Velho Macedo restaurant. While you’re there, eat all the cheese. We were so stuffed after lunch that when we declined this pastry, the chef brought it out in “you don’t know what you’re talking about” kind of way. We’re so glad he did! I popped about four of those in my mouth immediately.
Go to the Feira da Ladra market
This flea market is a gem! My recommendation to fellow avid treasure hunters: pack light and clear an entire afternoon for this. I.Was.In.Heaven.There.Is.So.Much.Stuff. My favorite finds included these beautiful printed tapestries. Be sure to check their hours beforehand.
Visit Torre de Belém
Beware: this place is crawling with tourists. We were not interested in going inside after seeing the line wrapped around the block. However, this is a sight to see plus the story behind it is pretty interesting. Above is a photo my husband took as we admired this historic masterpiece from behind tourist lines.
Experience Fado music
One of our most memorable experiences was going to hear Fado music. The first night we went to Boteco Da Fá, a quirky little place but the power behind the singer’s voice gave me goosebumps the entire time. A few nights later we went to Pastel de Fado which was equally as amazing. Best part was when my husband got to sit in! That was definitely one of my favorite memories of 2016.
Praça do Comércio
This historical landmark is lined with restaurants and shops. Again, lots of tourists here but not in an overwhelming kind of way. Plus, it’s right on the water.
What to pack & other details
Lisbon is extremely hilly so make sure you’re comfortable at all times. I wore skinny jeans and sandals one hot afternoon walking around Alfama and felt like they were stuck to my body. You definitely want to pack light and breezy pieces and comfortable walking shoes. The food is incredible, especially the seafood. The currency is the Euro and the spoken language is Portuguese. Most places accept major credit cards but it helps to have some Euros on hand for cash-only restaurants. Tipping is not required at restaurants but in some cases 5-10% is appropriate. As far as dining on a budget, there are hundreds of restaurants that offer brunch and happy hour specials. A quick google or yelp search for affordable dining will yield many results. That’s really the only way we ate out!