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Proven tips for budget travel in Lisbon

Traveling in Europe can be expensive these days- especially for people going there from the Americas or Asia. Lisbon, however, is an ideal and often overlooked European city where one can still enjoy the sights and sounds without feeling like a grubby backpacker.

Proven tips for budget travel in Lisbon

Don’t Waste Money on Transportation

Portugal’s own airlines- TAP Portugal and SAPA- both provide low-cost flights from North America that are cheaper than using U.S.-based airlines. Once one arrives in Lisbon, the airport is quite close to downtown and taxi fares are also cheap compared to fares in other countries. A ride from the airport to the heart of the city will only cost 5 to 10 euros with minimal traffic.

The first thing to do is to buy a 24-hour transportation pass, which costs 4 euros and enables one to board all modes of transportation (subway, trams, buses) as many times as required. Although it is an old city, all of the major sightseeing places are linked by public transportation. Public transportation in Lisbon is also cleaner than that of many other European cities, and is fully air-conditioned during the summer. The 28 tram (streetcars that run on electricity) and 15 tram have excellent routes that cover most of the best sightseeing locations. The old district (southern) district is quite pedestrian friendly, and many walking tour routes can be found online.

Interesting Places to See

Lisbon has a very strong cultural heritage. One good place to visit is the Basilica da Estrela, a structure that dates back to 1796. Entrance to the basilica is free, so don’t hesitate to go inside and look at the elaborate paintings on the walls. Opposite the basilica is a park and garden (the Jardim da Estrela), which is a nice leafy, photo-friendly place. The Jeronimos Monastery is also a historical place that has beautiful architecture and is the resting place for the famed Portugese explorer Vasco da Gama.

Modern architecture lovers may also appreciate the Parque das Nacoe district in the east side of the city. Reachable by subway, this area features futuristic buildings that are completely different from what one may see in the main, older part of the city. Most of the district was built for the 1998 World Fair. The Oceanarium (aquarium) requires admission, but appreciating the architecture is free, as is window-browsing at the Vasco da Gama mall, one of the city’s largest shopping centers.

Finding Fine Art in Lisbon

Most museums are have some sort of free admission on Sundays, so check the websites of the major museums for more details. One strong recommendation is the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, which has an excellent collection of Greco-Roman, Far Eastern, and Renaissance art. The museum hosts a Sunday concert series that is free.

Proven tips for budget travel

For art enthusiasts that prefer more modern works, the Belém Cultural Center is a relatively new art venue that is admirable but overlooked by many tourist guides. The center is a large complex and has a museum with very well-curated modern and contemporary art. The exhibition halls are free.

Air Fare Bargains to Europe

Portugal’s own Airline, TAP Portugal, offers round-trip flights from Newark as low as $444, and their customers can package in car rental for about $25 a day and hotels for under $100 a night for two. Always compare costs of buying car rental with airline tickets, but it can usually save money.

Take a Cheap City Tour

The charming bright yellow streetcars on the #28 line travel from the hilltop Alfama quarter’s twisting narrow streets, past the Cathedral through the Bairro Baixa, past the hopping Docks entertainment district and on to the museum-filled Belem neighborhood. These vintage cars, with their clanging bells cover most of the prime places tourists want to see in Lisbon, and the cost is under $2. Smart visitors get their bearings with an overview of the city from this historic line.

Best Tourist Bargains in Lisbon

Save the most expensive museums until Sunday, when many are free until 2 pm. The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, one of Europe’s great art collections featuring everyone from Rembrandt to Renoir, is free all day Sunday, and only $5 any day – one of the best museum values in Europe. The eye-boggling Coach Museum in the former royal riding school in Belem is free until 2 pm, but like the Gulbenkian, it’s regular admission is only $5.

Lisbon’s Free Must-See Sights

The city itself is the one must-see sight. Possibly the most authentic capital in Western Europe, Lisbon is not gussied up for visitors, but teems with everyday life. laundry hangs above the narrow steep streets of the old Moorish Alfama district, where stone staircases open suddenly onto terraces with spectacular views over the red tile rooftops to the broad blue Taugus River. Children play in the squares, cafes spill over the sidewalks inviting travelers to sit a while and watch the world go by.

Bargain Dining in Lisbon

budget travel in Lisbon

Much cheaper than tourist or hotel restaurants, neighborhood tascas are among Europe’s best dining bargains. The food is plentiful, well prepared and tasty, and the atmosphere is lively and friendly. Travelers really feel part of local life in these informal restaurants, as they enjoy authentic local cuisine. A full dinner with wine will be under $20 – probably way under. Try Antigo 1 de Maio, on Rua da Atalaia in the Bairro Alto or Bonjardim, on Travessa de Santo Antão in Santa Justa. Order local dishes of pork or fish – grilled sardines are a lunch-time specialty. Ask to sample the house wine before ordering, but it is usually a good alternative to higher-priced bottles.

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