Good weather, incredible food, relaxed vibes, history & tradition. Those are the words that come to mind when describing Lisbon.
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the city’s cobbled streets, colorful tiles and quaint old trams that’s hard to match.
On this trip, we flew from London to Lisbon chasing the sunshine for a couple of days. Our budget was tight, so the aim of the trip was to spend time wandering at our leisure, feeling and breathing the unique atmosphere of Lisbon.
Rather than spending on museum tickets, we instead decided to splurge on day trips to Sintra, Cascais and Belem, which altogether offered the perfect introduction to Portugal (and convinced us to return in the future to explore more).
Here’s a look at how we spent 3 full days in Lisbon on a budget, including the best places to visit and my personal tips on ways you can save money during your stay.
How to Spend 3 Amazing Days in Lisbon On A Budget
Lisbon Airport Arrival & Getting to the City Centre
If you’re flying from abroad, you will arrive at Lisbon Portela Airport aka Lisbon Airport. We were pleasantly surprised that we could easily hop on the Metro and get to our Airbnb in Santa Apolonia in less than 1 hour and for only €1,50! Gotta love airports that are well connected to the heart of the city.
You would need to buy the Viva Viagem card, which might look like a normal paper ticket but it is actually rechargeable, so make sure you keep it and use it for the rest of your stay.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
There’s really no right or wrong in terms of the best area to stay in Lisbon, it is a matter of understanding your own preferences and needs as a traveler.
In our case, we wanted to avoid the loud nightlife areas, be able to walk to the city center and have a Metro station close by for easy access to the airport.
We also noticed that hostels in central locations were quite pricey and overall not providing good value for money so we eventually settled for this Airbnb located 800 meters from Santa Apolonia Station. For about €42 per night, we stayed in this newly renovated apartment that was everything we really needed: clean, comfortable and quiet. If you don’t mind sharing the bathroom with other guests, I can definitely recommend this Airbnb.
Check out availability and guest reviews here.
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3 Days in Lisbon Itinerary
You will never run out of things to do in Lisbon, if anything, you might feel overwhelmed! Here’s our complete 3 day Lisbon itinerary & highlights.
I’ve also included a daily cost breakdown of our budget of €50 per person per day (including daily expenses and accommodation). Did we manage to stay under that threshold? Keep on reading to find out!
Day 1 – Lisbon City Center Self-Guided Tour: Viewpoints, Alfama, Lisbon Cathedral, Bica
We started Day 1 in Lisbon heading to a local bakery shop near our Airbnb for a quick breakfast before venturing out. For just €1.50, each of us had an espresso coffee and a delicious Portuguese-style pastry.
Our first stop was Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, a viewpoint located up in a hill in Graca. The panoramic views from here are fantastic – you can see the whole city below you! You’ll have plenty of opportunities to take awesome pictures of the terra-cotta ceilings in the city, Castelo de S. Jorge and the red Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge (the one that resembles the Golden Gate Bridge). This was probably the best viewpoint we saw during our 3 days in Lisbon.
From there, we walked down to another viewpoint just 8 minutes away by foot: Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. There is a little cafe for something to eat or drink while you take in the breathtaking views. You’ll probably find musicians playing in the background which adds to the fun atmosphere.
Walking down towards the Lisbon Cathedral, we passed by the impressive Castelo de S. Jorge although we decided to skip it as the waiting line was too long – we learned the hard way that this landmark is more enjoyable early morning or late afternoon.
Purple Jacaranda trees were in full bloom when we visited at the end of May, so we made lots of stops along the way to admire the dreamy landscape.
At around noon, we finally made it to the Lisbon Cathedral (Se de Lisboa), where you can witness the impressive architecture and interesting historical background of one of the oldest buildings in Lisbon.
Praca do Comercio
After a quick lunch at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, we headed to Praca do Comercio. It is a massive square overlooking the sea, the highlight being the triumphal arch Arco da Rua Augusta. A must see in Lisbon!
From Arco da Rua Augusta, the best plan is to walk and get lost in the streets of Baixa for the rest of the afternoon. Some of my favorite spots in this area are:
A Vida Portuguesa | Home goods store with exquisite Portuguese designs.
Luvaria Ulisses | Tiny old-school glove store.
Kaffeehaus | Perfect modern spot for a coffee or drink.
Largo do Carmo | Historical square with tables outside and live musicians.
Confeitaria Nacional | Vintage coffee house/patisserie. Touristy, but full of character.
For dinner, we absolutely loved our meal at gastropub Os Bons Malandros in Bica, which we discovered on Google Maps.
All in all, it turned out to be our most favorite culinary experience in Lisbon. The prawns and octopus we ordered were out-of-this-world delicious and cooked to perfection. With a generous glass of Portuguese white in hand, it was the best way to end a memorable first day in Lisbon.
If you want to continue to enjoy more drinks & music, look no further than Bairro Alto – Lisbon’s nightlife district.
Day 1 Cost Breakdown
On Day 1, there was a lot of walking and free sightseeing involved so we mainly spent money on food & drinks and we managed to spend within our daily budget of €50 per person.
- Breakfast for two: €3
- Lunch for two: €19
- One Coffee: €2.20
- One Gelato: €2.50
- Dinner for two: €35
- Transportation: €0
- Airbnb for two: €42
Total spent for two people: €103.7
Day 2 – Day Trip to Belem & Cascais
On Day 2, we hopped on the train and headed to the famous Belem area.
Our first stop was Jerónimos Monastery. The facade of this monastery is absolutely breathtaking, although you’d probably feel overwhelmed by the number of tourists crowding the entrance… Don’t get discouraged though, if you’re just happy to see the cathedral, you can head right in for free without queuing up. Once inside, you’ll be mesmerized by the intricate and striking details & architecture, all preserved in excellent condition (For an entrance fee of €10.00, you can continue your visit inside the cloisters and museum).
From Jerónimos Monastery, we walked to the iconic Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), which we enjoyed looking at while having a mini picnic under a tree in the adjacent gardens. You can go inside the tower for €6.00 and for free on Sunday morning (up until 2 pm).
At around noon, we hopped on the train again to Cascais, one of the most famous beaches near Lisbon. It is a charming and colorful town that embodies the laid-back feel you’d expect in Portugal. The seaside views here are breathtaking.
You can easily spend the rest of the day in Cascais sunbathing at the beach, walking alongside the coast or sit back and drink vino at one of the countless outdoor restaurants.
Day 2 Cost Breakdown
On Day 2, we were able to stay within our budget because we chose to skip the paid entrance fees to Jerónimos Monastery and Belem Tower and add a side trip to Cascais instead (which in hindsight was the best decision for us!)
- Breakfast for two: €4.50
- Lunch for two: €8.90
- Two egg tarts: €2.50
- Drinks for two in Cascais: €9
- Drinks for two in Lisbon: €9
- Dinner for two: €20
- Transportation for two: €8.70
- Airbnb for two: €42
Total spent for two people: €104.6
Day 3 – Day Trip to Sintra
A day trip to Sintra seemed like a good way to see a different side of Portugal and enjoy the outdoors. After doing some research, we decided to focus our visit on Palácio Nacional da Pena, although there are many other palaces and attractions nearby to keep you busy all day.
Sintra was the summer residence for Portuguese kings from the 13th to the late 19th centuries. It still has many of the qualities of a hill retreat: a cooler climate than the city, lots of greenery and an atmosphere conducive to leisurely strolls.
Once you reach Sintra station, turn to your right and keep walking. Eventually, you’ll find the shuttle bus stop that takes you to different landmarks up in the hills. We took the 434 bus service straight to Pena Palace entrance (mind you, the road is super windy!).
The palace is cheerful and photogenic, with brightly colored red and yellow towers and Moorish-influenced tiles & motifs. I particularly enjoyed walking around the terraces overlooking the green rolling hills.
Make sure you also wander around in the gardens as well – they are as magical and enjoyable as the palace.
Tip | Wear comfortable shoes, bring a hat and wear layers as it gets windy in Sintra.
Day 3 Cost Breakdown
On Day 3 we surpassed our daily budget of €50 per person by €40. Even though we saved quite a bit of money by just visiting one palace (Pena Palace), there’s no doubt Sintra catered towards tourists and the price points are matched to that. For the budget-conscious travelers, I suggest you do your research before planning a day trip to Sintra to avoid surprises! This website proved super useful to us.
- Two coffees: €2.60
- Two No. 434 Shuttle Bus tickets Sintra Circuit: €13.90
- Two Pena Palace Entrance Tickets: €26.60
- Lunch for two: €8.80
- Drinks for two in Lisbon: €7
- Dinner for two: €27
- Transportation for two: €12.50
- Airbnb for two: €42
Total spent for two people: €140.40
Ways to Save Money in Lisbon
After this short but activity-packed 3 day trip to Lisbon, I learned a few money saving tips for the budget conscious travelers.
- Take the Metro from the airport. It’s the cheapest and fastest way to reach the city center.
- Buy tickets online to Pena Palace for 5% OFF.
- Unless you really want them, don’t accept the appetizers (including a bread basket) they serve you at the restaurants – you’ll be charged for them.
- Always check the final bill before paying. We’ve had a few sneaky things added up without us noticing.
- Try to find restaurants where locals eat. The food will be noticeably cheaper and probably better!
- Stay at an Airbnb instead of a hotel.
- Choose accommodation close to the city center so you can save on transportation and walk instead.
Best Time to Visit Lisbon
For stunning weather, fewer crowds and more reasonable accommodation rates, avoid June to August and opt for the period between March to May. May has the added bonus of coinciding with the magical Jacaranda season!
Hope you enjoyed my travel guide on how to spend 3 amazing days in Lisbon on a tight budget. As always, if you have any questions, leave me a comment or connect with me on Instagram.
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