Hello (Insert your name here), nice to meet you.
I have a few travel stories too but maybe slightly different from the style you’ve always read from this site. Yes you guessed right. This is not Sarah. Sorry if I broke your heart but hello, we are still headed to the same direction. Init!
Let’s be friends, shall we?
Nice, now that we are cool, I’ll love to tell you a story and perhaps leave you some tips on how to explore Lisbon on a budget and probably Anthony Bourdain your way while at it.
Sometime in July I became a year older, like most travel enthusiast, exploring a new location is always worth more than a new pair of Jordans or Givenchy. The next logical question was choosing where to go. As I wandered through the house that evening trying to fix a quick Nigerian Jollof, it hit me, opening a tin of sardines was all it took, Portugal – Sardines and Port Wine and Fado music. It was all the right combination, plus my friend Odam had triggered a group trip idea that also pointed towards Lisbon prior, why not give it a shot.
Delayed flight couldn’t stop my shine. Not on this one, get behind me satan.
I finally arrived Lisbon 10 hours later than scheduled because TAP Portugal had a better plan for my life than I did, at least they lodged me at the Vienna House in Prague and tried to feed me to stupor till the next flight or it was just me who was trying to compensate myself to the fullest with the largesse, I can’t remember correctly but I recall they haven’t fulfilled the taxi refund they promised after I was made to pay my way to the hotel but I’ve learnt my lesson there, never again.
Ok, back to Lisbon. Your Lisbon experience is guaranteed to be very different every time you visit except you choose to stay in the same place and go the same route all the time and even if you do, there’s a probability that the people won’t be the same.
Depending on your wanderlust level, you might choose to stay in the heart of Lisbon or go down towards the old town or even stay closer to the beaches. Those beaches can be easily overwhelming to choose from so go prepared. I chose Cascais, I loved it.
Where to Stay
The price of accommodation in Lisbon has been on the rise in recent years, yes, you guessed it right, that’s the exact reason – growth and demand and supply. I stayed at the Bauhaus Apartments and averaged about €50 per night per room so it was still a good deal because I paid between €20 to €27 per night depending on the day of the week since I had a travel partner to split that cost.
Lisbon has a lot of fabulous hostels too. Thanks to Kenneth (A guy I met in Lisbon) we were able to look at different hostels that wowed me and would take my business the next time I’m in town. Here are my favorites.
Located on Praça do Restauradores, no. 65, 2nd Floor, 1250-188, Lisbon, Portugal. A bed in a 10-dorm room starts at €12 a night, a bed in a 4-bed dorm starts at €17 a night and a double from €50 per room, per night in the low season. The ensuite room at the top of the hostel is very private and has sweeping views of the city.
They also offer free breakfast that includes very delicious waffles, fruits, juices and filter coffee that are available from when you wake up to when the food runs out or sometime around midday.
This hostel ticks all the boxes when it comes to location, staff and ambience. Dorms start from €19 and doubles start from €50 per room. Lisbon Poets hostel is located just outside Chiado Metro station so the location doesn’t get much better than this. It is also near the famous Lisbon eatery ‘A Brasileira’. Street address is Rua Nova da Trindade, no. 2, Floor 5, 1200 Lisbon, Portugal.
Lisbon Calling Hostel has an enviable location, a few minutes away from the centre of Chiado and the bustling nightlife of Bairro Alto and Cais de Sodré. Low season, shared rooms range from €12 and doubles from €41 while in the high season it starts from €20 shared and from €56 for doubles. It’s located on Rua de Sao Paulo, 126 – floor 3D, 1200-429 Lisbon, Portugal.
This one is simple; if you are staying for more than 24hours, get the day pass for €10.55, it is valid on Carris, metro and CP. There are other 24hr tickets that go for €6.40 and covers Carris and Metro and another for €9.50 offering Carris,metro and transtejo. The regular tickets are €1.33 for one way. If you do location hopping and food scavenging like me getting regular tickets would be a bad joke.
What to do
There are hundreds to thousands of things to do in a city that’s already too famous for its own good so here are a few things I found going off the well beaten paths. I tried multiple things I populated from my google trips app but these ones stood out for me, were affordable or even free.
Chill out at Cascais
There are lots of beach fronts to choose from here, it’s also super simple to sight the ones that are less crowdy from any of the stand points. My advise is to find the one that has this huge life-floater suspended on a pole (sorry the location has no specific name and I forgot to take a picture).
Listen to Fado
Find a local restaurant and enjoy the music and folklore that was inspired by early Portuguese sailors and the wailings of the families they left behind. Legend has it that those songs were composed by wives or prostitutes who were unsure of the fate of their men at sea. Even with zero Portuguese you can’t help but enjoy the melancholic and pitched tones that run right through the hearts of these amazing singers.
Most restaurants bring in Fado singers on Wednesdays and Fridays, in my case there was one going on at the Hotel Fillipe so I quickly breezed in, got a pint for €3 and let my soul wander away. To get the best of Fado, head to Alfama.
Try Sardines in a Spicy Tomato Sauce at Sol e Pesca
Do not take this lightly. I heard the place was a former tackle shop that now serves over a dozen varieties of canned fish with chilled beer to blend. Sol e Pesca has it all and much more. Sardines in tomatoes sauce and Super Bok were my favourites. You can find them on R. Nova do Carvalho 44, 1200-014 Lisboa, Portugal.
Get Lost in the Streets of Alfama
Spread like a blanket on a Lisbon hillside is the oldest district of the city: Alfama. From the Castelo St Jorge at the top of the hill to the River Tagus at the bottom, this picturesque red roofed neighborhood is regularly punctuated by miradouros or terraces which afford visitors splendid views of the city landscape.
The neighbourhood is marked by narrow meandering streets, undulating and leading to small squares. This, the oldest district of Lisbon is also the most well preserved, considering it was saved by the ravages of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Expect to see well preserved old buildings and residents congregating on street corners. Come here to listen to the traditional Fado music.
Hop on the Tram 28
If you’ve seen at least five pictures of Lisbon, chances are that you’ve seen an image of the Tram 28 winding the narrow streets, or navigating the steep inclines. The view from inside the tram can be good too, converting a ride on a tram to a journey of joy.
Tram 28 has a very long route and is particularly well liked because it will navigate the steep climb from Baixa to the castle for you. In the first half of the trip you’ll meet the Se Cathedral and in the second half the tram will take you through the scenic Estrela district.
Enjoy homemade croissants with freshly squeezed Orange juice at Calçada Marquês de Abrantes 7, 3rd Floor, 1200-717 Lisboa, Portugal
This one came rather as a surprise than a planned experience. The host at Bahaus offered breakfast through its neighbour downstairs and it is absolutely a brilliant idea. It was like a match sent from haven. It’s not the poshest of places to be, the environment is busy with locals breezing in and out to get their early morning fuel of either coffee, freshly squeezed fruit juices or the dozens of pastries that were served. I got hooked. It was damm good every morning.
Your turn, have you been to Lisbon?
What were the exceptional things that stood out for you?