Travel Writers Jana Steinbach-Hunt and William Staniforth give their advice on how to spend three days in Lisbon while sticking to a student budget
One drizzly November afternoon, on our weekly search on Skyscanner, we came across flights to the sunny city of Lisbon. From meandering through the hilly city to gorging your way through pastéis de natas, this is our guide on how to visit Lisbon in three days on a budget.
Travel and Accommodation costs
If you are a Birmingham student looking for flights on a budget, travelling from Birmingham airport is the way to go! Not only does it serve a range of destinations with cheap budget airlines, it also reduces the overall cost of travel by eliminating coach or train journeys to London or Manchester. We managed to fit everything into a backpack, therefore avoiding an extra £20 per person each way to put luggage in the hold. The return flights cost us £75 each, and, with the cost of our accommodation being £17 per night, it meant that we only spent £143 each on travel and accommodation costs!
The spectacular view from the plane showed us an array of colourful tiled buildings, terracotta roofs and old trams. From the airport, the city centre was a €1.65 metro ride away, and from there, we were only a seven-minute walk away from our apartment (albeit up one of Lisbon’s many famous hills). Located in the Bairro Alto district, famous for its flaunting and exuberant nightlife, it also boasted a formidable view of the coastal capital city of Lisbon.
Day 1 – Downtown Lisbon and the Alfama District
In the morning we embarked on a free tour around the downtown area, where we explored the districts Baixa and Chiado. This was a fun way to learn about the city and learn our bearings. We were told that in the 18th Century King José abandoned his kingdom and went to live in a tent after succumbing to paranoia and saw famous sights like the Santa Justa lift. Although the tour is titled free, it is encouraged to give the guides a tip for their time and knowledge.
After eating our packed lunches, we made our way to the Alfama district. Standing on the hill, the area boasts some of the best views of Lisbon. Here we went to Castelo St. Jorge to catch golden hour. Then, we wandered around the rest of the district where we caught the rest of the sunset at Miradoura de Santa Luzia terrace, accompanied by the soft voice and guitar of a street performer.
In the evening, we met up with a Portuguese friend, who took us to the suburbs. Here, we ate a Francesinha, a glutinous dinner of bread, meat, and fried egg. Great hangover food but left much to be desired! We followed the night by going to an abandoned warehouse in Marvila. This was truly the most eclectic place we have been too! It was 23:00 on a Wednesday night, and there was an open book shop, a dance competition in another room and multiple bars.
Day 2 – Sintra and the Time Out Market
Everyone who has been or heard of Lisbon says you must go to Sintra, a town in the greater region of Lisbon that heralds fairy-tale palaces and enchanting gardens and is only a 45 minute, €5.80 return trip away.
We did an hour’s walk to the castle, avoiding the costly bus and the persistent tuk-tuk drivers. Here, we paid €14 for entry into the Palacio Pena. Although this was definitely one of the pricier things we did, it was 100% worth it. We succumbed to the thrill of a tuk tuk drive on the way down, paying €5 each instead of the extortionate €40 in peak season.
In the evening we went out to the Time Out Market. Although it had lively ambience, the food was overpriced. We would suggest going for just a drink or a pudding (the doughnuts were to die for!). We ended the evening in a bar in Bairro Alto, drinking and playing cards.
Day 3 – Belém and Monsanto Park
On our last full day we travelled out to the Belém district; a laid back area on the river Tagus. Here, we explored the Belém Tower, which only cost us €3 to enter and looks over the river and onto the 25th of April bridge (reminiscent of the golden gate bridge in San Francisco). We carried on our exploration of Belem by going to see the elaborate architecture of Jeronimos Monastry, costing us €5.
In the afternoon we ate at the popular seafood restaurant Ramirios. This was more on the expensive side, however, as we had such good recommendations before we came to Lisbon, we could not miss it! This was followed by a trip to Monsanto Park, three times the size of Central Park in New York!
We fell in love with Lisbon – the laid-back Portuguese culture combined with going off-peak created the perfect chilled but fun city break. Going at the start of the year was perfect – not only because it is more budget-friendly, but the moderate temperature created ideal conditions to explore the city. Three days was the perfect amount of time to explore the city and with everything included, it cost us £300 each.
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