If you’re short of funds and time but really want to get away, check out Lisbon. It’s a fun affordable place to visit for a short weekend without blowing your travel budget.
A busy year had tapped out my budget and filled my calendar. But the urge to travel while the weather was still sunny and warm, lead me to Lisbon. Flights and hotels are reasonable and the food and drinks affordable. Perfect for a long weekend for young singles, couples or baby boomers.
We arrived on Friday for a 4 day holiday and checked into the recently opened AlmaLusa Baixa/Chiado boutique hotel in the Chiado neighborhood. The beautifully renovated 18th-century building is located off a beautiful piazza and within walking distance to everything.
Budget Tip: Lisbon has wonderful hotels and apartments starting as low as $100 per night. Airbnb also offers numerous options. Accommodations in the Chiado or Baixa neighborhoods will assure you a convenient location to all the top places you’ll want to visit.
I always recommend a tour to familiarize yourself with a new city. In Lisbon, we took the “We Hate Tourism” King of the Hills, half-day jeep tour. A crazy ride in an open-air jeep to the 7 hills of Lisbon and the places that only the locals know. The 40-euro tour included local refreshments and liquor tasting with pastry.
All the sidewalks and piazzas in Lisbon are paved with marble mosaic designs making the steep uphill climbs more tolerable. If downhill is more your speed, their public transit is outstanding and cheap. 7 euros buys a 24 hour, unlimited pass to the Metro, city buses and the nostalgic trolleys. Lisbon’s Metro is so clean and easy to maneuver.
Don’t miss a ride on the number 28 Lisbon tram. It connects Martim Moniz with Campo Ourique. It’s a classic trolley that screeches and rattles through the popular tourist districts of Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. Try to board at the Martim Moniz or Campo Ourique stops as there is a better chance to get a seat. It’s normally standing room only.
The fresh seafood is not to be missed. The Portuguese are proud of their history with the sea. Dinner for two and a great bottle of Portuguese wine in hundreds of charming neighborhood restaurant costs between 50-65 euros.
We splurged and dined at Sea Me, a hip little neighborhood restaurant on the Rua do Loreto in Chiado. We choose our 5-course meal from the fresh catch of the day displayed beautifully at the rear of the restaurant or from three large lobster tanks downstairs. The food and wine was outstanding. The atmosphere young and energizing.
Lisbon neighborhoods are filled with small taverns and wonderful restaurants. The small bars in the Bairro Alto neighborhood is a great place to buy affordable drinks and party long into the night. Each evening we made the climb up the streets from our hotel to have drinks, dinner and listen to great music in Chiado’s small cobblestone streets and alley ways.
I fell in love with Fado music. A traditional Lisbon folk music, it is melancholy but not sad. The singer, mostly women, will sing about the hard realities of daily life, balancing both resignation and hopefulness.
The music is played by one or two 12 string Portuguese guitars, one or two violas, and an 8 string, bass. It is still sung in pubs and small restaurants in neighborhoods throughout Lisbon. Check out the Fado Museum while you are in Lisbon.
Tip: Preview Fado music from my favorite singer, Mariza.
If time permits, get out of Lisbon and take a day trip to Sintra. The stunning hill top Pena Palace is worth the lazy stroll up the mountain.
I found my dream kitchen at the Pena Palace.
Plan to have lunch in the charming hill top city of Sintra.
There’s lots to see in Lisbon but I found it most enjoyable to just wander around the wide avenues, narrow cobblestone streets and plazas and embrace the relaxed café culture of Portugal.