Lisbon is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and it’s not difficult to visit on a budget either. If you’re young and broke, or just need to find some awesome stuff to do in Lisbon, here are my top 7 tips!
1. Get a drink in the world’s coolest bookstore
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into Ler Devagar” (“Read Slowly”) in the hipster-filled LX Factory. I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, looking up at the floor-to-ceiling walls of books. This old printing factory is by far the coolest bookstore on the planet, and you can grab a drink or snack at the little cafe as you people-watch, or read a book (obviously). My favourite part was the cute old man showcasing his random time-keeping inventions on the balcony upstairs. The sculptures, like the flying bicycle are pretty darn awesome too!
2. Take a sunset stroll
Lisbon is fabulous at sunset, and we walked right into it one night on our way to a famous local restaurant called Ponto Final, at the base of the Elevador de Cacilhas. It’s just across the Tagus river, not too far from the old iron bridge. The walk towards what looked like a derelict village on the harbour was actually really calming. We even saw the fishermen reeling in their catch.
Just get the ferry from Cais de Sodré to Cacilhas and walk west for about half a mile, and if you want to eat at Ponto Final, book ahead and go hungry as the portions are huge. It might be a little pricy if you’re on a budget, actually but you can justify it with the wine – it’s only €4.50 a bottle!
3. Stock up in the markets
What you spend in restaurants one night, you can make up for the next day by shopping for food and drinks… and pretty much anything else in the markets. There are markets all over Lisbon, and even more in the outlying districts. We loved the central food market – Mercado da Ribeira, near the riverfront Cais do Sodré.
We also chatted to lots of locals at Feira da Ladra, a rather ramshackle flea market that’s held every Tuesday and Saturday morning. You can get everything here, from broken bird cages to antique clocks. You also shouldn’t miss the Time Out Market. It’s a bit snazzier than the others. It’s all indoors and the hip place for various local restauranteurs to serve up their specials.
4. Go to an clandestine Chinese restaurant
Lisbon’s secret Chinese restaurant scene is for REAL, and honestly, I have never had such tasty Chinese food in my life as the stuff we scoffed here. These restaurants are hidden in normal residential buildings, usually up a flight of rickety-looking stairs. The one we ate at was tiny; it felt like someone’s living room, stuffed with tables covered in plastic cloths, but the food was out of this world! These garlic prawns are still making me drool.
There are three of these Chinese restaurants close to Martim Moniz. I think one is at the end of the street Beco da Oliveira, and two more are hidden in a building on Rua do Terreirinho. There’s also one on Rua do Benformoso 59. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask a local.
5. Eat a custard tart (or ten)
The custard tarts (or Pastel de Nata) in Lisbon are hands-down the most incredible things you’ll ever eat, especially the warm ones from Pasteis de Nata (84-92 rua de Belem). The recipe is 170 years old! My friend couldn’t wait to take me there, obviously knowing my sweet tooth wouldn’t be able to resist an entire bag.
People line up around the block for these babies, they’re so good, and the cafe cooks up 16,000 tarts a day. That’s a whole lotta pastry, eggs and cinnamon. Head to Belem, just off the waterfront, where you’ll have to join the hungry locals outside the blue and white-tiled shop, until it’s your turn.
6. Look down on Lisbon from up high
I appreciated the city even more when I viewed the different parts of it from various miradouros (viewpoints). There are loads all over Lisbon, which straddles a numbers of hills, meaning it’s pretty easy to get up high and look down on it all. There are kiosk cafés at most of them, but the locals like to buy beers from the supermarkets and sip them as they admire those views.
The best viewpoints I found were Miradouro de Santa Luzia, looking out over the Alfama; the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, overlooking the Baixa; and the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, my favourite one, no thanks to the hot guitar players strumming lazily to themselves in the sunshine.
7. Get up close to Picasso to Warhol
Some of the best art in Portugal can be viewed free of charge at Belém’s Colecção Berardo. We walked there in the sunshine and spent a good couple of hours looking at the likes of Picasso, Dalí, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko, in Madeiran Joe Berardo’s art collection. I loved this modern gallery, and the views from outside weren’t bad either. Some of the contemporary art world’s biggest names are inside too, and aside from a few temporary exhibits, it’s all free!
**All words and photos by Becky Wicks
Other cities to visit this summer
Not so fond of sun and sun? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other top cultural cities to visit this summer. Have a look on Tiqets.com!