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Free activities and things to do in Lisbon
Lisbon is a great holiday destination, which is able to offer visitors a range of interesting sights, lively nightlife and is close to stunning beaches. Lisbon is an ideal holiday location for visitors with limited funds (click here for a guide to visiting Lisbon on a budget) as there is a wide selection of free or relatively cheap activities. This guide will detail the most popular free or inexpensive things to do while on holiday to Lisbon.
Explore the Alfama District
The Alfama district is one of the gems of central Lisbon. The area is a labyrinth of narrow streets that climb from the river up to the ancient castle. These narrow cobble streets are inaccessible for motorised traffic and the only way to explore is on foot.
The Se Cathedral of Lisbon
The two stand out monuments are the Se Cathedral and Saint Anthony’s church (both free to enter), while away from the tourist trails Portuguese women can be seen gossiping between the balconies of the houses. From the vantage point of the Santa Luzia plaza there are panoramic views across the hap-hazardous roofs of Alfama and out to the Tejo estuary. An enjoyable half day can be easily spent exploring the district, which costs absolutely nothing .
Ride the number 28 tram
The number 28 tram route passes through many of the most interesting regions of Lisbon. The tram route begins in the grand plaza of Baixa before passing through pretty Graça, hilly Alfama, trendy Bairro Alto and terminating outside the mighty Estrela basilica.
The number 28 tram as it whizzes through the Alfama district
The entire tram journey takes 40 minutes and is the best inexpensive way to view the city. The trams themselves are as much a tourist attraction as the journey and are painted bright yellow, with polished wood interiors and were originally constructed in the 1930. A single fare costs €2.85 when purchased from the tram driver but this is reduced to €1.40 is purchased from a metro station.
Visit Parque das Nações
The Parque das Nações is another great free area of Lisbon to visit. The park was once the show ground for Expo ’98 and has since been converted into the ultra-modern side of Lisbon. Throughout the park are water themed exhibits that are back by contemporary architecture and futuristic buildings. The park follows the river Tagus estuary and overlooks the Vasco da Gama Bridge and tower, the tallest building in Lisbon. The large shopping complex (again named Vasco da Gama) has a large range of good value restaurants on the top floor.
The Orient station at Parque das Nações
Ride the Lisbon ferry
The commuter ferries provide an inexpensive means to view Lisbon from the water’s edge. There are two main terminals; Cais do Sodré and Terreiro do Paço. Sodre terminal ferries offer the shorter and cheaper route that pass beneath the shadow of the Lisbon suspension bridge. Ferries from Terreiro do Paço provide panoramic views over the Baixa and Alfama districts but are slightly longer and more expensive. A single ticket from Sodre to Cacilhas cost €1.25, less than a drink!
The ferry to Cacilhas from Lisbon
There is no better free activity in Lisbon than to visit the wonderful beaches of the region. The highest regarded beach, which is easily accessible from Lisbon, is Carcavelos beach. The beach boasts a huge expanse of sand, waves suitable for surfing and great facilities. To reach the beach catch the Lisbon to Cascais train that departs from Cais do Sodré train station.
The wide golden sands of the Lisbon coastline
A return train ticket costs €2.40. Another fantastic beach is the 30km long Costa da Caparica beach on the southern side of the Tagus River. There is a direct bus (€2.20 single) from Lisbon Costa da Caparica and a mini train which travels the length of the beach.
Visit Sintra For Free (nearly)
Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon and is only a short train ride away (€2.40 return). The town is spread over the hills of the Serra de Sintra and was a favourite with the Portuguese nobility who constructed lavish palaces and stately homes.
The Pena Palace in Sintra
The entrance fee to each of the palaces is comparatively expensive but the town centre is incredibly charming. The only recommended ticket to purchase in Sintra, if on a budget, is the Pena Palace grounds ticket (€7.50), which allows the courtyards and terraces of the ornate building to be explored.
Head to the Cristo Rei statue
An alternative and inexpensive excursion from Lisbon is to visit the Cristo Rei statue on the southern side of the estuary. From the (free) viewing platform there are wonderful views over Lisbon and the suspension bridge. To travel to the statue catch the ferry to Cacilhas (€1.25) and then the 101 bus from Cacilhas bus terminal (€2.20 return) to the statue, for a guide please click here.
The Christ statue is high above Lisbon
Visit the Berardo Museum
The best free museum in Lisbon is the extensive art collection of the Berardo Museum which is located in the Belem district of Lisbon. The museum has a vast collection of over 1,000 pieces of contemporary and modern art, all of which is completely free to visit. The Belem district is a pretty region filled with parks and open spaces that line the estuary. Situated in Belem are the pretty Torre de Belem and the imposing Discoveries Monument.
Day trip to Cascais
Another inexpensive day trip from Lisbon is to the fishing town of Cascais. The town is a popular tourist resort that has developed around a charming 19th century town centre. The town boasts small beaches, free museums and a unique cliff formation called the Hell’s Mouth. It is possible to hire free bikes (ID required) to further explore the region.
The charming resort town of Cascais, only a short train ride from Lisbon
We hope that our guide has presented many free or inexpensive activities for a holiday to Lisbon. Lisbon is a destination that is perfect suited for a cheap holiday as food, accommodation and flights can be found at bargain prices especially outside of the summer season.