Free and cheap things to do in Lisbon.
Is this still classified as solo female travel if I’m visiting friends whilst I spend a week in Lisbon?
For this solo female traveller, a 14 hour – sleep deprived – British Airways flight from Kuala Lumpur via Heathrow, lands me early in the AM. Therefore has me trying to locate my brain. However, my thoughtful friend, Simone, takes me out exploring Lisbon city, eating nearly all day, in an attempt to get me onto local time ASAP. 46 hours awake and I’m seeing unicorns with butterfly wings before me.
I swore I’d never own a puffy jacket, but knowing I was going to Europe in winter purchasing this clothing item on the way to Melbourne airport was a necessity. My Kathmandu aqua (of course!), wearable, super lightweight ‘duvet’, that packs into it’s own tiny sleeve, is one of the best purchases for my time meandering this hilly, coastal capitol.
There is a plethora of free things to do in Lisbon travel, so I’ve listed a few below.
What & where to eat/drink ..
During your 7 days in Lisbon
1. An absolute MUST when you travel Lisbon: Pasteis at Pasteis de Belem (Portuguese egg tarts) – with their crispy and incredibly flakey pastry encasing the tastiest, creamy and light egg custard you could ever imagine. Literally melts in the mouth. People line up for hours waiting for a seat in the most popular eateries. It was a tad early to try these incredible tarts with Port (another Portuguese staple), which is the norm for visitors.
2. Sardines in any form – Portugal specialise in these stinky little fish. As you know, I’m not a seafood feaster, so I skipped that.
3. Cherry liquor – comes with intoxicated cherries and served in a scrumptious dark chocolate shot cup. Uurrgggllll 🤤
4. Vino verde – a local specialty, very light and crispy white wine. Snacks of crunchy fava beans a splendid accompaniment.
5. Lx Factory – an excellent place to hide from the rain downpour. Wander, shop, eat and drink your way around this artistically vibrant area.
6. Port – from Porto is the preferred choice (other than coffee) to have with Pasteis.
7. Clube de Fado – I felt like we ate everything on the menu here. Excellent local vino buzz followed by Fado singing lulling us into a food coma. Check my video link here.
8. Time out Market – sounds like the corner where naughty people go.. but it’s a large tin shed where you can eat your weight in every cuisine possible.
What to see..
During your week in Lisbon
This city has it all..
1. Ancient buildings – most are older than white-man settlement in my home country, Australia.
2. When you travel Lisbon it’s hard to miss the UNESCO listed, 16th century, “Cultural Heritage of Humanity” – Torre del Belem. She sits beside the Tagus Estuary as part of Portugal’s historical defence system. More information here.
3. Colourful, individually hand painted, tiled facades that are centuries old and still appear new. If you haven’t had enough of viewing the blue hand painted azulejos, you can visit the National Tile Museum.
4. Cobble stoned streets lined with ancient 2-4 storey houses showcasing laundry from the washing-lines outside their multi-coloured façades. Include a plethora of climbing plants and you have the most ludicrously picturesque backdrop.
..And most of these are free things to do in Lisbon!
5. Of course, you can’t miss the Arco da Rua Augusta (stone arch) located pride of place in Praca do Comercio (Waterfront Square) looking out at the estuary. This Arch and her surrounding building were created to commemorate the Great Earthquake of 1755. (I’ll not complain about my age or earthquakes again.)
6. The beach! Obviously my puffy jacket and I weren’t going to swim here, but the beaches sure are purdy.
7. In true form of visiting countries that have famous, man-made landmarks, I avoided Castelo de Sao Jorge (St George Castle). Apparently it’s a good place to visit especially when you have a full week in Lisbon. But I’m sticking to my guns. No Royal Palace in my 20+ visits to Bangkok, no Taj Mahal in India – you get the idea. I guess I’m not the best solo female traveller if I’m dodging the crowds, right?
8. The city shrouded in Christmas decorations. There’s no hiding from tinsel, colourful lights and nativity scenes around this time of year.
What to do..
During your 7 days in Lisbon travel
No man-flu is going to stop me from exploring this city – at the time of my 7 days in Lisbon – in my usual fashion. That is; attempting to get really lost just so I gain a better understanding of the locale and humans.
1. Street art everywhere, which is reminiscent of Melbourne’s creatively vibrant laneways.
2. Lively neighbourhoods with local traditional food, fado singing and music. One night out with my wonderful hosts, Simone & Roberto, I was taken to Clube de Fado for exceptional vittles and where a woman’s passionate Fado singing nearly brought me to tears. Check that video out here.
3. Sit in one of the many rooftop bars overlooking the terracotta tiled roofs and taste test the local cuisine then wash it down with a cold beer or vino verde. A cocktail while watching our warming sky-ball dip below the horizon at the high Portas do Sol is a must.
And for those not as driven by food and wine, yet still free things to do in Lisbon..
4. Easily explore the city either on foot, by tram or by train. The Central Train Station (Estacio de Rossio) is beautifully lit at night.
5. Wander aimlessly and get caught up in the lanes’ little, traditional food and wine, family run, eateries. The best people watching and solving life’s mysteries happens outside these restaurants on frail and ancient looking wrought iron chairs and tables.
6. Gawk in awe at the World Heritage listed Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery). This 16th century mammoth monastery built in honour of Vasco de Gamo because he (and his crew) stayed in Lisbon before they set off to become the first Europeans to reach India. (or something like that).
7. Watch the sunset from up high at one of the many Praca’s (Portuguese squares) that overlook the city and all those terracotta tiles plus those infamous hand painted tiled buildings.
8. Just walk everywhere. There are incredibly lanes to explore. Even more important when one eats as much as I did during my 7 days in Lisbon.
I’m just going to bombard you with photos instead of talking about this perfect city..
Lisbon travel / solo female travel
My local friends tell me how much Lisbon has changed since they arrived 7 years prior. It appears that the Portuguese Government are setting up incentives for non-nationals to live there. I’m super keen because there’s nothing Lisbon can’t do.
It’s all about education of the mind, body and spirit (as I solo travel)…. and making myself snottier by inhaling too many Pasteis.