How to live on a budget in Lisbon after lockdown

As if freelancing wasn’t precarious enough, when you also throw a little global pandemic into the equation, it feels like you’re bound for a one-way ticket to instability, accompanied perhaps by some moderate amounts of crying.

 

However, if your income is going to take a temporary hit after lockdown living, then there are certainly worse places to be than in Lisbon, and no, I’m not referring to the 290 days of sunshine on average here each year, but sure, that’s nice too.

 

Having experienced living on a budget in Lisbon (are late invoices not the thorn in every freelancer’s side?) it’s a city that doesn’t have quite the same barrier to access to the privileged few commonplace in other cities, like London.

 

Is it somewhat to do with the relatively weak growth of the middle classes in Portugal compared to the rest of Europe? Perhaps, as socio-economic changes only really started to gather pace after the 1974 revolution. Though this gap has definitely decreased over time, it’s still very much possible to live pretty well and not feel the deep depths of despair looking at your bank account afterwards.

 

Once normal day-to-day activities resume once more, here are my recommendations for living inexpensively in Lisbon if you are looking to tighten the purse strings, without feeling completely deprived of the little joys in life.

Admire the chickens in Intendente

Otherwise known by its actual name, Campo dos Mártires da Pátria, there is a lot to love about this park filled with quite curious chickens, who, might I add, have their own security guard provided by the Junta de Fregueisa, such is their importance.

Whether you go in for lunch al fresco, catch up with pals for a picnic on a balmy summer’s evening, or just want some plain old quiet time reading that book you’ve been meaning to start, this is definitely one of Lisbon’s hidden gems.

 

Campo dos Mártires da Pátria

Wander to the Gulbenkian Museum & Garden (the garden is better)

The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian is free on Sunday’s after 14.00 to view its contemporary art exhibitions and museum, but I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly blown away by what was on offer – the Museu Coleção Berardo in Belém, which provides free admission on Saturdays, does it better.

 

On the other hand, its enclosed garden is fantastic (free and open daily until, well…its website doesn’t give a definitive closing time other than ‘sunset’) featuring a labyrinth of mazes and lakes that make you feel as if you are in a tranquil oasis rather than in reality, located just off a main road.

 

It also has some pretty overfamiliar ducks and geese who have no qualms about joining you for lunch, or more accurately, eating it for you. But when low on funds, it provides quite high entertainment value.

Browse Principe Real Organic Market for herbs and flowers

No, I haven’t completely lost the plot and think buying organic is essential on a limited budget, but Mercado Biológico do Principe Real, is ideal for picking up high-quality herbs and freshly cut flowers, all for less than five euros, Held each Saturday morning 8.00- 14.00, but go early to get the best of the bunch.

 
 

Praça Principe Real, 1250-184

Frutarias are your friend

I’ll concede that picking one that doesn’t have flies dancing around accompanied by sad, battered fruit and veg can sometimes be difficult, but find a good frutaria (greengrocer) and it can cost you about a third/half of the price of going to a supermarket. My favourites are in Intendente and near Rato:

 

Pomar Fresco, Avenida Almirante. Reis 78, 1170-097

Xu Qinjia Av. Álvares Cabral 49-3, 1250-018

Absolutely go to Amanhecer

Keeping costs low doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on flavour, or end up in El Corte Inglés (home to everything, but at a sometimes prohibitively expensive cost) to purchase international ingredients. Amanhecer, the supermarket at Mercado Oriental in Martim Moniz, is a goldmine of cheap Asian and Indian ingredients.

 

Rua da Palma 41-41A 1100-390

Stop at a kiosk for sunset drinks

It is almost hard to believe of a time in Lisbon when kiosks weren’t a hub of conviviality from dawn to dusk, but for over four decades under António de Oliveira Salazar’s dictatorial government, it was.

kiosk-lisbon-mairead

For drinks and petiscos, you could go to any kiosk, but I think these stand out from the rest for their views and overall ambiance:

 

Quiosque de Refresco, Largo da Sé. 1100-401

Quiosque da Praça das Flores, 1200-009

Quiosque Maritaca Avenida da Liberdade 28, 1250-145

 

Look at Atlas Lisboa for any event you can think of

Atlas Lisboa has an extensive, regularly updated Lisbon Events calendar, including many free, occasionally weird, low-cost events you would never know existed otherwise. And I’m talking from experience here, having ended up once spending an entire Sunday afternoon at a dogs and cats exhibition that involved sitting in a human-sized dog bowl and examining different types of their poo.

Rummage the flea market at Feira da Ladra if you are feeling brave

You can get practically anything your heart desires here, and if this includes random loose plastic legs, well, you are in for a treat.

dog-mercado-de-santa-clara

I do recommend having a battle plan prior to going – its a substantially big market, and given the high number of tourists it attracts as almost everyone recommends the place, it isn’t as cheap as it once was. With some sellers, if they get a whiff of tourist about you, you’ll get given a price to reflect that, in my experience.

mercado-de-santa-clara

To nab some good deals, I’d advise:

 
  • Going early

  • Look at least once around the entire market to see what’s on offer before buying

  • Speak Portuguese if possible, a little goes a long way

  • Be prepared to haggle, but not aggressively so

 

Campo de Santa Clara, 1100-472

Gobble up dinner in a tasca

Tascas are the way to go if you are looking for wholesome traditional Portuguese meals (such as cozido à portuguesa, sardinhas grelhadas or bitoque) at a meager price. Whilst not the most glamourous of places, they are absolutely still the beating heart of the city’s culinary delights. I like:

 

Stop do Bairro, Rua Marquês de Fronteira 173, 1070-300

Zé da Mouraria, Rua Gomes Freire 60, 1150-175

Toscana Casa de Pasto, Rua do Sacramento a Alcântara 70-98, 1350-352

Work in the magnificent Galveias Palace

This isn’t your average public library, it’s a grand, ornately decorated 17th-century palace that is truly a thing of beauty. A bit off the beaten track in Campo Pequeno, with some slightly erratic opening hours, Galveias Palace is still nevertheless a perfect spot to work in for free, particularly in the summer months, when you can take advantage of the terrace and garden for well-earned sunbathing breaks too.

 

Galveias Palace, Campo Pequeno, 1049-046

Delve into the HUMANA stores for clothes

Lisbon doesn’t have a huge array of charity shops, but the HUMANA stores are pretty great, especially their quarterly sales. Actually, it’s mostly to do with their quarterly sales. This is a dramatic price drop countdown that goes on over the course of a fortnight, culminating in all the store’s items selling for one euro. For the second-hand obsessed, I’m not ashamed to admit this is quite honestly an exhilarating experience.

 

The best two HUMANAs are conveniently, on the same road:

 

HUMANA, Avenida Almirante Reis 26 A, 1150-018

HUMANA, Avenida Almirante Reis 104 – B, 1150-022