When I heard that one of my favourite hostels in Amsterdam was opening a second hostel in Portugal, I knew I had to get out there and experience all the best things to do in Lisbon with the Hans Brinker team!
One year later… and I made it! Not only did I have an incredible time hanging out in the new hostel (you can read my review here), but I also spent my time running around the city, trying to soak up as much of it as I could in the five days I was there.
And I’ll be honest with you… five days isn’t long enough for Lisbon. Especially not if you’ve got a Hans Brinker hangover for each morning of those five days. The city is fascinating, full of culture and history, and fun! So, to help you get started on your plans for your next trip to Lisbon, I’ve listed my top nine (almost) free things to do in Lisbon!
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9 (Almost) Free Things To Do in Lisbon
A map of free things to do in Lisbon…
I’ve provided the map below to help you plan your future trip to Lisbon. On the map I’ve marked each of the 9 suggestions listed in this article of free things to do in Lisbon in blue. The yellow icon also points out the hostel I stayed in and used as my base when exploring the city: Hans Brinker Hostel Lisbon.
1. SANDEMANs New Lisbon Tours
Pretty much the first thing I do on any city trip is take a free walking tour. And of all the companies I’ve toured with, SANDEMANs New Europe Tours are my favourites. The fact that the same company runs tours in cities all over Europe means that they hold their tour guides to a pretty high standard, and to be honest I always think their tour guides are great!
I had the pleasure of taking two tours with two different guides in Lisbon, both of whom had exceptional knowledge of the city’s history and lifestyle. I also went on their pub crawl, and it was pretty damn crazy. Their Lisbon pub crawl costs €15, but the free walking tour is based on the concept that you tip the guide at the end based on how much you’ve enjoyed the tour.
Location: Praça Luís de Camões, Lisboa, 2715-311 Lisbon
Opening hours: Free walking tours leave at 10.00, 11.00 and 14.00 daily
Cost: As much as you feel like tipping
2. Take a Break at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara
Visiting this viewpoint quickly became one of my favourite things to do in Lisbon! With sweeping views of the city’s hills rolling into the River Tagus, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is also a hub of social activity.
With one level overlooking the second landscaped garden terrace level below, this is a beautiful spot to relax with a book or friends. There are two small bars that sell beer and other refreshments during the day and well into the night. And during my trip there was even a small market where they sold Portuguese specialities like empadas de frango and handmade souvenirs.
Location: Rua São Pedro de Alcântara, 1200-470 Lisboa
Opening hours: All day, every day!
3. Taste the Ginjinha
Ginjinha is the typical drink of Lisbon. And if you want to taste the finest Ginjinha in the city, then you need to head to A Ginjinha. Or aaaahhhhh Ginjinha as you might end up proclaiming after a shot.
The liquor is made from ginja berries, which taste like sour cherries. Served as a shot in A Ginjinha, you’ll find an extra alcoholic ginja berry at the bottom of your shot glass. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the berries! But I LOVED the shot. And so did Anthony Bourdain.
And the best part? The shots only cost €1.40 in A Ginjniha. My tip? Buy a bottle and head back to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.
P.s. I was shown this spot on the New Lisbon Tour with Ian, who let us take a break from the tour for a quick shot. Cheers Ian!
Location: Largo São Domingos 8, 1100-201 Lisboa
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday: 9.00 – 22.00
Cost: €1.40 per shot
4. Visit Casa Fernando Pessoa
During my week in Lisbon, I became incredibly intrigued by one man: Fernando Pessoa. Born in Lisbon in 1888, Pessoa is widely regarded as one of Portugal’s most important poets. He also spent most of his life in Lisbon, where his old house has been turned into a museum.
If poetry is your thing, then Casa Fernando Pesso is a must visit! It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to the city.
Not only was there a wealth of information (although many of the displays were in Portuguese), but the staff were incredible. They were ridiculously well-versed in the life and works of the poet, and offered one of the best personal welcomes to a museum that I’ve ever encountered.
P.s. If you’re interested in learning more about Fernando Pessoa then I’d highly recommend this article from the New York Times: The Rise and Fall of Pseudonyms. I’ve also got this selection of his poetry which has a fantastic translation.
P.p.s. I was introduced to Fernando Pessoa by Ivo, a staff member at Hans Brinker Hostel Lisbon. Thanks Ivo!
Location: Rue Coelho da Rocha 16, 1250-088 Lisboa
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 10.00 – 18.00; Sunday: closed all day
Cost: €3 (there is a reduced fare of €2 for students, under 25 years old, teachers, and over 65 years old)
5. Explore the Street Art of Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is a neighbourhood that grew out of the need for expansion in the 15th and 16th Centuries, and now it is the central hub of the city, with late night bars, live music and restaurants down every street.
In the 1990s, it also became a favourite haunt of street artists, and despite the government’s attempts to get graffiti off the streets of Bairro Alto, plenty still remains.
In fact, the hostel I was staying with in Lisbon (Hans Brinker Hostel) has a resident artist on their team whose work can be spotted on a street not too far from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara! Click here to see it!
Location: Bairro Alto Neighbourhood, Lisboa
Opening hours: All day, every day!
6. Grab an Ice Cream at Cais das Colunas
Hot days in Lisbon are hot damn! On one of these extremely hot days I found myself grabbing a great budget lunch at the Brunch Cafe, and then wandering down to Cais da Colunas. And it didn’t take long for this refreshing riverside spot to soon become one of my favourite things to do in Lisbon!
This spot is the official river entrance to Praça do Comércio. In fact, on her visit to Portugal from the UK in 1957, this is where Queen Elizabeth II landed! I’m sure that on that day there wasn’t an ice cream truck in sight. Which is a shame because I think Queenie would enjoy grabbing a Calippo and devouring it on the marble steps of Cais das Colunas. Just like I did!
Location: Praça do Comércio MB, Lisboa
Opening hours: All day, every day!
7. Have Lunch at Mercado de Campo de Ourique
One of my favourite places to eat in Rome is Mercado Centrale. It’s a place where you can try all sorts of different specialities, grab a drink, and just hang out with friends. So when I discovered Mercado de Campo de Ourique, just down the road from Casa Fernando Pessoa, I couldn’t have been more excited to try the food!
With speciality burgers from the Alentejo region, fresh seafood, and the Portuguese Bacalhau à Brás (scrambled eggs with shreds of cod, onions and fried potatoes), foodie travellers will love this spot!
But, if you miss lunch, don’t worry. The market is open until 11pm during the week (and 1pm on weekends!) and has it’s very own gin bar.
Location: Rue Coelho da Rocha 104, 1350 Lisboa
Opening hours: Sunday – Thursday: 10.00 – 23:00; Friday – Saturday: 10.00 – 01.00
Cost: Depends on how much you eat…
8. Visit the Museu do Aljube | Resistência e Liberdade (Museum of the Aljube | Resistance and Freedom)
Get your thinking cap on, and try and recollect as much of what you know about Portuguese history. Perhaps you know a little about its history as a colonising nation, and that’s why Brazil speaks Portuguese. Perhaps you’ve heard of their role in the Spanish Armada.
But did you know that between 1926 and 1974, Portgual was run by a dictatorship?
It was a dictatorship that had dire effects on the everyday lives of the Portuguese people. Most especially, those who were caught out in opposition of the regime.
Before the Aljube was a museum, it was used as a political prison. Now the building stands in remembrance of all those who were persecuted, tortured, and denounced by the government for fighting for freedom and democracy. The information here is eye-opening, and emotional. If you do just one thing on this list of things to do in Lisbon, I highly suggest you pop in here.
Location: Rua Augusto Rosa 42, Lisbon 1100-059
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday: 10.00 – 18.00.
9. Enjoy the Silence at Igreja da Madalena
Despite the fact that I have no faith whatsoever, I love visiting Churches when I’m travelling. The great thing about Lisbon (much like in Rome) is that the churches are completely free to enter.
One of my favourites in this trip was Igreja da Madalena. Completed in the 12th Century, the Church was completely destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. But in the years following, Igreja da Madalena was completely renovated and opened again to the public on July 22, 1783.
The interior is stunning, composed with incredibly rare and priceless materials. One chapel, on the left and closest to the alter, contains some of the most intricate mosaics I have seen in my life.
Location: Largo da Madalena 1, Lisbon 1100-317
Opening hours: Monday – Friday: 9.00 – 13.30, 14.30 – 18.30; Saturday & Sunday: 14.00 – 18.30, 19.30 – 23.30.
Things to do in Lisbon: Final Travel Tips
So there you go, my favourite list of (almost!) free things to do in Lisbon! It’s safe to say though that I already can’t wait to go back and explore more. So if you have any tips just let me know in the comments!
Oh, and I discovered most of these places while staying at Hans Brinker Hostel Lisbon – which is an incredible hostel! Don’t believe me? Read my review by clicking here, or head over to Youtube to watch the travel vlog!