In 2015, my family and I took a vacation to Lisbon, Portugal. We immediately fell in love with the beautiful weather, the rattle of cable cars, and the welcoming locals.
Just two days in, we decided to leave the U.S. and retire in Portugal — and it was one of the best decisions we’ve made. We spend far less money on necessities in Lisbon than we did in Washington, D.C. We’ve also found that fun leisure and food experiences are just as, if not more, affordable.
On weekends when I’m out and about, I spend less than $40 a day:
Start the day with coffee and breakfast
Price per person: $6.31
Lisbon is paradise for breakfast lovers. When my wife and I are in the mood for something light, our favorite spot is the Copenhagen Coffee Lab in Principé Real, a lively neighborhood in Lisbon.
For a bigger breakfast, we go to the nearby Seagull Method Café, where we order cottage cheese and fruit pancakes for $6.31 a plate.
Take a train to the seashore and rent bikes
Price per person: $11.34
A one-hour train ride from Lisbon’s historic Cais do Sodré station to the fishing village of Cascais costs $4.92 (round trip).
Cascais is picturesque, with tiled buildings and black and white cobblestone plazas. It’s a gorgeous place to spend the morning.
Near the center of town is the Jardim dos Frangos (translated to the “chicken garden”) where peacocks, roosters and hens, followed by their chicks, wander freely through the pine and shaggy eucalyptus trees.
After walking around, my wife and I rent bicycles for $6.42 and ride alongside the ocean.
The bike path is relatively flat and takes us past the scenic cliffs of Boca do Inferno and a collection of shops and restaurants to the rough waters of Guincho Beach.
From there, we hike through the dunes and rocky cliffs, or sit and read a book. We might also pack food and have a picnic.
Explore Lisbon’s outdoor markets
Price per person: Free
Once an old industrial complex for textiles, LX Factory is now a collection of shops, restaurants and open-air kiosks. We like to stop by on weekends, and it is conveniently located on the train ride back from Cascais.
You won’t find brand name items at LX. From clothing to furniture, most things for sale are designed and produced in Portugal.
Our daughter loves bargain hunting at the Feira da Ladra, a popular flea market located within the Alfama district of Lisbon. The area is built on a steep hill filled with narrow, winding cobblestone streets, and it’s the perfect place to shop for antiques.
I also enjoy the weekend flea market in Principé Real, where you’ll find plenty of delicious artisanal honey, cheese and cured sausages.
Prepare a gourmet meal for dinner
Price per person: $19.04
My wife and I love to cook. We find gourmet ingredients at the Comida Independente outdoor market, which is open on Saturdays, and the Time Out Mercado.
Both are located near Lisbon’s Cais Sodre train station.
For a quick and easy meal of gourmet mushrooms and eggs, I buy:
- A quarter kilo of freshly picked chanterelle mushrooms: $7.49
- Farm fresh organic eggs: $3.19
- A spray of truffle oil: $3.19
- Seaweed caviar: $4.28
I’ll serve the meal with a loaf of fresh bread from Gleba, a nearby bakery. Their loaves are made with home-grown heirloom strains of wheat for $5.29 per loaf.
For an interesting twist, I’ll create a special bread topping. I mix butter ($2.30) with white miso paste ($5.23) and seaweed crisps ($1.60).
And a bottle of Portuguese white wine for $4.80 goes well with virtually any meal.
End the day with dessert
Price per person: $3.21
Our favorite dessert spot, the Gelateria Nannarella, is a short walk from our apartment. It is well-known for its exceptional sorbets and gelatos. A small serving costs $3.21, with flavors like lemon and basil, stracciatella and, of course, chocolate.
In Lisbon, gelato is eaten throughout the day as a snack as well as a dessert, so there is almost always a line. But, like most good things in life, it’s well worth the wait.
Alex Trias is a retired attorney. He and his wife and daughter have been living in Portugal since 2015. He is the author of the “Investment Pancake” series on SeekingAlpha.com and has published nearly 500 articles about tax planning, investing, early retirement, and where to find the best meals in Lisbon.