One day three ways: Lisbon

PENNY-PINCH

Breakfast is included as standard in Portuguese hotels, so fill up at Living Lounge (livingloungehostel.com) - it's a hostel but the private rooms decorated by local artists are available from $75. Walk up the hill to the Castle of Sao Jorge ($11, castelodesaojorge.pt) and stroll around the gardens and ramparts with majestic views of the city. The neighbouring Alfama area is a photogenic maze. Demolish a fresh $6 tuna wrap at Companhia das Sandes (companhiadassandes.pt) before heading out on the Revelations tour with Lisbon Walker ($22, lisbonwalker.com). It covers the 1755 earthquake, key downtown sites, and gorgeous buildings such as the Casa do Alentejo (casadoallentejo.com). For dinner, tear at a $10 piri-piri half chicken on the terrace of Bom Jardim (Travessa de Santo Antao 11).

TOTAL: $124

EASY DOES IT

After breakfast at the Memmo Alfama ($196, memmoalfama.com) - a new design hotel with stunning views over the River Tagus - invest in a $9 public transport day pass. Use it to tour the metro stations - most of which have tile art. Those on the red line are most spectacular, especially Oriente, the gateway to the Park of Nations. The former Expo 98 site is now full of gardens, shops and the Oceanario aquarium ($24, oceanario.pt). Sit down for a €24 ($36) steak lunch at the Cervejaria Trindade (cervejariatrindade.pt), before heading down by tram to the Belem area. A $15 joint ticket will get you into the lavish 17th century Jeronimos monastery (mosteirojeronimos.pt) and up the World Heritage-listed Belem Tower (torrebelem.pt). In the evening, tuck into meaty cod dishes (from $20) at A Berlenga (Rua Barros Queiros 31).

TOTAL: $279

SPLASH OUT

Enjoy the morning feast at the stylish but service-oriented five-star Bairro Alto Hotel ($308, bairroaltohotel.com). Then take out a GoCar ($90, gocartours.com) for half a day to discover the city centre and Belem. The GPS-equipped little yellow cars tell stories about the key sites as you go past them. For lunch, try the $63 sea bass with seaweed and shellfish at star chef Jose Avillez's Belcanto (belcanto.pt).

It'll cost about $30 for a return cab fare to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo ($8, museudoazulejo.pt), home to centuries worth of Portugal's most gorgeous tile art and a truly memorable church that's utterly covered in it.

Later, head out with Inside Lisbon ($285, insidelisbon.com) for an evening tour around the Alfama neighbourhood, including a three-course dinner and traditional entertainment - live fado music.

TOTAL: $784

The writer was a guest of Turismo de Lisboa (VisitLisboa.com).

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