If you are planning a trip to Europe, make Portugal a priority. I would recommend at least a week because there is so much to see. If you only have a few days you could pick one of the cities. We only had 6 days and were able to see both the south and north of Portugal and pretty much covered everything we wanted to. We booked a hostel in Barrio Alto for the week and then just did day trips or booked air bnb’s in other cities but were able to keep our larger suitcases in our room for the week. I would highly recommend staying longer in a few of the places but we wanted to cover everything with the time we had.
DAY ONE: LISBON
When I land in a new city I always try to get acclimated immediately to their time zone. What helps to stay awake and get acclimated is to do something active. Because we would only be spending 2 full days in Lisbon and several evenings I thought it would be good to do a bike tour to see the whole city and then from there we will know what additional sites to see. I would highly recommend doing the private bike tour with rent a fun and ask for Xavier. It is $175 PP plus tip. In Europe they only expect 10% but I still normally do 15-20% depending on the service.
Xavier picked us up from our hostel and asked what we wanted to do and see so we could customize it to our liking. Riding a bicycle in Lisbon is an amazing undertaking experience not only because of her history but also her natural features, which make her one of the best urban scenarios to explore. There is a lot of traffic and you have to be careful not to get stuck in the tram tracks. Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills which makes it a harder ride even with the electric bikes but it also gives you spectacular viewpoints.
We got to experience stories from a local, the culture, colors, tiles, music, flavors and life of the city. We toured the areas of Mouraria, Castelo, Graça, Nossa senhora do Monte, Baixa de Lisboa, Bairro alto and santa catarina and tried a few food tastings and Drinks. We were able to see all of the historical sites you must do in Lisbon. (Lisbons viewpoints, Praca De Comercio, Escadinhas de São Cristóvão, Sao Jorge Caste, National Pantheon, the cathedral, Sao Vicente de Fora Monastery, Graca Church and Christo Rei National Sanctuary)
We ended our tour at Time Out Market, which is a food hall in an industrial building and includes local chefs from Portugal and even a Michelin Star Chef. We tried the local wines and beers and ordered food from several different stalls. This is a great place to go on your first day for a casual dinner.
I would highly recommend this tour as we checked off a lot of the tourist attractions and was able to figure out what we wanted to do with the rest of the time we were here. Also, check out the amazing street art we saw!
DAY TWO: LAGOS/ALGARVE
The Algarve region is on every postcard and blog you see about Portugal, it was also just on the Bachelorette and for good reason. It is stunning! We decided to do Lagos, which is a 3.5-hour train ride from Lisbon. Many recommended driving as the coast is beautiful but we didn’t want the hassle of a car. I would recommend going when it is warm as the beaches, the hiking, kayaking and other water sports are the draw. The city of Lagos has cute shops and restaurants and a great nightlife scene. It is also known for the Vinho Verde (green wine).
After exploring the city we had booked a Sunset Hiking Tour of Sagres and Sao Vincent with WestCoastEscape. It is $50 per person plus tip. It is about a 45-minute drive and then you hike the area. Sagres, the whole area around was always a sacramental place. It has huge meaning for all the Mediterranean people, who believed, owing to the absence of a human settlement, that it was the gathering place for their gods.The hiking is beginner level however you can’t be afraid of heights.
After the hike we drank wine and had amazing tapas with our guides.
DAY THREE: LAGOS/ALGARVE
Ponta da Piedade is the famous limestone cliff that you can walk to, boat through or kayak around. The ocean was too rough to kayak so we walked to it however I would have loved to kayak or take a boat tour in addition to the hike to see it from both angles. The locals recommended going in the morning, as the ocean is less rough.
If we had more time and warmer weather I would have loved to swim the Benagil Caves, kayak and do a full day hike of the West Coast.
If you have a chance and have had enough authentic food, there is a great all you can eat sushi restaurant with fresh fish.
When we got back from Lagos we decided to check out the famous Ramiro restaurant. It is a no frills restaurant with the best seafood in Lisbon. Expect to wait at least an hour but they have a great beer vending machine outside that makes it go by fast.
DAY FOUR: SINTRA/CASCAIS
You can take the train 30 minutes to Sintra as well as Cascais however we only had one day to do both so we did an electric bike tour of both areas. I would recommend this route if you don’t have a lot of time. If you do have more time I would spend 1-2 days in Sintra and 1 day and night in Cascais. Doing a bike tour is for someone who wants to see all the sites and the coast but doesn’t want to go into every palace and tour. If you want to get up close to them I would recommend either doing your own thing which you would take some time or do a bus tour which would be a shame as the weather is so nice. We booked our bike trip through Lisboa Authentica that lasted 6 hours and was $100 PP plus tip.
We visited the village of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape and stopped near and had views of the National Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Palace of Monserrate, Seteais Palace and Park, Pena Palace and Moorish Castle.
We had the most authentic lunch at a BBQ joint that was filled with people on their lunch break from their construction jobs. You pick your meat and they grill it for you. They include wine and 7 up on the table to mix together so you don’t get too big of a buzz before going back to work. They also include a chocolate mousse for dessert and you add a little liquor to it to get you through the workday. All for $8 Euro, you can’t beat that.
We then biked up and down hill through a rocky terrain and amazing viewpoints to Guincho beach and to Cascais. I fell in love with Cascais with its beaches, art scene and surfer vibes. I would have loved to spend a few days there learning to surf and chilling at a nice hotel.
When we got back to Lisbon we had a dinner reservation at Beco Gourmet Cabaret by Jose Aviles, which includes a 12 course tasting menu and a cabaret show for $100 per person. It was a really unique experience and the food was amazing.
DAY FIVE: PORTO
You can take a 3.5-hour train to Porto and across the bridge in Porto are all of the beautiful tasting rooms for Port Wine. You can walk around and stop into dozens of different tasting rooms and do a tasting or tour. Many also offer tours of their vineyard, which they would drive you to. I would recommend starting at the top, walking your way down the hill and then taking the funicular back up.
When you get off the train there is a popular sandwich shop about 10 minutes away called Casa Guedes. They have fantastic pork sandwiches, basic but delicious.
The tasting rooms we went to are Croft, Taylors and Calem. I loved Taylors the most as it has a beautiful outdoor area that is the perfect backdrop to your wine tasting, cheese board and socializing. Calem also has a fun tour and museum.
After taking the river taxi back to Porto stop by Taberna dos Mercadores for a homemade portugese dinner. It is a very small restaurant so there may be a long wait. Make reservations in advance. The food is worth it as it was the best dinner we had in Portugal.
DAY SIX: LISBON
We kept the last day open so we could do all of the things we wanted to but hadn’t had time for yet. We kept trying to take the Route 28 Trolley but it kept passing us up…I was told it is a great way to get around the city however. We decided to go to the Carcavela beach which is a smaller family friendly beach half way to Cascais, visit shops and markets and tour the Belém area.
Belém-Take a walk through the area and visit the National Palace, Torre de Belém and Jeronimos Monastery. We paid to tour but I wouldn’t recommend it. A walk by is good enough to see the beautiful sites. Oh, and the famous custard tarts, Pastéis de Belém.
Walk down the Praça do Príncipe Real and pop into the numerous concept shops. My favorite being Embaixada, a 19th-century palace turned multi-store shopping mecca that offers unique handmade clothing and housewares. Take a seat for a drink or 5 at Gin Lovers, which has 100’s of gins and gin and tonic cocktails.
Walk around LX Factory located in Alcantara Quarter, which has great views of the river. There are dozens of restaurants, cafes, unique bookstores and shops in an old abandoned warehouse building. This is a fun place to roam around on a nice day. I would recommend going afternoon/early evening as it would be a great place to have a drink outside and not everything is open if you go for breakfast.
We loved the park bar, which was a rooftop bar on the top of a parking garage with lot’s of plants and indoor/outdoor space and hand crafted cocktails. Other recommendations: Copenhagen, pink street bars, Red Frog-Best Prohibition Cocktail Bar, Memmo Alfama Hotel(Sunset Drinks), Noobai, Lost In
For our last dinner in Lisbon Kris found an all you can eat tapas restaurant called Barrices that has 28 courses. It essentially takes you through every item you need to eat in Portugal so this was a perfect way to end the trip. We tried several things we hadn’t yet and the food was amazing.
Plan your next trip to Portugal to experience the friendly people, delicious cuisine, stunning architecture and endless landscapes worthy of a postcard.