No matter how much time we schedule for vacation it never really feels like enough. Which is why we know that sometimes all you may have is a precious day to spend exploring new places. During my time in Portugal I was staying at Faro in Algarve with some friends for almost a week, and we did all the explorations we could to the near places. Overall, Portugal is an affordable country compared to other destinations, is also safe and easy to navigate.
Let´s start with the capital, Lisbon is one of Europe sunniest capitol, you´re likely to get some good weather, gorgeous tiled buildings, colorful neighborhoods and delicious food. Some people described as the San Francisco of Europe (since it has a giant Golden Gate Bridge and there´s trolley´s everywhere). We did almost everything very fast & furious in only one day, I recommend 3 days at least to get more the feel of the city.
The Metro in Lisbon is super simple to understand, and isn’t a massive network. However, it’s easy enough to wander around the center and see lots without using the trains, and the beautiful old trams will take you where you need to go.
As you walk down Rua Augusta, you’ll see the Triumphal Arch leading to Praca do Comércio, the large city square. A beautiful square that opens up to the river, and just behind it is a bustling walking-only street of cafes and shops. Take the famous tram 28 and visit the Santa Justa Elevator for a nice city view.
The Tower de Belem is a beautiful, elegant site and it’s right on the water. Some of the stonework is from the 1500’s as it was built to guard the harbor. It’s now a UNESCO world heritage site. There’s not much to see inside, so a quick walk around it is enough, and then go across the street for more to see at the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Monestery), which also has an archaeological museum. While you´re there visit Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument), which offers a very nice view!
Castelo de Sao Jorge - Also called St. George’s Castle – this place has the best views in Lisbon. You can take tours to gain more understanding of Lisbon’s history, or you can pack some wine and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Alfama - This is one of the oldest neighborhoods, with hilly, tiny, maze-like streets and alleys. Many of these homes have walls and foundations that are centuries old. A perfect place to explore and get lost. There’s an antique trolley you can get on, but make sure you have cash as they don’t accept cards.
A little outside the downtown area is the neighborhood of Belém, known as the home of the tastiest “pastel de nata”, or a Portuguese egg tart pastry. The iconic Pastéis de Belém is known as the home of the pastry, and still serves up the best version I had in the city…I’ll be craving them for many, many months.
Night Life: Barrio Alto & Lux - The streets come alive at night, people pop in and out of every bar and drink along the way. Most of the socializing happens in the streets more than the bars, it seems!
If you have even more time don’t miss your opportunity to visit Sintra - Just a quick 40 minute train ride from Lisbon, you won’t want to miss this castle! Also a UNESCO world heritage site, you’ll get to walk through the home of Lisbon’s past royalty and get a glimpse of what life was like.
In need of some beach time we went to Lagos home to some of the best beaches in the country. Be careful some people actually confuse Lagos, Portugal with Lagos, Nigeria when it comes to booking hotels.
We hired a boat to take us around all the beaches (you can get it for very cheap price), after a beautiful trip through these incredible beaches we decided to stay in Praia do Camilo and from there we walked along a path that took us to Ponte da Piedade to see this incredible view from above, call a taxi to return to the city center because there are not many ways to go back. Best beaches: Praia do Camilo, Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Pinhão, Praia dos Estudantes & Batata Beach.
If you’re not so much of a beach person, try Porto. We didn’t get to explore this city, but it’s about 2.5 hours north of Lisbon by speed train and is said to be one of the other top places to visit. It looks pretty charming.
Most travelers pass through Faro, the gateway to southern Portugal, on their way to a seaside resort. Stick around though, and you’ll discover a unique medieval town, its cobbled alleys lined with white houses and baroque churches. Walk around the old streets of Faro visit the beach, the Sé Cathedral of Faro and Arco da Vila.
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These were all the spots we managed to get to, so I’m sure there is plenty more to see and do in Portugal! I’d love to hear from any locals or frequent visitors – what are your favorite places in Portugal? Let us know in a comment!!!