Short travel guide for your trip to Portugal
Two years ago I visited Portugal and I must admit that I was initially supposed to spend only one week there. The plan was to visit Lisbon and its surroundings. Oh, well, that week actually turned into two… and I wish I had at least another two in order to fully enjoy the exquisite beauty of this country. Before choosing this travel destination, the only things I knew about it were a couple of things about Fado… and a few pictures my sister took while she was there. So I decided to buy two touristic guides and start the research.
As I mentioned before, I spent two weeks in Portugal, during which I visited Lisbon, the Algarve region, Madeira (this one deserves a whole dedicated article…so keep your eye on our travel section :D) and the northern area. So here are some useful recommendations, in case you are planning a trip to Portugal:
Lisbon and its surroundings
The most beautiful touristic attraction in Lisbon is the city itself! So put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk around as much as you can! Explore all the narrow streets in Alfama, Bairro Alto, relax in a cafe in Praca do Comercio and spend your evening at a Fado concert. Wake up the next morning and start again! 🙂
Top 3 spots in Lisbon
Belem Area: The Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery
The Belem Tower is perhaps one of the most photographed tourist attractions of the city. After visiting, you can walk along the Tejo river and you will be able to see Padrao dos Decobrimentos, a monument dedicated to the great geographic discoveries made by the Portuguese explorers. Near the monument you will find the Jeronimos Monastery, an impressive building which, together with the Belem Tower, belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage. I was extremely impressed by the grandeur of these buildings, which were created in the Manuelin style.
Sao Jorge Castle
The Sao Jorge Castle can be seen from almost every spot in Lisbon. Apart from its incredible history that goes back to the Dark Ages, it offers an amazing view over the city. You can walk along the ramparts and if you get tired, you can always rest on one of the many benches in the beautiful surrounding gardens.
Approximately 25 km from Lisbon lays Sintra, or what might be Portugal’s Loire Valley. In order to escape the heat, the royal family used to move here during the summer and, along with it, the Portuguese nobility. The noble families built elegant palaces and holiday mansions around the royal Pena Castle. My favorite one of them? The Pena Castle, Castelo dos Mouros (built by Moors in the IXth century), Quinta da Regaleira (with its 30 meter deep fountain symbolizing the Resurgence and entry into Heaven), the Queluz Palace.
Near Sintra, you will find Cabo da Roca, a tall cliff that marks the westernmost point of continental Europe.
Porto and the North of Portugal
Porto is Portugal’s biggest city, after Lisbon, of course. I have to admit, though, that I liked it more than Lisbon. It is more coquette and has its own charm. And, if you’re wondering, that wasn’t due to its wine!
I spent 4 days in Porto – which was enough to walk through the Ribeira, the city center, to climb the stairs of the Clerigos Tower or spend one entire afternoon in the Lello bookstore.
Top 3 places in Porto
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is Porto’s neighboring city, the two being separated by the Douro river. You can find the showrooms of the most important wine houses here and attend wine tastings. I loved the view over Porto and the Ribeira area – it was magnificent!
Piece of advice: at least once try to walk to Vila Nova de Gaia over the Dom Luis Bridge. The view is simply breathtaking and you shouldn’t miss it!
On one of those 4 days, I left the city and climbed along the meandering valley of the Douro river to see the vineyards and the terraced hillside. They say that, apart from the Great Wall of China, these are the only other things that can be seen from the Moon. I must repeat myself: it is a magnificent route with exquisite view.
Sao Bento train station
The train station, located in the center of Porto, is famous for its walls, which are decorated with over 20000 ceramic plates, called azuleos. They date back to the ‘30s and illustrate the history of Portugal.
If you find yourself in the city center, don’t miss Igreja de Sao Francisco, one of the most opulent churches in Europe. The interior is made of approximately 400 kilograms of gold.
The Algarve region is situated in the South of Portugal and it is famous for its wonderful beaches. They are so beautiful, that I can’t even make a top, but you can bet that all of them are A M A Z I N G.
If you get tired of laying in the sun, here is my top 3 tourist attractions in Algarve.
Top 3 places in Algarve
The Benagil cave
The road to Benagil was pretty full of adventures, since we also had to row in a canoe. But it was definitely worth the effort!
The Vigarion Waterfall is an alternative to the beautiful, but crowded beaches. It is not a very famous tourist attraction and you also have to walk a bit to reach it.
I went to Zoomarine with the sole purpose of swimming with the dolphins! I wanted to do that for a long time and I finally had the chance to meet them.
I hope you find my recommendations useful if you ever decide to take a trip to Portugal. Beijos!