I’ve received so many requests to share details on our trip to Portugal in the past month, so I’m really excited to share part one of our trip today with all of the details on what to see, where to stay, where to eat and (of course) what I wore. Since we covered a ton of ground, today I’m sharing a recap of the first half of our trip to Lisbon, Sintra, The Algarve and Évora, and tomorrow will be posting details on the second half spent in Óbidos, Coimbra, The Duoro Valley, Amarante and Porto (see post here). We had an absolutely incredible time, so if you’re thinking of spending your next vacation in Portugal, I can’t recommend it highly enough!
STOP 1: LISBON
Time Spent: 3 Days, 3 Nights
Hotel: Olissippo Lapa Palace Hotel
Favorite Places to Eat: A Travessa, Cantinho de Avillez, and Memmo Hotel Rooftop
I consider Lisbon now to be one of my very favorite cities in Europe, with beautiful architecture, fascinating history, and picturesque streets at every turn. We stayed at the Olissippo Lapa Palace at the recommendation of a friend, and our hotel experience alone was one of the great highlights of the trip. The rooms, the service, the incredibly friendly staff, the gorgeous lounges and pool, the FOOD, the picturesque setting—everything was perfect and made for an incredible start to our travels. I also have to say that the Pastel de Nata (the custard-filled pastry that Portugal is famous for) I had in their gorgeous late night lounge/bar while listening to their incredible pianist and sipping champagne, was by far the best of the trip.
As mentioned previously in this post, we spent our first full day in Lisbon exploring the Alfama, Baixa, and Bairro Alto neighborhoods, starting at the medieval Castelo de São Jorge.
One of our favorite things about the trip was that Portugal didn’t feel overloaded with tourists, even though we were supposedly there during the “height” of their tourist season (first two weeks of July). To us, much of Portugal still had that “untouched” feel, which is so hard to find in western Europe. However, this means that there aren’t quite as many travel resources out there. We found Rick Steves’ guidebook to be helpful along with recommendations from friends, but I especially wanted to thank so many of you who sent me recommendations after seeing my instagram posts about the upcoming trip. There were so many things we did throughout our trip that were based upon your suggestions—Memmo Hotel Rooftop bar in Lisbon, Graham’s Port wine tour in Porto, the list is long. It was so incredibly nice of you guys to take the time to send us recommendations and tips; I’m so so grateful!
Our second full day in Lisbon was spent exploring Belém, including the incredible monastery there, along with the National Coach Museum and (of course) the Casa Pastéis de Belém (where Pastel de Nata originated).
The rest of our time in Lisbon was spent walking around exploring all of its beautiful little streets and amazing architecture—especially the azulejos, the incredible tilework (often blue in primary color) that adorn so many façades throughout Portugal.
In terms of eating and drinking, we had three favorites: Memmo Hotel‘s Rooftop Bar at sunset which offers amazing views of the city as well as great wine, cocktails and food. The second, probably our favorite, was A Travessa with absolutely top notch wine and cuisine, spectacular service and an absolutely idyllic setting—the cloister of an old monastery. Last, but not least, Cantinho de Avillez had a more relaxed, local feel in the Chiado neighborhood but again, top notch food and service.
STOP 2: SINTRA
Time Spent: Daytrip!
We rented a car on our last day in Lisbon, and drove 30 minutes up to Sintra before heading down to the Algarve for a few days. Sintra is basically the castle capital of Portugal, and we explored their two most noteworthy attractions—the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros) and Pena Palace. As the photos suggest, both were absolutely jaw-dropping, making you feel like you just walked into a Disney movie.
STOP 3: THE ALGARVE (SAGRES & LAGOS)
Time Spent: 2 Days, 1 Night
Hotel: Pousada do Infante Sagres
Favorite Place to Eat: Terra
The southernmost coastal region of Portugal, called The Algarve, is spectacularly beautiful. Tons of gorgeous beaches with the most incredible rock formations (which make for awesome hikes, too) and loads of cool history. Of course in the Age of Exploration (15th-16th centuries) this southwestern tip housed an important School of Navigation and was believed to be the End of the World (because the world was flat, remember?). Watching sunsets over these incredible cliffs made for some truly unforgettable nights.
We stayed for two nights at the Pousada do Infante in Sagres, and the location and views can’t be beat. The hotel and rooms themselves are a bit outdated, but with a large balcony and an unobstructed ocean view, we were happy campers. Plus, when you’re in this spectacularly beautiful area, a hotel room is the last place you want to spend time.
We spent a full day exploring Lagos, relaxing on the beach in the morning and doing an afternoon sail and grotto tour with Bom Dia Boat Trips that was absolutely incredible later in the day. For this, we first got onto a larger sail boat that took us down the coast, then once we were close enough, we got into a small boat that took us through the caves along the coastline which are only accessible via water. Afterwards we hiked around the famed Ponta da Piedade ending with some time swimming and relaxing a little on the beach.
STOP 4: ÉVORA
Time Spent: 1.5 Days, 1 Night
Hotel: Pousada Convento Évora
Favorite Place to Eat: BL Lounge
After our days in the Algarve soaking up the sun and eating all the fresh fish we could get our hands on, we started our trip through the interior region of the country, stopping first in Évora for a night. Here, we stayed at another Pousada (historic inns throughout Portugal), this one being a converted 12th century convent (pinch me). We absolutely loved this hotel (much more updated than the Pousada in Sagres), and when you walk out your front door to find epic Roman ruins from the first century A.D., you know you’ve hit the jackpot location-wise.
This city is unbelievably charming and picturesque. We spent the day doing Rick Steves’ walking tour, exploring the little shops and streets, and touring the beautiful churches including the formidable Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel).
For dinner that night, the concierge at our hotel recommended BL Lounge, and it proved to be one of our favorites of the trip. Wonderful wine, absolutely delicious Alentejo cuisine with a modern twist, and amazing service. It was especially charming when the owner came by our table to say hello, chit-chat for a minute, and even share some of her favorite recipes (I begged for the secret to their chocolate cake)! Absolutely wonderful experience.
Check out Part 2 of our trip with detail on Óbidos, Coimbra, the Duoro River Valley, Amarante and Porto!