Escape to Portugal
After two years of being unable to travel internationally, we finally did; it was everything I needed. I couldn’t have asked for a better week visiting Lisbon and Porto. Portugal is the perfect combination of white sandy beaches, architecturally beautiful cities, mountainous coastlines, and a booming food scene. Please let’s not forget the amazing wine that comes from here as well.
Portugal also happens to be one of the most affordable international destinations and incredibly safe, making it an excellent getaway for family travel or solo female travelers. Lisbon has become a hub for nomads and ex-pats from all over the world, but there’s so much more to see than Portugal’s capital city—there’s the Algarve, Sintra, the Alentejo, Obidos, and Braga, and so much more.
I fell in absolute awe of Lisbon. It has everything you need from old charming Medieval streets to modern stores and buildings, a water view, history, and some amazing food spots.
Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood was my absolute favorite. It winds its way up one of the seven hills, from the main downtown area of Baixa to the medieval Castelo do São Jorge on top. It is Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood as it was one of the only areas spared from the 1755 earthquake/tsunami/fire nightmare.
During Moorish times, the Alfama was the whole city. The neighborhood includes the oldest Cathedral (Se Cathedral), and the best miradouros (Portas do Sol, Miradouro de Santa Luzia, and Miradouro da Graça). It’s very popular with tourists, but you can still get lost. We found ourselves alone in its magical maze of narrow, winding streets, tiny alleys, and quaint squares.
Wandering the intricate streets of Lisbon was my favorite thing to do – hills and all. Dedicate at least a few hours to exploring each of the neighborhoods.
Baixa and Chiado
Baixa and Chiado districts are located in the heart of Lisbon, where you will find most of the historical monuments and the famous shopping street. It’s a tourist hotspot so it can get very hectic during the day.
Attractions in Baixa-Chiado:Rua Augusta, Praça Luís de Camões, Praça do Comércio, Convento do Carmo, and Livraria Bertran.
Bairro Alto And Alfama
These are my favorite districts to explore in Lisbon. Alfama’s narrow and maze-like streets are great to get lost in – and. Barrio Alto offers all the trendy restaurants and bars in the city – at night, this neighborhood comes to life!
Note: In Alfama, you will find locals selling homemade cherry liquor on the street or from their home windows. It’s a local drink thanks to a friar, who soaked ginja berries (sour cherries) in Portuguese brandy, then sweetened it up with sugar and cinnamon. Definitely give it a try because it’s actually really good and an experience you won’t get anywhere else!
LX Factory, the trendy quarter of Lisbon where you can lose track of time browsing all the cool shops or sipping coffee at an artsy café, amid street art and factory buildings. We almost didn’t make it here because there was just too much to see but we fell in love and we were so glad we did.
You’ll spend enough time here exploring all the food spots, beer and wine shops, empanada stands, the most unique stores, and cute corners for pictures. It’s a definite win.
A couple of other things you want to see:
– Santa Justa Lift
– Castelo de São Jorge – Jorge Castle – Timeout Market
The second-largest city in Portugal and one of the most beautiful places in Western Europe, Porto is a dream destination. Surrounded by the beautiful beaches dotting the Costa Verde shoreline, the heart of Porto is a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and it’s a must-see for any history lover. But the city’s world-famous Port wine is what really put this place as one of our favorite places.
If you are traveling to Portugal or anywhere in the Iberian Peninsula, you absolutely can’t miss the chance to explore Porto. It’s not as ‘new’ as Lisbon but it has so much old charm and character.
We absolutely loved it as well, even though it was much different than Lisbon.
You can spend hours wandering the cobbled streets, relaxing by the Douro, or hopping from wine cellar to wine cellar. There’s a heavy emphasis on history, art, culture, and food in Porto—and there’s something for every traveler to discover.
The Ribeira district
This district is Porto‘s historical city center and gets its name from its location on the river. At the heart of the district is a large square, opening up to the river and surrounded by shops and restaurants. We loved strolling along the river, watching the street performers and the Rabelo boats glide by. Tall and colorful row houses are crammed along the river bank, creating maze-like streets, similar to the Alfama.
Ponte de Dom Luis I
This bridge is spectacular. It’s the bridge linking Porto and Gaia, and is a site to see in and of itself. It is the perfect vantage to both sides of the metro and I’d recommend going during Sunset to see the lighting of the city. We were not able to do that but it was still beautiful during the day. Cross to Gaia and stop by all the different wine cellars and wine taste your way thru it all.
Livaria Lello is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Plus, JK Rowling used to hang around here when she started writing her Harry Potter series. We were not able to enter because of the long line (long line with a baby is not ideal) but I’m sure it’s totally worth it…so they say.
A couple of other things you want to see:
– Wine Tasting in Gaia (cross the bridge by foot because it’s breathtaking).
– Enjoy the tile art (most beautiful tile art all over the city on floors, buildings, and houses).
– Crystal Palace Gardens
– Clérigos Tower
My one week in Portugal was so memorable that I’m writing this three months later and still get travel chills. The country is just so charming, and the people we met were so kind and it was honestly very inexpensive compared to other European countries so our dollar went a long way.
Just be aware that both Lisbon and Porto are hill cities so there’s lots of walking up and down hills and stairs. We didn’t mind because it’s a part of the experience but with that said I do hope you visit because it’s a very special country that will leave you wanting more.