BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN PORTUGAL 🇵🇹

Pena Palace, Sintra

Pena Palace, Sintra

Hello hello! Summer is in full swing and that means everyone's #wanderlust is probably through the ROOF. I have to admit, I'm too am majorly FOMO-ing all my friends current trips - especially since NYC has decided to become an actual sauna - but I channeled that energy and wrote up a guide of the two countries I had the pleasure of visiting earlier this summer!

First up, Portugal! I honestly LOVED this country, I even told myself I would've been perfectly happy if I had ended the trip there (please don't hold me to this). The people, the culture, the food, everything about it was absolutely divine and I had the most fabulous time (heh that rhymed). 

We started off in Porto for a few days, made our way down the coast to Sintra, before finally ending in Lisbon. To learn more about the fun, keep reading down below, enjoy! 

PORTUGAL (~6 days)

Language(s) Spoken: English, Portuguese

Currency: € Euros

Outlet: 2 pins (Type C)

T-Mobile Data Coverage: Included

Driver’s Seat: Left (same as US); *international permit needed to rent car

Uber: Yes (Porto and Lisbon)

Cities Visited: Porto, Óbidos, Peniche, Sintra, Lisbon

Porto, Portugal  (taken from the Gaia side)

Porto, Portugal (taken from the Gaia side)

PORTO (1.5 days)

Porto is split into two sides, Porto and Gaia. My friends and I stayed on the Porto side but were able to very easily walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge within ~15-20 minutes. It’s a cute seaside town with tons of port wine tasting options. We originally were going to spend 2.5 days here but felt like 1.5-2 was definitely enough time to do everything!

Highlights to See:

  • Dom Luís I Bridge - nice bridge that connects Porto and Gaia, you can either walk along the top or bottom, the top gives you a nice aerial view of the city while the bottom connects you with the boardwalk side of Gaia. If you choose to walk the top, there is also a cable car that will bring you back down to the boardwalk on the Gaia side for €6.

    • Cost: Free

  • Livraria Llello - the bookstore JK Rowling frequented when she taught English in Porto and is said to have been an inspiration for the Harry Potter series. It’s a beautiful bookstore, but just a warning, it’s extremely busy which makes it difficult to get good photos for the insta. If you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, I think you’d really enjoy this but I’d suggest going early to avoid crowds!

    • Cost: €5, but if you buy a book your ticket price will go towards the final price.

  • Torre dos Clérigos - really nice tower in Porto that gives you a great birds eye view of the city. Be prepared to climb stairs to the top!

    • Cost: €5, includes entrance to cathedral, museum exhibits, and the tower

  • Igreja de Sao Francisco - we didn’t get a chance to go inside because we got there after closing but the outside it absolutely gorgeous!

 

Igreja de Sao Francisco, Porto

Igreja de Sao Francisco, Porto

Foods/Restaurants to Try:

  • Fábrica de Nata - a must! These were probably our favorite pastel de nata (portuguese egg tarts) our whole trip! They have a great deal that’s €4.50 for a sandwich, juice/coffee, AND a pastel de nata, honestly unheard of because in NYC i’ve paid that much just for a coffee.

  • Bacalhau - restaurant by the water, we didn’t get to try it out because it was a 2.5 hour wait, but it has great reviews, I wish we had more time. We ended up eating next door at Muralha Do Rio and that was quite good too with a similar view.

  • Amorino Porto - this isn’t particularly special to Porto, I believe you can find this chain store throughout Europe, but it’s situated right next to Livraria Liello and who doesn’t love a gorgeous rose shaped gelato?

  • Madriguera - we wanted to try the famous Portuguese franceshina sandwich that consists of ham, sausage, & steak doused with melted cheese, and a tomato & beer sauce. I know, sounds like a heart attack, but I promise it’s much more intimidating than it sounds. It was actually quite delicious! We split a mini between the two of us plus a charcuterie board and that was more than enough food.

  • Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau - really cute shop that serves the classic fried codfish ball with cheese with a mini glass of port wine on a little artist palette. Not absolutely necessary to try, but if you’re by the tower and want to grab a little snack, this is the perfect place!

 

Escapo Porto Cruz, Porto

Escapo Porto Cruz, Porto

Port Wine Tasting:

Personally, port wine was a little too sweet for my liking (tasted like honey…which may or may not be a good thing), but I really enjoyed the experience of walking around the cellars and trying all the different types while learning about the process in which it is made. These are the two places we ended up going to:

  • Graham’s Port Lodge - our first activity in Porto! We signed up for the group tour which was perfect for our group of 5. They took us through their cellars and explained what makes port wine so special. At the very end, we got to try 6 small glasses shared between groups of 2. Graham’s is situated on top of a hill on the Gaia side, I believe you can walk here if you’re willing to do a bit of an uphill hike but we took an Uber because we were running late.

    • Cost: €20pp for group tour + wine tasting

  • Espaco Porto Cruz - for our second tasting, my cousin very kindly treated me as an early birthday present, thanks Ann! This was a much more immersive experience as we had one guide for the 3 of us in a private tasting room. We got to try 7 types of port wines in addition to a pink port wine (essentially their version of rosé). I really loved this experience, especially since we got to ask as many questions as we want, but unfortunately they do not have cellars to walk through, but they do have a 360 rooftop with a gorgeous view of the Porto side so I highly recommend stopping by and grabbing a drink up there even if you don’t do the tasting.

    • Cost: €58pp for private wine tasting

*Note: one of my friends who doesn’t drink alcohol was able to join the tours with us for free! Just make sure you email the company ahead of time to let them know.

 

Peniche, Portugal

Peniche, Portugal

DRIVE FROM PORTO TO SINTRA (1 day)

This drive is ~3 hours, but we decided to take our time and make little stops along the way. We rented our car from Sixt at the Porto Airport at ~11AM; the lines were quite long to pick up our car but the employees were extremely helpful and ended up upgrading us to an Audi with a navigation system! After almost driving onto the airport runway (oops), we were on our way to Sintra!

We originally envisioned us cruising along the coast all the way down, but apparently the only roads by the ocean are tiny streets that keep diverting you back to the main road, so after a few attempts we decided to just take the highway but here were our favorite stops:

Highlights to See:

  • Chapel of Senhor da Pedra - a little chapel that sits oceanside. It was really cute with a beautiful view, and there weren’t very many people around! I think we (two girls from California) had a really hard time processing the fact that the Atlantic Ocean was on the west coast…wha??

  • *Óbidos - HIGHLY recommend stopping by this little medieval town. From the color block walls to the castle walls to the greenery that surrounds it, it’s dreamiest town. We grabbed a quick lunch (I forgot the name of the restaurant :( but it was located in a little street to the right between the parking lot and the front entrance to the city) and no joke spent like 3 hours just wandering and taking photos!! We walked along the wall and got to explore the smaller streets above the main one, and the best part was, once you leave the main street, it totally feels like the whole city is yours!

  • Peniche - cute little seaside town, if you’re tight on time feel free to skip it, but we really wanted to see the coastline and this place was perfect! There is a gorgeous fortress in the middle of the ocean that you can take a boat to, but we arrived too late so we just sat on the cliffs and watched the sunset.

That night we stayed at Casa da Estefanea Botique Bed and Breakfast in Sintra. It was super nice and quaint, and their body soap smelled so good I wish I could buy it in bulk and bring it home with me.

 

Quinta de Regaleira, Sintra

Quinta de Regaleira, Sintra

*SINTRA NATIONAL PARK (UNESCO Heritage Site) (1 day)

Definitely a highlight of the trip! Would really recommend setting aside an entire day here because there is so much to see and do, we honestly probably could have done two days. It was so much fun to have our car and spend some time in nature exploring the beautiful castles. If you didn’t rent a car, I believe you can take public transportation from Lisbon and they have trams that will take you between the castles.

Highlights to See:

  • *Pena Palace - the most famous palace in the national park! We arrived around 10:45AM and it was already quite packed with tourists. We spent a few hours wandering and admiring the gorgeous architecture. It was originally built to be a monastery in 1493 but was remodeled by King Ferdinand II to reflect a more romantic feel for the Portuguese royal family’s summer home. The colors are so bright and full of life and there’s a breathtaking view of the ocean, definitely a must see.

    • Cost: €13.30 ticket + €3 tram (to be honest, the tram isn’t absolutely necessary, we didn’t even end up taking it. we were told it was a 15 min hike uphill but we didn’t believe it because it looked much further, but it was indeed a 15 min walk with a really nice view! haha)

  • Moorish Castle - it provided a great view of Pena Palace and the Atlantic Ocean from afar, but if you’re short on time I would say it’s okay to skip out on this one. Nonetheless, the 10th century castle is still really fun to visit.

    • Cost: €7.60  (you can actually buy all your tickets at once at the ticket booth since they’re all part of the same park system)

  • Monserrate Palace - we heard after the fact that this was one of the more beautiful palaces in Sintra. Wish we knew ahead of time so we could have visited it!

  • **Quinta da Regaleira - honestly my favorite palace/manor I’ve ever been to. It’s situated in the national park, but not part of the collective so you have to buy tickets separately but it was SO worth it. It was built by a wealthy man named Carvalho Monteiro who wanted to create a bewildering experience of labyrinths and beautiful gardens, and man did he nail it. I have never seen anything like this in my life! I must admit, when Sheena first told me about this place, she really wanted to see the “well”, which I wasn’t super excited about it, but wow, what a well. As you slowly make your way down, there are various dark paths that will spit you out into different gardens. Without giving too much away, all I have to say is that it was so much fun to explore and I highly recommend stopping by this magical place.

    • Cost: €6

 

Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon

Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon

LISBON (1.5 days)

I really loved Lisbon!! From the history to the architecture to the food and cute shops, I would love to go back!

Highlights to See:

  • *Jerónimos Monastery - gorgeous monastery in Belém, ~15-20 min Uber ride from Lisbon. It’s not very large so you don’t need to spend too much time there, but totally worth the trip because the architecture is breathtaking.

    • Cost: €10

  • Torre de Belém - beautiful tower overlooking the water, we arrived too late to go inside and climb to the top but we stopped by the outside and took some cute photos (~15 min walk from the Jerónimos Monastery)

  • *Take Lisboa - this was a free walking tour that we spontaenously decided to join on our second/last day in Lisbon. Our guide Cláudia was super sweet and extremely knowledgable of the history of Lisbon. It’s about a 3 hour tour but was totally the cherry on top of our Lisbon experience. She takes you to the best sights in Lisbon including:

    • Rua Da Bica de Duarte Belo (the famous street with the tram)

    • Bertrand Chiado (the oldest bookstore in the world)

    • Santa Justa Lift (gorgeous elevator in the middle of the streets)

    • Praca do Comercio (the famous square with beautiful architecture and lots of shops/restaurants, etc.)

    • Bairro Alto - our Airbnb was actually this area and we totally didn’t realize just how central it is! This is definitely the area to go out and enjoy Lisbon nightlife. Within these 4 streets there are over 400 bars! We didn’t get a chance to go bar hopping, but we did find a bar that serves Ginja, a Portuguese liquor, that is served inside a chocolate shell in the shape of a cup!

Pastéis de Belem, Belem

Pastéis de Belem, Belem

Foods/Restaurants to Try:

  • *Cervejaria Ramiro - quite possibly my favorite meal on our whole trip, hands down the best seafood I’ve ever had (& I don’t even like seafood!). We ordered their garlic shrimp (their garlic butter thooo), razor clams, tiger prawns, and oysters (legit best oysters I’ve ever had). We wanted to try their crab and mussels too, but tried not to go too overboard. Side note: it’s filled with Chinese tourists, and I feel like that’s a telltale sign that the seafood is freshhhh.

  • *Marisqueria Uma - everyone basically goes here to order one thing, the seafood rice. This mom and pop shop recommended by our walking tour guide Cláudia definitely did not disappoint. It kind of reminds me of a gumbo, but I liked it way more!

  • Pastéis de Belém - situated next to the Jerónimos Monastery, I wouldn’t say that this is a MUST because I liked Fábrica de Nata much more, but it is the original so if you’re in the area, you should stop by!

  • *Manteigara - I honestly liked this more than Pastéis de Belém 🙊 but I think you should just try both and decide for yourself! heh

  • *Palacio Chiado - an old palace that is now 6 different restaurants. We went up to the very top and got a seat by the window to enjoy some wine, gazpacho, and a plate of acorn fed iberico ham that was just amazing. *Note: I will warn that my roommate ended up getting a really bad case of food poisoning from the juice, so I would just steer clear of that.

  • Taberna Bairro do Avillez - tapas restaurant by José Avillez, a Michelin rated chef. They have a wide charcuterie selection and the roasted pork wraps were so good we ended up ordering another! We didn’t get a chance to go to his other one star restaurant, that my friend raved about (Belcanto), but we were quite pleased with the tapas we had here!

  • Time Out Market - we didn’t get a chance to eat here (though I wish we did!) but it’s a really nice food court with tons of options to try different foods and there’s a mini A Vida Portugesa (see below).

Favorite Shops:

  • A Vida Portuguesa - a super cute store that was great for getting Portuguese souvenirs for friends (and myself). Everything is authentically Portuguese!

  • Livraria Antiquária do Calhariz - a nice bookstore with books from as early as the 1600s! All the books were in Portuguese but I was able to pick up a book of vintage postcards from Versailles.

  • d'Orey Tiles Antiques - an antique tile shop with Portuguese tiles from the 16th-19th century! I picked up an Arabic inspired Portuguese tile from the 1600s and it’s probably the best souvenir I’ve ever purchased.

Ah writing this post makes me want to do it all over again! I put little asterisks** next to the things that were my favorites ☺️

Hope this post has been helpful, let me know down in the comments below if you have any questions! 💕✨

Safe travels wherever you go 🛫