Sure you could go to Portugal and just visit Lisbon, but please please please, I’m begging you, don’t. The entire country has so much to offer, and it isn’t very big, so it’s definitely worth the time to see the whole country. With rolling hills, endless red roofs, stunning rivers, and the most beautiful beaches in Europe, we promise every inch of the country will leave you wishing you’d made your trip longer. Tears were streaming down my face as the plane took off, so I’m living proof that you won’t want to leave.
Between the old ladies hanging around the doorways, the men sipping coffee outside the cafés, and the endless lines of clothes drying out people’s windows, all of Portugal will make you feel right at home and leave your heart full of joy .
Porto has it all. It has the ocean, the river, the views, the history, everything. The city is technically called “O Porto,” which literally means “the port.” It’s located on Rio Douro and still very much so alive with that magical spirit that can only be described as Europe.
Ribeira: The Ribeira is our #1 thing to do when you go to Porto. It is full of adorable little shops and tasty restaurants and lots of tourists, but honestly, it is so beautiful. We could walk around here for hours and never get bored of the views. There are colorful houses hidden in the hills, boats tied up and knocking against the pier, and old, abandoned buildings that look like they’re about to fall into the river, and all of it is stunning. We even got lucky and witnessed an old man reciting a famous poem as we were walking along the river, and it made us feel like we had gone back in time. It felt like something out of a Shakespeare Theater. Make sure you walk across the iconic Ponte de Dom Luis and get a view of Porto from the other side of the river as well. Also, it turns out the famous Porto bridge was built by the same person who built the Eiffel Tour, so basically Porto is the original Paris. And honestly, we think it is just as magical and picturesque.
Clérigos Tower: For one of the best aerial views of the city, go to the very top of the bell tower of the old Baroque Clérigos Church and look out over all the red roofs and catch a glimpse of the river. But be prepared to climb some stairs.
Rua Santa Catarina: This is one of my favorite streets in the city, because it is always so full of life. There are street musicians and college students performing and tons of shops and cafés. If you’re a Harry Potter fan (but let’s be real, who isn’t?), make sure to visit Majestic Café, where J.K Rowling wrote the majority of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Then walk over to Capela das Almas and stare at the incredible azulejos covering the chapel walls. We also suggest wandering over a few streets to Rua das Flores (Road of the Flowers), where literally every window is covered with flowers.
Estádio do Dragão: If you’re a soccer fan, this is the place to be. During a game, the entire city basically shuts down, and everyone covers themselves in blue and white, and shouts nasty things about Benfica (Lisbon’s team). It’s such an exciting thing to be a part of. But also, let’s be honest, most of us only care about Christiano Ronaldo, and he played for Sporting (the other Lisbon team).
Porto Cathedral: This cathedral is located at the top of the city and is not only covered in gorgeous designs inside, but it also has one of my all-time favorite views of the city from the outside.
If you want to see the best of the stunning blue tile walls, visit Capela das Almas, Estação de São Bento, and Carmo Church.
And make sure to eat a Francesinha before you leave. But be careful, it is not for the weak stomached (or vegetarian). The iconic sandwich is made with meat and cheese and more meat and a fried egg and more meat and then drenched in a special sauce and surrounded by fries. It’s spicy, it’s savory, it’s sweet, it’s divine. Most of the places you pass will say they have the best one in the city, but it’s kind of like how every restaurant in New York says they have the world’s best pizza. So, we suggest you go to Santiago or Bufete Fase. And be sure you have zero plans for the rest of the day, because you might have to roll yourself out of there.
On your way down to Lisbon, stop in Coimbra and Obidos. Coimbra University is one of the oldest colleges in the world and the students all wear these black capes that make you feel like you stepped into Hogwarts. And the library is stunning. Obidos is a quaint little city surrounded by a fortified wall. It’s full of cute shops and streets, and every July, it turns into a Medieval Market with jesters, taverns, and jousting knights. Take a few hours and explore the history hidden within the walls.
Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and, as a result, is the epitome of the country. It is full of insane views, red roofs, cafés, and traditional Fado music, and it’s bustling with people, clubs, restaurants, shops, and street art.
Torre de Belém: The tower, built in the early 16th century, is an icon of the city. It is located right on the river and was used as a fort to protect the bay from enemy entry. Go inside and get a view from the watchtowers.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos: This monument was built to celebrate the Age of Discoveries and trade with India and Orient. The statues that line the sides feature 33 of the most influential navigators and figures of the era, including Vasco de Gama, who found the sea route to India, and Ferdinand Magellan, who was the first person to circumnavigate the globe. The walk between Torre de Belém and this monument is one of our favorites. You walk around the harbor, (which we love, because… boats) and then along the river, and there is always a nice breeze that creates this magical historical lapse in time.
Pastéis de Belém (or Pastéis de Nata): There’s a little bakery right down the street from the famous Jerónimos Monastery (which is also beautiful, and you should definitely go inside if you have the time) called Pastéis de Belém. They are these famous Portuguese desserts, and they are like deep-dish pastry tarts filled with custard and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Just trust us. You’ll love them.
Praça do Comercio: This is the perfect place to do all of your tourist shopping. Walk around and enjoy all the shops, classic yellow Lisbon trams, and be sure to grab the delicious traditional pastries from the cafés. We recommend trying brigadeiro and bolo de berlin. And chocolate croissants, because you can never get enough of those when you’re in Portugal. If you want to take a ride around the city, catch Tram Number 28 for a tour through the prettiest neighborhoods.
Elevador de Santa Justa: For an incredible view of the entire city, take a ride 148 feet up the giant Santa Justa elevator.
Castelo de São Jorge: For the most beautiful view of the city’s red roofs, visit this ancient castle. The fort was built by the Moors and is located on the highest hill in the city. The climb up might not be the easiest, but every step is beautiful. And when you make it to the lookout points, you’ll see stunning sights of the entire city including Torre de Belém, the famous Lisbon 25 de Abril Bridge, and Cristo Rei. As you leave, walk around the Alfama neighborhood for all the tiny streets, cobble stone roads, and classic Portuguese homes.
Bairro Alto: A lot like Alfama, this quaint little neighborhood comes to life at night. It’s located on a hill, so you can take a tram to the top and look over the city when it’s all lit up.
If you want to escape the city, take the train from Lisbon to the beaches of Cascais. The train runs along the ocean making it an incredibly scenic ride, and then hop off and enjoy the sunshine and surfing in Cascais. We suggest Praia do Guincho for surfing and Praia da Rainha for the views.
Sintra: Just a few miles outside of Lisbon is Sintra National Park. This might be our absolute favorite area in Lisbon. It feels like you walked into the secret garden and every turn is full of greenery and waterfalls and insanely captivating castles. Give yourself an entire day just to escape the city and explore this magical area. Poets like Lord Byron called it “a glorious Eden” and would retreat here to write. The colors of Palácio Nacional de Pena are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and made me wish I was born into royalty. And Quinta de Regaleira, which is basically an old millionaire’s mansion, is full of hidden passageways, princess towers, and underground tunnels. The entire area makes for the most picturesque exploring you could ever imagine.
Okay the Algarve is my absolute favorite place in all of Portugal and maybe even in the world. Don’t get us wrong, we love the entire country, but we’re beach people, and there’s just something about this place that had us running around and jumping up and down like five-year-olds as if it were Christmas morning. Lagos is one of my favorite areas, because it is always sunny and warm, which is like all of my dreams come true. The ocean is the most perfect shade of blue, and there are so many rocks everywhere. Everyone in the entire area is just happy and friendly, but like why wouldn’t you be when you’re in paradise?
Lagos: I’m a little biased, but this is my favorite area of the entire Algarve. This city is full of adorable white houses, classic Portuguese tiled sidewalks, and endless sunshine. The beaches are usually not as crowded as they are in Portimão. Be sure to go to Praia da Batata, Praia das Estudantes, and Praia da Dona Ana.
Ponta de Piedade: This is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There are rocks and arches and cliffs scattered throughout the water, and the ocean is every shade of blue and green and turquoise you could imagine. Once you’ve soaked in the view from above, follow the stairs down toward the ocean and explore the caves and then hop on a boat ride through the grottos.
Sagres: Cabo de São Vicente is famous for being the western most point of Europe, and as a result, the closet to America. The sea-carved cliffs create a dramatic and absolutely stunning view. Be prepared and bring a jacket, because it’s almost always windy here.
Algor Seco: The rocks here are absolutely awesome! They’re perfect for cliff jumping, and just sitting and trying to take in the breathtaking views.
Praia de Marinha: In Lagoa, this is one of the prettiest beaches in Europe. It almost looks like The Twelve Apostles in Australia. Get your Instagram ready.
Portugal is truly the hidden gem of Europe. Too many people skip over it, because it’s so small. But it is so unique and has so much to offer. We’re already planning our next trip back.
*Also, check out Kortni Jeane bathing suits. They are the absolute best for traveling. When we were in Portugal, we spent a couple days just hopping from beach to beach to beach. Our favorite part about these swimmers (other than all the compliments!) was that at the end of the day, we literally didn’t even feel like we were wearing bathing suits. Which was so nice, because honestly there’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy the sunset on the beach and having to deal with that horrible feeling of your suit cutting into your skin and constantly readjusting to try and get somewhat comfortable. We can’t wait to live in them all summer.
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