I visited Portugal a couple of years back, and it’s a place I’m keen to explore again. In just seven sweet days, it was almost impossible to discover everything this beautiful place has to offer, yet I still haven’t booked a return trip.
Note to self: book a trip in 2020. Whether you’re seeking rich culture or breathtaking landscapes, Portugal offers something for every type of traveller.
I visited Albufeira, but it was a toss up between there and Porto or Lisbon, too.
How to Decide Where to Visit:
There’s a reason why Portugal is having a moment right now. From the UK, it’s not far to travel. It’s relatively cheap and easy to get to, and it’s a holiday and travellers destination in it’s rightful self.
Another big perk is that because the country is only 349 miles from north to south, you can hop between regions without too much trouble, meaning you don’t have to spend a whole month dedicated to travelling the place.
It’s a super big hit with British people choosing to up sticks and move there, too. Mainly because there are so many cities and locations, towns and beachfronts which make ideal home towns to live. The place is inundated with holiday homes, rentals and homes to buys. You can check out Ideal Homes Portugal to browse a selection of some of the dreamiest homes out there.
To help you decide on starter places to visit, remember that the two larger cities are worth hitting: Lisbon is cosmopolitan and cool, and Porto (known for it’s wine!) has buckets of character and charm, lined with winding streets and steeped in history.
If you wish to head out of town, there are places like Alentejo, an up-and-coming wine region (less established than Douro Valley), which makes a fabulous trip for the vineyards. There is also Comporta, which ticks the boxes for those seeking a beach town just over an hour outside of Lisbon. It is protected so you avoid all the high rise resorts, and you’ll find many locals gather there.
Albufeira makes a brilliant holiday destination, as you can explore both the new town and the old town. The Old Town is full of traditional and local bars and restaurants, which an enormous stretch of sandy beach. You’re not too far away from Villamoura too, which is slightly more upmarket, filled with golf resorts and high end eateries.
Attractions to note down
Museu Nacional do Azulejo
This is a museum which will easily get you taking over 200 photos of the amazing ceramic tiles, or of azulejos in general. It’s a beautiful historic place which makes a great photo opportunity!
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Art galleries are common in Portugal, and this one is a must if you’re planning on visiting any. You could spend an entire day in this really beautiful and well-done art museum.
Remember to save plenty of time for the surrounding gardens that span a whopping 19 acres. It’s a scenic sight in regards to surroundings, as well as the art!
Jardim Botanico Tropical
If you wish to visit Lisbon – which is always recommended – this exotic plant paradise is somewhere to jot down on your must-see list. A great day even for those who aren’t even passionate about plants.
Places to Eat
Iguana Cafe, Albufeira
The Iguana Café ranks high among those who call Albufeira home, yet it also has a lot of tourists and holiday makers flocking here. Although it is more of a café and snack bar, the offerings are prepared and served with a gourmet touch that leaves eaters satisfied and happy. Reasonable prices and an all round great vibe. Another highlight of the Iguana Café? The breathtaking scenes that can be enjoyed from the layered deck that lets you take in the bay – but on some days can let you see all the way to Faro.
Graça do Vinho
A perfect spot in Lisbon. Ideal for taking a break with a glass of wine while tucking into some delicious cheeses and meat plates. This place is known for it’s very friendly service in which you don’t need to worry about not being able to speak Portuguese.
It’s fairly low-key, and you’ll find a lot of locals will give a nod to this cute place.
Horta dos Brunos
Another Lisbon hot spot, Horta dos Brunos makes a lovely dinner in Lisbon choice. It’s a very tiny, romantic place where the staff really get to know you and makes sure you’re tasting all the right things from their menu. You’ll find they come to tell you the specials they serve up rather than relying on the same printed menus. Full of traditional Portuguese food. Again, one that attracts regulars and locals, which is always a good sign.
Places to shop
Under The Cover
If you’re one of those people who enjoys browsing and shopping rare art and fashion magazines, you’ll be obsessed with this place, despite it being only marginally larger than a shoebox. It’s in Lisbon and is like a mini library for everything cool, quirky and stylish
Caza das, Vellas Loreto
Trading since 1789, this is an old, traditional shopping place designed with wood-paneled architectura. It’s more of a candle shop, sharing ecclesiastical candles in all shapes and forms.
They are all patiently handmade in a workshop at the rear of the premises before being displayed in stunning, olde-world wood-framed glass cabinets and polished counters. Other handcrafted styles include tapered dinner service candles, chunky pillars and dainty tea lights.
A Vida Portuguesa
Everyone will tell you to go to this shop because it is just ‘so Portugal’. It has locations in both Porto and Lisbon, and even just browsing this shop gives you a great sense of the wide array of things that are Portuguese-made.
A lovely place for tourists to really explore a slice of Portugese life.
What to See
After touring this port house, you will became a total Ramos Pinto devotee. This one is for those who appreciate a tipple and to learn about tipples too! They offer a ten-year-aged RP10 — you can spot this on menus at the finest wineries.
The Archipelago of the Azores
This place is composed of 9 volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, located about 1,500 km (930 miles) west of Lisbon. If you want to see something that will blow you mind and introduce you to such beauty, this is it.
Renowned for world-class whale watching, hot mineral springs, and quaint seaside towns, each island around this place has its own fascinating identity. São Miguel is the largest island of the Azores and is known as The Green Island while Pico is home to the highest mountain in Portugal.
Sporting the nickname of the “Floating Garden of the Atlantic,” Madeira is a lovely unique oasis in the Atlantic Ocean. It sits between Portugal and North Africa, and is popular for its lush green landscapes, rows of bright and pretty flower gardens and of course – Madeira wines.
If you happen to have a bit of time in Portugal where you can allow yourself to travel for longer, it’s worth heading over. Must-see places in Madeira include the Orchid Garden and the Laurissilva Forest. The capital and largest city on Madeira is Funchal, which is home to some of the most stunning and classic historic churches, fortresses, tourist resorts and restaurants as well as the tree-lined Lido Promenade, which presents spectacular ocean views.
The above are just a few picks that I have been told about time and time again when pondering my next trip to Portugal. However, if there are any major ones I’ve missed of, do let me know in the comments!