Country Review & Recommendations: Portugal (Lisbon, Sintra & Lagos)

My Portugal Review

I went on a lot of adventures in 2016: Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, Belize, Mexico and Ecuador! But, I’ve finally made it back to my older trips, starting with the one I did in the summer of 2015, to Portugal and Morocco. This post will be about Portugal, as I started things off there. If you’re looking for my Morocco post, well, you’ll have to wait a little longer 🙂

Views of Lisbon from Elevador Santa Justa (2015)

So, why Portugal and Morocco? My original intention was to visit Russia and possibly Turkey; two countries I really wanted to visit (and still really do). But, I was a bit last minute with the trip booking that year and found the whole Russian visa situation quite complex, so I gave up and asked myself: where have I not been yet in Europe, that’s warm and has beaches? There weren’t 30 answers to this question, so my choice settled on Portugal. As for Morocco, I figured that since it was pretty close to Portugal, it made sense to do them together. Plus, I really wanted to visit this exotic location and I had never been to Africa. So I bought my flights, booked my hostels, checked out the sites and was ready to go!

Views over Alfama from Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol (Lisbon, 2015)

I started things off in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. I had a bit of a hard time finding my hostel, but finally managed it with the help of some locals. I stayed at the G-Spot Party Hostel, recommended to me by my friend Liz, who has done her own share of travels. The staff was amazing, the location was perfect and every night, they served 2 euros pasta and wine meals and then took you out bar hopping. I loved my experience there and would definitely recommend this hostel to anyone travelling to Lisbon. Even if you’re not a big party animal, the atmosphere was great for meeting people and making new friends. And if you didn’t feel like going out after, everyone basically left the hostel at 10 p.m. so the hostel was yours to sleep.

3. Lagos cliff walk (2015)

I had originally planned to do Discover Walks’ free walking tour of Alfama, one of the districts of Lisbon, but I missed it because my flight was delayed. Instead, I did my own free walking tour, leaving the hostel on foot and going to Alfama, walking through the streets and down to the water, where the main plaza is. I made my way back to the hostel through the shopping area, just in time for dinner.

Palacio Da Pena (Sintra, 2015)

The next day, I made my way to Sintra, a town filled with beautiful palaces and villas. I had a late start that morning, so I wasn’t really able to fit anything else in that day. I spent the next two days in Lagos, a coastal town in the South of Portugal. This was my one and only beach opportunity, since I was heading off to Morocco afterwards. I did a lot of sunbathing and the scenic walk along the cliffs that overlook the beaches. It was a very beautiful place.

Palacio Da Pena (Sintra, 2015)

After Lagos, I made my way back to Lisbon for one final day in Portugal, before heading off to Morocco. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to visit Porto, even though I really wanted to. I guess that means I’ll have to go back to Portugal one day J So on this last day in Lisbon, I finally got to take that free walking tour of Alfama (it pretty much ended being a private tour as we were only two participants), visit the Saint Georges Castle, eat some grilled chorizo, drink cheap Portuguese wine and party one last time in Lisbon.

3. Lagos cliff walk (2015)

My Portugal Recommendations

7. Praça do Comércio (Lisbon)

If you have time or enjoy walking around cities, take the time to venture to and around Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s main square, located right by the water. There are lots of boutiques, cafés and restaurants to be enjoyed nearby.

6. Castelo de São Jorge or São Jorge Castle (Lisbon)

Located at the top of a hill, this castle overlooks the city of Lisbon and offers great views (and photo opportunities). Once you’ve visited the castle grounds, make sure to grab a drink at a nearby outdoor bar, with an impressive view of Lisbon.

5. Elevador Santa Justa (Lisbon)

 Happened upon this lookout point while killing time, waiting for the train to Sintra. This spot also offers a great lookout point of Lisbon, from the other side of Castelo de São Jorge. Therefore, you can get the castle in your photos.

4. Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol

Can you tell I like lookout points? This one is not to be missed, as it offers the best views of Alfama, one of the old districts of Lisbon.

3. Walk through the winding streets of Lisbon and Alfama

To get to Alfama from my hostel, I chose to walk, which was a great way to see more of the city. Lots of beautiful and historical buildings to see, as well as art, street cars and churches. Get yourself to the Alfama look out point, then take the time to walk down into Alfama (I prefer to walk down than up). I did this with Discover Walks’ free walking tour of Alfama, so it was a very authentic experience, as our guide was a local university student. It brought a unique touch, especially the random stop at a woman’s house to sample of the local popular spirit (it was quite strong for a midafternoon drank). We wound through the streets, learning about the area’s history.

2. Lagos cliff walk & beaches

This cliff walk was recommended to me by my hostel’s owner, who assured me it had to be done (and that there was a restaurant at the other end with delicious seafood rice awaiting me if I made it). She said it was a bit strenuous, so I decided to “get it over with” on my first day there, as I was scared I wouldn’t do it if I waited till the next day. So after a quick lunch of Portuguese roasted chicken, I headed off on this walk, which is high above the beautiful beaches below. This is a great opportunity to take pictures of the many beaches down below, and the Ponta da Piedade, a group of rock formations along the coastline, that Lagos is famous for. Near the end though, the trail kind of gets confusing and I somehow ended up in some residential area (was it just me?). Not sure what to recommend, except maybe paying good attention as to where you’re going, or you’ll end up in someone’s backyard like I did.

The advantage of doing the cliff walk first means you get to see all the beaches that are offered to you. Which ones are the busiest, where the best tanning spots are, etc. I, however, ended choosing the beach that was closest to my hostel and the main part of town, as I couldn’t be bothered to trek to the further ones.

1. Palaces and villas of Sintra (Lisbon)

One of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Lisbon, was for the day trip to Sintra and its beautiful palaces and villas. I’ve mentioned in another post that I love to visit churches when I travel; well, I also love to visit castles and palaces. On this front, Sintra did not disappoint. They’ve got a handful of these, nestled in the hillsides and in the forests. The main palace to visit, is the colorful Palacio Da Pena. I’ve never seen something like it, as it combines a multitude of architectural styles. It is a very beautiful palace, not to be missed if you are in Lisbon (it’s about an hour train ride out of town). Also worth visiting when you’re there, is the Palacio Da Quinta da Regaleira. I opted for a Hop-On-Hop-Off tour of Sintra, which takes you to all the main sights and even to the Atlantic Ocean all the way in the East. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to do that (the bus ride there was at least an hour) but would have loved to. Alternatively, there is a public bus system which you can also use in order to get to the various sites in Sintra and it is much cheaper than the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.

UP NEXT: you guessed it, my foodie adventures in Portugal

*All photos are my own (or taken by someone with my device)

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