After a week in Portugal I was totally in love and already wondering when I could come back, or even if I could feasibly move here! The ancient culture, fresh flavoursome food, gorgeous architecture and laid back culture are just a few reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with this country.
Most people visit either Porto or Lisbon on weekend city breaks, with both cities well suited to such a trip. We on the other hand decided to do a 8 day long holiday visiting both cities for three days each and 2 days in Sintra. Both have different activities to offer and different cultural identities, read on to find out my top tips for both.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and as a gorgeous ancient city, sees many more tourists visiting per year than Porto. You can spend your days exploring the various neighbourhoods all of which have very different atmospheres. We stayed in Alfama, the ancient heart of Lisbon and home to the Fado music culture. The area is teeming with little bars and restaurants tucked away on cute streets where you can enjoy dinner, drinks and heart wrenching Fado performances. The singing is intense and transports you to a different world. In this area you will also find the ancient São Jorge Castle on the hill and a tramway line 28 you can ride through if your legs aren’t up to the march!
In Barrio Alto you will find endless bars and restaurants to keep you entertained at night and of course the famous time out market to sample all sorts of Portuguese and international food. Head to Belem to visit the famous monastery, Belem tower and taste the best Pastel de Nata in the world at Pasteis de Belem. Eat in their cute and sprawling cafe instead of taking away- their coffee is delicious!
There is easily enough to keep you entertained for three days in Lisbon but I highly recommend taking a day trip, or even better and overnight trip, to Sintra just 30 minutes away by train and home to countless castles, palaces and gardens. By taking an overnight trip you can visit some of the lesser known but equally beautiful sites (like Monserrate Park) and avoid the mid-morning crowds at the National Palace who are visiting as day trippers by visiting first thing in the morning on your second day.
Just three hours away by train from Lisbon you will find the second most popular destination in Portugal to visit for city breaks. Porto is the birthplace of Port, a delicious fortified wine that you can sample here in various breweries and bars for next to nothing. This city also has numerous winding streets full of gorgeous architecture but is much more rustic and rough around the edges than in Lisbon. You can happily spend two days wondering around discovering little bars and restaurants amongst the crumbling churches and shops.
If you want to head out of town a trip up the Douro river will give you unparalleled views of the steep streets of Porto and vineyards clinging to the banks further up the river. As with Sintra, this can be done as an overnight trip if you fancy getting out of the city and spending some time in the cool mountain air.