Portugal is one of the dreamiest places I’ve ever been. The colorful culture, dedication to craft goods, beautiful variety of landscapes, kind people, and fresh, delicious (& cheap) food…oh man, this list could go on forever.
A couple of months ago, it seemed like everyone and their mother was planning a trip to Portugal – so, I had to check out what the hype was about. My boyfriend and I added a stop in Portugal onto our 3-week European excursion this summer, and was it a dream alright. While I’ve explored lots of other European countries, Portugal seems untouched in a way that I haven’t seen before.
I’m still pinching myself to see if this entire trip was a dream, so forgive me if this guide seems full of nostalgia. For your ease of reading, I’ve broken this guide into 3 different parts:
(1) General Info – The planning phases (think: what kind of vibe is it? How much should I expect to spend?)
(2) The City – our time spent in Lisbon (think: cool coffee shops, stores and windy streets)
(3) The Coast – our time spent on the Algarve (think: long beach days, lots of bike riding & fresh seafood)
- Geography: The country of Portugal is super diverse in landscape. And, since it is quite small (about the size of Indiana!) you can easily experience a variety of spots during one visit.
- Vibe: Friendly and inviting. No matter what part of Portugal you may find yourself, be prepared to have a long chat with some locals.
- $$: Veeery cheap. Like we constantly left dinner with leftovers cheap.
- Time to visit: The Algarve Coast is sunny 300+ days of the year. But, there was something magical about being there at the end of the summer, when the days are still long but tourists have begun to disappear.
- Language comfort level: We didn’t meet one person who wasn’t fluent in English (how about that!).
- General vibes: Cultural, hipster, able to explore
- Stay: We stayed at this adorable B&B called Dear Lisbon, Charming House. It was located in the popular neighborhood, Santa Catarina, which is walking distance to a bunch of cute coffee shops and restaurants. The decor and breakfast each morning were on point.
- Do: Since we were only in Lisbon for about two days, we spent a lot of time wandering the winding streets, and eating/drinking tons (listed below). Otherwise, here are a few places you shouldn’t miss:
- Shop in Barrio Alto – this is a popular neighborhood with lots of vintage shops, handmade goods, and restaurants. My favorite was the history behind the Claus Porto shop.
- Time Out Market Lisboa – this market is close to the Tagus River in downtown Lisbon, and has what feels like hundreds of food stands (do not go there on a full stomach!). There is also a bunch of small shops along the river, too.
- Castello de S. George – w didn’t make it to this historic landmark, but I’ve heard that it has great views of the city.
- Eat & Drink: The Portuguese are all about honing their craft – whether that’s handmade ceramics (which line the outside of every building), or thoughtful cocktails. There are many Williamsburg-esque restaurants that fill up quite quickly – so be sure to choose wisely (and make reservations!).
- Dear Breakfast – talk about coffee shop goals. Plants, white walls, matcha – what more could you ask for? You can stay here all afternoon.
- Yao Pressed Juicery – Dupi and I took our afternoon #brainpower booster daily after being in dire needs of fruits and veggies. It’s very easy to miss this tiny hole-in-the-wall, but don’t. Juice is always a good idea.
- Pao a Mesa – This restaurant with outdoor seating is perfect for lunchtime tapas and sangria. One glass of sangria is more like two, so don’t overdo it!
- Lost In – This restaurant/hostel(?) is hidden away behind some stores, but that’s all for an amazing view of the city. Come here to grab some buddha vibes & drinks before dinner and watch the sunset.
- A Cevicheria – Yes, to everything here. There’s a huge octopus hanging from the ceiling, a bar-to-order from the sidewalk (?!) and amazing food. Just go.
- Wine Not? – Really cute wine bar with lots of options. Come here to top off your night – slightly missing the college/backpacker crowd at the cheap bars next door.
- General vibes: Magical, relaxing, down-to-earth
- Stay: We chose to stay in the Eastern Algarve, which is quite different than the Western side (& the one most people think of when they imagine the “Algarve Coast”). I wouldn’t change this for anything – it was definitely more of a local experience, but beautiful at that.
- We stayed at an amazing, sustainable ecotourism B&B on an orange grove farm (!!) called Quinta dos Perfumes, which is ~15 min drive from the town Tavira. GO! I’m not kidding – this place is impeccable. There is farm fresh breakfast each morning, a serene salt-water pool, and the most wonderful service by Pedro & his team.
- Do: Since we were staying at such a beautiful location, we had many lazy mornings and evenings by the pool. But, when we did manage to pull ourselves away, we found beauty everywhere.
- Go for a bike ride: Quita dos Perfumes has about a dozen bikes available for it’s residents. There is so much to explore in this area, so Dupi and I found ourselves bike riding quite often.
- Explore Tavira: Tavira is a beautiful, historic city that has both European and Arabic influences. Dupi and I spent a day on Tavira Island (at the beach, of course!), and exploring the town. There are amazing restaurants, shops, and an evening flea market with tons of cool finds.
- Eat & Drink: You cannot make a mistake with the food here – you can taste the freshness no matter if you’re at a street vendor or fancy restaurant.
- D’gusta – Our cab driver recommended this restaurant in Tavira (if we were lucky to get seats!). Unassuming on the outside, but man was this food amazing. We had a bottle of wine, 6 large tapas (with leftovers), coffee & desert for > $50. So, yes please.
And now, for some amazing, fresh farm breakfast that I wish I could have every morning. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments & other recommendations!