I think Portugal is fast becoming one of my favourite countries to visit! It has everything – good food, friendly people and beautiful beaches. Last year we were invited to our friend’s wedding there and it seemed like a good excuse to extend the celebrations into a 10 day holiday!
We began our trip in the beautiful city of Porto. Porto is located just north of Lisbon and is quite a lot smaller than the capital. I would recommend staying about two days maximum, that is enough to do the main activities there!
We stayed on R. des Flores which was right in the centre of the city and only a short walk from the river. We booked an apartment through booking.com which overlooked a lively square with lots of café’s and restaurants. I would recommend staying in this area if you want to be close to the main tourist attractions. If you prefer staying closer to bars/nightlife, you can find this more towards the north of the city, near to the university.
We only had a day and a half there so we tried to do a few of the main tourist attractions:
Boat trip down the Douro
The river that runs through Porto is called the Douro and it is crossed by six main bridges. There are quite a few boat companies who will take you out for a trip, and they all looked to be about the same price for a ticket (14-15 euros for a 50 minute trip) so I think you would be fine choosing any company. Some of the boats are a bit larger than others so it depends on your preference.
The boat trip is a really nice way to spend the morning, the area around Porto is a lot more green than I expected and being on the boat gave a great opportunity for photos and views of the city.
Cross the Luiz I Bridge
This is more exciting than it sounds as the bridge is really high up and gives great views over the city. It is also quite windy so was a nice break from the heat!
You can cross the bridge over to the other side of the city where the Port Houses are located. We were offered a free drink at one so tried a bit then, however you can book tours and tasting sessions too.
Ribeira was my favourite area of the city, it has lots of narrow, cobbled streets that you can wander down and then opens up onto a square that looks over the river. It is also the place where you can see the famous tiled buildings, an image you would probably recognise from Instagram.
I really enjoyed the food in Porto, there is lots of fresh fish and traditional portugese restaurants to choose from. I also couldn’t get over how cheap it all was, a beer was under 3 euros!
The next stop on our trip was Lisbon. We took the train from Sao Bento station in the centre and it took about 3 hours and cost 25 euros each.
We had already been to Lisbon last year so we had done a lot of the main sites before. Instead of site seeing in the city again we decided to take a day trip to Sintra before the wedding celebrations started!
You can take the train to Sintra from Rossio Station for about 7 euros return. The trip is 35 minutes each way. I would recommend arriving in Sintra for about 9am so you can miss the queues.
We wanted to be back in Lisbon at 4pm so we chose two main sites to visit in Sintra. Before going I hadn’t realised quite how big Sintra was and how much there was to see, so our day trip just gave us a little taste for it!
Sintra is famous for being the place that the royals and the rich used to visit for holidays or just to escape the city. The air in Sintra feels much fresher and it is a lot cooler there which was nice after the heat of the city.
You can explore the castles, palaces and gardens with a hop on bus, but be prepared for queues. We found that sometimes the bus would be full so you would have to wait for the next in order to get on. I’ll cover our route below, as we only used the bus to get to and from the station and centre of the town.
Park and National Palace of Pena
The Pena palace is the colourful palace that is most synonymous with Sintra. It is really stunning and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that used to be a royal residence. The architecture of the palace is really interesting too, it draws on neo gothic, renaissance and Islamic styles.
We took the 434 tourist bus from outside Sintra station up to the palace and bought tickets at the gate. Most people had already bought them so the queue wasn’t too bad, however we were on the first bus of the morning.
You can choose whether to buy tickets for the park and house or just the park. We just bought tickets for the Park (7.50 euros) as this still meant you could walk around the castle and onto some of the viewpoints, plus explore the huge grounds.
The grounds were a lot bigger than I expected and you could easily spend a morning just wandering around!
We then took the bus back down to the centre of Sintra where we went for lunch. The restaurants are all pretty touristy but it is quite fun to explore the little shops.
From the centre we then walked up to Quinta da Regaleira which was my favourite place to visit of the two. It took about 20 minutes to walk there and then we bought tickets for the grounds.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is a palace set in amazing grounds. The grounds were so much fun to explore, with look out points that you could climb which gave amazing views of the mountains. It cost 8 euros for a ticket to the grounds.
The best bit was the underground grottos and lakes! You could descend down a well under the ground and explore the maze of passages below. Some were lit by fairy lights while others were pitch black and we had to use our torches to make sure we didn’t step off into the water! There was also a part where you had to step across rocks, through a pond, to reach the other side of the grounds.
We spent about two hours there and felt like it was enough time to explore the gardens properly.
We then took the 434 back to the station from the centre of Sintra which took about 5 minutes, and hopped back on the train to Lisbon!
The following few days we spent celebrating at our friend’s wedding!
It was located at a beautiful converted farm just outside of Lisbon. It was a fantastic wedding!
And then we were on to the last stop on our trip: the Algarve!
We took the train from the centre of Lisbon down to Tunes in the Algarve and spent most of our time relaxing at the beach or the pool.
We also did a day’s surfing course which was so much fun! I had never surfed before and it was a lot harder than I expected, however I loved being out in the water and it was very satisfying when you did manage to stand up (even if it was only for a second)!
We surfed with Future Surf in Portimao. The instructors were very patient and showed us the basics before we went into the water. I would recommend a surf lesson with them if you are happy to give it a go, if you want more technical training I would probably look at alternatives.
We also took a trip to Lagos to meet a friend and explore. We walked through the historic centre and along the marina. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon but it was quite touristy so we didn’t spend too much time there!
After ten days away it was pretty hard to come back, although I’m sure I will be planning my next trip before too long!
Have you been to Portugal before, which is your favourite city to visit? Let me know in the comments below!