I did a spur of the moment trip to spend five days in Portugal and I can’t say enough good things about this fabulous country. TAP airlines fly direct from Miami (and many major cities) to Lisbon and are reasonably priced.
We arrived at 6 AM and were at our hotel, The Heritage Avenida Liberdade, before 7 AM. The hotel staff let us nap in the warm pool area on some comfy lounge chairs and then have breakfast at their buffet. I highly recommend this hotel. The staff were the sweetest most helpful and accommodating people of any hotel I’ve had in Europe. The breakfast was fantastic with fresh eggs, hot meats, freshly baked bread and much more.
This is the commercial hub of Lisboa, with banks, offices, and shops. Its center, Rossio has cafes, theaters, and restaurants. The Avenida de Liberdade below is Lisboa’s version of the Champs-Elysees. The obelisk is a monument to honor the restoration after the earthquake.
Praco do Comercio, aka Trade Square is right on the River Tejo. Ships used to dock and sell goods here. There was a palace here pre 1775 earthquake but the King moved it to Belem afterward. Bonus tip…There is a wine-tasting center here with 16 local wines offered. Woohoo!
This neighborhood was once the most desirable area to live…the city that surrounds a fortified castle. After the earthquake, the wealthy moved west and the fisherman inherited the quarter.
The Castelo de São Jorge towers above the Alfama.
After we had our fill of the castle, we wandered around the small alleys that are within the castle walls then headed to see the Church of Santa Luzia and the Miradouro de Santa Luzia.
The facade of the Sé, the city’s cathedral. Built in 1150, three years after Alfonso Henriques recaptured Lisbon from the Moors.
It was a steep short climb from the Avenida Liberdade but there is a yellow funicular called the Elevador da Glória for those who need a bit of help. This is one of the most picturesque places in the city. Across the street from where the funicular stops is the Solar do Vinho do Porto, and 18th-century mansion where 200 types of port are offered.
Close by is the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara with a vast view of eastern Lisbon over the Baixa.
One of the things I love here is the traditional black and white tile sidewalks. Many different designs around town.
We took the trolley from Praca do Comercio to Belem. This turned out to be quite a drama but didn’t need to be. It’s the #15 heading north (that would be to your right if facing the water). You can get tickets on board via a little machine, but we didn’t know that. We were told to go to the metro station…quite a walk to opposite end of the square…to get tickets. We bought the Viva Viagem zapper card.
It turned out to be useful. Five Euros got us to Belém and back and forth to Sintra the next day on the train. The pass can be used on buses, trains, metros, trams, ferries, etc. You just swipe a machine on each form of transport.
This monastery was commissioned by Manuel the First around 1501 and is a great example of Manueline architecture, which represents the seafaring voyages.
The Monument to the Discoveries. Built in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. It commemorates the markers, royal patrons and all the explorers from the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
Commissioned by Manuel 1, built as a fortress in the middle of Tagus river in early 1500’s. The style is Manueline, Moorish and Gothic and is beautiful.
Eating the original Pastel de Nata here, where it was created. Totally worth the short wait.
Instead of waiting to be seated, as you first walk in you can just wait for tables to empty. Further back is where you get seated officially. I recommend the Gatao vinho verde to accompany your pastry.
This evening we splurged on one of Lisboa’s three Michelin starred restaurants. I’ve often seen it listed as Lisboa’s best restaurant. Prepare to be dazzled by the outstanding service, the creative gorgeous food and by how full you are after!
We walked to Rossio station and used the Zapper card to board the train to Sintra. The trip was about 45 minutes. We walked through the small village, enjoying a glimpse of the National Palace.
We followed signs to Pena Palace because we thought we should get some exercise. Well, it was definitely a challenging steep uphill walk that took about 30 minutes of brisk walking. Not for the out of shape! Not to worry, there is a bus, taxi and many other ways to get there.
This was our reward after the arduous hike. This stunning, colorful fairy-tale palace.
The Castelo de Mouros (Moorish Castle) is a 5-10 minute walk from Pena Palace. However, there is lots of steps and climbing once you are there.
This was built as an overlook to the sea from which Lisbon could be protected.After we romped around the castle walls, we head back down to the village. It seemed to take half the time to go down and we realized that seeing the castle first would have been the easier route. Oh well, we burned more calories for our next stop… Cantinho Gourmet.
Emilia was the best. She let us taste regional wines, cheeses, sausages, and much more to our heart’s content. We decided to stay and have wine and eat a plate of our favorite things. The creme de vinho porto is to die for!
Creamy sheep’s cheese, herbed cow cheese, hard goat cheese, pumpkin preserves, port wine spread, olive paste. I was in heaven.
Read More: Reasons to Visit Portugal
We left the hotel early and rented a car from the airport in Lisboa, then drove to the Algarve region, about 250 km, depending on what part of the Algarve. There are several wineries in the Alentejo region on the way but sadly no time on this trip. Things to do next time!
We stopped in Silves, (known as Xelb in Arabic) a town known for its Moorish castle and Gothic Cathedral. It sits in a fertile valley of lemon and orange groves, cork and almond trees.
First…we dropped into Estebelecimentos D. Sancho for a break.
Silves was once the capital of Moorish Algarve. Now more known for citrus and cork production. However, the castle with the sandstone walls is a reminder of the powerful past.
What can I say? This was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Great way to spend an hour and a half. If we had more time, paddle boarding to the various hidden beaches would be fantastic.
We left Lagos and drove to Albufeira, another of the larger resort towns in the Algarve. The name was originally Arabic, Al-Buhera which means Castle by the Sea. We rented an apartment from AirBNB. The apartment was perfect and we were excited to explore the town on Saturday night.
We drove 20 minutes west of Albufeira to see a famous beach and it was well worth the minimal effort!
After ogling the view from the parking lot above, we walked down the extremely well-paved path and steps down to the beach. There is a little cafe here to get wine and sandwiches and is right on the beach. If you want to rent umbrellas you must do so from the parking lot.
After a few hours relaxing on the beach, we drove back to Albufeira for a late lunch at A Ruína, which many locals informed us was one of the best in town.
We then took some wine to go (yes they will do that for you…with plastic cups) and strolled around the town, which is quite big and still lively at the end of September. Lots of shops with great jewelry to spend a lazy wino kind of afternoon. Also some pretty churches. There were 5 within a few blocks of our apartment.
After we had our fill of shopping, eating and wandering we went back to our lovely apartment to watch the sunset from our balcony with wine we had purchased in Sintra.
And that’s all folks. Three hours was plenty of time to drive to the airport, get lost, realize that we needed to fill the tank with gas (189 euro they charge vs 49 euro at nearest station) go get gas, come back, drop off car, check in, eat another pastel de nata, buy some wine and cheese, and board on time. Whew!
Five days in Portugal was definitely not enough but we did manage to do a lot without feeling rushed. Put this high on your list of places to visit!
Have you been to Portugal? I will definitely go back. Tell me where else I should visit in Portugal!
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