Locations: Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais, Albufeira, Lagos, Sagres
Dates: October 13-21, 2018
Weather: 19-26°C / 66-79°F
A few weeks ago, I hopped on a flight in Club Class with Air Transat and flew 6.5 hours to beautiful, sunny Portugal! I had never been before and, like every country in the world, it was on my list. I was especially excited to go because so many of my friends and family had visited this year and it looked amazing.
Like most destinations, one week is not enough to see absolutely everything, but you can definitely pack a lot in since the country isn’t that big compared to many other very popular European destinations. As of November 5th, Air Transat will provide one direct flight a week from Montreal and two flights a week via Toronto, so a total of three flights!
For this blog post, I’m going to switch up the format a bit and show you where you can eat, sleep and explore. We just did so much in one week; it would be way too long to describe everything, so this hopefully breaks it down better for you!
For the last three nights of our trip, we stayed in Lisbon at one of the most incredible hotels I’ve ever seen/stayed at. The Pestana Palace is definitely one for the books. The intricate detailing, luxury materials and rich history of every single piece in that hotel is extraordinary! No joke, there is literally always something to look at and I was just in constant awe while I was there.
Lisbon has a bajillion restaurant choices and there is no shortage of delicious food at any time of the day.
Dear Breakfast - super cute/minimal breakfast spot. Great for a coffee and pastry to go.
Early Birds - I actually enjoyed this place more than Dear Breakfast. Their avo toast was a lot better, really very good and their banana-cocoa smoothie was delicious! The smoothie came in a smaller size than normal, which I liked because I find that having a full breakfast and full-size smoothie to be too much food.
Timeout Market - an absolute MUST when visiting Lisbon. It’s a massive indoor market with a ton of different food and drink stalls, all serving up everything delicious Portugal has to offer. The portions are perfect in size, so I highly recommend going to more than one stall and trying as much as your stomach can handle! It’s also great if you just want an afternoon snack.
Amesa do LX - a cute pizzeria in LX Factory (I’ll go over it further down). They’re all about eating together, so you’ll be sitting at a communal table, perfect for meeting other tourists or locals.
Pastéis de Belém - a great place to stop at and grab a few extremely delicious Pastéis de Belém (an egg custard cake with icing sugar and cinnamon - omg), which in my opinion are far yummier than the Pastéis de Nata. I went in the afternoon and there was a decently long line outside, but it’s definitely worth the wait. I was told that if you go early in the morning, you can see how they’re made and get them super fresh!
Wish Slow Coffee - located in LX Factory, this café is perfect for a mid-day coffee and snack. My snack of choice, you ask? Either the matcha or traditional poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes). Not exactly Portuguese, but also never a bad idea! DO IT.
Park - another must-visit if you’re in Lisbon and like to blend in with the locals when you travel. This rooftop lounge/bar is only accessible via a random parking lot and is located on the 6th floor (maybe 7th?). I was confused when I got to the parking lot because there were no signs, so I asked the neighbouring shop where I could find the entrance and he pointed me in the right direction. I recommend going around 3pm before the 5pm rush comes because you’ll have a way better chance of getting a seat with sweeping views of the city and its rooftops. This was one of my favourite afternoons and I will definitely be back! Note: There is no wifi at this bar.
Populi - this place has a great ambience and is set right in the heart of Lisbon in the Terreiro do Paço square, just steps from the Tejo river. It’s also right next door to Museu da Cerveja, a beer museum.
Hotel H10 Duque du Loulé - Apart from this being a stunning hotel and one I would stay at on my next visit, they have a really awesome rooftop bar. We had a variety of dishes from the menu in tapas-style with just unreal views of Lisbon and all of the different coloured homes. If you don’t go to eat, go for a drink.
For more tips on where to fill your belly while in Lisbon, head over to my friend Jess from Bon Traveler’s blog! She’s got so many recommendations for food you won’t know what to do with yourself.
Day trip to Sintra - the historical city of Sintra is the perfect day trip from Lisbon and it takes about 45-60 minutes to get there, depending on the traffic. There’s so much to see and do that you can spend up to eight hours touring the city! Some of the main attractions include Palácio da Pena, Pena Park, Quinta da Regaleira, Republic Square and Cabo da Roca (only a 30-minute drive from Palácio da Pena).
Day trip to Cascais - a small and quiet, yet vibrant, fishing village, Cascais is another great day trip from Lisbon takes 20 minutes by train to get there. The streets are lined with beautiful tiles, there are endless shops, restaurants, quaint cafés and old houses with so much charm! Everything is also just steps from the beach, which makes this the perfect little escape from Lisbon. For more info on what to do in Cascais, head on over to Yvonne’s blog!
Day trip to Estoril - just a quick 22-minute drive from Lisbon gets you to stunning beaches, impressive cliffs and architecture that gives you a look into the city’s luxurious past. It’s only a 9-minute drive from Cascais or a 45-minute walk along the boardwalk with the view of the ocean (the latter would be my choice!). If you’re a James Bond fan, you’ll want to check out or stay at Palacio Estoril because that’s where On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed!
Belém - located west of central Lisbon, Belém is an absolutely stunning and historical part of the city and only takes a few hours to explore. You HAVE to visit the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Jardim da Praça do Império, Torre de Belém and grab a snack at Pastéis de Belém (a two-minute walk from the monastery).
Tasca do Chico - I wasn’t able to make it to this bar, but I was told that I absolutely have to come here for a traditional fado show. Fado is considered to be the heart and soul of Portuguese music - it’s passionate, melancholic and emotional. Apparently this place is as local as it gets and I will definitely go next time I’m in Lisbon! I was told the service isn’t great and to make sure you eat elsewhere before going to a show and to not be deterred if you see a big line outside because it goes by quickly!
Chiado - a super popular area of Lisbon known for shopping and the theatre. I loved exploring this part of the city because of how lively it felt! The streets are lined with shops, restaurants and cafés and it’s just got such a great vibe. The morning I was there, I found this antique bookshop I fell in love with called Livraria Sá da Costa, my friends and I danced to some amazing Brazilian street performers (@os.camelos), we grabbed ice-cream at Amorino and I bought some traditional Portuguese tiles from a wonderful shop called Fábrica Sant’Ana. Such a great area!
Alfama - Oh, Alfama. Beautiful, medieval and romantic. With narrow, cobble-stone-laid streets, colourful, ancient homes and a ton of personality, Alfama is not to be missed. I went at golden hour and the way the light filtered into the streets was just magical! While exploring Alfama, head on over to São Jorge Castle (unbeatable 360° views of the city), Miradouro de Santa Luzia (tiled terrace with views of the city + Tagus river - best at sunset), and Lisbon Cathedral.
Rua da Bica - This street is known as the most photographed street in Lisbon and for good reason: it’s kept its 17th and 18th century homes, there are flowers flowing over the balconies, it’s very steep and narrow and its iconic funicular still runs through the area.
Tram 28 - The Remodelado trams from the ‘30s are iconic to Lisbon, are still very much in use and hitching a ride on route 28 is an awesome way to see the city. As much as I love walking through cities, this is a pretty unique way to see Lisbon! For more info on buying tickets and tips for using the trams, check out LisbonLisboaPortugal.
LX Factory - since 2008, this old and abandoned industrial part of Lisbon has become an artistic hub and tourist attraction. With graffitied walls, cute cafés, restaurants, galleries and eclectic design shops, you’ll want to pass through LX Factory at some point during your visit.
I absolutely loved this area of Portugal for a more laid-back, slow travel. There’s also so much to see and plenty you can do in just one day, although I would take my time to enjoy the many different beaches of this region.
NOA Café (Almancil) - I didn’t eat here, but I wanted to give you guys a breakfast option in the Algarve region. It got great reviews, the menu looks awesome and it’s a super cute place!
Goldig Cafe & Take Away (Lagos) - Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to eat here either, but I passed it while wandering around the historic part of Lagos. If I’m not mistaken, this place is totally vegan and organic and their dishes look awesome. I will definitely be trying out this place next time in in Lagos!
Don Sebastião (Lagos) - This traditional restaurant was located in the heart of old Lagos, on a narrow, cobble-stone street with restaurants on one side and boutiques selling Portuguese-made goods on the other. The food here was honestly delicious, but the portions are massive so I recommend sharing a main dish if you’re two people. I honestly just love ordering all of the starters and seeing whether or not I’m hungry afterwards because seven or eight of those usually fills me up!
O Patio (Carvoeiro) - I loved this place! It was very cozy and homey, and I had one of my favourite meals there from that week. Please order the spinach ravioli if you’re ever there! I could have eaten a second serving it was that good!
VidaMar Hotels & Resorts - Coming home to VidaMar was like going to heaven after our crazy days touring the coast. We all agreed that just stepping into the hotel instantly relaxed us because it smelled just like a spa! The rooms are quite spacious and minimal, the staff is wonderful and their pool facilities were awesome and the best way to decompress after a long day!
Day trip to Winery Santa Vitória - This was definitely a highlight for me. The owner, Patricia Peixoto, spent the entire day with us touring the grounds and facilities, teaching us all about how their wine is made and took the time to set up a stunning wine tasting with lunch (known as “cata de vinos” in Portuguese) for us! Did I mention they also produce their own olive oils? I do enjoy my white wine, but nothing beats an olive oil tasting for me. I highly recommend visiting Alentejo just for this winery alone!
Boat Tour - What’s the surest way to see as many coves, caves, beaches and cliff-sides as possible? Hop on a boat tour with Dream Wave! We even got a chance to see wild dolphins, which was such a highlight for me because I had never seen them in the wild before!
TIP: If you go during the fall like we did, the weather can be a bit tricky so I recommend wearing a sweater or a light jacket because it gets very windy.
Jeep Tour - We spent four hours doing a Jeep Safari with Extremo Ambiente off-roading in the mountains of the Algarve, crossing through old villages, and tasting homemade honey, jam and a typical Portuguese liquor called ‘Medronho’. They also took us to one of the highest points of the Algarve to see the amazing views!
Albufeira - This city is known for its beautiful beaches and it’s bustling nightlife. What I noticed just from being there for the afternoon is that time seems to slow down a bit and it’s a nice change! There are a ton of restaurants and bars and all the buildings and homes are white so it reminded me a bit of Santorini! I would say it’s nice for a half day, but I don’t think you need more time than that.
Sagres - The cliffside views and this one ceramic shop stole my heart in Sagres. The views from Cabo de São Vicente were unbelievable! It was pretty windy, so maybe grab a light sweater if you go in the fall, but trust me it’s worth it. The ocean’s blue and turquoise tones, the cliffs and the lighthouse are spectacular! Now to important matters: Artesanato A Mó. This ceramic shop is EVERYTHING. I may or may not have spent €50 euros on four mugs, some plates and tiles. Oops. The point that I’m trying to make here is that you MUST visit this shop! Everything is crazy cheap and it’s ceramic heaven. Just do it.
Lagos - What an amazing area of Algarve! I would spend three days here so you can properly enjoy the beaches and the historic old town.
Historic Old Town - Take some time to get lost in the old town, roam the streets, pop into the shops and head to the city centre to see the iconic green-tiled building.
Ponta da Piedade - If you decide to go to Lagos for any reason, let it be for Ponta da Piedade. The views from these cliffs are unbeatable and the best that I saw while I was in Portugal. The colour of the water contrasting against the rich gold colour of the cliffs, the coves, just everything is crazy beautiful. I was blown away!
Praia Dona Ana - You can’t come to the Algarve and NOT dip your toes into the ocean, regardless of the time of year. Praia Dona Ana is literally a 4-minute drive from Ponta da Piedade and is an absolutely gorgeous beach, with cliffs looming overhead. It’s just a beaut!
Muito obrigada to Air Transat and to everyone who made this incredible week possible! I already can’t wait to come back!
I hope you guys enjoyed this and use it as a guide to your future trips to Portugal!