First let me say, sorryyyyyyyy. I know you guys have been waiting patiently for this post and I feel really guilty it took me this long to finish it. When we got back from Portugal we went right into the holidays, then Craig threw his back out, and we were going back and forth to Vermont looking at houses, and this just got pushed to the back burner. These types of posts always take me a really long time to put together so I procrastinated, anyway that’s no excuse, here we are! Our trip to Lisbon and Porto last December was in partnership with Noken, which is a bespoke travel company that helps you book trips in destinations around the world. Essentially you put in your location, budget, dates, and choose from a list of hotels, activities and transportation and they do the rest. It was weird for me going on a trip and not doing much research or planning anything in advance, but it was amazing. They put your personalized itinerary into their app which you can use as your guide throughout the trip. We had no shortage of things to do the entire time, it was honestly a really seamless experience. They have several destinations to choose from right now with more going live this year.
We spent a total of five full days in Portugal, three in Lisbon and two in Porto. While I really loved visiting both cities, if we were to go back, I’d spend less time in each and drive down the coast to Lagos. We had the most incredible weather while we were there, supposedly it can be rainy during that time of year but we had non-stop days of sunshine in the mid 60s. My number one tip for Portugal would be to pack comfortable shoes. We walked everywhere, and most streets are cobblestone and tile. It’s also very hilly, so sneakers or comfortable loafers are a must. On that note, here is my Lisbon and Porto travel guide.
We stayed at Baixa House (Eduardo VII) which is an apartment building in downtown Lisbon and within walking distance to lots of amazing neighborhoods within the city. We prefer to stay in apartment type places when we travel so this was great. It wasn’t luxurious by any means but the staff was super friendly and helpful, it was clean and convenient. They also gave us lots of great restaurant recommendations. There are so many incredible neighborhoods to explore in Lisbon. One of my favorite features of the Noken app was that they broke up our itinerary by neighborhood so we could dedicate a day or half a day to each. Here’s how we spent our time in Lisbon.
Downtown Lisbon – There’s lots of touristy restaurants and shops downtown. Mixed in are some really incredible sites and small businesses. We didn’t spend a ton of time downtown other than at our apartment. Our first afternoon we sat in the sun and had drinks outside in Praça do Comércio.
– Praça do Comércio
– Igreja de Sao Domingos
– A Vida Portuguesa Gift Shop
– Mister Man – Poked our heads in here and Craig ended up getting a dress shirt and bow tie for a black tie wedding we had coming up. Super friendly gentleman in the store and great menswear.
Alfama – We spent an entire day exploring the crooked cobblestone streets and historic homes in this charming neighborhood. You can take the tram there for an immersive experience. We ended up walking because it was close enough from our apartment. This is a very hilly neighborhood with long staircases and tiled sidewalks so you definitely want comfortable shoes.
– Miradouro de Grace (viewpoint)
– Castelo de Sao Jorge
– Old Quarter
Sintra – This is a great day trip to take from Lisbon. We took an Uber from our apartment but you can also take the train. We rented a mini electric car from Go2Cintra for the day so we could drive around to the different sites.
– Moorish Castle
– Park and National Palace of Pena – This is a really incredible hike up to the palace
– National Palace of Sintra
Timeout Market (lunch)
Pizzeria Romana al Tavolo (lunch)
JNCQUOI (dinner, sit at the bar)
Bairro Avillez Taverna (dinner)
Nicolau Lisboa (cafe, brunch)
We took the train from Lisbon to Porto, I can’t quite remember but I think it was around 3 hours. In Porto we stayed at the Pestana Vintage Porto. It says it’s a 5 star hotel (it’s not) but it was perfectly fine for our stay. It was located right on the Douro River which made for beautiful sunsets and convenient for walking everywhere. One of my favorite things we did was walk over the Luís I Bridge at sunset. You can either walk up a winding staircase built into a street or take a gondola to the top. We took the stairs and it was really beautiful (and a short walk).
The city center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is no shortage of incredible churches, markets, cafes and other beautiful buildings. These were a few of our favorites:
– Igreja da Trindade
– Capela das Almas Chapel –
– Majestic Cafe
– Livraria Lello – historic book store where J.K. Rowling frequented in the 90s. Go early if you want to go inside (you have to buy a ticket).
– Igreja do Carmo
– Sao Bento Railway Station
– Cais da Ribeira
– Taylor Wine Lodge
No need to be bummed you didn’t make it to Lagos. We went to Portugal last Summer (Lisbon, the West Coast, and the Algarve) and sadly were really disappointed by Lagos/Faro, in fact we cut that part of our trip short. The coastline is beautiful, no doubt about it, but the area is super touristy. I imagine that if you stay at a really nice resort it is a good time, but if you want culture and to feel like you really get a feel for a place, it will underwhelm you.
That said, if you do go back to Portugal, I cannot recommend a roadtrip down the West Coast highly enough! There isn’t a train that goes along the coast so there are almost no visitors. It’s all little villages and locals vacationing (rather than Americans/study abroad students) and the coastline is equally amazing.
Also really liked Tavira (the only place on the South Coast we liked) because it felt like a hidden gem (again, locals vacationing, but no Americans) but sadly after last night’s episode of The Bachelor visiting there I’m worried it might become popularized. It was so darling!
This is so helpful! I’m heading there in two weeks and am so torn on our itinerary. We’re planning to drive the west coast – any must see towns? Also has anyone done a day out in wine country?