One Perfect Week in Portugal
Today I'm finally sharing all about our trip to Portugal! We had such a great time and Portugal is a great place to go because you really get a true European experience. Despite the fact that 3 of my friends had already visited, we ran into 0 Americans while we were there so that made this trip feel so different from our last! I feel like if we had gone to Italy or France or Greece we likely would have run into more Americans, so this really made it feel like we were in a totally foreign place. Also, everything was really cheap when we got there, so this is definitely a budget friendly option if you are looking to do a Europe trip and not spend too much. We booked through Expedia so we also saved on our budget there since we bundled our flights and hotels together. Anyway, onto the trip!
We flew into Lisbon Thursday and rented a car and drove out to Penha Longa Resort. This was about a 40 minute drive outside the city, towards the west coast and up in the mountains. We wanted to start our stay somewhere quiet and relaxing, and this place was so pretty and located near a lot of the old palaces we wanted to see. The views from our room overlooked the golf course and mountains, and the whole place was just serene. Our first night we drove to Cascais (about a 15-20 minute drive from the hotel) and this was one of my favorite stops on the whole trip! Cascais is a little coastal seaside town, brimming with quintessential European charm. The coastline was incredibly pretty, as was the rest of the town. I wish we were able to spend more time here.
We drove out to Quintaria de Regalaria, which is a palace that has the most incredible gardens, underground tunnels, a small chapel, towers... #casual. It was just your #basic medieval palace. It felt like a real life Romeo and Juliet setting. There were also massive hydrangea bushes everywhere so I was basically in heaven.
After that, we were driving down the road (a bit lost at this point) and came across a sign that said Monsurrat Palace. In need of a break from the windy roads, we walked over and were surprised to find a much less crowed (and maybe even more beautiful) palace. We took the scenic walk to the palace (about 30 minutes) through several different gardens. When we got to the palace, I was completely blown away. It was gorgeous. It looked like it had been hidden by plants and debris for centuries but was just starting to come back to life. The inside of the palace was just as exquisite as the outside- the level of detail was stunning.
We spent a lazy morning at the hotel and spent some time at the 14th century church on the property (the jet lag really got to us this trip and we needed a bit of a lazy day) and then made our way back to Lisbon so we could catch a train up to Porto! This day ended up being a lot of travel- driving back to the airport so we could drop off the rental car, take the subway to the train station, waiting for the train, and then the 3 hour train ride to Porto. Then had to take train to where our hotel! We were exhausted to say the least. We got to the Porto around 7:30 and it was one of the prettiest train stations I've ever been to! All the tile on the inside is from the 14th century. Apparently, J.K. Rowling visited Porto and the bookstore was inspired by one of the bookstores in Porto- but the minute you walk outside the train station I thought the whole city looked like Diagon Alley. It was so crazy and beautiful and completely different from any other city we've ever visited.
This was probably my favorite day of our entire trip because we got to tour the Duoro Valley where they make Port wine! We first tried Port Wine on our road trip four years ago at a winery in California (Ficklin Vineyards) before entering Yosemite and we fell in love with it. We always dreamed of being able to actually go to the wineries where they make Port wine so this was a dream day for us. We did a guided tour, and It was about a 90 minute drive from Porto to the Duoro Valley. Once we arrived, we spent the day touring 2 wineries and tasted wine, cheese, and olive oil. They also provided lunch and an hour long cruise down the Duoro River. It was seriously dreamy and one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. The views were really indescribable and for us, this was a can't-miss part of coming to Portugal. We arrived back in Porto around 6 and then went and grabbed dinner!
We spent Monday morning walking around and exploring Porto and found some cute shops to walk around in. We had lunch in the shopping district where we snacked on cheese and wine and sipped on glasses of Rose. We were sitting in the front patio area when a woman came up to us asking for money. We didn't have any cash with us, but the waiter told her to leave and then explained that she was a Romanian Gypsy and that they try to distract you from the table by asking for money then steal your sunglasses, phones, etc. We later saw her running down the street real fast after we left the restaurant so we assumed she did actually end up stealing something. It was exciting but we also felt bad for whoever she stole from! But I think its funny to say we were almost robbed by a Romanian Gypsy, because that doesn't happen everyday. After lunch, we walked across the river in the afternoon and spent some time just enjoying some gelato and taking in the views. This side of the River in Porto is where all the wineries have their cellars, so they also do tours and tastings there. We walked to Croft Winery (it was a bit of a maze but we found it eventually). We signed up for a tour when we got there, and even though there were a good amount of people there nobody else signed up for the tour so we got a private tour for the group rate (I think it was 10 euros per person, including the tasting.) Our tour guide took us through the cellars which were hundreds of years old which was so cool to see! We also learned a lot about the history of Porto and of Croft Winery. After the tour, we stopped at a winery closer to the river, sat and watched the sun start to set and did another port tasting! That night we had the most delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant called La Ricotta. Everything was soooo good and I'm still dreaming of my ravioli.
In the morning we took a train back to Lisbon where we spent the remainder of our trip! Our first stop was lunch. We were steps away from the famed Cantina ze Avillez and it was not only one of the cutest restaurants I've ever seen, the food was insanely good. I had a salad and it was one of the most life-giving salads I've ever had, and thats saying a lot coming from me. After lunch we taxi cabbed to the Tile Museum, which was on my must-see list. It was stunning even from the outside, and the inside we saw lots of historical tiles and then some modern tiles too. It was really beautiful and a great way to spend some time! We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Baxio/Chiada neighborhoods and found some cocktails before heading to dinner.
Our last day in Portugal! We started the morning by walking up to a cute little breakfast place my boyfriend found. We continued walking up and found the Castelo de Sao Jorge which had some amazing views! After the castle we kept walking and exploring but ended up in a bad part of the city which was a little scary for a while- but we we eventually got back to more of the shopping district where we felt more comfortable. From there we walked to the Market for lunch - this was really cool and was like a big modern cafeteria of different restaurants and shops. After this we took the subway to a different part of Lisbon where they have a big shopping avenue. The streets here were wide and lush with trees and it reminded me a lot of Central Park. Late that afternoon, we found a really nice wine bar and snacked on meat and cheese plate-type appetizers that were delicious. We also stopped at a beautiful chocolate shop nearby and loaded up on snacks to bring home. For dinner that night we ate at a tiny little restaurant a block or two behind our hotel and it was probably my favorite dining experience from the entire trip! For one, the menu was not in English. For two, there was one other couple there so we basically had the place to ourselves. Major cozy vibes and it felt really undiscovered and uncrowded so it was perfect for our last night. The owner explained the whole menu to us, helped us pick everything out including the wine. It was honestly one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. I was shocked at the end of the meal how few people were eating there because it was so good. On the way back we saw a bunch of people dancing in the street and it was the perfect way to end our trip.
As much as I wrote about it here, these were just the highlights and we really did and saw so much more. And even though we packed a lot into the week we were there, there was still so much more we wanted to do we could have spent another week here! If we had more time, I would have like to spent some time in a cute town called Obidos and also would have liked to spend some time down south in the Algarve. We loved everything we got to see though and it was such a cool experience. We left inspired by the architecture, the food and wine, and the people. I can't wait for our next trip abroad!