I arrived in Portugal with absolutely no expectations, and this country has blown me away. I spent a week in Lisbon and a week in Porto, and have been asked multiple times which I preferred. They are both totally different. I’d describe Lisbon as being very cosmopolitan and picturesque, whereas Porto is more traditional, rugged and charming. I couldn’t say which Portugese city was my favourite, but I do feel that Porto was more authentic – it had more soul.
HOSTEL: Avenue Rooms & Suits
> Get lost in the Alfama District
> Mirodouro da Graça
> Rossio Square
> Arc do Rua Augusta
> Castello De Sao Jorge
> Marques de Pombal Park
> Day Trip to Sintra
> Bairro Alto
> Park Bar
> LX Factory
> Pink Street
> Miradouro de Santa Catarina
Alfama is exactly how I’d imagined Lisbon to be. Imagine a maze of narrow, cobbled and hilly streets, walls covered in decorative tiles, and bakeries on every corner. This picturesque district is found between the Saão Jorge Castle and the Tejo river, and could easily take a full day to explore.
This viewpoint is located north of Alfama, in a churchyard, and is the highest point in the neighbourhood. It offers amazing views of the castle and central Lisbon.
This is a city centre, very central to many amazing sites, and a great meeting spot. I wouldn’t recommend eating here, because it is very touristy and can be very expensive.
A ticket cost me E2.50, and I was the only person at the top! This spot gives you the most spectacular views over the city, and a great opportunity to photograph the people walking through the beautiful Rua Augusta square below.
Next time I’m in Lisbon I’ll be sure to head here for sunset. Castello De Sao Jorge undoubtedly offers the most gorgeous panoramic views of Lisbon right across to the 25 de Abril Bridge. The Castle itself isn’t too exciting, but its worth paying the E6 (student) ticket for that dreamy view!
After indulging in all the Pastel de Nata’s I decided that I needed to take myself on a run in this absolutely gorgeous park. I’d even recommend grabbing some cheese and bread from a supermarket and taking it along – it would be the perfect spot for a picnic. It’s located in the heart of city, at the end of Avenida da Liberdade.
Also known as ‘Our Lady of the Hill Viewpoint’ is the highest viewpoint in the city, and is a must if you’re wanting that perfect instagram shot 😉 It can be reached by turning left on Largo da Graça from Miradouro da Graça into Rua Damasceno Monteiro, then bearing right up Calçada do Monte.
You can do all the main tourist sites in Belem in one afternoon. Hop on a train (10-15 minutes) and first walk across to Jerónimos Monastery. You can then make your way to the Belém Tower (Padrao dos Descobrimentos), and a (student) ticket to the top costs E2.50. You’ll see an incredible view of the mosaic tiles below, the river, bridge and the monastery. From there, carry on walking along the river to the Belém Tower. After all that walking you will definitely deserve a stop at Pasteis de Belem – the most famous (and delicious) spot for the Portuguese speciality ‘Pastel del Nata.’
‘You’ve been to Lisbon? Did you do a day trip to Sintra?’ – it is almost certain that these two questions are asked together. After hearing everyone rave about how beautiful Sintra is, I decided to hop on the train and see for myself. Unfortunately I went in miserable weather, so could not appreciate the spectacular views. It sits high up amidst the ‘Mythical Mountains of the Moon’, displaying elegant baroque churches, colorful mansions and the opulent palaces of former Portuguese royalty.
Sadly I didn’t get a chance to do this (I did A LOT of walking instead!) Nevertheless, the number 28 tram is the classic yellow tram that rattles and screeches through Lisbon’s narrow streets, These quaint old trams look like they should rather be in an exhibit in a museum, but in Lisbon they’re an integral part of the public transport network. (I believe pickpocketing on the tram is really bad, so watch your belongings if you do give it a try!)
Lisbon has a buzzing nightlife scene, best experienced in the district of Bairro Alto. This area is a warren of trendy bars, small clubs and live music venues. During the weekends, the festivities spill out onto the surrounding streets so that the entire district feels like one giant party!
Lisbon’s Pink Street on Rua do Carvalho is located near the old port, long the riverside in downtown Lisbon. This street is lined with clubs, bars and restaurants – slightly classier than Bairro Alto.
If you’re into rooftop bars, then this is for you! However, it is rather tricky to find. You have to enter through an old lift in an underground parking lot (and there isn’t any signage), but it takes you up to the garden terrace and rooftop bar. The view overlooks an old chapel, the city, and the bridge in the distance – absolutely spectacular! Don’t go too late otherwise there is no space!
This is a gorgeous viewpoint for sunset, and very close to Bairre Alto. I’d recommend buying some drinks and going there for sundowners! If you walk past the viewpoint there is a bar on on the right called Noobai, walk down the stairs and there are three levels – this is also a perfect spots for drinks!
I believe there is an amazing market here on a Sunday, but its also a great spot for sundowners. It’s an old factory, which is now very trendy – lots of amazing graffiti, boutique stores and great views from the bar upstairs.
HOSTEL: Garden Hostel
> Ponte Luis Bridge
> Walking Tour
> Sao Bento Railway Station
> Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
> Casa de Serralves & Foz
> Sunset at Virtudes
> Harry Potter Library
I arrived in Porto in the late afternoon, so I headed out to the Ponte Luis bridge to see the sunset at ‘Mosteiro da Serrra do Pilar.’ I spent ages on the bridge photographing the people and their stretched shadows below in the later afternoon sun. I then walked along Cais da Riberia.
I cannot recommend this enough. All the hostels offer these tours at 11am and 3.30pm everyday – the meeting point is at ‘Monumento a Dom Pedro’. It’s a 3 hour tour, and a brilliant way to learn a bit more about the history and culture of this beautiful city.
99% of the reason why people is Porto would miss their trains….
Perfect spot for a picnic with dreamy views over the Douro River.
A friend of mine recommended visiting the Museum of modern art, and walking through the beautiful gardens of Serralves. It’s about a 20minute walk from Serralves to the promenade, which you can walk along to Foz.
Grab a beer or glass of wine from the corner bar, and find yourself a grassy patch to catch the last light of the day.
This is a tourist hotspot, but I’m glad I did it! You buy your tickets (E4) from the shop on the corner, then wait in the long queue to enter into the library.
On my way to Lagos I decided to message the wonderful lady named Sue that I had met two weeks ago during my layover in the Luanda airport. I knew she lived somewhere along the Algarve coast, and soon after she replied, saying that she, in fact, lived in Lagos and would happily have me stay with her for a few days.
For a week Sue, Belinda and I sat in a pool of soft light, drinking endless cups of tea (occasionally Sagria), eating Pastel de Natas, and taking precious little Rusty & Cherri on afternoon strolls along the cliff paths. The three of us have had the best time.
Sue is a fiercely independent woman, who has lived in Botswana all her life, and has recently bought herself a gorgeous three bedroom apartment in Lagos. Not only has she shown me incredible kindness, but has taught me how to: fix a wobbly plug using a match; hammer a stubborn latch open; open a tight jam jar without much strength; and innovatively use cable ties when gardening. Basically, she has shattered the stereotype that we need men to get things done.
After exchanging many travel stories, I mentioned that was interested in going to Morocco, but my dad was extremely concerned about my safety going alone. Before I could say another word Sue said ‘Lets go to Morocco with Sian Belinda!’. It didn’t take longer than a quick google search showing flights to Fes for 12 Euros, and it was a done deal. I couldn’t have found myself two better bodyguards. So, next week will bring many new adventures together – life is full of beautiful surprises.
Here are a few snaps from my visit in the Algarve:
No write-up needed here – I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
I can now say I’ve been to the most western-most tip of Europe!
During my week in the Algarve we visited a few charming little nearby villages: Monchique, Carrapeteria, Salema and Burgau.