Oh Portugal, you are probably only known for your capital Lisbon and surfing. But what about the Port wine? And the summer feasts? Your steep streets and the wonderful scenery, hidden from the eyes of the public? What about your soul?
Portugal’s capital is a good location to begin your travel. But I would not stay there for more than two nights, using the third day there to depart to the next destination. Lisbon is not too walk-friendly since the streets are extremely narrow and can get very steep as soon as you are a little outside of the main centre. But in the heart of Lisbon, you can wander around and visit the city – because that is in my eyes the main attraction. The churches, the squares, the markets – a typical dish is the large bread filled with ham and melted cheese, it is delicious! But the roads, the street cars and the house decorations are wonderful. Of course, I have one favourite place in the city: Head to the ‘Christo Rei’ statue and take the small path on the left down towards the seaside. The few is very different from there and it is a lot less crowded. Luckily we were able to be during the sunset (because we got there too late to visit Christo Rei, but that will come in another blog post).
We then took the bus to travel to Peniche. We had booked a guest room in what we thought was the centre of the town since it was located on the peninsula, but we were in no man’s land! There was no grocery store, no restaurant, just a small café. The touristic centre (with shops) of Peniche is south of the peninsula, right at the beach where you can go surfing – which was the reason we traveled there. After we had gotten ourselves a pizza, we enjoyed the calm location on the rooftop terrace, watching another Portuguese sunset. We learned that Peniche is more like a summer and weekend getaway for people living in the city, hence there are barely any people. Looking back, I wish we had shortened our stay in Lisbon and Porto and stayed in Peniche two nights longer. So please do so for me 🙂
Personally, I preferred Porto over Lisbon. The streets were not as narrow and steep, you were able to see what was on the other end on the road other than sky, over all, I could breathe in Porto. Surprisingly, it was more touristic than the capital, nevertheless its charme was very different. It felt more local, to me Porto felt like a little town which was still able to hide its secret attractions from the many. It had more variety to me, with the square of the Cathedral, the harbour and the lovely park on the other side of the river (the quarter around it is called “Villa Nova de Gaia” – there is also a delicious food market specialized on Portuguese seafood). I think that Porto felt so much more local and welcoming to me than Lisbon simply because of the streets – I sadly felt too clamped in Lisbon. Porto was what I had expected from Portugal: a town with its touristic places, but enough quiet roads and local experiences at a fair price.
From Lisbon on, you can either work your way up the coast as we did (Sevilla – Lisbon – Peniche – Nazaré – Porto) or head down south to the Algarve Coast and discover Faro as the major airports are Lisbon, Porto and Faro in Portugal. The southern tip of the country is warmer than the East Coast and is very popular for surfing and swimming in general. If you want to experience summer in Portugal, then I would recommend going there.But do prepare yourself for many tourists. A less crowded places is for example Aljezur. It has a very alternative and nomadic vibe with open-minded people, a great place to make friends during a bonfire! Also, Lagao has a very special beach: the “Praia de Albandeira”. It is a small sandy beach where you can listen to the waves and the sound of seagulls without any boat engines or camera clicks. Be sure to enjoy it at sunrise or sunset since locals like to get away from the hustle and the bustle and escape to this place. There is no touristic centre around it, just Portugal’s wonderful soul, bare and naked for you to fall in love with.