Initially, I thought of starting with fashion blogging but having visited Portugal recently, my first ever Europe trip, that inspired me to do a travel blog instead and share my itinerary with everyone.
So we (4 Adults and 12 year old kid) traveled to Portugal in the end of May 2018 for 9 days. The climate was pleasant but at times it did get a little windy and chilly. So packing a few warm clothes is definitely a good idea if your planning to travel around the same time. We kept the trip relaxing but one can cover most of the destinations in 7 days at max.
Canadian citizens do not require visa to enter the Schengen Area of countries in Europe. However, Indian passport holders need to apply for one. This was quiet a cumbersome process for us as we were only travelling to Portugal and not covering any other country. Turns out that Portugal visa cannot be applied through the Schengan site but needs to be applied in person via Consulate General of Portugal located at 438 University Ave, Toronto. You first drop by with filled application and they take your photo and finger prints. Just 2 weeks before your travel date you get an email from the Consulate and you visit them again to get your visas stamped. The first initial application submission was a quick process, however, the visa stamping took us almost 3.5 hours 😦
Day 1: Arrival at Lisbon
We arrived at our B&B , located in a tranquil location of Gulbenkian, around 2 PM. After a quick shower, we got the ball rolling by starting with Alfama which is located in the heart of Lisbon close to the city center by metro. Metro in Lisbon has 3 lines and you can buy a Viva card for just 0.5 euros that can be reloaded, we took the blue line from our B&B to station called Terrio do Paco just walking distance from Alfama. The pedestrian areas here are traditionally styled as Portuguese pavements so walking in heels is no good you need really good walking shoes 😊
The 8 hour long flight from Toronto was indeed tiresome, so we chose to have an early dinner at Nosolo Italia located at Praca do Comerica after exploring some streets here. Parca do Comerica is a commerce square which is still known as Terreiro do Paco. It has plenty of restaurants around it with patio seating and the waterfront view of the Tagus river. Along with the historic charm of the place, it has this vibrant atmosphere of European culture that just soothes your senses 😊
Being a vegetarian, we have limited options when we travel around the world, however this was not the case for our trip here. We were blessed to have vegetarian and vegan options available abundantly throughout the country.
At the end of the day I had high expectations set towards exploring Lisbon to its best and looking forward to what was in store in the coming days. We had booked a couple of guided tours through Viator in advance. These tours led us to nearby small towns that had quite some history and the local charm of Portugal in every street.
Day 2: Batalha, Obidos, Alcobaça & Fatima
Obidos is a small town at a 45 minutes drive from Lisbon (my favorite among the towns that we visited). It’s the most charming and picturesque Portuguese town. From the walls there are wonderful views over the terracotta tiled roofs and white painted houses of the town.
The entire walk to explore the place takes about an hour, but we ended up spending 3 hours 😛 Along the narrow streets, there are shops that carry souvenirs and local made handicrafts which are good to buy from the local vendors. Since we were already there, there was no harm in a shot of the famous cherry liquor called Ginja de Obidos produced here locally that is served in small chocolate cups for 1 euro. Indeed a great shot!! :). Ginja is something not to be missed and I made sure to carry some along with me back home.
The walk and a shot of Ginja ignited our appetite and we halted for lunch at A Casa , a small rustic local restaurant. The owner was kind enough to accommodate our dietary restrictions and made us a grand lunch consisting of a vegetable omelet, a spaghetti plate, and risotto and not to forget the fresh orange juice from the trees along the streets of the city 🙂 . Yes, that is indeed right!! there are orange trees planted along the streets of the city and if your fortuitous to have a good height, you might as well jump and grab one 😊
During the second half of the day we covered the UNESCO sites of Batalha Monastery and Alcobaça Monastery
followed by the Sanctuary of Fátima and Basilica of the Holy Trinity. Fatima is one of the holy places for Catholics. Along with the history, one will undeniably find peace and spirituality around the place.
We ended our day around 7 pm and then followed by dinner at the local mall eatery. This tour was loaded with the culture and charm of Portuguese land that I had sensed to some extent back home in Goa(India), a Portuguese colony, found by Vasco da Gamma, Portuguese explorer, the first European to reach India by sea and hence the title for my blog 🙂
Day 3: Sintra & Cascais
The next tour covered the UNESCO world heritage site of Sintra town, a 45 minutes drive from Lisbon which is know for its many 19th century romantic architectural monuments. One the most famous one being the Pena Palace that stands amidst the Sintra mountains, also referred as one of the seven wonders of Portugal. The lush green view and the history it holds will leave you in awe!!
If you love palaces then Sintra is the town worth exploring to get the real aura of living like a royal in the hills away from the crowded city.
The Pena palace took us approximately 2 hours and then we embarked for a stroll along the streets of old Sintra town called Centro Historico de Sintra. These streets have the old European charm with numerous souvenir shops and cafes all along. The famous pastry at Casa Piriquita called the ‘Pillow’ which tastes delicious when eaten warm is a must try.
We stopped for a lavish Indian lunch at Pic Nic. Post lunch, we stopped over at a place 20 mins drive from Sintra called Cabo de Roca that marks the most westerly point of main land Europe. If you’re a keen photographer you would really want to have the artistic view captured.
This was followed by a tour to small fishing town Cascais. Cascais is also known as the resort town consisting of most beautiful coast line to make you want to just stop by and have a dip into the blue waters. It is one of the most popular holiday destinations and a summer getaway for the Portugal population. There are exquisite villas along the coastline of Cascais, a retirement retreat plan for the ones who can afford 😊
The Gelato ice-cream here is splendid made purely out of yogurt and a must try for all the health conscious people 😛
Our tour guide did give us an option to modify the tour to include another palace and skip Cascais but we decided to stick to the default option and it was beyond any doubt worth it!!
We ended our day by having dinner at the Oasis Vegetariano located right below our B&B. They have only 4 options on the meal and one dish is enough for one person. Only if you have been fasting you may go for more than one dish 😛
Day 4: Belem
We voted to explore Lisbon locally on our own after two hectic days of touring in and around Lisbon. Belem is located at the mouth of the River Tagus and is half a day tour from Lisbon. You can take a metro/tram or local buses in the city to arrive here in an hour.
Abounding tourists visit the Jerónimos Monastery and Santa Maria de Belem Church and consequently here is a huge line to enter the Monastery however the entry to the Church is free. Do not get confused seeing the huge line as the entrance to both these places is right in front of each other and there is no line for the Church. The line was apparently quite immense and so we decided to tour the free Church only. Both the attractions have a great deal of architecture worth your snapshot.
Everyone who visits Portugal learns about the famous pasteis de nata, but to sink your teeth into the real deal, made using the original 187-year-old recipe, you need to take a trip to Pasteis de Belém .
There are many restaurants in this part of the city but if you are looking for a vegetarian restaurant then the best and cheapest options are available at Pao Pao Queijo Queijo.
By this time, my Samsung Health app had exploded with the number of steps I had already taken 😛 and so we had decided to have a quiet and a healthy dinner at another place near our B&B called Restaurante Marrakesh. They have both Indian and Middle-eastern dishes and we tried our hand at vegetarian soup, couscous and tagine.
Day 5: Algarve
Algarve is a beautiful southern coastline of Portugal blessed with stunning beaches and glorious climate, all of which combine to create the perfect holiday destination is a paradise for beach lovers and is about 3 hours drive from Lisbon. We rented a car from Lisbon airport to get there. You may add the toll charges to your credit card when at the car rental counter that way you are not required to stop at the toll for a payment and your card is auto charged.
Our first stop here was Algar de Benagil beach, a grotto i.e. it is a natural cavity, also known as Algar in Portuguese. We took a boat tour to 8 caves. The unfavorable part of this ride is that you cannot get off the boat but that did not fade our enjoyment during the ride as you get to click amazing pictures while in the boat. The famous Benagil Cave can be reached kayaking from the main coast so you have an option to not to go for a boat ride.
We then embarked to the iconic Praia da Marina Beach, 10 minutes drive from Algar de Benagil Beach. This beach is in top 100 world’s most beautiful beaches and trust me in real life, the beach is even more prettier than in the pictures. It is surrounded by steep cliffs, so you take a long staircase to go down to the beach. Before you descend however, do remember to check out the breathtaking view from the top…it is simply mesmerizing!! I would highly recommend a few days stay here to enjoy the sun and the sand.
There’s one cafe at each beach where you can grab something to eat or drink. After a dip in the blue waters and some quick bites we drove back home aspiring to have stayed here for a more, relaxing and rejuvenating time. My trip would have been indeed incomplete without a visit to this place.
Day 6: Alfama, Bairo Alto and Chiado
Our day started by visiting the Christ the King inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue. This beautiful statue is on the wonderful island of Almada, Lisbon. Once at the statue, you have amazing views of Lisbon as well as the 25th July bridge like the Golden gate in California 🙂
We took an elevator to reach the top of the tower to capture the closer glimpses of the statue and the 360 degree view of Lisbon city. There is also a souvenir shops located here and I bought a Portuguese tiled wooden tray from here for 20 euros. The best part about prices in Portugal is that they already include the taxes 😀
We had a healthy lunch at A Colmeia, a home-made vegan restaurant. They have a buffet style where you get to choose number of dishes that you wish to try and 3 dishes for me were quite cheap.
After lunch we decide to explore the famous tourist spots Alfama, Bairo Alto and Chiado that are all very close by to Rossio Square and can be explored on foot. A lot of walking I must say!!
You may explore the city using a sightseeing bus or a tuktuk. However, the actual feel of the place can only be enjoyed on foot. The city has already made its mark as one of the top destinations for artistic graffiti and while you are on foot, you might get lucky to get to see some marvelous graffiti designed by world famous artists across the streets in this city. I have posted a few pictures on my Instagram wall 🙂
One could also take the yellow tram and explore the city but beware of pickpocketing!!
After trying the famous Nata at Belem, I decided to give try to a few delicacies at Pastelaria Alcôa and turned out to be indeed a heaven for my sweet tooth 🙂
Day 7 & 8: Porto
Day 4 was apparently supposed to be a tour to Tomar. However, it got cancelled due to some last-minute emergency and we decided to head to Porto and halt there for a night instead. In a nick of time, we got a worthy deal for our Porto B&B. Porto is a 3.5 hour train journey from Lisbon and we took AP train from Lisbon’s Oriente station.
On arrival, we covered the Campanha railway station with amazingly beautiful walls covered with hand painted Portuguese tiles. It was one of the best railway station I have seen so far.
After dinner a stroll to the Dom luis bridge with the night lights was a perfect way to end the day.
Following day, we took the yellow sightseeing bus that covered the major highlights in the city since we were short on time. You may get down at each attraction and take a tour from the inside and catch the bus again for more attractions. We covered the Clerigos Tower, Clérigos Church, Igreja do Carmo, Praça da Liberdade
The world-famous Dom Luis bridge crosses the steep, rocky banks of the Douro and you get to see an amazing view of the Cais da Ribeira. To the south bank of the river there are several wine cellars that host tours and tastings.
On the other side of the bridge, we came across a lovely street market where we bought handmade wine stand for 18 euros and wine corks for 2 euros.
For lunch we visited another Indian restaurant Thali which was suggested by a local shop owner who was huge fan for Indian food, Naan was the best part of our savory lunch as it was made of whole wheat. There was a wine shop right next to this restaurant that had an amazing collection. Another great shop to buy Porto wine is Garrafeira Cleriporto. the owner of this store was very well-versed and had an amazing collection of Porto wine from 10 years to 100 years old. We did not give a second thought and took some vintages with us 😛
While strolling the streets I came across this store called Parfois where I bought this lovely handbag for 29.99 euros.
We now returned to Lisbon via the same AP train we had taken to come to Porto in the first place.
Day 8 & 9: Lisbon Shopping
There are lovely souvenirs shops all around the city from hand painted to environment friendly cork souvenirs, the famous Portugal tiles, you get to see amazing collection.
I am in awe with cork made products, as they are water proof and bio-degradable. I bought a hand bag for 49 euros and 2 table mat rolls for 17 euros each from JS Cork.
We were fortunate to stumble upon Cork Shop as it was closing and had all the items on 50% clearance. I got wedges for 25 euros and my husband got shoes for 35 euros. Usually other souvenir shops sell wine openers for 5 euros but here we got it for 1.25 euros 😀 😀
I guess, probably I would come up with another blog pairing my newly found environment friendly bag and 😛 . I would be posting on Instagram for sure snapping pictures of all the items I have bought here.
There are various food options available in the city famous especially for Portuguese food and you can check them as per your dietary restrictions, if any.
Day 10: Back to Toronto
Before heading to the airport, we had one final lunch in the city at Ristorante Pizzeria La Finestra. They had an amazing tomato basil bruschetta and lovely three vegetarian pizzas.
While waiting for my flight at the airport, I bought hand painted cups from Portfolio store at the airport for 13.99 each and that was the last item added to my Portugal shopping list 😀
- Public toilets are paid in Portugal. However, they are free in any cafe/restaurants.
- Washrooms/Restroom/Loo/Toilet keywords is not known to anyone here. They call it WC that stands for Water Closet…yeah you read that right and I have no clue who named it this 😛