Last week I just returned from an amazing 13 day trip in Portugal! The weather was abnormally warm in Portugal for this time of year, but I wasn’t complaining especially since Toronto was already experiencing fall like weather. In recent years, I’ve seen so many people travel to Portugal and come back raving about it, so I was super excited to explore the country and check it off my travel list.
With just a little under 2 weeks in Portugal, we decided to book all our accommodations and bus rides (except for one since the website was having some issues). It was already down season in Portugal in October, so the buses were never full going between cities. I did take a train between Faro to Lisbon which was smooth, but unlike the buses the train was completely full. Some of my main highlights of the trip were the Fisherman’s Trail that we did on the Rota Vicentina, the Bairro Alto district at night, and the plethora of bakeries/cafes in every city.
Below is a list of where we traveled to in 13 days and some recommendations of things to do and to eat! We did find that a lot of places were closed on Sundays, so just make sure to research before hand. Coffee in Portugal = an espresso shot! I made that mistake on my first ‘coffee’ order so I stuck to Americanos for the rest of the trip, but be warned they’re a lot stronger with less hot water diluting the espresso shots. Also note that time change does happen on your phone even when it’s on airplane mode!! We learnt the hard way as we missed one of our buses due to this misconception. Lastly, thank you in Portuguese is actually based on the gender of the speaker, so men say obrigado and women say obrigada. Tchau!
2 Week itinerary:
Toronto <–> Lisbon [Flight]
4 days: Lisbon
2 days: Lisbon –>Lagos [Bus ~3.5 hours]
1 days: Lagos –> Zambujeira Do Mar [Bus – about 1 hour: got our bags transferred to Odeceixe before we started the Fisherman’s Trail 18km hike]
1 day: Odeceixe –> Lagos [Bus ~1 hour]
2 days: Lagos –> Albuferia [Bus ~45 minutes]
2 days: Albuferia –>Faro [Bus ~45 minutes]
1 day: Faro –> Lisbon [Train ~3 hours]
2nd oldest city in Europe after Athens! Super walk-able city, as we only took the train/bus to get out to Belem and Sintra. Definitely go to Pasteis de Belem, the line is actually worth the wait!
[TO DO]: Sign up for the Sandeman free 3 hour walking tour, it’ll give you quick history on Lisbon and some of the major places to see. Check out the Alfama, old town district, and go for a dinner with Fado (live music from the 1800’s). Take a day trip out to the town of Sintra, there’s a bunch of castles you can explore (they do cost $ to enter). If you’re still not bored of castles check out Castle St. Jorge back in Lisbon. It has some awesome views overlooking the city. On a Saturday night we ventured out to the Bairro Alto district and it was a blast! There’s a bunch of streets with bars that allow you to purchase your drink and walk out into the streets with it. If you like dancing, stop by Club Carib, we had a blast dancing the night away with some locals. Lastly take Tram 28 route for a fun ride through the city (start at the very beginning so you can get a seat) and plan a quick trip out to Belem district. In Belem make sure to stop by the famous bakery Pasteis de Belem. This bakery is where the Portuguese egg tart was born! There might be a long line outside, but if you go in the far back of the bakery there is seating for 400 people! We only had to wait like 20 minutes and it was definitely worth the wait. Best pasteis de nata’s in all of Portugal and they’re only 1.10 Euros. While you’re over there also check out the Belem Tower, we got there during sun set and it was a really pretty view.
[TO EAT]: Definitely stop by Time Out Market, its a large food hall that has a variety of fine dining restaurants in a casual setting. Fabrica Lisboa was a little cute cafe we stumbled upon. I wasn’t that hungry or else I would’ve got a croissant, they were baking fresh ones while we were there.
The town was mainly made up of tourist with some locals scattered throughout. There were a bunch of beaches to relax at and a beautiful hike along the water with amazing views of the cliffs.
[TO DO]: Definitely walk along the water and stop at all the beaches along the way to the look out point at Farol da Ponta da Piedade. We regretted not bringing along a beach towel with our walk, as there are a bunch of beaches along the water.
[TO EAT]: London Tiger Coffee has some delicious desserts while also serving tea/coffee. Churrasqueira Praca D’Armas was a cheap stop for food, about 6 Euros for half a chicken and a couple sides. We saw a lot of locals coming into the place to purchase food to take away. Padaria Central is a bakery you must stop at! The brioche bread is delicious – get the one with the coconut topping. I tried going the next morning to buy a pasteis de nata, but unfortunately it was closed that morning.
There’s an amazing hike, called Rota Vicentina, along the coast. We only did the Fisherman’s Trail, about 18km, from Zambujeira Do Mar to Odeceixe. Highly recommend!! As mentioned, we got our bags transferred from Zambujeira Do Mar to our guesthouse in Odeceixe through Vicentina Transfers. It was seamless, a driver met us at the Zambujeira Do Mar bus station to pick up our bags and they were waiting at our guesthouse when we arrived. Note that Odeceixe is a super small town and not many people will speak English.
[TO DO]: Do the Fisherman’s Trail hike! We did it from Zambujeira Do Mar to Odeceixe, but quickly realized that more people were doing the hike the other way, as we were hiking with the sun directly in our faces vs. on our backs. There’s a bunch of trail markers along the hike, although one point we did get slightly lost but found our way eventually! The whole hike took us about 5.5 hours, but we didn’t stop much along the way. We also did another quick hike the next day to the beach, Praia de Odeceixe Mar, where we watched a bunch of people surfing in the ocean. Note there are two different bus stops in Odeceixe, one for Eva (in the town) and one for Redex (up the hill out of town). We didn’t realize this and missed our bus, luckily there was another one a couple hours later that we were able to catch.
[TO EAT]: We were so hungry post the 18km hike and ended up going to an Italian restaurant for pizza. There’s also a really cute cafe overlooking the Praia de Odeceixe Mar beach we hiked to. I forget the name, but you can’t miss it’s the main cafe that overlooks the beach.
We were surprised how much bigger this city was versus Lagos. There were a lot of Europeans visiting the spot, almost like how Florida is the quick warm getaway for Ontarians.
[TO DO]: Luckily our hotel on this spot had a pool, so we decided to relax and soak up the sun which was perfect after our 18km+ hike the days before.
[TO EAT]: We ventured to the Tres Palmeiras Restaurant due to good reviews online. Everything seemed very fresh and we both got ‘catch of the day’ specials. Uzonj Grill was a restaurant we stumbled upon walking home the night before. It had a lot of local cuisine at a reasonable price and at one point of the night had 3 large tables packed with locals celebrating. For lunch we wanted a quick spot so we stopped at Albufeira Gourmet Churrasqueira Take-away, great value for some delicious chicken piri-piri. The ribs also looked delicious. If you’re looking for a bakery go to Riviera Pastelaria, it had every Portuguese pastry and cake that you could image!
More of a city with a nice marina; however, we arrived on a Sunday and realized that a lot of things were closed! All of the attractions are easy to get to and close walking distance.
[TO DO]: Walk through Arco da Vila and onto the Cidade Velha. There is a plaza in front of the cathedral which a bunch of orange trees. We tried to pick one, but they weren’t that ripe. Fresh orange juice is huge in Portugal! You can always find some ranging from 2 to 4 Euros. Also check out Igreja do Carmo, it’s a beautiful church with Portuguese baroque architecture. I didn’t have time to go in, but try to check out inside and go to the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) which displays the bones of 1,000+ monks from a cemetery to remind people of the fleeting nature human existence.
[TO EAT]: If you’re still craving a good pasteis de nata, stop by Padaria Urbana. It was my 2nd favourite pasteis de nata behind the original pasteis de belem! They also have amazing croissants here and delicious ‘coffee’ and fresh orange juice. You MUST go to Chefe Branco and order the fish cataplana dish! WOW! For 30 Euros it was worth every penny. It was insanely delicious and super filling for just 2 people. Definitely a more local spot too, as we witness a girl having a birthday party with a bunch of her friends that turned into a surprise engagement party due to her boyfriend’s proposal.