Spending 1-2 Weeks in Portugal: A Guide

Amazing tile work at the Porto Railway Station
Amazing tilework at the Porto Railway Station
I loved Portugal. It’s inexpensive, beautiful, and there is so much history in the streets. Here is my guide to traveling Portugal in a limited time-frame. I was there for LESS than 2 weeks, and I wish I could have allotted more time to the country; I missed it as soon as I left. Nevertheless, you can definitely see what this country has to offer in less than 2 weeks!

If you’re curious about the food to eat in Portugal, check out my Food to Try in Portugal blog post.

Porto (2-3 days)

Porto is a small city and you can walk most places but there are other ways to get around as well. Porto has a lot of hills and the sidewalks get pretty slippery when it rains. My walking tour guide said the stones and texture were implemented to deter women from wearing high heels, so they wouldn’t be taller than the short men. Not sure how accurate that is, but honestly, I believe it. If you’re someone who wants to wear heels on a rainy night in Porto, I don’t recommend it. I was slipping up those streets even in sneakers! The city has a metro and tons of taxis, too, so you won’t be without transportation anyway. 

I recommend going on a free walking tour. Honestly, I recommend this for ANY city. It’s a good way to get to know an area. I joined in on one by Porto Walkers through my hostel and it was a great experience. These tours are tip based and the people who run them are so knowledgeable of Porto!

We go to the top of the Bridge Luis I for a beautiful view of the water before we head to see the Porto Cathedral; the interior is covered in gold and you aren’t allowed to take any photos.

My favorite part was the Barredo neighborhood; the neighborhood is old, narrow, and colorful. We stopped for a piece of cake (you also could have gotten custard) made by a woman in a little window in the neighborhood.

We ended the tour in the Ribeira quarter, right along the water, where you can relax and have something to eat. There was a lot going on there for sure, and the walk back up the hill was pretty treacherous.

For sunset hours, walk over the Ponte Luís I Bridge and walk along the Douro! There are some vendors and TONS of places to grab a drink. If you want to do a Port wine tasting, there are some all over the city; you can look on Viator if you want something specific. I had some Port wine at Sandeman and there were tons of places along that strip that give tours and tastings!

Want to know about the food in Porto? Check out my Food to Try in Portugal blog post.

Are you a Harry Potter nut? Then I’m sure you know that J.K. Rowling spent time in Portugal and was inspired by a library there for the one in her HP books. That would be Livraria Lello Bookshop! I didn’t go in but I passed by it at night and saw through the windows what inspired her. It was pretty magical for sure!

Porto Accommodation

I flew into Porto from Ireland and stayed at Gallery Hostel. After spending a few weeks in Ireland where the hostel quality isn’t the greatest, coming to this hostel was a huge upgrade. It was BEAUTIFUL. When I got there past midnight, the man who checked me in was so accommodating. He gave me a map and marked off the important places to go and we chatted for a while. There was a bar downstairs (super casual, usually whoever is working at reception will pour you a glass of something). The bathrooms were nicer than the ones I have at home and the rooms were clean and comfortable. Breakfast was a nice spread of fruits, breads, meats, cheeses, jams, cereals, meats, and there was a nice lady asking if you wanted scrambled eggs. To date, probably the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in.

Lisbon (3-4 days)

Lisbon is a charming city. It’s so beautiful in the spring; I went at the end of May and the jacaranda trees were blooming and their petals were falling, sprinkling spots of purple into the streets like snow. Walking around Alfama will make you fall in love. There is a lot to do in Lisbon and I didn’t get to do all of it, so I’ll be sure to mention the things I wish I did, too.

First and foremost, you should know that pickpocketing is something that happens in Lisbon. People might try to offer you drugs if you’re in touristic areas; it happened to me frequently near Praça do Comércio, a shopping area close to the water. Just know, the drugs they’re offering you aren’t real, so don’t bother!

Praça do Comércio has shops and cafes and it’s right on the water. It was right by my hostel, so I went there whenever I just wanted to go for a walk.

For an amazing view of the city and of the bridges that resemble San Francisco’s “Golden Gate” bridge, you want to go to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

View this post on Instagram

Beautiful Alfama in Lisbon ❤️

A post shared by Emily Rose | solo traveler (@emilyrosewanders) on

Alfama is the oldest district in Lisbon and worth walking around, falling in love with the architecture, having espresso outside, grabbing a pastry, or whatever else intrigues you.

I definitely recommend you do a Sintra Tour. My hostel offered one for 20 euro; it included a few sips of Port wine and some tastes of cheeses. Sintra is like a fairytale town with castles and huge estates that are honestly unfathomable. A lot of them are just used for tours or have been made into hotels.

On my Sintra tour, I went to Quinta da Regaleira. It’s the type of estate you never actually thought existed. It is, first of all, HUGE. It has streams, wells, caves, towers, the list goes on – I definitely recommend it. It isn’t free to get in, but it’s pretty cheap.

On the way back to Lisbon, we drove along the coast and stopped for some fresh air and to see the water.

Something I didn’t do was visit the Torre de Belem; it’s a huge tower in the Belem district of Lisbon. Also, I think taking a tour of the Jerónimos Monastery would be worth your time if you’re in that area.

One thing you have to try is the original Pastéis de Belém. It’s the most delicious egg tart that originated in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. They give you packets of powdered sugar and cinnamon and they come out warm. I missed them the moment I left Lisbon. NO other Pastel de Nata will compare.

Lisbon Accommodation

As I mentioned, Portuguese accommodation is top notch. Lisbon did not disappoint. I stayed at Yes! Hostel. From the moment I walked into the door, I was welcomed. The girl behind the counter made a point to know my name. They offer tours of Sintra, a walking tour, etc. There were plugs for every bunk, a variety of rooms to choose from, and free breakfast.

They offer a 3-course dinner for 10 euro that includes all you can drink alcohol for 2 hours (beer, wine, and sangria). It’s a GREAT value and an amazing way to meet people! Just BE WARNED: the sangria is made with VODKA. I did not find this out until I had 5. Oops.

Lagos (3-4 days)

Lagos is a beach town. Honestly, I recommend anywhere in the Algarve region; Lagos is a nice hub to sleep, enjoy the beach, engage in nightlife, walk along the coast, and maybe even go to a nude beach! I WISH I had more time to explore the Algarve region of Portugal because I missed out on the Benagil cave, but I still definitely got my fix!

The main thing you should do is explore the water and get into the local caves by boat. There are a lot of ways to get into the water, but the main two are small boat tours and kayaking. There are so many different vendors that sell tours and they all basically cost the same thing, it’s just a matter of finding which one works best for you.

Lagos boat tour

The boat tour I went on was pretty basic; we explored the caves and waters, and the guide told us about the different beaches that are all along the coast of Lagos, including a nude beach.

If you want to, go to a nude beach! I went on the little boat tour with a girl from my hostel and when the guide told us, we agreed to find it later in the day. You can walk along the coast and see the different beaches but we had no idea it would be so hard to find the nude beach: you definitely have to search for it.

We were walking for about an hour before we finally found a man who was walking along the cliffs. I took a chance and said, “do you happen to know where the nude beach is?” He did! We were basically standing on top of it – we just couldn’t see because it was down a treacherous “pathway” that was very steep and rocky. It was really difficult to maneuver but well worth it for the experience.

For dinner, I went to Nah Nah Bah because they were known for really good burgers and potatoes. The recommendation is spot on; their potatoes were delicious, and the burger did not disappoint.

Lagos Accommodation

Ok, unfortunately, my accommodation could have been a lot better. I stayed at the Boutique Tag Hostel: the view was amazing, the outdoor patio was great, and the location was perfect. However, there was a group of at least 20 German kids staying there all together. It really took away from the environment while I was there because they were loud and took over all of the common areas and didn’t care to meet anyone else, so it was hard to really meet anyone. They also depleted breakfast in a matter of minutes and for such a small hostel, they didn’t have enough staff to keep up with replenishing breakfast for the rest of us. I’m sure if you stayed there otherwise, it wouldn’t be as bad. I had a friend that stayed at Rising Cock Hostel and he loved it.

I hope this inspires you to visit Portugal. It is one of my favorite countries to this day and I am excited to return. The people are friendly and accommodating, the food is delicious, and the country itself is relatively inexpensive. Have you been to Portugal? Where’s your favorite place?

Let me know in the comments!

2 Comments

  • Olivia

    Hi Emily,

    What an amazing blog post and what a great trip this looks like! So jealous of you visiting so many different places in portugal, it never occured to me to travel around this country. Did you get trains or fly between cities?

    Best,

    Olivia

    • emilyrose

      Hey Olivia! Thanks so much for commenting. I miss Portugal and its culture a lot, I can’t wait to return.
      For traveling, I actually took busses! They are super cheap and the rides are not too long between places. You can even get to Spain by bus.

      For getting around Lisbon itself, I used the metro/subway a good bit, but walking was pretty easy for most of the city.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *