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“So where do you want to go?” I asked Brandon. “How about Portugal?” he replies. “Ok! Where exactly is Portugal?” I asked out loud.
You may already know where Portugal is, and how amazing it is. Or, you may not. But if you're anything like me, following a quick Google search you find yourself curious and excited.
I imagine some of you scratching your heads and squinting your eyes. Geography is not my strong suit either. Portugal is on the very western edge of Europe. It shares both its northern and eastern borders with Spain. Its western and southern borders are all (beautiful) Atlantic Ocean coastline.
Our family spent a month in Portugal. We enjoyed cities, countryside, oceans, hikes, delicious food, wine, wonderful people and more. One month was not enough time to enjoy all this country has to offer! We loved you Portugal, and we will be back!
Below we share our top 15 highlights from our time in Portugal. It was difficult to narrow down the list, but for our sake and yours, we had to stop somewhere.
In Porto we LOVED the city park on the west side of the city, toward the ocean. The park was so green and lush! The miles of walking paths wound through the park and there were beautiful vistas.
We saw a variety of animals including roosters, chickens, chicks, geese, and ducks. To this day our daughter still asks for pet chicks when we get home. The water features and statues are beautiful. There are also a variety of new and interesting trees that are not common for us.
The rock formations at the beach are great for climbing! Interesting tide pools are like little worlds of their own, and fascinating for youngsters. The small rocks are all polished, smooth and treasure-like from the waves. We spent two days at this beach because it was so amazing (even in cool, windy weather).
And although it does not have white sand beaches, I found the sand to be very intriguing. As Vince tried to clean his feet, I noticed small, colorful, smooth rock bits stuck to his feet almost mosaic like. It was beautiful! And best of all we did not haul sand back to our place via every crevice on our bodies.
We skipped the famous aquarium, and opted for the ocean walk and beach exploring. There is a footpath running along the ocean for miles. There are a variety of restaurants, an army fort, and great ocean breezes. We stopped for a beer and snacks at this oceanfront "lounge" and enjoyed every minute of it.
When in Porto a historic area visit is a must. We were charmed by the old architecture and maze of streets, as well as innovation and modernization. As a band of college students sang and played instruments, we enjoyed a cup of coffee, while the girls enjoyed the smell of fresh flowers.
Along the riverwalk there are cozy restaurants as far as the eye can see. Tables and chairs filled with people spill into the streets. The hum of energy pulsates along the river, the current of people flowing each way (often dividing like the red sea for our stroller).
The Alfama district stole our heart. Much like Venice, you should wander and get lost. Staying in this area, we found many small grocery stores, coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants. We almost always went in one way and came back another, getting lost several times, seeing new paths and easily redirecting back on course (thank you google maps!). This area is close to Saint George’s Castle. The maze of streets (which are more like paths) leading to the castle were purposefully designed to cause confusion in case of invasion. Mission accomplished.
This is a must visit. The maze of streets (which are more like paths) leading to the castle were purposefully designed to cause confusion in case of an invasion. Mission accomplished. The entrance fee was very reasonable, the grounds were large and beautiful, and the city and river views were breathtaking!
Time Out Market is organized chaos. We looped it several times taking in the sights and smells. It is a cultural experience with so many visitors from around the world. Serving many traditional dishes, fusion food, and also burgers and pizza, there really is something for everyone! And the pastries!! Oh the beautiful and delicious pastries! Best to enjoy them and keep walking! These calories will not burn themselves, and there is still so much to see! Under the same roof is a local market of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and flowers.
Pop Cereal Cafe in Bairro Alto is phenomenal! Transported into another world of color, comic characters, and so much cereal!! Of course our girls had mixed cereals, topped with ice cream, finished by pouring their glass of milk over it. It was an epic stop! From the bunkbed to the bathrooms we found this stop unique, charming, and so kid friendly.
After eating and a stroll through the market, continuing west, but just a hop across the street is the loveliest playground. Exceptional because there is a small facility selling drinks and appetizers. Coffee, tea, wine, beer, even shots of the famous Portuguese Ginja, are available to enjoy while your children swing, slide, run, jump and sing (or scream) their energy out. Grab a pick me up or wind me down and enjoy a spot in this beautiful setting.
*Ginja is a portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries
There isn't a bad view in Lisbon. The city views are breathtaking and plenty. There were many instances where we parked to enjoy our "office with a view" from some of Lisbon's most beautiful viewpoints.
So magical! So green! So many castles! This is not a day trip people. We could have stayed a week. The colorful castle was our first pick, followed by the Moorish castle, and 2 others that I was hoping to see. With kids this was way too optimistic. However the city itself was so stunning! And the colorful castle did not disappoint. It was amazing.
Walking up to the castle we detoured through several small gardens. Following paths worn through the grass, discovering fountains, smelling flowering trees, peering for caterpillars and snails, the adventure up to the castle is an event in itself!
Reaching the castle is majestic and breathtaking. Our senses were overwhelmed with all the details; the various colored additions, the ornate carvings, archways and lookouts. Adventuring around the exterior affords a multitude of scenic views of the countryside. With terraces and balconies all around, it is possible to get 360 views from the various points of the castle.
But the real icing on the cake are the castle grounds. The green grass, trees, plants and nature is a refreshing break from the city. The cobblestone paths wind you through mature trees, stone seating areas, ponds and streams, moss covered walls and huge rocks!
What a fantastic day of frolicking in the countryside! It is very easy to imagine how refreshing and peaceful this was for the royal visits.
The public transportation in Porto and Lisbon is fantastic. Because the roads are busy and narrow, renting a car is not a good option in these cities. The southern part of the country is a different story. Much less populated, and a modern infrastructure makes it a great place to rent a car and cruise around. It is so beautiful!
From Lisbon we jumped in a car and started enjoying the scenic countryside. We loved the luxury of a car (even if it was a station wagon). Just stop...and take it all in….whenever you want =). The rolling hills were so green! And the roads are wide open and well maintained. We drove down to the algarve region and checked into our penthouse Airbnb.
A wall of windows showcased the beauty of the sea, the mountainous landscape and the picturesque little town of Luz. This place was amazing! Especially after our authentic stay in Lisbon, this was the opposite in every way and as charming.
The town of Luz, which is next to Lagos, is charming and quaint. It made for a relaxing stay where we could take easy walks to the beach and along the ocean.
Algarve beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. We found that beaches on the west coast had larger waves and more rugged countryside. As you travel east they become more calm. Praia de Bordiara was a showstopper. We had such an amazing time here!! It is huge and off the charts beautiful. Huge cliffs, a gigantic white sand beach, large climbing rocks, sand dunes, a stream running into it and so much untouched nature.
The Algarve offers amazing hiking opportunities across the region. These aren't strenuous hikes, but more leisurely hikes offering stunning views everywhere you look.
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