I went to a trip to Portugal in July 2017 naively thinking that the 6 days I had would be enough for three cities. I basically wanted to do it all: city, sights, castles and beach. Little did I know, I could have spent six days only Lisbon! I had a very pleasant experience, but I can't cross Portugal off my list just yet. I still would love to explore Porto, Faro and few of their quint costal cities. I am hoping that I will get my driving licence some time soon to drive around the gorgeous country! I hope this detailed post gives you some insight and help you plan your holiday!
Portugal trip route and time:
My Portugal trip was barely a week and I just went to the most recommended places: Lisbon and Sintra. My last destination, Ericeira, was not even planned, but I am glad it happened! My route gave me a mashup of feelings and things to do. Started with three days in Lisbon, got an uber to Sintra (but you can get a bus or train. I had to be there at a specific time and I didn't manage my time well!). Then got a bus from Sintra to Ericeira to spend the day there. My flight was that same night, so after my day in the beach, I got a bus to Lisbon and the metro to the airport! It was a mix of go go go and chill time. I loved it!
I went in July and it was HOT. Bearable for the most part, but the sun was blasting, the streets were busy and SO many tourists were there. I would love to return in the off season. Although, the city gets rainy and cold, but if I can handle London for years then I am hoping a few rainy days in Lisbon won't be too bad! Sintra was more mild, but you can still feel the heat. The further you get to the cost the windier it gets. The wind coming from the ocean is COLD! (If you want detailed weather predictions, check Holiday Weather)
Three days in Lisbon is only enough to scratch the surface and give you a taste of the Portuguese culture. I would surly go back to form a deeper connection with the city and properly choose an off season time to have more of the city to myself.
When I visited Lisbon, I stayed outside the touristy area, so I mainly used the metro, which I thought was fantastic. I got a metro card (which is actually just paper issued from the machine). You have to validate your ticket before you get to the platform. It's really easy to navigate and the machines have an English option.
First Lisbon Activity: Photographing Alfama in the morning
I am so happy that I decided to try a photography tour when I went to Lisbon. My best photos were from that trip! The great thing about this is that we barely encountered any tourists and I loved it! I have a dedicated post for this you can see it here.
Second Lisbon Activity: Following the Street Art
The graffiti (street art) is very impressive in Lisbon and it is spread across the city (on purpose!) The artists wanted to spread the tourists around because most of them are concentrated in the old areas, so they painted various parts of the city. There are special tours for this, but we just bought a graffiti map from Under-Dog Art Store and followed the trail! Read all about it on here.
Third Lisbon Activity: See the city from above!
I loved the Lisbon city views from above and I didn't get tired from seeing them! You can do that from going up the ancient elevator: Santa Justa Lift, which is also gorgeous by the way! The other viewpoint was the Arca De Rua Augusta. It was the main arch facing the famous columns in the sea front. It was mostly empty around midday and it was great to see the city view with the sea view too!
Fourth Lisbon Activity: The roofless cathedral
The first time I heard about the roofless church (Carmo Convent) was when I saw a gorgeous photo on Instagram. It was very dramatic! I wanted to replicated the photo, but it was way too busy for that. I still enjoyed going to the cathedral. It was so grand and the fact that it doesn't have a roof makes it so majestic and almost connected to the sky! It's a walking distance from the Santa Justa Lift. Sadly, this was the only cathedral/church I was able to see, but there are a few very interesting looking ones!
If I had more time, I would have...
If I had enough time in Lisbon, I would have gone to the National Tile Museum (Nacional do Azulejo) to trace back all the Moorish influence. It would have been also fun to go up to the castle remains on top of Lisbon. The food tours and exploring the foodie scene was also tempting, but I shall save all of that to my second trip!
Lisbon's Areas & Accommodations
Choosing a place to stay in Lisbon was a little difficult because there is SO MUCH to choose from. I wanted to stay a little away from the touristy centre to get a more normal experience of the every day Lisbon life. My main criteria was to be near a metro station. The Flower Court Guesthouse that I stayed in ticked all the right boxes. You can stay closer to the town
Food Recommendations in Lisbon
I was really hoping for amazing sea food in Lisbon. All I wanted was sunshine and sea food. Sadly not everywhere I tried had good quality food. Some had horrible frozen Cod. Thankful, I managed to get a real taste of the yummy food they had. Here is a list of the Lisbon restaurants I loved.
Sintra is a gorgeous little city known for its castles and magical feel of the city. Two days there were barely enough to see the main spots. It is doable as a one day trip, but you will only see three things maximum. I think three to four days there would give you a chance to see everything. It is very busy during the day because of all the day trippers from Lisbon, but it is so quiet in the evening when everyone else leaves. It is very relaxing if you wanted a quiet holiday.
Sintra is very hilly, but it is walkable in the town centre and around. I would recommend to get a bus between the castles though. the distances don't seem like much, but the hills are very steep and the roads don't have a lot of room for buses and pedestrians. they have a great offer on the tour buses there with three possible routes.
Basically the main activity is to live the fairytale! The castles are so magical! I have a dedicated post coming up about the four I have visited: Palace of Sintra, Castle of the Moors, Pena Palace and Quinta de Regaleria. I also managed to see the Poets Park, Cabo De Roca and go to the Praia De Ursa beach.
Sintra's Areas & Accommodations
I chose the Lanui Guesthouse a little family run guesthouse and very close to the main town centre. There are a few other choices there too. The area is relatively small, so choose something based on the reviews that you like.
Food Recommendations in Sintra
Again food in Sintra was a hit and miss, but there were a few places that were REALLY good! The full list of recommended eats in Sintra are here.
During our Sintra stay, the host recommended that we go to the next costal village that is nearest to us. He spoke so highly of it and the sound of trying SURFING for the first time was very tempting! The total time spent in Ericeira was only five hours, but it was great! I would love to go back to spend a few days there! Read all about my Surfing experience in Ericeira here.
How much money do you need for holiday in Portugal?
Flight from London to Lisbon (return in the summer season) £65 each on Ryanair
Lisbon Hotel for three nights €52/night.
Transports in Lisbon for three days
Activities: Photo tour for two €75 + Entry to Carmo Convent €4 + Arca De Rua Augusta Entry €2.50
Food in Lisbon. Ok so this is when you can spend more or less! I love love eating good food when I am travelling because that enhances my travel experience, so we splurged on dinners (£25 each, but that was high end 3 course meal). Breakfast and Lunch weren't too expensive (£8-12 each). You can make this much cheaper by making sandwiches. The groceries there seemed affordable.
Uber to Sintra £35 I mean this is just me who does this. Spend money on uber when I shouldn't have! It wasn't too bad though and it only was half an hour. What you should spend: bus £3 - £5 train £2 - £4
Sintra Hotel €40/night.
Sintra Entry fees €41
Sintra local transports €10
Bus from Sintra to Ericeira £2 - £4
Surfing Lesson €30/3 hours
Bus from Ericeira to Lisbon £4 - £6
Muslims Travelling to Portugal
It is always important for me to ask around about how people perceive Muslims in the location I am going to visit. I heard few mixed stories. Some of my friends loved it and others said they felt uncomfortable. For me personally, I was very comfortable and people were very nice to me. Sometimes you get curious looks, but a smile is all you need to break the ice. The main mosque in the country is in the capital: Lisbon Central Mosque and it is close by to the touristy sights, which is handy if you want to stop and pray. I haven't personally gone there, but it looks cool from what I have seen online.