9 Things To Do in Portugal.
With its medieval castles, sandy beaches, lively cities and quaint villages, it seems everyone is visiting Portugal these days. According to Reuters, over 10 million foreign visited Portugal in 2015 and that number increased by 13% in 2017.
During our 9-month RTW (around the world trip) we visited Portugal twice. The first time was the result of an unexpected, 3-day layover while en route to New Zealand and the other was by choice because we loved it so much the first time and wanted to explore more. We ended up staying two weeks.
There are a thousand things to do, see and taste in Portugal. Here are 9 we enjoyed.
1. Pastel de Nata. A portuguese egg tart pastry that is amazing and can be found anywhere and everywhere in Portugal. The most famous shop, The Pasteis de Belem, is located in the Belem neighborhood of Lisbon and great to stop by on your way to the Belem Tower or the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos but honestly, I’ve never had one I didn't like so enjoy them anywhere and often.
2. Sintra. A 40-min train ride West of Lisbon will take you to Sintra, a delightful town at the foot of the Sintra Mountains, known for it's 19th century architecture. Spend time shopping and eating in town or spend the day hiking the mountains to the castles via well marked trails (or simply take a shuttle bus). Highlights are the National Pena Castle, Quinta da Regaleira, and the Castle of the Moors.
3. Sardines. Ok. Sardines are not really a favorite of mine but if you've never tried them, this is the place to do it. I would agree with the person who said, “the bigger, the fatter, the better.” The ones I’m eating in the video below were tiny sardines escabeche and well…not for me.
4. Gin and Tonic. By no means is a gin and tonic native to Portugal but for some reason it is very popular and the drink of choice touted by many bars and restaurants. Like the pastel de nata, grab a gin and tonic anywhere. On a friends recommendation we chose Pensão Amor, a burlesque themed nightclub and cocktail bar near the Cais do Sodré train station. We went in the afternoon when it was cosy and quiet.
5. Algarve Region. With its incredible cliffside views and beautiful sandy beaches, the southern region of Portugal is a great change of pace and a 4-hour drive from Lisbon. There are many towns to choose from, each with its own personality. We chose Portimao. It is the largest city in the region yet surprisingly quiet beaches. Other notable towns in the region are lively and touristy, Pria da Rocha; historic fishing town, with incredible dining, Alvor or perhaps an inland spa retreat in Monchique.
6. Lisbon Oceanarium. I’ve been to many aquariums but this oceanarium is one of my favorites. It may be the largest oceanarium in the world but it is presented in an easily digestible and educational way, making for an enjoyable 2-3 hour stay. The oceanarium is within the Parque das Nacoes (Park of Nations) where you can enjoy other activities as well.
7. Zip Line through time. Who can pass up the chance to zip line through time? Seriously. Beginning in Sanlucar de Guadiana, Spain, you zip line over the River Guadiana. Crossing the border back into Portugal means you change time zones. It's may not be as intense as the tv show Outlander, but it’s cool to watch your phone jump back and forth. Have lunch in Alcoutim, Portugal before heading back on the free ferry to Spain to pick up your car (changing time zones again!). Limite Zero is the only company that offers this experience. Check them out!
8. Bullfighting. If you're anything like me, watching a bull fight is absolutely not happening. And even though they do not kill the bull at the end of the fight in Portugal (at least, in front of the audience), visiting The Campo Pequeño Bullring is an excellent way to learn about this infamous sport which has a very rich history.
9. Estoril Casino. Located in Cascais, a 20-min train ride West of Lisbon is a casino as enjoyable as any in Vegas yet located in the beautiful, family friendly Portuguese Riviera. Estoril Casino may have been the inspiration for the James Bond novel, Casino Royale, but it’s much less sexy and only being open 12 hours a day, 6 days a week makes it feel wholesome. But, after losing your days gambling allowance you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants surrounding the casino before following the path to the beach just on the other side of the train tracks.