The country where we first met, Portugal is a very special place for us. After first meeting here back in 2011, we couldn't wait to come back and relive our first memories in this romantic country. As we met as backpackers, at the Rising Cock hostel in Lagos, we were so excited to come back and have a more honeymoon style experience (whilst still on our backpacker budget).
We started our Portugal road trip up in the Basque country of San Sebastian, Spain. From there the drive was incredible as we made our way south and towards Portugal's border. You climb over some extremely stunning mountains and the closer you get to Portugal the more you will drive past incredibly lush looking wineries. So our first stop was in Porto, after that we made our way down to Lagos. Here is a guide on where to go and what to do in this magical country.
This beautiful river hillside city will remind you of some of Italy’s popular coastal towns, minus millions of tourists and mega prices. Sure, it is quite touristic and busy in the high season, but it still has plenty of charm and room to move around. It is the home of Port wine, so be sure to walk around and taste the different ranges of Port that can be sipped across many panoramic view bars. That's one of the greatest things about Porto, you can walk absolutely everywhere.
What we loved mostly about Porto was walking through all the back streets and finding hidden piazza's that only the locals are hanging out in. If you are feeling a bit lazy or want to rest the legs, there are all forms of transport readily available: train, car or boat. Get moving, you have many places to see and more importantly, plenty of delicious port wine to taste.
The Douro River - Going for a walk along either side of the river is a must. We loved walking up a bit out of the main square to find little bars and restaurants overlooking the river. We loved sitting with a high view of the water as it's a top spot to people watch, with buskers showing their skills and many people enjoying the vibes.
Dom Luís I Bridge - Also known as the symbol of the city. This bridge is an absolute engineering masterpiece. The bridge is now used as a main artery for the rail network. It is a nice and easy walk across the bridge, and the perfect place to get a new perspective of this charming city.
Port tasting - Please don't make us choose a single wine bar for you to taste. We don't think you can go too wrong by walking into any wine bar. We went to many and really enjoyed everyone of them. So it's easy to do, to relax and get too comfortable sipping port in the same seat, but if you have limited time keep moving, there are sooo many to explore and find for yourself.
The Ribeira District - Best explored by foot. The oldest and the heart of old town Porto. Plenty of places to eat and drink throughout the cobble stoned streets. It was our favourite section of Porto. Loved the atmosphere in the streets and the local people.
Where to stay:
Airbnb: Cozy studio in the BEST location
Where to eat/drink:
Everywhere, make sure you taste multiple port wines. Our favourite was the tawny. The Mercado Beira-Rio is also worth heading to for some delicious cheap local food and drinks.
"If exploring the vibrant and hilly capital city of Portugal isn't on your bucket list, let us tell you why it should be"
Did you know Lisbon is actually the second oldest capital city in Europe, second to Athens? That meaning there is a whole lot of history to be explored in and around this steep city. It has been a cultural, economic and political place for so many years. There is plenty to do in the city, with musicians playing local Fado music. You can make the most of dinner with a show and feast on one of our favourite treats in the world - delicious Pastel de Nata aka Portugese tarts!! Ok, you may think you know how good a custard tart can get, but until you have wrapped your whistle around one of these little suckers, you haven't lived. The puff pastry base and the slightly singed custard cooked top, with the creamiest custard in the middle....OMG obsessed!
Being an old city, it surprisingly has a very young feel to it. There are many streets covered in modern street art and you'll find a whole range of trendy dive bars there. Be sure to pop in and grab a drink in and along PINK STREET.
What brings that extra charm to Lisbon is the old buildings that have been tiled on the exterior. The colourful tiles compliment the architecture and it alone is worth a visit to this glorious city. The tiles will bring a smile to any travellers face.
If history is what brought you to Lisbon then Sintra would be on your list. If history isn't your thing, still visit Sintra. You can easily get to there from Lisbon via their rail system. It takes roughly 40 minutes. The architecture and style of this well preserved UNESCO town, (more like a palace) is incredible. If you are thinking of doing it in a day, be prepared for a huge day. Totally worth the visit and grab an audio guide to talk you through it.
Also the underground subway is worth a visit, even if you aren't going to catch the rail system. It's like an art museum down there.
"Portugal will always remain one of our favourite travel destinations".
Where to eat/drink:
When we were in Lisbon this time around, there was a festival on with amazing local food - think shaved meats, cheeses and delicious wine. There are many places to eat though, try any of the restaurants in the cobble stone streets of the Bairro Alto district for a romantic dinner. You also MUST try the custard tarts at Santo Antonio. They go great with an espresso.
Lisbon has a thriving night life. If you are after some chilled drinks with backpackers and locals, head to the Pink Street. If you are after world class nightclubs, Lisbon has it all. Head to any of the luxurious clubs along the river and dance the night away.
"If you are into surfing or know someone who loves it, you may have seen videos from Nazare. Here you can find the biggest surf-able wave in the WORLD!"
The waves between September and April can reach heights of up to 100 feet/30 metres and those brave enough to get out there and chase that thrill are nuts, but we are sure glad they do it. Nazare is world renown for the surf but what happens in the off season? Well it's still a beautiful town set on some staggeringly steep headlands. The charm the coast has to offer from the lookout is amazing with panoramic views around, up and down the Atlantic ocean.
Nazare town is definitely still worth a visit due to it having that classic Portuguese look of vibrant colours, with white washed buildings and tiled roofs. Take your time wandering and possibly getting lost in the colourful alley ways. Lucky for you, you can't get too lost due to many hidden cafes and bars peppered along the way.
What can you do here in the summer?
Of course there is the glorious beach you can make good use of, whether its lying down catching some sun rays, kicking a football with a friend at one of the many football sand fields or swimming in the fantastic clean water. If that doesn't appeal to you, we hope seafood does. Here you can taste many local seafood dishes that have come fresh from the sea. Nazare also has many places to grab that espresso and hang out by the beach.
Take a funicular (old style train) from the bottom of town to the top end. If you don't have a vehicle, walking up from the beach into the main town will be a mission, unless you take the trip with the funicular. This is the easiest/best way you can kick back and drink in the view as you climb up the cliffside. From there you can walk all around the village. We walked from there to the famous Forte de Sao Miguuel Arcanjo to see the history of the big wave surfers. It cost a couple of euro to enter the mini museum. If the museum isn't your thing, just walk around the building to grab a free stunning view of the ocean below. Sometimes you will score views of the insane, world class surf break (remember the big wave is seasonal, September to April).
Lagos is a sleepy little fishing village during the winter but the summer turns into a bustling, thriving party place. Don't be put off by either, you can find that sweet balance of chilled and going all in.
We were always going to come back but we weren’t sure whether we would still love it the way we did in our early 20’s. This crazy town where we use to party the nights away and laze around the beach all day did keep up with its beautiful Algarve reputation. It was the perfect place to party for Nath’s 30th birthday but also such a beautiful town to really chill out and check out all the beaches. And even though Mel has been here 6 times before, and worked in the Rising Cock Hostel, it was so nice to come back and experience it all again. Yes it is renown as a party place but also has a chilled side to it. There is plenty of headland walks you can do, remote beaches to explore, kayaks to be paddled and underwater ocean to be discovered.
"What's not to love in Lagos? The sun is shining, the clear ocean water is cold, the beers are even colder".
Where to stay:
Party option - As a backpacker, you really must stay at the Rising Cock Hostel! This lively hostel is so much fun with booze cruises and nightclubbing, where you will meet many like-minded party goers. To top top it off, when you wake from your epic night with a throbbing head, Mamma will nurse that heavy head away by cooking you up the best crepes each morning and wash them down, with her famous hangover cure "tikka tikka" lemon tea.
Chilled option - If you want a more luxurious/chilled experience, book the Apartamentos Sollagos. They were in the perfect location, right outside town so they are close enough to walk in but just far enough to be out of the craziness. A quick walk to the beach too. They were so nice that we even extended our stay. With a kitchen, pool and quick walk to the beach, these apartments could not have been more perfect for us.
Where to eat:
This small town sure has plenty of places to treat your tastebuds. Depending on what type of restaurant you are after, there will be one to suit your needs. We are a big fan of casual dining and these are our top spots!
You really can’t visit Lagos without going to Nah Nah Bah. This was our favourite restaurants ‘back in the day’ and it was still just as amazing as we remember. The chips are the most delicious you could have ever tasted, the burgers are extremely tasty and you can't really go wrong, everything on the menu will give you a foodgasm.
Ol’ Bastards is the most amazing fish and chips with delicious salad combos to go with them. They also have their old fashioned bar across the road which make you feel as if you have walked back in time. It's really cool interior, has awesome cocktails and plenty of old furniture to make you feel like the "king of the castle".
If you want a healthy feed, check out Abigails café, it also has great coffee.
Coffee & Waves has really good coffee and a nice setting.
There are many bars and pub crawls in Lagos, the night can be as big as you want to go. If you have the time and are after a party, sign up at the hostel and throw on your party boots! The place goes off late at night but if you want to enjoy some bars when its quieter, go out a bit earlier and enjoy those cocktails before the craziness begins.
How to get around:
There are connecting buses from all over the place and they are cheap and pretty decent. We have caught buses in the past all over the country, and as the distances are fairly close, buses are a comfortable and efficient way to get around. There are also international airports in Lisbon, Porto and Faro (about 40 minutes from Lagos), and if you are lucky, you can snag and cheap airfare with Ryanair. This time around, we drove our car all throughout the country and had no worries or problems. It really depends what suits your needs but there are plenty of transportation options.
Have fun guys x