For the past 2 summers I have been out of the country and in those summers spent a majority of my time in Portugal. Portugal was my 2nd destination when I began traveling in 2016. My original plan was to go to Spain and spend about a month there. I told a friend I was visiting Spain and they told me I had to go to Portugal. I ended up staying there for a month and a half in 2016 and then in 2017 for 2 months. I should have known better from my first experience there that I would be staying longer than I intended. When I arrived I said I would be staying for a week or two every time I would see my friends and others in the digital nomad community. Each week someone would ask me how long I was staying in Lisbon and every week I said “a week or 2” for 2 months.
The cat is out of the bag and Lisbon is now a destination that people know about and want to go to. This blog post is a resource for those planning on going to Lisbon or trying to make a decision on which European city to hit next. These are a few of my favorite places and experiences while in the area and I will be sure to keep updated as I continue my travels to Lisbon in the future. And yes, that means I’ll be back! In the meantime…
1. Go to the beach!
There’s no shortage of beaches in Lisbon with super easy access from the city or remote beaches for those looking for something a bit more adventurous. I heard there's a European Heat Wave happening so I know this is very timely.
Mainland Beach - Cascais is a little further north than Lisbon and is just a short train ride away from the metro stop, Cais do Sodre, making it easy if you're not interested in leaving the mainland. Along the way you'll notice there's beach symbols at different stops if you want to get off earlier and hit up another beach. I enjoyed Praia de Carcavelos just a few metro stops before Cascais.
Remote Beach - Praia Da Ribeira Do Cavalo - 1) Don't go to this beach hungover and with 2 hours of sleep 2) If you don't have a car don't fret, take a bus from Lisbon to Sesimbra and then have a taxi drop you off as close to the trailhead as possible, just go past the marina in Sesimbra. The trail is a bit inconspicuous but there will most likely be people heading in the same direction. From there it's a bit of a walk down and a small area where I even went down on my butt because it became steep so beware. Once you're there it's complete paradise. There's nothing expect pristine Portuguese coast so be prepared and pack a lunch, water and sunscreen!
Surf Beach - While you’re at it go surfing too! I'm from San Diego with surfing available year round but decided to surf for the first time in Portugal. My favorite spot to shred is Costa da Caparica because the waves were gentle enough for people like me that aren’t capable of actually shredding it YET! For surfing lessons contact Time to Surf! They can even arrange pickup for you!
2. Book a boat tour!
I was super fortunate to find out about Arrabida Sea Ventures and spent a warm October day exploring the coast of Portugal and some of Europe and the world’s best beaches. Seriously it felt like summer still and was the end of October. The owner, Edgar, gave me the full VIP experience and took me on a hike in the morning before going on the boat so I could take in the most beautiful view of the Arrabida coastline. It's one of those views that really puts everything into perspective for you and is definitely not a place that you're likely to find on your own so find out if that will be an option in your package. Whatever the case may be there will be a package to suit whatever you may be looking for in your boating adventure.
3. Explore LX Factory
There's really something for everyone at LX Factory and this is especially true for anyone that loves colorful facades, restaurants and shopping. This was my favorite spot to do lifestyle photoshoots because of all the different backdrops available. Make sure to visit Rio Maravilha, a bar that overlooks the Rio Tejo and the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge. Also don't miss Village Underground close by, it's a co-working space and cafeteria made from shipping containers and a vintage bus. It's a little tricky to get to but that's part of the fun!
4. Discover "the brooklyn of lisbon"
Almada is right across the Rio Tejo and only a 7 minute ferry ride away from Lisbon. It's a jump off point for many trying to get to the beaches on the other side but what exists right across the river is worth exploring as well. First of all there's a great area to walk or bike right along the river, offering views of the bridge and beautiful views of Lisbon. If you walk far enough to the restaurant at the end you can climb up some very steep stairs and explore Casa da Cerca that offers contemporary art and panoramic views to the Rio Tejo and Lisboa! I'm very curious to see what the future holds for the abandoned warehouse that's right along the river, I imagine another LX Factory filled with co-working spaces, restaurants, art galleries...we'll just have to wait and see!
5. Find a miradouro and watch a sunset
Honestly any Miradouro will suffice but my favorite is Miradouro de Santa Catarina, this was my first miradouro and no one ever forgets their first. ;) Beyond that, Miradoura da Senhora do Monte is a popular one because it is the highest point in Lisbon and offers sweeping views all over Lisbon (pictured here). The best part of wandering around is stumbling upon a Miradouro you didn't seek out and finding something special in your miradouro moment!
6. Sample the local cuisine!
By sample the local cuisine I mean eat all the pastel de nata. It's really a desert that I don't find duplicated anywhere else in the world (well maybe I need to explore more, let me know) and it's so readily available at every cafe, tasca, street corner; there's really no way NOT to consume it. Beyond that, there's the traditional bacalao (cod) that you'll find prepared in many diverse ways and you also can't miss the sardines. Sorry seafood haters, if bacalao or sardines aren't your jam then you can just go back to eating pastel de nata; not such a bad alternative.
The best spot to try this is from Time Out Market where you’ll have access to local restaurants and chefs all in one space. Go with a group of friends and order a few things to find out what you like. And sorry for my lack of foods photos, I realized I look at it in awe, take a quick pic with my phone and then devour it!
7. Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is just a 45 minute train ride away and will fulfill any of your romance filled fantasies as you frolic around its palaces. Word is Madonna lives there now so it's a definite must see. I think I even spied on her home, peaking through the trees, before she even bought it. Something about that Middle Age Moorish architecture nestled amongst thick trees entices your curiosity. It's a place full of mystery, especially as you wander the grottos at Quinta de la Regaleira. I walked around a few hours before it closed and I felt like I was the only one there. The crowds start to thin out around dinner time and I really think Sintra is most magical at sunset and into twilight. I highly recommend making your own schedule and allowing for time to walk around this UNESCO Heritage Site after the sun sets and even spending a romantic evening there.
8. Visit Porto
Porto can be done in a day but I feel allowing yourself a full 48 hours will give you all the time you need to see everything that Porto has to offer. I'm not big on planning out my time in places but I only had 48 hours here and discovered this application that you can download on your phone with city guides BY LOCALS and they have Porto on there. Download USE-IT , find Porto and download it so you can use it even when you're wandering without wi-fi!
9. Visit Faro + the South
I went to Faro for 1 overnight, it was supposed to just be a stopover to get to Spain the next day. Well first I missed my train and didn't get there until evening time and then as I was floating in Faro's paradise known as Ilha Deserta the next day, I decided to miss my bus on purpose and stay 2 more nights.
As you can see there’s no shortage of what Portugal has to offer so this list could go on but I’ll let you adventure and experience Portugal for yourself! I still have so much more of Portugal to explore myself including Alentejo, Portugal's exquisite wine country.
10. Last but not least - Make Friends!
This is easy, the Portuguese people are very welcoming and friendly. I have a cute story of an older Portuguese woman that sat down on a bench next to me and we did our best to communicate for an hour. She was showing me things in the newspaper to do and talking with our hands a lot but if a cute old lady doesn't approach you, go to your nearest miradouro and you'll find friends there. There's also a Lisbon Digital Nomad community that is very active with weekly meetups, this is a great opportunity to meet other travelers and young people that live in Lisbon. Just be prepared to stay out until sunrise! I'll be sharing more of my experience as a digital nomad and sharing stories of other nomads I've met along the way in Lisbon! That will be coming up next!