I really wanted to visit Portugal. There is a lot of buzz in the travel community about the old-world charm of Lisbon, the beauty of the Algarve region, and port wineries of Porto. Roman, Ksenia and I agreed that we wanted to see it all and decided to spend the second part of our trip in Portugal visiting Porto, Lagos, and Lisbon.
The fifth day of our trip we spent traveling from Spain to Portugal.
Unfortunately, our early morning flight from Barcelona to Porto was overbooked and we didn’t get on that plane. The airline “Vueling” only offered us the next flight at 8pm, so we would be in Porto by 10pm. There would be no time left for any plans of sightseeing or port tasting in Porto.
We were very disappointed. But things happen when you travel. All you need is to use every opportunity for taking advantage of the unpleasant situation. We checked in our luggage, took the subway to Barceloneta and spend several hours on the beach. Later, we got back to the airport and hopped on our plane which was delayed several times.
The sixth day of our trip we were planning to spend in Porto exploring the city and visiting the famous port houses. Unfortunately, the real-life interfered in our plans and we got stuck in Barcelona for one extra day and no chance to see the city of Porto.
When we checked in to Flores Village Hotel and Spa it was already late, dark, and cold. The receptionist was very friendly and offered us a glass of port while we were checking in.
The hotel had a perfect location in the old part of the town in an elegantly renovated 18th-century building with modern amenities. Our 1st floor room was very spacious and lovely decorated. It was facing the narrow street below with people strolling after dinner.
Next morning we had breakfast at the hotel with great selection of local cheeses, meat and sausages, fruits, eggs, bread, pastries, and options of juice, coffee, and tea.
The taxi ride from the hotel to the train station was around 20 minutes. The taxi driver was very nice and pointed at several historical sites and gave us a brief history of Porto. We liked what we saw.
The city was small and manageable after the big and bustling Barcelona. The construction cranes and scaffolds were everywhere, because the city was going through the major renovation time. I could see myself exploring the beauty of this place when we come back and stay a little bit longer next time.
Traveling from Porto to Lagos
The seventh day of our trip we spent traveling from Porto to the Algarve region.
You can travel from Porto to Lagos by train or bus. We took a train with two connecting stops in Lisbon and Tunes. The ride is almost 8 hours long. We had a two-hour stop at the main train station in Lisbon “Gare do Oriente”. Then another 4.5 hours from Lisbon to Lagos with a very quick transfer in Tunes.
We arrived in Lagos at the end of the day and stayed there for four days.
Why we choose Lagos?
Lagos is a beach town in the South of Portugal region known as Algarve.
The Algarve is well known for its warm and dry climate, beautiful sandy beaches framed by jagged rocks and green hills with orange and lemon orchards.
A little bit of history:
Lagos is located along the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an ancient town with more than 2000 years of history. In the 6th-century, it was occupied by the Visigoths, later by the Byzantines, then by the Moors in the 8th-century.
The city of Lagos was the capital of the Algarve region in the 13th- and 14th- centuries. The first great Portuguese sea expeditions embarked from here. The first African slave market in Europe was held here.
Lagos old town is defined by 16th-century medieval walls and stretches between Praca Gil Eanes (the main square) and the fort.
The wide pedestrian street along the bank of Bensafrim River is called Lagos Promenade. You can take a pleasant walk with the views of palm trees and busy little boats. We found that most of the tourists spend their evening time in the old town. It’s packed with all kind of restaurants, funky cafes, bars, and nightclubs. The atmosphere is very relaxing and enjoyable.
The beaches around Lagos are famous for their dramatic scenery.
The most popular beaches are Praia da Batata, Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo. The picturesque cliff formations work as a background for secluded sandy beaches with crystal clear waters.
Dona Ana Beach (Praia Dona Ana) is the most popular with stunning views. You need to use wooden stairs to get to the beach. There are a basic restaurant, and a kiosk for rentable chairs with umbrellas.
Camilo Beach (Praia do Camilo) is more secluded. The view from the top is breathtaking. Picturesque cliffs embrace the little sandy beach with blue waters. There are wooden stairs to get down to the beach. Don’t forget to bring your own blankets, umbrellas, but you will not be disappointed.
The beach is a sheltered bay and perfect for swimming and suntanning. There is a seafood restaurant on the cliff above the beach with a spectacular view. You may need to book it in advance. We tried to get there, but it was always fully booked.
Where to stay in Lagos:
We stayed at Villas D. Dinis Charming Residence.
It’s a complex of small villas or option of rooms in the main building. The hotel is for adults only. We stayed at Villa Rose. The Villa Rose is a complex of 5 attached suites and has a little pool to share, the cabana style patio with lounge chairs and another one with beds.
Our corner suite was clean, spacious and had a small roof terrace with a beautiful view of the neighborhood. The best part that it was very close to Dona Ana beach.
Where to eat in Lagos:
There are so many good places to eat in Lagos. Most of them serve fish and seafood caught no more than a few hours earlier.
Most of the restaurants are located along Rua 25 de Abril. We dined a couple of nights there and were a little bit disappointed. The choice of dishes was catered to the tourists with long menus in English.
Then one night we decided to try several places outside of the main drag and liked them more.
Our favorite dishes were deep-fried squid, steamed tiny clams and grilled seabass all served with plenty of vegetables.
After four days in Lagos, we said good-bye to this lovely beach town. The last leg of our trip was Lisbon. Saturday morning, we hopped on the early train to Tunes and one hour later changed to the one going to Lisbon.
Lisbon at glance:
Lisbon is Portugal’s coastal capital. One time it was Old World capital of the huge empire stretching from Europe to Brazil to Africa and to China. The city was built on seven hills and has many spectacular views.
Old Town of Lisbon is an interesting combination of the narrow and steep streets with mosaic sidewalks, tall buildings adorned with multicolored tiles, decorative wrought-iron balconies, trendy cafes and designer boutiques. It is old and modern, trendy and charming all at once.
It was our first time in Lisbon, so we decided to walk, explore the city, and enjoy the relaxed café culture of Portugal.
We had booked an Airbnb apartment which was in the old city of Lisbon in the residential neighborhood of Principe Real. The apartment was a short walk to downtown called Baixa.
The Baixa district is the heart of Lisbon. It consists of grand avenues, impressive plazas and shopping boulevards with trendy boutiques.
Places we visited:
Praca do Comercio is Lisbon’s largest open square situated next to RioTejo (River Tagus). You can tell that it’s a focal point for events, festivities, shopping, and dining.
The monumental Arco da Rua Augusta is at the entrance of Praca do Comercio. The arch was built to mark the reconstruction of the city after the 1755 earthquake.
On the other side of the Arco da Rua Augusta is the main shopping street Rua Augusta. This wide pedestrian street has many fashionable boutiques and upscale hotels and restaurants.
The Elevator Santa Justa is one of the major tourist attractions right off Rua Augusta. This giant elevator was designed by an apprentice of Gustav Eiffel and considers as an artistic marvel of the industrial age. The lift takes you 32 meters up inside the ornate metal tower to the platform with spectacular city views.
By the end of our trip, we were tired and didn’t book any city tours in advance. But the basic hop on and hop off tour helped us to go around the city in a more relaxed way.
Roman and I bought the bus tour tickets from CitySightseeing company. It was very affordable – 44 euros for two of us and you can spread the tours in two days.
The first day we went with a red line bus tour. There were two amazing places we wanted to come back and explore more: Torre de Belem (Tower of Belem) and Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
The next day we took a blue line bus tour. The tour started at Praca do Comercio and took us east of the city along the river, old and new docks and warehouses, through modern buildings of Oceanario de Lisboa and Gare do Oriente (train station) and then down south through Jardim Zoologico and very popular Parque Eduardo VII.
Places we want to visit next time:
After staying in Lisbon for four days we already knew that we need to come back and explore this city in full.
Here is our list:
Torre de Belem (Tower of Belem) is the 16th-century fortress placed on the Tagus River. It was built to welcome the returning sailors. It was from Belem that Vasco da Gama set sail for India at the end of the 15th-century and returned a year later.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery) is a large complex including a church, cloisters, and galleries in combined Renaissance and Gothic styles. It was built as a celebration of the discovery of a sea route to the Orient and beginning of Portuguese’s golden age.
Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George castle) is another Lisbon’s famous landmark. The castle was once the heart of a walled city that spread downhill as far as the river. It was built on the original site of the Moorish castle which was defeated in 12th-century by Crusaders. There are spectacular views overlooking the historic center of Lisbon.
Take away from our trip
It was our first visit to Portugal. We liked the places we had visited, we liked the fresh food and very friendly Portuguese people. During our travels, we come across countless construction sites in every city. Portugal is a country with many old and medieval buildings which are being preserved and restored. The process is slow.
There are tourists everywhere and the streets are narrow and steep. And yet every place we visited had its own distinct charm. There is a lot of history and beautiful architecture around every corner. We are planning to come back and explore this country next time.
Have you visited Portugal? What places did you visit? Share your comments below.