Portugal and Its Highlights

Picture: Coimbra, Portugal by Kyla Alexandre

The last place I talked about was Spain and on that trip, I also went to Portugal, a country that would quickly become one of my favorite places in the world. A large chunk of my family is from Portugal and this was my chance to connect with where I come from. Today I am sharing the places I spent time in during my summer trip of 2018.

Portugal has so much to offer, delicious foods, beautiful villages, warm people, and so much more.

Evora:

This was our first stop on the drive in from Spain. It is a quaint city and totally walkable. The city produces a lot of cork, so a lot of vendors have various cork goods such as purses, hats, and jewelry.

  • Salsa Verde – This isn’t a tourist site or anything, it is actually a restaurant, a really good vegetarian restaurant. My mom, aunt, and I are pescatarians, meaning the only meat we eat is fish, so this find was a gold mine for us. The meat-eaters in our group also really enjoyed it. It was fresh and filling, perfect for a summer lunch. 

  • Chapel of Bones – This is exactly what it says: a chapel of bones. You walk into a room and the walls are made up of bones, hundreds and hundreds of bones. It is definitely a highlight, a very disturbingly interesting highlight.
  • Alleys – Evora is small and a place where I encourage you to meander through alleyways and other parts of the city. One of my favorite traits of places like Spain, Portugal, and Italy, is the fact that you can see so much just by walking. While there are tourist attractions, walking the city allows you to learn more about it and become more familiar with where you are at.
  • Adega do Alenejano – Here is another restaurant for you. This restaurant was absolutely delicious and felt as if we were in a cavern. It had a delicious menu and eight of us ate for 90 euros. 

Nazare: 

Nazare is a small beach town known for the biggest wave ever surfed. Due to the town being so small, the only thing to see is simply walking around and exploring the town. 

  • Sunset – Make it a point to stay out on the beach and watch the sunset. I’m a sucker for anything involving the sky and the sunsets here are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
  • Mercado Municipal – This is Nazare’s huge, one-stop-shop market. They have cheese, pastries, fruits, nuts, olives, and any other produce items you can think of. We came here to grab stuff for breakfasts and snacks to hold us over on our travels.

We used Nazare as a branching off point to other towns around us, so I will include some of my favorites.

  • Alcobaca – This little town holds the largest church in Portugal: Monastery of Santa Maria. Here, we explored the large and beautiful church and had yummy pastries at a shop near the church.

  • Obidos – This is one of my favorite places in Portugal. This cute and, you guessed it, walkable city has beautiful blue and white buildings with cute little shops and a cool bookstore (I love finding bookstores or libraries when I travel, I love them). The town is also known for its cherry liqueur sold in chocolate shot glasses. The town also looks over the stunning view of Portugal’s countryside.

Lisbon:

I am absolutely in love with Lisbon. It is one of my favorite cities in the world. My family and I love it so much we made sure we had long enough layovers in other travels so we can spend time in the city, allowing us to visit Lisbon three different times in a span of a year. 

 

  • Tram 28 – Like all of the other places I have talked about, Lisbon is a great city to explore on foot and you can get around fairly easily, but a must-do in Lisbon is taking a ride on Tram 28. Tram 28 is the cute yellow tram that you spot everywhere in Lisbon, plus if you can find a seat it is great for a quick rest. 
  • Belem – In order to get to this part of the city you have to take some form of transportation. Belem has quite a few cool sites to see that will occupy you for a few hours
    • Monastery of Jeronimos – This church was beautiful, it contained sea motifs throughout the entire church. Like most European churches, the structure and architecture are absolutely phenomenal. 
    • National Coach Museum – This massive museum holds hundreds of coaches the Portuguese royalty would use to get around. All of these coaches were so fun to look at because you got to see the incredible amounts of detail and wealth they put into creating their coaches. You also get to learn a little bit about Portuguese history.   
    • Casa Pasteis de Belem – This is the cafe where nuns invented the Portuguese sweet pastel de nata. Only three people have the actual recipe and this is the place to get the real deal. They are an absolute necessity when you are in Lisbon.

  • Praca do Comercio – This acts as the city center in Lisbon. It has a pedestrian-only district with shops, restaurants, and alleyways to wander. 
  • Gelato Therapy – Three words: best gelato ever. The man who runs the shop has artisan flavors that are not you ordinary gelato flavors. He uses basil and rosemary to name a few.

  • The views – Throughout the city, there are numerous places where you can stop and look at incredible views of the city, the ocean, what could be mistaken as the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Christ the Redeemer statue (like the one in Brazil).

 

 

Coimbra: 

This is the city where my family is from, so it was quite cool to walk the streets where my family did the same.

  • Explore – Again, this is such a walkable city and a place that I absolutely loved exploring.
  • University of Coimbra – This might sound a little odd, but I promise it is such a cool place to go. The university rests up on a hill and is one of the oldest operating universities in the world. Visiting the university was a highlight for me because I got to see one of the oldest libraries/the book collections (I have a thing for old books). The library looks like a library in a castle. The campus is breathtaking. Depending on the type of ticket you buy, you can see certain parts of the campus. You have the opportunity to see the science halls with its lecture halls, scientific equipment, and even a natural history museum. This is a must-see.

  • UoC Botanical Garden – I love gardens so this was a treat. It gave us the opportunity to take a break while having a moment to connect with nature. It is an absolutely stunning garden that you can meander through and learn all about the various plants in the garden. This is another must-see.
  • Fado ao Centro – Coimbra is home to one of the very few places in Portugal where men perform Fado, a traditional Portuguese performance of very emotional songs. Typically around Portugal, it is performed by women. The show works to keep the traditional Portuguese music alive and it is a truly wonderful experience. 

Douro Valley:

This is the port region of Portugal and rests on the cliffside with the Douro river running right through it. 

  • Marrocos – This is the agriturismo we stayed at, and it is highly recommended.  It has 30 acres of land where grapes are grown and the rooms are all old fashioned. The man who runs the place gave us a tour of how they make their ports, we also had a seven-course meal and the opportunity to sample their ports. At one point, we had the opportunity of taking a walk through the vineyard which acted as a great hike with an incredible view of the valley.

  • Boat ride in Regua – You can take a boat ride around the river. It is very relaxing and absolutely beautiful.

Porto:

This is the last stop of our journey and it was a great way to end the trip.

  • Hop-on Hop-off bus – If you have the time, I recommend doing these first whenever you are in a new city (we did this in Madrid too). It allows you to get familiar with the city and take in all the cool sites, all while resting your legs a little bit.
  • Casa de Serralves – This is an art deco style mansion that the public gets to tour. I absolutely love interior design, so seeing how beautiful this mansion was made the trip that much better. 

  • Walk around – This is a standard for all of these places. Explore them, create your own adventures. You may find some hidden gems that you would have never discovered if you hadn’t wandered. 
  • Stock Exchange Palace – This was created to show off Portugal’s wealth, and let me just say it does it well. It is extravagant and stunning and I highly recommend going on a tour.

  • Lello and Irmao bookstore – This Art Nouveau style bookstore is rumored to be the place that was used for some inspiration for the setting of Harry Potter, and you could tell. It is absolutely stunning and a must-see for book lovers.

 

I hope this helped give you guidance on what to see in Portugal. Stay tuned for more articles in this series. Stay vibin!

 

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