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Posted on 5/8/20
In this episode we’ll talk about:
- Where to stay, sleep, eat and play in Lisbon
- Best day trips from Lisbon
- How to avoid crowds in Sintra
- Where to shop for the best souvenirs in Portugal
- Off the beaten path places in Portugal to enjoy without crowds
- Tips for exploring Porto and Douro Valley
Hey there! I am recording this episode as the week 3 of quarantine is coming to an end. I got used to the new routine, which I hate to call the new normal because there is nothing normal about it.
The more we stay at home the more I want to travel, to explore, to live life and experience the world around us.
And we are super lucky to live in the suburbs so we can actually step outside and run around the house – the luxury that many of our friends and family in NYC just don’t have.
Otherwise, I don’t know how my 5-year-old son would have been able to survive. The energy he has can power a small power plant.
I know we will travel again, but I can’t wait till that day when we land in a new country full of exciting new experiences to be had.
Meanwhile, if you are itching to travel again just like I am, enjoy this episode about traveling to Portugal (with kids and without).
Hope it gives you some inspiration to check out this beautiful and delicious country.
And if you want to start planning a trip there, because we all need something exciting to have on our calendar to look forward to, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help you get the trip planning ball rolling. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, If you want to support the podcast the number one thing you can do is share it on your social media and tag me or Olegana Travel Boutique in the post. That helps me get the word out and I really appreciate it.
When visiting Portugal I knew I wanted to approach the trip with my future clients in mind.
After all, Olegana Travel Boutique is my second baby and it offers custom trip planning based on a lot of my first-hand experiences.
I wanted to share our family travel adventure with all of you so that you can walk away with all the tips and tricks to make a vacation to Portugal the experience of a lifetime! So, I gathered hotel and restaurant suggestions and a list of day trip ideas, and I’m ready to spill the tea!
So We went to Portugal a little over two years ago. Ruben was just over 3 years old. This was our first trip to Europe with him, so it was a big milestone for all of us and we definitely learned a lot.
Let’s start in Lisbon. This was our base for the first 3 days and this is where we flew in and out from. Lisbon has daily non-stop flights from JFK and Newark.
One great tip to know if you’re traveling with kids is that at the Lisbon airport, you can go through the VIP express lane!
Seriously, don’t forget this…otherwise it will be a very long wait in line and not the best way to start your trip after a long flight.
It’s nice for a change to have something that makes traveling with kids easier than traveling without them!
As far as accommodation recommendations, you would need to decide first if you want to be in the “new” modern part of the city, the downtown part of Lisbon located in the upper part of the city, or in the “old” part of the city, in the historic part closer to the water and next to all the tourist attractions.
One attraction you won’t want to miss in Lisbon is the Avenida da Liberdade, which connects old and the new parts of the city.
Take a walk down it’s a very large and broad avenue and visit five popular kiosks, similar to the food trucks we have in the US — each one dedicated to a different theme such as chocolate, pizza, and hot dogs! You’ll find great snacks and drinks along this avenue.
For the best restaurants, check out The Time Out Market — 24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops, and a high-end music venue, all with the very best in Lisbon. It’s a great choice with kids – because it is a lively place and has lots of options, something suitable for everyone.
Sardines are Portuguese traditional dish and The Time Out Market is a great place to sample different kinds of them.
If you’re looking for a sit-down, romantic experience on a rooftop sipping mojitos, check out Restaurante Sacramento. Yes, it is very kid-friendly! Yes, they have the best mojitos I have ever had, and I had a lot of them in different parts of the world. Also, the rooftop has a gorgeous view of an old church, so it’s a dinner or lunch with a view.
From Lisbon Day Trip To Sintra is a must.
When you get into Sintra, you won’t want to miss visiting Pena Palace in Sintra — one of the finest tourist attractions in Portugal. You will view stunning 19th-century architecture and a beautiful outdoor space surrounding the palace.
The number one tip I have at this place is to order tickets online and arrive around 9 a.m. so you can avoid the wait time.
Pena palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Portugal, so be prepared for crowds no matter how early you arrive.
Spend a few euros to go to the top of the hill where the palace actually is, or it will be a bit of a hike up there.
On your way back from Sintra, be sure to check out Cabo da Roca — Continental Europe’s most Western point. It’s a quick stop with spectacular cliff views you won’t want to miss!
I also highly recommend stopping at the Palace of Queluz to view its French-inspired architecture. You’ll love exploring the rich history found in its many rooms! It’s like a small Portuguese Versailles.
Now, just as I want to give you tips for must-see sights, I also want to save you the trouble exploring places that I found to be a let-down.
In Sintra, you will see a castle on the very top of the hill. It will look like something you want to explore, but take it from someone who visited — it’s just castle ruins and not worth visiting. Stick to the recommendations above to make the most out of your time in Sintra.
Another easy Day Trip from Lisbon is To Evora
Old medieval town with a beautiful plaza, several churches and the Cathedral of Evora dating back to the 13th century.
One important tip when you visit Evora is to park outside the town walls and walk!
The streets are very narrow, and at one point, the local roads will take you to an unpaved road that scratched our rental car pretty bad (thank goodness for insurance, but what a not-so-fun lesson to learn!) At one point I thought we would get stuck in the bushes in the middle of the field – and all we did was follow the GPS!
But Evora is definitely worth the trip! It has great prices on souvenirs and really fun cork products. I got a pair of cork slippers that I love! Imagine UGGs but covered with cork instead of suede. I wear them around the house in the winter all the time. They are super comfy and they remind me of our trip.
From Lisbon we traveled North to Porto and we made a few stops along the way
We stayed for a few nights in the village of Nazare, which was a great base to break up the trip between North and South. Don’t expect 5-star hotels and amenities here, it is pretty basic but very authentic.
Nazare is a lovely fishing village off the beaten path. It was an unexpected find for us and had the best prices we found on souvenirs.
In the summer you can spend time on the beach. Also, explore Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo that was first constructed in 1577 but has undergone remodeling and expansion on several occasions since then.
The fort is a popular tourist site, particularly because of its proximity to a surfing area famous for the height of its waves. Think 10 story waves! It now functions as a lighthouse and a museum, which is devoted in part to surfing.
To get to the Fort you need to take Nazare Funicular from the center of the village. It’s a pretty steep climb up but offers gorgeous views of the town and the beach.
During the offseason, the rates are really inexpensive and can keep you away from the crowds if you don’t want to stay in a touristy area!
On one of the other days, we took a Day Trip to Obidos
Obidos is a beautiful village that reminded me of the Greek Islands. It’s one of the most touristy places in Portugal, so the souvenirs are expensive. Note that Obidos is for pedestrians only, so be sure to park outside the village gates.
Don’t leave there without trying the local “Ginja.” It’s a Morello cherry liqueur that you can order “com elas” (with the marinated cherries) or “sem elas” (without the cherries). Ginja can also be served in a chocolate cup that you can eat after drinking. It is absolutely delicious!
Alright, now let’s talk about the North of Portugal.
We made Porto be our base for a few days after Nazare.
To be quite honest I have mixed feelings about Porto.
It is definitely going through some renaissance and there are very nice parts of the city, especially in the center, but be prepared to see abandoned buildings right next to 4 and 5-star hotels. Which, I guess is true for the whole country.
Its economy is still struggling and the laws are making it very difficult for property owners to keep up with building maintenance.
I would definitely recommend staying in the center of the city, walkable distance to the train station and main attractions.
The Intercontinental Hotel in Porto has one of the most amazing locations in the city and is worth the splurge! It is pennies on the dollar if you were to compare the prices for Intercontinental in any other major city in Europe.
While in Porto, pick up an amazing smelling Castelbel soap (or two or three) for souvenirs! I was obsessed with it!
The most incredible day trip that you can take from Porto is to Visit Douro Valley
In Douro Valley, picture magical landscapes and breathtaking scenery with a wine glass in hand.
There are many ways to explore this wine valley. We splurged on a private driver with a car who took us to all the picturesque places to take photos and take in the scenery.
You can also do a week-long river cruise there if traveling without kids (I think kids will be bored out of their minds on the cruise)
But if traveling with kids be sure to at least take a short 1-2 hour cruise sailing the Douro River. That’s what we did and it was a lot of fun even for Ruben. I know however you plan to explore here, you will fall in love with this enchanted valley.
On the way back from Porto to Lisbon, you can make a few stops to explore more of what Portugal has to offer.
If you have kids and you’re visiting Coimbra, which we didn’t get to explore in-depth, you have to check out Portugal Dos Pequenitos.
It’s a small theme park that is a miniature Portugal. This place is dedicated to giving kids the experience of what it’s like to be Portuguese. Expect a great learning experience paired with lots of fun for the whole family! Ruben loved it!
And we loved Visiting another city, Aveiro
Aveiro is like a Portuguese Venice. They offer gondola rides on the canal in the city. We didn’t take the boat ride but we had the best seafood lunch in one of the cafes facing the water!
Aveiro is for shopping lovers. It’s a modern city with many clothing stores and the best shoe shopping. OMG, I saw so many shoe stores! If you’re looking to spend a shopping day somewhere, Aveiro is the place!
Now that you have a rundown of the best places to visit in Portugal, let me help you start planning your trip.
To schedule a free consultation book a time on my calendar here
I can help you determine if Portugal is the right destination for your trip based on who is traveling when you are traveling and what you are looking to get out of this trip.
And if you don’t feel comfortable putting anything on the calendar now, no problem, we can plan a trip without specific dates, draft an itinerary, design the experiences around everyone’s interests and when the time is right we’ll bring it to life. I am here to help you no matter what you have in mind!
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